The Mason Missile, June 28, 2021

Greetings, Americans!

On Saturday, June 26, I took part in a bus ride, sponsored by UNITE/HERE in Philadelphia, to join in the Freedom Ride For Voting Rights, sponsored by Black Voters Matter. We were all reminded of the work and sacrifice brave activists-like John Lewis-undertook so that ALL Americans can vote. the rally at the north side of the Capitol Mall to advocate specifically for the For The People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and statehood for the District of Columbia-a district of about 700,000 American citizens who have no say in their federal government. we’re the only nation that doesn’t allow representation from people in its own capitol.

This past month, we recognized and commemorated the Tulsa Race Massacre, in May 31-June 1, 1921, when a white mob descended upon and destroyed the predominantly Black business district of Greenwood-a thriving neighborhood of stores known as “the Black Wall Street.” Triggered by rumors of a Black man sexually assaulting a white woman, a gang of white men went to the county courthouse demanding the Black man be surrendered to them-and a group of armed Black men, some of them veterans of World War I, confronted them. Later, a white mob rampaged through Greenwood, some of them deputized; at the end of the massacre, an estimated 300 people were killed, and a thriving community was demolished. ( ( This May 31, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation recognizing the massacre, and recommitting the administration to addressing the racial problems we face today. (

This begs the question-who writes history, and who decides what “history” is? For a century, the story of the Tulsa Massacre was never fully discussed, either in high school or college history classes; it was swept under the rug, and serious scholars worked to unearth the truth. The true study of history goes beyond the classroom and the official textbooks; just as we must come together to study our problems today, and deal with them, so must we also band together to study our history.

The Tulsa Massacre is another example of the racism that permeates our society, and our need to deal with it to this day. Over the course of the year, Republican-dominated state legislatures are passed, or are trying to pass (like in Pennsylvania),  a series of laws that world hamper the ability of certain demographic groups-seniors, students, people of color-to vote, which is the basic pillar of democracy. Just like with the original Jim Crow laws after Reconstruction, the trick is to not phrase these bills to prevent specific people from voting, and to continuously call them “voter integrity bills.” (

Voter integrity? Do they think we’re buying that bullshit line? Or is it a line they put out through their favorite media, to the people who still vote for them? The Republicans don’t’ give a damn about their voters; they just want to infuriate them with the latest scary thing, such as “urban crime” and “Willie Horton,” feeding into the racism lurking in the subconscious of America.

Also, we must remember that June is LGBTQ Pride Month, the month commemorating the Stonewall Riots, when in June 1969, patrons in a crappy mob-owned bar faced a raid by police, and all of a sudden they felt like “Enough is enough!”, and battled riot cops for three days, thus jumpstarting the contemporary Gay rights movement.

At the head of the riots were two transgender women of color-Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The legend was that Johnson, who like Rivera was a sex worker, was the first to throw a brick at a cop during the riots. Together they formed the activist group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) as a support system for young trans-people. But alas! The leading Gay Rights groups didn’t want to be associated with trans-people, sex workers, or drag queens, and Johnson and Rivera were all but written out of the history of Stonewall, and LGBTQ history in general. Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River, and the police called it a “suicide;” and Rivera died in 2002. ( ( In June 2019, the City of New York dedicated two statues to Johnson and Rivera, commemorating their efforts as LGBTQ rights-after their passing. ( It’s again the question, “Who decides what is history?” The role Johnson and Rivera, and other marginalized people in our country, must be more full told.

That’s our job-to study our nation’s REAL history, and not the coloring–book versions we were fed as kids. We must especially look at the contributions of working-people, low-income people, and people on the edge of society-like the drag queens and sex workers at Stonewall in June 1969. And when we do, we can realize the power they acquired by banding together in solidarity, and we, in this portion of the 21st century, can therefore learn our own power. We have a long, strong legacy of freedom fighting in this country-think about John Lewis getting beat up at the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the March on Selma in 1965 for voting rights. Let’s follow their examples, and pick up where they left off in the struggle.

Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! America will be free! Bye!


Since this publication takes a good deal of work and time, I welcome any donations, and I am willing to discuss selling ad space. For a fee I will be happy to advertise your business on the Missile. Please contact me and we’ll talk about it, thanks.

I have just self-published my manifesto, Under The Workers Cap, printed by Minuteman Press (, where I articulate my social and political beliefs, based on my study of American History and my activism in the Labor movement and the community. It’s on sale for $10.00 plus postage.

