The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


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Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!

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View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

So many never came home …

(This blog post is not intended to damper your Memorial Day weekend or the enjoyment of beaches, barbecues, parties, and activities.  Cranky Man’s sincerest wish is simply to take a few minutes this holiday weekend to reflect on the ultimate sacrifices made on our behalf!)

4483264_origAs is my challenge, Cranky Man will prod his readers into reflecting on the REAL meaning of our more sacred National Holidays.  This weekend kicks off the official start of Summer 2017.  But the true reasons for celebrating the coming three months of Summer – Memorial Day – has a much, much deeper meaning than beaches, water sports, vacation travel, and the wonders of the National Parks system.

That Meaning is the recognition of those thousands upon thousands, who left the safety of Homeland and Family to preserve and protect both, and in that Service gave the Last Full Measure of Devotion.  In many cases, they did so not for the People they left back home, as they did for those in foreign lands unable to preserve and protect those concepts of Homeland and Family without our help.

The Meaning is recognition of those sacrifices and appreciation for the loss pressed upon those who loved them.  Such meaning can be severely clouded with emotion when a Loved One never comes home from War.  The “more fortunate” families might wait for DECADES to recover the remains of fathers, sons, uncles, and brothers.  The truly Unfortunate never know the peace of bringing them Home.

As of 19 May 2017 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) lists 82,547 Americans still missing just since World War II.  Here are a few of their stories …

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a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim went off to War …

On May 11, 1969 – the before his son’s 1st birthday – LT William C. Ryan climbed aboard his F-4 Phantom as Radio Intercept Officer (RIO).  His aircraft was on a bombing run along the Laos-Vietnam border when it was hit by ground fire and crashed.  The pilot ejected, but Ryan did not make it out.

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LT William “Billy” C. Ryan

Luck in the form of Ryan’s aircraft seat was found in 1990, but the politics of searching a border region; being limited to 45 days of searching at any one stretch; and the treacherous terrain prevented finding LT Ryan’s remains and positively identifying them until 2016.  Billy Ryan’s son was now 48 years old!  And in a strange, unforgiving twist of fate, Ryans’ wife, Judith, was informed of her husband’s positive identification on the very same day she was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer.

LT William C. Ryan was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on 10 May 2017.

1611 Americans are still listed as MIA from the Vietnam War.  Over 58,000 Americans perished.

IWO JIMA

CPL Freddie Lee Henson enlisted in the U.S. Army on 19 January 1949 at 18 years old out of Klamath Falls, AR.  Serving in the 57th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division Henson was deployed to South Korea in 1950.

In November 1950, as U.S. and South Korean forces came painfully close to pushing the North Korean forces across the Yalu River into China, 1 million Chinese troops jumped the river and overwhelmed the Allied forces.  By December the largely American United Nations force was pinned down at the Chosin Reservoir, deep in North Korean territory.

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CPL Freddie Lee Henson

On December 6, 1950 CPL Henson was declared missing-in-action.  Very little was known as to the details of Henson’s death in the confusion and suffering that was the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  Henson’s unit was one of many suffering from shortage of supplies and sub-zero temperatures.

Despite long-term tensions over a war that was never officially a “war”, which also meant that peace was never declared, several collaborative efforts between North and South Koreas and the U.S. began to yield the remains of soldiers long dead but never returned home.  In 2004 CPL Henson’s remains were among 5 sets recovered on the east side of the Chosin battlefield.

On 3 April 2017, CPL Freddie Lee Henson’s remained were officially identified after 67 years.  His family never found out he was brought home.  Freddie’s brother, Kenneth – his last known familial survivor – had died in 1980.  Henson was interred with full military honors on 4 May 2017 at Fort Sam Houston in Houston, TX.

Over 33,000 Americans died during the Korean War.  The DPAA lists 7,747 still missing.

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Sometimes the tragedy of never seeing a loved one return from war is worsened by the circumstances of their forever absence.  One such example was resolved in July 2015 with the return of 40 U.S. Marines, who perished on Tarawa Atoll during the Allies World War II island-hopping campaign.

Tarawa was mistakenly viewed as a push-over outpost among the many occupied by Japanese troops in the Pacific.  The invading Marines came ashore on November 20, 1943 in rubber boats and amphibious tractors.  Little did the invaders know, the Japanese had an extensive network of concrete bunkers, proudly proclaimed by the Japanese commander as requiring a million man a hundred years to overcome, that survived the intense aerial and naval bombardments.

