Posts for October, 2011
Out of many, one; the de facto motto of the United States of America prior to 1956 appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on our currency. We've seen it so often it may have lost some of its meaning. This is a post on the exceptionalism of America. Some may have a problem with that, but I believe it is undeniable. I'm not going to dwell on individual accomplishments or--yes--failures. But there is something about this country that stands out from the international crowd. I'm going to try to define and explain it.
There have been two periods in my life, going back 70 years, that stand out as examples of the American spirit. Note what I said--"American spirit." I can't think of another nation to which you could ascribe a spirit.
The first was World War II. The absolute unity of patriotic spirit during that trying time had to be experienced to be believed. There was absolute unanimity of purpose and resolve. Sacrificies were made and deprivations endured that I doubt we would tolerate today. There were shortages of not only goods but food and fuel. We couldn't drive very far on our "A" gas ticket which limited the amount of gas we could purchase to a few gallons a month. There were food ration books, which limited many foodstuffs, especially meat. We collected and bought bonds. School children bought "War Stamps" to fill a book good for a $25 War Bond. We held paper drives and took our fat-cans to the butcher.
There was no dissent, with the rare exception of perhaps one or two reviled individuals. The soldiers were honored, and especially their families proudly displaying blue star pennants in their windows or, all too common, gold stars for the ultimate sacrifice. The media wholeheartedly supported the war effort, even suppressing bad news from the front. Hollywood pumped out patriotic war movie after war movie, without a single "Platoon". Industry converted to war production with amazing speed and ramped up to unprecedented production levels. And yes, there were legions of "Rosie the Riveter."
The American spirit prevailed in that war, not only protecting our shores but saving England and liberating Europe, at staggering cost. Just ask the French and view their American cemeteries. I'm certain that Hitler and the Axis, including the Japanese, never anticipated the courage, skill and tenacity with which we fought.
The second event, not on the same scale but equally impressive, was the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden expected his brilliantly-planned and coordinated attack would demoralize the morally corrupt Americans. He was wrong. We came together as a nation with fierce resolve to avenge the outrage and punish the perpetrators. Patriotism exploded across the landscape, with flags everywhere, on homes, vehicles and clothing. The result was the rapid destruction of the al Qaeda infrastructure in Afghanistan, never to be reconstituted. It was the beginning of the end of bin Laden's baby as a viable threat on the scale of 9/11. There were major terrorist attacks in other countries like Spain and London, England, but not on U.S. soil.
Since then there have been second-guessing and criticism, but that is the nature of our time. Maybe that's better than during the 1940's; maybe not. I think you can guess my opinion. The point is, as a nation we came together and fought back with an unexpected fierceness. The Spanish, when attacked were cowed and did what the terrorists demanded-withdrew their miniscule troops from Iraq. The British reacted with stoicism and characteristic "stiff upper lip," and beefed up security. No retaliation.
So, what is it about this country that's different. We are indeed a sleeping lion--Schlafenlöwe in German. There is a strength, a steely resolve, beneath the surface of our turbulent society. We may squabble among ourselves, but do not threaten our nation or the Löwe will awake angry as h___! Ask Adolf, ask Admiral Yamamoto, ask the ghost of bin Laden.
I begin this phase of my dissertation with--easy now, guys!--a quote from Dick Cheney during an interview with Rush Limbaugh. (Never let it be said I shrink from controversy.)
"[A] lot of people ... are blessed in a sense when they're born to wealth or privilege or have certain advantages as a result of who their parents are. I could never think of a greater blessing or a greater advantage than having been born an American. In our day and age we are uniquely blessed to live in this time, to be a part of the greatest nation on earth, the most remarkable democracy the world has ever known. We're not always right, we're not always perfect by any means, but our motives are pure. We embarked not on conquests of empire, but rather on bringing freedom to millions of others. ..."
Why is this? Why are we Americans exceptional? Longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer once observed that the American is unique in that he has unbounded confidence in himself to solve any problem. (Sadly, I think we've lost some of this, thanks to our budding welfare state.) When a Frenchman's car dies on the highway, he will sit quietly and wait for assistance. (This is before cell phones.) The American, on the other hand, will jump out and raise the hood, somehow confident that he can fix the problem even though he may know nothing about automobile engines.
