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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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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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At the start, a huge thank you to those who commented and showed your decisive support for our flag. I especially want to thank Mrs. Mandell for her lengthy but very helpful comment. Her comments nourish my hopes that more than sunshine patriots are alive and watching out there.

I stopped by the post office today, and quite honestly, expected to see the flag still flying in its dismal shape. What I didn’t expect to see what this:

Tattered flag at bottom of pole at Mesa post office

Day 2 — perhaps even more disgraceful than the first day

They still have not so much as removed the damaged flag from the pole. Now, if I am missing some element of flag display etiquette then please let me know, but I can’t imagine it calls for leaving the flag near the base of the flag pole.

Call me crazy.

As suggested, I have put in a call to the Mesa chapter of the American Legion and left a message. I have also tried to contact the Red Mountain Patriots.

Per Mrs. Mandell’s initial suggestion, I took the liberty of not dropping by personally, but I did call the main post office for the city of Mesa and spoke to a woman named Alice who knew precisely what I was calling about when I mentioned the Superstition Springs post office.

“Is this about the flag?”

“I’m not the only one, huh?”

“Not at all. I’ve had a few people call already. They are supposed to be on their way to change the flag. I told them it cannot be dragging on the ground.”

“As of when I went by a couple hours ago, it wasn’t touching the ground yet, but somebody lowered the flag and left it there.”

“Well, last I talked to them they said they were on their way.”

She was professional, not rude at all, but clearly took the matter seriously.

We shall see . . .

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The following is, to be fair, in antecedence of anticipated action by a local Post Office station; the post at the center of my attention, my chafed patriotism, is the Superstition Springs Post Office in East Mesa, Arizona. I’d list the address, but I’m not sure that’s completely necessary yet.

July is smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran desert’s monsoon season (did you know the word “monsoon” is Arabic for rain?). Last night we had a pretty solid monsoon storm, replete with strong winds and lots of rain. The winds that gust through during these storms can be surprisingly strong for an area as seemingly desolate as the desert. They have downed power lines and very large trees, even blown tiles and shingles off rooftops — point is, like storm winds most anywhere, they can do damage.

After work I had to drop off a copy of my book for someone who offered to review it for me. As I approached the post office I noticed something wasn’t right with the flag. I parked and climbed out of my vehicle and immediately looked up at it.

US Flag in front of Mesa Post Office Considering what a complete Gordian Knot our country is in (if you don’t know what a Gordian Knot is then substitute the phrase “cluster f—“) the appearance of this flag seemed stoicly metaphorical, a ringing visual indicment of just how badly misshapen our beloved country has become. Yet it is a simple matter to remedy in this situation. If we can’t collectively stand together and eviscerate our “leaders” for being the partisan jackasses they have proven to be, then we can, we should, we must — at a minimum — take pride in the one symbol which most represents us, perhaps most unifies us as brothers and sisters: the American flag.

Torn US Flag in front of Mesa Post Office

This poor specimen most likely took her thrashing last night during the storm. I am apalled that nobody at least took the flag down . . . that’s a mere matter of sheer respect. I showed up just before 1pm and she was still waving in the air, torn, punished by forces stronger than any of us. Just look at her.

If you don’t find yourself moved in some regard then perhaps you should take your Communist Party credentials and go someplace like China or Cuba where you will be welcomed openly.I understand the Middle East hates us too . . . perhaps you would fit in with them. I’ll give you heartless Pinkos one last chance to be a shocked as I was.


There was but one teller inside, and his English wasn’t exactly outstanding, so I didn’t attempt taking the issue up with him. He looked beaten down by his job, he didn’t need Mr. America poking a finger in his chest.

Instead, I called my parents first. I absolutely wanted to write a post about it, but before I went off half-cocked I thought it better to see what the best approach would be for contacting someone about this egregious disregard for American symbolism; they have both worked for the Postal Service for quite a long time — for once, I had an inside track on something!

Turns out my dad used to take care of matters like this when he traveled around the state and did maintenance inspections at various locations — this very thing is one of his deepest pet peeves. He told me he used to make the station managers keep three flags on hand at all times, so should one become soiled (or, helloooooo . . . damaged!) it could be swiftly replaced as befits our flag.

They advised me to call the station manager first, then if that didn’t achieve the desired result go straight to the Phoenix Postmaster.

I tried. I really did.