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Tarawa Atoll

It took U.S. Marines all of three days to subdue the atoll’s defenders, but at the cost of heavy casualties.  1200 Marines died on Tarawa; many of them hastily buried as the Allies persistently worked to push the Japanese out of the central and western Pacific.  Hundreds of the dead still lay buried there, some of them buried under yards, trash pits, even pigsties.  They may well have remained there if not for the efforts of Mark Noah, founder of History Flight, a non-profit dedicated to bringing the remains of lost Americans home.

Thanks to these efforts a long-forgotten burial ground, containing the remains of 40 U.S. Marines, was discovered on the atoll.  After 70 years laying in an inconspicuous plot thousands of miles away from Home and family, 40 Americans were disinterred and returned to Hawaii for potential identification and return to families long resigned to never gaining closure to unspeakable loss.

Among those 40 American heroes was 1st LT Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor.  In no way to diminish the sacrifice of all 40 of those men, below lies the MOH citation for LT Bonnyman, Jr., provided here as a tribute to all 40.

180px-Alex_BonnymanFor conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November 1943. Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long, open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flame throwers and demolitions, organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several hostile installations before the close of D-day. Determined to effect an opening in the enemy’s strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily garrisoned, bombproof installation which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance. Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion, directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances and seized the top of the bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down, and effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the desperate charge and killing 3 of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded. By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Over 405,000 American soldiers, sailors, and pilots died during World War II.  The DFAA still lists over 73,000 Americans as missing-in-action.

Again … These stories are not intended to damper a glorious pre-Summer weekend, so much as to encourage a moment or two of reflection on the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“Hidden Figures”, unexpected lesson

hidden-figures-posterYour typical Saturday night … a reason to make plans a few days previous with friends for dinner and a movie … so why not combine the two?

That’s how a few hours of entertainment morphed into unexpected perspectives on one of the unnoticed parts of American history and the race into space.

Hidden Figures“, nominee for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, is the story of three African-American women who played important roles in the United States race to get man into space.  The movie plays out at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA in 1961.

The three women – a mathematical genius (called “computers” long before the electronic versions), an aspiring engineer, and the de facto supervisor of a group of a pool of data transcribers – struggle to gain respect and recognition in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration‘s (NASA) space program in the Jim Crow South.

The twist – both interesting and discomforting – came in the form of WHERE we decided to partake of food and adult beverages while catching a good movie.

Carol had arranged for us to see a movie Saturday night with friends.  We decided to try a local franchise of the Studio Movie Grill in Upper Darby, PA .. a township, seamlessly fused to the west side of Philadelphia.

images-2 The immediate western suburbs of Philadelphia – like West Philadelphia itself is largely African-American.  No surprise that the audience was almost entirely black.

And not a problem …

But it had not occurred to me what would result from the intersection of movie and audience demographics.  That realization came shortly after the movie started.  We had made a fascinating choice in movie, given the makeup of the audience. It would be an interesting evening, enjoying “Hidden Figures” (a firm recommendation, dear Reader) and noting the differences in perspective.

Perspective was easily observed.

Four African-American women, roughly my age and dressed for a night out, were seated next to me.  As the evening war on, between a flatbread pizza and mac ‘n cheese (a firm NO, dear Reader), we watched a great story.  While I enjoyed the history of the story, they were connecting with Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary on an entirely different level.

There was a bit of verbal audience participation … encouraging advice, pleas to speak out, silent but deep disgust.  I could feel it, but I couldn’t really.

At one point in the film, I laughed when Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) scurried frantically across the Langley campus.  Then I realized she was on a one-mile round trip to use a “colored only” ladies room because one wasn’t available in the building to which she had been assigned.  I stopped myself short and listened.  There was no laughter, only the murmurs of those who grew up knowing such things as intimate history.

I learned what I thought I knew I could never ever really know.

FWIW …. I thought the movie was very good, the story compelling.  Although I have only seen Hidden Figures and La La Land (also very good) on the Best Picture nominee list, I would have thought Taraji Henson deserved a nomination.  Octavia Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and should receive strong consideration.

The First Amendment: A Double-Edged Sword

american-flag-1It’s been awhile since last we spoke.  Personally, I have been having a hard time finding subjects on which I feel strongly enough to write.  My writer’s block has however been finally been broken by a flood of Facebook posts deriding the recent trend of National Football League (NFL) players refusing to stand; kneeling through; or raising black fists in protest of varying social conditions during The National Anthem.

