Category Archives: American History

Looking Westward

“Wherever one found informality, unconventionality, a firm handshake, an open door, a breezy rhetoric, an unrestrained manner, there was the West.”

– Carey McWilliams

With our endless silly, shallow, venal political circus in America, I’ve wandered back to America’s pioneer days this summer.  Of course, I am still keeping an eye on politics, because being an unrepentant news-junkie, going cold turkey away from news just ain’t happening.  Since traveling isn’t possible with my husband still recuperating from VP shunt surgery in June, I’m hitting the trail back to the Old West with my reading.

A while back JK left a comment recommending a David McCullough book, Brave Companions: Portraits in History, so I went ahead and ordered the paperback edition.  Some of the portraits are of people whose names did not even ring a bell, like Alexander von Humboldt, the subject of Chapter One: Journey to the Top of the World and the men behind the Panama Railroad, linking the Atlantic to the Pacific in Chapter Six: Steam Road to El Dorado.  Some were familiar names of famous people, but whom McCullough introduced a whole other dimension to their biography, like Charles Lindbergh, his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Beryl Markham of Kenya, the first woman to fly the Atlantic from east to west, in Chapter Nine: Long Distance Vision.  McCullough explains these 20th century aviation pioneers:

“But most remarkable is how many of them proved to be writers of exceptional grace and vision, authors of more than a score of books.  Lindbergh wrote seven, beginning with We, a hugely popular account of his early life and the Paris flight, which was rushed into print that same year.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, her husband’s copilot and radio operator on later expeditions, was a diarist and poet, who hardly ever stopped writing.  Her first published book, North to the Orient, described the unprecedented survey flight the couple made in 1931 in a small seaplane from New york to China by the great circle route over Canada and Alaska, touching down in Siberia and Japan.”

p. 126, Brave Companions: Portraits in History, by David McCullough.

This short David McCullough book served as my summer reading jumping off point, as I sat here wondering why I had never read any Conrad Richter novels.  Richter is the subject in Chapter Ten: Cross the Blue Mountain.  I love American pioneer novels, so I have no idea how I missed Conrad Richter.  My love of stories about Americans pioneers settling in a new land began during the 1970s when American bicentennial mania hit.  I read every novel in the John Jakes’ Bicentennial series about the Kent family.   Around that same time I read Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains, for the first time and fell in love with the main character, the strong, quiet cowboy, the Virginian. This remains my all-time favorite Western novel.

This McCullough book is how many of my reading adventures begin.  I debated buying Conrad Richter’s 3-novel series, The Awakening Land, but even the kindle versions are $11.99 each and I already have piles upon piles of books and many kindle books that I have not read yet, so a bit of book hoarding guilt set-in.

Near the end of McCullough’s portraits, in Chapter Sixteen: Recommended Itinerary, McCullough offers suggestions of places to visit in America, but he also writes, “Look at people when you travel. Talk to people. Listen to what they have to say.”  That’s advice worth heeding always.  He also advises:

“Or go to a tiny graveyard on the Nebraska prairie north of the little town of Red Cloud and look about until you find a small headstone. It reads “Anna Pavelka, 1869-1955.”

By every fashionable index used to measure success and importance, Anna Pavelka was nobody.  Three weeks ago my wife Rosalee and I were among several hundred visitors who arrived in a caravan of Red Cloud school buses to pay her homage.  Who was she and why did we bother?”

She was born Anna Sadilek in Mizzovic, Bohemia, present-day Czechoslovakia, in 1869, at age fourteen she sailed with her family to America to settle on the treeless Nebraska prairie in a sod hut.  Some time later, in despair over the struggle and isolation of his alien new life, her father killed himself.”

p. 223, Brave Companion: Portraits in History, by David McCullough

As soon as I read that I thought, “she’s My Antonia” and sure enough that’s exactly who Anna Sadilek was.  My Antonia is a pioneer novel written by Willa Cather.  In one of my early blog posts, Survival: The Mind-set, back in 2012, I mentioned  this Cather novel:

