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The following text is from the body of a letter I sent to my son while in basic training for the Navy. I had been listening to my iPod and an old song titled American Heartbeat played. Something told me to sit down and write about what that meant to me, and it seemed relevant to what he is working for in his naval training. 

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We are not ancient Persia, nor Greece, nor Rome. We are many things: strong and weak, hustling and slack, demonstrative and passive. We are the siphon of human history. 

We have an empire, of sorts, but are not imperialistic. We are decidedly imperfect yet most often choose to pursue what is right rather than not. Say what you will about our character but our collective loyalty is ardent, durable and mighty.

Every civilization in recorded history has struggled with profound scars, has deliberated how best to cope with their weeping wounds in the context of their own times—Madame Blue, she is no exception. Grievous are her transgressions, yet she prefers not to turn her back on them. Her exertions are toward nobility, toward the minimizing of ignobility. 

When we call for help we answer it ourselves. We prefer action over whimpering. Earth rests beneath our feet yet we don’t just think about going to the stars . . .we innovate and then go there. We also sleep beneath the sparkle of heaven making it the province of our dreams.

We are fasces—as many individual reeds we are vulnerable, feeble, hesitant; bound together we are robust, tenacious, enduring.

Our pulse is fast and loud but if we are still for a moment, and truly listen across the chasms and erosion of volubility, we would find one voice, one nation, one majestic heartbeat.

 

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backstabbing If I may pull Shakespeare’s Henry V slightly out of context: “Once more into the breach, good friends, once more . . .”

As much as I love my country, certainly as much as I consider it a genuine blessing to be an American citizen, I am not alone in my utter repudiation of the election season. I will grant that it does have a certain element of entertainment to it—we Americans take measured delight in watching the mighty fall, or at least stumble.

Last night gave us the starting gun for the rush of the 2012 elections. Now we spend the next 11 months awash in political rancor and candidate sniping. Sadly, rather than seek a way to bring more respect to the process we seem to embrace it.

There was a time, some 250 years ago (roughly) when the ideal for selecting men for roles in the new federal government was to entreat the public to choose men of great public or community respect and admiration; men did not campaign for these positions, they were chosen by the constituents . . . by we the people.

These words of John Adams are perhaps far more relevant today than in his own time:

What is to become of an independant statesman, one who will bow the knee to no idol, who will worship nothing as a divinity but Truth, Virtue, and his country? I will tell you, he will be regarded more by posterity than those who worship hounds and horses; and although he will not make his own fortune, he will make the fortune of his country.

Does that really need any embellishment?

My underlying thought here was the ramping up of all the negative campaigning we’re about to be inundated with. So I thought I would break out a couple examples from our early history to illustrate that our modern mudslingers are in no way innovative in their sniping.

Thomas Jefferson on Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry was know as quite an orator. It was through one of his passionate speeches that he pursuaded the House of Burgesses to arm a militia in preparation for what was sure to become war with Britain. Before that time, however, Henry had married a wealthy woman and through a dowry acquired 300 acres and six slaves to run a small plantation. To remain solvent enough to run the place he took a few weeks to study law books then applied for a license to practice law.

Thomas Jefferson, genuinely admiring of Henry’s gift for oratorical persuasion, was less than enthused with the man’s legal acumen. “His judgement in other matters,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to fellow Virginian, James Madison, “was inaccurate; in matters of law it was not worth a copper: he was avaricious and rotten hearted. His two greatest passions were the love of money and of fame: but when these came into competition the former predominated. What we have to do is devoutly pray for his death.”

Zing! That’s pretty harsh, even by today’s standards. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard it the first time.

John Adams and Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine did much, with his first pamphlet alone —Common Sense— but some of the ideals espoused didn’t sit well with John Adams, John Jay, and other influential founders. Adams, not one to let his pen lay idle, let flow his ink to express his lack of Paine-fandom: “What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.”

“Crapulous” Man, what a great word!

Paine, having thoroughly lit into the British monarchy in his pamphlet, was certainly unafraid of Adams: “John was not born for immortality,” he wrote in response.

“The spissitude of the black liquor which is spread in such quantities by this writer,” Adams wrote of Paine, “prevents its daubing.” [in it’s closest contextual definition here, ‘daubing’ would likely mean “to paint unskillfully”]

Paine acerbicly retorted, “Some people talk of impeaching John Adams, but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of.”

