Readers of this blog will not find it surprising that I greatly appreciate today’s opinion piece in the News Tribune.
The author will probably get death threats. Looking at this list it seems to be a bi-partisan affliction.
I found my Great Grandfather Thomas Robb’s farm home on Google Earth yesterday. You can see its right angles hiding in a grove of trees in the picture above which I copied. In a wide field image you can see the Smokey Hill River bending around it to the west (left) This screen capture shot shows that you reach the farm by the Lapsley Road. Larry Lapsey was my Great Grandfather’s neighbor a former escaped slave who reached Salina, Kansas during the Civil War and found the area settled with folks who had dug “bank” houses into the hillside. Thomas Robb, eventually built this now abandoned house and my Grandfather being the youngest of six siblings was the only child not born under the sod. I visited the wreck ten years ago and have heard that it has since been torn down.
I have two sources of information on Larry Lapsley. The first is a speech my Grandfather wrote for a long time literary organization in Topeka, Kansas called the Saturday Evening Literary Club and the second is a reprint of the story Lapsley told a young neighbor girl which was reprinted in a Kansas Historical Quarterly.
Pantle, Alberta, editor. “The Story of a Kansas Freedman.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 11 (November 1942): 341-369. Larry Lapsley’s story of his escape from slavery during Civil War and settlement in Saline County.
I don’t know which was written first. I suspect my Grandfather’s speech led to the later publication.
Long time readers will know that I am in a lather to write a book about my Grandfather. I recently organized the last of the personal correspondence I copied in Topeka chronologically. I’ve nibbled at the reading and keep making interesting discoveries which cry out for follow-up research. For instance, my Grandfather’s closest sibling in age, Bruce Robb, wrote him shortly after it was apparent that his little brother George had survived the war albeit shot up. In that letter Bruce asks lots of geopolitical questions. What did George think of the abdication of the Kaiser, How were things in France, and then mentions he has just read William Allen White’s book The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me I knew of White but had never heard of this book. Its not listed on White’s Wikipedia Page but it must have gotten into the public domain because I found it on the web along with its light-hearted illustrations of White and his fellow Kansas newspaper editor, Henry, as they take a tour of the Western Front before the Armistice.
William Allen White was the publisher/editor of the Emporia Gazette who parlayed his small town writing into a nationally recognized force. He was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s muckrakers. He earns many mentions in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit about TR, William H. Taft and the progressive journalists of the turn into the 19th century.
Over the past year I’ve wondered if White ever wrote about my Grandfather’s war experiences. The answer seems to be yes and no. The White book talks about the military hospitals the publishers visited on their tour. My Grandfather spent November and December recovering in those facilities although I’m sure the two didn’t meet there. Later when my Grandfather was appointed the the post as State Auditor of Kansas every newspaper in the state had to mention his war experience and White’s Emporia Gazete was no exception. The Gazette is one of the most completely available Kansas newspapers on Newspapers.Com. and I’ve printed out many of the Gazette election stories that mention my Grandfather.
One of the little treasures I discovered during that period of hospitalization was a letter to my eventual Grandmother, Winona McLatchey (they would wed six years later). He had met her in the Iola, Kansas schools and she was one of a couple women he coresponded with during the war. In the letter he describes being “grooved” by a bullet or shrapnel. He makes what must have been a hideous injury sound like a flesh wound. In the medical reports he had an internal infection perhaps peritonitis that sounded a lot more severe than he described.
I have a couple particularly areas I’d like to emphasize in any book I crank out. For one thing I’d like to emphasize the less blood thirsty partisan divide my Grandfather experienced and secondly his thoughts on black/white relations.
Lately I’ve had a hard time sleeping through the night because I wake up to stew about national politics. Perhaps that’s an improvement. For much of my first three years back on the Duluth School Board it was Board politics that kept me sleepless.
Some of our most disagreeable Presidents have been our most productive. Woodrow Wilson who my Grandfather lamented voting for in 1916 is a case in point. I’ve just been reading about Woody again in a book I bought a couple years ago by David Pietrusza. Its called “1920 The Year of the Six Presidents.”
1920 would see the Wilsonian dream fade and the beginning of three straight Republican Administrations in the Roaring Twenties. If my Grandfather had been willing to entertain some political heresies in his youth he would become a confirmed Republican during this decade. Being selected by three successive Republican presidents in a row to serve as the Postmaster of Salina, Kansas, cemented that loyalty. Here’s one of three certificates in the Kansas Archives to attest to this. They have one for Harding and Hoover as well.
I started Pietrusza’s book last night after reading a couple chapters of the prophet Ezekiel. I got a better night’s sleep thinking about past presidents than future ones.
Donald Trump reads no books. His history is heavy with whatever lessons he learned at someone’s knees about the America First Committee which had no appetite for confronting Nazi Germany.
His minions have raised the example of the internment of Japanese American Citizens in World War II as an example of how we might deal with Muslims in America.
As reported here a couple hours ago I know of one Medal of Honor recipient who would roll over in his grave at Salina, Kansas’ Gypsum Hill Cemetery if he heard that. Maybe we can send the Gold Star Kahns to one and shut them up.
Here’s the Blue Star flag my Grandfather’s parents put up when he went off to fight in the Great War.
And here’s my grandfather’s helmet which hung in his entryway from the garage for the last ten years of his life. Now its in an exhibit in the Kansas State Historical Society where others can gawk at the bullet entry and exit holes and marvel that George Robb came home to tell the tale.
I mentioned the magnanimity and solidarity of Duluth’s students yesterday particularly at Denfeld with its post-it note campaign started by its student rep on the Duluth School Board Johanna Unden. Today the DNT has another wonderful story confirming the class and thoughtfulness of our students, this time at East High. Shanze Hayee, a freshmen, found other students to join her in wearing a hijab an Islamic scarf that makes many Westerners nervous.
I’ve made much of my Grandfather, George Robb, in this blog. I’d like to share a letter I just received from his old Alma mater, Park College, in Missouri yesterday. It comes from the time following Pearl Harbor when American-Japanese were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. My grandfather was asked by the college’s president if it would be wise to enroll some of the Nisei as students during this time of war. Here is what he wrote:
Here’s an enlarged image:
Whether President Elect will attempt to rule like an autocrat remains to be seen. He ran as a demagogue. I expect that he will attempt to persuade the public as a demagogue when things aren’t going his way. I hope I’m wrong.
