Category Archives: History

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the traditional kick off for Summertime, even though the official first day of summer is not until later in June. For many, Memorial Day means picnics, trips to the lake,  baseball games, horseshoes, pool parties, kids out of school, barbecues and the Indy 500.

And, yes, it means all those things, but there is a greater meaning.

The loss of a loved one in war must be a horrible burden to bear, one that I have not personally felt, but one that I can empathize with completely.

Our great nation, however imperfect she may be, has stood the test of time and our brightest and best have stood up for her and defended her throughout history, some with the forfeiture of their lives.

The shot heard ’round the world. The Battle of New Orleans. Gettysburg. The Hundred Day Offensive. Pearl Harbor, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and Iwo Jima.  The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. The Tet Offensive.  The Mother of All Battles. Kabul. Baghdad.

No matter your thoughts on these wars, you have to respect those that fought them for us, and those that made the ultimate sacrifice. They deserve no less.

Today, when you sit down with your family, friends or even alone, take a moment to reflect on those that stood tall to protect our freedom and liberty.

But I would also suggest that you remember those that lost their lives, but not in uniform, but for a cause greater than themselves.

Medgar Evers. Dr. King. Rachel Corrie. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Matthew Shepard. Harvey Milk. Rachel Corrie. Tom Hurndall. The Kennedy’s. And many, many more.

Today is the day we set aside to honor those that have come before us, blazing a trail so we all may have a better life. As you celebrate the day, stop to remember and honor those that have made this day possible.

It’s the least we can do.


William Stephenson Clark

10 Comments

Filed under Celebration, History, President Barack Obama, Tributes, WAR

The Progression of a Society

Of late, there has been a great deal of talk about the intent of the Founding Fathers of our country, particularly as it relates to the Constitution. To some, the Fathers were infallible and divinely inspired.

While I have great admiration and am grateful that those Patriots brought to birth our nation, I do not share in the deification of the Founding Fathers. When this nation was born, women were still second class citizens and non-whites weren’t even citizens at all. Slavery and the genocide of the Native Americans were the law of the land. All men were not created equal.

The progression of a society is a slow process and sometimes that progression is accompanied by violence and even war.  Some of the progress is prompted by court decision, other by courageous and principled legislative activity and more yet by seminal changes in attitudes within society.

Sometimes, the leadership that is required to facilitate progress is not recognized as such at the time. Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., but in the Sixties, he was vilified by a good portion of society. The FBI had an extensive file on him and many were convinced that he was a communist. MLK did not change – society’s attitude towards him changed.

Most take for granted the progression of society wrought by the Civil Rights Movement, but that progression came with a horrible price tag and virtually split the country in half once again.

It is said that opposition to Gay Rights is the last “acceptable” form of bigotry.  I feel for those that are hurt by the lack of progress towards equality for our gay brothers and sisters, but I also remember that it was just a half century ago that racial discrimination was rampant.

That is scant consolation for those damaged by sexual orientation discrimination, but with time comes progress and time is greatly compressed in this age of high speed communication. I am not preaching patience, I am preaching hope.

The day will come when, truly, all men and women are created equal.

William Stephenson Clark

24 Comments

Filed under GLBT Rights, History, Marriage Equality, Progressive Ideals, Uncategorized

PERCEPTIONS AND REALITY OF A PRESIDENT

I really hated President Bill Clinton, no really I had a hatred for him. I would have believed him capable of any ill and most certainly guilty of every allegation.  That was over a decade ago.  Now he was not that bad, looking back. My perception at the time was not supported by the reality of the time.  But that seems to happen a lot more then I realized, watching a program on the History channel really brought that home.

L.B.J., whenever I thought of him during his administration, he had Vietnam hanging around his neck.  It was the only thing I actually associated him with: the expansion of the war and the bombing.  Perhaps it was because I was coming up on 18 years of age and would face the draft.  It could have been the nightly news of the war and it being fresh in my mind.