That’s political bitch slapping, 18th century style. Paine would later be proven something of an early American political prophet. After George Washington’s election as our first formal President of the United States, Adams led the Senate in a lengthy debate over how to properly refer to the man who held the office of president. Washington himself, somewhat exasperated by the lengthy titles suggested by Adams, wisely suggested “Mister President,” thus avoiding any hint of monarchy in the brand new government. Adams wouldn’t fare well despite his truly well-intentioned efforts. The senators thus began referring to him as “His Rotundity.”

Almost makes current mudslinging seem tame by comparison.

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Civil War era slavesI just finished reading James L. Swanson’s Bloody Crimes: The funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the chase for Jefferson Davis. If you like American history, it is well worth your time to read; if you are fascinated by Civil War history then this book can only serve to enhance your knowledge of these two men.

But this isn’t a book review. No, I read this for pleasure. And I found myself intrigued, unsettled, and fascinated by all I did not know.

I won’t devle into specifics, but one thing I have always found of interest is the perspective many people have about the cause of the Civil War. I recall my education as being a construct of:

• A) The South (13 states in all, I think) seceded from the Union
• B) The reason for 4 years of bloodshed: Northerners didn’t like slavery, Southerners did

That is the gist of what I recall, and it is tragically myopic. To be sure, as I have aged I have learned more, but only because I sought the information out.

The institution of slavery was, indeed, at the core of the matter. More ideologically, the issue of state’s rights held the political underpinnings.

I could write at length about the founding fathers and their approach to slavery. Most people know that almost all of them owned slaves, but Thomas Jefferson especially detested the trade.

But what I want to convey with this post is a single sentence that reached out and grabbed me by the throat.

Of all the postulation, all the debate, all the scholarship and decades of genuine study Americans have pursued regarding this war, many drawn out and convoluted conclusions have been presented, perhaps the weakest of which appear in the textbooks our children read in school.

How many people know that Jefferson Davis was appointed president of the Confederate States? How many people even knew they had a president?

In a nutshell, Davis, at what was essentially the war’s end, was captured and incacerated by the federal government for two years. He was freed on bail of $100,000. This staggering amount (for 1867) was posted by a group of six men, dubbed the “Secret Six,” in May of 1867.

One of these men, Garrit Smith, was a famed abolitionist and had backed John Brown. He laid the blame for the Civil War on both the North and South:

“The North did quite as much as the South to uphold slavery . . . Slavery was an evil inheritance of the South, but the wicked choice, the adopted policy, of the North.”

Anyone cognizant of the founding fathers’ moral vs. economic struggle with the institution of slavery can appreciate the stunning conciseness and irrefutable truth of that sentence.

Just under a century after we proclaimed ourselves a sovereign nation, with all its political, religious, and nation-building complexity so tightly woven into the fabric of our infancy, this one statement, all but shrouded by the ghostly mists of time, stands to properly point out the origin of a nation’s cancer as if viewed during an autopsy.

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Ragged Old Flag


Mom and dad sent me a text this morning:

“We just heard Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash on the radio. Have you ever heard it?”
“I don’t think so.”
“See if you can find it online and listen to it. I think you’ll like it.”

As the ombudsman for the tech generation, Mr. Internet knows all, so naturally I turn to him—specifically YouTube—to see what he can sow me.

I found a live version he did during his Highwayman tour.

How utterly surprising . . . they were right . . . I liked it.

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This post, I must confess, is self-serving; to what degree I can’t honestly say. Deep down, I think I want to have it saved for posterity, for my own future need to look back and see what at one time was upon my heart and mind.

Politics is a matter which we bitch about because it’s easy to do, but we are very quick to become bent about if our political sensibilities (now there is an oxymoron for ya) have been tampered with.

To that end I advise any who are of staunch political mind, unbending and draconian, to forego reading the missive below. Conversely, if you are the type who like a number of viewpoints, if you have an open mind, then please read on.

I had a completely new reader leave a nice long comment on one of my posts regarding the damaged flag that was flying in Mesa. We have traded a couple e-mails, and along the way she has mentioned that she attends meetings of the Red Moutain Patriots, a local Tea Party group. Part of what you will read below entails her conveyance of what I believe are the party’s ideals; I have not checked these against any official Tea Party dogma, but frankly I find that I almost seamlessly align myself with them. As I have stated a number of times before on this blog, I am a registered Independent. I try to vote for the individual I feel will most care for my country . . . not their party.

