Category Archives: American Character

Find good fortunes in uncertain times

Yesterday’s GDP news was dismal:

“U.S. GDP: The BEA released its initial report on GDP for the second quarter, revealing the largest quarterly drop since 1958. Down 32.9%, it was slightly less than the estimated 34.7% decline, but still severe. Consumption, which is a major component of GDP, fell 34.6% with goods falling 11% and services – the largest part of the economy, falling 43%. The second quarter was the first ‘full’ calendar quarter to be affected by Covid-19.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2020/07/30/gdp-hits-record-low-unemployment-claims-rise-treasury-yields-move-lower/#3cd9a2fd7019

All of the experts and politicians will be arguing for decades about the wisdom of  COVID19 lockdowns, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that America has entered uncharted economic territory and frankly many politicians, entrusted with making decisions that impact the fortunes of all of us, have proven feckless, incompetent, and in too many cases disturbingly corrupt.

No matter if you view 2020 as a Year of Compounding Misfortunes or “Oh well, pandemics and economic catastrophes happen,” for most of us we’re left feeling powerless and immobilized if we sit around expecting the government to fix things or provide a safe landing for us.

The other night my son picked up Chinese takeout for my husband and me. I always eat the fortune cookies later.  Two out of the three “fortunes” I kept to glue onto bookmarks or use in my junk journal making.  Both fit with a belief in learning self-reliance that my parents drilled into my brothers, sisters and me and it’s something I believe matters most in determining which people fare best, not only in a crisis, but it determines which people will set out to tackle problems and which will sit passively by and let the crisis tackle them.

Fortune cookie #1: “Apply yourself to the basics and progress will follow.”

With the crises piling one upon another this year,  I believe the people who will fare best are those who recognize we’re probably in for more major crises in the near future and if they haven’t prepared yet, they step it up now.  It’s fine to be worried and it’s fine to feel some anxiety, but the most important survival tool each one of us can acquire doesn’t cost a cent.

The must have survival tool is to develop and hone a positive, proactive, can-do attitude.  You don’t need to go out and buy all the gizmos and gadgets on the “Top 10 Survival Things You Need” lists that fill prepper and survival social media sites.  However, you should start assessing your finances and your basic needs, if you haven’t already done that and it’s prudent to start calmly, carefully and thoughtfully stocking up on some of the basics, while staying within your means.  If you can afford to buy a lot of extra canned goods and basics, that’s great, but even if you live on a very tight budget, try to spring for an extra staple item or two each time you buy groceries.

Being practical matters, especially if you live on a tight budget.  For instance, many of the serious preppers devote time to building up a food supply that can last for several months to a year and also long-term food storage with foods packaged to last 25-30 years.  Using common sense, focus on your short-term food supply now and buy foods that you and your family eat and that you can properly store in your home.

It makes no sense to buy a lot of foods that need to be refrigerated and frozen, if you don’t have a large enough refrigerator or freezer to store it.  It also makes no sense to go online and buy expensive dehydrated and freeze-dried food in large #10 cans, that will last for 25-30 years, if you don’t have your basic everyday foods stored up to last for the immediate future.

I thought I knew a lot about food preservation, but after doing a good bit of research online, I keep learning more dos and don’ts and also coming across great tips and solutions.  When it comes to food storage containers, sure it’s wonderful if you can afford to buy expensive airtight storage containers and all the high-tech stuff like mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, but honestly if that’s not in your budget, try using containers you already have or cheap ones you can afford.  Even empty food containers, especially glass jars with screw on lids work great, if washed and dried thoroughly before using for food storage.  The best tip is whenever possible, use what you have and look for creative ways to store food.

You can even use bay leaves to repel pests in flour, rice, dried beans, etc.  And here’s a hint, often you can find packs of bay leaves in the Hispanic food section in grocery stores, that are much cheaper than the bay leaves in the spice section.

Fortune cookie #2: “Allow your mind to absorb new knowledge.”

As important as stocking up on basics is, all of us should work on acquiring more basic skills before the next crisis hits.  Make it a point to learn to do as many tasks for yourself as possible.   It makes no sense to buy large quantities of dried beans if your family doesn’t like beans or you don’t know how to prepare dried beans.  Stockpiling 50 lbs. of dried pinto and black beans won’t amount to a hill of beans unless you have the skills and know-how to prepare them and incorporate them into meals your family will eat.

Make it a point to learn new skills.  For instance if you don’t know how to cook anything, start learning how to prepare a few simple meals.  If you don’t know how to do basic car maintenance, like changing the oil or changing a tire, take the time to learn how.  Same goes for things like learning how to thread a needle and sew on a button or sew a simple straight stitch.  Everyone should have a small sewing kit with some needles, thread and a pair of scissors.

Many years ago, I came across a bit of home decorating advice that applies to emergency preparedness too.  Shop your own house for items to use in your projects.  Most people can’t afford to go out and purchase a lot of special “prepper gear” or all of the items you will find on the crisis lists cropping up everywhere.

