Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. The holiday once known as Decoration Day commemorates the men and women who perished under the flag of this country, fighting for what sets our America apart: the freedom to live as we please.

Holiday is a contraction of holy and day; the word originally referred only to special religious days. Here in the U.S. of A. “holiday” means any special day off work or school instead of a normal day off work or school.

The Uniform Holidays Bill which gave us some 38 or 50 Monday shopaholidays moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. Today is May 29. Salute. Proudly.

Honoring Americans in Uniform

Lest we forget, the Americans we honor did not “give their lives.” They did not merely perish. They did not just cease living, check out, croak, depart, drop, expire, kick off. kick the bucket, pass away or pass on, pop off, or bite the dust. Their lives were taken from them by force on battlefields around the world. They were killed. Whether you believe they died with honor, whether you believe our cause just, died they did.

Today is not a “free” day off work or school. Today is not the big sale day at the Dollar Store. Today is a day of Honor.

2,367 U.S. service men and women have died in Afghanistan as of May 19. 4,424 U.S. men and women died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And 134 U.S. men and women have died as the U.S. has introduced “small numbers” of special-operators in the fight against ISIS. Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed in an operation targeting Al-Shabab militants in Somalia this month. They died for thee and for me.

Rolling Stone reported that the U.S. was at war for the entire 2,921 days of the Obama Administration. That’s more days at war than under Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush or any other president. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, today is the 5,749th day at war. Despite every politician’s promises, we are still at war.

More than 666,000 Battle Deaths have occurred since the U.S. was founded.

“All persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”

The American flag today should first be raised to the top of the flagpole for a moment, then lowered to the half-staff position where it will remain until Noon. The flag should be raised to the peak at Noon for the remainder of Memorial Day.

There are those in this country who would use today to legislate the man out of the fight. They can do that but the men and women we honor today knew you cannot legislate the fight out of the man. They have fought and they have died to protect us from those who would kill us. And perhaps to protect us from those who would sell out our birthright.

There is no end to the mutts who would kill our men and women in uniform even faster than they would kill their own. If I had but one wish granted on this day, I wish not another soldier dies. Ever. But die they did around the world again this year and die they will. For us. For me.

Because those men and women died, I get to write these words again this year. And you get to read them. You get to rail about Islam or Presbyterianism or Frisbeeism without fear of the government. And I get to read it. Please pause and reflect as you go to a concert, stop at an artist’s studio, grill a burger, or simply read a book in the sunshine the price we pay to keep our right to do those things. Remember a soldier who died in combat today. Thank a living soldier today. And then do it again tomorrow.


Editor’s Note: This column is slightly updated from one that first appeared in 2008.

 

Everything Is New Again!

I walk a couple of miles around South Puffin most mornings but yesterday was special.

“It’s a new year” and change was in the air. I expected transformation. I’d greet new people dressed in finery coming out of brand new homes. They would have handsome gardens and all their children would be above average.

It came as a surprise that I recognized every single house on my street. Every one.

Pundits insist on parsing “Make America Great Again” so it means something bad. In fact, on Face the Nation Sunday morning, the consensus was that the slogan specifically evokes racism and anti-feminism and classism and probably fascism.
Why is it so hard to look forward?
David Frum was so negative that he is the absolute embodiment of why I don’t read the Atlantic. He’s a “neoconservative” political commentator and senior editor at the Atlantic. A speech writer for Bush 43, he later wrote the first insider book about the Bush presidency. On Face the Nation, Mr. Frum called the current “crisis of democracy” something that hasn’t been seen since World War II. He was so virulently, consistently negative about Mr. Trump and a Trump presidency that even the Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg called him on his negativity.

The very people who wailed and gnashed their teeth over the Bush Administration are trotting out a similar litany again. Maybe one reason we need to make America great again is because these negative nellies are so afraid of change.

