Category Archives: American History

Finding small flickers of hope in hard times

Throughout this blogging journey a constant drumbeat of mine has been talking about my belief in learning self-reliance and emergency preparedness, which now seems more important than any of the partisan politics or culture war turmoil. While being aware of those things is important, in our everyday lives getting angry, alarmed or worried isn’t going to change a thing and it’s certainly not going to help us be better prepared, develop useful skills or navigate through difficult times.

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Townsends, which is devoted to cooking and culture in 18th century early America. There’s never any politics on Townsends, just early American history presented in a very engaging format. I learn something new in every episode and yesterday’s was perfect for the times we’re facing with rising food prices:

What’s fascinating with many of the recipes in the very old cookbooks Townsends refer to is many lack precise measurements and give sparse cooking instruction, but he does a lot of research and often compares similar recipes from the time period and then he sets off and experiments making these foods. The Townsends team sets off on bigger adventures too, like making an earthen oven or even building an actual functional cabin using only tools available in the time period. The Townsends cabin-building adventure covered several episodes focused on different aspects of the project, like making their own tools, selecting and chopping down trees, and dealing with problems, including weather.

Few of us posses the type of rugged individualism to set off into the wilds to start a new life or even to learn how to construct a building on our own, but I’ve been following a YouTube channel, My Self Reliance, produced by Shawn James, a Canadian man, who built a log cabin by himself, from chopping down the trees, to building the entire cabin by himself, on his remote property. His videos are fascinating, because in most of them there’s no talking, just him working and going about his daily tasks. He later added some outbuildings, but then decided to move to an even more remote property and has been working on constructing a bigger cabin project by himself. James started another channel where he explains the challenges and his views on various topics, including why he chose to move into the wilderness:

My late husband was one of those rugged individual type people – he just set out and tackled hard tasks and he was forever using that saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” – one bite at a time, which means that often monumental tasks seem overwhelming, but if you start tackling it “one bite at a time,” each day you will see progress and the more you accomplish, the more you’ll believe you can do more and more… and more. I, on the other hand, doubt myself a lot, second-guess myself too much and often waste too much time overthinking things rather than just getting busy doing things. I’ve never regretted trying something and failing, but many times I’ve regretted not attempting to do new things.

You don’t have to move off into the wilderness or take on building a log cabin with your own two hands to get motivated to learn new skills and learn to become more self-reliant.

I’ve said this many times and I don’t want to be taken the wrong way here, but you can’t just shop your way to emergency preparedness or becoming more self-reliant. That doesn’t mean I am suggesting people not stock up on food and other items, because stocking up is a good thing, especially with the chaotic political and economic crises escalating almost daily now. By all means stock up, but here’s the thing, stocking up and being able to utilize all those items you bought are two different things entirely. A long time ago I saw a crafting meme that captures this sentiment: “I’ve decided that buying craft supplies and using them are two separate hobbies.”

I mentioned Townsends and My Self Reliance, because they show the days, weeks, months and yes, even years of hard work that goes into living without modern conveniences and they’re constantly learning more and developing more skills.

Most of us aren’t going to set off into the wilderness or build a log cabin, but developing the type of grit and determination to learn new skills, fail, then pick yourself up and start over is crucial to not just surviving, but thriving in bad times. Each day strive to learn something new.

As a child I got only one real Mattel brand Barbie doll and it was Midge, that I received as a Christmas gift. My mother bought me other cheaper brand Barbie size dolls and other dolls and she bought my sisters and me a few sets of plastic doll furniture. I yearned for a fancy doll house and doll furniture, like the kind I saw in toy catalogs. I made a doll house out of a cardboard box and I began using small empty boxes and plastic containers to make my own doll furniture to augment the plastic doll furniture. My great-grandmother was a quilter and she had boxes of fabric scraps she had collected when she worked in a blouse factory and was allowed to take home the fabric scraps that would have been thrown away. She let me use whatever fabric from her fabric boxes that I wanted for my crafting projects. I was around 8 years old when I began gluing fabric to cover little boxes and my great-grandmother showed me how to thread a needle and gather fabric together with long running stitches, so I could create ruffled edges on some of my cardboard furniture creations. My sisters and I got a small round plastic loom in some Christmas craft gift that we used yarn scraps to knit umpteen Barbie dresses too.

I still like to figure out how to use things I already have for projects. Sometimes they work, but often they don’t. My oldest sister, who is eight years older than me, has always been a very talented crafter, gourmet type cook, talented cake decorator and the list goes on. She’s very creative. Something I learned from her is to think in terms of creating a prototype, then working out the glitches and problems in the next ones. Most new things we try won’t turn out perfect the first time and whatever project or skill you’re learning, it’s much more likely there will be some problems or failures and it will be back to the drawing board. Rather than get frustrated by failures, try to use your failures as opportunities to learn more.

I rarely watch TV these days and the odd thing was I completely disliked the “reality TV” stuff from the beginning, but now I watch a lot of YouTube, which is real reality TV, without professional producers. I started watching YouTube looking for information for various needlework and crafting projects, then it moved to cooking and from there gardening and now I watch some homesteading and prepping channels too. I realized that I could learn some needlework and crafting techniques easier watching videos, where I could pause, rewind and replay, as I attempted it myself. I learned how to make Amish knot rugs that way:

An Amish knot rug I made a few years ago.