In any event I think this NY Times piece demonstrates my thinking. Contrast the current Republican President Elect with my grandfather’s Republicanism in the previous post to get a sense of how deep my feeling’s run.
These were given to me on Veteran’s Day when the Philip Billard VFW Post 1650 of Topeka, Kansas, honored George Robb on the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day. I gave this speech for the occasion:
I would like to begin by thanking Andy Olson for inviting me to speak on this Veterans Day in memory of my grandfather George Robb a humble recipient of the Nation’s Medal of Honor. For years I have wanted to write a book about my grandfather. And this week in Topeka while rifling through the archives of the Kansas State Historical Museum I have discovered so much new information that I think that my wish will be far more likely to become reality.
My grandfather began a short lived diary upon setting out to New York City for embarkation to the trenches of World War 1. It began like this:
“On the 28th of December 1917 the author of this diary arrived in New York City over the Pennsylvania line.”
“He left his home in Salina Kansas on the morning of December 19th at 2 o’clock a.m. He could not help but wonder as he set forth for the station WHEN he would see that home again and what experiences he would meet with in the meantime but he could not help but feel that whatever they might be he would move equal to them – he MUST move equal to them for his for his home folks sent him forth, with expectation and full confidence that he would be a real Soldier and Home Folks are under no circumstances to be disappointed.”
I knew my grandfather was a very big deal starting at a very tender age when I would fall and scrape my knee and come to my mother crying. She would tell me “Harry, you’re grandfather was shot in the war and he didn’t cry.”
As time passed I would grow in awe of his reputation for courage, honesty, modesty and one other quality I had only heard about from my Mother – George Robb’s ability to write a good letter. Until Andy Olson arranged this little gathering I hadn’t read more than one example of such. Over the past 2 days I have copied a thousand of them at the Kansas state archives all left to the state by my Mother Georganne and her sister Mary Jane.
I will read one of them to you at the conclusion of this speech.
One of the first lessons I learned from my grand father was of humility. You can’t read any account of my Grandfather in the newspapers without their mentioning that he didn’t want any fuss made about his Medal of Honor. If I ever had any doubts about his worthiness they have been laid to rest after several month’s reading and research. In my estimation George Robb was eminently worthy of the Medal of Honor that was bestowed upon him.
Although I do not have time to elaborate now I’ll mention 4 related moments of his life and Kansas experience. 1. His next door neighbor in Assyria Kansas in childhood was an escaped slave. 2. He served as a white officer in the storied 369th Infantry a unit whose soldiers were composed of African American soldiers. 3. His study of history was such that he understood better than almost anyone else the role that African-Americans have played in defending this nation. And lastly, While living in Topeka his grandson (speaker points to himself) was one of the first to experience the new world after Brown vs. Board of Education when Loman Hill Elementary welcomed the students from the segregated Buchanon Elementary. All of these circumstances concerning my Grandfather have played a large part in my life and my thoughts and have continued so to this day.
If you check the files at the Historical Society you will find the speech that George Robb delivered to Topeka’s famous Saturday Evening Literary Club written about the time that Harry Truman integrated the United States armed forces.
He laid out all of the arguments that have been given by white politicians to dismiss the ability of African Americans to fight in the armed forces. He knocked them aside one by one. And of course there was his service in the trenches and his first-hand observation of his fellow black countrymen as they faced death at the hands of a determined enemy.
My grandfather was a man of his time as well as a man ahead of his time. I believe that he was trying to tell his fellow white Topekans to be comfortable at the prospect of black men serving with their sons in the United States military.
To reassure his audience he suggested that African-Americans were not yet equipped to be officers but that was years ago. Today, I can’t help but imagine my grandfather looking down from heaven much gratified to see that the Commander in Chief of today’s Armed Forces is half African-American just as I am gratified that, like me, President Obama’s mother was a Kansan and a white one at that.
In light of our nation having endured one of its most divisive presidential elections I should mention one more thing about my grandfather. He liked Democrats even while he did everything he could to make sure they wouldn’t make a hash of the nation or the state of Kansas.
All of us would benefit from George Robb’s example as we move into the future. Much remains to be done to heal our wounds just as it was the case in my grandfather’s boyhood with Jim Crow and the denial of voting rights to most African Americans.
Upon returning this week to bury myself in the state’s archives concerning George Robb I had a couple of other things on my wish list. I wanted to visit my paternal grandmother’s old grade school now the sight of the Brown vs Board of Education National Historic Site. I only got there with 25 minutes to spare of their opening hours yesterday. As brief as that stop was I was brought to tears listening to the voices of hate I remember from my childhood coming from some of our Nation’s political leaders broadcast from a powerful display. In many ways they were tears of satisfaction comparing the state of America today with the conditions in my grandfather’s lifetime.
As you veterans know the integration of America’s military has had no small role in our progress.
As I left the Historic Site I craved a dinner at Bobo’s Drive Inn which I remember fondly from my childhood. On the way to that restaurant I passed by the Stormont Vale Hospital where my brother and sister were born. As I approached the hospital I could see a dozen police vehicles lights flashing hugging the side of 8th Street. On the other side of the street people were holding up cell phones taking movies. Of course, I had to crane my neck to see. I saw a man the color of one of the non commissioned soldiers in the 369th Infantry lying on the curb surrounded by a dozen policeman. I did not watch the news last night so l do not know what transpired. It was a sobering reminder of the progress we have yet to achieve today.
At the beginning of this little speech I told you many of the reasons why my grandfather, George Robb, is worthy of the honor bestowed on him today 99 years after the end of World War 1. I told you I’d always heard he wrote a damn fine letter. Yesterday I read parts of a great many damn fine letters. I’d like to leave you with the letter he wrote to my mother who was a newlywed living with her husband in Arkansas City where I would be born about one year later.
This letter was a revelation to me. I have read many of the speeches my grandfather wrote and they were academic, proper and forbidding. I never got a letter quite like this and I can’t imagine many other fathers writing a letter to their daughters shortly after their marriage quite like this one. I hope you enjoy it.
But first I should preface this letter with this information. This was 1949. My Rock ribbed Republican grandfather had endured 20 years of Democratic Leadership by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. He hated it. And yet as my mother told me George Robb liked Missouri’s Democrat Harry Truman. It was a different age. Here’s the letter:
Mrs. Dan M. Welty
501 North B Street
Arkansas City, Kansas
Dear Mrs Welty,
I take my Pen in Hand to indulge in some congratulations. I congratulate you upon having successfully navigated 21 years of democratic rule. With all those years upon your shoulders you should have the wisdom of a hoot owl.
