LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON – VIETNAM 1967, by GARRY ARMSTRONG

WHEN OUR PRESIDENT WAS A HERO


Location: A campfire in Vietnam near Saigon.

Year: 1967.

1967 and 1968 were very intense years for me. I had jumped directly from college and small time commercial radio, to ABC Network News. The time was right and the opportunity was there, but I was a kid thrust suddenly into the big leagues. My journalistic baptism started with the 6-day war in the Middle East which began on my first day at ABC. My professional life continued with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the volatile 1968 Presidential campaigns and a long visit to Vietnam, the first of several.

At headquarters in New York, my assignment was to receive reports from ABC’s field correspondents. I’d speak with them over static-riddled phone lines. Difficult to hear for anyone, harder for me. The daily MACV — or war front reports — were often significantly different from what the Pentagon reported. It was disturbing, worrying. Then, they sent me to Vietnam.

The sights, sounds and smells of Vietnam are still with me, 50 years later.

ABC needed a grunt to help the news team covering President Johnson’s visit to Vietnam. I was it. My job required I not allow myself to be distracted from the work at hand. I was a young reporter still learning the ropes. I had to stay focused on the story and exclude the other harrowing images around me.

LBJ vietnam 1967It was a typical evening, the never-ending noise of artillery in the background. It was what was called “down time.” Dinner around a campfire. GI’s, South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians and news media, all hunkered down for chow. Everything was off the record. Chow was beans and some unknown local meat. Most of us ate the beans. Skipped the meat.

President Johnson or LJ as he told us to call him, squatted at the point of the campfire and told some colorful tales about dealing with his pals in the Senate and Congress. The stories were punctuated with smiles and profanities. LJ was drinking from a bottle which he passed around. Good stuff.

Halfway through dinner, the beans began to resonate. The smell was pungent! I must’ve had a funny look on my face because LJ gave me a withering stare and asked if I had a problem. I remember sounding like a squeaky 16-year-old as I responded “No sir.” LJ guffawed and passed the bottle back to me.

Before completing his trip, President Johnson confided to some of us that seeing Vietnam up close confirmed his worst fears. He broadly hinted he was unlikely to seek re-election, given the backlash of Vietnam back home in the States. I thought he sounded like one of my cowboy heroes putting duty above personal gain.

But it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing. History in the making.

The following day was my final encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson. There were handshakes, a smile about our campfire evening and LJ was again President Lyndon Johnson, one of the truly great American presidents.


Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, from 1963 to 1969. As President, he designed “Great Society” legislation, including civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and a “War on Poverty”.

Johnson’s civil rights bills banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing. It included a voting rights act that guaranteed the right to vote for all U.S. citizens, of all races. Passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 reformed the country’s immigration system, eliminating national origins quotas.

Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and his readiness to do whatever it took to advance his legislative goals.


Today, we have a president — if you care to call him that — who believes all of the good things LBJ did is garbage.

I’ve been around long enough to understand how many bad things can be fixed, eventually. Maybe not completely, but at least in part. What if we destroy the world? When the beauty of our world has gone and what’s left are expensive condos? When the trees have disappeared? When the sky is dull green, gray, and full of filth? What then? How do we come back from that?

When the poor are lost, and there’s nothing remaining but ugliness? What then, indeed.

WHY STUDY HISTORY? REFLECTING ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PAST

Posted on January 29, 2017 by Sean Munger in Authors, Books, History /

Al Mackey, the Civil War historian who runs the excellent Student of the American Civil War blog, has today put up a very thoughtful and incisive piece on a book written by another one of our blogging colleagues, Dr. John Fea. Dr. Fea’s book Why Study History? is a clarion call for our times, when understanding of the past–or even appreciation of why understanding the past is even useful–is under serious attack. The themes Dr. Fea talks about in his book, and which Mr. Mackey echoes, are similar to those I recently dealt with in my own article about the dangers of “Fake History.” Please read the whole article at Al’s blog, or, better yet, buy Dr. Fea’s book!

