How Soon We Forget

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Pearl Harbor, Hawaii–Sunday, December 7, 1941, 7:48 AM

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. (click for link) 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.ibtimes.com/franklin-delano-roosevelt-full-text-day-infamy-speech-famous-pearl-harbor-address-2456447

Jabberwocky*

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

 

Vote, Dammit, Vote!

Every person who chooses to dedicate some portion–even a few years–of their life to serve in the United States military takes an oath. An oath was once was considered the most binding of promises, but is not taken very seriously, anymore. It’s kind of like adultery–no big deal.

The oath they take includes this phrase, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Americans do not swear an oath to a person or an organization, they swear to uphold the very idea that has allowed this great American experiment to exist for 231 years. The Declaration of Independence declared our intent, but it was the Constitution that made us who we are. Why is this important? Why an oath?

Those who take the oath have sworn to defend the Constitution in its entirety–every single part. This includes freedom of speech and the press–not just for those with whom they agree, but especially for those whose views they not only disagree with, but may even absolutely abhor.

Military members know that “to protect and defend” may mean that they are called upon to give the “last full measure,” as Abraham Lincoln called it–giving one’s life, if necessary.

I’ve never seen anything that claims that this oath expires at the end of one’s enlistment, retirement from the military, etc. Therefore, my belief is that it does not expire; there is no “use by date.”

It’s interesting that the President’s oath is more casual, he or she says, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

For what it’s worth I respect those who put their money where their mouth is their life on the line for their beliefs.

 

Hail, Caesar!

They come, they wreak havoc, they die.

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.

 

Truth

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.

 

Logic Is Hard

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?

Respect for One’s Elders

Diogenes was known for his (alleged) dedication to honesty. It might have actually been hype, but it succeeded in putting him into the history books that survived until the 21st Century.

In certain cultures there is a respect for elders–for the knowledge and wisdom that they absorbed over their lifetime. After all, experience is the most expensive, yet most effective teacher, and one cannot experience much in twenty, thirty, or perhaps even forty years-even though we all believe that, before we are twenty, we have all the answers.

I watch people. I observe how they interact with one another–as families, as tribes/communities, or as part of structured organizations. I’ve seen the same things pass by at least twice; in some cases, more than twice. So, what wisdom have I distilled?

  • Seeing the same thing over and over is less than fulfilling. Have we learned nothing?
  • Each new boss/leader/commander/premier/grand imperial poobah begins with “Cast aside the old norms! Think outside the box! We’re going to embrace a new way  to be agile, more efficient, and more effective.” Words that are meant to stir the heart.
  • The new boss/leader/commander/premier/grand imperial poobah meets with the high level mucky-mucks (or whatever term you prefer) who applaud his or her every idea. He or she believes that the mucky-mucks will infuse the people on their teams with such enthusiasm.
  • Instead, mucky-mucks pull the wagons into a circle, dig in their heels, and knowing that the new boss/leader/commander/premier/grand imperial poobah will be gone in three to five years, they nod and tell him or her how wonderful the ideas are.
  • In a few years, the next contestant–I mean the next boss/leader/commander/premier/grand imperial poobah will appear and displace the current boss/leader/blah-blah-blah/etc.

And at each juncture, our hopes are dashed and we’re surprised that nothing changes.

I shudder when I realize that I will see the same things I’ve seen before at least one more time, or possibly more before I leave this world. Do/Will we ever learn? I suspect not.

When I was young, I believed that I–and my generation–would change the world. It was the Sixties, after all, and anything was possible. Now, I’m in my sixties, and I’ve resigned myself to things being the same way they were in the days of Ptolemy, Charlemagne, Robespierre, and–well, you fill in the blanks.

As always, it’s the Golden Rule–Them With the Gold–Rule.

It would be wonderful if Gen X, Gen Y, the Millenials, Gen Z, or whoever could actually make some changes before I leave this world for the next. I have always hoped to see this world better after me than it was before; I couldn’t do it, so I hope somebody else can.

I–and my contemporaries–are ready, willing, and able to share what we’ve learned, if anyone is interested.

Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?