I congratulate you upon being the daughter of Mrs. Robb and the sister of the globe-trotting Mrs. Sage.
I congratulate you that your father has not been in jail recently.
I congratulate you upon having a handsome husband. Feed him well so that he may remain sleek and and pleasing to the eye.
If there is anything else upon which I should congratulate you, let me know and I will be glad to fill in the gaps.
Your aunt Mae recently underwent a very romantic experience. One of the nights when it was about 6 below, at 4 o’clock in the morning her telephone rang. She got out of bed and paddled over the icicles in her bare feet to the phone. On the other end of the line and inebriated voice said, “Is Dorothy there?” Your aunt said, “To whom do you think you are talking?” The Jolly chap replied “Wake up the other girls. I have a couple of friends who want to be entertained.”
I do not exaggerate when I say that “Madam” Peppmeyer poked his eyes out of the phone and then threw scalding water upon him. In fact, her vocabulary became so heated that the next morning the company found two or three telephone posts burned to the ground. I also congratulate you on your aunt, but it would seem to me that that was rather an abrupt and unsympathetic way to greet romance. No doubt had your aunt been sweet twenty-one instead of seventy-six she would have been a bit coy with the poor chap.
On the morning of the 10th, I will stand up your mother and Edith and have them sing “Happy birthday” to you.
May we all face our uncertain future with such good cheer. That will be a little easier knowing that the defenders of our Nation’s military are composed of such as George Robb. I thank you all for your service and for remembering on this 99th Armistice Day one of your best and our nation’s best, my Grandfather 1st lieutenant, George Seanor Robb.
My daughter Facebooked me to tell me that she (young as she is) knows what the Manchurian Candidate is. For those who haven’t heard of it it was a movie based on a book. The plot was about how communists North Koreans had brainwashed an American POW to assasinate an American politician. Its appearance in theaters ironically and infamously coincided with the assassination of JFK.
I haven’t seen the recent remake. Sinatra’s version was good enough for me.
Coincidentally, PBS aired a two-hour American Experience tonight on the fighting at Korea’s Chosin Reservoir and the perilous, frozen escape of American soldiers surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese troops. Some of the first American POWs came from that fighting.
My Uncle, Frank, was in a MASH unit during the war. I know virtually nothing about his actions but I know he helped a Korean from his camp immigrate to the US after the war. I wrote about Frank once for the Reader in an anecdote about Grandfather. Its one of my favorite family stories.
Frank must be about 88 now. I had originally intended to travel on to Colorado after visiting Topeka, Kansas, next week and ask him about my Dad’s side of the family in much the same way that I’m researching my Mother’s side now. I decided against it because he lives at 8,000 feet and winter is coming. I’ll come back for the next school board meeting instead. Maybe I’ll try Colorado next spring.
After watching the program I ordered the third book in a trilogy. I collected the first two of the books better than a decade ago but never read them. Maybe its about time I do. Its about the “Forgotten War.”
After my post on the Manchurian Candidate I got an email from my Buddy and we proceeded to have a testy exchange. My characterization of FBI Director James Comey as worse than a “communist dupe” struck my Buddy as “unhinged.” Nevermind that Presidential candidate Trump – the butt of my exageration, has said far worse about a great many other people on television over and over for the last year. Nevermind that he leads his audiences in inflamatory chants of “lock her up. lock her up.” No, its me that’s unhinged.
I could have confessed to being a tad excessive to my Buddy but I didn’t feel like it. He had just sent me a story about how the lastest polls show Trump up over Clinton by a point and I’d just been stewing about Comey and the part he may have played in this last rough week for my preferred candidate Clinton. I thought he was trying to goad me so I let myself be goaded. It never pays off.
As a bit of a concession I sent him a commentary that was anything but unhinged in finding fault with Comey. My Buddy made no reference to it when he sent me another snappish email.
What is indisputable is that Vladimir Putin would love to see American politics lose its lustre for the rest of the world even if it means that an unpredictable narcisist takes the reigns of power perhaps as disasterously as when Trump plunged his Atlantic City Casinos into bankruptcy. Putin would have the office once presided over by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan handed to a man who flushed Reagan’s “eleventh commandment” down the commode. In other words, Putin wants a lying, uninformed, lucky, idiot billionaire to be America’s next president. My Buddy reminds me incessantly that standard issue Presidents, like he’s sure Hillary will be, got us into the Vietnam War. How could Trump be any worse? he asks. I only write back to him out of sheer cussedness.
Hemingway said that courage is “grace under pressure.” Perhaps mine failed me. Ironically, Comey’s dubious last-minute, non revelation has been defended by none other than President Obama. I doubt that my Buddy will give him credit for being more rational than me even though Obama is busting a gut to get Hillary Clinton elected. My Buddy twitted me a few years back about how Obama was treated as the “Messiah” by his early adoring fans and how he let them down by not providing them utopia. I keep reminding by Buddy that from a minute Obama was elected Republicans made it clear their only real priority was to make sure he was a one-term president. They didn’t dare let America be run well for the next four years if they hoped to depose him. The result eight years later a is Donald Trump now the titular head of the Party of Lincoln. And who can forget his constant threats and taunts to his fellow Republicans. That’s what six years of Republican gridlock got America. If Trump is not a Manchurian candidate I don’t know what the hell he is.
By the way, an hour ago I had to run to Wallgreens and get a fresh 9 cell to stop a fire alarm from shreeking at me every twenty seconds. My Manchurian Candidate sign was still standing. I give it fifty/fifty odds of making it through the night.
In 2002 I visited my old Topeka home with my Mother just as Alzheimers was beginning to intrude into her life. I asked her to drive me around town to show me the seven houses her family moved to, one each year, for the first seven years her father was the Kansas State Auditor. I took their pictures, where they still stood, except for the house on Clay Street that may have fallen victim to the tornado in 1966. In two weeks I’ll be heading back to Topeka, this time as a guest of the local VFW to participate as they memorialize Mom’s father on November 11th. It will be the 99th anniversary of the battle that made him a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
For the past couple months I have been sorting and organizing documents related to his life. They fill five three-ring binders. I’ll probably come back with even more documentation because I plan to spend a couple days at the Kansas Historical Society where my Mother and her sister took his letters after his death. At the time she was quite irritated with one of the archivists who panned their gift of my Grandfather’s Medal of Honor telling them that the Historical Society had more of that kind of stuff than it knew what to do with. When I visited Topeka with her in 2002 the medal was hanging in an exhibit about my grandfather. Here’s Mom bending down to read the captions:
That helmet in the case used to hang on a wall between the garage and Grandpa’s kitchen. My cousins liked wearing it with the bullet hole next to the temple.
