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Independence Day

July 3rd, 2015 18 Comments

American flag

 

There were not many Fourth of Julys when I was a child. Half of my first sixteen years were spent in different countries in Europe, where America’s Independence Day was a matter of low priority, if it was acknowledged at all. But the ones we did celebrate in America stand out as bright and vivid as the fireworks themselves.

We lived primarily in Washington, DC, a city whose site had been chosen with many advantages and potential goals in mind, but—like Rome—with no consideration for the natural marshiness of the land, with the result that during the summer in those pre-air-conditioned days, in spite of the beautiful architecture and general air of being a sleepy overgrown southern town, the whole place turned into a miserable and sweltering miasma of breathless misery and very busy mosquitoes.

My parents tried to get us out of the city as much as possible during those sultry sticky days, and I have only one recollection of an Independence Day being celebrated in the city:

Sparklers; firecrackers of various kinds and sizes doled out with appropriate admonitions to be careful; cherry bombs dispensed with far more strident warnings to be very careful, and not, under any circumstances, to light them and then put them into anything such as tin cans. It was a concept that almost certainly would never have occurred to us, but since it was suggested, my best friend, Rowland Kirks, and I scoured the trashcans (the old-fashioned galvanized metal variety that made such a racket and that did double duty during the winter months as receptacles for the hot ashes my father would rake out of our coal burning furnace morning and evening) in the alley for tin cans which we dutifully stuffed with cherry bombs to see what would happen. Why either of us have our fingers and eyes is a God-given miracle. And then that night, my father having no greater love of large crowds than I do, we went up onto the roof of our old, brick, three-story house, where we could see the fireworks display being put on by the government down at the National Mall.

One summer, one set of my godparents (he was the British Reuters correspondent, she an artist) had gone back to England and they turned their house over to us. It was out in the Virginia countryside, redolent with the scent of Paul’s omnipresent and always lit pipe, as well as the oils and thinners from Vivi’s studio, and it had—oh joy of joys!—a swimming pool where my patient father taught me how to swim. Again that Independence Day there were sparklers and firecrackers and that night my father amazed and thrilled us all with our own, personal, private display of fireworks, a host of Roman candles and similar rocketing devices, the whole affair made even more thrilling by the unspoken but tacit and universal fear that my father might manage to blow himself or possibly the whole area to smithereens. He was many wonderful things, my father, but practical mechanical skills of any variety were beyond his ken. If a lightbulb needed to be changed, he called an electrician.

But the most magical memories come from Vermont. (Oh, that long drive in a un-air-conditioned 1948 Ford packed to the gills with suitcases, my sister and I and our one-eyed Boxer hanging out the back windows, gasping for air, and then the arrival, in the dark mysterious cool of the northern mountains and a whole new world waiting to be discovered and explored.) Several summers in a row (Three? Four? I don’t remember now.) my father rented a primitive little farmhouse on a hillside overlooking the White River Valley and, hidden in the trees, the little town of Randolph. The house was morbidly named Wecumwego (I kid you not; the word was painted in fading black letters on a peeling white board over the entrance to the little attached barn) and was in need, even then, of extensive renovation, but it had a lawn out front where we could all sit in the long northern summer evenings and relish the fact of being slightly cold.

Mother would read out loud to us and while I know she read many things, in my mind she was always reading The Master of Ballantrae, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark and macabre novel about two brothers at odds with each other during the divisive dangers of the Jacobite uprising. It is a sprawling novel that takes place in many different parts of the world: Scotland, the high seas, the Carolinas, India, France, and—most importantly, in my memory—in the “wilderness” of New York. Wilderness could be interpreted to mean many things in that big state, but my mother was convinced that a certain amount of healthy terror was good for small children, and she told me emphatically that in this case, the wilderness was the Adirondack region of upstate New York, and on a trip to Lake Champlain she carefully pointed out the Adirondack mountains to me, even—as I recall it—pointing out the precise mountain where the climax of the story takes place.

