Two Women of Creation Stories: Eve and Skywoman

(Note: This is the tenth and final essay in my series on “Notable Women.”)

Two women, Eve and Skywoman, play central but different roles in two creation stories, the former in the Judeo-Christian and the latter in many of the Indigenous. 

In the Judeo-Christian creation story, Eve has a critical role, but clearly subordinate one to Adam who was the first to be created by God out of “the dust of the ground.”

After instructing man not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God says, “It is not good that the man is alone; I will make him a helper like himself.” (Genesis, Ch. 2: Verse 18) God casts man into a deep sleep, and takes one of his ribs to make woman.

In the Garden of Eden, the woman lacks the strength to resist the serpent’s temptation. She sins by eating the forbidden fruit and then gets man to eat it.

Once man confesses, God reprimands woman first, asking: “Why have you done this?” The woman says: “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (3:13)

God indicates her future suffering: “I will make great your distress in child-bearing; in pain shall you bring forth children; for your husband shall be your longing, though he have dominion over you.” (3:16)

Turning to Adam, God underlines the culpability of woman by beginning: “Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten of the tree ….”

God stresses to man that he, no longer in the lush, verdant Eden, must now work hard to draw food from the soil: “…thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread ….”(3:18-19)

Adam decides to name woman “Eve,” a name in Hebrew relating to the verb, “to live.” Eve then is “the mother of all the living.” (3:20)

Whereas Eve plays a supporting and sinister role in that creation story, Skywoman’s role is vastly different. Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, relates the creation story of Skywoman, “shared by the original peoples throughout the Great Lakes.”

Through a shaft of light streaming from a hole in Skyworld, Skywoman falls down, like a twirling maple seed, clutching a bundle, her long black hair billowing.

All the animals below look up and recognize a being. Beating their wings to break her fall, the geese catch her.

The animals then gather in council to consider what to do with her. A great turtle floats by and offers its back to her. She steps on to it. The animals realize she needs land for a home, so they in turn dive deeply for mud, all failing.

Finally a tiny muskrat dives, returns, but perishes. However, in his tiny paw he manages to hold on to some mud. “He had given his life to help this helpless human.”

The turtle tells the others to place the mud on his back. Skywoman spreads the mud. She is so moved by the gifts of the animals, she begins to sing and dance in thanksgiving. From the small dab of mud, the entire earth grows, what the Indigenous call Turtle Island. This occurs, Kimmerer relates: “Not by Skywoman alone, but from the alchemy of all the animals’ gifts coupled with her deep gratitude.”

When Skywoman fell, she did not come empty-handed. She grabbed onto the Tree of Life, bringing with her fruits and seeds of all kinds. “These she scattered onto the new ground and carefully tended until the world turned from brown to green.”

The stories—especially creation stories—civilizations tell underline the values and principles important to them. They are also normative, indicating how we ought to live. In my study of world civilizations, I have found that civilizations may decline because they continue to cling to values which may have helped them rise and prosper, but because of changed circumstances are no longer useful or valid.

Perhaps, in this era of human-induced climate change, modern society can benefit from an examination of its creation stories and from a comparison with other creation stories, including the Indigenous story of Skywoman. The Judeo-Christian story is marked by desire, sin, punishment, and banishment from a Garden of Eden. The themes of this Indigenous story are: help and kindness from the animal world, gratitude, reciprocity and balance with all living things, and flourishment.

In the first, Eve—lacking in character—sins and is banished, along with Adam, from the Garden of Eden; in the second, Skywoman essentially creates our Garden of Eden.

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired educator (history and politics) and a regular columnist.

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Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

(Note: This is the ninth essay in a series on “Notable Women.” It was originally published as “The amazing career of the Queen of Soul” in the Newport Daily News on March 21, 2022.)

Fifty-five years ago Aretha Franklin’s recording, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” broke into the Top 40 Pop Chart, her first genuine commercial hit which went on to sell over one million copies.

The documentary, “Muscle Shoals,” describes how the song came to be. Jerry Wexler, a music producer at Atlantic Records, convinced her and manager/husband, Ted White, to travel to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a literal backwater in the world of music production.

In her interview for the documentary, Franklin describes Wexler’s pitch: “I’ve got these cats down in Muscle Shoals and they’re really greasy.” Once in the studio, Franklin and the all-white musicians had the words of the song but worked without written music, trying in vain to find the right groove. Singer-songwriter Dan Penn described the scene: “They had a song, they had an artist, but nobody knew what to do, not even these geniuses.”

Suddenly keyboard player Spooner Oldham started a five-note riff filled with melancholy. Aretha began belting out the lyrics. “You’re a no good heartbreaker/You’re a liar and you’re a cheat/And I don’t know why/I let you do these things to me.” The other musicians joined in; twenty minutes later the song was cut.

On March 18, 1967, it broke into the Billboard Top 40 Pop Chart, reaching number 9, giving Franklin her first top-ten pop single. The song reached number one on the R & B chart.

