An-opinionatedwoman

Middle-Class | Midwest | Middle-of-the-Road

D-Day: 1944 / 1984 / 2014 — An image is a worth a thousand words

You be the judge.

1944 – A Hero

D-Day (US Army-Flicker)

 

1984 – A Leader

 

2014 – A “Fill-in-the-blank”

 

President Obama (chewing gum) at 70th Anniversary of D-Day Memorial in France

 

H/T Weasel Zippers:  http://weaselzippers.us/188765-obama-chomps-on-gum-during-d-dad-anniversary-event/

 

Becoming a nation of cowards?

Back to writing on a more regular basis.   I refuse to let my day job interfere with my dream job any longer. :-)

Throughout American history, our nation has prided itself on its tolerance.  Tolerance of different faiths, cultures, ideas, races.  Our ancestors fought the American Revolution because they would not tolerate “taxation without representation” and other transgressions against them by the mother country.  A Civil War was fought because Americans could no longer tolerate man enslaving man because of skin color.

Fast forward to 2014, and we still have our national tolerance.  We tolerate bullies.  We tolerate activist minorities who spew their own brand of hatred and intolerance in the name of cultural diversity.  We tolerate the eviscerating of our Constitutional 1st Amendment rights as citizens by governments and institutions.  We’re becoming a nation of cowards as we sit silently by and watch, read, and listen to people, whether famous or not so famous, become victims of the American version of Socialism.

Socialism or Fascism.  Those who lived under it recognize shades of it here.  Sadly, the term is being heard and used more frequently these days, whether by national journalists or ordinary Americans.  Some Americans will argue that it can’t happen here.  It’s over-reaction to cultural modernity by socially-challenged neanderthals.  Those Americans who hold that view need to take a long, hard look at some facts and not be dismissive that they’re the product of right-wing paranoia.

Several recent high profile examples of repression of speech and dissenting views have been seen through Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.  In the case of Ms. Hirsi Ali, only 86 of the 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed the letter denouncing her and demanding her removal from the honored recipients list.  Yet, university leadership caved to pressure groups such as CAIR, the same activist group instrumental in procuring the Obama Adminstration’s assent to remove all mention of Islam from FBI training manuals.

While former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice graciously bowed out rather than disrupt the Rutgers commencement ceremonies, who knew that opposition to her speaking wouldn’t end there.  In a letter to Rutgers University president by student Donald Coughlan, he described “some students were disturbed by emails sent by faculty members encouraging them to attend a “teach-in” about Rice Tuesday and speak out against the former U.S. Secretary of State.  ‘Most students know these professors very well and these emails intimidated students who do not share the opinions of the professors,’ Coughlan wrote.”

Yesterday, we learned IMF president, Christine Lagarde has joined the disinvited elite, with her commencement ceremony address rescinded by Smith college.  It appears that some faculty and students don’t like IMF policies.  Getting disinvited is starting to be a badge of honor.

Home decorating is also becoming a battlefield.  The openly-Christian Benham Brothers were slated to begin a new series, “Flip It Forward” for HGTV.  However, the network summarily cancelled their show without a single airing, due to a report that the brothers were anti-gay, which they strongly denied.

Small town Gilford, New Hampshire, was also in the national spotlight when William Baer, the father of a 14-year old girl, was hand-cuffed and arrested at a local school board meeting, because he went over the “two-minute” comment period while protesting the sexually graphic and explicit content of a book assigned to his daughter for reading.  His daughter, following her father’s arrest for disorderly conduct, bravely spoke up before the school board.  Notice the dead silence in the room following her comments.

Drew Sterrett, accused of raping a female student while a student at the University of Michigan, is now suing the university for abridging  his due process rights guaranteed to him under the U.S. Constitution.  His lawsuit claims, “at no point during the call/interview was [Sterrett] given notice of the specific allegations which had been made against him.”  The University adjudicated the matter and expelled him.  No trial?  No jury? No problem.  The university can point to the latest kow-tow piece of political correctness legislation by the DOJ, the Title IX “Montana Agreement.”

This is what America has sunk to.  Individuals who express a viewpoint or dissent from a more liberal, progressive agenda are vilified and marginalized, and branded racists or worse.  A page out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.  Americans are already rethinking the risks of dissenting in public, (think Lois Lerner and the IRS), or because of employer behavior edicts (think Mozilla).  Recently, FEC Chairman, Lee Goodman, warned “there are some in this building that think we can actually regulate media,” which is especially troublesome if one is of the conservative persuasion.