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The Stoa, an original short story


Pomeroy College sat within the farmlands in north-east Pennsylvania. An old mansion served as offices for administration and faculty; newer buildings held a stage for the theater department, classrooms, more offices for faculty, dormitories, and fraternity houses.

On a Friday evening in June 1951, Professor Clyde Milvern, Professor of Classical Studies at Pomeroy – and a world-renowned expert in the field – prepared for the semi-annual dinner of the Stoa, the club of certain of his current and former students. He was careful about how he looked – soft grey hair in place, thinning at the top; moustache neatly trimmed and waxed, and a blue suit and grey bow tie. Pleased with how he looked, he went to the dinner, in the restaurant of the Hotel Percival in Scranton.

At six o’clock the members came. These were men of prestige in their communities and professions–business, law, politics, clergy, and military. Professor Milvern stood at the head of the table, which was the signal for the men to take their seats.

“Brothers,” intoned Milvern, “I welcome you to another symposium of the Stoa. As I have said before, the Stoic philosophy takes its name from the stoa, the Greek name for the portico of the temple where Zeno, the founder of this noble philosophy, held forth its truth.

“When I started this group,” continued Milvern, “twenty-one years ago, I worried about the vulgarization of the mind in this country, with jazz, illegal liquor, gangsters and movie actors the nation’s heroes, and Communism. I formed this group to study the teachings of the great Stoic philosophers, and see what they have to say to us in this era. But first–”

A young man who sat in a chair in the back – slender, thick blond hair, a look both intelligent and nervous – stood and stepped towards Milvern, who clasped him on the shoulder and said, “This is Peter Dancy, my most prized student. He has a grasp that no one else has on Greek Philosophy, History and Language.”

These words resonated with the men in the room. They were all praised in some form or another by Milvern, who they regarded as the wisest of men.

Milvern took a small metal pin from his coat pocket–a pair of Greek pillars with a roof over them – and pinned it on the lapel of Dancy’s jacket, saying, “I welcome you, Peter, into our brotherhood. You will be an asset to society just by practicing Stoic belief into our corrupted world.”

The men at the table applauded. Milvern said, “Peter, it is our custom for a new member to tell us how you apply Stoic teachings in your life.” He sat down.

Dancy inhaled, pressed his hands in front of him, and said, “I often have to pass by the Gamma Psi frat house, and the guys there make fun of me as I pass by, they call me ‘sissy boy’ because I won’t go chasing after girls, prostitutes, like they do.

“But I do my best,” he continued, “not to pay any attention to them, to endure their taunts, and let their words pass right by me. The Stoic teachers teach us to endure hardship with dignity, and to not fall into your lust and passions, to be the ideal man.”

The older men applauded. Milvern stood and said, “Thank you, Peter. Brothers, please greet the new brother.”

Dancy went around the table, shaking the hand of each man present. He ended shaking Milvern’s hand, and Milvern said, “Peter, you may take your place at the table.” The men ate, starting with red snapper soup, rolls, and Caesar salad, followed by steaks with brown gravy and rice, concluding with a variety of pies and coffee. As they ate, they spoke with one another.

Dancy sat and ate, awed to be with these distinguished men, a young kid among the grown-ups. He was one of them now, a member of the Stoa, the most exclusive club on campus.

“So, Peter,” smiled Walter Skyler, a prominent attorney in Philadelphia, “What year are you in?”

“I’m entering my senior year in September,” said Dancy.

“What do you plan t’do with this degree, what career?” said Skyler.

“I could be a professor, like Dr. Milvern. Greek History is so fascinating.”

“Anything special you like about it?” David Siller, a bank president, asked.

“I’m intrigued at the concept of an aristocratic class,” Dancy explained, “being in the service of the community. It’s in Plato’s Republic, how a class of people can be trained to run a society for the society’s benefit. To be quite honest–” He paused.

“Go on, Peter, you’re free to speak you mind here,” urged Milvern.

“I have trouble with Democracy in this country,” sighed Dancy. “I’m afraid that Democracy has led to the cheapening of all that’s good and noble in life. Like music – nobody listens to Bach or Beethoven anymore, but now we have this jazz and big band junk filling the minds of people, instead of serious classical music.”

“Yes, I’ve felt that way as well,” nodded Skyler.

“And politics,” added Dancy, “politicians act like vaudeville clowns going into town, and they promise the moon and stars, like Santa Claus handing out candy to kids. That’s no way to govern!”

“True,” nodded Milvern. “A man of the background of the late President Roosevelt has to cater to the mob. You remember it was the mob that had Socrates executed just for telling the truth.”

