Paul Elisha

We are remembering our colleague Paul Elisha, a longtime WAMC contributor who died in 2015. In 2004, he discussed his life and military service with WAMC's Alan Chartock.

Our dear friend and colleague Paul Elisha passed away two years ago at the ago of 92. Now, his friends have joined together to publish Neap Tide - a collection of his unpublished poems.

Paul's passions and endeavors included: Veteran and military historian, poet and musician, radio host, longtime state government public relations person and civic volunteer and civil rights activist. But, here on WAMC, much of our audience knew Paul for his incisive commentaries, music programming and host of the poetry program, A Bard’s Eye View.

Paul’s friends Stu Bartow and Barbara Ungar worked with the family to collect unpublished poems together for the new collection. 

The University at Albany Department of Music and Theatre will honor the late Paul Elisha on Monday. The poet, musician, veteran, activist, journalist, radio host, and familiar voice on WAMC passed away in August.

  Our dear friend and colleague, Paul Elisha, has died at the age of 92. Paul was an inspiration, a mentor and confidant. He was filled with wit, passion, integrity and an understanding of what made us better people. There was music and poetry which he dispensed with beauty and candor.

Paul had been a part of The Roundtable since its inception. He was a frequent commentator, he hosted our long-time "Performance Place" series, and would regularly interview noted poets for his "A Bard's Eye View" segment.

In remembrance of Paul we share two of these interviews. The first with William Jay Smith and the second with Djelloul Marbrook.

Alan Chartock

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses Paul Elisha and his contributions to WAMC, Donald Trump on undocumented immigrants, and AT&T helping the government spy.

He’s being remembered as an Renaissance man. We’re honoring Paul Elisha today at WAMC — a  WWII veteran, poet, professional musician and longtime voice on these airwaves who died Sunday at 92 after suffering a stroke.

Paul Elisha: On Traitors and Treason

Jul 28, 2015

  To update, modernize and paraphrase an ages-old dictum: Those who live by the gun, will surely die by the gun… in a not-too-distant but certain future.  According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, we remain the only developed nation where 89 men, women and children are killed with guns every day.  Brady’s mission, to create a safer America, through a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries, by keeping guns out of the wrong hands is only made more difficult, when co-conspirators of the so-called “Military-Industrial Complex” that former President and Army General Dwight Eisenhower wisely warned us to shun, lard legislators with dirty money they deliberately mislabel as “vital for defense.”  It’s time to call this what panderers and pols know in their cold-blooded hearts.  It’s treason!

Watching Public Television’s recent National Memorial Day observance, that made reference to the awe-inspiring sacrifice of World War II veterans, in which this commentator was a participant for nearly three years of combat, one was of course, struck by the sheer immensity in numbers of those affected, both as casualties and hapless victims.  The format evoked multiple emotions of sorrow and pride.  But the sheer scope of projection still left this viewer wanting.  The story of America’s current world-wide involvement has increased the scope of our military might.  As the observance reached a climactic intensity, this viewer wondered at the lack of ardor in the on-site audience of thousands, ostensibly gathered to bear proud witness and emotional acclaim.  As past military leaders and those of government joined current commanders and leaders, to acknowledge fealty to a sacred debt, this veteran was aware of an immense expression of silence…and a vexing and voiceless question:  How and when will all who demand and who must respond to such a huge national sacrifice speak the single missing word: “Enough!?” and pledge an end to the senseless slaughter that maims and emasculates our most precious resource: America’s families and their members?

Carl Sandburgh, the great American pundit/poet and Lincoln biographer coined a phrase: “The past is a bucket of ashes,” which came to mind on reading of Marco Rubio’s decision, to run for the U.S. Presidency, in the next national election, in 2016.  As the New York Times noted, Rubio stressed his youth, with a verbal swipe at “leaders of the past,” and declared generational war, which is the last thing our nation needs, at this crucial moment in its all-too-tenuous-history, as a people’s democracy.  If ill-will and insult are the sum of the character medicines we can bring to bear on the growing virus of our disunity, then our future as an exemplar of its opposite is in serious question.  It also lends little caustic comfort to admit that our own lack of persistence has added more heft to its impetus.  The most immediate effect of this appears to be a small stampede by self-certified savants, quick to avert any hint of evidence that Rubio’s rush to impertinence against elders might reveal his latent lack of confidence in traits, still tinged with smart-aleck snippets of adolescent angst.