Seven different attempts to the offending post in Mesa resulted in sot so much as one person answering the phone. I queried Mr. Internet — the Great Oz of our time — to try and locate the contact number for a one Robert J Hurley, the Phoenix Postmaster sworn in in 2010, but unsurprisingly his number seems to be unavailable. How are the public supposed to be served if they can’t reach his office?

So I called ASK USPS and talked with a very nice lady who shared my affrontism about the flag’s condition, but all she could give me was the Teller Window number at the main office in Phoenix; a dead end.

Tried a few more searches, switched up my search terms, but still couldn’t find any contact info for Hurley. Back to ASK USPS and another sympathetic woman. This time I got the number for Consumer Affairs.

Another voice in accord with my own who promised to forward my discontent to the proper powers. “Give them a week to get it corrected” she said.

For me, her statement was unbelievable — for my parents, not so much. I texted them after I got off the phone and told them I thought it was a steaming load — not in those words, of course. I called the help line one last time and gave my contact info to yet another voice in agreement who assured me someone would be taking up my issue soon and would contact me.

So there you have it. I’ll post an update soon. This much I am sure of: one week won’t cut it for this American.

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Question mark with US flag behind itAmerica has plenty of problems: state to state, north to south, sea to shining sea. I’m not divulging any state secrets, here. No need for a list of issues—plenty of other blogs and news outlets are only too happy to thrust them upon you.

I allude to something perhaps more sinister: a collectively accepted lapse in national attentioin and memory regarding our nation’s fundamental beginnings. Yet we all take great pride, a profoundly uncultivated zeal, in celebrating July 4th as our “Independence Day.”

Reveling in a glorious fireworks display is arguably an American rite-of-passage. We take for granted that at some point our children will be taught what the fireworks mean in their classrooms and history books. I wouldn’t wager so much as a dollar on that.

26% — that’s one in four — Americans don’t know what country we declared our independence from. I’m not a drinker, but these recent poll results give me reason to contemplate the necessity.

When asked when—what year—only 31 percent of adults younger than 30 said 1776, while 59 percent between 30 and 44 got the question right. Americans 45 to 59 were most likely to know the year: 75 percent got it correct. 65 percent of men got the answer right while only 52 percent of women did.

Here’s the stunner: 9% of college graduates were uncertain as to what country America declared her independece from; 2% of those graduates mentioned countries other than Great Britain.

Pathetic? Pathetic isn’t strong enough a word. It is entirely unsurprising, though. Had these two basic facts of our history been added to broadcasts of American Idol I’d bet those numbers would be much improved. Do I really need to spell it out? I think the indictment can be extracted without much effort.

Only 28% of Americans say they have read the Constitution, and 14 percent say they’ve read most of it. I will grant you that it’s not exactly a page turner and the language used is hard for us to assimilate today, but the resources available for learning about this incredibly important document are copious.

The results above come from a study conducted by the Center for the Constitution. They also revealed that respondents 18 to 24 years old claimed they understand the Constitution much less than older people; they also said the Constitution doesn’t affect them on a day-to-day basis. Wow. Really?

Need more proof that Americans are far more about hot dogs, burgers, and fireworks than knowing why we have this holiday?

42% of Americans attribute a Marxist slogan to James Madison. I’d be surprised if 10 oercent of them actually knew who James Madison was (here’s a gimme: he is considered to be the father of our Constitution, wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, and also served two terms as President in the early 1800’s). Madison was no communist.

The Bill of Rights Institute recently commissioned a new poll and their results do little to provide confidence in the fideltiy of American knowledge of their own country or principles. The communist slogan, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is thought by the aforementioned 42% to be part of our founding documents; 1 in 5 Americans think these very words are in the Bill of Rights!

Just for fun try strapping this on: 55 percent of Americans don’t recognize that education is not a First Amendment right. Staggering.

Seriously.

The founders believed education to be critical to the new nation’s success, but they didn’t write it into the Constitution. But they knew that an uneducated populace was surely a death blow to such a fragile political experiment as ours. John Adams wrote “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” Wouldn’t he be dismally disappointed today.

That beer habit is looking better and better.

Every cake should have icing, and here’s mine: I have heard that every so often, say every 5-10 years, somebody takes the first paragraph from the Declaration of Independence, verbatim, and sends it around in the guise of a petition. Not surprisingly many of those presented with the opportunity to sign it regard the ersatz petition as subversive to America. I have searched and haven’t found hard proof of this, but given the above surveys it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn it was true.

