1968 – WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED

If you are American, my age or older and were living in the U.S., 1968 was a strange and terrible year.

The political climate today reminds of back then. 1968 was the year which saw the escalation of the Vietnam war and violent protests to that war.

1968-montage

It was the year Eugene McCarthy won in the primaries, but couldn’t win the Democratic nomination. In the end, the nod went to Hubert Humphrey because it was also the year in which Lyndon Johnson said “I will not seek, nor will I accept my party’s nomination for President of the United States.” Which threw the election wide open.

A nearly forgotten Richard Nixon stepped out of the shadows and took center stage. Garry knew because Lyndon Johnson told him over a campfire in Vietnam. Read about it here.

Then Robert Kennedy threw his hat in the ring — but got it shot off by an assassin. Not before Martin Luther King was gunned down (two months earlier) in Tennessee. Across the nation, tanks rolled down streets. Machine guns were at the ready on the steps of the Capitol in DC.

That’s what happens when you stir the pot, add gobbets of hate and rage. If no one is willing to add civility or reason to the mix, when all politics is fueled by anger, stupidity, fear, and ignorance … you get 1968. And you get today.

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Most people don’t remember any of this. It happened before Gen X-ers or Millennials were born. Real history has been reduced to a footnote. We’ve erased our past, learned nothing.

1968 was the beginning of my slide from idealism to cynicism. A lot of people died. There were protests, riots, more deaths. The Chicago Democratic Convention — a police riot — didn’t even slow the process down. The war didn’t end. The best candidates never ran.

I remember the shock, horror, disbelief at the first Kennedy assassination in 1963. Then, before the pain of that loss was processed, the awful replay was Bobby’s death in 1968. I don’t remember how many assassinations occurred in those few years, but it seemed like it was on the news all the time. Death, more death, more hate.

Robert Kennedy-Headline

Eugene McCarthy was a hope born and dashed in less than a season. After all of the guts, guns, glory, and horror we got Richard Nixon as President. I didn’t think it could get worse. But it did. It has.

It is worse.

The Vietnam War rolled on. The protests didn’t end. The hatred built to a crescendo. Then, it was Watergate. The world spun crazily on its axis. I would never feel the same about our country or our political system.

When Clinton was elected, it was the first positive political event in my lifetime. When Obama was elected, we hoped for a brief shining moment that the world had truly changed. But all it seems to have done is bring the haters crawling out of the woodwork. Now, I don’t hope. I just fear.

eugene mccarthy button

I see Bernie Sanders making promises he knows he can’t keep. I see Donald Trump spouting the kind of racist hatred I was sure I’d never have to listen to again, not to mention his proposals that are outright illegal … while the morons cheer for him.

Every pol is pushing a personal agenda without regard for how, in the end, we the people will pay the price for their egotism, their narcissistic determination to win at any price.

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Make no mistake. There’s nothing harmless about this. The spoilers and the haters are out to prove their point — no matter what. They are not our friends. They are killing us, eating our future in 10 second sound bites.

This is what happens to those who know no history. We are about to repeat the past, but it will be much worse this time.

WHAT U.S. STATES WANTED TO SECEDE IN 2012?

Not one single state filed anything suggesting secession.

Why? First, because no state government was stupid enough to lose the benefits they get from the central government. Secession is illegal. The Civil War decided the issue and there’s no going back. All of those petitions were put together by groups of discontented sore losers who didn’t understand in the United States, an election decides the issue.

We don’t govern by petition. We protect your right to petition (thank you, First Amendment), but that only means we don’t throw you in jail for doing it, not that your petition has force of law.

The U.S. does not govern by opinion. No matter how often or how loudly you tell the world about your dissatisfaction on the Internet, on social media sites, or anything else, it’s the ballot box where we collect and count votes. We have a constitution. We have laws. We vote. We count votes. The winner is decided, the loser takes his marbles and goes home.

A petition by the losers of an election does not trump the right of the people of the United States to freely elect their representatives. That you have the right to petition doesn’t mean your petition is going to change anything. Its existence is a testament to how free a country this is. Most other places, you’d be jailed or shot.