“Yes, and Jesus as well,” agreed Samuel Collier, a Methodist bishop. “The mob in Jerusalem howled and screamed for the Blood of Jesus, and for the release of the criminal Barabbas! That’s the people for you!”

“I’ve learned,” declared Ernest Toller, a radio executive, “that the masses of people can be moved one way or the other by their emotions. In the broadcasting industry, we know how to move their emotions. With the war in Korea, we can put it in the wider context of the Communist drive to dominate the world, but in a simple manner so that the masses could understand, not let it be too complicated. They wouldn’t comprehend.”

The men finished their dinner; Milvern rose and stated, “Brothers, it is our custom after we eat for us to stand and state how we apply the Stoic philosophy to our lives.”     Joseph Demming was the first to speak. He had a patch over his left eye and three fingers missing from his left hand.

“I fought,” said Demming, “in the late World War as a captain of an infantry company. As we were getting ready to enter Germany, a German mortar shell went off near me and sent me flying. During my stay in the hospital, I recalled the teachings of the Roman Stoic philosophers, such as Seneca and Marcus Arelius. They taught that so-called misfortunes – in my case, losing an eye and some fingers, and having some fractures – were not bad or good in themselves, because they had nothing to do with me as a man.

“I was also,” added Demming, “reminded of the Roman hero Scaevola, who stuck his hand into the fire to frighten the enemy. I would like also to praise the young men who served under me in the war. They served with great fortitude, discipline, and courage, enduring hardship and death for their country. We need more, many more men like that in our society.” He sat down, and the men applauded.

Samuel Collier, the Methodist bishop, rose and spoke:

“I was a poor kid with only one pair of shoes, and my father walked out on my mother and me when I was ten. But I felt a calling to serve the Lord on the pulpit, but I had no money for it. So the pastor of the church I went to took me to see Professor Milvern, who showed me how to apply for scholarships. I found there are good and decent rich men who’ll donate money to put a poor but honest young man through his schooling, so long as he keeps his grades up.

“Brothers,” Collier continued, “when you find a young man trying to better himself, give him a little help. I don’t mean smooth the road for him, for the rough road is always the road to glory, as Seneca teaches us. Give him guidance, give him the opportunity to prove himself, let him know when he’s about to make a mistake,  mentor him, just as Professor Milvern guided me, and guided all of us. If more rich and successful men did that, and recognized poor but talented young men, why, we wouldn’t have Communism.” He sat down, and the men applauded.

Stuart Hilliard rose and said, “I own the biggest anthracite coal-mining company in the state, and I’m eternally grateful for the men I have working under me. But I’ve had to be stern with them lately. They went on strike, and I refused, and still refuse, to deal with the union. I fear that if I give in to their demands, I would be indulging a spoiled child – I want this and I want that. Yes, coal-mining is a dangerous job, but that’s the way it is, and they could not accept that. They must, as Captain Demming said, be willing to face hardship, pain, injury, and death, for that is the sign of a noble man.” He sat down, and the men applauded.

Walter Skyler stepped over to Hilliard and whispered, “Stu, I know how we can get some niggers t’work f’you–“

”Okay, later,” said Hilliard quickly, and they shook hands.

Milvern rose and stated, “Brothers, we have seen in our lives the truth of Stoic teaching. We have seen the ordinary people on the street to be like a heard of sheep, that can scatter during a storm. We in this room, the leading figures in our various fields, have the great responsibility to be wise shepherds for the masses of people. They need and want to be led wisely, for they do not have the ability to govern themselves. Someday, and may it come soon, the world will acknowledge the truth, and accept the leadership of the men schooled in philosophy and government.”

Milvern lifted his hands, and the men rose from their seats.

“We go forth now,” said Milvern, “to lead, to guide, and to rule. May we make our decisions like steel, which when put to the fire is made stronger. Thank you for coming, and fare you well.”


In the sixties, Pomeroy College had become a state university, and could no longer exclude anybody for any reason, except bad grades. The state’s student grant program made it easier for less affluent students and women to enter Pomeroy.

Professor Clyde Milvern regularly walked down the Avenue-the main street of the campus- on his way to the commons for lunch. He frowned at the Black Student Union and their insistence on more learning about the history of Africa; Milvern, as an authority, stated, “Young man, Africa has no history, except during European colonization.” From this, he wrote in quarterly journals about how students’ political agendas are dictating curricula.