In complete fairness I submit the obvious, that these polls and surveys are not conducted or given to all citizens—these are but representative samples of the populace. Given that, what does it say about the overal civic underpinnings of our citizenry? Frankly, not much.

For many July 4th is just another day off work, yet another paid holiday for civil servants, municipal workers, and bank employees. The capitalist machine gears up to sell barbeques, hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, soda, ice chests, and paper plates and napkins with patriotic motifs. I have yet to see any retail outlet selling framed copies of the Declaration of Independence, not so much as a t-shirt with a slogan like “1776 — We made Britain our bitch!” Lots of bald eagle and Liberty Bell knick-knacks and sparklers, though.

Where is the deep, resonant echo of our revolutionary past? Where is the reverence and idealogical spirit that instigated an event unrivaled in history? We stood up to what was then the world’s greatest, best trained military force and wore them down . . . with unquestionable help from, as George Washington said “the hand of Providence.”

What does it say about how debilitating political correctness has become that we allow someone to bring suit in court to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance; to remove “so help me God” from a sworn oath in court; to have blithely turned over all our leverage as knowlegable citizens to special interests and politicians who are far more interested in their own welfare than that of the country?

It’s one thing to stand up straight, chest out, and proudly declare “I am American.” But do you know what that means? Do you know the answers to the basic questions below:

Two of the original founding fathers died on the same day—July 4, 1826—within hours of one another, 50 years to the day which we publically proclaimed independence? (I’ve used both their names within this post)

What are the first ten amendments to the Consititution called? (it has been mention in this post too)

True or False: The Declaration of Independence begins “We the People . . .”

True or False: George Washington used the phrase “Four score and seven years ago” in his first inaugural address as President.

True or False: The Constititution of the United States begins “When in the course of human events . . .”

Some quick facts . . .
• The Second Continental Congress adopted a formal declaration of independence from the crown on July 2nd, 1776. Debate and alterations to the document ensued through the 3rd and the morning of the 4th. We officially became the United States of America on the 2nd of July.

• Thomas Jefferson was not the sole author of the DOI. He did do the bulk of the work, but John Adams and Benjamin Franklin had a lot to say about it. Franklin was responsible for the phrase “self-evident” in the opening paragraph.

• You might think Jefferson was the first signer of the declaration. It was actually John Hancock. The document was signed by most of the members on August 2. The last signature was applied five years later in 1781.

Every country has its sunshine patriots, as well as its zealots. The further we allow our history to fade into obscurity the weaker we become as a nation. Clad in the armor of facts and knowledge we can reclaim the power that has been siphoned from us for so long. We have long gained strength from the diaspora of other countries, helping them to use our truly exceptional freedoms to piece their dreams and families back together, to achieve in America what their country of birth actively denied them. We can regain global respect and admiration as we had in the early 19th century—but to do so we need to understand the precious value of the soil beneath our feet, not trample on it with utter disregard. We need each other more than we realize. Time may indeed make more converts than reason, but do we have that luxury anymore?

May God Himself visit tender mercy upon this land, and help us understand and appreciate the perfection in our imperfect union as the founding fathers did. May he imbue our youth with the tempest of patriotic love for country, and the elders with the accountability to teach them. May he provide us with the strength to keep our enemies at bay and our true brethren at heart.

And may God Bless the United States of America.

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Youth using technology

Consider, for one moment, the text you are currently reading. Really.

Sit back for a second and try not to read the words as much as look at them. Are you looking at them upon a flat-screen monitor, or perhaps from the technological marvel of a smartphone? Maybe from a laptop, perched at the kitchen counter, sitting in your favorite chair, or propped up in bed?

Now, take a moment to consider your surroundings. I’d bet there are, at minimum, two other gadgets within view—maybe a television, a Kindle or Nook, an iPod, a digital camera, another cell phone.

While these things seem substantially obvious, even absurdly so, they all point to a common denominator which we don’t quickly identify with: our innate need to be connected. Even the coffee machine on the counter speaks not just to our need to wake up, but as a centerpiece for many a social life.

That’s on an individual level, within our own personal sphere of influence or proximity. Expand your imagination perhaps one more degree to the local or community level where you may have neighborhood or town newsletters to stay abreast of what those around you are doing. One more degree to the national stage and we have radio, television, cable, all these outlets that bombard us with information day in and day out.

Now, step back again and think about what technology has completely wrapped itself around all of these?

Did you think of the internet?