In an interview, Franklin highlighted the importance of her experience at Muscle Shaols. “Coming to Muscle Shoals was the turning point. That’s where I recorded my first million selling record. It was a milestone, THE turning point of my career.”

Franklin began her music career at a young age, singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was a minister. In 1954 when she was twelve, her father began to take her along on his “gospel caravan” tours. In 1956 J.V.B. Records released her first single, “Never Grows Old,” releasing that same year the album, “Spirituals,” with five of her recordings.

From 1960 to 1966, Columbia Records had her under contract; however, genuine commercial success eluded her under its management. When her contract expired, music producer Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records convinced her to join Atlantic.

After recording her hit in Muscle Shoals, Wexler brought her and the main musicians to New York City and recorded an album with the history-making hit “RESPECT.” As a single, it entered the Top 40 Pop Chart in May 1967, climbed to #1, and remained on the chart for eleven weeks.

The song and I have a history, as it was released when I was finishing my freshman (plebe) year at the US Military Academy. During the academic week, which ended only after Saturday morning classes, room inspection, and parade, it was academics, military discipline and measure, and martial music.

However, at the Saturday night “mixer” dance, it was a different universe. With girlfriends and the girls who came from surrounding colleges, it was time to dance to “Midnight Hour” and “Mustang Sally,” (Wilson Pickett), “We Gotta Get Outta This Place” (The Animals), “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’” (Four Tops), and “RESPECT.” My tight, black collar loosened; the gray jacket became unzipped. It was time to get down and get lost in soul music.

The following year, three classmates and I donned female attire and lip-synched the song in a talent show. I reprised this four years later with other classmates in a talent show in our military unit in West Germany.

The song “RESPECT” came to be her signature song and eventually also served as a civil rights and feminist anthem.

Overall, Aretha Franklin’s accomplishments are breath-taking. She recorded 112 charted singles, including 17 top-ten pop singles, and 20 number one R & B singles. She won 18 Grammy Awards, including the first eight awards given for Best Female R & B Vocal Performance, a Grammy Awards Living Legend honor and a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Aretha Franklin, 1975, receiving a Grammy Award

She was awarded the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1987 she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

By coincidence, my wife and I happened to be in Detroit the day after she died (August 16, 2018). With a group of friends, we were visiting the Motown Museum. Included in the group were all four of us who had “performed” the song in 1968.

We struck up the tune and tried to remember our old moves. A reporter from a major French news service invited me to comment. I said: “The country [back then] was riven by race relations tension and we—you can see are all white—we didn’t give a damn. It’s really a statement about the unifying effect that music can have.”

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired educator and a regular columnist.


“Aretha: Lady Soul.” (album) Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1968.

“Aretha Franklin.” Wikipedia. .

Accessed March13, 2022.

“Muscles Shoals.” (DVD) Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2013.

Ward, Ed et al. Rock of Ages: The History of Rock & Roll. NY: Rolling Stone Press, 1986.

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Race, Racism, and Me, Part III

 (Note: This is the third essay in a series on “Race and Racism in America.” It was originally published by the Newport Daily News on March 2, 2022.)

In my 23-year teaching career at Portsmouth Abbey School, coming after my Army career, I not only educated students of numerous “races” and nationalities, I also served as the International Student Advisor, increasing my interaction with them. The school has been historically strong with Latino/a students since its founding in 1926. When I taught there (1992-2015), the number of Korean students surged followed by the Chinese. In my 20 years as their advisor, I recall that between 12% and 22% of the student population was international coming from 12 to 18 countries.

Portsmouth Abbey School is a boarding school. Therefore, I not only taught the students in the classroom, but also coached them on the fields and courts, ate with them, and tended them after dinner and on weekends.

My career at this school reinforced my experiences in the military. I came to know students of all colors, sizes, creeds, characters, and abilities: gifted and challenged, mature and immature, motivated and coasting, on track and astray.

To conclude this survey of my personal experiences, a look at race in my own family. I must have been home on leave from West Point when my close cousin, then in high school, told me she was going steady with a boy. I smiled. Then she said: “But he’s black.” “Oh, my goodness,” I said. Repeating the title of the famous movie, I said: “Ahh, ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’” My cousin told me how troubled her parents—who happened to be my godparents—and our grandmother were. Eventually they were married, and a baby girl was born. That baby grew and now has her own child.

I barely came to know my maternal grandmother, as she always spoke Italian. On the other hand, my father’s parents had already passed when I was a child. No photos of them were on display in our home, and I remember only a few stories told about them. Gustave Zilian was born in Germany and had worked on the Panama Canal where my father was born. When I asked my father about his mother, Zenobia Dubois Zilian, he simply said: “She was from the island of Martinique.”

Zenobia Dubois Zilian

It was only in the last few years after joining an ancestry organization that I learned more about her from documents. Her parents were from Cuba and perhaps Jamaica. She was born in Panama and spoke Spanish originally. In the 1930 Census document, she, my father (19 years old at the time), and all his siblings were listed as “Negro.”

With this knowledge, I was not surprised when my DNA analysis revealed I am 12% African, and from the area sometimes referred to as the “slave coast”.

