Revisiting Mark Twain

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that my memory has a will of its own – you know, sometimes when I try to remember something it balks and then, later says in effect “Oh, were you looking for this?” and comes up with whatever I was seeking. Almost as frustrating is when it thrusts something unbidden into the forefront of my mind and won’t let it go until I figure out what that rascal is to. Well, that’s what happened again recently when I got the nudge to revisit Mark Twain.

For the information of younger readers, Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, was a prolific and extremely popular writer, lecturer, and commentator on the human condition who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His best known novels, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” were wildly popular among both adults and youngsters. In fact the Huckleberry Finn saga has been described as “the great American novel”. My favorite, however, is ” A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” which, in addition to the obvious adventure story, offers an insightful look at society and so I reread it every few years.

I figured I wasn’t being urged to reread any of his novels, so I settled on looking at some of his sayings, One I particularly like is, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” Here are a few more: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”; “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”; “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”; and, “Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.”

Oh, there’s lots more really neat stuff you can look up for yourself, but my search wasn’t satisfied until I finally found this one: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a man and a dog.” Yep, that was what scratched the itch. Now the problem remained why this particular quotation pestered me.

Well, I think I may have figured out the trigger that caused my memory to come up with that particular quotation. It was the announcement that a new “caravan” of some 18,000 would-be immigrants is forming in Honduras to follow its predecessors to the US border. That’s on top of the thousands awaiting entry review in Mexico. Okay, so what’s the connection with Mark Twain’s observation about feeding a hungry dog?

I decided to do a little research to see what, if any, assistance we have been furnishing Honduras. It turns out that we set aside $95.2 million for Honduras in fiscal year 2017 to help combat “alarming levels of crime and violence,” as well as “high levels of poverty and food insecurity and ineffective governance and corruption,” which “all threaten Honduras’ fragile democracy.”

In fiscal year 2018 the amount was $67.8 million and for fiscal year 2019, we are committed to $65.8 million. According to the State Department, “U.S. foreign assistance plays a critical role in supporting Honduras’ development as a safe, democratic, and prosperous nation that offers hope to Hondurans so they see their future in Honduras and not elsewhere, … and helping with reintegration programs for returning migrants.” In other words, we are paying Honduras to keep their folks home, make them prosperous, and support the return of those who have already departed.

So what’s the result of this program? Well, instead of our efforts being recognized helpful, we are being faulted as the primary cause of the flight of women and children, including unaccompanied ones, from Honduras in even larger “caravans”. Yep, we are pictured as being so cruel, vicious and uncaring that we are causing the deaths of innocent children. How about them apples?

So what’s the answer? How about increasing the tribute we are paying Honduras and other Central America countries like Guatemala to say $500 million a year with the proviso that they keep their folks at home – except for legal migrants. Would be cheaper than the long term expenses of providing food, shelter, medical care, and education for current and future would-be immigrants. Or we could build a wall. You know, I sure wish Mark Twain was still around. He would likely have some good advice. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at

Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at