The Facebook pleas encourage me to stop watching the NFL; to boycott league-sponsored merchandise and broadcast sponsors; and demand corrective action, even laws to punish the offenders.

Now most people, who know me, will expect me to come down hard and fast on the side of showing our National Emblem the deference and respect we believe it deserves without fail … ever.  And certainly I believe that …

What nags at me however is the thought that Respect for national symbolism – be it The Anthem or The Flag – trumps the Rights of the First Amendment, particularly that of Free Speech.  While I do not appreciate disrespectful displays or treatments of The Flag, what I choose to cherish most are the Freedoms that allow such behaviors as an expression of perceived failures or injustices.

Unfortunately for our various sensibilities, Respect for the First Amendment requires a higher level of tolerance for the ways in which our Freedoms are expressed.  Accommodating the freedom to express oneself requires an Advanced Degree in American Citizenship, particularly when its display encroaches on the symbols, institutions, and rituals for which we wear our Hearts on our sleeves.

This is not easy.  But then again, it was never intended to be easy.

Certainly we can express our scorn and anger at what we interpret to be unconscionable violations of national heritage and symbolism.  That freedom to express one’s disdain is covered in the same protections that allow the type of demonstrations that annoy the bejesus out of us.

We can publicly judge those who burn The Flag or choose not to stand for The National Anthem is the best – or only way – they can express their own anger and frustration.  But punishment and retribution?!?

No, those reactions are the purview of authoritarians, dictators, and oppressors who look to preserve their own peculiar claim to rule by denying Voice to the People!  This is not what Americans do.  It is not how we roll!

No matter how maddening the behavior …

Allow me please to reiterate, since I am sure some will take this message as endorsement of the practices.  I do NOT agree with flagrant displays of disrespect for my Country, its cherished symbols, or the Principles for which it stands.  What I do recognize is that there are degrees of disrespect I can live with, in the knowledge that our Founding Fathers no doubt intended for The Bill of Rights to be a challenge to both the Government and its citizens!

And I have had my moments in celebrating the actions inherent in those who Advanced Degrees in Citizenship spurred them to action!

I applauded – wildly, I might add – the Chicago Cubs’ Rick Monday, when on April 25, 1976 he ran from his outfield position to arrest the flag-burning attempts of two supposed war protesters.

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Those of us who would appreciate Mondays’ quick actions should also recognize that demonstrations of national disrespect sometimes accomplish nothing more than to illustrate a protestor’s failure of perspective, particularly when they simply draw negative attention to the person or position they claim to support by physically mistreating or burning The Flag.  In my opinion, your cause, your candidate – even the people who support them – will suffer in our view.  When they fail to recognize or value the Sacrifices made by others, whose sacrifice allows them to express themselves so freely, they cheapen whatever message they are pushing.

There’s the rub really that protesters of this sort fail to appreciate.  You might attract limited, short-lived attention for your cause or position ; but that transient recognition will fade faster than the headshakes and mental “F— you!”s tossed your way by those drawn serendipitously into your protest.  For those whom your message is intended, you run the greater risk of alienating them rather than changing minds or opening a discussion.

The story is quite different when it comes to the quiet, almost reverential protests we have witnessed recently at football games … at least in my opinion.  These passive demonstrations, inspired by a back-up quarterback no less, where sitting or taking a knee as the National Anthem is played or the slightly more active stance of raised black fists is – if nothing else – much easier to manage emotionally.

We may not like such displays.  But we should also wonder why they are considered necessary by those protesting.

I may not understand the need to turn one’s back to The Anthem or to embellish one’s seemingly reluctant participation with a raised fist.  But many people do understand the need to take such action.  If they did not, we would not be having these conversations today.

And that’s really what that pesky, sometimes irritating Freedom of Speech is intended to do … Give voice to those who feel isolated or left behind, whether or not we can appreciate their position!

So no … Do not ask me to boycott the NFL or Pepsi or Hyundai or Papa John’s pizza simply because your sensibilities were offended by a kneel or a clenched fist at an inappropriate time.  Because I have news for you …

The emotions you feel, the reactions you have to such displays are exactly what the Founding Fathers were likely hoping might occur when one group or another feels the need to draw attention to their perceived plight in any way that stirs our emotions.  The Stars and Stripes is a collection of fabric to which we attach a great deal of pride and symbolism; but it’s the Fabric of our Nation, expressed in the Freedoms passed down to us, that makes all things possible.

