Facing the Horrors of War

Like many of my colleagues from the 511th MI Company, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp during my tenure in Fulda, and it was a sobering experience. It is difficult for any rational individual to come to terms with the sheer magnitude of horrors that took place in that single camp. On that note, I just read the following article from HistoryNet, which describes the retributory actions of US soldiers during the liberation of Dachau:

I have to admit, I find it difficult to find fault with soldiers who retaliated against the guards that were still defending the camp with the US Army arrived. It is easy during a time of relative peace to passively judge the actions of soldiers who exacted vengeance upon unarmed guards several decades ago, and it is likewise easy during peacetime to believe that any of us might have behaved differently in a similar circumstance. Nevertheless, none of us trod the path those soldiers walked, and I am willing to bet that coming face to face with Dachau's camp guards - whom we now perceive as inhuman monsters - could alter anyone's sense of morality.

 


ADDITIONAL REFERENCES:

More information about the Dachau Concentration Camp and the reprisals that were taken by US soldiers is available in the following WikiPedia articles:

What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Unless you've been deployed to a forgotten, backwoods, nowhere of a hell hole and one of these packages is your Thanksgiving meal, you may not realize how truly thankful you should be for the things that you have.

MRE-Turkey-Loaf-and-Diced-Turkey-With-Gravy

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all my comrades in arms (and their families) who are deployed far from home and their loved ones, and keeping the peace so that others might be able to spend time with their families.

Memorial Day and the Pledge of Allegiance

One of my cousins shared the following video, https://youtu.be/2HGHdFmu5GU, which I have seen before, but it seems apropos to reshare it for Memorial Day weekend. In four short minutes, the late Red Skelton describes the meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance, which was a voluntary oath that was taught to students when I was younger. The pledge helped put the history of the United States in perspective; while our country is far from perfect, there is much to be thankful for.

Sadly, however, a reverence for the blessings that we have and the country that has provided them is no longer taught in schools. The youth of today are fed a never-ending stream of self-loathing propaganda, wherein our ancestors are depicted as nothing more than thieves, enslavers, and murderers, and our country should be condemned for sins in which no one living today participated.

Contrary to what our children are force-fed in public education, our country has learned from its myriad mistakes, and created one of the most-prosperous, equitable, and free societies that the world has ever known. Yes, there is still room for us to grow as a nation and important lessons that need to be learned, and our people should strive for those ideals. But today's youth should be taught that our civilization has succeeded where so many past civilizations have failed because our nation has spent centuries growing and learning together, instead of tearing ourselves apart, driving divisions between each other, and cursing the forefathers who made our abundance of blessings and freedoms possible.

With that in mind, I would ask that everyone take a moment out of their busy schedules of BBQs and three-day sales this weekend to consider those whose sacrifices made today possible, and consider how you can personally contribute to the ideals that are expressed in the words: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Abuses and Autocrats, Dissenters and Dictators, Orwell and Oligarchs

The Editorial Board at the New York Times recently posted an article named Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe, which brings up an interesting subject that I'd like to discuss. As anyone who grew up in America is aware, our system of government was created with a distribution of power between three branches: Executive (President), Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court). The original intent of the Executive branch as detailed in the Constitution was to enforce the laws that were created by the Legislative branch, while the job of interpreting those laws was assigned to the Judicial branch. Over the years, each President has ramped up the use of Executive Orders, which have increasingly had the same affect as laws, without having to go through the long process of Congressional debate within the Legislative branch as originally designed by the framers of our Constitution. In other words, the use of Executive Orders has overextended the intended role and reach of the Presidency and bypassed Congress. To be clear, this behavior includes both Obama and Trump.