And so it continues.  Watching a once vibrant, anything is possible nation, become a chasm of Americans slowly being cowed into silence. Dissent and discussion of differing viewpoints is held not in the boardrooms, classrooms, blogs and media, but instead over coffee and kitchen tables, where friends and family members who “think like us” have already been vetted.  As First Amendment rights are being trampled upon, the President assume and exercise powers that are the purview of Congress (think Obamacare delays and the quashing of the welfare work rules), what should be a vociferous outcry is instead slowly becoming more of a whisper.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Pastor Martin Niemoller

 

What if 20 million Americans took to the streets in protest

While watching the live feed from Cairo yesterday it got me thinking, what if 20 million Americans came out into the streets of its major cities, or in the capital, to protest Obamacare, IRS abuses, Benghazi, immigration reform – another monstrosity of a Bill no one has read, an abysmally weak recovery, unemployment, and Presidential rule by executive fiat.   The last times I can remember huge mass populous rallies were the “million man march” in DC, if it truly was a million, and the civil rights’ gathering in front of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous, “I have a dream” speech.  Sorry, Occupy Wall Street doesn’t nearly qualify.

Egyptian people take to the streets during the ouster of President Morsi (Amy Nabil/AP)

We’re told that our protest comes in the form of elections every two, four, six years depending upon the governmental body.  Unfortunately, being the cynic that I’ve become, these elections have become less demonstrable in effecting the changes we need to make in our government and policies if we’re going to still have a country around to celebrate another 237 years .

With the exception of a handful of politicians, many of whom were first elected to Congress in 2010, there has been little public outcry despite the continuing high unemployment, mostly due to Obamacare’s taxing mandates, ballooning national debt, an anemic recovery, and other recent scandals rocking the Administration.  We’re told by the media organizations, psychologists, politicians that this is the new “normal.”  No.  It isn’t.  Many of us know and remember what normal is from past recessions, and this isn’t “normal.”

Perhaps the only way to scare the h**l out of Washington, as in the likes of Boehner, Reid, Schumer, McCain, Pelosi, et al is to wage a 20 million person demonstration.  Remember Howard Beale’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  If I’m noticing what 20 million people can do in Egypt, so are many of my fellow Americans.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not advocating for the overthrow or removal of any government body or official.  I’m advocating for an, “in their face” popular outcry that “you work for us” so start “listening to us.”  I’m paying the taxes that provide the benefits for the “undeserving” poor’s lifetime of welfare and the illegals pouring into this country, soon to bring their families to join them.  Meanwhile our veterans have to fill out an average of 613 forms across 18 federal agencies to get the benefits due them.  You don’t think that’s something to protest about.  Our moral compass’s needle is tightly fastened on South, when you hear the Left’s vociferous “war on women” prattle when it comes to right to destroy a viable baby at five months of life.  We saw a witness in the Florida v. Zimmerman trial, who at 17 years of age, couldn’t read the words on the paper in front of her.  A product of our public educational system.  You think that’s not something to protest about.

That photo above was taken in Cairo, but one day, it just may be the US.

D-Day – 1944 and 2013

They came from all across America.  Young and the not-so-young, employed, unemployed.  Boys from farms, small towns, big cities.  Rich and poor.  D-Day knew no demographics, we were all in it together.  Hitler, and everything that he stood for, had to be defeated, as he was a threat to mankind’s morality and the civilized world as we knew it.

They gave their lives for the love of their country, and the faith that they held that their sacrifice would make America and the world a better place.  What our soldiers suffered that day of infamy in 1944 was best remembered and told in this essay, first published in The Atlantic in 1960, by S.L.A. Marshall, a combat historian who recorded history on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  If you want to honor those who fought so many years ago for our freedoms today, the essay is worth reading  and remembering.  (h/t Scott Johnson, Power Line)

Iconic photo: General Dwight Eisenhower and the 101st Airborne before D-Day

As President Ronald Reagan said in his commemorative speech at Pointe du Hoc, on the 40th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion:

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

And now we fast forward to the America of 2013, 69 years after D-Day and today’s headlines: “Government is Tracking Verizon Customers’ Records“; “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily“; “IRS employees: Washington IRS official Carter Hull oversaw targeting of conservative groups“; “A Middle East Tinderbox – without authoritative US action, a regional war will likely erupt over Syria.”