I’ve made 4 or 5 Amish knot rugs and plan to make some more. For my first rug I didn’t have the actual Amish knot rug needle, but I watched a video where a lady showed how to make your own tool with wire, so I used a large paperclip and bent it into the shape she showed. Yes, my first bending up a paperclip for recreational use was to make an Amish knot rug needle, lol.

There are so many excellent how-to videos on YouTube, so just look around. There’s also a lot of contradictory and bad advice, so take some time to browse around before you begin a new project.

I randomly came across a Canadian lady, Jessica Wanders, YouTube channel as she embarked on a No Spend Pantry Challenge, cooking meals with only food in your pantry for a month, that I was interested in. This young lady cans a lot, but she also has a lot of store bought items too. She makes her own yogurt using a very low tech method, which got me wondering about how you could make yogurt if you didn’t have store bought yogurt with live cultures. The creative ways she uses what she’s got and tries new dishes was very interesting.

Recently I’ve been thinking about making some simple soft cheeses and learning to make yogurt. Almost every yogurt how-to begins with using some yogurt culture from store-bought yogurt and with the current shortage problems I wondered how people made yogurt before they had store-bought yogurt. People have been eating yogurt for millennia. Voila, I found a process on a YouTube cooking channel I really love, Sweet Adjeley. This lady offers clear and precise instructions, in addition she has a lovely lilting accent, so it’s a pleasure to watch her channel. She has a video on how to make your own yogurt starter using chilies in milk and she says a cut lemon can also be used. So, I’ll be attempting making my own yogurt starter in the near future.

I’ve also been trying various keto bread and low-carb bread recipes I found on Pinterest and YouTube, which might be more diabetic-friendly. I recently stumbled across some bread recipes using bean flour, which would be a great use of some of these dried beans I’ve stocked up on and also a red lentil bread, I’d like to try. Beans aren’t low carb, but the carbs in beans are slower to digest and might work better for my blood sugar levels than regular wheat bread. Most keto bread recipes have too many eggs in them for my taste. I also ordered a used cookbook (very good condition,) Country Beans for $5.33 from amazon and it’s filled with all sorts of ways to use dried beans that were new to me. Sara Lee makes a low carb bread, that I like and it’s way cheaper than the keto breads, but I want to have some alternatives, in case I can’t find the Sara Lee bread.

YouTube is filled with channels on various types of gardening and homesteading, so you can find tons of advice, how-to videos and inspiration. You can also find how-to videos on almost any type of home repair, making and using tools, doing just about anything, but you can also find a lot of bad advice, political commentary of every stripe, end-of-the world prognostications and every type of crazy imaginable. I have also found some very thoughtful motivational videos, ranging from religious to secular themed. I urge you to listen to people who motivate you to feel like you can do more things and who inspire you to keep a positive attitude, then take a deep breath and get busy working to learn new skills and get things done.

There’s plenty to be worried and fearful about with the chaotic times we’re living in, but each day I try to remember to thank God “For Lovely Things,” which are all-around us. It’s a prayer I read as a child, from a little book of prayers I received for Christmas in 1964 and still have. I rarely part with books that matter to me. I wrote about this in a 2017 blog post:

How an individual responds to challenges really does depend on that person alone, but most of us turn to other people for encouragement, support and often guidance or advice and that’s where community comes in.

America doesn’t have to end up like other countries that fall apart, unless we let it. A lot of people in online communities are talking about building community these days and that’s a very positive sign. All across America ordinary people can create small flickers of hope, whether it’s an entire community effort, one church group or even just a small group of 2 or 3 people working together. Some Americans already are doing just that, which I’ll write about soon. We don’t have to turn out like Venezuela or Argentina falling apart, which I hear about constantly among online preppers.

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Filed under American History, Food for Thought, General Interest

I will fight you for my Russian teapot

I’ve been following the American media/politicians spin war on Twitter over the situation in Ukraine quite a bit and hadn’t gotten around to writing a blog post, so here goes.

First, Russia invading Ukraine was a full-scale invasion. Despite all the partisan takes on this, I read that as an attempt at regime change. There have been Trump talking heads pushing pro-Putin positions and the Biden White House staking out wrong positions about what was happening prior to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This incursion went past those two so-called breakaway territories, that Jen Psaki talked about in the WH’s policy-by spin-word-games effort. I wasn’t sure Putin would really go for it with a full-scale invasion, but he did and that poses a very immediate and dramatic challenge for the United States and our allies, not just in Europe, but around the world.

All those months of news with China and Russia turning into “preppers” had led me to believe they were planning a full-scale economic war, but I sort of thought they would try to take down the West via an aggressive economic war first before waging actual territorial wars. I was definitely wrong there.

I’m not going to get into all the politics today, beyond saying that one of the most disturbing aspects of the American response has been listening to American elected officials and top “experts, especially the media talking heads, many who have never picked up a book on military strategy or read anything on military history or military strategy become war-planning experts overnight. There are also many former military people who are now into politics, who jumped into the fray and are big media “influencers” beating their various war drums about what military options they think President Biden should take.