And what a climax! That’s where the good and deserving brother digs up the body of his wicked brother, the Master, and finds that the equally wicked East Indian servant has taught the Master how to swallow his tongue and live without oxygen. Yes, yes, I know it’s an improbable fantasy adventure, and not Stevenson’s best work, but to a small boy sitting on a lawn in mountains right next door—I mean just over the hill, that one there!—from the Adirondacks, the Master’s undead body became a very real danger lurking in the dark of the barn overhang, behind the door in my bedroom, waiting with drawn sword in the hall to the bathroom.

But it was on that lawn where the most magical Independence Day celebrations took place. The little town of Randolph put on a parade every year (one year, my father entered us, our family, our dog, our car, in the parade to mock a recently passed tourist tax that Vermonters feared might keep tourists away; we tied suitcases and “antiques” to the roof of the car and sported a sign saying we would tolerate any tax to be in Vermont; we won third prize) and after dinner, after too many ears of corn and too much freshly-made strawberry shortcake, all of us over-tired and over-fed and happy, we would sit in the lengthening shadows until the fireworks display began in the valley below as if specifically ordered for our personal pleasure, and we knew, even if our father hadn’t told us as he always did, how lucky we were to live in the greatest nation on earth.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day.

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America’s Deeper Thinkers

June 30th, 2015 11 Comments

Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1

 

The Washington Post recently published an Op-Ed piece by a self-proclaimed gun owner and hunter named David Fellerath. The title of the article was, “I own guns. But I hate the NRA.”

This appears to be a growing trend among anti-gun news organizations: find a shill who can convincingly pass himself off as the kind of red-blooded, red meat-eating, rightwing, camo-wearing Neanderthal anti-gun types imagine us all to be, and then turn him loose to argue that guns are bad. The Huffington Post has even gone so far as to regularly publish a blog by a gentleman who calls himself Mike “the gun guy” Weisser, who uses his putative standing as a “gun guy” to decry guns and gun ownership.

Both Mike “the gun guy” Weisser and Mr. Fellerath use a variation of Shakespeare’s famous tactic from Julius Caesar, where Marc Antony tells the crowd, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him,” and then proceeds to limn the late Caesar as a saint.

They start off presenting themselves as gun owners and lovers just like every other gun owner, and then they roll up their sleeves and go to work, condemning, damning, slashing and burning. Both gentlemen, Mr. Weisser in particular, remind me of Lord Haw Haw during World War Two.

(Lord Haw Haw was the nickname of the Anglo/American traitor who did radio broadcasts for the Nazis. He was American-born, but he held British nationality, and had been raised in Ireland (actually, there were several Lord Haw Haws, but this was the primary one, and while his name is known, why bother keeping alive the name of someone so despicable?) and he used to do his radio broadcasts in a veddy upper-crust British accent, mocking the English for their losses, attempting to undermine English and Allied morale, and spreading Nazi propaganda. As one of the most contemptible and insidious tools of the Nazis, Lord Haw Haw was promptly and quite rightly hung immediately after the war.)

I’m not going to walk you though all of Mr. Fellerath’s (pick one) inaccuracies, “misspeaking,” or outright lies, because it would involve walking you through lengthy numerical statistical information and your eyes would glaze over, but he did say one thing that really caught my attention and started me thinking. Toward the end of his article he wrote:

“Rather than being our American birthright, gun ownership should be a privilege earned after thorough examination and training, like driving a car. But in 21st-century America, arms-bearing is an inalienable right, thanks to 27 anachronistic words of a constitution ratified in an 18th-century world of slow-loading muskets.”

Wow. Mr. Fellerath, you are so close! The problem is you haven’t taken it far enough and you haven’t started in the right place. With your gracious permission, I would like to respectfully and modestly propose that we start with the first amendment:

Instead of being our American birthright, freedom of speech and freedom of the press should both be privileges earned after thorough examination and training, like driving a car.

Think what this would accomplish! For one very fundamental thing, we might once more regain some semblance of proper English usage. No more semi-literate news anchors on television butchering subject-verb agreement (there is lots of examples I could give you); no more confusing the use of “less” and “fewer,” (which would give us less newscasters); no more fragmentary sentences in headlines (“But I hate the NRA”).

More importantly, it would mean our poor leaders elected officials wouldn’t have to put up with troublesome and awkward questions from members of the press, let alone from private citizens; with no questions allowed except from trained and qualified members of an approved press corps, just think how much they could get done!