In discussions with my mother about my father’s parents, I came to learn that my grandfather did not treat my grandmother well. I wonder now if my grandfather, after coming to this country with his young family in 1918, came to resent marrying a “negro” and having five “negro” children. Before I was born, did my grandmother feel the sting of racism from my grandfather?

All the experiences I have related in these three essays help me to understand my affinity to African culture and my friendships with African Americans. However, as one of these friends cautioned me after learning of my African DNA, I should never equate this with having the “Black Experience.”

After all, because of the color of my skin, I have never heard the click of car doors locking as I walked by, had a security guard follow me around in a department store, been denied service at a restaurant, watched TV featuring only people who did not look like me, reached into a box of crayons and pulled out one marked “flesh” which did not match my skin color, felt compelled to demonstrate with a sign on my chest proclaiming: “I am a MAN.” I have never felt like a second class citizen or human being.

Also, while I had the sex talk as an adolescent, I never had “The Talk” about people calling me certain demeaning words and especially about what to do if stopped by a policeman, once I had a driver’s license. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ entire book, “Between the World and Me,” is essentially this “talk” to his son. My African American friend told me recently that not a day goes by that someone does not do something which reminds him of the color of his skin.

In short, though I have had many challenges in my life, I have never had to worry about the color of my skin.

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired educator and a regular columnist.

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Race, Racism, and Me, Part II

(Note: This is the second essay in a series on “Race and Racism in America.” It was published by the Newport Daily News on February 21, 2022.)

While I grew up hearing the normal racial and nationality slurs common among teenagers in middle class America of the 1950s-60s, it was in my first few months at the US Military Academy that I heard unvarnished racism with a southern drawl from the mouth of a classmate. I thought he was kidding, but he was dead serious when he challenged me about my intention to do something with an African American classmate.

Dreaming to lead the Army football team as quarterback over Navy on national TV, I played freshman football next to a small number of African American classmates.

And then senior year came, and there was Gary Steele, a tall, athletic, handsome African American classmate, a star offensive end on the football team. We worked closely together during that year. Strong in body and in dedication to West Point’s values of “Duty, Honor, County,” he and I are still friends today.

Steele family, 2013, Induction of Gary into the Army Sports Hall of Fame (US Army)

Overall we had just a handful of African Americans in our class, certainly not a number representative of our country’s population. Of the 749 of us who graduated in the Class of 1970, I count seven apparent African Americans in my yearbook.

Following graduation in 1970, I reported to Airborne School and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. There I was taught by many sculpted, dedicated, long-serving, highly professional African American sergeants who instructed me on how to jump from an airplane, make a parachute landing fall, tie a bowline knot, rappel down a cliff, and navigate through a swamp. Most important, they taught me about myself and about leadership in stressful situations.

After all the academic schooling and military training, in March 1971, I reported to my first duty assignment in the 2nd Battalion – 509th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, Lee Barracks, Mainz, West Germany. The US was locked in the Cold War with the Soviet Union; we stood watch in a reserve position on “freedom’s frontier” behind the Inter-German Border.

What a shock it was to meet my first platoon. This was still a conscript Army then; the draft did not end until 1973. The Vietnam War had decimated the Army, called frequently then a “hollow” army. I knew my platoon would not be its official size of 33; however, 14 soldiers? It was more aptly called a reinforced squad, rather than an infantry platoon.

The majority of my platoon was composed of people of color, mostly African Americans and also one Native American.

The culture of the troops was in stark contrast to the culture I experienced at West Point. Most of the troops had been to Vietnam and were just finishing the last few months of their draft enlistments. Some showed minimal and grudging respect for me; others had no qualms about showing their disdain for this young, over-zealous, white, pretty boy who had not tasted real combat. A small number displayed outright contempt and white-hot hatred. My first day I was called “pig” and “cracker” behind my back.

During my assignment, Major General Frederic Davison assumed command of the division, the first African American to command a division. Along with several other young officers, I had the opportunity to meet with him for an informal conference.

Major General Frederic E. Davison, Commanding General, 8th Infantry Division

And then, when I became a company commander, there was Sergeant First Class Thornton, whom I elevated to First Sergeant of the company. A well-built African American, he brooked no disrespect or nonsense. With his help, the company became more disciplined and professional.

In three and one-half years in that unit, I served with soldiers of color, jumped out of airplanes with them, marched, bivouacked, played lunchtime basketball, and socialized with them. I even had a great game of basketball with the one who called me “cracker.” I learned that sports could transcend the color/race line.

Several years after returning stateside, I had a teaching assignment in the Social Science Department at West Point. And here there were African Americans Fred Black and Bill Lowry. Both were great officers and educators, and colleagues and friends. Fred, as well as Gary Steele, will read this column.

In the early 1980s, after many years in the world of military education, I found myself back in a frontline unit on the DMZ in Korea, serving as a principal staff officer in a brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

And here there was short, sturdy, tough-as-nails, African American Sergeant Major Wall. Having been away from the front line army for so many years, I lacked much knowledge and experience for my position. SGM Wall took the time to teach me. Many times he would enter my office, close the door, and offer me counsel and direction. We developed a mutual respect which turned to admiration.