Since this commentary was aired, nearly a year ago, last June, the hoodlums in ‘The People: Yes’ poems of Carl Sandburg, have become emboldened.  The House-Divided, that Lincoln warned against, has become an American sanctuary…, a refuge for rowdies.  A hooligan hierarchy has infested it, while hard-pressed defenders of freedom waffle over how and when to do what they know they must.  This pundit’s re-edited update is offered, now, in the ardent hope that it might help.

Paul Elisha: Defense?

Mar 17, 2015

The Congressional ‘War Hawks’ and their Profit-Monger patrons are at it again.  That most American of Poets, Carl Sandburgh called them the “Hoodlums!”  “This is the hate my father gave me, this was in my mother’s milk, this is you and me and all of us in a world of hoodlums—maybe so.”… he wrote, “…it has always been so, it will always be so, there is nothing more to it.”   “Let us do this now…for our mothers…for our sisters and wives…let us kill, kill, kill---for the torsos of the women are tireless and the loins of the men are strong;” he wrote in 1919, after the first World War.  But in 1936, on a note of hope, he wrote: “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”

Probably nothing has roiled the hoped-for response to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s unprecedented address to the joint houses of The U.S. Congress, like the arrival on-scene and subsequent pained demeanor, of Nobel Peace-Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel.  The coincidental arrival of an unanticipated Spring snow storm also provided excuses for the large number of members in both houses, who shunned the Prime Minister’s highly controversial speech, arranged by House Speaker Boehner, without any previous notice to President Obama; a glaring and intentional insult.

Paul Elisha: Different Venue, Same Vice

Mar 3, 2015

This dispirited pundit has learned that patent and pointless race prejudice, plus spiteful political pandering are too poisonous a mix for any communicator to endure. Now, however, this ‘Pro Patria’ veteran is assailed by a more urgent concern: Multiple efforts by entrenched adversaries of our honest but overwhelmed President, to disarm him for the remainder of his term. Outnumbered by paladin politicians, this pundit has donned his ‘bard’s-armor,’ to do battle with verse rephrased but still relevant in color and outlook to the original, he created more than seventy years ago. Different venue, same vice.

Paul Elisha: True Blue

Feb 24, 2015

From the end of this month, through the next two that follow it, we find the most intense succession of religious holidays on the American calendar.  For one of the first popular democracies to guarantee personal religious freedom but bar all formal ties between officials and offices of government and any entity of organized religion, is truly an anomaly but a crucially purposeful one, at that.  Though most of this nation’s founders were either deists or adherents to some religious belief, all had seen or suffered enough of the iniquities of ultra-orthodox fanaticism to imbue determined opposition to any tie that might deny believers or nonbelievers unfettered freedom of choice.  This resistance was embedded in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Paul Elisha: Three Political Necessities

Feb 21, 2015

The dawn of  Presidents Day 2015 found the northeastern United States frozen in place by the worst frost in the 218 years since the first President, George Washington, took office in 1789.  33 years later, England’s Lord Tennyson would memorialize Washington, noting that self-reverence, self-knowledge and self-control lead life to sovereign power.  He also warned that  “The jingling of the Guinea helps the hurt that honor feeds." which describes the state of our nation’s self-respect now, when all three of these political necessities are frozen out by Congressional quarrels, just when they’

President Barack Obama delivered his two thousand/fifteen – State Of The Union – Address to a Joint Session of Congress, in which victorious mid-term Republicans were determined to make even his concession of this reality a moment of impotence, best kept to him-self.  His refusal to accept this belittling has set all else that follows in a somber sense of gridlock.  Seemingly impelled by this impetus, House Speaker Boener unceremoniously announced that he had invoked a ‘Joint Session’ of Congress, which he’d invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address.  This apparent insult on Speaker Boener’s part may also be more seriously seen as an effort to force the President into an embarrassingly impossible position, between two devilishly difficult political choices.  Favoring liberal-Jewish-American Democrats over strongly-pro-Netanyahu conservatives (or vice-versa), is surely bound to provoke the ire of those with seemingly less clout.