The campus feminist group, because they insisted on more studies on the role of women in society, drove him to give lectures about the Amazons and how they symbolized barbarism, while the Athenians symbolized civilization. He was amused at the happy zealousness of the young men from the local churches preaching on top of the Mound, the pile of earth used for public speaking.

Milvern regularly sat with Peter Dancy, who remained in Pomeroy as an associate professor of Greek and Roman History, making his own reputation of scholarship in the field. Once or twice a week, Dancy visited Milvern at his bungalow on the edge of the campus. They sat in the dimly-lit living room drinking coffee – it was all that Milvern could make for himself – and discussed Greek and Roman history and philosophy, and the decadence of the current era.

“Oh, Peter,” moaned Milvern, “what’s going on in the world? What’s happening to everything we’ve stood for?” Milvern showed Dancy an editorial in the student newspaper, The Pomeroy Press,  that said, “The Stoa is nothing but a fancier version of a kid’s tree fort, where no girls are allowed and they can do things that their parents can’t see.”

“On top of that,” griped Milvern, “the woman’s libbers on campus are calling themselves the Amazon Club, just to taunt us!”

“Ah, Doctor,” pleaded Dancy, “Don’t let those chicks get you down. Don’t worry, it’ll all turn out right in the end.”

“Well, we can at least hope,” worried Milvern.

Often, at close to nine AM, Milvern looked sunken, hollowed-out; he would ask Dancy, “Peter, I’m tired, please help me to the bedroom.”

“Sure, no problem, Doctor,” said Dancy, and he lifted Milvern to his feet and guided him to the bedroom and on the bed, took off his shoes, and laid him down.

“Thank you, Peter,” said Milvern, “oh, and from now on, please, call me Clyde. So very few people have done so.”

“Oh, uh, okay, Clyde.” smiled Dancy.


On June 1971, Milvern presided at the Stoa’s biannual dinner. The men of the club dined on roast beef and au gratin potatoes, string beans, Caesar salad and varieties of pie and coffee. After dinner, Dancy gave the opening address:

“Our club has come under attack from various quarters, as being an elitist club. What people fail to understand is that there will always be an elite to run society. The question is, how will it run society? Will it govern by moderation, wisdom, and prudence? Or, will it be pushed and pulled by every whim of the mob, every fad that comes along?

“Still, the Stoa continues to gain new members, men, exclusively men, who value Classical education as a guide to living the good life in society. We don’t seek a mass following; we seek quality, not quantity, in men.”

His voice softening, Dancy said, “And now, for our main address, I give you our founder and leader, Professor Emeritus Clyde Milvern.”

Slowly, Milvern pulled himself to his feet – his legs and feet hurt him lately – as Dancy helped him up, to the applause of the men in the room.

“My friends, my brothers,” Milvern said, “I feel all my years coming up to meet me –” He smiled and the men laughed lightly.

“I have taught the truth of Greek and Roman classical thought, about how a man should conduct himself in society, in his public affairs, and in his private life. The men who founded this country, the United States of America, were well-versed in the Classics, and they lived their teachings.

“One of the things the Classics teach us is to be active in the affairs of society. If the wise man stays away from civil affairs, public life then, as Plato teaches us, would be handed over to being run by inferiors! Yes, I’ve said it, inferiors! Men who would promise anything to the mob, who succumb to the whim of the moment, as Professor Dancy said.”

(Milvern never voted in an election, and seldom left the campus, except to visit the doctor twice a year.)

“Democracy has debased everything in this country!” continued Milvern. “It has turned our political life to hordes of cheap lawyers bargaining for position! It has legislatures turned into places where goods are exchanged, like a flea market! Education has become exercises in teachers repeating information to puny minds who could not begin to comprehend the knowledge! It has reduced the arts to nothing more that pretty pictures and pretty sounds, nothing to intrigue the mind or stir the spirit of Man! We have mass communications for the mass of people!

“Perhaps,” he decided, his head down, “it’s best that way. For the masses of people, there is the mass media, fitted for their small minds and limited visions. But for us, the men who aspire to the Platonic ideal of Man, there is something different, something higher and nobler, and that is what we must hold on to for ourselves.

“The commonest excuse is ‘Times have changed.’ Yes, times have changed, but that is all that has changed. Principles have not changed, nor will they ever. We must and shall stand with the Truth and our principles, no matter what happens in the world.