He rotated out of the unit before I did. At his official departure ceremony, after saluting him, I hugged him—totally unheard of and in contrast to normal military protocol.  

In my 25-year military career, any negative stereotypes I may have harbored about African Americans were dismantled. I had met, worked with, played with, danced with, and soldiered with great ones, incompetent and unprofessional ones, and all in between.

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired educator and a regular columnist.

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Race, Racism and Me

(Note: This is the first in a series of essays on “Race and Racism in America.” It was originally published in modified form by the Newport Daily News on February 1, 2022.)

Race and racism comprise one of the great fault lines which continue to haunt American society.

W.E.B. Dubois, the greatest African American voice of the first half of the 20th century, wrote in 1903: “… for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.”

Martin Luther King Jr., in his final book before his assassination in 1968, wrote: “This long and callous sojourn in the far country of racism has brought a moral and spiritual famine to the nation. But it is not too late to return home.”

With the celebration of his birthday and with Black History Month approaching, I now force myself to consider and write about this fraught subject. If you have read my earlier columns, you know that I have written about it before, however, only on historical subjects. While integrating history, I hope with this series to engage its current dimensions.  

For your benefit as well as mine, it is fitting as a first step to examine my own background on this subject. Come take this journey with me.

My earliest recollection of any type of racism—evidence of an attitude of superiority of one race over another—in my extended family is the use among my many Italian American aunts and uncles of the Italian word for eggplant (moulinyan) to refer to African Americans. As a boy, I could sense that this was a put-down word, however, not as demeaning as “n—–r.” I placed it next to the other words used to put down boys of other nationalities who made up our small town of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ: “kraut,” “mick,” and “spic.”

I grew up with no African Americans or people of color—none in elementary, middle, or high school. Certainly, there were darker skinned schoolmates, but none with other African physical traits. This stemmed from the absence of people of color in our town in the 1950s and early 1960s. I eventually became old enough to discern this and assumed some type of conspiracy among realtors.

In competitive, scholastic sports, I played against athletes of color, but never with any.

When my father, a lover of music, took my brother and me in 1960 and also in 1961 to “Murray the K’s Holiday Review” in Brooklyn, NY, I had never seen and mingled with so many Blacks. The audience was multi-racial because the show was, featuring many of the top rock and roll artists. There was Del Shannon and The Angels, but also Ben E. King and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. There was even a multi-racial group, The Marcels, who—singing their Doo-Wop version of “Blue Moon”—sent me to the moon.

When the Isley Brothers sang their hit, “Shout,” for the finale of one show, blacks and whites mingled and danced in the aisles. At the early age of 12, I noted how music could transcend the color line.

During the summer months, my father, a massage therapist (mother was a housewife), took Thursdays off, allowing our family of five to drive the hour north to Lake Sebago in southern New York state. Friends and extended family often joined us, allowing much rough and tumble on the beach and in the water.

After lunch, we boys might explore the surrounding shore and woods. It was on one such Thursday perhaps in 1960, that we walked the shoreline. Several hundred yards from our beach we walked around the bend and found ourselves in another, well-populated beach area; however, this beach was filled with people of color.

And then it happened. I thought I recognized Elston Howard. (I proceed with some trepidation, knowing I am talking about a NY Yankee here in Red Sox Nation.) Howard was the first African American on the Yankees, during that marvelous stretch when they usually won not only the American League pennant, but also the World Series. Howard spent 13 years with the Yankees, 1955-1967, their starting catcher 1960-66.  He earned the American League MVP in 1963, becoming the first black player in AL history to accomplish this feat. I watched him on TV frequently as all of my family were avid Yankee fans.

Elston Howard

As a young teenager, I remember being a bit confused by this separation of the races at our favorite lake and by the fact that one of my baseball idols had to swim around the bend and out of sight from where I swam.

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired educator and a regular columnist.

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With Low Fertility Rate, America Needs Future Migrants

(Note: This essay, abridged, was published at on February 25, 2019; however, I failed to post it here.)

