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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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Speak your mind - the brain with wingsIt was early morning, shortly after 6am. Staff would be arriving soon. I was vacuuming in a conference room when I noticed something scrawled upon the large whiteboard on the wall:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Know who wrote that? Mr. Theodor Guisel — you know him as Dr. Seuss.

How improbable to see words such as these written in blue lettering for corporate eyes to see. Capitalism requires profit motives, a constant push for greater returns and lower costs. The bottom line matters more than the human line.

Sure, plenty of corporations throw platitudes around and hope they sound genuine — “People are our greatest asset,” and other such banalities. Puh—leeeeeeeez.

Is it actually within the realm of possibility that lurking within corporate structures are those with the ability to understand the machinations of productivity? There is a biological component to capitalism. Sounds obvious, certainly, but anyone who has been part of one might be hard pressed to prove it.

“Those who mind don’t matter . . .” There will always be those who take offense or have some personal agenda to work on. Finding others to hang fault on only serves their purposes, not yours.

” . . . those who matter don’t mind.” Being human often equates to not wanting to be wrong, itself a perilous step toward the edge of pride and the ensuing fall. Those who understand and accept an opinion — when presented properly, of course — are not judgemental about it . . . unlike some other people.

Good Dr., I ask for your forgiveness for what I’m about to say, as it sullies the true simple wisdom of your words. It really must be broken down to a lowest common denominator: Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one and they stink even when they won’t admit it.

So speak your mind knowing that some will use it for their own ends, and those who are of more solid making will appreciate your having done so.

Just be careful how you phrase it . . . it might feel good when you’re done but the stench may put a lot of people off.

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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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Falling asleep in classNo, this isn’t about American Idol . . . sorry. If you’re already disinterested then I believe I can safely say you clearly fall into the collective dustbin of American freedom and liberty, the contents of which will soon be emptied into the wastebasket of history because nobody cares about it anymore.

My answer to the title of this post? I truly couldn’t care less.

Written below is my response to a post Joy Erickson had on her blog a couple days ago: Are History’s Lessons Being Neglected. (I tried posting this as a comment, Joy, but it wouldn’t show up!)

Her direct question to her readers was “Do you think history should take a back seat to math, and the science’s?” I didn’t address that question head on, choosing instead to reply to the comments instead. (oh, and I commented on Laura’s comment, too, but it didn’t show up either :^( )

Here was my comment:

If we don’t know our history, how can we possibly understand ourselves? Where will any country wind up if they have zero sense of their own posterity? History doesn’t repeat itself — individuals repeat the same mistakes made throughout history due to ignorance or sheer hubris; in our case we are in deep trouble mostly because of ignorance, a willful ignorance.

You can’t market history unless it’s in a souvenir shop stamped on coffee mugs, keychains, t-shirts, and other trinkets. A “culture” enamored with glitz and celebrity can hardly hope to stabilize its underpinnings of liberty unless prior lessons of history can be made commercially viable in the guise of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, or Survivor.

I don’t disagree that learning history in school is boring; as it was for all of you so it was for me. Just as Em and Nikki have attested, I, too, now love history, but not because of what I learned in school. I read books, watched documentaries, visited Wasington D.C. and saw with my own aging eyes what God Himself blessed our founders with . . . the inviolable knowledge of Nature’s Law, of the blessings of Liberty.

I do what I can to teach my son these things because I know the school won’t do it properly. I don’t expect him to read all the books I have, but he has assumed — in his own reserved way — the same spirit of patriotism I keep warmed in my own heart. That slowly glowing ember will burn hotter somewhere down the road, and I hope he will pass it on.

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But what about wearing your heart on your truck? This truck would epitomize that for me:
Truck painted with American flag and the Constitution

Did you catch the bald eagle perched in the passenger window?

Oh . . . don’t bother clicking the play icon in the middle, it’s just a screen capture. :^)

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Book cover for The Liberty Bell by Gary NashLiberty. One word—an idea, really. One which doesn’t simply process in our brains to bring context to a sentence or meaning to the words around it, but more implicitly resonates and travels deeper into our cores, where every stirring notion of patriotism simmers. One word that immediately evinces two striking icons of the American essence: the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty.

As Gary Nash conveys in The Liberty Bell we long ago dismissed the idea that these icons were mere objects showered with our jingoistic ardor, but rather we have imbued them with a kind of reverence and love only the vestment of our souls could provide.

Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty thro’ all the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” Daresay a solid number of Americans know these words as inscribed upon the bell, but perhaps more telling might be how many don’t know the passage, or only know the names Pass and Stow from the movie National Treasure. Nash’s scholastic approach to relating the Liberty Bell’s history leaves little doubt of its staggering relevance and gravitas as an enduring icon of our cherished founding principles.

Professor Nash moves sure-footedly from the pre-bell story through its period of actual use and into the larger, almost epochal journey through generations who venerated the Liberty Bell as a symbol of our democratic culture. Unless you are a historian (or history buff) you may not have known the State House Bell (or Old Bell), as it was known until around 1835, was removed from its tower in Philadelphia in 1776 and hidden in another town for fear the British, who came to occupy the city, would have melted it down for ammunition.

