Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Free State Of Jones

Sunday Liz and I and some neighbors went to see the movie: The Free State of Jones.

Don't miss it.

It is a very well researched and well produced movie about events during the Civil War in Jones County, Ms. involving Newt Knight, his paramour, an escaped slave named Rachel, and their neighbors and families. The story seems fantastic in many ways, but is mostly true.

It ties Civil War events together with Reconstruction and with a 1946 trial of a descendant of Newt and Rachel, who was charged with violating Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws by marrying a white woman.

The film has obvious connections with current events in Ferguson, Mo., Charleston, etc.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow objects to the film. I think he misses the point. He actually misses several points.

So I want to offer some thoughts that differ from Blow's analysis (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/27/opinion/white-savior-rape-and-romance.html)

1. The film depicts the origin of the observation that the Civil War was a "Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight;
2.  The film shows people, both white and black standing up against the power structure of the day, but imperfectly;
3.  There are no heroes, just people who did what they had to do;
4.  The Civil War was a lot more complicated than Gone With The Wind

I'll say no more for now.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Axel Oxenstierna (Sweden) 1634 On Wisdom

"Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?" Letter to his son, 1634.

The Brexit vote last night verified Oxenstiern's observation. More succinctly: The world is governed by fools.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Next To Last Doolittle Raider Passes - Only One Left

David Thatcher, an Army Air Force gunner decorated for helping save the lives of four seriously wounded fellow crewmen in the Doolittle Raid on Japan of April 18, 1942, America’s first strike against the Japanese homeland in World War II, died Wednesday in Missoula, Mont. He was 94 and the next-to-last survivor among the mission’s 80 airmen.

While it was not a large action, it was the most imaginative and perhaps the most consequential early action in the war. Among the consequences was that Japan removed a large carrier task force from the Indian Ocean to their home waters and goaded them into the disastrous (for them) attack on Midway.

Here  is a link to the NYTimes article about Thatcher.

If you have not seen the movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Good Advice Out of Vermont

Watching Bernie Sanders wrestle with the challenge of acknowledging the end of the Democratic nomination contest, I am reminded of Senator George Aiken (R-Vermont) advice to President Johnson: "Declare victory and bring the troops home."

It was good advice at the time, and would be good advice now.

Let's hear it for Vermont.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mohammad Ali: The Greatest; 1942 - 2016

It was sad to learn of Muhammad Ali's passing.

He was a truly great American. Not just because he was a great heavyweight boxing champion, but because he was a strong man of principle.

We watched the History Channel remake of "Roots" last week. It wasn't about Muhammad Ali, but it put Ali's life and that of all descendants of slaves in the historical context of slavery in America. This is an American saga. I can't say it is enjoyable, but we all need to watch it.

So often our children only learn about this saga during Black History Month. I find that objectionable - this isn't "Black History" - it is American History and we need to own it.

Last night we watched "Red Tails," the story of the Tuskegee Airmen in combat against Germany. It is a good movie, which I hadn't seen before. I lived in Mississippi during the war, and I know what it was like for African Americans.

In recent years, we have heard a lot of talk about "American Exceptionalism." I agree we are exceptional. We are exceptional in part because of people like the Tuskegee Airmen, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Louis Armstrong, Hank Greenberg. We laughed at observations by Will Rogers, a Cherokee. We simultaneously cheered and discriminated against Jackie Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Roy Campanella. We march to tunes by John Philip Sousa (hispanic). The list of our inner contradictions goes on and on.

Can you imagine America without Jazz and Ragtime? Without Cajun music and cuisine? Without Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese and Japanese cooking?

What other country of European origin would have elected Barack Obama and reelected him four years later? That's pretty exceptional. And yet our legacy of past dominance by white supremacists isn't over. As William Faulkner once wrote - "The past isn't dead - it isn't even past."  We need to fix that.

We are great because of our diversity. We should celebrate all Americans.

You got a problem with that?