The irony of it all is rather striking, isn’t it?  If those men had been given the gift of precognition, would they have still charged up those Normandy beaches, stormed up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc?.  I rather think, yes.  The grit, determination, and faith held by those American boys of 1944 are what so many of us still have inside us, although for many it lies dormant, or for some it has trembled or been castigated into silence.

I’d like to believe that these years since January 20, 2009, have been but a blip, albeit a painful one, in our country’s history, and that sooner, rather than later, as all the spying, taxing, targeting, finally sinks into the psyches of enough Americans, we’ll take it upon ourselves to retake our country and government and enjoy what Lincoln once heralded as, “a new birth of freedom,” so that these “honored dead shall not have died in vain.”

Gun control – Chicago style (or bring a bat to the fight)

In the midst of gun control legislation offered by various Senators, from an assault weapons ban and magazine limits, to the now pre-eminent gun control bill in the Senate, Manchin-Toomey, I thought I would share with you gun control, Chicago-style, a.k.a. bring a bat to the fight.

The City of Chicago has some of the toughest, strictest gun laws in the country.  In 2010, the City Council still under the aegis of Mayor Richard M. Daley, hastily passed [emphasis mine] “The Responsible Gun Ownership” ordinance (h/t The Reader):

The “Responsible Gun Ownership” ordinance allows any adult in Chicago with a clean record to register one handgun a month for self-defense at home—but only one gun at a time can be “assembled and operable,” and the owner can’t take it out of the home, even into the backyard. The weapons have to be registered with the state and city, and their owners must be trained and fingerprinted. Guns in homes where minors live have to be locked away or equipped with trigger locks. And anyone convicted of a gun offense is required to disclose the information in a publicly accessible registry modeled after those for convicted sex offenders.

The keywords here are “self-defense at home.”

The April 9 surveillance tape below was taken at the Logan Square neighborhood gift shop, Quizhpe’s Gifts and Sports.  The tape reveals the robbery and shooting of proprietor, Luis Quizhpe, who despite being shot in the thigh, refused to give in and fought back his assailants with a baseball bat, swinging for his life.  Yes, you read right.  A baseball bat against two gun-armed thugs.  Quizhpe’s brother, also present during the robbery and who fought alongside his brother, remarked that the shooter “ran out of bullets because he stopped shooting at us.”   The police found 10 shell casings on the ground.  You think those robbers had FOID cards?

So as the pols in Washington push for broader universal background checks, and stiffer penalties for criminals and others who fail to comply with the law, let’s consider Chicago as the microcosm epicenter of gun control, and how it’s working out.  As The Reader’s columnist reports,

“But only a small portion of gun owners have jumped through all the hoops. About a year after the new law went into effect, 3,153 people had completed the city’s permitting process, a mere 3 percent of the Chicagoans who’d completed state firearm registration.

Things haven’t improved much since then, according to new data from the police department. By the end of February, 7,750 people had successfully applied for city firearm permits—just 6 percent of the 130,000 Chicagoans who have FOID cards. Though not everyone with a FOID card owns a gun—and some gun owners, including police and security guards, are exempt from permits—it’s evident that thousands of firearm owners still aren’t adhering to the city law.”

Number of people shot in Chicago, 2012:  2670

Number of people shot in Chicago as of March 25, 2013:  369

Number of homicides in Chicago, 2012: 535

Number of homicides in Chicago as of April 11: 93

Senator Pat Toomey has stated that his legislation would not have stopped a Newtown shooting. but a universal background check system will be implemented in part to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.  Except Adam Lanza’s mother was not mentally ill.

“Another key part of the city’s 2010 firearm ordinance was the creation of a gun-offender registry. The idea was that parolees would be required to register with the police department as sex offenders are. Police would then have a database to help them keep track of felons likely to be mixed up in violence.

But even now the registry consists of just 490 names, a fraction of the former gun offenders in the city. In 2011 alone, 1,700 people were paroled after serving time in Illinois prisons on weapons offenses, the vast majority for gun crimes in Chicago. Thousands of others were paroled for gun-related murders, burglaries, and robberies.” (The Reader)

Luis Quizphe, through his quick thinking and refusal to be a victim survived this incident.  But how many more like him do not.  Had Quizphe had a firearm on premises (long guns are permitted by Chicago ordinance), would it have made a difference.  Possibly.  We don’t know.