The Republicans and Democrats have reached a compromise on the border issue. President Trump, not happy with the mere $1.38 billion in the compromise bill for his wall, has declared a national emergency so that he can use other appropriated funds for this wall. However, the real national emergency is not keeping people out with a wall; rather, it is getting the right people to come to America to counter its very low fertility rate.
In the long term, human economic and personal insecurity and climate change will increase the flow of migrants and refugees from points known but also unknown. Now that the U.S. fertility rate has dropped to 1.76, well below the replacement rate, America’s challenge—if it wants to remain a superpower—is not to build walls and restrict migrant flow excessively, as the Trump Administration has, but rather to manage properly a more generous migrant flow so that its population continues to grow, with all the attendant benefits.
The World Migration Report for 2018, authored by the UN International Organization for Migration, estimates a total of 244 million migrants, including over 40 million internally displaced persons and 22 million refugees. The report cites the reasons for the recent increase in displaced people, including conflict, persecution, environmental change, and a lack of human security and opportunity.
Focusing on the United States, the PEW Research Center in November 2018, presented data on migration to the United States. The U.S. has more immigrants that any other country, about 40 million, about 20% of the world’s immigrant population, people born in another country, with just about every other country in the world represented. They make up 13.5% of the U.S. population. A total of 10.7 million are unauthorized or illegal (23.7% of U.S. immigrants). Unauthorized migrants tripled in size during the period 1990-2007, and then declined after the Great Recession of 2008-2009. In the period 2007-2016, unauthorized migrants from Mexico declined while those from Central America increased. Since 2010, more Asian than Hispanic migrants have arrived each year. Regarding refugees, in FY 2017, almost 54,000 were resettled in the U.S.; the largest came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Myanmar.
Several factors suggest that migrant flow to U.S. borders will increase in the future. Just beyond Mexico lie the three countries from whom the highly publicized “caravans” of migrants have come in recent years. Over the past five years Stephanie Leutert, writing in Foreign Affairs, indicated 875,000 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have come to the U.S. border, driven mainly by rampant gang violence and economic hardship. However, without a job or family in the U.S. these migrants, most moving in family groups, have no legal pathway into the U.S. Until the factors, pushing these migrants to leave, are dealt with, we can expect this migrant flow from Central America to continue.
A second factor which will increase migrant flow to the U.S., a land in what Thomas Friedman calls the “zone of order” , is climate change, an issue in which the U.S. once led but now, under the Trump Administration, dawdles and denies. Over three years ago at a Commencement for the Coast Guard Academy, President Barak Obama sketched the risks ahead. “Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes. Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well. Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees. … Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions. All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier.”
The Trump Administration has disallowed the Department of Defense from addressing the impact of climate change in any meaningful way, deleting it from the official list of national security threats. However, a recent DOD report maintains that it is, stating: “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations.”
Climate change is manifesting itself in sea level rise here in the U.S. and beyond. Almost three years ago The New Scientist, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, indicated that the sea level will rise 1.8 meters by the year 2100, probably displacing over 13 million people in the U.S.
Internationally, the effects of climate change were addressed at the two-week UN climate conference in Paris in December 2015. Sewall Chan’s reporting on the conference indicated that warming, in addition to other effects, can cause violence leading to the large-scale displacement of people. The conference’s report noted that between 2008-2014, an average of 26.4 million people were displaced each year by floods, storms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters (although most moved within their own countries). The accord called for developing recommendations “to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.”
William Lacy Swing, a retired American ambassador who now leads the International Organization for Migration, said that climate change was adding to a “perfect storm” of “unprecedented human mobility,” a result of the quadrupling of the world’s population over the last century and wars, conflicts and persecution.
The world’s many glaciers continue to melt, a clear result of global warming. Dr. Twila Moon, University of Colorado, Boulder, wrote of this in the journal Science in May 2017: “The evidence is overwhelming: Earth is losing its ice. Much of this loss is irreversible and the result of human-caused climate change,” Glaciers all over the world are disappearing and should be the subject of “international concern.” Among other effects, millions of people will be forced to leave their homes by rising seas, crucial sources of water will run dry and wildlife will lose sources of nutrients and shelter. The US Geological Survey has reported that the Glacier National Park in Montana has lost more than 120 glaciers in the last century. And Dr. Moon said this was a pattern repeated all over the world from the Antarctic Peninsular to Patagonia, Kilimanjaro, the Himalayas, Greenland and the Arctic.
Also in the journal Science, in December 2017, a team of scientists, studying weather variations from 2000-2014 in 103 countries and their effects on asylum applications to the European Union concluded that “weather-induced conflicts in developing countries spill over to developed countries through asylum application.” “Our findings support the assessment that climate change, especially continued warming, will add another ‘threat multiplier’ that induces people to seek refuge abroad.”
The final factor arguing for a less restrictive immigration policy is the dramatic fall in the U.S. total fertility rate. This rate has dropped since the Great Recession of 2008 to 1.76 births per woman in 2017, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 needed to keep a population stable. Despite this drop, the Trump Administration has moved to restrict immigration.
This trend has significant negative implications for our Social Security and Medicare programs. As medical experts John Rowe, Dana Goldman, and S. Jay Olshansky have indicated: “The significant reduction in fertility in the U.S., if not offset by enhanced immigration or greater worker productivity, puts these programs at risk.”
The white population has a very low fertility rate among all groups within the U.S. population. Therefore, it is the minority groups who are contributing the most to the U.S. population. Demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution has demonstrated where future gains will likely come. “The likely source of future gains among the nation’s population of children, teenagers, and young working adults is minorities—Hispanics, Asians, blacks, and others. Also Statista reported that Hispanics in 2017 had the highest fertility rate among significant minorities. (Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders had the highest.)
Military might, economic prowess, and natural resources have always been measures of a state’s power. Today we can add such things as technological capability and innovation, entrepreneurial talent, cybersecurity and strength. It is surprising that in an Administration filled with so many “realists,” including President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton, there is such a lack of concern with one of the most fundamental sources of a state’s power—population.
The trends discussed above suggest that the U.S. will continue to be a magnet for immigrants, pulled to our borders by order and economic opportunity, and pushed by violence and climate change in their home countries. With the dramatic drop in the U.S. fertility rate over the past decade, it would be wise for the United States—rather than overly restricting immigration—to streamline its immigration policies to accept the right combination of skilled and unskilled workers, innovative entrepreneurs and also families who can give us young Americans.
Fred Zilian, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of history and politics at Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island. He is the author of “From Confrontation to Cooperation: The Takeover of the National People’s Army by the Bundeswehr.” Follow him on Twitter @FredZilian.