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The reason that not a single state government has petitioned for secession is because no one running a state is as stupid as these petitioners. They know they can’t go it on their own and aren’t going to try. Not to mention that a state trying to secede is considered to be in rebellion, for which there are serious penalties. As for the argument that we seceded from England, we were never part of England. We were a colony, a far different legal position than that held by a state.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

We did not secede from England. We rebelled against English rule. We are heroes because we won, but had we lost, it would have been ugly. It would have been treason.

Rebellion is a serious matter and the price of losing is dreadful. Rebels are hanged or shot, pretty much universally, so anyone who thinks they ought to rebel needs to be prepared to die.

AN HISTORICAL NOTE: The American colonists’ first choice was not to break away from England. We wanted the rights of full British citizenship and full representation in Parliament. In other words, far from preferring rebellion, we wanted inclusion. We wanted our status as a colony upgraded to the British equivalent of statehood … something that our American secessionist wannabes already have … and are too ignorant to value.

No one is going to secede. Maybe after the alien invasion, things will change. Until then, secession is a non-issue.

congress in session

For the blood-thirsty idiots who think a civil war is a good idea:

The Civil War cost more than 620,000 American lives, above and below the Mason-Dixon line. Death doesn’t care what color uniform you wear or what color skin you have. Dead is dead. The war between the states caused more American deaths than all other wars this nation has fought combined. ALL of them combined. I don’t know the actual percentage of the population that perished in that hideous conflict, the gory legacy of which we are still dealing with 150 years later, but it was a very substantial percentage. Anyone who suggests that doing that again is a good idea is a criminal.

I don’t care what you believe. No one who values human life, believes in God, or has any kind of conscience or moral compass would suggest we take up arms and start slaughtering each other.

The Peacemakers.

If we are unable to live together, we will not survive as a nation. How can anyone claim to care about this country and then suggest we destroy it because they don’t like the President? Does this sound like patriotism?

There are too many people who have yet to grasp the concept that in a contest, there are always winners and losers. You, over there, with the sign and the sour face. You lost. Deal with it.

Respect the constitution. Work within our excellent system of laws. If you don’t respect our government enough to honor its fundamental principles, you really should go live somewhere else, if you can find anywhere else that will have your sorry asses.

Does it surprise anyone that the “leaders” of this bogus “movement” to secede are largely from the same states that produced the glorious Civil War? You think race might have something to do with it?

The number of signatories, assuming that they could be verified as real people, does not come close to a majority of citizens of any state — nor even enough people to elect someone to congress. It’s a bunch of malcontents trying to get media attention. In other words, sore losers.

101 YEARS AGO: CHRISTMAS TRUCE – 1914

The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial cease fires along the Western Front during the Christmas season of 1914. During the days leading to Christmas day, German and British soldiers left their trenches to exchange greetings. To talk man-to-man, exchange personal information, share food and drink.

From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches"

From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”

World War I had been raging for only four months. Soldiers on both sides were trapped in trenches and extremely wary of sniper fire. On battlefields mired in mud, frozen with snow and ice, soldiers emerged from their holes in a rare, spontaneous outbreak of peace.

Both sides — most notably in the southern portion of the Ypres Salient — combatants briefly laid down their weapons and met in No Man’s Land.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they mingled. Exchanged food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps. Several meetings ended in carol-singing.

The high command on both sides issued warnings to all soldiers that such fraternization would make participating soldiers subject to charges of treason. Not surprisingly, there were far fewer spontaneous truces the following year and virtually none by 1916.

A sad commentary on human “civilization” when peace, however temporary, is called treason.

A NORMAN ROCKWELL THANKSGIVING

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For those of you who think Norman Rockwell only painted idealized images, he didn’t. His idealized images are the most popular, but he painted many other, hard-edged pictures. If you’re in the neighborhood of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, I recommend the Norman Rockwell Museum.