Many citizens don’t know of the bell’s near demise—along with the old Pennsylvania State House—in 1816, under a “Gothic mist of ignorance and vice”; just two of the rich, significant historical allegories Nash relates. Schoolchildren were inculcated with fabricated, emotionally charged stories of its use on July 4, 1776—a stigma which actually aided the tocsin in its rise to almost ephemeral reverence.

A generous amount of the book is allocated to seven separate trips the bell made over a 35-year span. If there is a singular quibble I have about the book it would be the amount of detailed information given about each and every trip—every stop, how many people showed up, etc. Without doubt there is value to such data, and in this case it serves to highlight the increasing popularity of the relic and how it served to bolster patriotism at crucial times when it was needed. I view this (very minor) discontent on my behalf as indicative of my wanting to learn the next piece of lore or passionate affect upon a new generation.

Appropriately, an in-depth look at the anti-slavery movement and the chimer’s role in it exposes the reader to many instances in which liberty was pronounced and exercised within close proximity to the bell, often at the expense of slaves.

A story from 1851, involving 33 blacks and five whites, furnished the reverberating overtones for caustic feelings from slaves being brought to trial in Independence Hall, mere steps from where the bell hung. Fugitive slaves had escaped into Lancaster County and these thirty-eight people defended them during what was termed the “Christmas riot” in which a Maryland slaveowner had pursued one of his own fleeing slaves and got caught in the turmoil and was killed. Abolitionists extolled the group as following the example of “Washington and other American heroes” in 1776. But outside Independence Hall a crowd of whites called for justice and punishment for those responsible for the killing and for “taking the lives of men in pursuit of their recognized and rightful property.” The Leviticus proclamation on the bell would seal its fame and its catapult into the world of causes—in a most moral and vitally important way.

Nash has given a beloved, if muted, icon a solid, well-researched biography, one which puts right generations of embellished legend and sets into a proper framework the genuine gift to American the Liberty Bell has become. Iconic history at its sonorous best.

As always I thank Rhonda Sturtz and the New York Journal of Books for procuring a copy of this book for review. Thanks also to Yale University Press for the review copy.

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Independence Hall looking up with statue and cloudsJanuary 2011 has already given us our first senseless tragedy, one which has played out upon the national stage not only because of its utter brutality but also due to its actions having been interwoven upon the loom of politics, perhaps a textbook example of what the Germans would call realpolitik.

As I understand it, the gunman in the Tucson, AZ shootings said he was set off because he didn’t like a congresswoman’s reply to his question “What is government if words have no meaning?”

I was asked for my thoughts on that very question, which I give below.

In the 1760’s, Parliament decided it was time for Americans—still subjects of the crown—to help with the cost of their defense. Boston merchants especially, had grown fat upon the largesse of natural resources around them without the onus of heavy taxation. Trade between the colonies and Britain had massive benefits on both sides of the Atlantic.

But American merchant-bankers and small shopkeepers were not the least bit keen on things like the Stamp Act, Coercive Acts, or the Tea Tax. Though in truth, the Tea Tax was notably insignificant, but the wealthy elite held all the power among the local political bodies and they exerted every means at their disposal to decry the taxes and feed the burning embers of treason and sedition.

The crown used its influence and legislative power in an attempt to raise revenues, chiefly to cover the ballooning cost of defending the colonies from insurgencies at their borders. What it wound up doing was raising the ire of those same merchant-bankers in the colonies—men with voices and pens dipped in the intellectual inkwells of Harvard and other prestigous institutions. These men used words to make impassioned pleas to Parliament . . . and to stir the unrest of the working class.

Government derives its power from ideas, from the abstraction of concepts kneaded by concerted thought and productive debate. When it fails to do so we are obligated, even duty bound, to do what is necessary to bring it in line with our wishes: “That when any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government … as to them shall seem more likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried.”

Greeks in Athens and Sparta had slightly different forms of democracy, but when Persia threated their freedoms they fought intensely to protect those ideals they cherished. King Xerxes tried every way possible to conquer the Greeks but learned the hard way that democracies don’t fight until a truce is signed—they fight until unconditional surrender. Not only was Persia defeated, but Xerxes’ actions resulted in unifying what had been, up to that time, a nation of individual city-states.

Democracies fight to protect ideals given form by words, but given meaning from something much closer to the heart.

Government is given its meaning, its very power, by the people. Words and politics are often deaf to each others ears, but it is upon the citizen to make its government an instrument to his or her benefit. It is a blessing of Providence, and of men devoted to a belief in Natural Rights and Liberties, that we can use words to elevate our own impassioned discourse, and to convey the full measure of our devotion or disenchantment.

Words clench at our throats and nourish our hearts; they arrest and attest; they badger and bind. Government can be an instrument of evil and wickedness, or it can be to a society’s credit and pride. But government will never give meaning to words, nor should words give pretense to instilling more worth to government than it deserves.

We owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to their children in perpetuity, to set forth the best words we can, to construct our ideals in a manner of positive consequence so that our government is reflective of our better angels, and therefore more deserving of God’s grace and blessings.

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