I also took pictures of some Topeka schools. The one on the top is Loman Hill Elementary where newly integrated students were sent to our classrooms when I was in Second grade. The photo in the middle was the segregated Buchanan School whose students were sent to Loman Hill. How appropriate that it was named for the least competent President in the Nation’s history. The bottom school was Monroe Elementary now the site for the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic site.
There was an article on the movie title turned on its ear “Birth of a Nation” in yesterday’s DNT. The original “Birth” gave birth to modern Hollywood and also helped rebirth the Ku Klux Klan. DW. Griffith’s movie was unlike any movie audiences had ever seen and it made unprecedented scads of money. Think Star Wars Squared.
It looks like I’ve mentioned the movie a couple times in this blog starting with this post. To cap off my recent labor of Hercules – cleaning my office stables – I shuffled thirty year’s worth of family memorabilia into discrete piles for each of several familial lines and put them away for future reorganizations. The pile I kept out for further work is on my Grandfather Robb who has been a constant reference point for this blog and especially so this year on the eve of the centenery of his earning the Congressional Medal of Honor.
On February 29th, Leap Day, I attended a presentation by Dr. Jeffrey Sammons at the World War 1 Museum in Kansas City who spoke about his recent research on my Grandfather, George Robb.
Dr. Sammons wrote the book on the premier American Infantry Regiment in World War 1 called the “Harlem Hell Fighters” after the German assessment of their fighting abilities. White American officers didn’t want anything to do with them, didn’t want them to fight and earn “glory” and perhaps pick up dangerous uppity notions upon their return to America. General Pershing’s solution was to give the American unit to the French Fourth Army where they managed to accomplish two things 1. win a unit citation from the French which awarded the regiment the nation’s highest military medal the Croix de Guerre and 2. single handedly bring American Jazz to Europe making it an overnight sensation.
Sammon’s, an African American himself, was more interested in the black history of the regiment rather than the white second lieutenant Robb who helped fill the regiment’s depleated officer corps on the eve of its signature battle at Sechault, France. (for year’s I mispronounced it. It’s Say show)
Anyway, my blog was out of order for three months from December 15 until the beginning of March this year so I wrote little about my preparations for our trip to Jerusalem, our travels or my subsequent trip to Kansas City, Kansas to hear Dr. Sammon’s talk. In a month I’ll travel to Topeka, Kansas where the local VFW will dedicate a small memorial to my illustrious forbearer.
So this is pretty discursive of me. Whatever happened to Birth of a Nation?
As luck would have it my Grandfather earned his Master’s degree in History from Columbia University in New York City in 1915 the year Griffith’s Birth was born. There was a huge ruckus in that city with black Harlemites fighting to prevent the KKK inspired story of Civil War Reconstruction from being played in that City’s movie houses. What I wouldn’t give to be able to ask my Grandfather about that occurence.
Well this new version of Birth of a Nation is about an infamous 1831 slave uprising led by a black minister, Nat Turner. I wrote “infamous” but that would be a white slave owner’s interpretation of events. The aftermath was every bit as appalling.
The story in the DNT mentions the book by Richard Schickel “D.W. Griffith An American Life.” I happen to own a copy of the book although its 600 pages have kept me from anything more than a little nibbling at its corners. I bought the book some years ago when I thought I’d like to write a novel treatment merging my Grandfather’s story with the infamous history of Duluth’s tripple lynching in 1920. The prospective movie Hatestorm makes that a much less likely job for me to tackle.
I’m sorry to say that the principle writer/director/actor of the movie has a Woody Allen-Roman Polanski-Bill Cosby type past. I doubt that his riposte to Griffith will leave anything like the original Birth of a Nation’s mark on the world. I can only hope that it doesn’t inspire legions of black audience members to immitate the white audiences who watched its namesake – forget the Ku Klux Klan’s sordid reputation, give it a rebirth and spread it to the North. Even to Minnesota.
One of the reviews of the book I linked to about the Klan in Minnesota says this:
The Klan embraced Protestant Christianity, and small town values. It sought to preserve America for white, Christian, Protestants and resisted what it saw as threats to this vision of America.
Sounds a little like how some voters are looking at today’s presidential election.
I used my election to the School Board in 2013 as a mental rationalization/justification to fix up my attic. A year after being seated renovation began in earnest. When it was complete I moved massive quantities of paper that had squirrled away all over my house to my new “study.” What I did not count on was being so busy over the last three years that I would drastically add to the fire hazzard with new paper work. Everything is in the Attic now except for photographs which take up a closet on the second floor.
I’ve been busy for most of the summer trying to corral living, breathing, migrating piles of clutter. If I stick to it today I might actually have my floor free of debris for the first time since carpet was laid. Strangely having some control of all this dusty data keeps me from being too paranoid which I’ve long associated with the Duluth School Board in particular and politics in general.
My Buddy has sent me three emails about the as yet unedited “Crap Sandwich” post none of which I’ve allowed myself time to read – yet. I’m afraid they will distract me from my slow progress. Besides, if I start responding to every slight I’ll end up like like Donald Trump sitting in his Manahattan Apartment at all hours of the night tweeting about disagreeable former Miss Universes. I must stay focused. I must stay focused.
That said, I listened to an interesting MPR broadcast this morning with some academics who studied Conspiracy theories from the Illuminati to the theory that the CIA blew up the World Trade Towers. Paranoia has a long illustrious history in America.
My Buddy is far more sanguine about America’s surviving a President Donald Trump than I am. I have mentioned before that I told him that half of America will want to move north if our candidate loses.
But it may not be the Canadians building a wall. In the cleaning out process I discovered a couple old news clippings that bear on this topic. Apparently 41 percent of Americans want the US to build a wall along the Canadian border once the Mexican wall is complete.