And here’s the most important Libertybelle preparedness tip:  Start thinking about the people around you realistically and with clear-eyed focus on their character.  This goes for family, neighbors, friends, acquaintances in your community and start seriously assessing which ones you think will likely just run around in panic mode, latching onto every dire rumor and conspiracy theory that circulates and which ones will be leeches borrowing everything from you (often these two personalities reside in one person, sad to say).  Then start thinking about who you think will likely be problem-solvers in a crisis and which ones will be helpers (here again, often these two traits reside in the same person).  Hopefully, you aren’t the former and if you are, you’ll need to strive hard to become the later.  Character matters most in a crisis.

Think about your support network right around you, because frankly, no one in the federal government is going to come and save you in a prolonged national crisis.  It’s doubtful anyone among your state officials are going to be a place to turn for immediate help either.  And your local officials will be inundated dealing with all the other mess from people who aren’t equipped to deal with a serious crisis and from people who will use a crisis as cover to perpetrate criminal activity.

Instead of running around acting like the sky is falling, it’s best to think about potential crises that might happen, but think about them with a positive, problem-solving attitude.  Set your priorities on what you can do and stick to these – no matter what.  Think about what things you might be able to do to keep you and your family safe, fed, clothed, with a roof over your head and as healthy as possible.  Once you begin to think about those scary “worst case” scenarios and focus on the things you might be able to do, it takes away the fear and panic.  No excuses, learn to be as self-reliant as possible.

In 2012 I started this blog and one of the early blog posts, Gimme A Knife, written by a friend, Gladius Maximus, focused on this very topic of self-reliance:

“It came to me that our inability as Americans to survive in meager circumstances, or put another way, our dependence on technology, gadgets and the government, is evidence of the decay of character in our society. By that, I mean, our inability to be independent, innovative and willing to put up with hardship reflects how truly weak we have become. Our lack of perseverance in the face of adversity is evidence of our impotence. Unless we are surrounded by what many in the world would consider sumptuousness, we don’t believe we can make it.

If we don’t get our water out of a tap from a government approved water system, where will we get it? If we don’t get our protein from the local mega-store, sliced, diced, shrink-wrapped and priced, how do we get it and process it? If the burners on the range don’t work, or if we at least can’t get charcoal for the grill, how do we cook it? Need vegetables? How do they grow? Where do we get seed? When our shoes wear out, what do we do? When it’s cold outside, how do we stay warm?

I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2012/12/22/gimme-a-knife-written-by-gladius-maximus/

Now if you want the original year in the Rockies kind of survival tale, also in 2012, I came across this fascinating piece, Looking Back at Lewis and Clark, by David M. Lenard, which mentions a half-Shawnee member of their expedition, Drouilliard, who was the go-to guy to send off into the wilderness alone to hunt for animals to bring back to the rest of the party.  Lenard writes:

“Lewis’s entry for August 3, 1805 begins this way: “We set out this morning very early on our return to the Forks. Having nothing to eat, I sent Drouilliard to the wood-lands to my left in order to kit a deer.”  The journals are filled with dozens of similar orders to several different men, although the half-Shawnee Drouilliard seems to have been Lewis and Clark’s most reliable and productive hunter, sometimes returning from such sojourns with hundreds of pounds of meat.  Still, from a 2012 perspective, Lewis’ laconic directive is truly astonishing.  Allow me to fill in the details that Lewis left out: he was ordering Drouilliard to leave the group and go off, by himself, in a dangerous wilderness, with no means of communication, and to not only survive, but to kill at least one edible animal, with only the weapons carried on his back, clean the beast, and bring the meat back to the main group, which of course he was expected to be able to find again, despite having wandered possibly many miles, in a wilderness with no artificial signs or landmarks.  It is remarkable that Lewis does not even mention the incredible risks faced by the men on these little excursions — they could be injured, or killed, in countless ways, or lost without hope of rescue.  This silence is not because he was unaware of the dangers; in fact, in many journal entries, Lewis fretted about the fate of party members who had become separated from the main group for one reason or another.  Rather, Lewis’s silence was because frontiersmen like Drouilliard faced such dangers almost every day of their lives; Lewis’s order was therefore nothing extraordinary to either man.”

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/09/looking_back_at_lewis_and_clark.html

When you think about the type of men on the Lewis and Clark expedition and compare them to the ‘brave” protesters/rioters in Portland and the silliness with their “shield-making” operation, you might be wondering what on earth happened to the American can-do spirit.  Here’s an entire thread on their “engineering prowess” (sarcasm intended):

We should all try to acquire just a fraction of the dauntless spirit, courage and most of all astounding self-reliance of people like Lewis and Clark, and most definitely Drouilliard.   Looking at that Portland  protester “shield-building operation,  Lenard’s piece on Lewis and Clark says it best:

“In our modern republic, where large segments of our population compete to be declared helpless victims so they can receive government handouts, one cannot help but think that little Jimmy might benefit from being sent out with Drouilliard: “Here’s a musket, son — now go kill that deer, and don’t miss, because if you do, there’s a strong possibility you might starve.”