From GPS to our cell phones, to streaming radion stations and network feeds, and instant news captured by video phones. We literally walk about, every day, immersed in digitalia.

Back in January 2011, as I listened to news about the uprising in Tunisia, I was struck by how pathetic the attempts made by the government were to cut off access to media and the internet; too often government—our own republic included—fails to account for sheer human will. Such governments, many tyrannical dictatorships, rely on keeping their populace uneducated—essentially a political form of sanctioned stupidity. If the people don’t know any better then they are certainly more apt to believe whatever a regime sees fit to feed it as truth. Large swathes of the Middle East make this profusely clear.

But many of their youth travel abroad to get an education they can’t possibly dream of getting at home. They attend universities in Europe and here in America. They quickly become enamored with our freedoms and prosperity. They are given a chance to see the world as it truly is without the shroud of a theocracy dictating what they should think and feel. Youth, well versed in the binary arts, become a force of mind and power.

Utilizing Facebook and a smartphone they organize rallies and protests. They grasp the veil of ignorance and try to extirpate its white-knuckled grip upon their countrymen. They find a way, even when internet access is locked down, to get word out.

And look at the effect it has had . . .

Tunisia has fallen and an interim government set up in hopes of establishing a more free and transparent kind of system. Egypt has ousted its long-time dictators. As I write this the people of Libya are desperately trying to break the grasp of one of history’s most astute buffoons in Muammar Gaddafi. Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria are currently dealing with roiling discontent of their own. These things are not just news items. These happenings are nothing short of a digital crusade in a land that long has suppressed the Natural Rights of humanity while hoisting the banner of strict adherence to ascetic principles of God; natural rights are considered to be divinely inherent, gifts which each human are born with, therefore the two cannot be treated as mutually exclusive.

Youth are driving this almost cataclysmic change, and doing so by the powers vested in them via technology and education.

I wondered how American youth perceive this power, or if they give the slightest thought to it whatsoever. I put an ad on Craigslist and eBay asking if any were interested in sharing their thoughts in a guest post. I received a number of inquiries, but to date I have received only three guest posts. You will be reading these three over the next week. I wanted to widen the scope of the matter to include not just global events but also the interactive aspect of technology and how it affects relationships, both familial and external.

If you know of someone who would like to participate then let me know! The responses I have received are all from Arizona; would be interesting to get a larger demo-geographic slice of opinion.

Please be sure to come back and see what the next generation has to say about the technology that powers their everyday lives—Abbey Wells, Alicia Triassi-DeMayo, and my son Chayce may just surprise you with how connected they are to both the virtual and real worlds.

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Bronze plaque from WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.
A veteran of World War II, he served in the Pacific Theater of Operations, eventually arriving in Okinawa, Japan, as thousands of troops did, just before the Enola Gay would drop her well-kept secret on Hiroshima. Having fought unimaginably hard to help take strategically important islands and atolls he bore witness to barbary which only mankind could unleash upon one another. He watched men die all around him.

Some sixty years later he would be traveling through Payson, Arizona, and encounter a group of youths entirely discourteous and disrespectful to those around them—assuredly a clash of generations but a bitter reminder of how faded our thoughts have become concerning those men who fought to bring wrong to right.

Mr. DeMayo would later show his daughter something he wrote down shortly after that encounter: “Before I went to combat I found a reason for putting my life on the line—to preserve the next generation. Had I known what their character was going to be, I would not have been nearly so eager to put myself in harm’s way.”

This had bothered me for quite some time. My father had served in Europe (as I note below), and yet I have never probed about his war experience. I do know he had no love of Paris at that time, but I won’t repeat his description of it here as it was a long time ago and likely not indicative of Paris today. But Mr. DeMayo’s words resonated with me, and not in a pleasant way.

When my son and I go to a ball game and the national anthem is played—I get choked up most every time. I stand and applaud with thousands of others each time they recognize men and women who are currently in service to our country—and yet that is pitifully short of proper gratitude for what they sacrifice; it is wholly shameful to my father, grandfathers, Mr. DeMayo, and every other soul who has worn the stars-and-stripes on their shoulder. I felt like I needed to let this man, my father, and posthumously, my grandfathers know that while we are an almost disgracefully quiet majority we indeed value and are deeply grateful for what they have done for us and our beloved country.

I assure you, we vastly outnumber the reckless, disrespectful few.

Below is the letter I wrote to Mr. DeMayo, now 85-years-old. It is perhaps a small whisper amid the din of everything else in our lives . . . but it is heartfelt.