But there was far more going on involving Lyndon B. Johnson.  The Civil Rights bill, the Fair Housing bill and the Voting Rights bill, along with Medicare.   Years later after finally realizing all he had done, he [Johnson] was a far greater President than I would have imagined, or realized at the time.  Bad on me, for what he did far and away outweighed his association with a war he had inherited.  It took a toll on him too, as he put it, to “give the South to the Republicans ” which also meant it took a toll on the Democratic Party. But at the time I did not notice it or think about it.

FDR, foresaw the threat of the Nazis to the point he pulled a G. W. Bush or perhaps Bush pulled an FDR. Roosevelt wanted the American Nazis and those expressing either sympathies or anti war ideologies to be wire-tapped. This was at a time when we were not at war and did not look to be going to war against the Nazis.  The Supreme Court refused to allow FDR’s wiretap,  so FDR simply told his A.G. to go ahead and order the wire-tapping on the authority of the Office of the President.

Who does not think of FDR as a great President or knew at the time he willfully violated the orders of the Supreme Court and the Constitution? As it turned out, he was right in his suspicion of the Nazis and otherwise was justified in his actions. But still it is alarming to find out he did not hold up to the law.

As of yet I am not so willing to give G.W. Bush the benefit of the doubt as to his presidency.  But it does give me pause, to wonder what will come out in ten or more years that will give far more insight then I had during his administration?

Perception and reality of a Presidency often are not the same, it would seem.

15 Comments

Filed under George W. Bush, History, memories

Does Oliver Stone have a point or just hoping controversy sells?

Oliver Stone: Hitler An ‘Easy Scapegoat’

Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone is no stranger to stirring things up, and his latest provocation — saying that Hitler was a “scapegoat” and expressing empathy for Stalin — is, unsurprisingly, making headlines.

Stone made the comments while speaking at a gathering of TV critics in California this weekend. At the conference Stone introduced his latest project, modestly titled “Oliver Stone’s Secret History of America,” a 10-hour series for Showtime that will serve as an antidote to the way recent U.S. history has been presented in schools and the media. Stone has previously mined similar territory in films such as “JFK.”

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” Stone said at the conference. “Stalin has a complete other story. Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any person.”

Other topics addressed in the documentary will be Truman’s decision to drop the bomb and the origins of the Cold War.

The point of this exercise, Stone said, was to put these figures “in context.” Much like with “W,” Stone said he was attempting to “understand somebody I thoroughly despised.”

“You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate,” Stone said.

51 Comments

Filed under History, Media

Sloop John B. – The Folk Roots of the Song Popularized by the Beach Boys…

The current political news is so uninspiring, that I thought I’d do something different, less depressing, and hopefully, more interesting…

My current favorite guitar teacher, Fred Sokolow, does an excellent job of teaching the folk classic the Beach Boys popularized.  I had no idea it was a pretty old folk tune.  Here are the lyrics (no doubt, in the public domain longer than my father has been alive, and probably longer than his father’s life span).

‘We come on the Sloop John B., my grandfather and me.  Around Nassau town we did roam, Drinking all night, got into a fight.  I feel so broke (I going with the Beach Boy words here, instead of “break up”) up, I wanna go home.

Chorus:  ‘So hoist up the John B. sails, see how the main sail sets, Call for the captain ashore, let me go home.  Let me go home.  I want to go home.  I feel so broke-up, I wanna go home.

“The first mate he got drunk, broke up the people’s trunk.  Constable had to come and take him away.  Sheriff Johnstone, please let me alone.  I feel so broke-up, I wanna go home.

“The poor cook he got the fits, threw away all of my grits, Then he took and ate up all of my corn.  Let me go home, I wanna go home,  This is the worse trip I ever been on.”

WordPress formatting does not fit well with poetry-type writing, but hopefully, the gist is clear enough here.  Will follow with some YouTube treats.

iggydonnelly

9 Comments

Filed under History, Music

Janus Lives!