“One principle is the obligation of a citizen to his polis, his community, his state. It is, was, and will always be the obligation of the citizen to obey the laws of the state, and to fulfill other obligations, such as military service. But I’ve had the misfortune to see young men refuse to take up arms for their country, in the war in Viet Nam. It is proper for a country to demand its young men enter military service, and it’s the mark of a great and noble man to be ready to go through the hardships that military service entails!”

(As a young man in the 1910s, Milvern was eligible for the draft for World War One, but he did not go in – he wasn’t called, and he didn’t ask questions.)

“I have seen Negroes rise up and demand their rights as a group of people, and the men in charge of the democratic state give in to them. Let me remind you, gentlemen, that even the democratic regime in Athens had a vast slave class, and Sparta had their helot class. Individuals of the inferior classes were able to rise out of their subordinate status, based on their merit, and they or their sons could hope to be full citizens. But the class they emerged from remained. A subordinate class is and will always be needed to carry out the manual labor of society, but they cannot, must not, make decisions for society. Communism is the present example of what happens to a society turned over to its workers, its mechanics, and its hobos.”

(Milvern then remembered his father, a farmer, beating him whenever he felt like it, and calling young Clyde “my little girl” when his friends came by.)

“We must also reject,” Milvern went on, “the false idea of universal, equal rights, the belief that simply due to residency, you have the rights of a citizen. In ancient Rome, citizenship was a privilege conferred by the proper authority, as a reward for service! Citizenship is not a gift, and not every person is capable of earning this honor! We must return to the idea that citizenship is a privilege belonging to those who have proven worthy, its finest, most productive people, and all others must be excluded for the good of the nation!”

The men in the room-wealthy, influential men, men taught thus by Professor Milvern-rose and applauded for fifteen seconds, then sat down.

Milvern added, “I must speak this time about religion. This club as a group, and I in particular, have been accused of atheism, of not believing in God. I shall speak for myself and say that I do believe is a form of Supreme Divinity. But it’s not the religion performed by the masses of people! That religion is mainly the same mass-produced painting and music I’ve talked about, but suitable to whichever commonplace image of God is available at the time! Such a mass religion, like the mass media, is suitable only for the minds of the mass of people! We who are the heirs to Greek Philosophy know the true nature of the Divine!”

Milvern sighed, and intoned, “I speak of God this time, because I shall meet Him presently. I’m dying of cancer, and I only have at least three months to live.”

There was a moan from the men, with mouths gaping, and a few jumped to their feet.

Milvern continued, “During this time, I have been putting my affairs in order, which is simple due to the fact that I’m not married, and never have been. I have never need or wanted the company of women. The study of Classical wisdom has always been my passion. You, the men of the Stoa, have been my brothers, my real family. It is therefore fitting that I leave you my true legacy, my life’s work.”

He turned to Dancy and said, “Peter, please stand.”

Dancy rose; he knew that Milvern was ill, but he didn’t know how ill. What was going to happen?

“Peter,” said Milvern, “”I have found you to be one of the finest minds in the nation on Greek and Roman studies. You have produced a wonderful newsletter for the club, so that I could communicate with the brothers on a regular basis. Plus you have raised funds from our members to keep our projects flourishing. At this time, before I die, I hereby name you my successor as Leader of the Stoa.”

The men rose and applauded as Dancy hugged Milvern, who kissed Dancy’s forehead. Both men wept.

The applause faded; Dancy inhaled and said, “Let us remain standing and hold our glasses high.” Lifting his champagne glass–the other men followed suit–Dancy announced, “Let us drink a toast, to Clyde Milvern, the wisest man this nation has ever had!” and he and all the others drank.

Milvern wept, but he smiled. His life’s work was not in vain; it would go on.

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The Praxis With John Mason

I speak about the Freedom Ride for Voting Rights, and of the weed to defend the right to vote.

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The Mason Moment, June 25, 2021

I speak about the latest bill in Florida demanding that teachers and students register their political beliefs, and about the Freedom Ride for Voting Rights.

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Freedom Ride For Voting Rights

This Saturday, June 26, I’ll join many other Philadelphia citizens in the Freedom Ride For Voting Rights, sponsored by the union  UNITE/HERE, to go to DC to join voting-rights activists and continue to advocate for the For The People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and statehood for the District of Columbia.

The US Senate failed to stop the filibuster on the vote for the For The People Act, but the fight is definitely NOT over. We’re continue to get in touch with OUR senators and Congress-members to let them know we’re not AT ALL giving up on the fight for our rights.