I began studying military strategy in my teens – it interests me a lot. I found this report in the loft of a garage/shed behind an old house my father was looking through. He was a supervisor for a road construction company and this old house was slated to be torn down, for a road job he was working on. I climbed the ladder to the loft and found a box with old papers and things, but this was the prize and from then on I have been hooked on studying military strategy:

I’ve believed for years many top US military and top policy officials are very weak on understanding military strategy and there’s a persistent view that permeates, where they leap into supporting the latest hot military option of the day that’s become the media buzz topic and urging that option without even thinking about the larger strategic implications. America has been entering military engagements since the 1990s based on reacting to public opinion and ideas promoted by crowds of these sort of DC insider policy thought leaders and not by seriously thinking about America’s national interests and long-term ramifications for American foreign policy. I’ve been worrying since the Somalia debacle in the early 1990s about American military strategy. By the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle last year, I was angry and very alarmed, not only about the incompetence, but also totally disgusted by all the lying from the Biden WH and coming from the Pentagon.

That brings me to what’s been on my mind a lot besides the horrific Russian aggression taking place in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis there, the looming economic hardships that will impact around the world and here in America. I’ve been very concerned how quickly many people jump into fashionable causes and engage in mindless gestures, believing they’re doing something important. Mindless performative political posturing has replaced carefully studying issues and making thoughtful judgments even among our elected leaders.

A whole lot of the people who were COVID masking zealots have now become Ukraine super fans – wrapping themselves in the Ukrainian flag and declaring their support for the courageous and unexpected heroic president of Ukraine, Volodomyr Zelensky. It’s been striking how his simple reported words, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” when offered US assistance getting out of Ukraine, inspired so many people around the world. We’ve become so accustomed to leaders of countries grabbing suitcases of cash and abandoning their countries when war breaks out, that a leader who stands and fights with his people touched a chord around the globe. Personal and moral courage are rare these days.

It’s fine to support Ukraine and it’s fine to be inspired by Zelensky, but so much of the media-driven public virtue-signaling and mass outpourings come with a very dark underside. Along with all the wrapping themselves in the Ukrainian flag type media-driven craze has come a very disturbing anti-Russian craze, with people rushing to disparage and destroy everything Russian.

The average Russian has about as much control over what their government is doing as we do here in America. While media talking heads were cheering bars pouring out Russian vodka and the ridiculous banning of Russian cats from some international cat competition. I believe in our government taking economic sanctions with real teeth, not in targeting ordinary Russian people or Russian cats, for crying out loud. I wish President Biden would stop importing oil from Russia and halt the Russia-brokered Iran deal his administration is working on, because these are real and powerful government sanctions. Picking on Russian cats isn’t.

There are so many wonderful things in every culture and their people, so it’s disturbing to see the same people who jumped on the bandwagon attacking Trump-supporters as Deplorables, then people on the right who didn’t agree with the Covid mandates and masking, rush to demonize Russians and everything Russian. People need to stop and think before rushing to virtue-signal.

While I support Ukraine in this war, I am American and the only flag I will ever march behind is the American flag. I also have spent a lot of time over the years reading American history and the American Revolutionary period has been my favorite era, although in the past couple years I’ve pushed the timeline back a bit and started reading more about the pre-Revolutionary era. The French and Indian War has taken my fancy, because I have direct ancestors who were on the frontier of that war in Pennsylvania. I want to read more books on that war. I started with this book:

Not sure how I missed reading more about this war, but it’s now on my must-read list of topics I want to learn more about. One of my German ancestors was tasked with forming a militia for the common defense when the American frontier moved westward in northeastern PA. Delaware (Lenape) Indians were pushed out of the area where I grew up. I had read some about this time period back in 1976 when I was a teenager. That year was the American Bicentennial, so people all over America were discovering their American roots. Some civic-minded people in my village put together a book:

That brings me to the photo at the top. It’s one of my most prized possessions – a truly lovely Russian teapot one of my sons brought back from Russia as a gift for me. I absolutely love this teapot and as you can see by my Matryoshka dolls in the photo above, I have a thing for other Russian things too. I stitched this cute Russian dolls piece a few years ago too:

Heck, I even have some Soviet-era propaganda posters. I’m fascinated by propaganda too:

Sorry, but not sorry, I am not getting rid of anything Russian in my home. People need to stop being so stupid and think more. Ignorance, reckless rage and mindlessly following media-driven frenzies are more dangerous than owning Russian items.

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Filed under American History, General Interest

What are you willing to walk six miles for?

This morning I thought might be a good time to step away from the politics and what’s going on in the news to chat about something else. Recently I wrote about deciding to attempt raised bed gardening and that’s still in the works, but I’ve been pricing materials and downsized my plans (big dreams) quite a bit.

I’ve got an indoor space set-up, with grow lights and heat mats for indoor seed-starting. I did some plastic containers trying the “winter sowing” method, although that seems like a technique that is pointless where I live, since seed stratification, where certain seeds need a period of cold temperatures, isn’t a process that’s going to occur here. I could be wrong. However, I’ve got 5 containers sitting outside with seeds (winter sowing) already sprouted and growing.

Long ago, when I was new to living in the Deep South, I was determined to have tulips in my flower bed in the spring. I tried for years and gave up. I tried storing my bulbs in a paper bag in the fridge in the winter, before planting the bulbs, which was a technique I read about in more than one southern gardening book. That still didn’t lead to tulip success. A few years critters dug up my bulbs and ate them.

Stores do sell blooming tulips here in the springtime, so if I feel some desperate longing for tulips in the spring at some point, I will buy one pot and put it on my kitchen table to enjoy. I realized that continually spending money on tulip bulbs, that are not well-suited to my climate, is a waste, when I could spend that money on many other vegetables or flowers that thrive here.