I leave you with this

 

 

 

 

 

The Inconspicuous News

American Board of Thoracic SurgeryDr. Achintya MoulickDylan PurcellTom Avril Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaDiscussion and comment on selected articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

(Jeff Gamage) printed an article, Those Kids Never Got to Go Home about a small, sad cemetery located within the confines of the U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA. … about 125 miles west of Philadelphia.

The U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA is the object of an unusual request from the Rosebud Sioux Indian tribe of South Dakota.  Long before the army base existed, the site was home to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the flagship of federally-funded, off-reservation boarding schools where the motto was “Kill the Indian, save the Man.”

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A photo of the student body of the Carlilsle Indian School from March, 1892, is photographed on the school grounds where it was taken. The Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota have begun efforts to repatriate the remains of the 10 Rosebud students buried on the Carlisle school grounds. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Within the Army’s current home 186 graves of Indian children from numerous Native American tribes.  The children victim of disease, abuse, and inadequate care at the industrial school intended to assimilate Indian populations with white culture and society.  The children were largely the offspring of Indian chiefs, who were convinced by the program’s agents that the children would be properly educated and better prepared to lead their scattered tribes to relationships on more equal footing with their white counterparts.

The intent of the program might be looked upon today as simply one of those backward thinking, even “progressive” attempts to help a defeated and exiled people to adapt and even prosper within the dominant society.  Maybe even a noble cause to promote better relations with the Europeans, who were spreading westward like ants.

However the abuses, including forced labor, beatings for refusal to speak English, physical and sexual abuse, and inadequate care, exposed the program as an attempt to expunge Indian cultures.  These 186 children never made it Home.

The Rosebud children were sent 1400 miles away from home. Some were pried away from parents forced with the choice of giving up their children or their food rations.  Many of the children died from diseases and malnutrition, some due to abuse.

675abb611e806736640cba306701eeb7Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux tribe had forgotten about the spirits of their dead children buried (some without parents even knowing they were dead) so far from home.  The issue was raised after a group of young Rosebud students visited the cemetery after a trip to Washington, D.C. last Summer for the Tribal Youth Gathering.

Now I never understood the motivations and mindset of our earlier American ancestors as they set upon a vanquished Nation, taking advantage of Position and Power to denude Indian cultures and then to exploit them in their imposed poverty.  This example seems to be one of the more egregious ones, although the effort does reflect much of the social and cultural thinking of the time.

I hope we have evolved beyond that kind of social engineering think.

As for the Spirits the Rosebud Sioux insist are restless to return home, demonstrated – they say – by the swarm of fireflies that visited the cemetery after a traditional Sioux ceremony, the Army should simply allow the Rosebud Sioux to take their children home.

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Next up is a rather disturbing article about the length of post-operative stays at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for complicated newborn cardiac surgery vs. stays for similar procedures at regional counterpart, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  The article, Recovery Times for Newborns Lengthy, written by Tom Avril and Dylan Purcell, suggests the extended stays at St. Chris’ have much to do with the quality of post-operative care.

6e1c643a636c67f002280f826731ae3e.jpgThe Inquirer’s study, based on a review of insurance claim forms, follows another study that found St. Christopher newborn cardiac patients were also much more likely to die than similar patients at CHOP.  St. Christopher’s recently stopped all non-emergency heart procedures as it conducts an internal review of its heart surgery program.

As bad as all that is, one also learns that Dr. Achintya Moulick, head of the heart surgery at St. Chris’ is not certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery!  This in contrast to the other five heads of pediatric heart-surgery program in Pennsylvania and Delaware.  Dr. Moulick does possess certification in thoracic surgery from the University of Bombay (Mumbai) in India … from 1995!

Now, I’m no medical professional, but I would presume that in the 21 years since Dr. Moulick attended the University of Bombay, there have been a few changes in the ways thoracic surgery is performed, particularly for infants.  When you consider that the Head of Thoracic Surgery also sets the tone for those performing under him, you get the idea that maybe it’s time for Dr. Moulick to break out his “How to …” books and seek an American-style recertification from this particular century!

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Finally a story, Bringing Down Blumberg, by Aubrey Whelan on the history and destructive end on the Norman Blumberg Apartments at 22nd and Sharswood Streets in North Philadelphia.  Blumberg was built in the late 1960s as a high-rise apartment complex dedicated to low-income residents.

l_phabuildings-3“But within a few short years, the towers came to typify all that had gone wrong with the public-housing policies of the 1960s – a symbol of misguided urban planning, concentrated poverty, and official neglect writ large.”