Here are some of the stories I’m hearing for 2017:

The president-elect doesn’t listen to anybody else.
Translation: “We need a president who will go along with the status quo.”
Reality: Mr. Trump tallied 1.4 million more votes than Ms. Clinton did in 49 states (only her huge disparity in California gave her a lead in the popular vote). He carried 32 states overall. She carried 18 and the D.C. He carried about 82% of all U.S. counties; she got the other 18%. That was a call for a significant shift. Voters deliberately chose a man who promised not to listen to the politicians.
The hope: Americans are already more hopeful that the country will be better in 2017 than it was in 2016 under Mr. Obama, according to a new AP-Times Square Alliance poll. People are looking forward to having more jobs and more money to spend.

The new administration has no substantive policies.
Translation: “We need to continue the Obama policies.”
Reality: The new mandate is to repair the damage done by years of political skulduggery on both sides of the aisle. More people than ever before fear and hate the federal government.
The hope: New policies will pare down every Federal department; reform the regulatory code; strengthen the U.S. military to discourage expansion by China, Russia, and terrorists; revamp all U.S. healthcare from the ground up and transform the VA; change the EPA from a fascist front to an environmental steward; establish school choice; create a working energy policy; do real science on climate matters; rewrite the 74,608-page federal tax code; and make us proud of our elected government.

The president-elect and most of the new administration have no political experience.
Translation: “We need a president who will go along with the expansion of big government.”
Reality: For more than a century, all “first world” countries have been rife with interest groups driving bigger government. The fundamental checks on such growth such as our allegiance to local control and a Constitution that limits the government’s role in economic life have been dissolved by Democrats and Republicans alike. Thank goodness that We the Overtaxed People finally elected someone with no political experience!
The hope: The classical liberal hopes that it may still be possible to stem the growth and return the “power to the people.”

The president-elect is morally outrageous!
Translation: “We need a president who is kind to women like Bill Clinton, or FDR, or LBJ, or Grover Cleveland, or James Buchanan.”
Reality: There’s no excuse for bad manners or illegal behavior but every recent election shows we not only accept it but approve of it from “good” politicians (the ones who confirm their supporters’ bias).
The hope: How about a resolution that we punish crimes and eliminate the Victorian prurience?

The president-elect is a rapacious businessman or a terrible financial manager. Or both!
Translation: “We need a president who knows nothing about business.”
Reality: We haven’t elected many politicians who have ever built anything whether it’s a house, a race car, a rocket ship, or a stent. Look where we are now.
The hope: This country was founded on citizen legislators and public servants. Maybe, just maybe, we can reinvigorate the idea of finding successful, capable people in other fields to “lend” their expertise to the government for a little while and then return to real life.

All the new appointments hate [science | women | foreign policy | the EPA | education | Obamacare].
Translation: “The new appointments will throw away all our hard-gains in newspaper science, affirmative action, and ‘free’ perpetual care.”
Reality: Newspaper science isn’t real. Fake trophies punish real accomplishment. And TANSTAAFL.
The hope: We can move the 46.3 million people in the labor force who were actually unemployed into productive jobs. We will value truth over political correctness and doublespeak. And we will task NASA to collect earthly data and return to the stars.

Plenty of people are trying to rewrite history right now but our best chance is to write a better story from today onward.

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

The suburban town of Bethlehem, New York had a “Merry Christmas” sign and a “Happy Hanukkah” sign removed from the busiest intersection in town.

Hello?

Grinches in the town named for the birthplace of Jesus banned religious holiday signs so they “wouldn’t violate any laws or distract drivers.”

There’s more. This year, the town of Menominee, Michigan, took down the Nativity scene in their city park — a long-standing Christmas tradition — after “Freedom From Religion Foundation” complaints.

I so wish we could find three wise men and a camel. Heck, I’d settle for a smart camel.


christmas bird

Every radio station has defaulted to Christmas music. I’m surprised we haven’t lost that, too. I don’t particularly like Christmas music but my radio has an off switch. I don’t have to listen to it if I don’t want to.