But most importantly, in the printed media, it would mean fewer (or less, if you like today’s journalism) damn fools expressing their opinions and prejudices as calcified fact.

Unfortunately, freedom of speech is still an unalienable right, thanks to ten anachronistic words (out of forty-five) of a constitution ratified in an 18th century world without the internet or any other troublesome form of mass communication.

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Desert Bighorn

June 29th, 2015 9 Comments

Desert bighorn

 

Driving back from Arizona on the I-40, across the Mojave desert in the middle of a heatwave (109-degrees by my truck thermometer), I was stunned to see my first ever desert bighorn close to the highway. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera with me, but he looked very much like the one pictured above, and he was standing in pretty much the same position, still as a stone carving, watching cars go by.

The desert bighorn (Ovis Canadensis nelsoni) is a marvel of adaptive evolution, capable of living in areas where a lizard would be hard-pressed to survive, and making do with unbelievably small amounts of water, or with no water at all for long periods of time. From what I have read, their bodies are able to adapt to the great temperature extremes of the desert (it can be almost as cold in the winter as it is hot in the summer) by actually fluctuating several degrees. Certainly, it is their ability to live in areas where predators cannot that has helped them endure, even if only in small numbers.

There were several things that struck me as odd about my sighting.

First, obviously, was the fact that he was car-watching so close to the highway.

Second, while I’m not going to get too specific about where I saw him, it was an area where, according to the California Department of Fish and Game, desert bighorn are even more few and far between than they are in other parts of the desert, and there aren’t many of them anywhere, the low numbers being spread out over vast expanses of territory.

Gemsbok

 

Third, given that water in the Mojave desert is scarcer than an honest politician in Washington, and given that the state is in the throes of the worst drought in modern times, what on earth was he doing in a part of the desert noted for having even less water than the rest of that barren moonscape? Many years ago I was on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, an area either about five-hundred miles long, or one-thousand miles long (depending on who is doing the defining) where there is virtually no water whatsoever, so picture my confusion one morning when I stumbled across the tracks of a large antelope. I did some inquiring and was told by several knowledgeable people that there is a subspecies of the gemsbok (above) that is able to survive by inhaling moisture from the coastal fog that—occasionally—blows in off the ocean at night. That may sound incredible to you, but consider this: when I left my host’s home in Arizona, over two-thousand feet higher in elevation, the humidity was exactly zero, and his part of Arizona is a tropical rain forest compared to that part of the Mojave. What water? What moisture? How?

And finally, one of the ways desert bighorn survive the intense heat is to bed down in the shade (think caves and rock overhangs) by day, so what was he doing standing on a barren rock pile at high noon in a heatwave? The local village idiot? Suffering from delusions caused by the intense heat? Trying to hitch a ride?

If anybody has any knowledge, please share it.

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Charleston as Paradigm

June 21st, 2015 19 Comments

AME church

 

As it did everyone else, the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina left me sick to my stomach. So, equally, did the predictable, poorly-timed, shrill and tasteless politicizing that followed, most notably and most dishonestly by our Commander-in-Chief, who stated that such horrors only happen in America and then only because of our lax gun laws, conveniently forgetting that there are already redundant laws in place that didn’t do a damn thing to stop that evil, racist lunatic; also forgetting the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris that left twelve dead and eleven wounded and another five dead and eleven wounded again the next day; or the Norway shooting in 2011 that left sixty-nine dead by gun and another eight by bomb; or the recent multiple mass shootings in Finland, or Azerbaijan, or Germany, or…

Oh, never mind.

Instead, let’s concentrate on the good that came out of this horror. I have never seen such dignity, grace, restraint, and eloquence, as that shown by the people of the city of Charleston generally, and by the families of the victims in particular. All the natural and completely understandable reactions one might have expected, that I, for one, might have given vent to under those circumstances, such as rage, desire for revenge, hatred, none of those were shown or expressed. Instead, there was only love and forgiveness. If this is an example of the kind of Christianity taught at the AME, we should all join that church. God bless them all for setting such a fine example for those of us who aren’t as good. May God bless the rest of us with equal dignity and grace.

