Archive for May, 2016

231 Memorial Day 2016

Monday, May 30th, 2016

By Hetty Gray

# 231 “Memorial Day 2016”

May 30, 2016

When I was a child, Decoration Day was a very big deal. Our art teachers looked forward to spring, because it was poster time. You see, we made “Poppy Posters,” and nearly every one of us could draw a War World War II helmet nestled among flowers. These familiar blossoms are inextricably linked to The American Legion.

I wish I could understand why the service hymns and the traditions have disappeared from our classrooms…why a weapon is more associated with an action movie than as a symbol of the brave men and women who have fought and died — in many cases to free strangers in foreign lands — to assure us the freedom we experience every day.

As a testament to the educators and leaders who saw to it that my generation learned to respect and love the armed services, I offer the story of a little red flower. It is a bittersweet story, but one that bears repeating.

World War I was to be known as “The War to end all wars.” Sadly, it did not.
It was trench warfare, widely remembered for the mustard gas and hand-to- hand, close-fire combat that mowed down soldiers by the tens of thousands.
Consider that American casualties in World War I numbered 116,516. The wounded numbered 204,002. Among those injuries were lost limbs, blindness and a myriad of neurological maladies caused by the mustard gas.

A backdrop of the trench warfare was a landscape of blackened soil and razed buildings. Men fell, often buried in hastily dug graves. The stench of death was hard to forget. Yet, in the midst of the carnage was a touch of color. Across the bits of grass left on the hills, even on the edges of the ragged trenches, soldiers spotted the little red flower. The poppy. It was odd to see a dainty flower amid all that death, but the very sight of it gave some element of hope to the men who fought for their lives in the worst possible circumstances.

There was a special place…. Sacred plots of land in the French countryside…. Flanders Field…. And among those graves bloomed those little sturdy flowers. The sight stuck with our boys and they brought the memory of the little flowers back home with them after the war was over.

At the 1921 American Legion National Convention, members chose the poppy as the Legion’s memorial flower, in honor and memory of those men— many of them really just boys — who lost their lives in World War I.

It draws upon the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, a Canadian artillery officer during the war. Its first line, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row.”

Today, when we witness such cavalier attitudes among younger people, it worries us. For our generation, it is hard to fathom their apathy when it comes to the US military. Clearly, we need to reassess the policy of removing our proud armed services — their songs, their history and their importance — from our schools.

Superheroes aside, the true heroes wear the uniform of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. And we cannot forget our National Guard Troops.

It is hard for me to express the pride my parents and grandparents had for military personnel. Those men and women stood as the true role models for all of us. The loss of that level respect is a price too high for a nation to pay.

This 148th Memorial Day is priceless, not purely as a holiday we have become accustomed to celebrating, but most importantly because its genesis lies in the graves of those who lost their lives in service to our country. Their sacrifice has no price. They gave their all for us, nameless countrymen back at home. And so, now their dreams become ours. We can never forget.

What’s more, we cannot squander the freedom they bequeathed us. It is sobering to ponder the costs in terms of numbers. A complete list of war casualties and deaths in every conflict since the founding of this nation is more than one column’s topic. So, I list main conflicts between World War I and Afghanistan.

World War I
Killed 116,516
Wounded 204,002

World War II
Killed 405,399
Wounded 670,846

Killed 92,134

Killed 58,209
Wounded 153,303

Killed 4,488
Wounded 32, 222

Killed 2,229
Wounded 18,675

These numbers, if held to the mathematical, loom cold. Yet, truly immeasurable loss in human terms, they equate to broken hearts and dashed dreams. In the aftermath of all wars, commanding officers wrestle with the “what ifs” of battle, parents try to deal with the death of a child (or children), wives step up to fill both roles when husbands never come home, children learn to know their fathers from photos and the memories of those family members who love them and knew them best.

Of course, it is fitting to set one day aside to remember these fallen heroes, but I challenge each one of you to another task. Take some time and approach your local school board and your state leaders to see that our schools restore the armed service hymns to our schools, teach American military history with age-appropriate details — instilling the patriotism for the armed services in our youth, the patriotism that we see dissolving more and more each day.