I was raised in a family that was Quaker on one side, Presbyterian on the other. I may not be as organized now as I was when I reached the age of accountability and joined the Presbyterian church but I am still a Christian. And, of course, a WASP.

You don’t have to be either.

Today is the day Christians celebrate the birth of the Christ child and the meaning of Christianity. It was a pretty big day before the stock exchange took it over.

It doesn’t mean Do unto all the other religions, then cut out. Unless you are a Member of Congress. Or, sadly, one of too many “modern” Americans.

Here’s the thing. If you offer food to the monks on Vesak, Buddha’s Birthday, I will honor your commitment to the poor. If you celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, I will honor with you the victory of Lord Ram over the demon-king Ravana. If you fast during Ramadan when the Qur’an was revealed to Mohammad, I will honor your patience and humility. If you celebrate the most solemn and important of Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur, I will honor your atonement and repentance. If you light the candles of Kwanzaa, I will help you honor your heritage. And if you are a lib’rul atheist, I will not proselytize.

That maybe the most important message.

Not one American soldier in Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Guam, Honduras, Indian Ocean, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, or the United States has forced any man, woman, or child to convert to Christianity at the point of a gun again this year.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist, a Hindu, Islamic, a Jew, a Kwanzaan celebrant, or an atheist. It is time, on this Christian holy day, to let Christians be Christians.

My right to impose my own beliefs stops at my property line (or the end of my nose when I’m out in public). The Bethlehem, NY, grinches’ right to idiocy should stop at pretty much the same place. It is time to stop accepting that “politically correct” credo and start honoring the true message of Christmas.

Scythian philosopher Anacharsis wrote in the 6th century BCE, “Wise men argue causes, and fools decide them.

Away With the Manger wasn’t sung quite so loudly this year. Menominee restored the nativity scene to the park because it’s a First Amendment right. After all, if I can get up on my soapbox and decry the crooks in Washington, then Washington (or Menominee, this time) cannot discriminate against another citizen who climbs a soapbox to preach his or her religious faith. In both cases the content is protected speech.

I’m off to pass on my Santa hat to Jake and Liam.

Peace.


This column originally appeared on Christmas Day, 2008. It required very little updating.

 

It’s the View

The St. John’s Club in Burlington has about the second best view on Lake Champlain because most members love looking at the lake but think it would be more better perfect if they could see the lake and the Green Mountains instead of the newer mountains in the adjoining state.

View of the Broad Lake from the St. John's Club

No matter.

It is indeed one of the great spots to watch the sun set on Lake Champlain and a favored place for weddings and receptions.

Ethan de Seife called the St. John’s Club, a Lakefront Club for the Average Joe and that’s praise indeed. The “social club” was a founded as a men-only laborers’ drinking hall by the Francophone mill workers of the Union St.-Jean-Baptiste about 150 years ago. It has owned its home on the lake since 1964. “Same-sex couples, dancing cheek to cheek, shared the floor with retirees, twenty-somethings, and clients and employees of the Howard Center,” Mr. de Seife wrote. “No single word describes the scene more aptly than ‘unpretentious’.” The club even has Friday karaoke nights, a regular event that welcomes nonmembers.

SWMBO married a couple there Saturday.

One of the guests asked how long she had been doing this. SWMBO counted on her fingers and realized that she’s been a Justice of the Peace for about 18 years; she stands for re-election again this fall.

Vermont’s first governor began his public life as a justice of the peace in Salisbury, Connecticut, before he bought a tract of land along the Onion River in what is now Williston, Vermont.

Today the JP serves as an election official, decides tax appeals, and swears in new voters and may administer other oaths whenever an oath is required. A justice of the peace is a notary public ex officio and may also serve as a magistrate when so commissioned by the Supreme Court. And they can perform marriage ceremonies.