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/09/looking_back_at_lewis_and_clark.html

 

 

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Filed under American Character, Emergency Preparedness, General Interest, Gladius Maximus

How do we begin changing America’s course?

President Ronald Reagan understood politics in terms of what ordinary Americans care about.  One of my favorite Reagan quotes came from his farewell address, which is in the video above : “And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”  My husband’s favorite Reagan “quote” was when Reagan, in a mic check, jokingly said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”   My husband, being used to dark military humor, found that Reagan quip hilarious.

A few days ago, Reagan’s farewell address popped into my head, as I was pondering the recent aggressive statue-toppling and revisionist history demands. That speech contains a simple line about the good common sense wisdom of the American people, but sadly families sitting around the kitchen table engaged in family discussions isn’t the norm anymore.  Several years ago I wrote a blog post about 21st century American leadership.  I used this Reagan dinner table quote and even in 2013, family dinners seemed to be on decline across America:

” One of the saddest commentaries in recent years on the state of America, came from pop culture icon, Oprah Winfrey, who devoted an entire show to teaching American parents the importance of finding time for family dinners. Despite the statistics on divorce, out of wedlock births and the steady mass media messaging, the importance of the American family emerged on Oprah, with a host of “experts” on hand, to teach us about family dinner time.  Millions of Oprah followers, I am sure, began talking amongst their friends and just as they buy the books she recommends, most assuredly many started trying to fit family dinners into their weekly schedule. How do family dinners and the quest for American leadership fit together? In our fast-paced, multi-tasking society, few common threads strengthen the waft and weave of our national fabric, so perhaps the family dinner table emerges as the place to begin this quest.”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2013/01/04/the-quest-for-american-leadership-in-the-21st-century-a-few-home-truths/

Reagan, also issued a warning about how we need to teach American children our history and about freedom to foster informed patriotism.  He worried that the people who create our popular culture had stopped promoting positive American messaging.  And Reagan was right.

Here’s the entire passage about remembering our American history,  from Reagan’s farewell speech:

“Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in Presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past 8 years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national
feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.

An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that,
too, through the mid-sixties.

But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting
across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs production [protection].

So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important — why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, 4 years ago on the 40th anniversary of D – day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, “we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.” Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.

And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”

https://www.reaganfoundation.org/ronald-reagan/reagan-quotes-speeches/farewell-address-to-the-nation-2/

To understand what happened, we need to go back to the turmoil of the 1960s and look at radical student activism that spread across American university campuses and the rise of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) .

“The Sixties were born at a particular time and place: June, 1962, the AFL-CIO camp at Port Huron, Michigan. (There were preliminary stirrings in parts of the civil rights movement and in the Free Speech movement at Berkeley.) Though most Americans have never heard of the proceedings at Port Huron, they were crucial, for the authentic spirit of Sixties radicalism issued there. That spirit spread and evolved afterwards, but its later malignant stages, including its violence, were implicit in its birth. Port Huron was an early convention of SDS, then a small group of alienated, left-wing college students. There were fifty-nine delegates from eleven campus chapters. One of them described their mood: “four-square against anti-Communism, eight-square against American culture, twelve-square against sellout unions, one-hundred-twenty square against an interpretation of the Cold War that saw it as a Soviet plot and identified American policy fondly.”21 In short, they rejected America. Worse, as their statement of principles made clear, they were also foursquare against the nature of human beings and features of the world that are unchangeable. That is the Utopian impulse. It has produced disasters in the past, just as it was to do with the Sixties generation.”

Bork, Robert H.. Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

In the early 70s the massive waves of college protesting had burned out and then those radical activist student leaders finished college, many earned advanced degrees and then they took up positions in academia, where they became tenured professors. They took up the task of radicalizing college curricula and American students ever since.  Just to give one glaring example of this transformation of higher-education in America, let’s look at Bill Ayers, co-founder of the violent, radical 60s, Weather Underground group:

“In June 1969, the Weathermen took control of the SDS at its national convention, where Ayers was elected Education Secretary.[8] Later in 1969, Ayers participated in planting a bomb at a statue dedicated to police casualties in the 1886 Haymarket affair confrontation between labor supporters and the Chicago police.[13] The blast broke almost 100 windows and blew pieces of the statue onto the nearby Kennedy Expressway.[14] (The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970, and blown up again by other Weathermen on October 6, 1970.[14][15] Rebuilding it yet again, the city posted a 24-hour police guard to prevent another blast, and in January 1972 it was moved to Chicago police headquarters).[16]