Two intricately related resident reactions – just seven years apart underscores the kind of hopelessness that permeated mass low-income urban housing in many parts of the country.  In 1967, the day Blumberg opened to its brand new residents, one gushes how “Each resident helps out the other.”.  Just seven years later after a gang-rape at Blumberg, a resident told The Inquirer, “The amazing thing is that no one helps anybody out.”

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

For years now, I have had difficulties understanding the attraction of a song we never hear at any time other than the Christmas season. That’s kind of weird really, because whenever you listen to the song you never hear a reference to Christmas or the holidays in general.

Yes … Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

But to be honest, I hadn’t really wondered aloud about why it’s considered a “holiday tune” until I downloaded the song – in one of it’s many, many versions sung by many, many artists – to my iPod. Then, after a few years of hearing it only during the playing of my Christmas playlist, thinking to myself, “What the hell does this have to do with Christmas?”

And in these Days of Enlightenment, the lyrics are simply creepy! At least in Neptune’s Daughter, the movie where the song made it’s premiere wide distribution, the women get a bit of a turn-around in the second part of the song, which featured the comical interpretation by Red Skelton. But it’s the first part of this popular song duet, as sung in the movie by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams, that most listeners connect with.

Unfortunately, and for good reason, that connection – as Jessica Cantrera writes in The Washington Post– is “icky”.

The song obviously is the whimsical version of the classic late-night attempt at seduction. The wily male working his mystical – or mythical – charms to seduce the seemingly attracted, yet uncertain, female. Plying her with compliments, alcohol, and his “worries” she might suffer hypothermia due to the rampant Winter weather.

But in this day and age, when we consider ourselves so much more enlightened, critics point to the female’s repeated desires to leave, although she seems unwilling to “break the spell”, the phrase “Hey, what’s in this drink?!?” (and flashes perhaps of Bill Cosby), and the females pointed, “The answer is ‘No!'” as indications of something more sinister.

Maybe they are right …

Now I have a theory about the hows and whys the song became and remained so popular. It’s my own personal theory, which I do not recall ever hearing discussed, so I’ll lay it out there for you to consider. But first some history on the song itself

Frank Loesser

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written Frank Loesser – an accomplished Broadway composer (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) – in 1944, and performed by he and his wife, Lynn Garland at their house-warming party. They performed it together for years before Frank sold the song – to his wife’s consternation – in 1948. The song appeared in Neptune’s Daughter (1949) and won an Academy Award that year for Best Original Song.

Now my theory is wrapped in the biggest event circling the globe in the year Loesser wrote the song, 1944 and World War II.

It’s not hard to understand the attraction the song may have had for those in our parents (and grandparents, great-grandparents) generation. At a time when the song was published (1949), many men had come home just a few years prior after witnessing and participating in one of the largest, most tragic periods of American history. Many of these men may have witnessed the deaths of friends in the most grisly of manners. Many had killed men themselves in the most grisly of manners.

In my mind, it’s not very hard to understand a mindset that suggested living Life to its fullest; refusing to allow opportunities for Life, Love, or Fun to pass by. Perhaps the song touched that chord that suggests living for Today and being bold enough to pursue such pleasures.

The same chord might have just as easily been struck in the women of the day as well. Many of them fresh off the assembly lines of the war, building tanks, trucks, airplanes, bombs, etc. Some say the female subject of the song was exercising a form of liberation by not conforming to the expectations and standards of a society after shouldering the burden of liberating the World from fascist oppression.

She earned many a hefty paycheck and the Independence that goes with financial power. Perhaps she is flaunting social convention as held by her parents, siblings, maiden aunt, and even her neighbors … She simply doesn’t sound so sure that’s a good idea!

Maybe … After all the sexual revolution would be just 15-20 years away in 1949; and certainly some of that rebelliousness would have been felt by both sexes coming off four years of liberating responsibility!

Then again … The fact that the original song score referred to the male role as the “wolf” and the female role as the “mouse” coats the entire subject once again in potential ickiness.

Only you simply cannot get past the fact that the song has amassed incredible popularity for those generations that preceded us! You only need look – even now – at performers still singing the song every holiday season: Seth MacFarlane and Sara BareillesIdina Menzel and Michael BubléDarius Rucker and Sheryl Crow. And that is in just the last two years!

But certainly, it seems the song has outlived its playfulness.

