Passover

Michael Raffety

May 2, 2016

I organized a Passover meal Saturday, April 23, for our church. How could you miss with leg of lamb and wine?

The meal goes back to biblical times when the pharoah – not Jay Pharoah – would not let the Israelites go. As a result, the God of the Israelites gave the Egyptians more plagues than you can count on one hand.

To avoid all this calumny the Israelites used the blood of lambs to mark their doorways.

“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you.”

From that comes the word Passover, of course.

One thing that struck me about Passover was a quote from Holocaust survivor Erich Lowey that our priest, Debra Sabino – most of us call her Rev Deb – quoted in her Sunday sermon on Passover:

“The Passover seder is more than merely a symbolic act. It cannot simply celebrate history by meaningless ritual. Above all it should serve to remind us that freedom entails responsibility and that freedom can only be purchased by accepting the responsibility it entails ….”

For me that responsibility for freedom came in two forms:

First was when I enlisted in the Navy and took the oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

The second was when I became editor of the Mountain Democrat in 1986. Writing editorials, in large part, meant taking responsibility for the freedom of the community and bearing “true faith allegiance” to the Constitution of the United States “against all enemies foreign and domestic.” It also required fearlessness. And no sacred cows.

When Ursula Smith hired me at the Mountain Democrat in 1978 one of the first things she assigned me to was local elections. As a newcomer from Amador County, I was a person who would provide a fresh eye to local issues. One such issue was a local ballot measure to revive the county hospital. I looked over the jumble of obsolete X-ray equipment in the basement of what is now the senior center and quickly concluded this was a dumb idea that would be an economic millstone around the neck of county government.

The other election, besides the City Council candidates was the election of Joe Flynn. He easily won against Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee, Lloyd Kutter who had filled the unexpired term of Supervisor Ray Lawyer, who died. Kutter favored the measure to reopen the county hospital.

A later supervisor, Mark Nielsen, championed the County Charter, which eliminated gubernatorial appointments to fill unexpired terms on the Board of Supervisors.

I covered the Board of Supervisors for most of Flynn’s two terms. He was part of a board that I refer to as the Fab Five. Besides Flynn, there was Bill Johnson, Tom Stewart, and Dub Walker, who sponsored me in the Lions Club. All went over the budget with a fine tooth-comb. They knew every dime that came in and how it was spent. Flynn picked over spelling and grammar and critiqued the newspaper whenever a writer mixed up the words “affect” and “effect.”

I interviewed Joe Flynn when we did a special edition on 13 decades of the Mountain Democrat. I wrote up the1930s. Flynn, whose family has a long history with Georgetown and the Georgia Slide Mine, during the school year stayed in Placerville with a relative who operated the Forum Café.

Back then Motor City, which some remember as the skating rink on Newtown Road, was a dance hall that featured musical groups like Lionel Hampton.

When he was 14 Flynn began fighting fires on the Eldorado National Forest.

Flynn’s autobiography of his time in the Army Air Corps is still in the editor’s file at the Mountain Democrat. I was impressed with his service record, flying a C-47 troop plane during D-Day and also the Battle of the Bulge.

Joe Flynn sure took responsibility for freedom. He was 98. With a certain numerical symmetry, he was born on Sept. 20 and died on April 20.

Since Passover continues through April 30, I raise my glass to toast Joe Flynn and a life well lived.

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