A Point? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Point!

I was thinking about doing a post on writing today. A few ideas have been chasing themselves around my mind, and I was looking forward to developing one or two of them. Of course, those damned ideas managed to chase themselves around until they got all tangled up and derailed what passes for my train of thought…

FAC5F2EB-C5EF-4DAC-80F3-F8D89A7AC9BBAhem.

Derailed may, in fact, be putting things (more than) a bit lightly. They derailed me in the same way the Hindenburg was “derailed”…

Why is it that I find it so damned hard to remember that first, most crucial rule of writing? When an idea comes — everyone say it with me, now — YOU WRITE THE DAMNED THING!!!

Yeah, I forgot/ignored that one. Again.

*sigh*

It would’ve been a great post, too.

Ahh, well…maybe it’ll come back in time for Friday’s post.

Of course, another problem cropped up while I sat in the shade today, trying to recover from hiking in the unrelenting, hot sun and flipping through articles and editorials on my phone…

FF48DB56-1970-4187-86FB-6EDF6C47A8F4Now, it’s not all that often that I run across something that makes me nod and go all agreeable. Very, very rarely has the phrase “Amen! Preach it!” ever crossed my lips (other than as a joke), but today I ran across one of those few.

I love it when someone else gets it. I especially love it when they “get it” from a totally different perspective from me. Things like that give me hope for the future…which is something in short supply in my cynical little corner of the world.

Saritha Prabhu has a great editorial in USA Today that you can find here. Read the whole thing, and take it in the spirit in which it is written. For those that want to short-cut the actual reading, this little pull-quote gives a good sense of things:

“Politicians from both parties have gotten away with letting down ordinary Americans for decades because millions of Americans are culturally wedded to their tribal political identities of Republican or Democrat, and can’t think outside the box.”

Amen! Preach it, sister!

Her conclusion does a good job, as well:

“I see myself as a political independent these days, who’ll opine based on what she sees and thinks, not along party lines.

For what it’s worth, renegades like me are like that canary in the coal mine: We’re trying to warn Democrats when they’re tone-deaf or still don’t get it.”

Now, look, I don’t want to go all political — and I especially don’t want to veer off onto some libertarian tangent — but holy crap, could we use some independence from the two-party-rigmarole* nowadays. I’ll let Ms. Prabhu’s piece stand for itself with her criticisms of Team-D, but for Team-R…shit, don’t get me started on Team-R. Can we PLEASE just do away with the whole, damned “social conservative” thing? Pretty please?!

*And if you think I didn’t have to spellcheck THAT particular word, you’re nuts!

I can’t think of anyone more problematic to a functioning, vibrant democracy than aggressive social conservatives. I’ve said it many times on this blog, but it bears repeating: my morality is none of your business, and yours is none of mine.

1365C924-B5E2-4C89-A6D7-1F992C8D6A51Look…I’m a libertarian. I don’t give two shits if you smoke a pound of pot every day, marry your lampshade, and attend full-moon orgies in the middle of a National Park. I don’t care who you love, or what you do, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone other than yourself. Adults are responsible for themselves and their own choices, and that includes the right to make decisions that others might consider “bad.”

And that’s where the Republicans and their “team” lost me — the social conservatives who drive that particular bus want freedom and libertarianism in some (very limited) ways, but in the truly important ways,* they want to control every single aspect of folks’ lives.

*The areas where NO ONE should have control…

No. Just…no.

Financial conservatism? A pragmatic — dare I say, Bismarckian — foreign policy? A strong military? A system that focuses on equality of access rather than equality of results?

Yes, to all of that.

But a system that dictates who you can love/marry? Or what you can do? Or that elevates one religion, or one interpretation of that religion even, to ideological and political supremacy?

No. Not just “no”, but “HELL NO!”

I agree with the Founding Fathers that our rights are inherent in us as human beings. They are rights that cannot be alienated away from us…and especially cannot be alienated away by any government or controlling power that “knows what’s best,” whether we agree or not.

Okay…crap…this is starting to turn into a screed, so I think it’s time to stop.

Ahem.

The next time I start to go all political, I’m gonna skip the problem and just post excerpts from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  All hail Douglas Adams!