However, throughout the Trump presidency, the common response by mainstream news outlets was that each Executive Order issued by Trump during his four years in office was a "dictatorial" abuse of power. Many of these scathing condemnations of Trump's behavior led to the inevitable comparisons between Trump and Hitler, which were - of course - completely ludicrous to anyone with a basic study of European history. (In my opinion, Mussolini might have been a better comparison, but I digress.) That being said, Biden's unceasing willingness to issue Executive Orders since taking office last week has thus far exceeded every other presidents' abuse of that particular "Executive Privilege." And yet, with the notable exception of the Times editorial that I mentioned in my opening statement, the general response of mainstream media has been applause - or silence - despite being the closest manifestation of a true "dictatorial abuse of power."

As we have seen in the rise of dictators throughout history and around the globe, "abuse" is never labeled as such by those who support the dictator and/or stand to benefit from said dictator's consolidation of power. As I mentioned earlier, our forefathers specifically founded a republic with three branches of government as a system of checks and balances in order to prevent what Biden is doing; that is to say, a single branch calling all the shots. Biden is ignoring Congress in his systemic alterations of the American political landscape, and those who spent four years loathing Trump are plodding happily along in their antipathy for their common enemy (Trump), while ignoring the fact that they are tacitly approving and condoning the very behavior to which they had vehemently objected in the very recent past. Tragically, now that the Biden administration has begun its investigations into restructuring the Supreme Court (see Biden starts staffing a commission on Supreme Court reform), the Biden administration is literally trying to find a way to bypass the last remaining hurdle to consolidating the power to govern unchecked and with impunity from a single branch of government.

I am reminded of the Triumvirate in the Republic of Ancient Rome, in which three leaders were chosen to share power and prevent an individual leader from singularly holding the reins of government. And yet, during the Triumvirate of Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar, one of the three was unhappy with the concept of serving with a balance of power, so he did away with the other two. This person was - of course - Gaius Julius Caesar, who appointed himself "dictator for life," thereby ending the Republic of Rome, and instituting the Imperial Age of Rome, wherein the will of the people was supplanted by the dictatorial rule of emperors. In recent years we have seen how modern dictators have followed similar paths; they gain the support of the people, and once their power is secured, they do away with anyone who can challenge their authority. (Think of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin in the USSR/Russia for one such example from the 20th century.)

With that in mind, we now see ourselves tipping precipitously on the edge of our own decline into autocracy, and yet there are millions of people who approve of the person who is exhibiting behavior that would be viewed as totalitarian if it was occurring elsewhere around the planet (think of Putin and Navalny in modern Russia). Our populace has millions of willing and unwitting accomplices who are rejoicing in their ignorance as their own downfall looms quietly and ominously in the not-too-distant future. It is a truly frightening time when people's incessant loathing for anything to which they object has blinded them to the very real threats to their personal freedoms. At the risk of violating Godwin's Law, this lust for power is the reason why Communists and Nazis invented "enemies of the people" in order to rally the mob in support of their consolidation of authority. We now have people who are publicly proclaiming that non-Liberals need to be "deprogrammed." (See So Many Great, Educated, Functional People Were Brainwashed: Can Trump’s Cult of Followers Be Deprogrammed?) That idea should strike fear into every citizen of this country. A difference of opinion does NOT justify the tyrannical brainwashing of opposing viewpoints into blind obedience and acceptance.

There was a time in this country where George Orwell's vision in "1984" of bludgeoning freedom of thought into a love for "Big Brother" was political fantasy; however, it is readily apparent that compulsory obedience to Big Brother is no longer a fable. What's more, the current trends by the social justice warrior crowd to rewrite history combined with the cooperation between mainstream/social media and tech giants to actively censor contrarian perspectives sounds an awful lot like Orwell's concept of a "Ministry of Truth," wherein "truth" is what the Party says is true, and dissenting opinion is overtly suppressed. Now that Orwell's fiction is slowly becoming fact, it is disconcerting to see the number of accomplices who line up as willing participants. The Communists had a term for these people: "Useful Idiots." From my perspective, I think that is a perfectly appropriate term for any willing participant in the dismantling of a democratic republic in favor of authoritarianism and despotism.