 “This novel exemplifies the “put one’s hand to the plough” mentality that separates those who persevere and thrive and those who prefer to wallow in misery.  The young male main character, Jim Burden, narrates the story of moving to early 20th century Nebraska to live with his grandparents, who were early homesteaders.  Jim becomes fascinated with neighboring homesteaders, the Shimerdas,  a family of Bohemian immigrants.  Throughout the story, Jack’s grandmother exemplifies the indomitable American spirit and she’s a testament to planning not just to survive, but to live as comfortably as possible in an unforgiving environment.  The Shimerdas, city-dwellers in their home country, fail to take responsibility for their own survival, necessitating good neighbors to prevent their demise.  In one scene the grandmother packs a hamper to take to the Shimerdas, she offers this line:

‘Now, Jake,’ grandmother was saying, ‘if you can find that old rooster that got his comb froze, just give his neck a twist, and we’ll take him along. There’s no good reason why Mrs. Shimerda couldn’t have got hens from her neighbours last fall and had a hen-house going by now. I reckon she was confused and didn’t know where to begin. I’ve come strange to a new country myself, but I never forgot hens are a good thing to have, no matter what you don’t have.”

Despite the Shimerdas family’s hardships and suffering caused by their parents lack of survival skills, Antonia Shimerda and her siblings (thanks to neighbors and others in their rural Nebraska community), get on the path toward successfully homesteading and thriving in America.”

 Survival: The Mind-set

I picked up my tablet and read Cather’s O’Pioneers, which I already had in my kindle library.  Cather’s pioneer novels,  give life and voice to the unforgiving land, taking it from being just the setting of her stories, to being as alive and vibrant as her human characters.  Then I waffled and ordered the kindle version of Conrad Richter’s short-stories, Rawhide Knots & Other Stories, thinking that I could get a taste for his writing and decide if I want to order some of his novels.  My local library doesn’t have any of Richter’s novels, which made me wonder if he was one of those Pulitzer Prize winners whose work appealed to literary critics more than the general public.  By the fourth short story  I’m already a Richter fan. He captures the harshness of that land too and like Cather,  his female main characters aren’t delicate flowers.  These women, just like the men, are gritty survivors in a new land.

I pulled out my old copy of Lonesome Dove, a truly epic Western by Larry McMurtry, which I read decades ago and might reread that and I also pulled out this old hardback book, A Treasury of Western Folklore, that I picked up in an antique/junk store in Clovis, NM in 2006.  My husband and I had driven to Clovis to visit our son serving in the Air Force, before he deployed to Iraq.  I’ve started skimming through this collection and reading some fascinating bits of trivia and tall tales.  The story about how the Stetson became the most recognizable piece of western attire ranks as an amazing merchandising strategy of a hat-maker, who began sending samples out west to merchants and the orders poured East to John B. Stetson’s hat-making factory in Philadelphia.

Once I tire of the Westerns, it will be time to start hunting down the Lindbergh and Beryl Markham writings.  One slim David McCullough book looks like it will keep me exploring new vistas for quite some time.

… and of course I read close to a dozen historical romance novels this summer too… but even several of those were set in the Old West… Some things never change. Have a nice day!

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Filed under American History, General Interest

Frederick Douglass celebration

Found this Frederick Douglass google celebration site worth checking out:

Learn about writer and activist Frederick Douglass

 

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Filed under American Character, American History, General Interest

My favorite Army cookbook

 

This is a really fun Army cookbook, if you ever want to attempt cooking Army recipes from America’s front line troops, throughout American military history.  There’s even a recipe for Colonel George Washington’s small beer.  The recipes come with ingredient lists for feeding 10 or feeding 100.  I really liked that.  And as an added bonus, this book is brimming with tidbits of military history and lore.

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Filed under American History, General Interest, Military

All leadership boils down to trust.

Last week, President Trump retweeted a meme about General Pershing, which according to military historians is not true:

Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!

Alex Horton, a reporter at the Washington Post, writes:

“Brian M. Linn, a history professor at Texas A&M University, did just that nearly two decades ago when he published “Guardians of Empire,” a book on the U.S. military presence in Asia from 1902 to 1940.

His verdict on Trump’s claim?

“There is absolutely no evidence this occurred,” he told The Washington Post.

“It’s a made-up story. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times people say this isn’t true. No one can say where or when this occurred.”