What you see below is my last reply to her which she called “eloquent.” While I’m not so sure about that I am — at least at this moment in time — certain of its convictions . . . my convictions.


"Grandma's Tea Party" - charcoal and pencil drawing by J.D. HillberryRarely have I ever practiced, nor involved myself, in political intrigue, nor the least manner of governmental politics. Assuredly there is some subconscious form of politics we play in our every day lives, if only the game of cat-and-mouse we necessarily employ in everyday relations. The sweat exuded from the labor of commonly defined ‘politics’ is a foul brew, laced with the stench of rotting lies and fetid, nauseating pretentions in the guise of truth.

Our counterfeit “leaders” bellow and bluster, thrust and parry, keeping their hands ever active under their cloaks, endlessly accepting tithings from special interests and foes of the people while facing the cameras with the practiced, hollow compassion of a freshly buried corpse. Upon the political stage all pretense of country is gone, reconstituted in a fervent passion of partisanship — unity only counts if it lines your pocket and consolidates power.

I believe it could be strongly argued that we, the people, have, for too long, actively abetted these usurpers, given them every device and means necessary to keep us at bay and themselves in control. We cannot consider ourselves blameless if we are to truly understand and respect the admonitions and just wisdom of our forefathers.

We have frittered away the true power vested in us, or at the very least allowed others around us to do so. We have allowed our students to leave public schools with scarcely the tiniest nugget of functional knowledge about American history, not to mention how such forces as a free market economy or genuine self-governing work.

As I read what I have written thus far it is obvious that I am profoundly frustrated, even heartbroken, that my country has sunk to the level we are at. As I have studied early American history it has become ever clearer to me that we are almost too far off the path tread by our earliest brothers and sisters. We are, I dare say, in some way aping the timeline of the Roman Empire, if only far more quickly.

And we all know how that story ended.

I can steadfastly get behind the codified principles you have listed:

We believe the Constitution to be the Supreme Law of the Land . . . Is there another? Has there ever been another, save for that of Providence which itself is written into the Constitution as clear and justified basis for the natural rights of all.

We stand for Limited Government . . . Jefferson stated “Government is best which governs least.” Government is “absolutely necessary” for very few things, and those are laid out and explained in the Federalist papers. Self-government was the initial concept and has since been something abdicated to those who have ceremoniously claimed it as a latent birthright, a power not bestowed by the people rather by the stain of big money.

We stand for Free Enterprise and Capitalism . . . Communism has failed miserably. Adam Smith and Karl Marx were on two opposing ends of the economic spectrum. I’m fairly certain China, South Korea, and Cuba won’t see the light in our lifetime, but it will happen eventually. As time has proven, free enterprise has consistently provided more opportunities for more people than any other form of economy. Mistakes made along the way were the mistakes of man, not of Nature.

We stand for Fiscal Responsibility . . . Where has this gone? It would seem fewer and fewer of our children are learning it.

We stand for State Sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution . . . States know best what works for their people, not the Federal government. I am of the mind that certain matters overlap, but those are few indeed.

We stand for Border Security first and laws that oppose illegal immigration . . . I welcome, with open arms, those who truly desire to be here; those who clamor to participate in what America is; those who want to love America as we do. I have no room in my heart for those who want to use her as a resource to advance their own corrupt governments or bleed us of resources because their own are long since surrendered to liars and cheats, despots and traitors. Amnesty is nota solution, not even an acceptable starting point for debate.

Now it seems that I am the one who has droned on. I am so glad you have come along and informed me of your equal love for our country, and that there are others who share your (our) passion.

What most people don’t realize is the power we have. Most believe that our power lies in our right to vote, but that’s only partly true. It is in our power to organize, to gather our collective voice, to move and remove, to needle the process, to assert ourselves within the framework of self-government that we truly bring our power to bear. But, as these folks in East Mesa are doing, we need to speak out, to gather and educate, to avail ourselves of the knowledge that others will freely share.

And once that’s done, we need to ask ourselves questions, not simply accept everything we’re told. Evaluate what’s been said, juxtapose expressed ideals against our own.

These folks are doing just that. Whether or not you agree with them (and there are plenty who don’t) you have to respect them for taking a stand and doing what’s right, even in the face of almost overwhelming adversity.

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Ninety percent of what you read below (pre-rant) came from an entry at Dictionary.com entitled Oops! Those aren’t the real words!. I think word etymology can be fun sometimes, even quirky, and this entry is a delightful illustration of that premise. I have made some minor additions, ones which I highly doubt you can’t see. The bit about the graphic at the end is all me.