We have an innate sense that we can solve any problem. Unfortunately, this has led to an excess of government programs and bureaucracies established to solve problems that somehow never seem to get solved. However, the attitude is still alive and well. This level of national self-confidence--some might call it arrogance--has carried this nation through many crises, from the American Revolution through a terrible Civil War, two World Wars, a couple of abortive exercises in how not to fight a war and, of course, the current threat engendered by Islamic terrorism.
America is unique in all the world in that we are a melting pot of ethnicities. No other country opened its arms to as many legal immigrants from other nations. We have English, Germans, Irish, Polish, Jewish, Hungarian, Russian, South American, Mexican, Scandinavian, Asian from several countries and certainly several others I have neglected. Each immigrant brought a special heritage with him or her--special talents, ideas and attitudes, strengths and wisdom--the best from their place of origin.
Just as a metal alloy is stronger than the individual components, this melding of diverse characteristics has resulted in a unified exceptionalism unparalleled in the world. Some may be uncomfortable with this idea and may even find individual events in our history which are not to our credit, but overall we are a good people with uncommon empathy for those less fortunate, endowed with unquenchable optimism. No country has helped in national disasters around the world more than us. No other country cares as unselfishly. We are almost without exception "firstest with the mostest."
So, take pride fellow citizens of this marvelous experiment in democracy. With all our flaws, we are a good people with uncommon strength as a nation. The present difficulties we are experiencing, regardless of their source, will be overcome. You may be pessimistic about our present leadership or the status of your 401K, or a myriad of other problems, but we will weather these storms as we always have. Because we are Americans.
As a consequence of a ridiculous war of words in comments and blog posts--other than this one--certain commenters have been banned by the blog administrator. They use the ID's bamaphd, sirlaughsalittle and spalin. There has been much discussion of phantom and duplicate ID's, threats and profanity, which interests me not at all. Frankly, I wish everyone would just use their names, but I understand the reluctance in the light of the present poisonous atmosphere.
You all know there have been some problems with uncivil comments on Eagle's Eye, but I believe we have established an atmosphere of at least some degree of mutual respect, such that the commentary recently has been almost always civil and devoid of direct personal insults. I congratulate my regular and occasional commenters for their compliance. For what it's worth, I am pleased.
Therefore, I am not in sympathy with the banning of the selected commenters. Banning cannot be isolated to selected blogs, so these folks are banned from all blogs, including mine. I do not want this, as I am determined to maintain an open forum for any and all ideas that are thoughtful and presented in a civil manner. I firmly believe that respect breeds respect in response. There has been a woeful lack of mutual respect in other areas of this blog site, with near disastrous consequences. I have avoided involvement, but would hope at some point everyone would step back, wipe the slate clean and start over. Wounds that fester never heal.
We bloggers all have a comment control page where we can accept or reject individual comments. Banned comments show up as pre-rejected. The blogger, I, can flip the status of individual comments. Therefore, I will as frequently as possible review this page and flip the pre-rejected comments from the village of the banned (assuming civility) so they will be posted. I think this is a pain in the ___, but it is the only way I can continue to maintain an open forum.
So, comment away, folks. Rest assured that your comments will appear, perhaps just a bit late.
It all comes down to respect, both on the LLC blogs and also on the broader political scene.
A recent article in our daily newspaper lifted largely from The NY Times lauds the "foreign policy achievements" of President Obama--apparently just him, not his administration. Included were the impending withdrawal of all troops from Iraq (yes, we're still there), success in Afghanistan (Really? The Taliban has been defeated?) and the crowning touch, the defeat of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya, followed by his brutal mutilation and murder by victorious rebels. If you thought NATO did it, think again.
Not too long ago the U.S. dispatched five of our heavy--and very costly--strategic bombers, three B-1B Lancers (known affectionately as the "Bone" from B-One) and two B-2 Spirit "Stealth Bombers" non-stop from U.S. bases to Libya and return. Over Libya, they hit 150 targets with JDAM guided munitions. Each B-1B costs $283.1 million and each B-2 $1.01 billion. They were refueled by KC-135 tankers five times enroute. This, plus very intense reconnaissance coverage by E-8 Rivet Joint aircraft and innumerable UAV unmanned drones, along with close air support using U.S A-10 and F-16 fighter-attack aircraft, is heavy involvement in my book, and very costly.
Some years ago there was an organization (it might still exist) that advocated something called The New American Century. You may recall the organization; it was called the Project for a New American Century, or PNAC, and was the heart of the neo-conservative movement. It was founded by Bill Kristol and counted some very influential people as members. Its stated purpose was to encourage American adventurism around the globe, imposing democracy on undemocratic nations. The basis was the fact that we were the undisputed world superpower and had the military might to pull this off. They claimed it was our responsibility to spread democracy by any means necessary, because democracies are much less likely to start wars and the prospect for world peace would be enhanced. This was labeled Pax Americana by PNAC.