But Trump’s claims, and the wider belief in a routinely debunked story, have far-reaching effects. Not only is the story untrue, but the convenient twist — of an insurgency defeated only with the use of brutal war tactics — points to precisely the opposite lessons Pershing and his troops learned in the Philippines campaign from 1899 to 1913, Linn said.

“The U.S. military learned escalating counterterrorism was not effective, and they took great steps, including Pershing, to de-escalate,” Linn said.”

Trump said to study General Pershing. Here’s what the president got wrong.

President Trump loves to sound “tough”, so it’s no surprise he’d latch onto this “committing war crimes to defeat terrorists” myth.   This myth is the distillation of his conviction that the US military should murder ISIS family members to scare ISIS terrorists into submission, his “become terrorists to defeat terrorists strategy”.

Atrocities do happen in most wars, I believe, and often when one side employs a brutal tactic or a newer weapon, the other side often decides to do the same.   In World War I, weapons of mass destruction entered the battlefield, first with tear gas, but escalated, as all major belligerents worked to develop more lethal and effective gases, despite being signatories to the agreements that use of these weapons was a war crime:

“The use of poison gas performed by all major belligerents throughout World War I constituted war crimes as its use violated the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare.”

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

General Pershing deserves to be remembered as one of America’s finest generals, not as a war criminal.  He revolutionized the American military during WWI, when he commanded the American Expeditionary Forces.   He went to war without an army, because the American peacetime army had been reduced to a few scattered regiments.  His innovations and relentless pursuit of solutions to complex logistical and tactical problems should be required reading for American military officers.  He defied bureaucracy at every turn, always striving to tackle every obstacle. He dedicated his life to not only leading soldiers, but taking care of his soldiers.  And above all else, General Pershing believed in a stringent code of conduct for all soldiers to follow.  He was not a ruthless killer; he was an American soldier dedicated to serving and protecting America.

General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing is an American hero worth remembering.

I intend to write more about General Pershing in future posts, because we could all learn a great deal about what selfless service means, by studying his leadership example.

President Trump is not the only American to fall for internet myths, fake news, garbled history, fabrications, hoaxes and scams.  Almost everyone who consumes news and information online has fallen for information, that was not true.  For instance, I read news at the Conservative Treehouse, seeing it mentioned in a list of conservative blogs.  The site uses Breitbart wallpaper, imagery of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Biblical quotes to lure people into believing it’s just a conservative site. I now believe it’s a Russian front operation.  I read some information there a few years ago and was fascinated trying to understand their crowdsourcing method for acquiring information.   Their two big topics were exposing the lies about black violence and Islamist terrorism.  I was banned from their site for trying to post a comment about the Islamic Golden Age, and countering some woman, who claimed I was aiding the enemy and touting Islamists. The historical fact is there really was an Islamic Golden Age and Islamic culture was far more advanced in the sciences than Europe, during that time.  My comment was blocked and I was banned, but they allowed and encouraged racist comments.  That site became Trump Polling Central during the 2016 campaign.

I mentioned my concerns about Drudge in previous posts.   Like millions of other political junkies, I started following Drudge during the Clinton impeachment scandal.  In recent years, Drudge started mainstreaming loon, Alex Jones, by featuring Jones’ stories.  Drudge also sensationalized conspiracy stories, like linking Ted Cruz’ father to JFK’s assassination, to destroy Ted Cruz.   Numerous times he headlined unflattering photos of Trump’s opponents.  On one occasion he headlined photos of Hillary, casting her as decrepit or another occasion, he ran photos of her casting her as a drunk.  The oddest thing I noticed on Drudge during the 2016 election was he removed his link to RedState, which went NeverTrump, from his list of links, and replaced it with Zero Hedge.  I’ve seen numerous articles alleging Zero Hedge is a Russian front operation, that recycles Russia Today propaganda.

The scope of Russian front operations online, their troll armies in comment sections to attack and silence anyone not on the Trump train, melded with Trump’s American sleaze operators, like Roger Stone, Peck at the National Enquirer, Richard Mercer’s Trump data operation, and Trump’s largest agitation propaganda front, Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News.

I know I have fallen for things online that turned out to be untrue, believed sites were reliable news and weren’t, but I am not making critical national security decisions, like President Trump.  I’m a homemaker, who writes a blog.