Did you begin the school day by placing your right hand over your heart and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? If you were among the many kids who thought “indivisible” was “invisible,” or “liberty” was “liver tea,” you were not alone. We don’t have a definition for liver tea, nor do we believe anyone would drink it, but this common misunderstanding of a phrase is called a mondegreen.

A mondegreen is a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that shares homophony (sounds like) another word or phrase that has been heard.

Not to be confused with a malapropism, which is the unintentional improper use of a single word, mondegreens are often applied to a line in a poem or a lyric from a song – usually with amusing results.

James Gleick, an American author and journalist, believes the mondegreen is a distinctly modern event. “Without improved communication and standardization of language which accompanies it, there would have been no way for this shared experience to have been recognized and discussed.”

Some popular mondegreens include:

• “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy “(‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky from “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix)
• “Alex the seal” (Our lips are sealed from “Our Lips Are Sealed” by the Go-Go’s) — You have to be a serious idiot to screw that one up! C’mon . . . Alex the Seal?
• “Hold me closer Tony Danza” (Hold me closer tiny dancer from “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John) — This is worse than Alex the Seal!

An example of a reverse mondegreen is Iron Butterfly’s 1968 hit “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” which was originally titled “In the Garden of Eden.”

Now it’s your turn – share some of your favorite mondegreens, below. What did you believe were the words to the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star-Spangled Banner?

Better yet, if you seriously thought those lyics were about Alex the Seal and Tony Danza, don’t tell me what you believe the words to the Pledge and SSB were. I think I would cry.

“Liver tea”? Really? Perhaps I should axe you how much time you have spent at a libary.

Now, one last little note — I’m sure you couldn’t help but notice the graphic. I rather like it. I found it while trying to find a better graphic for the Pledge than Dictionary.com had — but here’s the thing: I found this image after I saw one of the Pledge missing the words “under God.”

If you have read my blog long enough you know of my patriotic and American history bent. So seeing an image of the Pledge without the words “under God” shot up a flag as large as Old Glory herself (she’s the flag housed in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

That ‘godless’ image was from a site hosted by a group who call themselves RestoreThePledge.org. They claim “under God” is a governmental sanction of religion. From their site: ” . . .the words “under God” are clearly a promotion of a specific religious belief.”

Really?

Unsurprisingly, they don’t mention any specific religious sect. Liberals and Progressives are killing this country . . . I swear to God.

Our founders came from a wide range of religious affiliations, a large majority of early America being Protestant. Yet scholarship has repeatedly shown that all these men felt the birth of our country was based soley upon the grace of Providence. Faith, and a belief in moral virtue—and God—were intimately entwined in most everything our founders struggled for.

Here is, apparently, the rationale under which these misguided zealots operate,. again from their site: “These words, added by Congress in 1954, are in violation of the First Amendment – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

The Pledge is a law? What the f***? Why haven’t I read about that in my amateur research on American history . . . and while candidly stating my scholarship as “amateur” I am equally convinced that what I know about our history, compared to what they do, could probaly stun a herd of water buffalo.

Saying “under God” in the Pledge breaks no such law. Congress has made no such law. And in case you fece-lfinging simians-cum left wing troglodytes didn’t get the memo I feel it my duty to include the text of the entire First Amendment of the Constitution you so freely use as a desecretory doormat:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Incredibly potent stuff, unlike the grey matter you lemmings call brains.

So, per usual, a lengthy reason for my actions. All that to explain why I chose that picture . . .

Because I believe . . . and because I am an American.

May God Bless the United States of America.

Maybe you drooling simpletons would like to extinguish that from all presidential speeches, too.

* Technorati claim token NDZETN3EZ2V5

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US Flag waving inside map of the United StatesFlag Update: I drove by the Superstition Springs Post Office on the way home today and saw a new flag flying at full mast — that’s a sight that never gets old.

My thanks to those of you who read the previous two posts and showed support — a surprisingly deep well of support, actually. It was heartening to see that so many people feel so passionate about our flag.

I am encouraged to learn that many people are very aware of the basic rules of flag etiquette. The reaction to seeing her so damaged an still aloft was visceral, and rightly so. I can’t help but be curious as to how many people called about the violation, and even more curious to know what might have been said during those conversations.

I could bore you with a bullet-pointed list of rules, but there’s really only one rule that matters: Don’t underestimate American patriotism.

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