God bless all those who died for us. God bless America.

230 – “…from nothing…”

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

By Hetty Gray

# 230

May 17, 2016

“…from nothing…”

Warning: This is an op-ed piece. I seldom write one; but after a number of weeks literally seething over the coverage of the current election, I have no choice but to put words out there to convey what I believe. What might have been several short columns is now one long one. Read on….

I often use history to introduce a column. With a background in history and political science, I refer to facts on a regular basis. However, in tandem with citing history as a foundation, this column offers something different. It breaks the mold of never taking sides.

Why? The stakes are too high. I am taking my side and holding firm.

When I reflect on graduate classes on presidential races characterized not only by candidate personalities but also with animus, those of Andrew Jackson come to mind. A consummate soldier and war hero, “Old Hickory” inspired many men in his command and earned the respect of his fellow citizens. He stood for the average American in more than rhetoric. He did so in action. What’s more, he didn’t mince words when opposed to something or someone. Colorful would be a mild way to describe his vocabulary when aggravated or annoyed.

In the words of The White House Website, “More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man.”

During his first campaign for president, he married Rachel Robards, the love of his life. Communication was slow, and Rachel’s final divorce papers had not arrived by the day she married Andrew. Opponents pushed this news to such a degree that Jackson blamed her untimely death on their ugly charges.

Jackson stood for the military. He knew the importance of security for the American people. He valued work, and he took on any challenge with all the zest he could muster. As our seventh president, his personality literally gave birth to the Democratic Party. A testament to that are the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners held around the nation to this day. It is said that he was the most consequential president between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Such is his legacy and reputation.

I wonder what Jackson would think if he were to stand back today and listen to the two Democratic candidates for the highest office in the land. He held for hard work. I can find so indication that he was in favor of the government supporting families, save the fact that he valued veterans’ widows and children. He had seen the toll war had taken on his men and their loved ones.

Research confirms that the Spoils System Jackson implemented fortified the party structure by providing federal appointments to ordinary working people. Gone were the days of filling vacancies with political cronies. Well, at least gone for his time in office….

By the time of Jackson’s presidency the voting franchise had been extended to virtually all white males and Jackson’s Democratic Party positioned itself as the heir of Jefferson and the party of the common man. To think that his ideals have been warped to include socialism and “free everything” at taxpayer expense is astonishing.

As the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed of Jackson’s America, “The people reign in the American political world as the Deity does in the universe. They are the cause and the aim of all things; everything comes from them, and everything is absorbed in them.”

Do not think for one moment that this column aims at just one political party. It does not. Going back to de Tocqueville’s wisdom and acumen in discerning the political climate in America, we seem to have forgotten that the power rests in the people. In the primary, the people spoke. Sadly, their judgment is lost on Republican elitists and they are bent out of shape — to put it mildly.

Take, for instance, the current posture of some self-acclaimed “conservatives” like Bill Crystal who are rumored to be considering a third party candidate this year. My, isn’t that special?

So, here we have it: one party with a duo of flawed candidates in terms of ideology and honesty and the other faced with the top dogs refusing to honor the will of the people.

Exit polls affirm that voters are unhappy with career politicians. Given a mandate with both the House and Senate, the elected men and women failed to do one thing promised. The few who did fight were nearly ostracized.

Failure breeds firing. Well, a political firing squad uses a ballot not a bullet. Odd. Two letters can make such a difference. What scares these electioneering snobs most is that someone is going to cut off their money train. The presumptive nominee owes them nothing, and that is precisely what they can expect — in terms of favors. He promises action, not goodies.

Flash back to the epic scene in the 1977 movie, “Network” when Peter Finch leans out a window and utters this now-famous quote, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That, in essence, mirrors the mood of today’s voters. Just change “I” to “we” and you see what is happening. The America of the 1940s and 1950s is gone. Those whom our parents viewed as the 1960s radicals are in positions of authority and seek to impose their aberrant lifestyles on all of us.

There is a meaning to right and wrong. There are limits to what people will accept when it comes to social issues and personal relationships. What people do in private is just that, private. The White House mandate to every American school and university or college that it opens bathroom access to choice and not bodily design crosses more than one line.

