Archive for December, 2010


Friday, December 24th, 2010

Most people make a quick association with Christmas that includes gaily-wrapped gifts, Santa in his bright red suit, reindeer, sugarplums and the wonderful movies that spark memories and raise spirits.

However, the core of Christmas is a gift, but one from God Himself. Who among us would send a child to save a people knowing that the child would die in the process?

This Christmas, abbreviate the colors of the season, table the bounty of the family dinner and take time to remember the gift that changed our lives forever. True, some do not believe, but for those of us who do, nothing eclipses that first clear night in Bethlehem when an innkeeper took pity on two young people about to become parents and gave them shelter in a stable. Thanks be to God.

Merry Christmas!

Mercer and Mercenary

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Johnny Mercer contributes mightily to the musical genre of America. According to his website, he was born Nov. 18, 1909 in Savannah, Georgia. He died June 25, 1976 in Bel Air, California. After moving to New York City in the late 1920s, Mercer began to write lyrics while supporting himself as an actor. He later joined Paul Whiteman’s orchestra as singer and master of ceremonies. In 1939 he joined Benny Goodman’s Camel Caravan radio show. In 1942 Mercer co-founded Capitol Records. On Broadway, he collaborated with Harold Arlen on St. Louis Woman (1946) and Saratoga (1959) and also provided lyrics for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Li’l Abner (1956), and Foxy (1964). His songs for films won four Academy Awards. He collaborated with composers such as Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern, and Jimmy Van Heusen and is credited with more than 1,000 lyrics.
One of his songs inspires this column and speaks to the dastardly acts of Julian Assange, recently arrested in The UK for alleged sex crimes committed in Sweden. He is, by any reasonable measure, a web mercenary.
There is no way to assess the damage done by the Wiki Leaks releases of sensitive documents directly impacting our national security. We can only hope that the outrage felt by all those countries and diplomats cited will be so widespread that they can calm the waters and allow diplomacy to begin anew. Sadly, that is a hope may only be a pipedream at this point.
That the leak came from a 25-year-old PFC should come as no surprise to any American over the age of 50. When, in the last forty years, has American education consistently and enthusiastically taught patriotism, love of country, loyalty and respect for the most revered bastion of freedom that the world has ever known?
The first songs I learned were the service hymns. It took my breath away when I heard President Obama explain to his daughters that every branch of the service has its own song. As they watched the assembled band below the balcony on the White House, they didn’t recognize the music at all. Neither do countless American youngsters.
Perhaps schools were more intent on love of country in the 1940s and 1950s because the wounds of both World War I and World War II were still so fresh. Perhaps teachers took it upon themselves to integrate real history into the curricula because they knew — first-hand — the ravages of ignoring despots and dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini.
In any event, my generation learned to love our country, respect anyone in uniform and recognized the value of our Armed Services. Sadly, that is not the case today.
Just in case you disagree, search out a textbook from the ‘40s or ‘50s and reading will confirm my claims.
I’m not sure when I heard one particular phrase, but it was a part of the general vocabulary when I was growing up and underscored how dangerous idle talk can be.
“Loose lips sink ships” dates to WWII and was coined as part of the US Office of War Information’s attempt to limit the possibility of people inadvertently giving useful information to enemy spies. We probably will never know how many spies were among us during World War II, but the possibility was very real. Actual wording was ‘Loose Lips Might Sink Ships and was one of several similar slogans under the campaigns basic message – ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’.
It was well used in 1942, as this example from the Maryland paper The News, May 1942 shows: (paraphrased)
As attendees at the local county school registered in the high school lobby before the opening of the meeting, they were surrounded on all sides by placards bearing such admonitions as “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships”, “Defense On The Sea Begins On The Shore”, “Defense In The Field Begins In The Factory” and patriotic creeds and slogans.
Just where have we failed? It’s hard to say, but when education becomes more a tool of change than one of learning, we are in trouble folks. There has been a lot of talk about the “Progressive” movement in the United States, and I can link it directly to educators. As an adult student at several institutions of higher education in both Indiana and Michigan, I sat in classes where young minds were bombarded with ideals that flew in the face of those with which I was reared. I knew how to sort out the trash, but my classmates did not. Unaware of real history, they accepted the redacted stories from the professors without question. I can tell you that I was not a welcome student in many of these classes, because I countered the instructor with facts in hand. Holding a near 4-point average and able to hold my own in a discussion, they knew better than to hold a grade hostage with me. That would have incurred a direct appeal to the dean.
Unless and until we instill in our children the wonderful inspiration of America, the concept of what many now deem “American Exceptionalism”, we are doomed to fail as many other civilizations before us.
My question about Wiki Leaks is simple and to the point. If we search airline passengers for a few ounces of liquid and scan them like items scooting across the bar code reader at a grocery store, how then can any branch of our Armed Services allow an employee to carry in a Lady Gaga CD to workplace with high security clearance.
To my knowledge, when you are on the job, you work. You play at home in off hours. Maybe we need to scan our federal and military security personnel like we do the grandmother or small child flying commercially today.
Rules are rules, or at least they were. Among Johnny Mercer’s lyrics is a favorite of mine, one linking directly to the discussion of leaks, moles, and — yes — traitors.
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
Accentuate the positive aspects of America. They are many. Eliminate the negative. Don’t apologize for the one nation on earth that espouses freedom and sacrifices her sons and daughters so others may breathe free. Latch on the affirmative. Say “yes” to truth. Don’t tolerate lies. Don’t mess with those who want to pick and choose what history has to teach us. Mr. In-Between is dangerous. His lips sink ships — and in Assange’s case, it just might be the ship of state.