To improve the quality of the information that the president sees, General Kelly is working to institute policies that assure the president sees only vetted information:

“Confronted with a West Wing that treated policymaking as a free-for-all, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly is instituting a system used by previous administrations to limit internal competition —and to make himself the last word on the material that crosses the president’s desk.

It’s a quiet effort to make Trump conform to White House decision-making norms he’s flouted without making him feel shackled or out of the loop. In a conference call last week, Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide — White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a little-known but highly regarded Rhodes Scholar who overlapped with Jared Kushner as an undergraduate at Harvard — will review all documents that cross the Resolute Desk.”
Kelly moves to control the information Trump sees

President Trump has shown a preference for relying on word-of-mouth information from his friends and sycophants. General Kelly is trying to provide President Trump with fully vetted information, to aid in the president’s decision-making.  Whether he succeeds at weaning Trump off his penchant for trusting in unvetted internet stories remains to be seen. President Trump believes the American intelligence community, who vets that intelligence information, can’t be trusted, .  It’s worth remembering that several months ago President Trump cited Russian reports as factual to back up his assertions about Russian collusion.  He relied on Russian reports, but believes the American intelligence community is the nefarious “Deep State” out to get him.

Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent, whose identity was leaked several years ago, has initiated a crowdsourcing effort to raise money to buy Twitter and kick President Trump off of Twitter.  This is a ridiculous and pointless effort.  He has the bully pulpit  of the presidency and has endless ways to get his message across.  Beyond that, although I believe it would be better for the country if President Trump got off of Twitter, he is free to make that decision himself.  He obviously believes that his tweet war against the media is helping him “win”.  He deliberately tweets to incite the media and his political enemies, who without fail, rush into a spinning frenzy of moral outrage and retweeting rushed stories, many which fall apart quickly.  This aids him in convincing his followers that he is a victim of a vast conspiracy.

Every time he gets the media and his political enemies to overreact, he feels that is a win. Contrary to President Trump’s assertion that he likes to get the facts, he goes on instinct rather than a careful study of facts and he is very sloppy at presenting detailed information.  None of that matters, because Roger Stone and the other sleazy political strategists behind President Trump came up with his strategy to win in 2016 and they are behind this MAGA 2.0 strategy.  Trump doesn’t understand the details, but he is masterful at the stagecraft and acting the part of a populist flamethrower.

There will be plenty more scorched earth attacks on Trump’s enemies – the media, Republicans, Democrats, or anyone who gets in the way of the Trump train agitation propaganda blitzkrieg.  Roger Stone is back to issuing veiled threats of violence and blood in the streets, to intimidate Republicans into submission again:

“But if the president is impeached, Stone says, there could be disastrous repercussions.

“You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen!” Stone warned. “Both sides are heavily armed.”

“This is not 1974,” Stone explained. “The people will not stand for impeachment.” This, of course, refers to Richard Nixon‘s resignation after the Watergate scandal. Stone worked in the Nixon administration in the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Stone didn’t just predict violence among the public. He said that those in Washington who would support impeachment would be placing themselves at risk.

“A politician who votes for it would be endangering their own life,” he said.

“I’m not advocating violence,” he clarified, “but I’m predicting it.””

https://lawnewz.com/video/roger-stone-anyone-who-votes-for-impeachment-would-be-endangering-their-own-life/

These Trump train thugs, like Stone, want more violence, they especially want the crazies on the left  and right to get more violent.  Most of all they want to intimidate, by using fear.  President Trump will be out there stirring up his base, along with his FOX News army of propagandists, telling Americans that Trump will not put up with violence and he will be tough on crime.

The best defense against Trump train intimidation and fear mongering is to not be afraid.  Don’t back down from threats of violence.  Unite in encouraging civil debate, calm, respect for all Americans and most of all respect for the rule of law.

We should all work tirelessly to pull all Americans away from the partisan extremes.

In the end America’s future does not rest on General Kelly’s ability to rein in Trump, or the media reporting, or getting Trump off of Twitter; it will rest on who the American people choose to trust and follow.

All leadership boils down to trust.