While the neo-conservative movement was widely reviled, especially by liberals, and its charter discounted as kookish, yet today we see substantial elements of the PNAC philosophy at work. American military presence is nearly ubiquitous in the world today. We are engaged in militaristic nation-building--an euphemism for democratization--in three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. We have military forces in a number of other countries such as Germany, South Korea and Japan, with a major naval presence in the Pacific to defend Taiwan from China. We are the core of NATO, whose original purpose to confront the Soviet Union is lost in the dustbin of history. I'm not sure what its purpose is today. We stuck our nose into Yugoslavia/Kosovo, deposing the dominant Serbs from an historic province in favor of Albanian drug merchants.
While our administration claims to be "drawing down" our forces, eventually bringing them home, the Air Force has been directed to establish by 2013 a 24/7 overflight and surveillance program using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper in a full-time 65-flight cover over Afghanistan. We don't have enough and are frantically building them and training controllers.
So, what is the purpose of all this? Iraq?: Supposedly being run by a democratic government, admittedly fractious, with substantial inter-tribal and religious sect conflict remaining. Iran is doing much mischief attempting to extend its influence into Iraqi political affairs. We defeated and killed Saddam Hussein and his Sunni government, admittedly brutal but undeniably strong, which was a bulwark against the Iranians. Now that's gone, replaced with a weak fledgeling democracy pretty much at the mercy of Iranian mischief.
Bush invaded Afghanistan to attack al Qaeda. They are long gone and have been for some time now. We are fighting the indigenous Taliban, for what reason I have no clue. They certainly pose no threat to the U.S. The same can be said for poor Moammar, who, while one of the many Middle East brutal despots, foreswore terrorism years ago and apparently kept his promise.
Now we have Uganda, with 100 U.S. "advisors" being sent by Obama to help the hapless Ugandan military defeat a small religious rebel group called "The Lord's Army" that is fighting the hard-line Islamic government. Hmmm. Where do I remember this "advisor" thing from? Oh yes, some small country in Southeast Asia back in the 1960's. That turned our well, didn't it? Don't even ask what our national security interest is in Uganda.
The bottom line is we have expended trillions of dollars fighting other nations and rebel groups around the world, along with defending even other nations with our military presence. Our military, especially the Air Force with it's 26-year-old fighters and 50-year-old refueling tankers, is being stretched to and beyond the limit while the administration is talking about cutting $400 billion from its budget. And none of this is directly related to the security of our nation. Honestly, what would be the effect on us if China gobbled up Taiwan and its Chinese population? My answer is "None".
So, I have become an isolationist. (Oh no, not that!!) We are expending massive resources for no discernible national interest. Heretically speaking, we don't need anyone! We are militarily secure from any international threat. A modest ABM system, the technology for which is available, would provide all necessary security from rogues like North Korea and even a nuclear Iran. We just let them know if they try to attack, we will incinerate them. And mean it!
I say let Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and even Israel defend themselves. I have no problem selling them whatever military hardware they might need, cash on delivery. We have more than enough resources like petroleum to provide for our needs, if we have the will to go and get it. We are blessed with total self-sufficiency in this great and wonderful nation. What we cannot do is support the national defense of our so-called allies, rid the world of its dictators and nation build willy-nilly any country whose policies or leadership we--or the UN--don't like. We have the means to protect ourselves against terrorism and retaliate massively and with deadly effectiveness against any aggressor.
Bottom line: pull the troops home, all of them. Cut off foreign aid--completely. Let the U.N. paddle its own canoe; we should resign and pull our 25% financial support. (They can keep the building.) Let the third world have it as their own little playground. They already do anyway. If we wish to support some humanitarian U.N. activities, we can do it independently. Certainly we would still respond to natural disasters as we always have done, but we cannot afford to do for the whole world; we're going broke trying.
Outside of some do-gooder handwringing and foreign weeping and wailing, I see no downside to this that we can't handle with little sweat. Economically, I suggest ground-levelling tariffs to equalize our production costs with the Chinese and Koreans so we are competing fairly. If the WTO doesn't like it, tough. If they don't want to buy our stuff, they can grow their own corn. This is the only way American industry can compete internationally and is the traditional purpose of tariffs. We'll manufacture and sell what we need, "Made in the U.S.A."