It’s a particularly American experience. I especially love this Thanksgiving cover for Life Magazine — reminding us that the Pilgrims were a humorless bunch. Not the kind of people I’d like to know.

Indian corn in kitchen window

They wouldn’t approve of our traditional Thanksgiving, not one little bit. I don’t think you’d want them at your table and they would not be thrilled to be there, either.

I enjoy Thanksgiving. The idea of it. It’s good there’s a day dedicated to gratitude. And eating too much, visiting with family and friends. But — you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you? — I am frequently reminded there are people who don’t have a family. Others who don’t have much to celebrate. And of course Native Americans, who on the whole, don’t find Thanksgiving a reason to rejoice.

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So, while we are consuming our dinners and enjoying our family, please give a thought to those who aren’t celebrating. Can’t celebrate. Are disinclined to celebrate. We do not all have to celebrate the same way.

Enjoy your holiday. Your way.

STEPHEN KING – 11/22/63

11/22/63, BY STEPHEN KING

If you haven’t read this amazing novel yet, it is as good now as it was when it was when first published four years ago. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the central event of the novel, so it seemed a good time to remind everyone about a really great book, one of the best in my reading life.

This book was so good that it took my breath away. I’m not a Stephen King fan, yet several of his books and stories are among my favorites works of American Literature. The problem isn’t with his writing, which goes from good to amazing, but his genre (horror, usually) which ranks low on my list of what I like to read.

11-22-63 king

This is not horror. Small sections of the book touch on it, but only tangentially without ever diving in. In fact, this is as pure an example of the science fiction time travel genre as I’ve ever read. And I’ve read pretty much every book in the genre. To say I’m a time travel junkie would not overstate it.

King does the genre proud. Beyond that, this book is beautifully written. My husband, who is rather an anti-King fan (except for anything he ever wrote about the Red Sox or baseball) was dubious when I handed him the book and said “Read it. You’ll love it, I promise!” He read it. He couldn’t put it down. He read portions of it out loud because he felt they were so lyrically beautiful that it was heart-wrenching.

Whether or not you like Stephen King’s usual fare, if you are a reader of science fiction and/or time travel, you owe yourself a trip through this wonderful book. Like many authors, King avoids dealing with the technology of time travel and uses the tried-and-true “hole in the time-space continuum” ploy to move his characters to a particular time and place. The path is more circuitous that some other epics of this type I’ve read, but so well done that I savored the entire journey.

Most readers seem to agree that this is the best book King has written in many years, perhaps the best since “The Stand” and in my opinion, even better, but I’ll concede on this if you want to argue since “best” is relative and subjective. Regardless, read it. You won’t be disappointed.

This is Stephen King at the top of his game, writing with emotion, poetry, depth, and beauty. And finally, without taking any cheap and easy ways out of the complexities he creates by the very nature of time travel. Thank you Mr. King.This is a gift that keeps giving.

The audiobook recording is also wonderful. Print or narrated, this is a winner. I recommend both. Sequentially.

THEY ARE SPYING ON US!

I’m walking around laughing at the gigantic fuss, furor, and scandal over the latest invasion of our privacy. I think this months villain is Microsoft. Last month it was someone else. Government? Corporations? Amazon? Google? They are all spying on us. You knew that, right?

So last night, when we were nicely tucked into the most comfortable bed in the world, I said to Garry:

newspaper1“Can you think of any government anywhere, or any time in the history of humankind, during which governments have not spied on their citizens or subjects?”

He honored me with a thoughtful few seconds before answering … or maybe he was just twiddling with the remote control.

“Nope.”

“I think the way it works is this. First, we invent heads of state. Kings, presidents, emperors, whatever. Next, they invent a secret police so they can keep on being the head of state. The only thing that seems to change is the technology. And the quality of the dungeons.”

“Yup.”

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“I think it’s a mistake to try and monitor all those emails and phone calls. I mean, they are just going to be buried under data. Lots of jabbering kids yakking with friends, people arguing with customer support, and boring conversations by people like us. We never say anything interesting on the phone. We hardly talk on the phone at all. Our email is pretty dull too.