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Filed under American Character, American History, Culture Wars, General Interest, Military, Politics, The Media

America desperately needs moral guidance

One of the worst aspects about “civil wars” is that the political divides often get down to tearing people’s most personal relationships apart too.  Lifelong friendships and even families can be sundered when people feel compelled to choose sides in civil wars.  Few people can maintain neutrality or as my one son says, in most family disputes, “I’m Switzerland on this!”

During the 2016 campaign, many articles reported about the election causing friction and angry disputes within many American families, as the extremely contentious choice between Trump or Hillary began to be hyped as an existential election for America’s future.

Throughout history there have been many of these stories and the American Civil War is rife with stories of the painful “brother against brother” personal tragedy.  During the American Revolution, one of the most famous American founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, and his son, William, who remained loyal to the British crown, severed their relationship over their political divides during the American Revolution:

“On his way back to Philadelphia, Franklin stopped in Rhode Island to meet his sister, Jane Mecom, and take her home with him. The carriage ride through Connecticut and New Jersey was a delight for both Jane and Franklin. The good feelings were so strong that they were able to overcome any political tensions when they made a brief stop at the governor’s mansion in Perth Amboy to call on William. It would turn out to be the last time Franklin would see his son other than a final, tense encounter in England ten years later.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/benjamin-franklin-joins-the-revolution-87199988/#fUU7xOxf8f3vUMLQ.99
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The 2016 election divided the country between left and right, but Donald Trump divided the Republican Party and conservatives with his scorched earth “GOP Insurgency”, in ways that the ashes are still smoldering.

Trump’s divisive “GOP insurgency” tactic melded with his strong-arm rhetoric and vicious online mobs (some alleged to be Russian trolls) leading gang-up attacks on conservative sites’ comment forums left the Republican Party fractured and bleeding. Among the conservative punditry circle, many of these divides have led to the destruction of longtime friendships and have been played out in public.  Bill Kristol and Tucker Carlson are engaged in one now.

I’ve written about experiencing the troll gang-up tactics when commenting on some conservative sites, being called a slut and much worse, and I wrote about a night where I was reading the Disqus comments at National Review Online, for a Jonah Goldberg article, when the Disqus comment forum was taken over by people spewing neo-nazi and reprehensible anti-Semitic comments.  That night, the mob of neo-nazis, who were also Trump supporters, had figured out a way to hijack forum moderators’ names, so they were posting their hateful garbage using moderators’ names.  You could check the user profile and see these were new profiles with hardly any comments.  This attack went on for hours, as National Review moderators worked to delete those comments and ban that mob.

David French, a conservative pundit at National Review, and many Jewish reporters and writers experienced receiving threats, but so did some of their families.  I never considered supporting Donald Trump, because his personal behavior is antisocial, where his “he’s a fighter” ethos amounts to juvenile, vicious name-calling and insults,  but even worse he rallies, figuratively and literally, to encourage mob violence.  That is a fact.

Megyn Kelly asked him a question at a debate in August 2015.  What followed was a concerted campaign led by Donald Trump, to destroy her career and encourage his friends in the media to trash her personally.  He personally asked Roger Ailes to remove her as a debate moderator and he waged an 8 month campaign, publicly urging his followers not to watch her show.   Megyn Kelly’s family was threatened.  Donald Trump waged his 8 month campaign to destroy her, because she dared to ask him a question he thought was “unfair”.

David French, a conservative writer at National Review, wrote about what happened to his family from gung-ho Trump supporters:

“I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called “race-cucking” or “raising the enemy.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/441319/donald-trump-alt-right-internet-abuse-never-trump-movement

Donald Trump and his mouthpieces always lie and say he never encouraged violence, but he did – many times.  During several rallies he urged his followers to punch protesters.  There is plenty of video footage of him doing it.

Why I think it’s important not to lose sight of the real issue about Donald Trump’s moral character is because his performance Tuesday and the smokescreen, about preserving history and “aren’t monuments beautiful”, isn’t the issue.

The issue is the President of the United States gave cover to vile neo-nazis and deliberately mixed a few facts to bolster that lie.