We must continue to resist the impediments Republican state legislatures are erecting to prevent people of color from voting; since they must resort to such despotic tactics,  the Republican Party has shown it has no ideas to offer the American people, itself as unfit to govern. They must never get the ideas that we’ll just give up and put up with  the loss of our votes and our voices. In the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, brave activists have literally died to advance voting rights; we must never let them down.

The fight for freedom is ours, are you in?

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Photo by Markus Spiske on


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Little Brown Church In The Vale, an original short story

The little church sat next to a two-lane road among the curves of farmland in Darcy Township, Pennsylvania. It had a small steeple, two yards high, which timidly drew attention to the church. The building had two floors; the top floor was the sanctuary, and the bottom floor had the dining room and kitchen.

For decades, the church went through everything within its stucco walls: weddings and funerals, Christmas pageants, vigils of the cross on Good Friday and Easter Sunrise service, collection plates gathering pocket change, and clusters of people talking and kids playing after the service. The church was a second home for its people.

On a Sunday in May 1995, the morning service ended, and the pastor, the Reverend Robert Helmer, shook everybody’s hand. People eased around the pans of water — the roof leaked, and the roofer was expensive. (The men of the church, when younger, got up on ladders to patch the roof, but they couldn’t do that now.) They were glad they didn’t have to take their coats with them into the sanctuary – the furnace didn’t work all winter, and everybody had to wear coats inside and they had kerosene heaters. They got used to the window being boarded up (there wasn’t a stained-glass artist in the area) and the big holes in the carpet.

The Reverend Helmer shook the hand of Harry Newland, one of the oldest members of the church, who was a boy when the cornerstone was laid. “Rob,” sighed Newland, “What’s the church gonna do about this?” as he waived his skinny arm over the sights of wear and tear. “Don’t nobody care about this place?”

“I have a meeting with the district superintendent tomorrow,” said Helmer, “maybe he’ll have some good news for us.”

At that, one of the boys from the Sunday School came up and warned, “Reverend, the water’s coming out dirty again.”

“Thank you, Jimmy,” said Helmer.

After graduating from the seminary, Rob Helmer asked the bishop to post him in this, his home church, to minister to the people he grew up with. Helmer walked around Darcy, meeting other young people who attended Sunday School with him as kids. He asked them to drop by the church sometime, and they would say, “Yeah, maybe someday.”

They never did.

As Helmer emerged from the church, a red Jeep Cherokee showed to a brief stop, and a heavy man in his late twenties stared at the church and its people, then drove off. Some saw the man’s face through the bluish tint of the windshield and said, “Isn’t that Danny Hoffman’s boy? I thought he moved to Philly.”

Helmer also saw the man’s face – John Daniel Hoffman, who, after getting out of high school, did move to Philadelphia; the same kid whose father never held a job for long or drew a sober breath, and who was teased and bullied by all the other kids and many of the adults, even in church. Helmer heard Hoffman got rich in the adult entertainment business, and came back to the area on business. All other town people muttered, “What’s he doin’ here? Showing off how rich he is!”

The next day, Helmer met with the Reverend Philip Dodson, district superintendent for that part of the state.

“Rob,” Dodson said, “We’ve received word from the county that your church may be declared unfit for human habitation. If that goes through, we would have to be forced to close it down.”

The church closed? “Can they do that, close a church?” he asked.

“The building’s been sorely neglected,” Dodson continued. “Since the deed of the building was transferred to the district, the district has paid for the maintenance and utilities as best it could. But times and hard in the region, employment’s bad, and contributions’ve fallen off. So we’ve had to cut expenses.”

Helmer trudged to his seven-year-old Plymouth, and thought – The church will be closed. He got in the car, then prayed, “Please help me, Lord, what should I do?” He would have to tell everybody in the congregation, they would take it hard.

When he came to Darcy Borough, Helmer saw the same red Jeep Cherokee parked by the Sweetheart Inn restaurant. He went inside and saw, sitting at the counter, John Hoffman. Once a timid, heavy kid who wore worn-out clothes from the five-and-dime, Hoffman wore a double-breasted suit and a diamond in his left earlobe.

Hoffman saw Helmer come in and cheered, “Hey Rob!”

“Hello, John,” smiled Helmer as they shook hands and pressed against each other.

“Siddown,” urged Hoffman, “Y’ want anything, I’ll treat!”

“Naw, thanks,” said Helmer. “So, y’ been t’ see y’ mom?”

“Yeah,” sighed Hoffman, “They’re takin’ good care a’ her.” (Hoffman’s mother was in the finest mental hospital in the state.) “I’m kind’a making up for when I couldn’t take care of her.”

