In more interesting times I would have been known as a "Renaissance Man." My interests are many and varied starting with anything to do with my family. I love music and play (or paly at) guitar and saxophone. The kids and I have a room set up with mikes, amps, guitars, keyboard and drums. I love playing with electronics, whether in the music room or on amateur radio. I know enough about computers to be dangerous but not enough to be useful - I even had a computer book published in the '80's but computers kept getting smarter faster than I did.
My career has usually revolved around healthcare, although as a Navy Reserve Officer it periodically got interrupted. My last 5 1/2 years in the reserves were spent on active duty - first in command in theatre, then helping the families of those who were deployed "boots on the ground."
Since I lived quite a few centuries ago, I don’t have to worry about paying taxes any longer. Nevertheless, thrift being a virtue and because I have areputation for being obnoxious, here are a few suggestions.
The White House should start labeling offices for cabinet members with those yellow stickies; they also could be used for organization charts.
Even better, if the White House used a temporary employment agency for cabinet members, the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for benefits and a replacement could be found in a matter of days.
Is it coincidence that given the current world situation there’s a trend for governments to make marijuana legal–or is it a survival mechanism?
In any case, being dead for hundreds of years has its advantages, at least for me
On December 8, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began with these words; he ended with his request for Congress to declare that a state of war existed with Japan, as is consistent with our Constitution.
Over sixteen million Americans served in the military in the Second World War, with 405,000 dying—292,000 killed in battle. Throughout the world, 1.9 billion people served in various armies, air forces, navies (including coast guards), and marines resulting in 72 million deaths.
The Japanese had not signed the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, killing, torturing, or enslaving Americans and their allies.
Nazi Germany established a series of efficient death mechanisms, including death factories (camps) to systematically murder over 6 million Jews, along with the handicapped, Roma (calling them gypsies is like using the n****** word), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other innocent people who the Nazis considered unworthy or inconvenient.
How times change. That was the last war in which Congress passed a Declaration of War.
We won, and to the victor belongs the spoils, so by tradition, we could take whatever we wanted from those we vanquished. Instead, America provided aid to our allies and many of our former enemies so they could survive, recover, and rebuild.
This was not a business decision, it was a moral decision and the right thing to do. This was a long-term investment, which would cost the “greatest generation,” but benefit the children and the grandchildren of those who took the moral high ground. Many of these countries have worked together, with America as a senior partner, toward common goals, for decades. Together we have grown morally, intellectually, and economically. There is competition, of course, and we don’t agree on everything, but for over 70 years we’ve been able to resolve disagreements with these nations in western European and with Japan without a single shot fired in anger.
Today, if you ask people about the Second World War, many cannot tell you when it was fought, who we fought, or why. As the last veterans of that war die, is the knowledge and wisdom dying with them?
Although the United States has had military troops in combat more often than not since 1945, Congress has not enacted a declaration of war since 1941. They’ve avoided making a decision, but as was said in the 1960s, “Not to decide is to decide.”
This great nation of ours that broke the bonds that held them to King George III has, over time, allowed each president to assume more unilateral powers; to make the executive order as powerful as law—and if they’re not careful—as powerful as the constitution.
So, where are we? Without our leadership, other countries who once “had our back” are following our example and more concerned about how their nation can prosper regardless of the consequences.
In 1775 it was “Give me liberty or give me death!” In 1836, “Remember the Alamo!” In 1864, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” In 1898, “Remember the Maine!” In 1918, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” In 1941, “Remember Pearl Harbor!”
Today, it’s “I want mine.”
Unfortunately, December 7th didn’t live in infamy and its lessons are barely remembered.
In the eighteenth century, 13 North American colonies of Great Britain decided to declare themselves independent. Simplistically, the colonists had gotten used to doing things their own way and hey were determined to continue to do so.
The official explanation, as found in the Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
The colonies traded a monarchy for a confederation, which evolved through various successes and painful challenges into a constitutional federal republic. Is it better? Many believe it is, but in any case, it is safe to say it is most definitely American.
A monarch rules while a president serves.
Throughout history, monarchs have claimed that their power was granted by God, gods, or another extraordinary source. People were convinced of this because the anointed monarch had a trained army with weapons, while the commoners only had farming tools.