Ayers participated in the Days of Rage riot in Chicago in October 1969, and in December was at the “War Council” meeting in FlintMichigan. Two major decisions came out of the “War Council”. The first was to immediately begin a violent, armed struggle (e.g., bombings and armed robberies) against the state without attempting to organize or mobilize a broad swath of the public. The second was to create underground collectives in major cities throughout the country.[17] Larry Grathwohl, a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant in the Weathermen group from the fall of 1969 to the spring of 1970, stated that “Ayers, along with Bernardine Dohrn, probably had the most authority within the Weathermen”.[18]

After the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion in 1970, in which Weatherman member Ted Gold, Ayers’s close friend Terry Robbins, and Ayers’s girlfriend, Diana Oughton, were killed when a nail bomb being assembled in the house exploded, Ayers and several associates evaded pursuit by law enforcement officials. Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson survived the blast. Ayers was not facing criminal charges at the time, but the federal government later filed charges against him.[7] Ayers participated in the bombings of New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972, as he noted in his 2001 book, Fugitive Days. Ayers writes:

Although the bomb that rocked the Pentagon was itsy-bitsy—weighing close to two pounds—it caused ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ of damage. The operation cost under $500, and no one was killed or even hurt.[19]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Ayers

From the same Wikipedia bio of Bill Ayers:

“Ayers is a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, formerly holding the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar.[3] During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, a controversy arose over his contacts with then-candidate Barack Obama. He is married to lawyer and Clinical Law Professor Bernardine Dohrn, who was also a leader in the Weather Underground.”

Ayers, now a retired professor focused on “education reform.”  Really, you can’t make this stuff up.  So, here’s a Bill Ayers endorsement of the BLM movement in a 2016 Frontier Lab research project, by Anne Sorock:

“There’s a lot of mythology behind Black Lives Matter, assuming the only reason this is happening is because of social media and because of the use of cameras. That is fundamentally false. What is exciting is that the Black Lives Matter moment comes after decades and centuries of the serial assassination of black people.

The driving force of Black Lives Matter is organized young people who have been mobilizing for years around a lot of issues. Black Lives Matter’s focus is state violence against black people. Its focus is also decent education, ‘stop closing our schools,’ jobs for everybody, health care, mental health, drug programs.
It is a comprehensive movement, and the folks involved in it in Chicago are long-time organizers.

Professor and Convicted Terrorist Bill Ayers
University of Illinois-Chicago (ret.)
Liberation Radio
October 30, 2015

https://www.newamericanfrontier.org/report-black-lives-matter

Jack Fowler at National Review wrote a piece, Black Lives Matter: A Thing of the Left Anchored on a Cop-Hate Strategy,  explaining the BLM movement that’s worth a read.  Fowler laid out BLM goals as follows:

“Here in sum are the report’s major findings:

• Black Lives Matter’s core message is built upon, depends upon, and has as its ultimate goal, the larger retelling of the American story as one of oppression and racism.
• The police, as representatives of the state, must be framed as exemplifying the Black Lives Matter framing by being themselves oppressive and racist.
• Black Lives Matter frames their cause as one against a systemic problem and necessarily utterly rejects the “one bad apple” counterargument
• BLM relies upon the elevation and equating of other underprivileged groups to a status “just as oppressed” as Black America in order to build a narrative of an America divided into the “Oppressed and the Privileged.” For this reason causes such as undocumented workers, LGBTQ, and women’s reproductive rights, are recruited and welcomed into the “Allies” category of supporters.
• Supporters of BLM, for the most part, have moved on from desiring to silence dissent through amending free-speech laws; instead, Black Lives Matter (1) pressures authorities to do it for them, (2) creates an atmosphere of intimidation through threats of violence and shows of force, and (3) incorporates a culture of self-censorship in which those with “privilege” have a lesser voice than the oppressed.
• While social-media and cameras are utilized uniquely and effectively to communicate with and recruit new supporters, it is the framework of organizing learned from past attempts and overarching magna-narrative that in reality gives Black Lives Matter its edge.
• There are three distinct segments of supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, each with their own emotional pathways to a deeply felt connection: Activists, Allies, and Operatives. These mental maps explain current reasons for support as well as provide strategic pathways for weakening that same support.
• Common across all segments is the emotion of fear of being ostracized from the left’s cultural community.
• The specificity of the cause – injustice toward the Black community – is both central to its appeal and also a window into an Achilles-heel weakness of the movement’s core positioning.
• The movement is at a critical juncture in its lifecycle, with maximum cultural influence but having failed to transition this influence into policy impact.”

America’s current radical leftist protesting began with demanding justice for George Floyd, but their demands and targets for “transformation” keep shifting and growing, while their new “rules” spew forth faster than most of us can even keep track of.  The main goal, beyond all the current target lists, really is all about erasing our American history, in order to “reimagine” an entirely different American future.  The goal of rewriting American history  underpins this Great Awokening.