“An’ y’ dad?”

“Ain’t heard from him in a year. So, your mom okay?”

“Oh, not so good,” Helmer shrugged, “but the nursing home’s taking good care a’ her. So, John, what brings you back?”

“I’m purchasing little bits of land in the county,” Hoffman declared. “Real estate’s a great investment, something for the future. Y’ look great, still playing basketball?”

“Yeah, at the Y on Franklin Street downtown.  Say, I saw y’ pass by the church yesterday. Y’ know the district’s talking’ about closing’ the church, the county wants to condemn it.”

“Yeah, I know,” grunted Hoffman, “I have some connections in the courthouse.”

Connections-real estate-the church-Helmer asked, “What do y’ know about it?”

Hoffman leaned towards Helmer and confided, “I’m out t’ buy the church’s property from the district. I already bought the mortgage on it.”

Helmer couldn’t believe it – buy a church? He asked, “What d’ y’ plan t’ do with it?”

“I’ll add it to the Redmond farm, I bought that a couple months ago,” Hoffman replied. “Tear down the building, clear the brush and trees near it. Don’t know whether t’ make it onto an industrial park, or homes. A lot a’ people coming’ into the area from New York, thanks t’ the new expressway.”

Helmer inhaled, then said, “John, this is a house of worship, a house of God! Don’t that mean anything t’ you?”

Hoffman muttered, “Some a’ the worse teasing’ and bullying’ I got as a kid was in that house of worship!  I tried t’ be a good Christian, follow the Ten Commandments an’ all that! But the other kids – y’ know the Jensen kids, they had this tree fort, an’ their parents were super-Christian? Well, inside the tree fort they had all kinds a’ dirty books an’ magazines, an’ condoms that a’ been used! The other kids had that stuff too, an’ they cussed an’ stole liquor from their parents’ cabinets!”

Hoffman slumped back in his stool and added, “I tried t’ be good, I needed help from someone, anyone, an’ my parents were no good about it! Y’ know my dad was too drunk or too stupid t’ do anything. The other adults didn’t want anything t’ do with me, they all looked like they wanted to smack me.”

Helmer bowed his head – Hoffman was right, the people of the church were mean to him, and ignored his needs. “I guess that’s what made you go into pornography, huh, John?”

“Well, those good Christian people didn’t care about me or my family,” hissed Hoffman, “so I don’t care about them.”

After Helmer left the restaurant, he wondered-was there any hope for the church? Did people care about it? He drove past the church; the signboard’s paint and lettering was fades by the weather, the grass was high, and the stucco face was falling apart.

He drove to the house where he rented a room on Brookfield Road near the creek. He called on as many of the members of the church as he could, with the message, “The district’s planning to close the church! Come to the meeting at the church tomorrow at seven PM.”

Some of them said, “I dunno, we’ll see.”

Later that evening, Helmer prayed for success, but a thought crept up: “Is God using John Hoffman to test the church?”

At the meeting, Helmer told twenty people what went on with Dodson and Hoffman, then concluded, “If we want to save our spiritual home, then I say we take our stand here and now! I say we go to court to stop the order coming from the county, and let’s get together to save this church, which we’ve allowed to fall into neglect, and our souls, which we’ve also neglected! Have we let both rot, complaining but not doing anything?”

Arnie Munson, a plumbing contractor, jumped up and raged, “What’re y’ tryin’ t’ get us involved in? Y’ jus’ tryin’ t’ cause trouble! Let me out ‘a here!” and he stomped down the aisle.

That, right there!” Helmer called out. “What’ve you ever done for the church, Arnie, except complain about everything? Like the plumbing, why don’t y’ do something about the plumbing, donate some time t’ fix it?”

“I don’t give nobody a free ride!” grunted Munson, “I work for a livin’!”, and he continued out the door.

“Look, like I said,” continued Helmer, “if we don’t pull together, the church will be closed!”

“Aw, don’t be so dramatic,” snapped Mrs. Yeager, a widow who had no faith in anything or anybody. “Politicians’ll do what they want.”

“Rob, what happened t’ you at college?” asked Joe Carney, a gas station owner. “Did y’ pick up some crazy radial ideas? Protestin’, demonstratin’ like some activist preacher!”

“If we don’t do something, now,” warned Helmer, “the church will be closed and torn down, do you understand that?”

Carney stood for a moment, then said, “Naw, they ain’t gonna tear down a church,” waving his hand as he sat down.