Heck, I still can’t get passed the fact that it’s considered “holiday music”. And for the past few years, every time it came up on the iPod rotation I would mention this to whomever was sitting next to me who might – or might not – care. It has gotten to the point where Carol now will immediately say, “Yes, I know … Why is this a Christmas song?!?”

I can be a bit redundant. Surprise!

Now it’s becoming common to drag the song out into the light and bludgeon it with images of Bill Cosby (as Saturday Night Live did recently) or date rape as “Funny or Die” portrayed the song.

Personally, I think that’s a bit unfair as parodies seem to be sometimes. After all in all versions of the song, we are left to imagine what the outcome was. Can any of us say it was Good or Bad? Who are we to judge?

I do have a healthier respect for the song now that I have read of its origins, the man who created it, and its initial purpose. And frankly, until today I had never seen its basic premise turned around 180 degrees, as it was in the second part of its Neptune’s Daughter version.

One must concede that its imagery and language are dated and present complications for a society firmly ensconced in no-pressure sexuality, where slick talk or chemical gimmicks are rightfully seen as robbing individual choice. Yet I can not ignore that initially it was simply a quaintly mischievous song, written by a renown composer to be sung with his wife to family and friends as a way of saying “Good night, the Party’s over.”

Now, someone needs to explain to me how this duet became associated with the Christmas holidays!

Trump Is Wrong On Muslims … Kinda

Donald Trump made a rather bold and infuriating statement the other day. He also told the Truth … at least in part.  And what he said was what a lot of people wanted to hear.  Of course a lot of people didn’t want to hear it too.

Both groups were right.


Trump told us that Americans do not want and that America should block all Muslims from immigrating to the United States from Syria.

He was right and he was wrong.

As a country, we have grown past religious tests.  We are not perfect.  We have had them.  We have learned, sometimes the very, very hard way.  We have – collectively – moved on.

JFK was too Catholic for some people, who feared the Pope would be running the country.  Of course the earliest settlers came here to flee British religious oppression, only to set up their own style of religious repression here.  And there were flirtations with Nazi extremism in the late 1930’s, and then that very uncomfortable World War II prelude in the voyage of the St. Louis, loaded with Jews to be denied entry to the US though they could view the lights of Miami from on-deck.

But we’ve grown past all that. Or so we thought.

No, Donald … We do not exclude people from our country just for religious reasons. It’s the lowest form of exclusion, right next to race.

But you can’t really blame the approach to a problem that – in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino – has a lot of people avoiding crowded spaces, high-value locations, and mass public events.  The demographics drive you to the Conclusion … almost.

Personally, I don’t think you target all Muslims.  You can whittle down the high-risk pool by narrowing the focus to the true demographic … the demographic prized and targeted by the extremist political factions we worry about most … young, unattached to family, disenfranchised Muslims.

Trump is partially right, but importantly wrong.

Then there’s the other lessons from our History, that give you a look at how Presidents in the past have over-reacted when you have the luxury of 20-20 hindsight.

Jimmy Carter cancelled the visas of Iranian nationals who might visit the US during the Iranian hostage crisis.  But this was not a “national security measure” as much as it was a pressure point to force Iran to comply with demands to release the hostages.

And it wasn’t based on religion.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – on the other hand – went a bridge-too-far in interning 120,000 Japanese nationals during World War II.  He indeed did this for National Security, but on purely racial terms, which is horrendous even if you can dismiss the fact that few Germans or Italians were similarly interned.

Were his actions contrary to American ideals?  Definitely.  Were they productive?  Hard to tell from the existence of a negative (the absence of wartime sabotage).

Were the actions reasonable, given the events of the time?  Certainly, they provided a sense of greater security at a dangerous time in what was seen as vulnerable areas.  Remember, Japanese forces invaded and created a tenuous foothold in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Looking back, were the measures excessive?  Certainly … But you do have the Luxury of Hindsight!

Let’s look at the official release from the Trump campaign.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on .”

Now I’m willing to bet dollars-to-doughnuts that not too many sources condemning the Trump issue provided those last 11 words.  And if you really think about it, it’s not far off the same reasoning FDR used.  Securing what was perceived as the riskiest elements of the country’s western population until they could figure out what was going on.

Frankly, given all we know the reaction makes perfect sense.  After all, there are no Uruguayan basketball players heading to America with the intent of shooting up the infidels.

But it goes too far.  It’s far to broad and is based purely on religious belief.  It reeks of prejudice and violates American ideals.

So let’s take the most reasonable, sensible, and fair approach.

Ban all young, unattached, disenfranchised Muslims until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.