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Mother Teresa, the Saint of Calcutta

(Note: This is the eighth essay in a series on “Notable Women.” This essay was originally published in the Newport Daily News on January 15, 2022.)

In an American culture increasingly driven by “The Self”, Mother Teresa’s unrelenting selflessness offers us an alternative model for living our lives.

Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910 in the city of Skopje, then a part of the Ottoman Empire and now the capital of North Macedonia.

As a young girl, she was fascinated by stories of Christian missionaries and by 12 felt a strong calling to the religious life. “It was then that I first knew I had ad vocation to the poor … in 1922. I wanted to be a missionary, I wanted to go out and give the life of Christ to the people in the missionary countries …. “…it was the will of God. It was His choice.”

At 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Ireland, an order of nuns which had education as its primary focus. There she learned English, the language the Loreto Sisters used in India.

She took her first vows as a nun in 1931, when she began her service in Bengal, India, and her solemn, final vows in 1937.

On September 10, 1946, while riding a train, she stated that she had a mystical encounter with Christ, described in “Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the ‘Saint of Calcutta,’” edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk.

“[It] was a call within my vocation. It was a second calling. It was a vocation to give up even Loreto where I was happy and to go out in the streets to serve the poorest of the poor.” “I knew it was His will and that I had to follow Him.”

She always held this day to be the real beginning of the Missionaries of Charity. To the end of her life she maintained that the first purpose of the congregation she founded was “to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for Love and Souls.”

It took four years of prayer, hard work, entreaty, and delay; however, the Catholic Church finally in 1950 agreed to the official formation of the congregation.  On October 7, 1950, the Society of the Missionaries of Charity in the archdiocese of Calcutta was established.

The sisters who chose to join were required to take four Vows: Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and devotion to the poor, to include the abandoned, the sick, the infirm, and the dying.

Two years later she opened her first hospice, eventually naming it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart. The services offered were free to the poor, including medical care and the opportunity to die with dignity in accord with their respective faiths. Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the final sacrament, the Anointing of the Sick.

In 1958, she opened a hospice for lepers, calling it Shanti Nagar (City of Peace) and also clinics for them throughout Calcutta. She also established homes for orphans and homeless children.

By the 1960s, she was able to open hospices, orphanages, and leper houses throughout India.

In 1965, the congregation opened its first house abroad in Venezuela. More houses followed in 1968 in Italy, Tanzania, and Austria.

In the 1970s, the congregation expanded operations to the United States and dozens of other countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Ironically, while heading such a far flung, spiritual congregation, she was burdened with an interior, spiritual darkness, revealed only to a handful of her spiritual advisors. She spoke to this darkness and emptiness in her letters, beginning in 1953.

“Please pray specially for me … for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work’”.

In 1964, she wrote: “In my soul, I can’t tell you how dark it is, how painful, how terrible. My feelings are so treacherous.”

In 1977, she wrote: “As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves but does not speak.”

Brian Kolodiejchuk describes her spiritual journey in accepting the pain and darkness, even coming “to love it.” “Mother Teresa had reached a point in her life when she no longer ventured to penetrate or question the mystery of her unremitting darkness. She accepted it, as she did everything else that God willed or at least permitted, ‘with a big smile.’”

She received numerous awards and honors during her lifetime, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In 1999, she headed Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. In 2016, the Catholic Church canonized her, making her a saint.

Her health declining in the 1980s, she still maintained a rigorous pace until her death on September 5, 1997.

By 2007, the Missionaries of Charity numbered some 5,000 sisters and 450 brothers, operating 600 missions, schools, and shelters in 120 countries. In 2020, it consisted of 5,167 religious sisters.

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired educator and a regular columnist.

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Soviet Union Ended but Russia Endures as Great Power

(Note: This essay was originally published by the Newport Daily News on December 30, 2021.)

Thirty years ago the flag of the Soviet Union was taken down from the Kremlin for the last time. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which rose from the ashes of the Russian Empire (1917), was dissolved on December 25, 1991, capping a wave of democratic revolutions throughout the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. The U.S. and the West had won the Cold War.

During the two years culminating in this event, I had the privilege of being a U.S. Army liaison officer to the German Army. My family and I lived on the fringes of the American diplomatic community in Bonn, West Germany, then the capital, and witnessed the re-unification of Germany on October 3, 1990.