If Hell is, as philosophically defined, the impossibility to reason, then war is the horrific struggle to bring logic to chaos, to try and strike a noble balance between the casualty of misguided power and the just cause of Natural Rights.

Mothers lose their sons and daughters; children their mothers and fathers. In answer to any question of rectitude of man’s nature one must fully consider the sacrifice, the indescribable purging of soul and spirit both sides of the familial unit endure. Is the greater iniquity that of loss to families, or to that of a higher cause if all ideals are dissolved for more transient, impermanent matters?

My father and both grandfathers served during World War II: dad in Europe in a support capacity with the Army, and both grandparents as airmen who flew over the coast of Normandy on D-Day. I know precious little about my father’s military stint outside his old tattoo and Army-issue rifle. I knew nothing of my grandfathers’ participation in the invasion until well after they both passed. None of these men spoke of war with us. I would bet that had we asked, once adjudged to be of proper age, they would have answered each and every question, however sparingly.

Neither I nor my brother has served in the military. This fact, I certify, does nothing to diminish our consummate respect for those who have served. My approbation and heartfelt gratitude extend to all who have answered their nation’s call to duty. Sadly, I know there are people bold—and egregiously wrong enough—to call themselves citizens, who detest or ostracize those who served on their very behalf. To marginalize any man or woman who has served, in any capacity, in any conflict, is surely a moral stain, a melancholic blight, an act of untenable turpitude.

To the degree which our children are inoculated against these conflicts is an indication that we, as a collective, are blithely willing to let them repeat the same mistakes, to declare the value of history as a zero sum, and to inflict dishonor upon those who participated—in short, an act of impersonal despotism.

On December 4, 1776, the man who penned Common Sense, a pamphlet which arguably lit a tinderbox of patriotic passion under an increasingly lethargic colonial population, published his follow-up, The Crisis. With the patchwork army badly dispirited, haggard, and ailing, and after a solid string of defeats since the prior August, Loyalists were all but rejoicing the ultimate demise of independence; once stalwart patriots were absconding to the British side in droves; the public sentiment toward the cause as a whole had taken on the figurative stench and staleness of a rotting carcass. Just across the Delaware river, opposite Trenton, New Jersey, the exhausted army scattered into several encampments as a brutal winter begun to settle in. Enlistments were expiring for almost half the soldiers and more were deserting every day. Thomas Paine, in concert with a stirring, impassioned plea from Gen. George Washington, managed to help rekindle the barely glowing ember of patriotism and respect for the men, and restore faith and vigor amidst a dubious public. His essay started with the most appropriate statement of gravitas:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

My point to all this, Mr. DeMayo, is that while I understand your incisive resentment regarding post-war sentiment of returning vets, I am bothered, moreover, moved to declare, with the utmost urgency and exertion, that I am not one of the pathetically oblique. As surely as Providence guides my heart I can attest that I am not singular, but rather representative of millions who are equal in my discernment—proof exists not in me alone, but in your venerable daughter as well.

I cannot, with any imaginable veracity, begin to comprehend the horrors you have experienced at the nadir of humanity’s violence and Death’s remorseless culling. I have seen grass die and leaves fall; I have witnessed the quiet passing of my grandmother; but I have never known the adrenalized anguish of comrades and friends falling in the wake of God’s own thunder. I cannot conceive the encumbrance of such demons, resolved to claw at my soul and tatter my dreams until my last breath. Such corruption of hope and splintering of faith in man can only be assuaged by our better angels, but only if we are receptive to them.

I genuinely respect your opinion, Mr. DeMayo, and will—as your daughter would attest—fight with every and any gift in my arsenal for your deserved right, your suitably justified prerogative to hold fast to your convictions, regardless of my perspective. Most importantly I owe you, my father and grandparents, and every man who served with you, a debt I could never possibly repay.

It may be impossible to mend the hearts of those put in harm’s way, but it is entirely proper and fitting that we should—if I may step into Lincoln’s words for a moment—take increased devotion to that cause, to those soldiers, who gave their last full measure of devotion for our mutual benefit. It is, indeed, far above my poor power to add or detract to the atrocities you and other veterans have suffered.

My work here is arrived at a most sincere, if deficient conclusion: Thank you for your service, sir. My benediction is delivered as not just any obtuse citizen, but as a grateful American.

Sincerely,
J.W. Nicklaus

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