In light of Trump’s some “fine people on both sides” comment on Tuesday and his insistence that the neo-nazis were in Charlottesville to peacefully protest about monuments, it’s important to not lose sight of those “fine people” Donald Trump was talking about.  Here is John Podhoretz’s tweet with their “Unite the Right” poster for the march of “fine people”:

The speakers are a Who’s Who of white supremacists.  Here’s how Robert Tracinski, at The Federalist,  explains:

“Aside from the blatant Nazi style of the imagery, it includes a roster of headliners chosen from various white nationalist groups. So this was a Nazi march from the beginning, planned by Nazis, for Nazis. As to whether any hapless moderates strolled in there thinking this was just about the statue—well, I live in this area and used to be active in the local Tea Party group. I know people who are not white nationalists who oppose the removal of the statues based on high-minded ideas about preserving history. None of them were there, and if they had been, they would have bolted the moment they saw a bunch of guys with torches chanting “Blood and soil.”

What’s truly shocking is that Trump refers twice to “the night before,” that is, to the rally Friday night, before the deadly clash on Saturday, as evidence that some of the protesters weren’t white nationalists. But Friday night was the notorious Citronellanacht, the march with all those tiki-torch-wielding marchers yelling “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.””

http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/16/donald-trump-needs-to-not-be-president-yesterday/

Yes, there were violent anti-fascists at Charlottesville and yes, I am concerned about preserving our history, although for me, I believe in federalism, so with most of these monuments, the decisions should be left up to the cities and states. With those on federal property, a peaceful, thoughtful debate should take place and a decision rendered.  For anyone to believe these tiki-torch wielding neo-nazis parading through Charlottesville represent preserving American history and values, we hold dear, is reprehensible. President Trump gave them legitimacy and cover.

America would be better off if everyone cared more about our moral foundation and principles as a nation than about jumping on the bandwagon of hot button causes.  The idiocy and moral vacuum are stunning.  In Berkeley, Yvette Felarca, a middle school teacher no less, is facing three charges:

“The charges stem from a June 2016 fight at the state capitol.

Felarca’s group, By Any Means Necessary, was protesting against a white nationalist group.

A video shows Felarca repeatedly punching a man.

The man had both hands up, walking to a line of police officers for help.

Felarca and others dragged the man down and kicked him.”

Here’s Felarca’s defense from the same article:

“Felarca said, “Standing up against fascism and the rise of Nazism and fascism in this country is not a crime. We have the right to defend ourselves.””

 http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/08/10/berkeley-teacher-filmed-punching-neo-nazi-arraigned-sacramento/

There have been protests against white supremacists, breaking out around the country, with people wearing, “Punch a Nazi” shirts.  That you don’t have a right to punch other people, because you disagree with what they believe  is a simple, fundamental moral construct for civil society.   The scarier thought is this woman is a teacher and she’s got supporters protesting on her behalf.

President Trump fails the moral leadership test, but so many on the Left do too.  President Obama always couched the BLM and attacks on police officers with comments about, “we need to understand their pain”, giving the same kind of cover and legitimacy to people who engage in violent, criminal conduct.

Civil society depends on leaders, who will stand up and speak clearly to who we are as an American people.

President Obama was an expert at framing everything as “this is not who we are”, fueling racial animus by giving cover to violence committed in the name of  civil rights. President Trump is fighting out of petty spite and vanity.  He believes:

“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.”

p. 138, Trump: How To Get Rich, by Donald J. Trump

I prefer the affirmative form of leadership, leading by clear moral example and setting the standard.  Treat everyone with respect and work to develop some core values.  I was raised with Christian values.  If you don’t want religious values, here are some excellent secular ones to set you on the path to being a good citizen:

In short, the Seven Core Army Values listed below are what being a Soldier is all about.
  • Loyalty. Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. …
  • Duty. Fulfill your obligations. …
  • Respect. …
  • Selfless Service. …
  • Honor. …
  • Integrity. …
  • Personal Courage.

https://www.army.mil/values/

 

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Filed under American Character, American History, Civility, Culture Wars, General Interest, Making a Difference, Politics, The Constitution

Talking to ordinary people

“My country is the world and my religion is to do good.”  – Thomas Paine

Here’s another quote I had typed on a piece of my “cute” stationery in the 70s, which was in my beat-up quote notebook.  The type is fading on these saved quote loose pages, but then again that old typewriter I used in the 70s was a second-hand, manual one my Pop found somewhere.