1984-Big-Brother

The Final Arbiter of Truth Isn't Me

Most people who have known me for some time have realized at one time or other that I tend to point out fake news when I see it posted to social media, and I have made no apologies for doing so. Over the years I have simply decided that I cannot bear to sit idly by when someone posts an article that I know is either an outright hoax or a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth.

With an upcoming election just around the corner, I have seen more and more people posting articles that simply aren't true about both candidates. I know that people want 'their guy' to win, but you shouldn't have to stoop to dishonesty and deception to promote your candidate.

Welcome-to-the-Post-Truth-World

However, my corrective behavior has quite often made people somewhat angry at me. I realize that no one likes to be thought of as a fool, and when someone (like me) points out that someone else is posting garbage, a few of those people have their noses bent out of shape when their gullibility is revealed.

That being said, the argument that I have had presented to me is, "Who made YOU the final arbiter of truth???" That's a great question, and my answer is: no one. Because I am NOT the final arbiter of truth; TRUTH is the final arbiter for itself.

If I post an article that refutes something that someone else has posted, that means that I have taken the time to do the research that the original poster failed to do on their own, and I have found a reputable source that sets the record straight. If I cannot find a reputable source that refutes something, then I do not post a correction. It's really that simple, folks. If you post crap, and I can prove it's crap, then I'll post something that says it's crap.

So to anyone who feels uncomfortable with the notion that I might shine a spotlight of unpleasant truth on your false narratives, you have my permission to unfriend/unfollow me, that way you can continue to wallow in the empty darkness of your comfortable lies. Otherwise, fake news is fair game.

Unpleasant-Truths-or-Comforting-Lies

What's Really Important in Life

Someone once asked me a series of questions like the following:

Can you name who won the Best Actor Oscar for the past five years?

Or who won the Grammy for Best Female Vocalist?

Or who won the Baseball MVP?

On the other hand, can you name five teachers who made a difference in your life?

Can you name your five best friends from High School?

Simmer on those questions for a few moments...

In our present reality, the mainstream media is continuously tripping over itself to ask various "celebrities" what they think of this subject or that. But why should we care what they think? More often than people might realize, many of these "celebrities" are moral degenerates who contribute little more to society than to provide cheap entertainment, while expanding the drug trade and denigrating both females and minorities within their respective communities. With that in mind, I reiterate my earlier question: why should we care what they think?

Now, look back over those initial questions that I asked, and think about your answers for them. Which is more important? Is it some impersonal "artist?" Or is it the people who have genuinely mattered to you?

Once you think about life with the right frame of mind, it's pretty easy to see what's really important (and what isn't).

Freedom, Fanaticism, and Flags

Today I'd like to tackle what seems to be an uncomfortable topic these days: freedom of speech. The impetus for my discussion is that one of my family members recently posted a link to the following petition:

Remove the Confederate Flag From All Government Places

For me, the Confederate flag represents a failed attempt by a group of rebellious traitors to secede from the Union in order to keep their slaves, and I largely feel that way about statues of Confederate Generals like Robert E Lee. The Confederate Generals were traitors, and they do not deserve our adoration. There's a reason why we don't keep statues of Benedict Arnold around; despite his heroism and triumphs as a General for the Continental Army, Arnold sold out his country and fled to England, and his name has become synonymous with traitorship.

I say all of this in order to reinforce the point that if the Confederate flag went away tomorrow, I wouldn't miss it any more than I miss the Swastika. But here's some food for thought: the predominant argument that I see against the Confederate flag is that racist idiots use that flag as a symbol; but think about it - these same idiots also use the United States flag, and they also use the Christian cross. What should we ban, then? Should we also ban the flag of the United States? Should we also ban crosses? Where should we draw the line on what we allow in our society? When will enough be enough?