Reagan was right.  We really need to start teaching our children about American history and why freedom matters, but we also need to work on trying to teach plenty of American adults that too.  The challenge America faces goes way beyond preserving statues or Trump’s building a garden of statues, it goes to beginning the long march back to wrest control of our institutions from radical leftists, who hate America and begin the arduous process of peacefully and cheerfully working to restore some pride in believing in America, as an idea that changed the world.  The idea of America has inspired a love of freedom and a belief in the limitless potential of free individuals to achieve their dreams since America’s founding and it’s an idea that can kindle that flame of liberty again.

The thing about Americans placing all their hopes in presidential elections to change the course of America misses the reality that unless we begin the arduous process of changing American culture, we will keep ending up with presidents who are corrupt, amoral and a reflection of our declining culture.  We can’t wave a magic wand and transform America into Reagan’s oft mentioned “shining city on a hill,” but each of us who is concerned about America’s future can begin the change in ourselves, within our own family and within our circle of friends and community.  Each little positive change, focusing on the good that dwells in the hearts of millions of Americans might add up to a transformed country quicker than any of us thought possible, if we just start believing in the spirit of America again.

It’s way past time to stop indoctrinating Americans to hate America and start humbly, but determinedly, steering America in another direction.  If we all put in our oars and row together, we can change course and achieve anything..

 

 

 

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Filed under American Character, American History, BLM movement, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics

Freedom Isn’t Free

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Filed under American Character, Food for Thought, General Interest, Military

Our American heart

Just when the partisan spin garbage left me feeling totally disgusted, GWB comes through with the message we all should take to heart:

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A Country of Strangers…

After the past few days of Trump-crazy spin, from both sides, blaring across American media, I spent some time thinking about a sad Conrad Richter novel, A Country of Strangers, written in 1966, which I read last month.

The Richter novel was set in the American colonial period, at the time an agreement between colonials and the Ohio Tribes, consisting of several related Algonquin peoples, required the return of all white captives.  Richter’s story was written from the viewpoint of a young Lenni Lenape woman, Stone Girl (Mary Staunton), who was a white child captured by a Lenni Lenape (Delaware Indians) tribe when she was very young.  She has only a few memories of her white family and a few bits of information an older white woman captive kept repeating, reminding her of her English name and parents.  Stone Girl’s belief system and identity is completely Lenape.  To compound her alienation from her white heritage, she does not speak English.

Stone Girl married a warrior in the tribe and has a young child, so when the return of captives agreement becomes known, her husband takes her and their child further into Indian territory, hoping that will keep her safe from being forcibly returned to a white family she doesn’t even remember.  Stone Girl and her child are forcibly returned.   While Richter’s story disappointed me a bit, overall it left me feeling, not only sad for Stone Girl and her child, but sad about how so often political decisions made with the best of intentions, end up causing immense anguish for powerless individuals caught in the middle.

My father’s German ancestors settled into northeast PA, moving north of the Blue Mountain, in 1762.  That area had been an ancient Lenni Lenape (Delaware Indian) village, called Meniolagomeka.   Moravian missionaries had spent a few years in the 1750s erecting a mission in the area to attempt to convert the Lenni Lenape villagers to Christianity, before the Delaware were pushed out and white settlers moved in.  The French and Indian War, from 1754-1763, took a very heavy toll on the Lenni Lenape, from repeated forced relocations, disease and the ravages of this war.

The plight of Native Americans in the European settlement of America still haunts our American conscience, but so often we try to see these troubling situations in black and white, trying to choose a side, when in very personal terms, the larger political decisions, even well-meaning ones, sometimes inflicted enormous personal suffering on many individual people, on both sides, caught up in them.

I found an interesting 2001 article, Redeeming the Captives: Pennsylvania Captives Among the Ohio Indians, 1755-1765, by Matthew C. Ward, at JSTOR.  This article was originally published in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 125, No. 3 (Jul., 2001).  Ward writes that in this 10 year period in the mid-1700s, the French and Indian War had left the frontier border, especially in Pennsylvania, dangerously unprotected and exposed.

Ward explains that during that short decade, the Ohio Tribes waged an escalated campaign of taking white captives as a political and strategic effort, resulting in the capture of nearly two thousand white settlers – men, women and children.  Many of these captives fully-integrated into the Ohio tribal societies and despite the forced return of white captives at the end of the French and Indian War, many of these captives fled back to their Indian tribes or refused to leave their tribe.  In the Conrad Richter novel, Stone Girl finds out her Indian warrior husband has died in a battle and then her young son is killed, so the spoiler alert is she flees back to the Indians with a former captive, white man she has met, who, like her, had completely acculturated into Indian tribal life.

This phenomenon of white captives voluntarily returning to live with the tribe has been well-documented in early American historical accounts and was very common.  The European settlers, who considered the Native Americans uncivilized savages, were mystified by the frequency with which white captives chose to “go native” and stay with the Indian tribe.  The Delaware tribes adopted white captive children into their families and fully-integrated white captives, even adults, into their tribal social structure.