What Slouches Towards Bethlehem

I spent some time reading the news over the last few days…

I think I need to repogram my browser’s ad blocker to be a news blocker, too. Just one day on a news aggregation site — just one day — read like some freaking end-times prophecy. Honestly, we’re gonna have to name this the “Yeats Era”:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Remember that civil war that I said was coming? Yeah, apparently I’m not alone in that cynicism. Rasmussen did a poll on the topic (here’s a link to their article on it) and found that almost a third of the US thinks a civil war is pretty damned likely…

11260C46-9429-4BEF-907D-D8D0AFF3A5CCWonderful. I don’t know if a poll like that is enough to turn cynicism into self-fulfilling prophecy, but I don’t particularly like where the odds are going on this one.

I understand the passion of protestors, and the deeply held beliefs on both sides. But both sides have crossed the lines that help us to function as a stable, rational society. Both sides are pushing us into confrontation and vitriol and hate that, honestly, has only one end.

When your opponent becomes an adversary that’s survivable. It ain’t great, not in any nation that was to find some form of cohesion, but it’s not Armageddon. When your adversary becomes an enemy, however…

Enemies are nefarious, they’re evil. Enemies cannot be overcome, they must be utterly defeated. Enemies must be killed and all vestiges stamped out.

The fringes of American politics are already well past the stage where any who disagree are enemies. The main body, so far, has resisted following the whackjobs into that particular madness. From the mainstream left to the mainstream right, we have been stuck at the adversary stage for several decades…and that’s something that has helped to keep us together as a nation.

Unfortunately, the numbers of those who are willing to hold back from insanity are shrinking. Ten years ago, it was maybe 10-15% of the political spectrum that was fixated on enemies and conflict. Nowadays? Now, it’s more like 50-60%.

How long until people are killed for “believing the wrong thing”? How long until people are killed for who they vote for? Or what policies they support? Once we cross that line, that path to civil war is unstoppable. Plain and simple, the descent into rage and blood will come.

Is there a way to step back? A way to stop this before we fall into that “watering the Tree of Liberty” thing?

The writer in me says, well, of course there is. There has to be a choice…it’s the only way to give your protagonist agency, and to have a plot worth following.

But the historian in me?

The historian in me is looking for somewhere to hide.

By the way, do you have any idea at all how much I regret NOT heading up to Yellowstone again this summer? I could have hidden away from all this shit…I could have lived in happy ignorance.57FC8202-0BB6-40F7-89AB-6BE185F1ECC6

Hey, look, make fun of ostriches all you want, but there’s something to be said for the occasional insertion of one’s cranium into a convenient hole.

True Greatness

Jackie Robinson started his first game for the Dodgers 71 years ago, in 1947. That is an accomplishment that we should never — that we can never — forget. Did it mark the end of racism? Not by a long shot. Did it change the fundamental facts of life in America in the 40’s? No. But it did mark a step down the right road…a very, very important step.

As much as I admire the courage and ability of Jackie Robinson, however, I’m not a baseball guy. I never played it as a kid, I never watch it on TV, and I barely understand the tactics and strategies of the only sport in the world that can rival golf, cricket and curling for sheer, mind-numbing boredom.

Nope, I’m not a baseball guy…I’m a hockey guy.

Now, unlike baseball, hockey is…er…pretty freaking white. That being said, there is an increasing presence of minorities in both the amateur and professional ranks. Dustin Byfuglien is a stud, I’ve loved Wayne Simmons all the way back to his time with the Kings, and PK Subban is a freaking machine (and one of those rarities in hockey: the player you can and should build your franchise around)…just names off the top of my head of players I admire. There are currently several dozen minorities in the NHL, let alone those in the minors. That’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the thousand or so who will play in the NHL in any given season, but every year those numbers grow. Especially in youth and junior hockey, those numbers are growing. And that matters, it matters a great deal.

But the story that doesn’t get told often enough is the man who started it all: Willie O’Ree.

F8399E3D-583E-4C6D-91BC-28866A4AB42AWillie O’Ree suited up as the NHL’s first black player in 1958. The first black player in one of the whitest sports in history (I’m looking at you, golf and auto racing, as the leading villains on that ignominious list of the lily-white). But the best part is that O’Ree is still with us, and is still active in the community. He still speaks to players — to kids and adults alike — and he is still working and fighting to open doors and create opportunities. He is still a source of inspiration and respect. He is still making a difference.