On the other hand, Presidents derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, usually through the election process. A successful election process depends on a population that is educated and that makes rational decisions rather than ones that are responding to emotion. Compare the American Revolution, which had (and limited voting to) an educated and prosperous population with the French Revolution, where education was restricted.
So, where are we now? How will history judge the times in which we live?
*“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings– And why the sea is boiling hot– And whether pigs have wings.” – Lewis Carroll
Caesar, the Tsar, the Kaiser–all variations on the same title. Each intending to assume total power and control over a major portion of the world. Unfortunately, we have learned little, so we face the same thing over and over. We do not learn from history, so we are doomed to repeat it. The titles may change, but little else.
One might have thought that modern humans would have learned after dealing with Hitler, Stalin, and Hirohito all at once. Alas, one generation may, indeed, learn. It may even attempt, and occasionally succeed, in teaching the next generation. To expect anything beyond that is folly.
Today, we again are faced with another slate of those who would be Caesar. Vladimir Putin is has unified his power in Russia and already “annexed” parts of Georgia and Ukraine. Xi Jinping has consolidated his power in China and is extending his reach throughout Asia, Africa, and even South America. Kim Jong Un has his little corner of the world, but would gladly, if given the chance, expand his territory.
And, as you know, there are others.
When leaders demand or expect loyalty to themselves, rather than to a higher cause, expect trouble. Unfortunately, the road is dependent on obtaining that which gets the individual into power, not that which is best for the common good.
The good news is that since the twentieth century, most empires arise and disappear within a relatively short time. The bad news is that during that time, great damage and havoc occur, harming millions, and taking many generations to correct.
In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford–as Indiana Jones–tells his class that archaeology is the search for fact. He recommends the philosophy class for those who are seeking truth.
John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Truth, like beauty, is subject to interpretation; facts are not.
For example, when it comes to religious beliefs, people rely on faith to find their truth. Their god or gods cannot be proven, yet many view their beliefs as the one true religion. This is no criticism of truth or faith–after all, it would be a fairly pathetic god who could be factually proven to exist or not exist. A leap of faith, which is probably unique to human beings (at least on this planet), is often appropriate and, indeed, justified. My God expects me to walk by faith, not by light.
Facts, on the other hand, must meet more stringent criteria. Ideally, they can be tested and proven with the results subject to verification by others. That’s how science works. Facts are used to this, which is why many scientific and mathematical “facts” are properly referred to as theorems (or, for the popular press, theories). Many are challenged regularly, perhaps in every high school chemistry class around the world, year after year.
Today, truth, facts, news, fake news, tweets, social media, etc. should all be held suspect instead of being accepted as absolute, irrevocably proven. They must be challenged. There are many things presented as “truth” that are not facts, that are not substantiated by evidence, and cannot be proven.
Maybe you belive I am stuck on this particular subject, which is likely so. However, it was I who carried a lit lamp during the day, searching for an honest man. In fact, I was not searching for an honest person, I was trying to emphasize this very point.
It is very easy to limit one’s views to those that one already believes. It is hard to entertain ideas that are in contrast to one’s own. It is an unfortunate–and uncomfortable–fact that all progress for humankind is obstructed by the status quo, but instead dependent upon the ability to entertain ideas that are radically different from one’s accepted notions.
If our preconceived notions were perfect, limiting our viewpoint would be fine. On the other hand we–as humans–are not capable of perfection, so our preconceived notions are, therefore, invariably flawed.
Unless we make an intentionally conscious effort to try to be open to other viewpoints, we remain stuck in one spot–intellectually, culturally, and spiritually.
Our self-imposed intellectual limitations are embarrassing. If an advanced alien species were to view our interaction, they would be well within their rights to either isolate us from the rest of the universe, destroy this planet, or at least remove the human infestation for the benefit of all.
I, Diogenes, died many centuries ago, so I am not at risk. How about you?
Kings and other high personages have different ways of dealing with their station in life.
Legend has it that Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a tumultuous parade, riding in a triumphal chariot with dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning–that he was mortal and all glory is fleeting.
On the other hand, my study of history seems to tell me that most rulers or victors surround themselves with sycophants who whisper how wonderful, brave, and wise they are.