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CNN’s View of the Police

June 15th, 2015 12 Comments

Fredricka Whitfield

 

What is going on with CNN and the police departments across this country?

After the Michael Brown shooting in Fergusson, Missouri, CNN hosts Sally Kohn, Margaret Hoover, Sunny Hostin, and Mel Robbins all expressed support for the “protestors” (looters and thugs, is how I would have characterized them), holding up their hands in a “hands-up-don’t-shoot” solidarity gesture, and pontificating about police “overreach.” I don’t know how or when defending your life against a three-hundred-pound thug became overreach, but that was how they described it.

During the Baltimore riots, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin appeared to suggest that military veterans who become police officers are part of the problem, implying that PTSD leaves them unfit for public service.

During the same riots, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, on air, told a young black “protestor” to “…be careful, because you know how they [the police] are…” as if the police should somehow have been even more restrained than they were in Baltimore.

Then, CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill expressed the following opinion: “There shouldn’t be calm tonight. Black people are dying in the streets. They’ve been dying in the streets for months, years, decades, centuries. I think there can be resistance to oppression and when resistance occurs, you can’t circumscribe resistance… I’m not calling these people rioters. I’m calling these uprisings and I think it’s an important distinction to make… What I’m saying is we can’t pathologize [sic] people who, after decades and centuries of police terrorism, have decided to respond in this way…” Mr. Hill went on at a later date to describe the police as, “an occupying force in the hood.”

Now consider, specifically, CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield’s assessment of the man who opened fire on a Dallas police station from an armored vehicle booby-trapped with pipe bombs. Instead of categorizing that individual as a rabid coyote, she called him, “brave and courageous.” She later declined to apologize, only tersely saying that she, “misspoke.”

Indeed.

It may be a popular pastime for some to attack the police and highlight every case of bad while ignoring the countless daily incidences of courage and kindness and self-sacrifice, but when it sinks down into praising would-be cop-killers, I lose my patience.

To hell with CNN. To hell, specifically, with Fredricka Whitfield.

 

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Lemonade Stands, Forsooth!

June 12th, 2015 11 Comments

lemonade stand

 

The following headline from the Huffington Post Crime Page caught my eye:

“Texas Police Officers Shut Down Girls’ Lemonade Stand Because They Didn’t Have A Permit.”

Well, thank goodness! It’s about time law enforcement and government agencies all across this nation start cracking down on these cunning and devious little criminals who throw up their clandestine lemonade stands in clear violation of dozens of federal, state and local laws. The girls in Texas “claim” they just wanted to make enough money to take their dad to a water park for Father’s Day, but God only knows how much money they could have raked in, tax free.

Do you think those sneaky little girls had the slightest intention of paying federal income tax or Texas income tax? Of course not!

In Texas, it’s common knowledge you have to have a “Peddler’s Permit,” but had those little girls bothered to get one? Don’t make me laugh.

What about the license from the County Health Department as required by law? The girls “claimed” they didn’t even know about that.

What about federal health laws, or OSHA regulations? Do you imagine for one minute those girls had conformed with those federal laws? Please, give me a break.

And now the CDC will probably have to track down all the people who actually purchased and consumed dangerous lemonade from that stand and monitor those people for any health risks.

By God, prison time isn’t any too good for those criminals and I hope the IRS, the state of Texas, and the county of Rusk will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Maybe there is a local town ordinance that can be brought into play here as well. If not, let’s pass some more laws and get those little criminals locked up.

Do they still have the death penalty in Texas?

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At the Movies: Going in Style

June 11th, 2015 7 Comments

Art Carney

 

Certain actors were—and a few still are, thank God—so gifted that just their names on the marquee is enough to make you park your car and pull out your wallet. Or, in the case of old movies on TCM, turn off the phones, lock the doors, and curl up on the sofa with your wife and dogs and something wet in your hand.

Art Carney was one of those.