For some people, the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, whereas for other people it represents their cultural origin. I personally think those people are misguided, but still - we do not complain about people who fly a Mexican flag to show pride in their heritage. Or a German flag. Or a Canadian flag. At my house we fly an Irish flag on St Patrick's Day in honor of my Irish roots. Let's make this more personal - should we deny someone the right to display an Iranian or Chinese flag just because our nation is upset with their nation of origin? Or should we respect their freedom of speech and allow them to display their pride in their heritage?

At the end of the day, the racist idiots of our society can use any emblem they choose as they spew their toxic filth, but that doesn't make the emblem itself a bad thing. If we're not banning Christian crosses, which have been used by the KKK and other stupid domestic terror organizations for over a century, then I think we can let the misguided people who think that the Confederate flag is a representation of their cultural heritage have their freedom of speech. That is what living in a free society is all about.

Once you start banning every symbol of cultural heritage that offends you, then you might as well start banning books next. And when banning books isn't effective enough, you might want to start burning books. And when burning books isn't effective enough, you might want to start locking up the people who write or say things that offend you. And when locking up the people who offend you isn't effective enough, then you're one short step away from becoming the very evil that you despise. Returning to my earlier thought, I have no love for the Confederate flag; to me, it is a symbol of cowardice, greed, immorality, and rebellion. But to ban the Confederate flag would deny others their Constitutional right to freedom of speech, and therein lies one of the fundamental dilemmas of living in a free society. Sometimes the problem with an idealistic goal like banning a flag is that it fails to take the full picture of its ramifications into account.

Let me close with an apropos thought from Adlai Stevenson: "My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular. Where it's safe to say what’s on your mind, especially when everyone disagrees. Where it's safe to believe what you believe, especially when everyone else’s beliefs stand elsewhere. Where it’s safe to swim against the current and be perfectly safe from the other fish."

With that in mind, my personal objections to the Confederate flag are secondary to others' right to freedom of speech, and that's exactly how it should be. Freedom of speech does not guarantee freedom from offense; to have freedom, you must accept its consequences.


UPDATE: I occasionally watch John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, and a few years ago he posted the following video, wherein he presented some of the same feelings that I have about Confederate symbols; namely that most of them belong in a museum. We should not attempt to erase all symbols of darkness from our sordid history, but we should place some of those symbols in the proper context, and I think that a museum is the best way to do that.

Those Who Do Not Learn from History...

There is an old adage which states, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it," and I think that history is replete with examples that have proven that statement again and again. It is from that same perspective that I would like to share the following thoughts from one of President John F. Kennedy speeches, which are just as true for today's world as they were true in his circumstance almost 50 years ago.

JFK"The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality."

11 June 1963

You can read and listen to the full text of this speech on the JFK Library website by using the following link:

Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights, June 11, 1963

It's all about Perspective - Part II

Several people that I know have been posting and reposting images like the following, which cite the fatality current numbers from www.worldometers.info. More often than not, people are posting these images in an effort to downplay the fatality rate of COVID-19 by comparing it to other causes of death.

Worldwide-Deaths

First of all, I think it's foolish to compare diseases in this manner. I'm not sure why so many people are intentionally trying to deny that COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that has a pretty decent chance of killing people.

Let me be clear, I fully admit that many people have overestimated the spread of this pandemic, and it seems that both the academic and scientific worlds are making up the numbers for their projections based on some sort of randomization algorithm. In addition, the press seems to have nothing better to do than to drag the country through thousands of hours of reporting, wherein the common denominator seems to be, "We have no idea what we're saying, but please listen to us anyway - because we desperately need the ratings."

However, there is another problem that I often see throughout the Western Hemisphere, which bothers me more than these numbers: we see everything from the perspective of what impacts us, so we tend to ignore things that affect the rest of the world. If you were to step outside the safety bubble of the Western Hemisphere, you would see that diseases like Measles, Polio, and Tuberculosis still run rampant.