And that brings us to our modern politics and the frequent warnings of the dangers of tribalism, where sadly America, in a real sense, often truly feels like a country of strangers.

Interestingly,  Jonah Goldberg’s latest book, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy, Goldberg mentions this very situation in our early American experience:

“In his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger recounts how the English colonies in North America were vexed by a bizarre problem: Thousands of white Europeans colonists desperately wanted to be Indians, but virtually no Indians wanted to be Europeans.  “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs,” Benjamin Franklin explained in a letter to a friend in 1753, “if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.”  However, Franklin added, when whites were taken prisoner by the Indians, they’d go native and want to stay Indians, even after being returned to their families.  “Tho’ ransomed by their friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a short time they become disgusted with our manner of life… and take the first good opportunity of escaping again into the woods.”

As Junger observes, this phenomenon seemed to run against all of the assumptions of civilizational advance.  And yet it kept happening thousands of times over?  Why?  Because there is something deeply seductive about the tribal life. The Western way takes a lot of work.”

Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy, Jonah Goldberg, page 13

The Western way, indeed, does take a lot of work to keep our diverse and complex society united for any common purposes and with the rise of populist and nationalist sentiments, and the deepening factionalization (tribalism), often fueled by obscene identity politics, America seems more and more like a nation of  screeching tribes, on a 24/7, media-fueled verbal warpath, rather than a nation united by any common beliefs or bonds.

So, where does America go from here?  How do we begin to heal the divides and unite our nation under even a few common beliefs?  How do we begin to neutralize the damage inflicted on American unity, by this malignant, 24/7 scorched earth spin information war, that only works to fuel outrage and mass hysteria?  Is there hope for our rabid American partisan to find some calmer middle ground and begin to work together to unite Americans around a few common beliefs and causes?

America began as an unique experiment – a project – that requires commitment from each generation of Americans to thrive and succeed.

There’s been another Trump-incited debate in recent days about what American immigrants owe America and JK posted a link to the National Review podcast, where Charles Cooke and David French debate whether American citizens, who immigrated here, owe America more gratitude than native-born American citizens

My personal belief is it’s not so much about showing “gratitude”; it’s that our republic needs more individuals making the personal choice to commit to the American project’s most important civic belief – treating our fellow citizens, regardless of which “tribal group in our diversity soup” they identify with, with respect.

I agreed with some points on both sides of the French/Cooke debate, but for me, debating who owes more “gratitude” misses the most important point.  It’s not about picking a group who owes more to America, it’s about ALL American citizens should decide whether they want to put in their oars and row, in working toward some common goals.

I believe the first core belief America needs, to even form an American team, that can function, is demanding, not “gratitude”, but demanding we all  commit to treating each other with respect.  Focusing on judging other Americans, based on their displays of “gratitude” or how they show respect for America, which President Trump will surely hype in his 2020 campaign, as he wraps himself in the American flag and works to polarize and incite more divisions, gets us nowhere.  I say this, even though, I am struggling with negative feelings toward Omar’s anti-Semitic remarks and her comments that I perceive as anti-American.   Still, working hard to treat other people with respect, here we go from the PA girl, is our keystone belief.  It’s our American central principle, if you will.   Pennsylvania is the Keystone State, just had to throw that in.

Our political leaders spend more time fueling divides and anger, with too many orchestrating and participating in personal smear campaigns.

A few weeks ago, I listened to the audiobook  Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country, a book written by Senator Tim Scott and former Congressman, Trey Gowdy.  The book explains their friendship, but in the process, both offer many examples of how to build a relationship between two people from very different backgrounds.  They both talk about how they worked hard to build trust in their relationship and that required being willing to, not only listen to each other’s differing perspectives, it meant trying to understand them.  Their friendship took commitment, like all trusting relationships do.  On a larger scale America needs leaders committed to building trust across partisan lines and leaders who will put the national interest above their personal or partisan interests.

In his book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — And How To Heal, Senator Ben Sasse, relates this very point:

“Over the last year, I’ve had occasion to meet with a number of senior Chinese officials, and they’ve always been quick to point out — a kind of diplomatic trash talk — how young the United States is compared to China’s forty-five centuries of history.

Fair enough.  We’re babes, historically.  But (as long as we’re trash talking) age is not always what it’s cracked up to be.  And, besides: doesn’t this discussion miss the point?  China is a nation in the classic sense. It is blood and soil.  It’s great wall, a fascinating people, an extraordinary long-lived culture.

But America is something different.  America is an idea — it is a creed.

The American idea is a commitment to the universal dignity of persons everywhere.”

Them: Why We Hate Each Other — And How To Heal, written by Ben Sasse, page 134.