I had mentioned that I wanted a typewriter and Pop came home with a used one shortly thereafter.   My Pop always encouraged my interests.  When I came home with stray pets, he let me keep them, when I told him I really wanted a large desk, he found an old wood schoolteacher’s desk.  The top was badly damaged, so he covered the top with a woodtone formica, which I absolutely loved.  I didn’t have to worry about damaging the top when I set a glass of iced tea or cup of hot tea (my two favorite drinks – always) on it.  In 7th or 8th grade, I needed to do a science project and science is not my strong suit.  I decided I wanted to order some liquid that I saw in a science catalog a boy in my class had.  It could preserve snowflakes on glass slides.  My mother helped me order the liquid and sure enough, my Pop came home with a microscope and slides, he found somewhere, probably a flea market.  It worked and I got an A on that “saving snowflakes” project…

After looking through my old quote notebook, I decided to tape the falling apart cover back together the other day, using some dollar store, red duct tape I had in my sewing/craft room.  It might be good for another 40 years:

The quote at the top of this post is from Thomas Paine, one of America’s foremost political theorists, activists, and revolutionaries.  He fought with words. The American Pamphlet Debate, probably set the stage for how big issues in America are fought in the public square, as intellectuals, politicians, and often, unheard of American citizens rise from the rabble, with a voice or message that will not be silenced.  America has always had a very egalitarian view when it comes to the voices that gain prominence and effect enormous influence and change.

I like The Smithsonian magazine, because in every issue there are so many articles that spark my interest.  From the July edition I mentioned the article on the history of maps a few days ago.  There’s a very interesting article on Earl Shaffer, who was the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in 1948, that’s definitely worth a read.   Another article in that edition, What Happened to America’s Public Intellectuals?, written by Elizabeth Mitchell, got me thinking, again, about America’s long history with our very open, often loud public debates.

Mitchell lays out the current angst with America’s seeming dismissal of experts, in favor of populist fervor:

“This painful conclusion weighs heavily on public intellectuals, who created the country during the 116 steamy days of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, when Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and crew crafted a new nation entirely out of words. Then they bolstered it with 85 newspaper columns under the pen name Publius, now known as the Federalist Papers, to explain and defend their work.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-happened-americas-public-intellectuals-180963668/#yVyIdqRP8zD3WrGS.99
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Understanding America’s long tradition of public debate leading to great political and cultural changes leads me to believe that public intellectual battles, to win American hearts and minds, are ingrained in the American psyche and I don’t believe the soul of America is lost.

Millions of Americans may have fallen for a fast-talking, NYC real estate hustler/con man turned reality TV star, but even with the power of the bully pulpit of the Office of the President of the United States and his just “great” tweet storms, brimming with 140-character rants, he still seems to have a public image problem, if his flagging approval poll numbers are to be believed.  While some of the self-professed “experts” on politics and national security fuss and fume daily, via their own tweet storms, about how people aren’t listening to them, perhaps many of them have the same problem as Trump – overblown egos and constant braggadocio repel many people.

America’s Pamphlet Debate began more than a decade before the Revolutionary War.  I mentioned the 2-volume Library of America set, The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1764-1776, in a previous blog post.  The set was edited by Gordon S, Wood and it includes many of the most influential pamphlets in the Pamphlet Debate, which really defined both American political beliefs and principles and later, the very framework of The Constitution. Volume 2, which covers 1773-1776, includes this explanation on Thomas Paine’s writing approach:

“Paine was determined to reach a wide readership, especially among the middling sorts in the tavern and artisan centered worlds of the cities, and to do more than explain and persuade; he wanted to express feelings — even revulsions and visions — that the traditional conventions of writing tended to disparage.  He refused to decorate his work with Latin quotations and scholarly references; instead , he relied on his readers knowing only the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.  He used simple, direct — some critics said coarse, even barnyard– imagery that could be understood by the unlearned.  He wrote for ordinary people and forever changed the rules of rhetoric.”

p.647,  The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1773-1776, edited by Gordon S. Wood, published by The Library of America, copyright 2015

President Trump may have lowered the bar with his effort to reach the common man, resorting to ruthless, modern mass media information warfare tactics (GOP insurgency, indeed), but Americans, even “the worst deplorables”, are not beyond having their hearts won over to American principles, defending The Constitution and above all treating other people respectfully.   Even with FOX news serving as a powerful Trump propaganda platform, America is not becoming Trumpistan.