While gun control legislation makes great political theater and gives some a feel good, we’re taking action kind of moment, is more gun control legislation the answer?  Or, should we start enforcing what’s already on the books.

Margaret Thatcher: the women’s role model who wasn’t

Margaret Thatcher.  She achieved that which Hillary Clinton to date has failed to do.  She became her country’s head of government, the leader of her country.   In all the tributes and memorials that have been written about Margaret Thatcher over the course of the last several days, few have talked about her as a role model for women.  That’s because she’s not, never was.  Margaret Thatcher understood that government, economic freedom and personal liberty are gender neutral.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2012)

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2012)

In the era leading up to when Margaret Thatcher came to power in her own conservative party and then won the national election in 1979, women’s rights and feminism were front and center in the United States. Women were entering the workforce, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were feminist icons.   At the office, women were wearing button-downed oxford shirts, short floppy bow ties, and suits that were cut from the traditional men’s cloth.  Was it a case that women felt dressing like men to compete with men would help them be “taken seriously” and break through the “glass ceiling.”  Clearly, Margaret Thatcher didn’t follow that dress code.  With her bouffant hair, pearls and feminine suits, her power radiated from her person and her beliefs.

Today, there are many influential women in politics, government, the media and business.  But they’re not Margaret Thatchers.  President Obama recently apologized for his comment about California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s appearance, “he fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”  If that had happened to Margaret Thatcher, she probably would have smiled, and made a whimsical, pithy comeback to be added to her notable book of quotes.  She was known for many.

In our current climate, forty years and counting after feminism came into the national consciousness, there are still women’s groups, women’s leadership institutes, women’s empowerment, women’s this, women’s that.  As long as we continue to have those gender-specific groups instead of everyone sitting at the table, women’s advocates who look for sexist stereotypes in every particle of speech and action, who worry about the numbers and percentages of women who make it to the top, and those who wonder if they can or can’t have it all, choosing to talk rather than do, there won’t be any Margaret Thatchers on the horizon any time soon.  Yes, not even Facebook CEO, Sheryl Sandberg, whose bestseller, Lean In, has caused its own brand of controversy.  Margaret Thatcher had a comment about power,

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

Margaret Thatcher did not compete as a woman in a man’s world.  She competed as her own person.  She ran for office and was defeated several times, but she never gave up, and kept in the game.  She rose to the top of the conservative party based upon hard work, clearly defined principles and policies, and never wavering from what she believed.  As in so many environments we live and work in today, where building consensus is viewed as critical skillset to success, Thatcher’s views were thus,

“To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.”

When she spoke, it wasn’t to a particular class or gender, but to her countrymen.   One needs to look no further to see that’s what’s missing in today’s divide and conquer class, gender warfare.

Thatcher’s Britain in the mid-70’s has echoes of where America is today.  In a 1975 visit to the United States, when she was already elected head of the Conservative Party, she described Britain as an “eleventh-hour nation” dedicated to “the relentless pursuit of social equality.”  When rebuked by British Foreign Secretary James Callaghan, she replied, “It’s not part of my job to be propagandist for a socialist society.”1

The “Iron Lady” was a well-deserved moniker.  From the Falklands intervention, which no one expected her to undertake, the miners’ rancorous strike where her firm refusal to back down broke the strike’s back and earned her the enduring hatred of many affected Britons, to her unwavering support of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy which brought down Soviet empire, like her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher was a national and world leader of exceptional capability.  Our present day leaders look small in comparison.

“There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”

“The trouble w/Socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

“No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.”

“My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.”

1 Hugo Young, Iron Lady,  A Biography of Margaret Thatcher, (New York, NY: The Noonday Press, 1990) pp. 120-121

Pope Francis, a Guide Dog, and Religion in America this Easter 2013

A few days into the new papacy of Pope Francis, as the newly elected Pope prepared to greet and address the media, a visually impaired journalist, Alessandro Forlani waited in line with his guide dog, Asia, outside the Vatican.  Officials told him that he might not be allowed inside because of his dog and Vatican rules.  However, higher powers intervened, and Forlani and Asia were allowed inside and given a seat in the front row.  After the Pope delivered his address, he met with select journalists and asked to meet Forlani and Asia.  Forlani asked the Pope for a blessing for his family, and then the Pope reached down, stroked Asia and blessed her as well.  “He said, ‘and a special blessing for your dog too,’ ” recalled Forlani.