I agree with Sasse about “universal dignity of persons everywhere”, but being a homemaker, I believe we should work to clean up our own house, first, starting in our daily lives and hopefully our elected leaders and those with a public platform will commit to cleaning up our own political house, instead of just talking about which side is worse.

Frankly, I am ashamed of our American scorched earth spin information war, even though I am just a homemaker, with no political power.  The elected leaders in America represent all of us… and most of them, on both sides, are committed to this appalling spin war, where vicious, orchestrated smear campaigns and petty media spin games  – to incite, belittle, disparage each other – have become their default form of politics.  President Trump, AOC & her squad, and many other elected leaders, political operatives, and the media remain completely committed to waging this spin war.

This scorched earth spin information war is a national disgrace.  We should all commit to end it.

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Aquamarine vs. turquoise ( a 2015 blog post)

Here’s my so simple 2015 plan, that even a 5 year-old would understand it:

Finally, here is a post on factions, that’s so simple even a 5 year-old can understand the problem.  Adults might get stuck in their rigid ideological beliefs. All beliefs are not morally equal – some when carried to extremes have horrific consequences for millions of innocent people, while others can do remarkable good for the entire world.  That is the TRUTH.

Let’s say you believe very strongly that a color is aquamarine and I believe equally as strongly that that color is turquoise.  Being that we both believe a different thing, many avenues are there for us to choose.  We could argue and get so angry that we end up hating each other and never speak to each other again.  I could feel so strongly about my belief that I kill you.  We might even  kill each other fighting over who is right. I could even decide that it’s not enough to just kill you, but because you’ve convinced your whole town that the color is aquamarine, it’s necessary to kill all of them too.

Of course, on the less extreme side we might agree to consult an outside expert on color to settle the matter, perhaps, we could call the Crayola Company, after all they’ve been naming colors since 1885 in Easton, PA, near where I grew up.

We might argue, passionately and often, clinging to our beliefs (as President Obama accused those rural people in PA), but in the American tradition, we could agree to disagree and at some point, shake hands and say, “Let’s go have pizza!”  Presented to most 5 year-olds, the vast majority will agree that it’s stupid to kill other people just because we disagree, on the other hand most adults refuse to even listen to differing opinions.  Maya Angleou, renowned poet, expressed it exactly right:

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” –
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/26244-hate-it-has-caused-a-lot-of-problems-in-the

So, in America, being a country forged together by a people committed to INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM, we have The Declaration of Independence to ensure our God-given, unalienable rights are not infringed upon:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Sadly, in America our political partisanship swirls dangerously to extremes – where hate has swelled to such a level  that many Americans choose to receive all of their news from sources that align with their political views.  The hate and extremism goes so far that even the President of the United States works to divide Americans into hostile camps.  Distrust turns Americans into furtive enemies, partisans avoiding those who hold an opposing view, with ideological walls being girded to lock out all who dare to disagree.  Even codes are enacted in our universities to silence opposition.

We must tear down these partisan walls!  We must work to find common ground, or we can not face the threats beyond our borders.  President George Washington warned about the dangers of extreme partisanship in his Farewell Address:

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

So, beyond my stating it is a parental duty in a civil society to train your children to respect the rule of law.  George Washington tells you that it’s a duty to discourage extremist politics – the duties are required to be a good citizen.  I wrote a post in 2013 titled, “The duty of a wise people”. on this subject.

There was a time, not so long ago, when American school children were routinely taught about this speech and  American principles.  Sadly, today I suspect many school children don’t even know who George Washington was. And mentioning The Constitution, too often and too loudly, will get your name on a Homeland Security watch list as a right-wing extremist…

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Filed under American Character, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics, Uncategorized

The American “can do spirit”

In our media culture, often the worst things become the main story and the good things pass without notice.  In the past days, the life of President George HW Bush has been remembered, analyzed and as is our present crazy political climate, both his public and private life have been constantly compared to President Donald J. Trump.

After the media canonization earlier this year of  Saint John McCain, that was really more a shallow demonization of Trump media attack, which even McCain’s daughter participated in, it’s worth noting the Bush family, following the example of HW, kept to the higher ground. The entire family treaded this important state occasion of a presidential funeral with grace, dignity and with total respect for our country.

As I thought about President George HW Bush’s presidency, I remembered that we were living in Germany, where my husband was stationed in the Army, during all but the last months of his presidency.  His steady leadership reached us and kept our spirits high through Desert Storm, which affected our family directly.  My husband deployed with 3rd Armored Division to Desert Storm.

We had complete confidence in his presidential leadership and his ability to lead as CINC.  That mattered, not only to the troops and military families; it mattered to all of America.  Despite our family being in a foreign country, far from home, I never felt unsure about his steadfast leadership and commitment to the American military.

Amidst the media’s HW feeding frenzy, much of it phony and little more than flimsy cover for attacks on Trump, I think it’s important to look higher.