But he’s not in the Hall of Fame.

Wait…what the fuck?

He’s not in the Hall?

Are you kidding me?!

How the hell is Willie O’Ree not in the hockey Hall of Fame?!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the greats…I love Gretzky and Howe and Orr and a list too long to get into, but O’Ree didn’t just play, he changed the sport. He didn’t change the style of play like Gretzky, nor did he redefine a position like Orr…no, he did far more. He opened the door for every black and brown kid with dreams of playing. He opened the door for players like Subban and Iginla and Fuhr and Carter and Byfuglien and the rest of the greats that came after him.

But he’s not in the Hall.

He is eligible for nomination this year (again), in the Builders category. Now, there is a limit to the number of players who can even be nominated as candidates, and he is up against guys like Brodeur and St Louis and a host of others, but all that is needed is ONE member of the selection committee to champion him as a nominee.

Just one.

Imagine if Jackie Robinson were not in the baseball Hall of Fame…

If you are a hockey fan at all, or a fan of recognizing the folks who truly mattered, do me a favor and let those folks with a say in the matter know that Willie O’Ree doesn’t just belong in the hockey Hall of Fame, he is the very definition of an all-time great.

Here is a link to the list of selectors.

There’s Always More To The Story

Being a history nerd has its challenges. One of those challenges is the complete inability to accept just the “common view” when it comes to events about which you know a thing or two.  In life, as in (good) fiction, there is always more to the story.

Which brings me to today’s post…

Now, most folks (likely) realize that last Wednesday was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy landings. Honestly, that is one of those rare events in history that is burned into all of our memories. Most of us share the same iconic images of the soldiers wading ashore, most of us have seen the same movies, heard the same programs. Most of us have the same “common view.”

But to a history nerd — especially a naval history nerd, like me — there is just so much more to that day. Stories you don’t often hear, aspects of the invasion not “interesting enough” to make it into the movies, contingencies that are seldom remembered…

Operation Overlord was, at that particular moment in history, the single biggest logistical operation in the history of the world. In fact, even to this day, it has been eclipsed only one other time — by the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.

The images of D-Day that I find most intriguing, and most telling, are not those iconic pictures and movies of the soldiers wading ashore, but rather those from the days that followed. On June 6th, 160,000 men landed in Normandy. Each day thereafter, additional forces were brought ashore to join the fighting. And every single man had to supplied over those same beaches that they had so recently assaulted. In fact, it wasn’t until June 30th, when the Allied forces ashore had grown to almost a million men, that the port of Cherbourg was captured and the first deepwater ships were able to start coming in…

It takes a lot of bullets and beans (and boots…and band-aids…and benzene…and on and on) to supply a million men engaged in sustained combat. There is a famous Napoleonic quote that “amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics.” Well, below are a few pictures showing what very few amateurs bother to think about:

The other thing to keep in mind is that D-Day was not the “unstoppable might” of the Allies rolling over an exhausted, quiescent German army. There was every chance the invasion would fail, and the men responsible for planning and carrying out the landing knew that fact very well. I think most folks are probably familiar with the letter Eisenhower released when the invasion kicked off. You know the one I’m talking about — it starts, “You are about the embark on the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months…”

Well, that’s not the only letter he wrote about the landings. He also wrote one in case of failure…and it is as telling (and as unknown) as those pictures above:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

Yes, failure was a very real possibility…as the man at the heart of that invasion knew so very well.

Look, I’m not going to do an actual history of D-Day in this post. There are amazing ones already out there, ones I turn to when I want the full story. For just a short list: go read Shaara’s historical fiction for the landings themselves, or try Samuel Morrison’s naval history for the USN role and activities.  Max Hastings and Stephen Ambrose both have outstanding books on the subject.  Hell, just go watch The Longest Day, or try Tom Selleck’s (surprisingly very good) biopic about Eisenhower.  Go read Churchill’s memoirs, or Eisenhower’s, or Montgomery’s.  Personally, on the memoirs front, I’m a huge fan of Omar Bradley’s autobiography, as it gives some amazing “behind the scenes” insights.  Or, in the end, you can turn to the best military historian of the last hundred years, and read John Keegan’s Six Armies in Normandy.

Me, personally? I’ve started re-watching (yet again) Band of Brothers