In the highly likely event that you are too young to know who Art Carney was, I will remind you that he was probably best known, and will almost certainly be best remembered for his role as Ed Norton (“Norton! You are a mental case!”) on the Jackie Gleason television comedy, The Honeymooners. And that’s not a bad thing: The Honeymooners was one of those sitcoms from the golden age of television, with scripts so charmingly zany, characters so real, and performances so brilliant, that they are as much fun to watch now, sixty years later, as they were back then. And they will still be delicious sixty years from now, which is proof of the timelessness of the best theatrical art, from Aeschylus to Downton Abbey, no matter whether it’s comedy or drama: if the playwright has caught something real, the work will endure.

Art Carney Honeymooners

But Art Carney was one of those geniuses capable of anything. Contrast his wacky, over-the-top, plastic, slapstick work as Ed Norton with his performance as the aging detective in The Late Show, or his Academy Award-winning performance in Harry and Tonto (a performance that won him the award over such minor talents as Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson). Very, very few actors are capable of that kind of range. (Jack Lemmon leaps to mind.)

So when Darleen told me Going in Style, (1979) was going to be on TCM, we got serious about comedy.

The plot, such as it is, is about three very elderly retired men, living off their meager social security checks and sharing a modest apartment, fighting off terminal boredom as they wait for God. In an effort to keep from dying of boredom, and to help out the sole relative any of them has (Art Carney’s nephew, played by the late, great Charles Hallahan), they decide to rob a bank. And we’re off to the races.

The other two retirees are George Burns and Lee Strasberg, and when the three of them are together, you are watching almost two hundred years of theatrical experience and genius honed to dry, deadpan perfection.

I don’t want to give anything away, because you really should watch this gem, but like all the best comedy, it has a bittersweet quality that takes you from laughter to tears and happily back again.

There is one scene, in Central Park, when the three old friends walk past a vaguely Jamaican street band, all bongos and congas and steel drums, and Art Carney starts to dance, to the delight of the band, the delight of his friends, the delight of casual onlookers, and to the infinite delight of the movie-goer. That one scene, by itself, is reason enough to watch Going in Style. As Darleen put it, while watching that dance, “With those three guys you don’t need a script. Just turn the camera on and let them go to town.”

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A Modest Proposal to Save My Tax Dollars

June 3rd, 2015 10 Comments

California state seal

 

Darleen brought the following news item to my attention:

“As a result of too many high profile drunken driver arrests involving California legislators, state senate officials have hired designated driving employees to drive home inebriated lawmakers.

“Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León refused to discuss details of the program.  ‘We’re not going to provide comment, because it’s a security issue,’ his spokesman, Anthony Reyes, said.

“The Sacramento Bee reported that four lawmakers in the past five years have been accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“Known as ‘special services assistants,’ the designated drivers work in the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office and are responsible for providing “ground transportation for Senate members.”

“The Bee reported that the two employees—a retired Assembly sergeant-at-arms and a retiree from the Department of General Services—are paid $2,532 per month, of course at taxpayer expense.

“A man who turned down the position said that the job description mandated that he work from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. to drive senators home ‘just if they were drinking too much…  and to pick them up and take them home.’

“One legislative chief of staff told the Bee that the service is intended to prevent drunken driving by legislators.

“State senators are given a small plastic card showing the ‘Sacramento 24 hour transportation’ phone number. The card offers a stylish picture displaying a ‘California State Senate’ banner across the top and a photo of the Capitol dome in the background. ‘In case of an emergency’—read extra loaded and designated drivers are already occupied with their esteemed colleagues—senators can call Senate’s Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Debbie Manning, who’s direct number appears on the card.

“The Sacramento Bee reported the following list of lawmakers that did not call for driving assistance after drinking excessively, but wish that they had:

“State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, arrested last August near the Capitol on suspicion of driving under the influence. Stopped by police around 2:30 a.m. for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, he blew a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a “wet reckless” charge.

“Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, was found not guilty of driving under the influence after a 2012 trial in Contra Costa County ended in a hung jury.

“Then-Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach, pleaded no contest to drunken driving charges in 2011 after he was spotted driving erratically in his state-issued vehicle in Sacramento.

“Then-Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, pleaded no contest to drunken driving charges in 2010 and was sentenced to two days in jail and three years’ probation.”

