Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts on The War

In watching "The War" on PBS (continuing tonight, don't miss it), I'm struck by both the similarities and the differences to today's war in the Middle East.

The similarities are the bonding of the fighting men and women; the horrors of war that they all face daily; the worry and fear of the families for their loved ones in harm's way; and the necessity of the conflict to protect our way of living in freedom.

The differences between the two wars are both more numerous and more ominous.

If a major newspaper during WWII had published details of a top secret government surveillance program, it could not possibly have survived the American public's wrath. Censorship of the news was accepted as a common sense requirement to protect American lives rather than a violation of our "rights." (The "right" to get Americans killed deserves quotation marks, in my opinion.)

In WWII, everyone sacrificed for the success of the war. Food and clothing were rationed, many consumer items were unavailable, American citizens actively sought ways to volunteer and contribute in order to support the troops through to victory. Today, half of Congress is invested in our defeat--preferably before the next election.

Unlike today's whiners, who insist that fighting the enemy in Iraq is completely different than fighting the same enemy in Afghanistan, Americans in the 1940s didn't question fighting the geographically and politically disparate powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Everyone seemed to understand that it was all connected in one global war against tyranny. No one called it "Roosevelt's war."

The photos in this post are from family archives. My uncle enlisted in the Navy, at age seventeen, and came home to New York City on furlough one winter. The "tomato" with him is his big sister--my mother. Mom also appears in the other photo, the leggy gal who visited San Diego in 1942 with her girlfriend, before said friend's little brother shipped out with the Marines. I spoke with my mother this weekend and asked her if she was watching "The War." Yes, she exclaimed, and said "I am reliving my life" because of it.

What will documentary films many decades hence have to say about how America rose to the current challenge? When I think of the similarities of the war against Islamic Fascism to WWII, I am encouraged. But when I think of the differences, and how they seem to grow, I can't help but be worried.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The War

If you're not watching Ken Burns' epic documentary on PBS, "The War," you should be.

If you have been watching, undoubtedly you're as captivated by its images as I am.

"The War" is what I like to call "deep history." It is difficult to imagine so much evil happening simultaneously, involving so many millions of people, all across the globe. It is fascinating to listen to senior Americans, so eloquent as they reminisce, describing in vivid detail the daily life and dramatic moments of that time.

It is mind-boggling to realize that many of them were mere teenagers, fighting through some of the most brutal and extensive carnage human history has ever witnessed, each of them forever scarred by the loss of friends and family in battle.

The program has come under criticism for failing to adequately cover Hispanic and Native American servicemen. This, I find petty; the enormous scope of World War II renders impossible the task of representing each and every ethnic group. Each episode airs a disclaimer at the very beginning, noting that WWII was fought in thousands of places and no one story can encompass all of it. What more can be done to satisfy the noisemakers, I don't know.

Ken Burns consistently presents us with outstanding film chronicles of our country's history--The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and now this masterpiece, The War. In my opinion, he's the best documentary maker America has.

I'll say it again: if you aren't watching The War, you should be. It's the least a grateful nation can do.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Holy Houseguest

A friend sent me a copy of Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship, with a note saying she thought I "might like it."

Good guess, Denise; I loved it.

I found the premise imaginative and intriguing--walking into your living room and finding a very modern-day Blessed Mother standing there, rolling luggage in tow. Author Diane Schoemperlen first draws the reader into the narrator's quiet, solitary life through the small, mundane details of everday existence. Then, after Mary's arrival for a week's visit, the two women explore questions of faith and philosophy alongside such basic chores as doing laundry, cooking, and housecleaning.

Schoemperlen does a stellar job of interweaving the simple practicalities of life with profound and timeless mysteries, often with a deft hint of humor. I could easily relate to her narrator, both as a writer and as a woman living alone with her private assortment of doubts and regrets.