Being flexible and willing to adjust, as things aren’t going as I hoped or dreamed, has taken me years to develop. At the same time, just quitting and giving up is not the same as learning to adjust and adapt my plans and expectations, especially when facing failure. The hardest thing for me to learn though was that even though my original dreams and big ideas may never materialize, I often realize as I fail over and over, get frustrated, buckle down and try other options, that I gain more from the failures and getting back up to try again, than if I had achieved my dreams easily.

It’s the journey and the lessons learned along the way that matter most.

I still intend to eventually build several raised beds beyond these two, but also I’ve already filled two large, deep rectangular planters with potting soil and planted kale, spinach, radishes and carrots and all but the carrots have sprouted and are growing. I also filled a large round planter that I had in the shed and planted mixed lettuce for salad greens and that’s already sprouted too. I have these on my patio, but might move the lettuce into the sunroom to prevent rabbits from mowing it down.

The high price of materials has made me rethink and readjust my gardening plans already. I bought the materials for two raised beds, but I’m also going to try some economical container gardening options this spring rather than the many raised beds I initially dreamed of.

I like options and although I wish I was as self-reliant as my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, I am definitely not. They often didn’t have options and had to make do, under very adverse circumstances, with very little means and what they had.

Along with loving to read history and studying genealogy, I’ve always been fascinated with how ordinary people lived their everyday lives in different times. I wonder about their homes, how they cooked food, how they stayed warm, what kind of clothes they wore, etc. Before the internet, I often read books I found at the library devoted to these topics. I even found a book one time about water in everyday life throughout history, that explored all the fetching and carrying water for everyday life before modern plumbing.

The Pilgrims homes were around 800 square feet and one room. In the 1800s, the typical log cabin was between 12 to 16 feet square, one room and no windows.

Schoolchildren are often taught that President Abraham Lincoln was born in a backwoods cabin. He grew up living in poverty, but he never let that stand in his way to learning things he felt were important. Lincoln is remembered as one of our most eloquent presidents and he wrote his own most famous speeches, including The Gettysburg Address, which set forth an aspirational message of unity for an America torn apart by civil war.

Here’s a memorable quote from The Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

My favorite President Lincoln story I found in a book, The Eloquent President, by Ronald C. White, Jr. White wrote about how Lincoln as a young man diligently worked to improve his mastery of the English language:

“When Lincoln moved to New Salem he made the decision to master the English language by an intense study of grammar.  While living in New Salem, Lincoln heard that a farmer, John Vance, owned a copy of Samuel Kirkham’s English Grammar.  Lincoln walked six miles to get it.  He was twenty-three years old.” (pages 102-103)

What are you willing to walk six miles for?

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Filed under American Character, American History, General Interest

Cordage: A Very Useful Prepper Supply

This blog post is going to be about prepping, in a roundabout way. Years ago I took an interest in kumihimo when I worked at Walmart as the department manager of the fabrics and crafts department. Around stores you often see merchandise, mostly impulse purchase items, hanging from plastic strips, which we called clip strips. We had a clip strip of small, round foam kumihimo looms, that cost a few dollars. I kept looking at these looms, because I knew nothing about kumihimo. So of course I bought one, because who can pass up learning another craft or needlework technique, right?

There are crafters who make beautiful beaded kumihimo jewelry, but with my ever-growing list of crafts and needlework hobbies, I just learned how to do a few different braids, using various types of embroidery floss and yarn. I haven’t really gotten into kumihimo, but I’m glad I learned a few simple braids. Please excuse my terrible photography, but here’s the foam kumihimo loom with a few of the braids I made.

In my last blog post Sensible Prepper mentioned how it’s good to have how-to books, in case of, for instance, the power goes out or the internet’s down. He also mentioned how it’s good to have cordage, like paracord.

Cordage has been something that’s interested me for years. When I make small counted cross stitch projects, often I need to make a hanger out of embroidery floss to hang the finished piece and the most common finishing instruction is to use a technique of twisting 6-strand embroidery floss, which I’ve done for over 40 years, but then I saw a needleworker online recommend a cordmaker, that looks similar to a fishing reel. You can make yards of twisted cord in only a few minutes. I bought a cord maker, but haven’t used it yet. I will use it eventually, because I have several cross-stitched Christmas ornaments done and need to finish them into ornaments and they’ll need hangers.

Both the cheap foam kumihimo loom and this cord maker could be useful at making rope and cordage for more utilitarian purposes, I think, if you couldn’t buy any at the store. Even if you don’t have a ton of craft and needlework supplies like me, it’s simple to take apart a piece of old clothes, like a sweater and reuse that yarn or to even cut thin strips out of all sorts of materials – like an old bed sheet or t-shirt or even try cutting strips from black trash bags and making cordage in a pinch.