The Cold War was the state of tension and competition between the U.S. and its allies against the USSR and its allies which began after World War II. Historians differ as to the precise date of its inception; however, surely with the speech of President Harry Truman in March 1947, the Cold War had begun.

With the Soviets pressuring Turkey and providing aid to the Communists in the Greek Civil War in the early postwar years, Truman stated in his speech: “”The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will.” He continued in portraying the choice that every nation faced: A way of life “based upon the will of the majority” versus a way of life “based on the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority….”

He then stated the new policy: “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” He finished by asking Congress for $400 million in aid for Greece and Turkey.

Since its inception, this Cold War had seen periods of intense competition and confrontation, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, and also periods of relative calm and cooperation, such as the period of “détente” (relaxation) of the 1970s. Happily, this state of tension of nearly five decades never erupted into outright warfare between the two “superpowers.”

There were many factors that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 1985 the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the leader of the Soviet Union. He instituted policies of greater openness and also economic re-structuring.

Second, the Communist command economy had shown categorically its inability over decades to produce goods and services in any manner comparable to the capitalistic economies of the West.

Third, there was the example and pressure of the West, led in the 1980s by the United States with President Ronald Reagan at the helm, a fervent believer in the Western model.  

Finally, on the domestic political level, there was widespread popular disillusionment with and calls for reform of the Communist model of government, including its instruments of control (the KGB security apparatus and the military). In a recent panel discussion (“End of the ‘Evil Empire’”) sponsored by the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, both Ambassador George Krol and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Peter Zwack emphasized this role that the Russian people played in the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the wave of democratic revolutions in Europe was so stunning that one important scholar, Francis Fukuyama wrote a book entitled “The End of History and the Last Man,” (1992) arguing that the liberal, democratic model had prevailed and would for all time.

The Soviet Union dissolved into 15 post-Soviet states. Russia, the largest and most powerful, was recognized as the legal successor of the Soviet Union. It eventually recovered its footing as a great power in the international system.

In 2020, Russia had the 11th largest economy by Gross Domestic Product. It possesses the world’s largest nuclear stockpile, and with about 1 million active duty military personnel the fifth largest military force. It has extensive mineral and energy resources and is a leading producer of oil and natural gas. Russia retains the permanent seat of the former Soviet Union on the United Nations Security Council, one of only five.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a part of the Ukraine, one of the former Soviet republics, the first time since World War II that a European state had annexed the territory of another. In recent weeks, U.S. intelligence agencies have indicated that Russia has assembled tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s border, indicating a possible intention to attack in January.

Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is a retired Army officer and educator and also a regular columnist.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Gives Honor to Our Unidentified Fallen

(Note: This essay was originally published as “Origins of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” in the Newport Daily News on November 13, 2021.)

This November 11 is the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Ceremony, Arlington, Virginia.

The idea to honor the remains of unidentified American soldiers, we borrowed from France and the United Kingdom

The dedication of the Tomb came three years after the end of World War I, “the Great War,” 1914-1918, in which close to two dozen countries actively participated, killing some 9 million combatants with an additional seven to ten millions civilian deaths. Four empires fell: the German, the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian, and the Ottoman Empire.

Our Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, the day the guns fell silent ending WW I. It occurred at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month of 1918. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill changing it to Veterans Day.

Three years after the end of WWI, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated. Its mission: to ensure that all service-members who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country are never forgotten.

The Tomb was proposed through a joint resolution of Congress, sponsored by Rep. Hamilton Fish III (R-NY), who had served as an officer in the 369th Infantry Regiment. He believed that this “unknown soldier” should not be taken from any particular battlefield “but should be chosen that nobody would know his identification or the battlefield he comes from.” President Woodrow Wilson approved the legislation supporting the resolution on March 4, 1921.

The remains were selected from an American cemetery in France and brought to the nation’s capital. With the casket lying in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, an estimated 90,000 people paid their respects.

On the morning of November 11, 1921, President Warren Harding, Gen. John Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, and other American and foreign dignitaries assembled at Arlington National Cemetery and were greeted by an estimated crowd of 100,000.

Pres. Harding was the main speaker. “Hundreds of mothers are wondering today, finding a touch of solace in the possibility that the nation bows in grief over the body of the one she bore to live and die, if need be, for the Republic.”

We do not know the eminence of his birth, but we do know the glory of his death. He died for his country, and greater devotion hath no man than this. He died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in his heart and hope on his lips, that his country should triumph and its civilization survive.”

“This American soldier went forth to battle with no hatred for any people of the world, but hating war and hating the purpose of every war for conquest.”

“Today’s ceremonies proclaim that the hero unknown is not un-honored.”

It began as an unguarded site. Civilian guards were added in 1925, changing to military guards the following year. In 1937, the guard was upgraded to a ceremonial honor guard that operates day and night, rain or shine, 24/7.

The number 21 plays an important role in the sentinel’s guard service, tied to the highest honor the military can give: a 21-gun salute.