Pope Francis blesses service dog, Asia

What I found interesting was not the story, but the readers’ comments that followed.  From people who pointed out they’re “not religious” to others, Catholic and non-Catholic alike who were “impressed with the new Pope,”  “I am loving the new Bishop of Rome,” “for once, we have a truly humble pope,” “Pope Francis is a pope for the masses.”  These comments among others struck me for how they connote the perception of the Catholic Church.  Some people were truly amazed that the Pope would take such a kind, compassionate action.

After this past week of Supreme Court hearings surrounding the issues of gay marriage and DOMA, along with the surrounding media coverage, I took a step back to reminisce about Catholicism (the religion I was raised) and religion in general, in light of the increasing onslaught of secularization of America.

When the name of Pope Francis was revealed for the first time in Rome, CBS had a commentator in Vatican Square interviewing two women who were talking about when women were going to be allowed to be priests, and upon learning that the Pope is pretty conservative in how he views the Catholic doctrine, began discussing the relevancy of the Catholic Church and when it was going to modernize.  Newsflash, ladies!  Religion, faith, is not a political movement.  Religion is a set of beliefs, rites, and traditions that people hold based upon their particular faith.  And those beliefs, rites and traditions stand the test of time which is what faith is.  It doesn’t change based upon the current social, political climate.  It is the foundation of the values and principles in how we go through life and treat our fellow human beings.

I grew up in the time of  Sister Mary Desolata, the epitome of Catholic education, who taught seven subjects by herself, each day, to 54 children in one classroom.  And when we graduated, we knew the names of the 50 states and their capitals, spoke in complete sentences, could add/subtract/multiply/divide (there were no calculators.)  Along with Sr. Mary and the community of nuns, were the priests, about 5 of them including the Monsignor.  We all had our favorites, especially Father Francis because he laughed a lot and knew how to pitch softball.  The others, eh, take ‘em or leave ‘em.  It was only 30 years later that we learned one of them was a pedophile, who was rotated from parish to parish.

In a recent Pew Research report, “strong” Catholic identity is at a four decade low, 27%, down 15 points from the mid-80’s.  You can count this writer in that figure.  Yet in another report, Pew found that one in five people have “no religious affiliation.”

“The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).”

Yesterday’s Face the Nation topic was “Religion and politics on Easter Sunday.”  In the course of the interview, host Bob Schieffer asked representatives of several faiths in America,  including Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the reason for so many people not identifying with a faith.  Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s Bishop Mariann Budde said, “we’re just running so fast in this society now, a kind of 24/7 life that doesn’t always allow for the kind of reflection and meditation and thoughtfulness that all of our traditions are here to give people in a meaningful way.”

Key word here, “traditions.”

As Bob Schieffer asked Cardinal Dolan, “but how, your eminence, do you remain relevant in a society that is changing so dramatically, where people have such different ideas now about these things?”  Dolan responded:

“I think while we can’t tamper with what god has revealed — and you mentioned some of the issues, we can try to do better in the way we present them, with more credibility and in a more compelling way. I think if you watch Pope Francis, he might be giving us a nudge in what we need to do. Part of the problem, Bob, and I’m embarrassed to say that, is that sometimes we pastors, sometimes we church leaders don’t give a good example. And people automatically say well who wants to join if even the bishops, if even cardinals, if even priests and religious leaders aren’t living up to the high noble principles revealed in the Bible and taught us by Jesus. We as Catholics say contemporary men and women prefer a lot more to learn by witness than from words. We’re getting a hint from Pope Francis, because what he’s trying to do I think in a very natural, spontaneous way is to restore the luster to the church, return to those biblical values of utter simplicity, of sincerity, of service, almost a no-frills religion, and that resonates with people.”

The leaders of our religious institutions have yet to compellingly define for their followers and the general population why religious doctrine and traditions are important.   In the case of gay marriage, gay rights, we are now faced with the issue of freedom of religion versus civil rights discrimination.  Instead of being a nation of tolerance, we are becoming a nation of intolerance, where dissenting views are met with a cacophony of “racist” and “bigot.”