“Yup.”

black and white wires power lines

Americans have an ongoing need to be outraged about something. We require a constant level of civic hysteria, maybe to keep from being boring. Scandal keeps ratings up and gives talk show hosts something to joke about. It gives liberals and conservatives something to accuse each other of doing, even though every administration has done pretty much the same stuff and always will.

I’m wondering how long this is going to stay on top of the news. It has been years … at least five so far and I see no end to it. Apparently it never gets old.

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Nothing will change. Governments spy on citizens. Citizens are outraged. The outrage is ignored. Eventually, everyone moves on — until it pops up again.

I’m having trouble getting myself worked up over this.

I remember Richard Nixon. I even remember J. Edgar Hoover. I’ve read history. I know traffic cameras track us. If anyone is looking for me — or you — I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding us.

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My government spies on me. Corporations spy on me. Everyone collects my personal information and uses without my permission. That’s the price I pay for being connected and computerized.

They were spying on us during the 1960s, albeit less efficiently. They were spying on my parents and their friends in the 50s and 40s.

Obama didn’t start this. Bush didn’t start it. FDR didn’t start it. Abraham Lincoln didn’t start it. It’s been going on as long as there have been governments and it will never end.

ENDING POLIO – HAPPY BIRTHDAY JONAS SALK

For reasons that completely elude me, quite a few people are rejecting vaccination. They have somehow rationalized away some of the most important progress in human history. The result has been the reappearance of diseases we conquered, of which we thought we’d seen the last.

I remember the annual terror the summertime brought before polio vaccines made the world a safe place to be a kid.

anti-vaccine-cartoon

I remember lining up in school — a first grader — with all the other kids to get my shot and how happy our parents were that finally, we didn’t live under the terrible shadow of polio.

Here’s a reminder of how things were before there was such a thing as a polio vaccination, when summer was filled with fear for every child, everywhere.


Today would be Jonas Salk’s 101st birthday. Conquering polio was not only about Dr. Salk, though he was first at the starting line. As polio ravaged patients worldwide, two gifted American researchers developed distinct vaccines against it. Then the question was: Which one to use?

By Gilbert King – Smithsonian.com – April 3, 2012


They were two young Jewish men who grew up just a few years apart in the New York area during the Great Depression. Though both were both drawn to the study of medicine and did not know each other at the time, their names would be linked in a heroic struggle that played out on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

polio ward

In the end, both Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk could rightfully claim credit for one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments—the near-eradication of polio in the 20th century. And yet debate still echoes over whose method is best suited for the mass vaccination needed to finish the job: Salk’s injected, dead-virus vaccine or Sabin’s oral, live-virus version.

In the first half of the 20th century, Americans lived in fear of the incurable paralytic poliomyelitis (polio) disease, which they barely understood and knew not how to contain. That the disease led to some kind of infection in the central nervous system that crippled so many children, and even a president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was alarming enough.

Polio-salk-vaccine newspaper

But the psychological trauma that followed a neighborhood outbreak resonated. Under the mistaken belief that poor sanitary conditions during the “polio season” of summer increased exposure to the virus, people resorted to measures that had been used to combat the spread of influenza or the plague. Areas were quarantined, schools and movie theaters were closed, windows were sealed shut in the heat of summer, public swimming pools were abandoned, and draft inductions were suspended.

Just about 100 years ago, in 1916, polio rampaged through the U.S.

Just about 100 years ago, in 1916, polio rampaged through the U.S.

Worse, many hospitals refused to admit patients who were believed to have contracted polio, and the afflicted were forced to rely on home care by doctors and nurses who could do little more than fit children for braces and crutches. In its early stages, polio paralyzed some patients’ chest muscles; if they were fortunate, they would be placed in an “iron lung,” a tank respirator with vacuum pumps pressurized to pull air in and out of the lungs. The iron lungs saved lives, but became an intimidating visual reminder of polio’s often devastating effects.