My fear of Trump is the mirror image of how Republicans view Obama and no doubt Hillary Clinton which I found in this clipping which says one third of Republicans regard President Obama “as an imminent threat to the US.” I’ll have plenty of company no matter who wins this November but it might take me a couple of days to crawl out from under my covers. Until then I’ll cheer myself up with the Simpson’s take on the secret societies who call the shots:
For the past couple months the Philippines, or probably servers in the Philippines have been sending out robots to investigate my blogsite. Their “hits” have eclipsed hits from the United States in my blog stats. Other contries have taken the lead before and they have usually been Eastern bloc nations. I don’t think that many real humans from these nations are looking at Lincolndemocrat but I don’t know for sure. It usually is not noticible in the actual count of “Visitors” to the blog which for this month averages 241 a day. In months with especially high school board commentary it can average a hundred more than that.
Here are the US and Ph statistics for this month so far.
us….United States…5,882….10,354….337.24 MB
If there are visitors from the Philippines who visit the blog its not because I often write about their fair land. My search engine only counts four such occassions. I also recently mentioned the new Philippine President Duterte who has a ninty percent popularity rate after inaugurating a vigilante mentality in his country that has led to the murders of 2000 people extrajudicially by people who targeted them for being drug peddlers. So much for the rule of law.
One of those previous posts mentions my father’s good friend, Narcisso (Norgic) Tenorio who as a student in an American college found an encyclopedia with a picture of what it said was the typical Philippino wearing a loincloth and holding a spear. Norgic was an attorney and, sans spear, he ripped the page out in a rage.
The Tenorios once invited a number of young Phillipino nursing students to our home and they preformed some native dances for us with bamboo poles snapping together while they jumped between them jump rope style. They also placed plates on their heads and rolled on the floor without the plates falling off.
In my college years I was assigned to write about the government of another nation and chose the Philippines. It had a federal system modeled on the United States government from which the Philippines won independence after World War II. By the time I was in high school a dicator, Ferdinand Marcos, and his shoe infatuated wife, Imelda, had taken over as dictators. Any of a number of other nations might have been their model but not the United States.
During those years tens of thousands of Philippina nursing students, like those who paid a call on our home, emigrated to the United States. In 1966 Richard Speck murdered eight of them one evening in Chicago. That year one of my new favorite music groups, Simon and Garfunkel, recorded Silent Night over the background of the evening news which included a brief description of Speck’s murder. He was only sent to prison because all the Philippinas looked the same to him so that when one of them hid he didn’t notice her missing when he raped and murdered the other eight. His defense attorneys did everything they could to discredit her testimony because they said it was as hard for her to identify the American white man as it was for Speck to identify the Philippina nurses as individuals. A few years later in another southeast Asian nation our soldiers would come to call the natives “gooks” in large part because they all looked the same to the Americans.
My parents would often read to each other much as I read to Claudia. I recall stopping and listening to one of the books being read once which was written by an American GI who fought in the Philippines in World War II. It was one more brutal theaters of war and is probably best remembered for the treatment of American and Philippine soldiers during the Bataan Death March.
The book was set some time after this when Army Rangers or some other special forces snuck into the rural areas of the Philippines to organize a resistance to the Japanese. This organization was much easier because of the brutality of the Japanese Army towards Philippinos. In the passage my mother read the GI was describing how the Philippine insurgents gathered a number of forest deer together outside a Japanese compound they were preparing to attack. The Philippino troops poured gasoline on the stag’s testicles aimed them at the Japanese and set the deer on fire. |
That kinda reminds me of the Trump campaign.
Donald Trump is, among other things, a fellow who has profited mightily by the faltering of twentieth century journalism. In its place is a dizzying array of Internet data dumps available for inspection by the curious and curated by interested persons from the honest to the nefarious. Somewhere in between are all the organizations which have a special interest in winning the public to their side. For the unwary and for people without the luxury of time to deeply investigate this inexhaustible library of data its far easier to let their tribal pals spoon feed them formulas.
My buddy is always telling me I’m being tribal when I bad mouth the Republican Party. I’m not sure what tribe this makes me a part of. I did attend Democratic precinct caucuses for about eight years never really becoming part of their machinery. For ten years before that I played gadfly in an increasingly purge happy Republican Party. Prior to that I quietly voted for Democrats when unappetizing Republican candidates won the primaries or GOP nominations. If I have a tribe to a large extent it could be called the tribe of the “Man without a Country.”
Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of this famous short story’s plot:
The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.
I was haunted by the story which I read in an English class. That was the hope of the author Edward Everett Hale. Until perusing Wikipedia just now I had no idea who the author was or the circumstances for his the writing of the book. It was composed in the middle of the Civil War, a ripe time for an American to agonize about national identity. Lincolndemocrat takes particular note of the author’s being the nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, famous for the long forgotten speech that preceded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and being the “grand-nephew of Nathan Hale (1755-1776), the Revolutionary War hero executed by the British for espionage.”
If I have a tribe its probably confined to my office. I will admit that it is a bit more capacious than the ship’s stateroom to which the story’s protagonist is confined for the rest of his life. Like the protagonist I have bits and pieces of evidence of my nation tacked to my walls. BTW – here’s the story long out of copyright. I didn’t reread it in full but just cut to the end to compare it to my memory of it.
About that end. I was probably 15 when I read the book and far less knowledgeable about the American history that had taken place prior to the story’s conclusion. That it was written during the Civil War and contemplation about what the union meant may not have registered with me quite as it does now.
My Buddy is no doubt right when he tells me the US will soldier on if Donald Trump is elected President. I suppose we would have survived if Huey Long had been elected or Joseph McCarthy but what a shame it would have been. The Presidents they would have supplanted were superior individuals. Its true that neither of these men were Adolph Hitlers but neither was Hitler early in his career. The great irony of Germany and the Reich was that a nation of such cultivated and sophisticated people could descend to the gas chamber, the charnel house and ruin. We seem to have past the time for a nuclear holocaust but our technology certainly leaves room for an even worse case scenario than that which transpired at the end of World War II. I can’t help but see seeds of destruction in today’s political tribal culture and campaign rhetoric and, frankly, its probably too late to stop Greenland’s icecap from melting.
I am troubled that the notion of American exceptionalism is often waved about by folks who mistake it for America’s wealth and power and not for the intangibles locked into our Bill of Rights. One of those intangibles is the right of a free press. Donald Trump can’t wait to get elected President so that he can change the libel laws like he plans to change the Generals and sue every newspaper that looks at him cross-eyed. Then he can enjoy the sort of freedom his good buddy Vladimir Putin enjoys behind the Kremlin’s walls. Donald Trump is just an eight hundred pound Albertson.