If you are a prepper and you don’t watch Townsends, I highly recommend their YouTube channel. They do a lot of 18th century cooking there, but so much more than that, as they explore early American life. They built a cabin, they have someone who does blacksmith work like they would have in 18th century America – to include making their own nails. A few years ago they had a guest, Dan from Coalcracker Bushcraft, which is located in the Appalachian Mountains of PA and part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Pocono Mountains, not far from my childhood home. Dan showed how to make cordage from tree bark using a simple twisting technique:

One of my favorite YouTube homesteaders is Patara at Appalachia’s Homestead. She’s feisty and opinionated like me, so even when I disagree with her about something, I know her heart’s in the right place from watching a lot of her other videos. She did a video a few days ago with her husband, James, who is very quiet, but in this video he talked more. They both came up with their own general category type lists of prepper supplies to think about having and I found it interesting how different their lists were. James thinks outside the box. He’s like me, with his “well, I could take this and repurpose it to do X, Y, Z type thinking.” At minute 16:52, James lists twine and string and I was sitting here, going, “YES!” Patara’s facial expression cracked me up, but hey, I’m on Team James with the twine and string, but I’d add ropes, fishing line, various strength threads and needles, like having curved needles to repair heavier materials and leather needles. A pack of homecraft or home repair needles is a good thing to have or several, because often when working using heavier materials, I’ve had to use pliers to pull the needle through and I’ve had needles break.

A lot of preppers have mentioned acquiring reference and how-to books. I’ve got a whole bunch, even an old Yankee Magazine book on olden days stuff, that explains everything from how to make your own paint from scratch to how to manage a small woodlot. With cordage in mind, years ago I picked up this book on knots and ropework, thinking it would be good to learn some of these knots sometime.

Learning as many skills as you can really matters as much as stockpiling supplies, I think. A few years ago I came across this interesting effort by some crafty people to cut plastic shopping bags in strips and turn them into “plarn,” a plastic yarn of sorts, which they make into mats to donate to homeless people.

Back in the 1970s, my great-grandmother saw some crochet project in her Workbasket magazine, using plastic bread wrappers to crochet rugs, so this “plarn” sleeping mat idea isn’t new. I remember those bread wrapper rugs, because everyone in the family was saving bread wrappers for her to crochet those rugs and also, because I found the rugs fascinating and my mother was not impressed with them, lol.

Before I end this long string (or yarn)… there’s a bad pun there, about cordage, I’m going to add this link to a YouTube channel devoted to rag rugs. Erin Halvorsen is absolutely the queen of rag rugs and has loads of information and tutorials on her channel of how to create your strips for various rag rugs to step-by-step instructions on how to make the rugs. Erin has loads of videos preserving many unusual and old-fashioned techniques. In this video she makes a unique twine rag rug, where she shows you how to make the twine, using a similar twisting technique as the cordage from bark that Coalcracker Bushcraft used in the Townsends video, then she crochets the rug together:

I hope I’ve “tied” together all of these interesting ways with creating and using cordage and I hope that more people start learning to “shop” their home first before rushing out to buy more prepper supplies.

Have a great day!

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Filed under American History, Emergency Preparedness, General Interest

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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Searching for our American moral compass

“The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit about the shining “city on a hill.”  The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important, because he was an early Pilgrim– an early “freedom man.” He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat, and, like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace– a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

True Reagan, by James Rosebush, pages 258-259,  President Reagan’s January 1989 Oval Office farewell talk.

The above quote comes from a 2016 book about President Reagan, which I found at a dollar store a couple weeks ago.  Along with this $1 Reagan book, I  sprang another $1 for David Axelrod’s book, Believer.  I already have three other books about Reagan – Peggy Noonan’s, When Character Was King, The Reagan Diaries, and An American Life (Reagan’s autobiography), so I really didn’t expect to learn much new.   I certainly didn’t need another Reagan book, but hey, it was only $1 and in this President Trump reality show style presidency, nostalgia for a calmer, more principled presidential style hits me everytime Trump tweets or engages in his daily “one man against the media mob” spin optic skirmishes with the media, which replaced the traditional White House daily press briefing.

Trump, like Reagan, has been accused of  “staging” his presidency, so I’ve been considering this comparison

Reagan did put effort into his public speaking, setting, make-up, even lighting, and he strategized about how he wanted to engage with the media during his presidency, as does Trump.

President Ronald Reagan’s communication style, from beginning to end,  brimmed with a confident, upbeat American spirit.  While offering a respectful nod to our past, Reagan’s unswerving inner compass always pointed us to a brighter American future, to an America always marching confidently forward, with our founding principles unfailingly lighting our path.

Something new, I learned about Reagan in this True Reagan book was that a book Reagan’s mother gave him when he was 11 years old helped him form a model for his own life.  Rosebush writes, the 1903 book, That Printer of Udell’s, was written by former Disciples of Christ pastor, Harold Bell Wright, a proponent of practical Christianity and the theology of good works.  This novel was a prism into the life and character Reagan created for himself.

Rosebush continued, “For Reagan, this was not a book he read and then tossed on a bookshelf.  It provided a blueprint for the life he wanted.  He not only read it several times, he recommended it to others and even brought it to Washington when he was elected President, all those years later.” (p. 33)  That Printer of Udell’s is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free here and here.

Trump runs a one-man, freewheeling reality TV presidency show, where he spews daily about “victimhood” – his own at the hands of a corrupt media and/or America’s at the hands of nefarious foreign entanglements.  Most of Trump’s impromptu battles with the press aren’t well-planned PR efforts, but instead seem to be Trump venting in impulsive tantrums, reacting to news reporting he’s watched on TV that day.   Trump leaves his own staff completely in the dark, as he prances out to engage with the media and ad lib his latest spin battle.  These ramshackle Trump pressers substitute for principled policy positions or carefully planned policy initiatives.  Trump’s daily tantrums become the latest administration “policy”.