The real crisis for America’s current intellectual class, is not Trump, but that many Americans are sick of puffed up pontificating pundits, parading a pile of degrees from posh pillars of academia, posing and primping before the cameras  — talking down to them.  Trump, while certainly no Thomas Paine (or Mussolini, for that matter), has learned the fine art of the con man, he identifies his mark and speaks directly to him.  That is why Trump relates to ordinary people – he knows he’s got to get them and keep them buying into him.  He talks to them.

The media faces the same problem as many of the pundits, especially given how many times, in recent months, the media spun themselves into a tizzy with a new, devastating revelation about Trump, which within 24-48 hours fell apart, as the facts in these stories turned out not to be facts at all.  The constant media and punditry Trump hysteria is destroying their credibility way more than anything Trump can do.

I agree with Mitchell’s view on America’s present crisis of spirit.  She writes:

“If we look back at our history, public intellectuals always emerged when the country was sharply divided: during the Civil War, the Vietnam War, the fights for civil rights and women’s rights. This moment of deep ideological division will likely see the return, right when we need them, of the thinkers and talkers who can bridge the emotional divide. But this time they will likely be holding online forums and stirring up podcasts.”
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-happened-americas-public-intellectuals-180963668/#yVyIdqRP8zD3WrGS.99

One of the things I love about YouTube videos is that I can find so many crafting and sewing tutorials.   I can watch several videos on how to make something and get different approaches about how to make it.  I don’t have to buy an entire book or magazine for directions for one project.   Often, I end up using bits and pieces of instructions and advice from several videos.  Many of these videos are made by ordinary people and completely amateur.  Yet, some of these amateur videos are carefully edited and produced with the dedication of professional videographers.  Some have tens of thousands of subscribers.

Most of America’s intellectuals and experts on politics and public policy talk to each other, not to ordinary Americans.  And while castigating Trump’s use of Twitter, many of America’s intellectuals lazily lecture and throw temper tantrums about Trump, daily, on Twitter, and of course, boringly brag about all their “expertise”.

Love him or hate him, Trump talks to ordinary people.

Note: Here is a podcast that is a Library of Law and Liberty conversation with Gordon S. Wood, discussing the American .Pamphlet Debate

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Filed under American Character, American History, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics, The Media, Worthwhile Quotations

Soldiers and books

Today, being D-Day, I keep coming across interesting Army history links.  Among the many things I loved about living in an Army community, Army post libraries rank high on my list.  Books have always been near and dear to my heart.  Growing up in a rural PA village, with no public library, my first experience with an actual library was my elementary school library.

The interesting thing about growing up in a rural area, without a public library, is despite the lack of an actual library, books circulated informally among family and friends.  Along with these informal book exchanges, my childhood pastor and his wife, who lived across the road from my family, had acquired a nice-sized home library, which they freely shared with me.

One of the things I quickly noticed around the Army was books circulated in the same informal way as they did in my rural PA village, which was a part of the sense of  “community”, that made me feel at home around the Army.  An added bonus was Army posts, even small ones had post libraries.

Here’s a bit of Army library history:

“During World War I and World War II, camp libraries popped up everywhere at military bases in the United States and all over Europe, stretching as far east as Siberia. These camp libraries were originally established by the American Library Association (ALA), and at the end of World War I, ALA transferred control of them to the war department, which maintains them to this day. ALA worked with the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus, and the American Red Cross to provide library services to other organizations, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

These libraries were nothing glamorous—usually a shed, shack, or a hut built of wood and other available materials. They were run by librarians who volunteered to travel overseas to care for the libraries. Responsibilities included circulating the collections, maintaining them, weeding out books, and acquiring new ones. More than 1,000 librarians volunteered during World War I, and that number only increased with World War II.”

How libraries served soldiers and civilians during WWI and WWII

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Filed under American History, General Interest, Military