Yeah, compared to electing Trump, elevating Hillary Clinton to the Presidency would be a disaster. Remember Benghazi – or at least what the pretend newsman Roger Ailes wanted you to think happened there. That way you will be anesthetized to the coming of a White House with five letters tackily emblazoned on it in Gold leaf.
At least three of my priorities are done now.
The first was simply putting yesterday’s post in the blog.
A second was catching up on my January resolve to read at least a page of the Bible a day. I’d brought the NIV with me last week with my Grandsons but just never had the strength to read nightly while traveling. I fell about ten pages behind but just made that up. Trust me, Psalm 119 was an uphill slog at 2,345 words. Its here on the Internet and this site explains that the first words in each line forms an acrostic at least in the original Hebrew. Ugh!
The third was finishing one of the several books I’ve started this year but got hung up on. This one was Dark Horse about Wendell Willkie who was probably the fellow who ignited my Dad’s passion for politics when he was 15. The similarities between 1940 and this year are striking with a Republican presidential candidate that horrified party regulars and who barely qualified as an elephant – the chief difference being that Willkie was a genuinely articulate, honest and attractive candidate compared to the trash talking fourth-grader running his mouth this year.
I gladly put the book on my reading list which I’ve been keeping since 1979. Its my fifth completed book this year and this one filled in a big hole in my understanding of the politics as my Dad first experienced it. I’m also hopeful to discover what my Grandfather made of Willkie. Born in 1887 my Grandfather Robb was a sober sided 53 when Willkie appeared and one of the party regulars having been appointed State Auditor by Kansas Governor Alf Landon six years earlier.
I recently learned that my Mother and her sister donated reams of my Grandfather’s personal correspondence to the Kansas State Historical Museum. Dr. Jeffrey Sammons spent five days going through it in to make a fascinating presentation bout him last May at the World War One Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. I have only mentioned Dr. Sammons twice in the blog with very little explanation of what he did or discovered. What a shame. His work has been a considerable preoccupation of mine for a year and a half. What he discovered gives me hope that I might fill in some blanks about my Grandfather’s thoughts on the politics he lived through from Grover Cleveland to RM Nixon. I’m heading to another presentation in Grandfather’s honor in Topeka this coming Armistice Day – 99 years after his actions won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Writing a book about him is not one of my immediate priorities but it is a longer range ambition. And golly, I just found a new picture (to me) of him in uniform on Wikipedia:
I am so tempted to take my grandsons ages 6 and 9 to this on Saturday. I just don’t know if they could sit through 45 minutes of a historical talk.
At my church men’s group this week our speaker was too frail to attend. He had escaped death recently and as a result had come to a deeper sense of faith that he hoped to share with the rest of us.
In anticipation of the story which ended up not being shared I handed out copies of the gospel music, “Every time I feel the spirit” which was, as I explained, a bit more rollicking than the subject at hand. Tom S. chose several Bible passages which he felt were apropos to the subject including Peter 3:15. As the NIV translates it:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Other Bibles including the King James used the words “meakness and fear” instead of the NIV’s “gentleness and respect.” I found the word choice thoughtful and have been keeping the message in mind ever since. Although I can be matter of fact expressing my opinions on the blog in person I tend to back off of my strong opinions in person unless someone makes it clear he wants me to be frank. I don’t what to repeat one of my Dad’s regrets – overwhelming door to door missionaries with information that confounds them.
The world is a hard place and can be too much for some to bear. Its challenges only served to make Ray Pearson, the founder of our men’s group, a stronger person. Ray was a calm soul although a stickler for what’s right and decent. A retired Hermantown school superintendent he gently let me know he thought my opposition to the Red Plan was a tad militant for his taste. His quiet but firm dissent was not surprising. Seventy years ago Ray helped liberate a Nazi death camp.
Ray was in his nineties when he died and however the sights he witnessed affected him he lived a long healthy life. Other’s have not been so lucky. Primo Levy who survived the camps and went on to write about them committed suicide in later years from the haunting of those earlier times.
Yesterday I was pursuing a number of strands of history online and discovered that Iris Chang, the author of “The Rape of Nanking,” took her life after her book’s publication because what she learned plunged her into a depression. To this day the Japanese as a nation resist acknowledging what their soldiers did in China and elsewhere. A particularly ferocious gang of denialists rule the nation’s politics. Ditto Turkey regarding the Armenians. Currently the Chinese Government is curbing efforts to describe Mao’s Cultural Revolution as one of the worst genocides in history. Death threats rained down on the producer of a film made in 1975 about the life of the Prophet Muhammad despite his having vetted his screenplay with the highest religious authorities in Islam. Before its arrival in theaters they thought better of it and denounced it. Black Islamic Nationalists took hostages in Washington D.C. to have the movie pulled from theaters. To this latter offense my reaction was simple. I just ordered a DVD of the movie.
The small space between peace of mind and acknowledgement of evil is much on my mind since last weekend’s attempt to capture a slice of Duluth’s horrific lynching in 1920. This space has been on my mind a lot this year since I discovered that I had taken a photo of a dead Palestinian laying dead at the feet of an Israeli Soldier.
I haven’t begun to witness what Ray Pearson saw or for that matter what my Dad saw when he strolled the rubbled streets of Hiroshima as a young Navy man months, if not weeks, after the atom bomb was dropped on the city.
As I explained to the men’s group I am a long time agnostic but I appreciated the verse that Tom S. shared with us. To make it apply to me and give it the honor it deserves I’d only change a few words, to wit:
But in your hearts revere kindness and respect humankind. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
The concentration camps and bomb sites I see are all at a significant remove being that I encounter them in the news and history. I can’t always take them in with gentleness but in respect I can’t ignore them. That would be disrespectful. In that regard Japan, Turkey and China have fallen short. I don’t want America and I don’t want Duluth to follow their example. It occurs to me that hope’s best defense is respect.
I broke out our camping gear after a 20 year hiatus and prepared to give it one more go with Claudia, my daughter and grandsons. We headed to the headwaters of the Mississippi River for a two night excursion.
Here are the grandsons at the headwaters.
After wading across the Big Muddy we cashed in our chips having suffered a rainy night with marauding gangs of raccoons riffling through our campsite.
The itas in Itasca State Park and the lake its named after comes from the Greek word veritas or truth as in the true source of the Mississippi. That’s the name Henry Schoolcraft gave it when Indian guides or possibly Duluth resident, George Bonga, took him to the lake so he could “discover” it.