The sentinel marches 21 steps to the south, turns to the east and holds that position for 21 seconds. The sentinel then turns north, waits for 21 seconds, and marches with precision 21 steps to the north. The sentinel then turns to the west and repeats the process.

Women were added to the prestigious guard detail in 1996. Each time, he or she changes direction, an arms movement is conducted with the M-14 rifle. This is meant to keep the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, indicating the guard’s intent to protect the tomb from any outside threat.

October through March, there is a changing of the guard on the hour. April through September this occurs every half-hour.

Changing of the Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, July, 2021 (Fred Zilian)

I visited the tomb and small museum this past summer and watched the very solemn and impressive changing of the guard. There are actually four tombs. Three contain the remains of an unknown soldier from WW I, from WW II, and from the Korean Conflict.

The remains of the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War were exhumed in 1998 and identified using modern technology. Since then, the crypt for an unknown Vietnam War soldier has remained empty.

A retired Army officer, Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is an adjunct professor of history and politics at Salve Regina University and a regular columnist.


Apple, Charles. “At Rest and On Guard.” Military Officer Magazine, November 2021.

Maze, Rick. “Honoring the Unknown.” Army Magazine, November, 2021.

Vaughan, Don. “A Century of Honor.” Military Officer Magazine, November 2021.

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It Is Baseball Playoff Time

(Note: This essay was originally published in the Newport Daily News on October 30, 2021, as “America’s Game has provided thrills for decades.”)

Now is the time of year for Major League Baseball’s playoffs and World Series.

Looking back over my ten years writing a column for the Newport Daily News, I am stunned that I have yet to write a single column on America’s Game and my favorite. Today I shall correct that.

Having grown up in northeast New Jersey in the 1950s and 60s, I was spoiled by the New York Yankees as we have been spoiled these past two decades with the winning New England Patriots. I lived through the latter part of the “Yankees Dynasty,” that period from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, when Yankee teams dominated major league baseball. From 1927 to 1953, the Yankees won 16 league titles and 15 world championships.

Until I entered high school in 1962, the question generally was not would the Yankees make the World Series. They usually did. The question was would they win the World Series.

During the 1950s and 1960s, our Boston Red Sox were in their long drought (1918-2004) without a single world championship and were playing under the “Curse of the Bambino” (Babe Ruth) whom they had sold to the Yankees in 1920.

Besides Ted Williams, Red Sox fans had little to cheer about in the 1950s. This changed somewhat in the 1960s, especially the 1967 season, the year of the “Impossible Dream,” a subject for a separate column.

Fifty years ago this month, neither team made the World Series. In 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. Ironically, this year, both clubs had two of the worst records in Major League Baseball.

With fond memories, I remember attending my first big league game in 1956 or 1957, watching the New York Giants, featuring Willie Mays, against the Chicago Cubs, featuring Ernie Banks, whose baseball card I possessed. It was our end-of-year Little League trip. I did not mind that we were deep in the right field grandstands. I was there with my brother, my friends, my glove, and my baseball hat, eventually soiled by a pigeon in the rafters.

Ernie Banks, 1969 (Sports Illustrated)

It was seventy years ago that Mays, number 24, broke into the major leagues, four years behind Jackie Robinson, number 42.

Mays went on to play a remarkable 22 seasons, most with the New York/San Francisco Giants. He was arguably the best all-around player in baseball history: 660 home runs, 3,283 hits, 338 stolen bases, 12 straight Golden Gloves, 24 All-Star Game appearances. He could do it all: hit for average and for power, field, throw, and run the bases.

Having just turned 20, weeks before, he made his major league debut on May 25, 1951, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia with Leo Durocher as his manager.

In his book, “24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid,” written with John Shea, Mays relates that he was scouted by the Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers, but he was signed by the New York Giants.

Willie Mays, Associated Press

“It worked out. I liked the Giants. The Red Sox scouted me, too. They didn’t like African American guys back then so I didn’t get a chance to play there. I came to the Giants because other teams didn’t take me. The Red Sox, they finally brought in Pumpsie Green. Second baseman, slick-fielding. That wasn’t until 1959. Other teams were slow, too. Maybe I was meant to be a Giant.”

In that rookie year, he helped the Giants come from a 13.5 game deficit to take the national league pennant from the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was sealed on October 3, 1951, with one of the greatest moments in baseball history when Bobby Thomson hit a home run—“the shot heard round the world”—off of Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca. Mays was on deck and thought Branca might walk Thomson and pitch to him.

In that first year in the major leagues, Willie Mays batted .274, with 20 home runs and 68 runs-batted-in. He was voted the Rookie of the Year.

John Shea states: “He was more than a ballplayer. Baseball’s greatest star was baseball’s greatest entertainer.” Mays responded: “I just feel that when you’re playing sports, you have to do more than catch the ball and throw it back in. You have to do something different. You’ve got to improvise sometimes for the fans …. Make it fun. I tried to do something different at all times.”

His famous basket catches were more than fun; they were marvels.

Still playing baseball in his dreams, Fred Zilian (; Twitter: @FredZilian) is an adjunct professor of history and politics at Salve Regina University and a regular columnist.

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