On the eve of the most difficult and demanding chapter in this democratic republic’s history of having to mount and maintain military defenses of absolute necessity, it’s distressing to learn that those responsible for providing the financial support , our defenders can’t do without, are trying to force them to do it, ‘on the cheap.’  What this really represents, as outlined in a recent issue of the New York Times, amounts to a phony alibi for breaking a vow made to all combat veterans, who’ve literally put their lives at risk for our nation, that no matter the cost, funds needed to treat their resultant disabilities would be found and allocated, to restore their limbs and lives to reasonable levels of independence.

On this One-Hundreth anniversary of the ‘Yuletide Peace, undeclared but observed by ordinary soldiers on both sides of the field of slaughter, in World War I, this grizzled but grateful, WWII Veteran turned ‘Pundit,’ thought it an apt time to examine our progress toward a peaceful and permissive world or the lack of one…, and try to fathom, why not?

Paul Elisha: Restoring Honor

Dec 16, 2014

This aged iconoclast has found a hauntingly apt adage, that appears in scriptures of all the world’s major beliefs, to flat-out decry the disgraceful sham by which the Cheney/Bush duet conspired to deliver the safety and security of this nation and its citizens, into the grip of corporate contractors, without a shred of conscience for consequence.  They did this, not only to beat the rap for the bucks ultimately banked by them all but also for the venal viggerish, now available in lavish amounts shoveled into the coffers of shifty politicians, who lack the self-respect to refuse such shoddy blood-soaked sugar.

 In frequent past circumstances, this currently dispirited paladin was moved to remind certain ‘Second Amendment’ advocates (who’ve had what more of us should believe are misdirected objectives), about its starkly restrictive preamble.  Few of them seem, either to have read and /or correctly interpreted it.  In his first inaugural address, after being elected the third American President, in 1801, Thomas Jefferson said that the sum of a good government is to restrain its citizens….”from injuring one another.” He said this was necessary, “… close the circle of our felicities.”

Hard to believe, ours is a nation literally founded on a principle of church/state separation, when most current political emphasis, especially that of evangelically driven single minded, religionist zealots, seems obsessively focused on the opposite.  As this commentator noted in a two-thousand twelve essay, it was not hostility to Christianity that moved our founders to downplay it, it was the need to ensure religious neutrality.  The Treaty of Tripoli, an agreement between the United States and the Muslim Region of North Africa, signed in 1797, by then President George Washington and approved by the Senate, under John Adams, states flatly: “The Government of The United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.”

There’s no denying the heat of resentment that prodded America’s colonial rebellion to its ultimate break with British rule and the formation of a new system of governance, controlled and administered by an elected body of its citizens.  In retrospect, though, with the passage of several centuries for calmer contemplation, this should not condemn every aspect of the British system to infamy and avoidance.  In fact, a thorough study of our current system of governance shows it lacking a mode of service, not completely available within our three traditional branches of government, into which it’s divided.  Closer scrutiny in fact reveals a glaring need for its addition.  A management branch could re-revolutionize our current system of three governmental branches, all of which are held hostage to the insidious influence of a continuous cycle of elective politics.

From the time of its purported discovery, this land’s status as a welcome destination for immigrants has been clouded in controversy.  Its discovery, so-called, was preceded by a century and a half of episodic probes by Norsemen, in open boats, who leap-frog-ed down the Greenland coast leaving outposts of free-spirited Vikings, to warrant what their curiosity had found but their ancestral natures had left un-peopled.