We found comfortable beds in a Super 8 in Park Rapids and a wonderful surprise of an Italian restaurant in the same city. Our grandsons ate mussles. Such refined barbarians.
My sister called me a wimp when she found out I’d broken camp early. I sent her this picture to restore my manly self respect.
I know. I know. That happened the day after we got home but my sister doesn’t read this blog.
This is Olive’s Egg. It was an impulse buy I couldn’t resist while we were shepherding our grandson’s around St. Paul’s Como Park Zoo.
I didn’t believe the little sign by the two ostrich eggs in the Zoo’s shop that explained that they were eggs laid by the Zoo’s ostrich Olive that had been blown out by zoo staff. They were marked at less than twenty dollars. I picked them up and they were solid like porcelain and remarkably heavy with a tiny hole where the yolk had been sucked out. I bought it as well as a sisal bowl to make sure it didn’t roll off any surface on which I would place it. The price seemed so reasonable for a bit of exotica.
I am not immune to impulse buys but I’m generally reasonably resistant to them. I also bought a 1000 piece puzzle of Tutankhamun’s mask at the Science Museum. (It tied in with our visit to the Mummy exhibit) Buying puzzles on trips has become a habit over the past decade for putting together at Christmas Time. I didn’t find a puzzle in Israel so this will represent my travels this year when we all get together in December. These objects were the culmination of a busy buying week which started last week when we took our grandson’s to the Duluth Depot to see the replica funeral car that carried Abraham Lincoln from Washington DC to his final resting place at Springfield, Illinois. I had meant to write about it last week in one of four posts I never got around to. So far they rest as incomplete stubs a few posts back of this one.
There was a Duluth Public Library book sale across the street and we decided to go over to see if there were any good books to buy and to find something about Abraham to read to our grandsons. While Claudia searched the children’s section for Lincolnalia I perused the history books on sale. I found two paperbacks for a buck apiece and bought them much to the annoyance of one of the folks at the change table who groused that I wasn’t taking nearly enough books away. Both were about the origins of the Civil War. One on the Gold Rush’s role and the other on the conflict on the Kansas/Missouri border. I later bought a third book about the California Earthquake by Simon Winchester to get change for my parking meter.
I don’t consider book buying history books to be an impulse buy. The first book I dived into was the one on California. It had a fascinating first chapter………….more to come. Church now. Completion and editing later.
That first chapter told about the killing of an anti-slavery US Senator by a pro-slavery California Supreme Court Justice in a duel. The author Leonard Richards is a Californian and he’d never heard of this fact as a school kid. He’s a pretty prolific author and even wrote a book I think I was interested to by on the life of former President John Quincy Adams when he was later elected to serve a couple decades in the US House of Representatives. It was nominated for a Pulitzer.
History is a labyrinth and when you go down one corridor you pass up entrances to many others and that has consumed much of the past two weeks for me. I’m also dipping further into the Pulizer winner American Lion about Andrew Jackson. In many ways the war against Slavery began in earnest with Jackson, the slave owner, and his outflanking of his Vice President John C. Calhoun the champion of State’s Rights. I blame the latter for the take no prisoner stance of the GOP on that issue – unless. that is, some State veers dangerously towards gun regulation. By the way Lincoln based much of his legal argument against Secession on Andrew Jackson the long time opponent of his hero Henry Clay.
In resuming that book I ran across the name Bancroft and got lost in a Wikipedia search for a couple hours leading to the namesake of the Bancroft Prize. That led me to his book Slave Trading in the Old South and a book “The Beginnings of the Bible Belt Southern Cross” and another about how slavery and modern capitalism were inextricably linked.
I ordered them all. God knows where I’ll find room for them on my bookshelves let alone time to read them all.
The sum of my bookish endeavors has had one salutary result. My Grandson’s know I revere Honest Abe. The little one had his grandmother read two books in a row about him after our visit to the funeral car and the library and he bought me a walking Abe Lincoln Head for Father’s Day. The older one spent hours making me a Perler Bead Lincoln.
As it said on my old Business Card “Those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it.” I hope I do better by my grandsons than I did by their Uncle who I swear turned up his nose at all the social sciences to teach me a lesson. Learning about the past can be a drag. At lease my son didn’t call for a boycott of the new version of the Television Series “Roots.”
What a Dogg!
“The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
My Buddy, not a fan of Obama, also sent me the text of his brief speech at Hiroshima. I believe my Buddy recognizes the eloquence that stands in stark contrast to the hideous message preceding this post that he also sent me.
Today NPR had a story about its writing:
“John Hersey didn’t try to second-guess the American decision to drop the atom bomb, a year after it ended the deadliest war in history. Simply and plainly, he described the stories of six people who survived in a city where so many thousands died:”
The Bell for Adano was followed two years later by Mr. Hersey’s Hiroshima. I think the President captures the humanity that both books share in his speech.
From: “Your Buddy”
Sent: Mon, 23 May 2016 10:23:49 -0500
Subject: Re: Andrew Sullivan thinks Donald Trump may defeat Hillary Clinton.
“what Kennedy et al did re: Vietnam at least they didn’t have contempt for the system.” That isn’t even a half-assed attempted rationalization. The lives of more than 50,000 American military persons squandered in Vietnam, but the honchos “didn’t have contempt for the system”? Fuck the system. The venture was a disaster.
My Buddy thinks I’m prissy about language because I usually xxx out Fxxx or turn it into an “ef” or “effing.” I began cleaning up my act in fifth grade after I copied my Dad and spewed out lots of &#%@xx#()xx$%&. He told me no one would pay attention to me if I always cut loose and then added that swearing was a good way to get people’s attention if it was doled out in miserly portions. I think my Buddy’s “fuck” up there meets that test. Please excuse me if it exceeds your tolerance.
Here’s my reply to him:
I think you have a point and a pretty good one. Lots of wars are started by folks who are simply following the conventional path which leads them to go to war. Barbara Tuchman made that point about World War 1 in her book Guns of August that JFK was reading at the outset of the Cuban Missile Crises. And yet despite bringing that powder keg to a sane solution he kept sending advisers to Vietnam. We had to stop the dominoes you know.
We will never know what Kennedy would have done. We only know that Johnson let himself be drawn down the primrose path to disaster for the 57,000 troops who died. My Grandfather felt the same way about Woodrow Wilson.
So, the question I should ask myself is will Donald Trump spare us another Vietnam? His ego gives me no comfort on that point even if Hillary has copied the Neo Cons to triangulate her way to the center.