There is no deep moral conviction to Trump’s patriotism or American ideals.  In Trump’s view, every American treaty or agreement before his presidency, by virtue of having been negotiated by US officials other than himself, was a terrible deal and is totally unfair.  Trump believes America’s greatness rests solely on his own personal greatness and his ability to cut “great” deals for America.

Back in 2015, I read Trump’s book, TRUMP: How To Get Rich, which I bought at a local antique/used junk store and I stick with that 2015 assessment of Trump’s character:

Last week I bought one of Trump’s books, as I mentioned before, and I read it.  Assuredly, Trump offered many interesting insights into, as the book’s title stated, “TRUMP: How to Get Rich”.  The pride he takes in his children comes across and he offers some worthwhile advice on investing and negotiating, but trying to get to the character of who exactly is Donald Trump, well, he’s a man who has chapters in his book like “Be Strategically Dramatic”, “Sometimes You Still Have To Screw Them”, and “Sometimes You Have To Hold a Grudge”, replete with examples from his life and his guiding principles. Here are some quotes (page 138):

“When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can.  Like it says in the Bible, an eye for an eye.”

Be paranoid.  I know this observation doesn’t make any of us sound very good, but let’s face the fact that it’s possible that even your best friend wants to steal your spouse and your money.”

The chapter on holding a grudge is even more interesting, because Trump relates how for years he had donated huge amounts of money to NY governor, Mario Cuomo and when he called Cuomo to ask for a favor from Cuomo’s son, Andrew, who was running the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Mario Cuomo refused to do the favor (which Trump doesn’t explain in detail other than to say it was an appropriate favor involving attention to a detail). Trump blew up and for any who are confused with Trump’s vendetta against Megyn Kelly on Twitter, calling her a bimbo last night or his refusing to entertain a question by Jorge Ramos from Univision this evening, well, this chapter on holding a grudge (page 142) explains it.  Trump called in a political favor believing it was owed to him, because he donated a lot of money to Mario Cuomo  (crony capitalism is what most people call this greasing of palms).  Here is how Trump describes the phone call:

“I did the only thing that felt right to me.  I began screaming.  “You son of a bitch!  For years I’ve helped you and never asked for a thing, and when I finally need something, and a totally proper thing at that, you aren’t there for me.  You’re no good.  You’re one of the most disloyal people I’ve known and as far as I’m concerned, you can go to hell.”

My screaming was so loud that two or three people came in from adjoining offices and asked who I was screaming at.  I told them it was Mario Cuomo., a total stiff, a lousy governor, and a disloyal former friend.  Now whenever I see Mario at dinner, I refuse to acknowledge him, talk to him, or even look at him.”

When you hear Trump whining about being treated unfairly, here’s what I believe he means: If you agree with him, fawn over him and puff up his ego, that’s treating him fairly.  If you disagree or criticize him, I believe, he will wage an all out campaign to destroy you.

https://libertybellediaries.com/2015/08/25/trumps-his-own-bimbo-eruption/

Trump reveres strong men, especially despots, who wield power over the weak.  Reagan revered individual liberty, as a God-given right to all people, and he abhorred tyranny.

Reagan’s belief in America as a force for good in the world defined not just his presidency, it defined his entire life.  Reagan believed in promoting individual liberty and in clearly speaking out against the forces of tyranny and oppression everywhere.

Trump can’t even conjure up the energy to speak up for peaceful Hong Kong protestors and in fact, not only sides with President Xi, but Trump would support China’s use of force to silence the freedom protestors (that’s the truth).

These trips down memory lane can be interesting, but trying to figure out a better path, in the present, relies more on assessing the current “road conditions” than studying the roads of days gone by, I think.  That doesn’t mean we can’t learn some sound “rules of the road” from past travels, especially when it comes to understanding that the competency of the driver assures us a better chance of arriving safely at our destination, even in the most adverse road conditions.

Trump compared to Reagan… the similarities ended with both men were involved in show business.  For me, I’ll follow Reagan’s moral compass over Trump’s any day of the week.

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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 escalating 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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Happy Flag Day!

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Old ways and new with survival

On YouTube, amidst mountains of rubbish, you can also come across truly excellent historical information presented in a very entertaining  video format.  The above YouTube channel, Townsends, offers hundreds of videos exploring 18th century American living.  Along with fascinating historical information, this channel dishes up some amazing 18th century cooking, prepared as it would have been, back when bison roamed America’s fruited plains.   The Pemican video is part of a series of videos on this true early American survival food.

The Townsends YouTube channel offers dozens upon dozens of well-researched videos on 18th century cooking and living, presented in an entertaining and educational format.  These videos are like a walk back into early American life and you can almost imagine you’re living in George Washington’s time.  With my fascination with the American colonial time period, once I came across the Townsends channel, I wished I still had my cheap felt tricorn hat and quill pen.

In my last blog post, I took a pretty dim view of some of the “homesteading” videos I’ve watched on YouTube.  There seems to be a consumerist bent to how many of these people approach their “back-to-nature” lifestyle,  being motivated mostly by watching other popular YouTube homesteading “influencers”, then following advice gleaned via social media, embarking on moving into rural settings they are unfamiliar with and lacking financial plans and a means to provide for unexpected expenses.