This is an excellent book by John Fea, Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College. Professor Fea is also a blogging colleague, blogging at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is also the title of an earlier book of his, subtitled, Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America. There he posts the normal history blog posts as well as personal reflections on current events, religion, politics, and the academic life, as well as videos. He also hosts a podcast that has already been featured on this blog.

In my opinion, everyone who would like to be a serious student of history needs to read this book. Professor Fea gives us an accessible primer on how to do history, from the obligatory “What Do Historians Do?” to “What Can You Do With a History Degree?”

So what is a historian? ” ‘In my opinion,’ writes Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood, ‘not everyone who writes about the past is a historian. Sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and economists frequently work in the past without thinking historically.’ ” [pp. 1-2]

Is history simply the past, or is there a difference?… [CONT’D]

Read the entire original article here: Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.

NINIANE – THE LADY OF THE LAKE

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TALLHWCH – The pursuit of history

The first mention of either the Lady of the Lake or Ninian (Niniane, Vivian, etc.) is to be found in the late work Prose Merlin.  Her character remains much the same through to Sir Thomas Malory, who simply makes the story more complex.  In all the stories that name her Ninian is a fully developed character.  She is the original owner of Arthur’s second sword and later becomes Merlin’s pupil.

However, as with many aspects of the Arthurian literary world, there are serious gaps in reasoning with her story, and these gaps suggest a very different origin for her.  For instance, Merlin somehow knows she will betray him, but teaches her anyway.  The romances explain that he does so because he loves her, but that sounds like more of a rationalization of something not understood than an historical fact that is.

The end of her story is that Niniane does trap Merlin in a cave the moment her studies are over.  He is left there, alive (again, no serious explanation).  It certainly is not out of malice for Arthur.  Ninian takes over as his counselor for the remainder of his reign and does her best to help him.  She is also one of the four women who takes him to Avalon.  That is the extent of Ninian’s literary career.  Clearly her original character and the transformation have been hidden by chance and misunderstandings.

Uinniau was a prominent ecclesiastic of sixth century Britain who may have been Columba’s teacher.  He was known as Ninian in Welsh saints’ lives or Nynia by Bede.  However, much of Scotland has place-names derived from his proper name of Uinniau.  This Uinniau was known for three things mainly.  First, he was one of the most knowledgeable persons of his age.  Second, he was a great teacher who made his monastery of Whithorn was a primary center of learning in Britain.  Finally, it is known that he would occasionally go on a retreat to a nearby cave, known as St. Ninian’s Cave, which was several miles away from his monastery.

Ninian would eventually became the form by which Uinniau was exclusively known.  In fact, the process must have been an early one.  Bede, writing in 725, knew him only by that name.  It was an unfortunate circumstance that Ninian was a Celtic name, and the romance writers who would treat Arthur on the continent spoke Germanic and Latin languages.  The unfamiliarity with Celtic would lead to confusion over his gender, and he became a she there.

Arthur was an attractive figure in the literature of the Middle Ages, gravitating all manner of figures, motifs, and stories to him.  In previous blogs I have mentioned the attraction of the Myrddin (Merlin) legend and the figure of Urien.  The same sort of fate awaited Uinniau.  Long before Arthur had become a figure of romance, Uinniau’s dominant name-form had become to Ninian.  For the Celtic speaker that was still a male name, but for continentals it was female.

That change from male to female, from independent ecclesiastic to intelligent layperson was where Uinniau became a different literary figure.  Once Uinniau was a part of the Arthurian universe, his reputation for intelligence would have drawn him to the already established Merlin; in an irony of history a lunatic (Myrddin) became the teacher of one of the best-read people of the age (Uinniau).  Once that  transformation was accomplished, the latent aspects of Uinniau’s memory easily made their way into Arthurian the tales, and Merlin was trapped in the cave Uinnau had used as a refuge.

I won’t pretend to know how Ninian became the Lady of the Lake.  However, she would not have begun her Arthurian career that way.  She would have started off as Merlin’s pupil and successor with the qualities of her historical precursor intact.  She was associated with a lake only by Robert de Boron, an author that I have discovered in my research was not one to stick with his traditional sources.  It is possible he knew of some Celtic tale which he used to enhance Uinniau’s mythology.  It is equally possible he used something more contemporary.  That part of the history of the Lady of the Lake we may never know.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

One of my favorite mysteries, leaving enough unanswered questions to hold my interest. If you have never visited TALLWCH, check it out: http://tallhwch.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/niniane-the-lady-of-the-lake/

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1969 – MY FAVORITE YEAR

1969 was the year I learned to fly. The world was happening and I was part of it while everything changed.

Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I was a new mommy with a 2 months old baby boy. Home with the baby, not working or in school. I had time to see it. We watched it on CBS. Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there too. Up there, with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement, almost in tears, his voice breaking with emotion. The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for the historic broadcast.

woodstock-1

Woodstock was just a month away and there were rumors flying about this amazing rock concert which would happen in upstate New York. Friends had tickets and were planning to go. I was busy with the baby. I wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. I didn’t envy anyone. I was happy that year, probably happier than I’d ever been and freer than I’d ever be again.

I was young, healthy. I believed we would change the world, end war. Make the world a better place. I was still of the opinion the world could be changed. All we had to do was love one another, join together to make it happen. Vietnam was in high gear, but we believed it would end any day. Though we soon found out how terribly wrong we were, for a little bit of time, we saw the future bright and full of hope.

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” It made my baby boy laugh. Me too, because it reminded me of the Holy Modal Rounders. Look them up.

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. A World Series win. 1969. What a year. I rocked my son to sleep and discovered Oktoberfest beer. New York went crazy for the Mets. It should have been the Dodgers, but they’d abandoned us for the west coast.

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip. Music was amazing and no matter how many ways I look at it, today’s music is an anemic imitation of the creative juices that ran in that long ago year.

How young we were! We were sure we could do anything, everything. We would end war and right every wrong. For one year, the stars aligned and everything was good.

Decades passed. Youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. They aren’t much fun, but they keep us alive … no small feat these days.

These days, I worry about Social Security, Medicare,and if  I or the country will survive our incoming president. I am nostalgic about Richard Nixon, a true measure of just how much everything has changed. I know I can’t fix the world. I’ve lived a lifetime. My granddaughter is the age I was back then. I’ve lived in another country, celebrated a 25th anniversary. My son is eligible to join AARP. I moved from the city to the country, and partied with a President, but 1969 is still my year.

Source: MARILYN’S FAVORITE YEAR – 1969

SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES

I have been thinking about the government. Which reminded me of this song. Except I couldn’t quite remember the title and I pondered that as we drove (very slowly through almost bumper-t0-bumper traffic) the 60 miles from Cape Cod to home. Finally, I remembered “subterranean” and “blues.” I could remember half the lyrics, in pieces.

Well, you gotta hand it to Google. Type in a piece of the puzzle and it brings up the rest of the story. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was released by Bob Dylan in 1965. Bringing it All Back Home was his fifth studio album and has always been my favorite. I realized I no longer own a copy, so I ordered the CD from Amazon. It’s one of the basics.

bringing-it-all-back-homecover

If a song can be prescient, this is. Here are the lyrics:

Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doing it again
You better duck down the alleyway
Lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coonskin cap
In the pig pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
But you only got ten

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed, but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don’t try no dose
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
By users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t want to be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.


Written by BOB DYLAN
Subterranean Homesick Blues lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO.


There’s a lot of history in this song. You can look it up if you’re curious. Or not. It was the leading edge of the social protest movement, and anti-Vietnam war movement, and the “youth against the rest of the world” movement — which, to be fair, is part of every generation except I firmly believe we had the best music.

I don’t think I’ve got anything to add to this. It sings for itself. And don’t forget, the singer and songwriter is now a Nobel prizewinner, even though he doesn’t have the time for a trip to Norway. It gives one pause for thought.

PROTEST | DAILY POST

A NOVEL OF THE REFORMATION – THE BROTHERS PATH – MARTHA KENNEDY

The Brothers Path, by Martha Kennedy


Publisher: Free Magic Show Productions (July 4, 2016)
Category: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-1535101295
ASIN: B01HSDYD04
Available in: Print & Ebook; 276 Pages, The Brothers Path

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By award-winning author, Martha Kennedy.