So this is where we are today, Easter 2013, in America.  For the faithful, I’m wondering why the silence in face of the secularization onslaught.  “Can’t we all just get along” is a chorus that may have worked 10, 15 years ago, but in the face of the few silencing the many, which is exactly what we have today, stronger vocalization is needed at the voting booth, in editorials, and in the public square.

So how long do you think it will be before someone, or group, takes over the media spotlight and sues to remove, “In God We Trust” from our currency.  You think it can’t happen?  Think again.  This is the road we are headed on.

Van Cliburn – A Giant Among Artists

In the vainglorious, self-absorbed age of the Kardashians, where one can become rich and famous simply for having no talent of any kind, the Van Cliburn-types exist in relative obscurity.  Perhaps they want it that way, or perhaps they’re waiting for another renaissance, where genuine talent, wrought by years of practice and effort, will once again be valued, cherished and praised.

Van Cliburn, one of America’s iconic pianists, passed away yesterday at age 78, from advanced bone cancer.  His story, his legacy are truly inspirational.  His talents, recognized at a young age by his piano teacher mother, took him to New York where he studied at the famed Juilliard.  In 1958, at age 23, he entered and won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.  He came home to a ticker tape parade in New York City; imagine that happening today for a similar honor.   For the next 15 years, he was in the limelight, giving sold-out concerts, raising money for the Interlochen Arts Camp, and lending his name and tutelage to the famous quadrennial Van Cliburn Quadrennial Piano Competition, which has launched the careers of many young artists and teachers.  You can view a brief summary of the life of this authentic American virtuoso in the video below from the Kennedy Center Honors of 2001.

Today, when our children are growing up with Dancing with the Stars and American Idol,  where fame and fortune are awarded people who owe their livelihoods to being able to lip sync successfully, and strut scantily clad around a stage amidst exploding laser beams, the grace and elegance of a Van Cliburn appears lost to another age.  But for those of us who remember that age, and who, too, spent hours practicing the piano for the inevitable piano recitals, we understand how the classics of centuries stir the soul, and the value of hard work, perseverance and discipline that carries us through the times we live in today.

R.I.P. Van Cliburn.

Dr. Benjamin Carson. A farmer. A man and his horse. Yearning for direction and goodness in today’s America.

During the last ten days, perhaps beginning with the fatal shooting of Chris Kyle and the public outpouring of support and condolences to his family, there has been a noticeable difference in the public discourse about feeling and being an American, what’s important to us, what we value, what touches our hearts and souls, why so many of us feel our country is on the wrong course, and the worry about our futures and that of our families’.

Superbowl Sunday, we witnessed a razzle-dazzle, strutting, over-the-top half-time performance by one of America’s current pop-culture idols.  And yet, for all that glitz, glam, and bombast, there were two commercials that touched people’s psyches and hearts, and were the memories of that Sunday for so many.  The first was by Dodge Ram Trucks, “for the farmer in all of us.”  The commercial was modeled after the original version uploaded to YouTube over a year ago, which is slightly longer, but just as moving.

The second commercial, which also tugged on collective heartstrings of a kinder, gentler America was Budweiser’s, “Brotherhood”, featuring a Clydesdale foal raised by his Budweiser handler, and years later becomes the lead horse for the Budweiser parade wagon, only to never forget the man who raised him.

These two commercials, each with over 10 million YouTube  views, reflect the “still waters run deep” current that we have in America today.   Whether our uneasiness about the economy, our jobs, our futures, most of us still feel the unabashed pull belief in the two miracles, written by our Founding Fathers:  the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with its Bill of Rights.  We, the People.  The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Dr. Benjamin Carson, world-renowned pediatric neuro-surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, spoke eloquently at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC last Thursday, February 7.  Dr. Carson is noted for his deep religious faith, his belief in his fellow human being, his love of country, and personifies that time-old credo, if you work hard, believe in yourself, you can succeed.   His speech, shown below in its entirety, is worth watching in its entirety.

Dr. Carson’s speech, given in 25 minutes without a teleprompter, embodied the kind of leadership, encouragement, hope and inspiration that we find so lacking in our society and leaders today.  His speech went viral because it touched the yearning chord in us for someone to speak out about the moral and fiscal state of our country; how political correctness and over-sensitivity is hampering much needed civil discourse in this country to solve our problems; the need the need for education to lift people from poverty, and yet to not forget what has separated us from the rest of the world in finding solutions to our problems, thus making us the great nation that we are.