The ground truth appears to be, their goal seems more to become quickly famous (popular) selling their beliefs about their back-to-nature lifestyle than it does to actually develop good working systems on their homestead and that bothers me.  Many of these people seem to spend more time working on their YouTube videos and social media than they do on finding practical ways to make their actual homesteading more productive.

Any home, requires food, water, heating, sheltering, waste disposal/sanitation systems.  Those are the basics anywhere humans live.  The more effectively and reliably these systems operate in a home, the more enjoyable everyday life becomes.  Absent dependable systems in the basics, the more stressful life becomes.  That’s just common sense, in colonial American homesteading or modern American homesteading.

Rather than be so negative about so much of the YouTube homesteading fad, here’s, the queen of common sense homesteader, Appalachia’s Homestead with Patara, who offers not only sensible homesteading advice, she offers the real deal homespun common sense advice, to people with no background in gardening or farming, embarking on a homesteading lifestyle.   Beyond all of the sensible things Patara says about finances and planning for her homestead, at minute 7:32, in the background is a simple clothesline.

I’ve watched another YouTube channel, of a homesteading couple, with a lot of young children, who have put out several videos where the mother laments about all of her off-the-grid laundry misery.  They choose to live with no electricity and this mother uses a ridiculously small, folding, wooden drying rack to try to dry clothes outside.

In a recent video, she praised her husband for helping her out with laundry… by carting some of their laundry to the neighbor’s, to wash and dry there.  How on earth this is being self-reliant, I have yet to figure out.  In another video, this father also talked about going to part-time hours at his retail job in a home improvement store, in hopes of being able to have more time to work at home… mostly, it seemed, on their social media video “business” ventures.

I kept wondering why on earth, living in the Ozarks and this man working in a home improvement store, he hadn’t put up some real clothesline outside, so his wife could make use of the many days of wonderful breezes there.  I lived at Fort Leonard Wood in the early 90s,  during my husband’s Army career and I had a clothesline in my backyard of our military housing.  On many clear, breezy days, I could fill up my clothesline, sometimes three separate times with loads of laundry.  I started laundry as soon as my kids left for school and got the first couple loads hung out.  Usually by noon, that was dry and I could hang out some more.  And if I had still more, by mid-afternoon, I could hang it out and get it dried.

I had a large capacity electric washer and dryer though, so on rainy days, laundry continued without any interruptions.  One time, living in MO,  the heating element in my dryer stopped working.  My husband went and picked up a new heating element and fixed my dryer when he got home, after working a very long day in the Army.

A clothesline is a common sense thing to have living a rural lifestyle, in most parts of the country.  It’s also one of those basics that could make laundry less of a trial with a large family and no electricity.  A sturdy clothesline doesn’t cost much to put together and for a family with small children, off-the-grid, it makes no sense to me why this mother spends so much time on YouTube lamenting about her laundry woes.

I kept wondering why her husband, who said he worked at a home improvement store, hadn’t put up some sturdy clotheslines, so she could make use of the great breezes that blow through the Ozarks.  Instead, this mother waxes on about amber teething necklaces, pricey amazon health food stuff and the kids, unsupervised, were mixing up batter with almond flour in one video.  I had priced almond flour for a recipe that called for it.  The Walmart store brand was $10 and some change for a 2 lb. bag.  The other brands of almond flour cost more than that.  I decided to stick with my all-purpose flour and skip trying this new recipe with almond flour.

As irksome as I found this couple’s laundry decision-making, it’s nothing compared to some of the YouTube preppers, like a lady waxing on about “dry canning” store bought rice and beans and claiming they have a shelf life of 30 years.  I wondered who on earth tested this “dry canning” method as a safe 30-year food storage method…  She did motivate me to go through my cupboards and discard some food that had long passed the expiration date, lol.  I have a bad habit of stockpiling store-bought canned goods and packaged food.  “Dry canning” store-bought beans and rice is advice, I’ll take a pass on, thank-you very much.

I suppose this sounds like my Three Little Pigs YouTube homesteading saga, so here’s another couple at Living Traditions Homestead (also in the Ozarks), who offer really solid, practical advice on planning and operating a family homestead business.  This couple planned for 7 years before moving to a homestead in the country.  They paid off all of their debt and appear to do their homework before making big decisions and changes.  They offer many interesting cooking and canning videos too.

My dream isn’t a family homestead, but to be completely debt-free and to eventually have a big backyard vegetable garden again and plant lots of flowers.  Whenever I browse seed company sites or walk into stores with gardening supplies and plants, my heart longs to buy, buy, buy, but I’m going to just grow some herbs and veggies in containers this year.  It’s the same response when I watch many homesteading and gardening videos, my eyes are bigger than my physical energy level and time.

For inspiration on container gardening, here’s another YouTube channel, a very nice couple at, Hollis and Nancy’s Homestead, who offer very clear how-to videos on container gardening methods.

You can learn many positive things from YouTube and social media, but often the “most popular” people or the videos with the most likes aren’t the ones offering the most sensible advice.  It’s best to take the time to wander through several YouTube channels when looking for “how-to” videos and think about what that channel is really selling before buying into  magical “healthy” products or lifestyles.

As the Appalachia Homestead lady, Patara, advises constantly, “Slow down and think before rushing into things!”  That’s sound advice on just about all aspects of life.