Of all our country’s national observances, Veterans’ Day has always had a special importance, because wars have touched so many American lives, since the first Revolution, that changed our colonial-vassal status to an independent federated democratic republic, the continuity of which depends on all of its citizens.  That continuity has been tested too often, at increasing costs in money, materials, and precious human resources, with depressing signs of higher costs to come.  Sadly, the partisan pride at having survived the horror that claimed and maimed so many of their comrades has also compelled many combat veterans to be silent about the terrible dangers they escaped.  Prodded by the prospect of greater, more painful sacrifice, combat veterans who’ve served in our armed forces should raise their voices against war, as a sequential ‘next-step,’ in any negotiated effort to solve a difficulty or a perceived threat by anyone.  In our past service, what we WWII veterans saw of combat turned many of us into ‘soldiers against war!’

In the year 1900, in what this pundit believes to be one of the most cogent and powerful essays, Theodore Roosevelt claimed that no one is justified in doing evil for reasons of expedience.  Alas, in little more than a century later, expedience is fueling a return to the most vicious and inhumane practices of this self-proclaimed ‘democratic republic’s’ self-scarred history, in a succession of prejudicial efforts, to deny African-Americans and others of similar color, access to the civil rights ostensibly enjoyed by everyone else.  Conservative Republican officials and others of their ilk, at every level of government, from local through county, state and federal, are eagerly involved in this hateful denial, made even more detestable by their own outspoken claims of innocent ignorance.

On February 18th, 1860, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a feminist founder of the first Woman’s Suffrage Congress, in the United States, said this in a speech to members of the New York State Legislature: “The prejudice against color, of which we hear so much, is no stronger than that against sex.  It is produced by the same cause,…..The Negro’s skin and the woman’s sex are both prima facie evidence that they were intended to be in subjection to the white Saxon man.”

From the time of the American colonies’ declaration of independence from the Monarch-led Empire of Great Britain (on July 4, 1776), to the establishment of a democratic republic, with its first President, a Congress, Senate, unfinished draft of an as yet incomplete and un-adopted Constitution, nearly two decades would elapse. Still, their absolute belief in the certitude of their enterprise induced them to announce it to a then uninitiated assortment of nations.

Paul Elisha: Safety On The Roadways

Jun 24, 2014

Catching sight of a TV photo of conservative mischief-maker, Ralph Reed, (former anti-Indian tribes lobbying crony of the notorious Jack Abramoff) in the late news, recently, announcing that he was preparing once again to organize young Christians in a typical chapter of Ralph Reed chicanery, strongly reminded this pundit of the wisdom shared by Confucius, in his Analects, that: “Learning without thought is labor lost; while thought without learning is perilous.”  In light of all the sudden public angst about this Nation’s seemingly unsuccessful efforts to establish a well-functioning system of public education, the last thing we need is any kind of input by the likes of the crafty Mr. Reed.  Apparently, though, there is more than a little need of constructive concern, on the part of all of us, about how our young people are being educated and this brought to mind Marshall McLuhan, he of “The Medium Is The Message” fame.

We have come to that point in our nationhood, where our cohesion is at serious risk.  To paraphrase John Dunne, no one of us is an island, entire to itself; everyone is a part of the main, because we are all involved in humankind.  He was right, because in Latin, ‘homo’ translates as a male or female person or fellow creature.  Yet, despite all of our inclusive rhetoric, there are still those among us, who would reverse the democratic process in this fragile democracy to the most despicable meaning of “State’s Rights,” in which those of color are excluded and denied inclusion, except as sub-human members of the work-herd, as the ‘State’s-Right’ politicos once considered them.

As the present global mind-set continues to dominate the American psyche, from the acme of political policy to many ordinary areas of doing business, this commentator calls “Time-Out!”, for a look at where we are, how we got here, what it’s cost us and what our future portends. As the self-appointed market managers of the so-called democratic (small-d) idiom, we seem to have become habituated to catch-phrases that create a wide latitude of definition and too much room for inexactitude: like “National Destiny” and “Spheres of Interest;” both of which help to harbor inhospitable hanky-panky for the uncontrolled capture of money and power.