SWMBO lost a close election about a decade ago when eight candidates ended up on the ballot. Fortunately, the governor may fill any vacancy that occurs by resignation, death, or insanity so then-Governor Jim Douglas reappointed her when that did happen.

Most of Vermont was under threat of rain as a frontal boundary approached and brought a pretty good chance of showers for the entire wedding afternoon and through the night. It coalesced into a thin band of rain that sent wind ahead of it and stalled until late that evening. A lightning bolt across the highway woke me about dawn on Sunday but the rain itself had held off until after the reception.

The wind came in early and blew over the arbor. SWMBO caught it. JPs have many mandatory duties.

Kids and grownups, university folk and service people, firemen and contractors, and even a meteorologist, all in ties and long dresses and long pants, as well as the taxi driver in shorts who came in very late attended the festivities.

During the rehearsal, the groom kept asking “Can I kiss her now?”

SWMBO waited until after the readings and a prayer to say to the groom, “Alright, you may now kiss … her hand.”

After the real kiss, the entire wedding party waded out across two sand bars for photos and laughter. Just so you know, I wore the shorts when I arrived to pick up the JP but I also wore my second best blue dress shirt. The bride’s parents invited me to stay.

Nice people, great spot, beautiful day, blessed event.

We love it when a plan comes together.

 

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. The holiday once known as Decoration Day commemorates the men and women who perished under the flag of this country, fighting for what sets our America apart: the freedom to live as we please.

Holiday is a contraction of holy and day; the word originally referred only to special religious days. Here in the U.S. of A. “holiday” means any special day off work or school instead of a normal day off work or school.

The Uniform Holidays Bill which gave us some 38 or 50 Monday shopaholidays moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. Today is May 30. Salute. Proudly.

Honoring Americans in Uniform
Lest we forget, the Americans we honor did not “give their lives.” They did not merely perish. They did not just cease living, check out, croak, depart, drop, expire, kick off. kick the bucket, pass away or pass on, pop off, or bite the dust. Their lives were taken from them by force on battlefields around the world. They were killed. Whether you believe they died with honor, whether you believe our cause just, died they did.

Today is not a “free” day off work or school. Today is not the big sale day at the Dollar Store. Today is a day of Honor.

2,499 U.S. men and women have died in Afghanistan since 2008. 593 U.S. men and women have died in Iraq. And more have died as the U.S. has introduced “small numbers” of special-operators in the fight against ISIS. Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was killed in fighting near Irbil this month. They died for thee and for me.

Rolling Stone reports that the U.S. has been at war for 2,687 days under this Administration. That’s more days at war than under Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush or any other president. (I was unable to confirm the number since today is the 3,053th day since January 20, 2008.)

More than 666,000 Battle Deaths have occurred since the U.S. was founded.

“All persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”

The American flag today should first be raised to the top of the flagpole for a moment, then lowered to the half-staff position where it will remain until Noon. The flag should be raised to the peak at Noon for the remainder of Memorial Day.

There are those in this country who would use today to legislate the man out of the fight. They can do that but the men and women we honor today knew you cannot legislate the fight out of the man. They have fought and they have died to protect us from those who would kill us. And perhaps to protect us from those who would sell out our birthright.

There is no end to the mutts who would kill our men and women in uniform even faster than they would kill their own. If I had but one wish granted on this day, I wish not another soldier dies. Ever. But die they did around the world again this year and die they will. For us. For me.

Because those men and women died, I get to write these words again this year. And you get to read them. You get to rail about Islam or Presbyterianism or Frisbeeism without fear of the government. And I get to read it. Please pause and reflect as you go to a concert, stop at an artist’s studio, grill a burger, or simply read a book in the sunshine the price we pay to keep our right to do those things. Remember a soldier who died in combat today. Thank a living soldier today. And then do it again tomorrow.


Editor’s Note: This column is slightly updated from one that first appeared in 2008.