In North America, we don't care about any of those diseases, because we haven't had to deal with them for several decades. As I have pointed out in other blogs, this has led to the unscientific Antivaxxer movement, and a completely illogical public distrust of our medical establishment, which is best health care available in the history of humanity.

With all of that in mind, I would say that the following lists illustrates what a lot of the people in this country are thinking when they see lists like those in the images:

COVID-19 "OMG!!! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!" -or- "IT'S JUST A HOAX!!! WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!!!"
Seasonal Flu "Meh, those pro-vaxxer idiots get their flu shots, so I have herd immunity."
Malaria "Meh, not in America. We have screen doors and fly swatters."
Suicide "Meh, those people were unhappy. They just needed to cheer up."
Traffic Fatalities "Meh, those are acceptable losses. I gotta have my wheels, dude."
HIV/AIDS "Hey! That's a privacy issue! You can't ask me about that! So leave me alone! Or leave them alone! Or, whatever...!"
Alcohol "Meh, Prohibition was sooooooo bad for the country. Besides, I'm not an alcoholic. I can quit drinking anytime."
Cancer "Meh, not gonna happen to me. Got any cigarettes?"
Hunger "Meh, there's like a McDonald's or Starbucks on every corner. So what's the deal?"
Abortion "MY BODY!!! MY CHOICE!!!"

More often than not, people in the Western Hemisphere or North America ignore the lists in those images for two reasons: complacency and denial.

  • The cause of the complacency is: decades of successful vaccination programs and our excellent health care system, both of which are still the best medical services that the world has ever seen.
  • The cause of the denial is: selfishness. People want what they want, and they don't want anyone telling them that they can't have what they want, whether that is harmful to themselves or others or the environment. (We live in a free society, and one of the downsides to freedom is: it teaches people to be irresponsible.)

In short, many people living in the Western Hemisphere believe that they have the right to selectively care only about what they feel might impact them adversely, and to ignore everything else; whether that means the suffering of others, or their poor lifestyle choices.

Annoyed

It's all about Perspective

One of my former colleagues recently posted a link to the following blog, which I thought does a great job of putting a lot of our current situation into a better perspective:

However, that blogger cites the source as unknown, so he wasn't the original author. With that in mind, I think it's fair to reprint the contents here:

For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

When you're 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren't even over the hill yet. When you're 41, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills six million.

At 50, the Korean War starts, and five million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn't end for 20 years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening. As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900.

How do you survive all of that?

A kid in 1985 didn't think their 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art. Let's try and keep things in perspective. Let's be smart, help each other out, and we will get through all of this.

That article, in summary, lists all the ways that the 20th century would have tried to kill you if you had been born in the year 1900. Between world wars and devastating diseases, the previous century was a terrible time to live.

And yet, I cannot help but think that the fatality numbers in that blog mostly reflect only the situations where the Western Hemisphere was somehow involved; they fail to address other mass repressions and genocides like:

  • The Stalinist Purges in Russia (approximately 30 million deaths)
  • The Chinese Cultural Revolution (approximately 30 million deaths)
  • The Cambodian Genocide (approximately 2 million deaths)
  • The Khmer Rouge repressions (approximately 2 million deaths)
  • The Armenian Genocide (approximately 1.5 million deaths)
  • The Rape of Nanking (approximately 500 thousand deaths)
  • And I have no accurate sources to estimate the number of deaths in South America and Africa due to famines, diseases, genocides, and civil wars

In other words, if you had been born in the 1900, but you had lived somewhere other than North America during the 20th century, your chances of meeting with a violent death would have increased even more dramatically than the original article would suggest. I mention that because I met several people when I was stationed overseas who had survived many of those devastations; I knew Germans and Britons who had survived World Wars, depressions, repressions, famines, diseases, etc., yet today's over-privileged youths act like the world is ending if their Internet is too slow. As the writer of that blog suggested, it's all about perspective.

Anyway, it's food for thought.

Thinking smile