Political lip service is cheap and plentiful, but the real deal of deep faith, honesty  loyalty and dedication to serve to others is rare.  HW lived this every day of his life.  Many of his own family work to follow his example of public service, but I think all of us can work to embrace his example too.

As this American president goes to his final resting place today, perhaps his life should be remembered most for how he treated other people.

All of us, no matter how rich or poor, no matter our political beliefs, no matter our sex or race or religion, can strive to follow HW’s exemplary example of treating others with respect, putting serving others ahead of ourselves, and most of all facing each day, with a look to the skies, a determined smile resolutely on our face, as we step, confidently ahead with good cheer.

We should all remember that  20 year-old, WWII fighter pilot, bravely going off to fight in the Pacific.  He was a part of an American generation confident in American values.

He flew high in his personal accomplishments, but through it all he remained happily grounded by his true faith and allegiance to his family and country.

My prayers are with his family for their loss; my gratitude is that he and his generation left a flicker of American “can do spirit” burning. We should honor and strive to keep it burning brightly in our hearts .

 

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The passing of an era

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light … we all have something to give.”

President George H.W. Bush

When I learned that former president, George H.W. Bush, had died, a deep sadness touched my heart.  Of course, it’s easier to accept the death of an ailing 94 year-old man, who had lived an incredible life and who had lost his wife of 73 years, earlier this year.  Still, the passing of this president feels like the door closing tightly on a long ago era in American politics, where Americans both expected and valued personal character and dignified pubic decorum in their president.

Throughout Saturday, I noted the sincere and insincere public outpourings of condolences, the recounted remembrances, and the recitation of President Bush’s life story.  No matter what else people say about his public life, both admirers and critics alike agree, he led a life dedicated to serving others.

After reading and listening to a steady media stream of his life, which invariably follows the death of famous people in America, I came away still convinced that it’s pretty hard to top a life dedicated to serving others as a eulogy.

America needs to remember not only this man’s life; they need to remember his message.

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Filed under American Character, General Interest, Inspirations, Making a Difference

A face worth respect and admiration

This year has been very difficult for me to get blog posts written, despite good intentions. My dearth of writing is a combination of my husband’s daily care takes up more of my time, leaving me emotionally drained many days.  Also, the constant media/Trump hysteria disgust me to the point of total burnout on following the news.  Added to all that, often lately my old problem of sitting down to write, then getting stuck on what to write about strikes, resulting in more time spent talking myself into defeat about my desire to write than I do actually writing.  I keep wondering if anything I write makes even a drop of difference in the vast raging seas of political punditry and commentary.

The question that swirls in my mind lately is does what I write just throw more fuel on our extreme partisanship or does it offer anything informative, positive, or hopeful?  It’s a challenge for me not to write Trump, Dem and media bashing invective

Ordinarily, I’d be totally on board  writing about serious and currently popular cultural topics like civility and rebuilding some common ground, but often I think my cynical son probably has it right when he insists we have the society we deserve and he sees 2016, with two thoroughly corrupt candidates, as the fitting candidates for our “almost too stupid to exist” culture.  Despite being a very Pollyanna-type person, lately I wonder if perhaps he’s right, then I dig in on my Libertybelle American cheerleader beliefs and refuse to surrender to the spreading cultural and political corruption, the disturbing escalating partisan hatred and the chaos resulting from leadership vacuums everywhere I turn.

Negativity aside, I’ve seen some good pieces written on civility and positive advice for our ailing spirit.  Here are the links to a four-part series Carly Fiorina recently wrote.  I had mentioned the first part in a previous blog post and all four are very positive and worth a read:

Carly Fiorina: Between Trump and the media, ‘Who’s Zoomin’ Who?’

Carly Fiorina: It’s never as easy as the politicians think it is

Carly Fiorina: Stop waiting on Washington to fix our problems

Carly Fiorina: Who I’ll vote for this November

The thing I liked about Carly Fiorina as a presidential candidate, was something I consider a very important trait of a good leader – she invested a lot of time and energy into reading up on issues and policies.  She showed up to debates very prepared to debate real issues and policies.  When she gave interviews, she could speak articulately about serious matters and she had a lot of positive ideas.  I will always prefer leaders who display the good character trait of investing a lot of time into studying and preparing when tackling complex issues or taking seriously their duty to any office or position they hold.  During the GOP primary Trump attacked “that face”, but in my book, Carly Fiorina is a face worth respect and admiration.

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Quest for common American values

“In the military, and in a military family, you learn to do something very hard and not of your own choosing, for a cause bigger than yourself. You’re working for a cause determined by the mechanisms of democracy, standing side by side with others who are fully committed. Current U.S. civilian life has a striking absence of “common causes”—tasks that remind us that there is more that unites us than divide us.”

– Kathy Roth-Douquet

America’s Elite Needs to Get Back in Uniform

I’ve had this link saved for over a week, intending to use it in a blog post, but really there’s not much I can add to this excellent piece written by Kathy Roth-Douquet.

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