The recent assault of an 8-year-old girl by an adult male in a women’s restroom in Chicago serves as a light in this darkness. School administrators should decide what to do on a case-by-case basis. Such a directive puts every child at risk, no matter the age. Can you imagine an elementary school student fearing security in a restroom? And what about teenage girls in a locker room when a male identifying as female wants to come into the shower area? Egad. I would claim that we are living in “Twilight Zone,” but that would be a blatant insult to Rod Serling.

It’s about time Americans stiffened their backs, Democrats and Republicans alike. No party affiliation should top common sense values and love of country. I was taught there is an order to loyalty: God, country, and family.

Inch by inch, we witness America abandoning God, pandering to splinter groups, and serving up the farce of “social justice” (there is no such tenet). Using these current events as a backdrop, is there any wonder that those of us who can really think are worried? Country? It’s considered passé to laud one’s country. Criticizing it is more acceptable. Family? The disintegration of the American family fuels the very fractured society in which we live.

In the words of my grandparents, “It’s high time” to do something. Freedom is not free. Yet we see more and more of our freedoms bending to the whims of high officeholders and/or unelected bureaucrats who delight in regulating nearly every segment of our daily lives, at work and at home.

America rests on solid elements of free thought and action. More and more freedom is at risk today. Turn, once again, to movie dialogue — in this case, song lyrics. The singers are Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film, “The Sound of Music.” The year, 1965. The song: “Something good.”
Andrews as Maria von Trapp: “…somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good.
Andrews and Plummer as Captain von Trapp: “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.”
The scene ends with Maria and the Captain trading phrases, “something in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
What have you seen accomplished under the past three presidents? Anything of real substance reflecting the Founding Fathers?
“Nothing…” And that just affirms those old song lyrics, “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.” Nothing ever will, either.
When it comes to national security and economic growth, inaction is deadly. It will destroy — if we allow it to continue.
How does this relate? Perfectly. America rests on her youth, when the firm foundation for this unparalleled experiment in freedom claims its genesis. The basics of that “good” goes widely unheralded and ignored today. Patriotism is labeled old fashioned and rarely seen among many of our youth. To that end, our schools teach edited history for decades and those of us in our senior years see the results.
American youth takes center stage here. Why? Their world has never been threatened, at least not in their view. But their world is threatened, and now is the time to face those threats — both military and economic. Consider the choice. If our government had been run like a business, it would not be nearly $20 trillion in debt.
More than anything, we need management and talent. We have that today in one private citizen, who — like Ronald Reagan — was once a Democrat. Forget the donation history. Businesses routinely donate to both parties. It is standard operating procedure.
Consider that Donald Trump made the same leap that Ronald Reagan made. I wouldn’t give a fig for someone who does not learn over time and change opinions accordingly. Trump has employed more than 200,000 people over his career, and he values the many women in high positions among his companies — a fact roundly ignored by the mainstream media. His opponents, on the other hand, have hired staff members. What a contrast! I would take his business rating over television ratings any day of the week.
Do you have flaws? Undoubtedly. Does Donald Trump? Sure. He is human. But, in contrast to either candidate who might face him in the general election, Trump speaks in terms the general public understands. More importantly, he echoes the disgruntled conversations voiced around kitchen tables, water coolers, and lunch counters across America. He boils the nation’s problems down and calls them out for what they are — challenges we must face quickly and with strength and resolve. It’s time to fight. We need a fighter. The time is gone for polite words and no action.
Another warning: it took decades to get into this mess, and it could take decades to get out of it. The sad thing is that today’s media-driven society wants instant results. Leadership must convince the public that there is no quick fix. Like an athlete recovering from a severe injury, American economic recovery will not only take years, but it will also take calculated, deliberate actions held for the long term. We know what happens with inaction. Isn’t it time we saw the opposite? It’s time those in office placed country above self — a welcome change!
Remember, we’ve had nothing for a quarter century and it’s brought us only decline. Now, it’s time we had something planned to achieve a secure, safe tomorrow for generations unborn. More than any other time in our history, the future is in our hands. Think about it.
Columnist Note: Am I biased? Sure. Just as you are… I find I cannot keep silent any longer.