The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.

Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America looking for safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were adamant about separating church and state.


I love history, yet somehow in my reading, I missed this critical period in European history.

Of course I knew about the Reformation, but I never imagined it as a particularly bloody period. I knew there had considerable strife and struggles between the Roman Catholic church which had ruled the Christian world since the end of the Roman Empire, and the nascent protestant faiths. Yet I had never given much thought to the impact these world-altering events had on the lives of people living through them.

72-martha-pikes-peakMartha Kennedy’s beautifully written book brought me a close and personal understanding of how the disintegration of the Roman religious hierarchy was the central event of its time. It affected everyone living, from the most humble to the most high. It was not merely the change in what people believed, but what they were required to believe — or at least act as if they believed. Life could not go on as it had.

Dissenters from the new order are hunted and killed, yet the old order is not without resources or power. And so there is war. A personal, ugly, close-fought war that tears families apart.

The Schneebeli family is one of many families that has descended from nobility to would ultimately be considered “middle” class. Landowners still, they must work hard to survive. They have mills. Horses. A crumbling tower to remind them of former glory, for whatever it is worth and it is not worth much. They retain considerable standing in their village in Switzerland as well as a strong sense of obligation and duty towards their neighbors.

As issues of faith and religion dominate their world, the family needs considerable agility to dodge and weave through an increasingly dangerous world. Peter, the warrior brother, is seeking a path that will not bring him into direct (and probably lethal) conflict with his family and friends. Hans, the monk, wants to continue to serve his people … and have a family, too. The Reformation offers him a path to be both — what he has been and what he wants to be.

For each brother, there is a road to walk … and whichever path they choose, it is fraught with danger.

To whatever degree religion in today’s world is a hot button issue, it cannot compare with the intensity or emotion stirred up as the indestructible Church, the linchpin of European Christianity for a millennium, ruptures.

This is a book about history and religion. War that is personal, close, intimate, and unavoidable. Love that finds a way despite the tumult of the times. Families that stick together. Lives saved, lives ruined. It paints a clear picture of why religion and government should always remain separate. When churches rule, people die. When personal belief is a legal mandate and defying it is worth your life, society cannot thrive.

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At the bottom of it all, aside from the battles and painful changes to life, the book is about people going about their business, living, loving, and surviving. The characters are resilient. They take their losses and they move on — because that’s what real people do. Through it all, they find a reasonable amount of happiness.

If this sounds like it might be depressing, it isn’t. The world may be a mess, but Martha Kennedy’s characters are sensible, educated, grounded people who make intelligent decisions. The winds of change and war buffet them, but they never lose their commonsense or belief in themselves. I found it refreshing to meet a group of characters who behaved like smart, civilized people, even in the midst of violent change and occasionally, near chaos.

This isn’t a lightweight romp, but it is not a grim slog from misery to misery, either. There are losses. There are victories. Good times and bad, sorrow and joy. Real people living in a challenging and complicated period of history … and making the best of what life offers. It’s a highly readable book that keeps you interested from start to finish.

It’s well worth reading. I only wish it had been longer.

THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – NOVEMBER 18, 1978

Another anniversary. And a timely reminder where crazy leaders can take us. Do NOT drink the Kool-Aid. Really. Just say no. It’s now 38 years … and we seem to be heading back down the lonesome road.

SERENDIPITY

Another year, another anniversary. It seems, given recent events, especially timely to remember where hatred leads.

Terror, born in hatred and nurtured by evil, doesn’t always come from somewhere else. We grow our own bad guys, too. It’s why I cringe at the over-simplified “meme psychology” that currently dominates media. Education doesn’t cure evil. Nor does sending in the Marines. Evil will always be us. We need to recognize it for what it is. Even when it smiles and makes pretty promises.


It happened — or perhaps culminated — on November 18, 1978. Which makes today the 37th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, one of the most bizarre, horrible events of the 20th century

If you were old enough to read or understand television news in 1978, you remember the Jonestown Massacre. With religious fanaticism and radical fundamentalism enjoying a groundswell of popularity — even among people who ought to know better — it’s a good time to remember where…

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