I kid you not. In case this sounds too much like a Saturday Night Live! skit, here is a link

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/05/30/california-hires-employees-to-drive-drunk-senators-home-at-taxpayer-expense/

to just one of multiple news agencies that reported this story.

But wait! I have a better idea! Instead of using my tax dollars to pay for designated drivers, how about we just throw the sons of bitches in jail? I know what you’re going to say: that jail terms for each state senator will cost the taxpayer more than $2,532 a month. But you’re wrong, because if they’re in jail, they can’t do any mischief on the senate floor, mischief such as spending my money on self-serving, cockamamie schemes to cover up for their stupidity, incompetence, lack of discipline, arrogance, and complete disregard for the people of the state they’re supposed to represent.

Another, cheaper alternative would be to throw the sons of bitches out of office.

Just a thought.

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The Annals of Country Life: Unexpected Visitor Division

June 2nd, 2015 12 Comments

Snake 005 (Small)

When you live in the country, you have to get used to people dropping by unexpectedly for a visit and a cup of coffee.

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Memorial Day: Dulce et Decorum Est

May 24th, 2015 13 Comments

Flanders fields

 

Memorial Day weekend. A time to reflect on the men and women who serve our country and those who served before them. A time to honor them in ways that are so simple and so easy: tending a grave, attending a parade, little things.

Unfortunately, Darleen came down with the bubonic plague or the creeping crud or something, so we were more or less housebound. Our only sortie was when I drove her into town to pick up some meds, where we made a contribution to our local VFW and were each given a small artificial red poppy.

Such a little thing, yet it brought back memories of my father taking the family to one of the famed cemeteries now collectively known as Flanders Fields after the famous poem by Canadian poet John McCrae:

           In Flanders fields the poppies blow

          Between the crosses, row on row

                    That mark our place; and in the sky

                    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

          Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

          We are the Dead. Short days ago

          We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

          Loved and were loved, and now we lie

                    In Flanders fields.

 

          Take up our quarrel with the foe:

          To you from failing hands we throw

                    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

                    If ye break the faith with us who die

          We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

                    In Flanders fields.

It was almost sixty years ago, so I no longer remember which World War One battlefield it was that lingers in my memory from that long ago trip—Ypres, Passchendaele, another—but the visual memory remains, brought back by an artificial poppy.

I’m very grateful to my parents, both of whom served in World War Two, for taking me to so many places and exposing me to so many different aspects of man’s most memorable achievements, from Roman aqueducts still in use over two thousand years after they were built, and the glorious life-affirming beauty of the best of man in the form of art from the caves of Lascaux to van Gogh, to the darker, destructive side represented by those battlefields and others my father knew so much about. I can still hear his voice explaining to a small boy: “This is where Wellington sat his horse. This is where the German tanks… This is where General Patton…” I hear too my mother’s voice giving us her sometimes accurate, but always colorful historical accounts of this Civil War battle or the siege of that castle by… Most, and the best, of the education I have was never learned in any classroom.

I wonder what my parents would make of the world’s current troubles in the form of ISIS and radical Islam. I’ve been reading a lot of history lately, including an account of the causes of perhaps the most ridiculously unnecessary war of all time, World War One (The War that Ended Peace, the prize-winning account by Margaret MacMillan), the war of Flanders fields and Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and so many others, and it’s hard to make an unequivocal argument in favor of war, any war. Certainly World War One represented more destruction, more loss of life, for less reason than perhaps any other war in the bloody history of man, but all wars, seen through the excellent bifocals of hindsight, seem so unnecessary, so avoidable. And yet here we sit again, watching the bloody rise of maniacal monsters, and it will all play out again, one way or the other, and there will be more fields, with more crosses, and more poppies.

Perhaps the shortest poem to come out of that most destructive and unnecessary war that inspired so much great poetry was by the great Rudyard Kipling. Kipling, like so many others of that and every generation, actively encouraged his son John to fight for… For what? God and country? England’s honor? A patch of earth? What? It still boggles the mind that World War One should ever have taken place. But John joined the Irish Guards and was killed in the Battle of Loos at the age of eighteen. In his grief, Rudyard Kipling wrote the following couplet:

          If any question why we died,

          Tell them, because our fathers lied.

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