Books that educate and make me think while absorbing and entertaining me always earn a special slot on my personal all-time bestseller list. Within the first few chapters, Our Lady of the Lost and Found jumped into the top tier. Which is, after all, where the Blessed Mother belongs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Searching for News

It frightens me to think how little I would know about what's happening in the world if I didn't catch snippets of Hugh Hewitt's radio show on the short drive home from work.

This evening, I switched on the car radio to hear Hugh talking about an article from Jane's Defence, a global military news periodical. Having worked in the defense (we use an "s" in this country) industry for many years, I'm familiar with Jane's and the name captured my attention.

I was not prepared to hear what followed: A story about an explosion involving a missile, sarin nerve gas, dead engineers and military, Iran, and Syria. As Bugs Bunny would've said, "Yipes!"

When I got home, I "googled" the item, just to check other coverage. The Jerusalem Post carried the story, as did this link. No fan of television newscasts, tonight I watched the evening network news out of curiousity. Would the incident even be mentioned?

Am I delusional? I often feel that MSM is living in an alternate universe, with no connection to what is happening in the real world. Tonight was one of those times.

Let's see. We started off with a happy report about the stock market soaring over a predicted change in interest rates. So far, so good. Next, a minute or two on the Blackwater contractors and civilian casualties in the Iraq war. The narration moved quickly to the latest on a psychopathic murderer who is now up on assorted felony charges. Deemed worthy of several precious minutes of coverage, included in this nothing story was a detailed photo of the killer's jail cell. No doubt that's highly valuable information for all viewers.

Coverage moved on again, this time to the traffic jams that plague our national highways, then to the obligatory daily coverage of our shrinking polar cap. The half hour finished with a fluff piece about the shortage of champagne due to demand from new markets like Beijing.

Not a peep about Iran, or Syria. Or sarin nerve gas. Or explosions, missiles, death tolls. Nothing to see here, folks, just keep moving.

I'll keep moving, all right. Away from the television set. TV's not a safe place to get one's news these dangerous days. In fact, I'm thinking about getting a subscription to The Jerusalem Post.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Leadership Question

My son asked me recently who I will vote for in the presidential election next year. This question led to an interesting discussion.

I've doggedly avoided any mention of next year's political race, since I'm already weary of the saturation of coverage. But as to the question of how I'll cast my vote, at this point, I don't know. As I address my criteria for a Commander-in-Chief, in view of current events, I must answer with negatives:

  • I won't vote for anyone who, by word or deed, demoralizes our troops.
  • I won't vote for anyone who, by word or deed, encourages our enemies.
  • I won't vote for anyone who calls the commanding general of our armed forces a liar--no matter how elegantly the accusation is phrased.
  • I won't vote for anyone whose agenda is angling for a U.S. defeat.
  • I won't vote for anyone who disparages good news from our field of battle.
  • I won't vote for anyone who rejoices in bad news from the same.

I'm not on fire about any of the current crop of potential candidates. In my opinion, they all have issues that will hamper their efforts to win. It remains to be seen whose name will be next to my ink-filled circle come November 2008. But already, I know whose names I've eliminated from my private ballot.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
The summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember
The fir-trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Left vs. Our Troops

There were no surprises, just the very predictable embarrassments during General Petraeus' report to Congress.

Hugh Hewitt's blog has full coverage, and it isn't pretty. dubbed the General "Betray us" in a splashy New York Times ad--so very fourth grade. The ad also asserted that the General is "cooking the books for the White House." Now there's freedom of speech in action, all right.

Code Pink comported itself with its customary grace and courtesy during the General's report. There were the usual assortment of stupid questions from Congress, but none surpassed Rep. Loretta Sanchez's inane questions about a poll in Iraq. Not only did she articulate like a bit player out of "Legally Blonde," she interrupted Ambassador Crocker's attempt to answer several times and coyly accused Gen. Petraeus of being a liar.

No wonder Al Qaeda thinks we're lightweights. Our elected leaders are publicly rude and insulting to both our military commander and ambassador and then get to wave, smile, and be interviewed on cable TV afterward.

The sum total of today's political circus is, as my mother would say, "a horrification."