I'm sure some of you will have problems with this. There will be warts and ditches, but I really think everyone would be better off, especially us. The responsibility of a government is the welfare and protection of the nation, both for us and for other countries and governments. Let them paddle their canoes and we'll paddle ours.
There is a line from an old Kingston Trio song: "The whole world is festering with unhappy souls!" Sadly, this seems to represent the present day situation, locally--Wisconsin--nationally and internationally, even more than in 1959 when this song, "The Merry Minuet", was recorded. There are many unhappy souls in our world today. This is sad, as there is much beauty around us that often is lost in the Sturm und Drang of discontent and worse. The Desiderata says it well: With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Hopefully I can lighten the atmosphere just a little.
Well, here we are well into fall again. The tree colors are a bit past peak but still vibrant and intense. This beauty of Nature is around us all the time, not just during leaf turning time a few weeks each year. But this was a good one. I think we tend to take the beauty of our world for granted, not realizing what a miracle and gift it is.
I have in a previous blog discussed color and the miraculous process involved in creating it, so will not repeat except to reiterate that there is no practical purpose to most of Nature's colors except to pleasure us. There is no evolutionary impetus that can be assigned to the variety of beauty that surrounds us. Sadly, I'm afraid most folks do not notice or appreciate it.
Some of us think we have to travel to "see the colors," missing what is literally under our noses. The photos in this post were all taken this past week within two blocks of my home, two in my yard. Yes, Door County is spectacular, but even the small scenes of beauty always around us can pleasure the soul without burning a lot of costly gas.
It's not just in fall that the wondrous gift of Nature's beauty abounds. Winter's serene blanket of silent snow in its white purity is a pleasant and calming vista. Incidentally, did you ever wonder why snow is such a brilliant white? After all, it's just frozen water. Water is colorless as is ice. How does it get so intense white? I don't want to spoil the image, but it in itself is a miracle.
Snowflakes consist of relatively large spaces with arms containing various-sized elements. When sunlight, composed of all colors, strikes a layer of snow, some penetrates the surface and is reflected by precisely sized snowflake elements. All colors are reflected but mixed in the process, bouncing around inside the pile of snowflakes. This mixing of color wavelengths creates the white color, where just simple reflectance, as by a mirror or sheen of water, would appear clear and colorless. Now tell me that's not a miracle!
Winter also displays for us that most colorful of birds, the bright red Cardinal, who seems even more intensely crimson in winter. In spring, flowers, trees and plants awake and begin to bloom. The songbirds return and the drab Goldfinch regains his brilliant yellow and black plumage. In summer, everything is lush and green, and brilliantly hued flowers are everywhere. Farmlands come to life with the promise of bounty. Then we're back to fall.
I believe that beauty in Nature is a gift from God, who is not just the Master Designer but also a consummate artist. I believe that it exists only to pleasure us, a wondrous gift. The natural world would function just as well in shades of gray; the sky would still be there in its true color, the blackness of space. Yet it is a wonderfully pleasing blue--most of the time--a fascinating process in itself. The rainbow with its palette of primary colors has its scientific explanation as the prism effect of water droplets. This explanation defies reason because of the precision of the color separation and shape of the bow. I don't buy it.
So, regardless of whether or not you subscribe to the heavenly gift idea or prefer to believe in fortuitous evolutionary happenstance, beauty in Nature is a gift that we should spend much more time enjoying, perhaps forgetting our anger and resentments at least for a time. Would that the beauty of Creation uplifts our character and inspires greater civility. Then maybe some of the world's festering will begin to heal.
It is to hope.
- It's Hemmer Time Rain: "Hold my umbrella" - Benghazi: "Stand Down" (135)
- Cook's Corner Facebook recipes, who knew? The Best Pork Tenderloin (1)
- The Engineering Perspective The Raw Milk Debate (135)
- Eagle's Eye Stroke Story (30)
- "Hear's" to Life! Outnumbered in the Elder Care Journey (2)
- A Day in Ion Square A Change in Topic (101)
- Community Splashes Come meet the team from Transport Waukesha and enjoy a community social
- Alien Relay 2.0 To discharge or otherwise discriminate against any individual because of any of the following (228)
- Lake Country Rotary Happenings Splash Pad Ground Breaking Has Happened!
- Dispatches from the GOP convention Photos from Romney, Ryan events (24)