“Damnit, let’s wake up here!” snapped Harry Newland as he rose. “We treated Johnnie Hoffman mean, (cough) an’ we’re getting’ punished for it! (cough) We let the church go t’ hell, an’ we let (cough) ourselves go to hell! (cough) Don’t we care about this church? Rob is right” –  and he collapsed into spasms of coughing, clutching his chest. People wondered if they should get an ambulance, but there was no phone in the building.

The following Sunday, Helmer brought the same message to the congregation, but all anyone said was, “Harry Newland died cursing in church.

One month later, Helmer drove to the church as a bulldozer rammed through the stucco wall of the building, while John Hoffman leaned on his red Jeep Cherokee. Hoffman turned to see Helmer pull up and get out of the Plymouth. They looked at each other and Helmer and said, “Hey, John.”

“Hey, Rob,” Hoffman replied, his voice down. “Too bad about Harry Newland, he was a great guy.”

“Yeah,” Helmer, sighed, his head bobbing.

I understand the people didn’t do much to-about this,” said Hoffman.

Nah,” nodded Helmer. “The people-I can’t be mad at them. All they went through in life, they lost any fight in them. They just take it, and don’t fight back. What else can I say?”

“Yeah, I know,” said Hoffman, from the back of his throat, “I can’t be one of them, why I got out. They knew their place, and they’re afraid of what might happen if they got out of it.”

A section of the wall crashed, and Hoffman and Helmer moved back. “Rob,” said Hoffman, “please don’t be angry at me. I was so bitter, I had to do this.”

“Naw, I’m not angry,” shrugged Helmer. “I’m starting to think the church-once it as a living thing, and it was about to die.”

“Sounds about right,” agreed Hoffman, “so, what now?”

“We’ll find another place to meet, maybe someone’s living room,” Helmer said, and then they hugged.


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The Mason Moment, June 20, 2021

I speak about Father’s Day, and of the importance of healing from childhood trauma.


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Happy Juneteenth

On Saturday, June 19, we will celebrate Juneteenth, when we commemorate the day of June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger informed former slaves in Galveston, Texas, of their emancipation from slavery, over two months after Lee surrendered in Appomattox, and over two years after Lincoln issued the emancipation Proclamation. (News of the end of the war traveled slowly through Texas; and several confederate divisions did not surrender until June 1865.) (

There has been a movement to commemorate this event as the final end to chattel slavery in America, and to honestly discuss the history of slavery as a terrible historic fact. This week, President Joe Biden signed the act, passed by both houses of Congress, declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. (

This comes amid the new Republican-conservative hysteria over Critical Race Theory (CRT), a concept, developed in the 1970s and 1980s, that looks into how race and racism affect every aspect of American society, be it education, municipal government, medical care, law and law enforcement, employment, etc., to how thoroughly racism has permeated our society and public discourse. ( Republican legislators and media talkers have told their followers that CRT is too divisive for our society, it makes people feel bad, and it causes white people to hate themselves. Several state legislatures dominated by Republicans have introduced bills banning or limiting the teaching of CRT in public schools, even though it’s a discussion mainly in university circles. ( There are people who would not face the reality of racism in this country, and would not learn about or confront slavery in America and how it affected our economy and society.

This meshes with another new Republican-conservative bogie, the 1619 Project of the New York Times, named after the date in August 1619 when the first people from Africa came to Virginia as slaves. ( Just like with CRT, Republican-dominated legislatures have introduced laws attempting to prohibit the use of the 1619 Project in classrooms as part of discussions about racism in this country. trump, in an attempt to please his base, had organized a “1776 Commission,” to call for “patriotic education” in schools and to minimize the effect and reality of slavery. (

Of course the Republicans whine about kids being “brainwashed” and “indoctrinated” in schools by “leftist professors;” they’re projecting their own effort to turn schools and education into propaganda tools onto people who want an honest discussion about racism in this country. They don’t want any serious intellectual discussions, which would destroy their political power and their worldview. Let’s not take their “arguments” too seriously; all they want to do is hang on to their waning power. Let us continue to learn on our own, in and outside the classroom, and discuss our learning with others. Our brains, and our votes, are our mightiest weapons.



London, United Kingdom, August 3rd 2019:- Anti fascist demonstrators march in opposition to a rally by supporters of the former EDL leader Tommy Robinson

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The Praxis With John Mason

The Mason Moment, June 11, 2021

I speak about the decline within the Republican Party, and its efforts to limit people’s right to vote.


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