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Veterans Day thoughts

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”   — Dale Carnegie

November 11th is Veterans Day.  All day today, I thought about writing a blog post, but instead I worked on some craft stuff, tweeted a bit (to my regret) and I moped around thinking about my mother.  Twitter got me riled, because of the endless Trump spin hysteria about Trump not attending a WWI ceremony yesterday.  By the time John Kerry was tweeting, attacking President Trump, I lost it and tweeted about Kerry’s foreign policy failure with Kerry thanking Iran for releasing our sailors they had captured and then Iran turned around and released demoralizing propaganda videos and photos of our sailors.  Kerry and the mainstream media went with the White House spin that it was new era in diplomacy and a great ending…

For someone like me, who finds President Trump’s conduct totally unacceptable much of the time, the way the Dems and media run these hysterical spin attacks, disgusts me more than Trump does.  Of course, President Trump should have attended that WWI ceremony on Saturday, unless he was too ill to attend.  The Dem/media spin feeding frenzy, attacking Trump, continued from Saturday all through today.  I tweeted some comments about how President Trump has a ways to go to match some of the Clinton or Obama outrages when it comes to the military… like Somalia, Benghazi, selling Bergdahl the “war hero” and of course our sailors on their knees.  I believe that is the truth too, but at the same time, yes, I regret tweeting while ticked off and I really wish I had stuck to just ignoring the hysterical spin and tweeting dignified stuff today.  President Trump would do better, if he just ignored the media spin and focused more on doing his job and behaving in a dignified manner. And I, too, need to try to follow my own advice and avoid the mean comments

November 11th was also my late mother’s birthday.  She passed away in 2001, but certain times of the year, the loss becomes painful and raw.  Thankfully, I can remember all of the wonderful things about my mother, like her complete dedication to our family and even smile at how completely organized and disciplined she was about everything she did.  My mother would have been an outstanding drill sergeant in the military.  I’ve written many times about my mother, so for today, I’ll stick to some interesting links I’ve found pertaining to commemorating WWI, which got a lot of media attention this year, with it being the WWI  Centennial Commemoration and also a few other military related links.

The Army Center of Military History put out some fairly short videos (under 15 minutes) on the history of WWI, with a lot of actual photos and film footage:

The UK National Archives has a large collection of war letters, where you can see the actual letter and the text is also provided, so you don’t have to struggle to decipher handwriting. Here’s the link for the WWI collection: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/letters-first-world-war-1915/

Nick Gillespie, at Reason wrote, a short piece worth a read:

Instead of Making Today About Trump, Let’s Remember the Dead of World War I

Gillespie’s piece has a link to Rudyard Kipling’s poems, Epitaphs of the War, which speak to the horrors and massive losses of WWI.

At Military.com, Service to This Country: A Lifetime Oath, written by a former Marine Corps veteran, Sean Mclain Brown, struck me as a very personal and heartfelt Veterans Day message, with advice we can all take to heart. Brown writes:

“Marine Corps combat veteran and CEO of Team Rubicon Jake Wood once told me that civilians “don’t understand the culture and daily sacrifices that veterans make” and that it’s our responsibility to help “educate them by sharing our stories.” I agree. We need to move beyond the casual “thank you for your service” and move toward “can you tell me about your service?” to help bridge that gap between the military and civilian worlds.”

And last, at the end of November, last year, I wrote a blog post, “A few leaves of grass” for remembrance, which came to mind thinking about WWI today.  Here’s part of that post:

I keep War Letters:  Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll, on a small table by my recliner.  A few years ago, I mentioned General Pershing’s famous WWI letter to his young son, Warren, which I came across in this book.   General Pershing’s letter to his son was a father explaining the important values Americans fights to protect and preserve.  It’s probably my favorite letter in the book, but a close second is a letter written in 1918,  by Maude B. Fisher, an American Red Cross nurse.  She penned one of the most touching letters to Mrs. Hogan, the mother of a young soldier, Richard Hogan, who died of influenza in their hospital.  This wonderful nurse took the time to pen a very personal letter, so that a grieving mother would know how her son died.  The letter includes details of how brave and cheerful the dying soldier was, the care he received, and even more than that this nurse wrote the details of the soldier’s burial:

“He was laid to rest in the little cemetery of Commercy, and sleeps under a simple wooden cross among his comrades who, like him, have died for their country.  His grave number is 22, plot 1.  His aluminum identification tag is on the cross , and a similar one around his neck, both bearing his serial number, 2793346.

The plot of the grave in the cemetery where your son is buried was given to the Army for our boys and the people of Commercy will always tend it with loving hands and keep it fresh and clean.  I enclose here a few leaves of grass that grows near in a pretty meadow.

A big hill overshadows that place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy.”

page 171, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll

No one required this nurse to write to this grieving mother, because the Army notified fallen soldiers’ families, but she cared enough to want this mother to have more details.  The book offers a few details about each letter.  Mrs. Hogan lost two of her other children back home in Woburn, Massachusetts, during the 1918 influenza epidemic.  It must have been a great comfort for her to know her son far away was dutifully cared for as he lay dying and that he was given a proper burial.  And imagine her relief knowing exactly where her son was buried.

Thoughtful good deeds, like Maude Fisher’s, used to be very common when most people were reared to put other people before themselves and when quietly doing the right thing was drilled into children and served as the cultural norm

And with that I’ll end this post and hopefully we can all say a prayer tonight for all our brave men and women serving all over the world and for hope to guide our country through these troubled times.

 

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Filed under American History, General Interest, Military