Battle lines are sharply drawn, and they're not in Iraq. The two sides to this war are right here at home. One side wants our troops to win and will support the sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal for our country's safety. The other side is completely invested in our defeat and humiliation in the Middle East and seemingly will stop at nothing to ensure that negative outcome.

I know which side is right, and it's not the left. It makes my blood run cold to acknowledge today's evidence, but the left is as devoted to our total loss as is Al Qaeda.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

From the Weak Horse's Mouth

When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse
~ Osama bin Laden, 2001

I've linked the full text of the translation of Osama bin Laden's most recent publicized message, via the BBC. In our pseudo-reality world of MSM soundbites, reading the whole message is the only way to understand what is being communicated.

It's particularly telling when OBL actually states that Al Qaeda does "not have anything to lose." No kidding. Living under the iron heel of Islamic fascism isn't much of a life.

He also tells us that "Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished, God willing." Further on, we learn that he will "seek revenge forever."

Very conciliatory. Let's recap: we're supposed to leave Iraq, come home meekly, and wait for the promised Islamic hell to once again be unleashed upon our country? I suppose, with the way Congress has been behaving, OBL does have grounds to suspect us of actually being that stupid.

The only thing giving bin Laden any power whatsoever is our dissenting political factions at home. If we would unite, as we did in the wake of September 11, 2001, we could shorten this war by decades. If you read between the lines of OBL's message, you can see empty bravado. He has been living in hiding for six years now, with no end in sight. There is no question that the U.S.A. is the stronger horse.

The true question is, will we ever get out of our own way and choose to pull ahead?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

At What Price Politics?

There's some interesting commentary about Schumer's disgusting remarks over at Blackfive. But it's hard to know how to respond to something so repulsive as defaming our troops.

Servicemen and women are fighting, bleeding, and dying so that the sorry likes of Schumer can blast them from the comfort of his air-conditioned stage on the Senate floor. Politics is one thing; dissing our armed forces is quite another. While Schumer casually negates their hard effort and good work, the troops--with their very lives--ensure that he is free to continue slamming them. Nice deal for the oh-so-classy senator. Not much reward for our troops (who don't ask for much to begin with), but they're too busy kicking Al Qaeda's butt to be able to respond to such nonsense.

In honor of our military men and women in the Middle East, I've signed the "Stand by the Mission" petition at Victory Caucus and sincerely hope you will consider doing the same. It's especially important for everyday Americans to stand by our troops now. The Senate certainly seems otherwise occupied lately.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Learning Alone

This weekend, had my husband Pete lived, we would have been married for 35 years.

Considering that I remember the details of our wedding day as though it happened last week, that is a mind-boggling stretch of time. By the time I was the current age of my son, who is my younger child, I had had both of my children. In the all-encompassing activity of raising a family and earning a living, the decades evaporated with startling speed. As Wordsworth put it so well,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers

Time is now inching towards the two-year mark since Pete’s death. I’ve learned to do many things on my own that I used to rely solely upon him to do. I know the schedule for curbside recycling pickup. I can mow the yard, find tools in the garage, fix a broken gate latch. I schedule appliance repairs, drive round-trip hundreds of miles, and affix the new DMV registration to my license plate. Although these may seem like trifling tasks, they are everyday things I have never done before. In doing them, there is a certain sense of progress in surmounting life’s inevitable sorrows. In this fact, there is something strangely comforting.

One thing I have not mastered is missing Pete’s counsel in my day-to-day life issues. He could neutralize my angst as no other person on the planet, excepting perhaps my long-gone father. I can usually figure out what Pete would have said to me in any given problematic situation. Imaginary conversations that I hold with him are better than none, but they are far from the reality of actually unloading my troubles to him and hearing his insightful responses.

Just a few days before he died, Pete told me with calm certitude, “You’ll be okay. You can take care of anything.” That remains to be seen. But, thus far, it is true that I am managing my life alone.

Yet I know I will always mourn the loss of my best friend, wisest advisor, and most loyal supporter. In this fact, too, there is something strangely comforting.