“Why is it so important that we educate our people? Because we don’t want to go down the pathway as so many pinnacle nations that have preceded us. I think particularly about ancient Rome. Very powerful. Nobody could even challenge them militarily, but what happened to them? They destroyed themselves from within. Moral decay, fiscal irresponsibility. They destroyed themselves. If you don’t think that can happen to America, you get out your books and you start reading, but you know, we can fix it.”

“The pc police are out in force at all times….And we’ve reached reach the point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended. People are afraid to say Merry Christmas at Christmas time. Doesn’t matter whether the person you’re talking to is Jewish or, you know, whether they’re any religion. That’s a salutation, a greeting of goodwill. We’ve got to get over this sensitivity. It keeps people from saying what they really believe.”

” ….take a look at the chapter on education in my latest book, America the Beautiful, which I wrote with my wife – it came out last year, and in that education chapter you will see questions extracted from a sixth grade exit exam from the 1800′s – a test you had to pass to get your sixth grade certificate. I doubt most college graduates today could pass that test. We have dumbed things down to that level and the reason that is so dangerous is because the people who founded this Nation said that our system of government was designed for a well-informed and educated populace, and when they become less informed, they become vulnerable. Think about that. That is why education is so vitally important.”

We’re in the Age of the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo.  And now we learn that the State of California will no longer require eighth graders to take Algebra courses.  This must be what Dr. Carson had in mind when he used the term, “dumbing down of America.”  In the quest for social justice, and no one’s feelings get hurt, we, the children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren of the “Greatest Generation,” are on our way to becoming the last generations who enjoy freedom and the American way of life that our ancestors never took for granted.

Dr. Carson said, “we can fix this.”  The only question is, do we still have the will.

Chris Kyle, thank you. R.I.P.

In a time when we Americans have so few heroes to look up to, we learned today that Chris Kyle, ex-Navy SEAL, who served four tours in Iraq and holds the military record for most sniper kills was fatally shot at a Texas gun range.  He and another man, Chad Littlefield, were killed by an ex-Marine reportedly suffering from PTSD.  It is rather sad and ironic that Kyle, who had spent much of his time trying to help veterans with physical and psychological injuries from the war, through his private foundation, should meet his fate at the hands of one of its victims.

Chris Kyle

Kyle wrote a book, American Sniper, about his experiences in Iraq.  In an interview with the Dallas Morning News in January 2012,

“I wanted to be able to let people know about the sacrifices that not only people in the service make, but what their families go through. I knew this would give me a voice so I could speak about the guys I know who were killed. I wanted to get their story out and I wanted to raise awareness for veterans.

“It is so hard becoming a civilian,” Kyle said. “When you are in the military, everything you do is for the greater good. And as a civilian, everything you do is for your own good.

“When you’re in the military, you are facing life and death every day. And then you come home and hear people who are unhappy about the little things. And you think, are you kidding me? Two weeks ago, I was shot. And this is your problem.”

During Kyle’s four tours in Iraq (1999-2009), he was shot twice, and lived through six IED attacks that killed many of his buddies.  He was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.  Yet, despite holding the US military record for most sniper kills (160), he said in an interview in Texas Monthly:

“It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.”

Some people may question why one should consider Chris Kyle a hero, especially given the role he played in the theater of war.  The US heavily used snipers in Iraq because the collateral damage that would be caused by bombs or drones was considered unacceptable.  When you reflect on the stress that Kyle was under on a daily basis, in trying to correctly identify and then neutralize threats to keep his Company safe, through four tours of duty, then it becomes easier to understand how extraordinary individuals like Kyle really are.  Chris Kyle is also synonymous of the hundreds of thousands of men and women, along with their families, who sacrificed through the decades, so that millions of us “civilians” can pursue our livelihoods in safety and security.  Remember the line from A Few Good Men, “because they stand on a wall and say, “nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”  

For the service members whose lives Chris saved with his rifle skills, and their families, thank you’s can probably never be said too many times.  But Kyle only considered it his duty, and never thought of himself as a hero.  And that’s why he was one.

Our sincere condolences to his wife and two children.  Our hearts and prayers are with you.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.

Amen

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