I’ve been thinking I should write something regarding the insane debate around health care reform. I’ve been reluctant to do so because I guess I’ve lost hope that any meaningful reform will happen. Surely no sane person believes that the health insurance industry will allow their puppets in congress, on both sides of the aisle, to pass anything that would help consumers and simultaneously reduce their profits. Given the powers and pocketbooks of big insurance and big pharma, anything that finally receives the blessing of both congress and the White House will be nothing more than the Health Insurance Relief and Protection Act of 2009.

But one thing I am willing to write about, at great personal peril, is that it is obvious to me Janus is alive and well and living in conservative western Kansas. Janus, you may remember from your last mythology class, is one of the Roman gods. According to Wikipedia “Janus (or Ianus) was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. He is most often depicted as having two faces or heads, facing in opposite directions.”

I think it is the two-faced nature of Janus that reminds me most of the western Kansas version of the health care debate, which, at its core, is really a debate about government spending and government programs. We are a particularly conflicted people when it comes to deciding if government money is good or bad. We can’t seem to make up our minds if government intervention is something we desire, or something we loathe. It’s confusing to me.

On one hand, western Kansas votes consistently to send conservative Republicans to Washington. The people who win the overwhelming majority of our votes say they are against bigger government, they believe with a religious fervor that government spending is bad and should be reduced, and they almost all scream like wounded banshees whenever the dreaded “R” word (regulation) is mentioned. In our neck of the woods, we like guys who have a particular distaste for anything Fox News might label as “socialism,” or “big government.”

And yet, our Senators and Congressmen support bigger cash payments from the federal treasury for farm subsidies. They support the expansion of Medicare even though it’s the original socialized medicine. And while other conservative True Believers decry Social Security as Roosevelt’s Folly, our guys support the Social Security program at every opportunity. And clearly, voters out here agree with these stands even though they are in direct opposition to the philosophy of limited government and reduced federal spending.

Hello? Janus called, and he wants his two faces back….

Just for the record, I personally think Social Security, Medicare, and some farm subsidies are good things. But I also don’t see the boogey man under my bed every time someone mentions single payer and a public health insurance option during the health care debate.  I think that out here in the hinterlands, we may find out the hard way that it’s not possible to have our government cake and eat it too.

It seems the overriding idea in Kansas is that MY government payments are good things. Expanding MY government programs to make them bigger is a good thing. But still, we vote for people who agree with our opposing thought that bigger government is bad, and real health-care reform will raise Marx from the dead.

The piper will have to be paid in Kansas if federal spending is truly reduced. Kansas receives far more federal dollars than we pay into Washington’s coffers. That’s been true for over 25 years. And in rural states, especially those with aging voters and declining populations, we don’t have the votes to swim upstream against programs that benefit urban communities. If we raise too much of a fuss about spending on their programs, we might feel the backlash against “our” programs.

You see, we are not one America anymore. We’ve allowed ourselves to be polarized into “your” and “mine” camps. We no longer care what is good for the country, but instead, we focus only on what we perceive is good for “us” and we shrug our shoulders and let the devil take the hindmost where the welfare of others is concerned.

The day of reckoning is near. Kansans will have to resolve our collective schizophrenia about whether or not federal spending is good or bad. We will be forced to look at the contradiction in believing Medicare is good but other government health care programs are bad. And we have to know that voters in other states see our farm subsidies as just another welfare program while we believe they are good investments of taxpayer dollars. We can’t sustain this duality any longer and expect to be relevant in the national debate.

Like I said, two-faced Janus lives in western Kansas, but not likely for long. We will soon have to choose which of our faces is real, and which one is fake. I only hope we choose wisely.

PrairiePond

22 Comments

Filed under Community Organizing, Economics, Healthcare, History, Kansas, Political Reform

Which side are you on: What labor day is all about.

7 Comments

Filed under Celebration, History, Populists, Thinking/Considering