Obama has done a pretty good job of trying to extricate us from the Bush Wars and he gets no credit for it. In fact, it may be true that Syria and Iraq and the US might all have been better off if Obama had been a little less passive.
I don’t have any love for Hillary and her pandering to the conventional so that she could keep her options open for future political advancement. On the other hand I am in awe of her success. Of course, that success is due in large part to the Republican Party and its self fulfilling prophecy that she could become President. Had they ignored her she would have likely faded into obscurity.
To me the most remarkable irony was the Limbaugh gambit in 2008 of telling the nation to vote for Barack Obama. [NOTE: in my email I originally told my Buddy that Rush was calling Obama a “fantastic candidate:” Not quite] Limbaugh was parroted by all sorts of Limbaugh wannabes. At the time I saw their endorsement as a crass way to saddle Democrats with a black candidate who according to convention would get slaughtered in the Presidential Race. Too bad for the Limbaughites that Bush had soured the public on his wars and was blamed with the mortgage mess and that the public actually took to heart all the supportive words for Obama from the Republican pundits. Combined with the desire of American voters to get over the Civil Rights Era in a single election America found itself with President Obama.
The GOP’s next job was to backpedal and discover that Obama was the most “ultra” liberal President of all time (not if you ask my son who thinks he’s a neocon) and a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer and a desecrator of the Constitution and generally the most incompetent President of all time. Hell from the moment he took office he was to blame for the damned oil leak in the Gulf, his State of the Union speech was interrupted by a Republican Congressman shouting that he was a liar and Mitch McConnell telling America from Day one that the Republican’s first job was to see that Obama wasn’t reelected. I meet otherwise perfectly rational people who believe all this garbage.
And now I’m supposed to fall in line with these nimrods behind Donald Trump? Hell Putin supports him too. What a class act cheering section.
No, I’ll stick with a conventional candidate and hope that the Norwegians don’t saddle her with one of their damned Nobel Peace Prizes so that she feels the need to kick sand over it like a cat hiding its doodie in a litter box.
I have a modest civic responsibility – to do my best for the ISD 709 schools. When I moved to town in 1974 I had larger ambitions to make my way in the world of politics. When local political experts suggested I start by running for the Duluth School Board I politely demurred outside and scoffed on the inside. I had no idea that my life would turn those ambitions on their heads. Today I fear a terrible decade or two lie ahead for the Duluth Schools. I’ve been despairing of a means to stave off the worst. I fear that the wrong blog entry may hasten disaster. For that reason I will write a metaphor, of sorts, instead – about the books I’m currently reading.
I mentioned in one of the last blog posts that I snapped a photo while in Israel that I only looked at closely a few days after returning home to Duluth. In it I found a Palestinian shot dead not an hour before lying at the feet of an Israeli soldier. I believe I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that this trip was intended to study peace making efforts in Israel.
One result of that peace trip is my current attempt to fulfill one of the few items I’ve always had on a bucket list – reading the Bible from cover to cover. About a month ago I started where I left off a quarter century ago at the Book of Numbers. Its the fourth book of the Jewish Torah. I read just before bed as much as I can stand before my eyes glaze over. Its usually only a chapter or two. I’ve downed three books so far having finished Joshua last night. Like Numbers and Deuteronomy its a tough slog. At 65 I feel like I’m finally ready to read the Bible and make sense of it. God knows, if there really is a God, that I’ve been reading up all my life on the history, geography and theology of the Christian Faith. And now I’ve been to Israel. Granted, it looks a little different at the beginning of the 21st Century than it looked over 2,000 years ago when Jesus began collecting disciples but the topography and climate haven’t changed.
Deuteronomy reinforced and deepened my understanding for the dead Palestinian who I caught on camera. Here’s how the ancestors of the Jews, so many of whom would later go sheep-like to the charnel house of the Holocaust, dealt with the residents of the land God promised their forbear Abraham. From Chapter 3 verses 3-7:
3 So the LORD our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. 4 At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 5 All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. 6 We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city—men, women and children. 7 But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves.
King Og of Bashan didn’t fare well and, unless the boasts of Deuteronomy are metaphoric themselves, the Hebrews under Joshua did not leave a single human survivor in the sixty cities and uncounted villages of Bashan. I just read a book about the coming to power of a man who tried to be that thorough himself, only with the Jews.
I had been planning another winter trip for almost as long as I looked forward to my peace studies class in Israel. A small Missouri University engaged the foremost historian of World War One’s 369th US Infantry to research and give a speech about my Grandfather at the National World War I Museum. The Division was composed of black soldiers and tiny Park University wanted to honor its alumni, George Seanor Robb, my Grandfather. He was one of two Kansans who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for that war. In case you were wondering my Grandfather was white and an officer.
While I visited the National World War One Museum in nearby Kansas City I bought a book for a memento. It was an anti-war book written in the Isolationist aftermath of the Great War. It’s Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos.
I began reading this to Claudia a few weeks back but owing to the direction we knew it would go and Dos Passos’s literary style we set it aside. I plan to read it now in tandem with the John Hershey Book which is delightful and very Frank Capraesque. The Dos Passos novel, like ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, by Erich Maria Remarque, is a warning against war that my Grandfather took to heart, after he was awarded the MOH. He never forgave Woodrow Wilson for tricking him into voting for him, a Democrat, for President on the promise to keep America out of a war we had no business fighting in. I doubt if he read the Dos Passos book. He generally read histories and there was nothing about war he could learn from Dos Passos.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to continuing this war story. But what a wonderful optimistic book Hershey’s A BELL FOR ADONO is proving to be. Its supposed to be a four hour read but that’s not by reading out loud as I am to Claudia. Everything America was to become (minus Jim Crow and lynching) bursts out from its pages. Oh, it has one dark presence, General Patton. And even Patton’s appearance, albeit under a different name, is a wonder. The book, written in the second to last year of World War II, is a paean to Democracy, one that Americans ought to be reading now during this tumultuous, cynical Presidential election. It was being read by Americans while the war raged. Even its outing of Patton, so thinly veiled that no one back home could have had any doubt to whom Hershey was referring, is a testament to America’s freedom from censorship. It demonstrates how Americans practice pure, simple honesty even during the darkest of times.
So there you are. That’s my reading list for the moment. That’s what’s on my mind. Nothing less than War and Peace and the future of one small city’s public school system.