First I ascertained that the class members were unanimously in favor of progress. Then I sprang the first of my traps:
“What is progress? How can you distinguish developments that constitute progress from developments that don’t?”
The students were stunned by the question. Doesn’t everybody know what progress is? was the modal reply. I responded “If you’re one of ‘everybody,’ then define it for me.”
Not one student was willing to take a swing at the question. So I set my second trap:
“This is a basic scientific calculator. I bought it last year for less than $30 at Radio Shack. But twenty years earlier, a calculator that would do somewhat less cost nearly $120. Who here would say that that reduction in the price of such power you can hold in your hand constitutes progress?”
Every hand went up..at which point I sprang the trap:
“Now what if I were to tell you that that price reduction was made possible by enslaving a million men to make calculators for nothing but bread and water and a place on the floor to sleep? Would you still think it’s progress?”
The room buzzed with a welter of objections and qualifications. Of course, the students’ previous willingness to endorse the price drop as progress was founded on the assumption that the process that brought it about was morally acceptable. When that assumption had been invalidated, they were no longer of that opinion.
After a couple more examinations of the processes that had driven developments that we could all agree were progress on their faces, we examined Kevin Cullinane’s famous definition of progress:
1. The improved satisfaction of human needs and desires,
3. And with less input.
However, though the class was willing to accept that definition as suitable, its implications eluded them for a few minutes more.
See my previous years’ 9/11 reflections. 2012: “9/11 Rewrote Our Lives in Ways We Are Only Beginning to Comprehend“ and 2013: “On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism“
Last week, against my better judgment, I decided to do a PJTV show and argue some pretty kooky, outlandish positions. The subject in the video embedded above is speculating on the future of warfare in which robots might do the fighting for us. Scott Ott, Bill Whittle, and Glenn Reynolds took a more skeptical approach while I argued my overly optimistic, “Singularitarian” perspective, embracing Ray Kurzweil’s idea that in our lifetimes we’ll have robots with consciousness, be able to gradually merge our minds and bodies with intelligent machines, and eventually evolve into new hybrid species until we become pure energy (the Singularity).
See the film Transcendent Man for an idea of where I’m coming from:
In the meantime, on the road to getting there, I anticipate that in our lifetime wars will be fought between terrorist organizations and nation states primarily with drone assassins, rather than Phantom Menace robots or Terminator 2: Judgment Day-style exoskeletons running around.
I feel morally compelled at a serious personal level to call for and defend the development of weapons of overwhelming power and sophistication and then to call for their employment against all nation states and ideologies currently waging wars against any liberal democracy. Yes — an explicitly pro-war stance, counter to the sentiments of the idolized former Congressman and conspiracy theory peddler Ron Paul today. My reason goes to my very being: I’m in the same boat as three commenters who responded on Monday when we featured the new Prager University video, “Was It Wrong to Drop the Atom Bomb on Japan?.” War made us.
My father was stuck in the Philippines waiting on Operation Downfall to become reality. There’s a good chance he and his buddies would have been casualties, maybe KIA’s. Which means I wouldn’t be writing this comment.
I don’t regret being born and don’t regret that we dropped that bomb so my dad could come home. End of story.
No it was not wrong to drop the atom bomb on Japan. My father was flying B-29 missions and my father in law was in the infantry in the Pacific. Given the the anticipated casualties for invading Japan, if not for the bomb, I guess there’s a fair chance me or my wife and our kids would not exist.
and Robbins Mitchell:
Those who claim it was “immoral” or whatever for the US to nuke Japan are clearly unaware that Japan was also working on its own atomic bomb…named the “genzai bakudan”…they were receiving uranium oxide from the Germans and had a working reactor on the Korean peninsula….had we waited till fall to invade the home islands,that would likely have been long enough for them to perfect their own nukes and they would have most assuredly used them against the invasion force…which would have included my own father who was with a US Navy occupation team on Okinawa at the time
How many Atom Bomb families are there today who only got a chance to exist because President Harry S. Truman made the correct moral decision? A similar question could be asked regarding his role in supporting Israel’s creation. From “23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards“:
I was in seventh grade, and it happened at lunch. I don’t know what we were eating — chicken nuggets, most likely.
I wasn’t aware of it right away, but already there were whispers: something happened in New York City, at the Twin Towers. Was it an accident? Or was it a malevolent act?
We’d find out later. My English teacher told us that planes had struck both lead towers of the World Trade Center. Another had hit the Pentagon. Strangely, I didn’t think anyone had died. I assumed the buildings were damaged and that they would later be repaired.
At the end of the day we were called down to an assembly and we were told that the whole thing was an accident. They gave us the usual spiel: talk to your parents; we’re here if you need us; it’s okay to cry.
I went home and turned on the news and stayed glued to it. They kept replaying the crash and the carnage: the explosions, the screaming. I was horrified.
This, of course, was no accident.
Obviously, I knew that what took place was a terrorist attack. But I couldn’t decipher the motivations.
And this led to something funny, perhaps darkly so: I recognized immediately that the Twin Towers were the two tallest buildings in New York City. So instead of viewing the attack as a Huntington-esque “clash of civilizations,” I assumed al-Qaeda wanted to destroy large buildings.
Our middle school was, I thought, the tallest building in town. Were we next?
Check out the previous installments in James Jay Carafano’s ongoing series exploring war films: The 10 Best Movies to Watch to Understand the Cold War, 10 War Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry, America’s First Wars in 10 Movies, 10 Movies For Understanding the Civil War, A 10 Film Introduction to America’s Turn of the Century ‘Small Wars,’ and America Over There! A 10 Film Introduction to World War I. Also visit the PJ Store where Victor Davis Hanson presents “World War II,” a six episode video lecture series. Available for a limited time for just $99!
10. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
Even before the U.S. took on the Axis powers, American volunteers headed overseas to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). In the film adaptation of a best-selling Ernest Hemingway novel, Gary Cooper romances Ingrid Bergman while on a suicide mission to blow up an enemy-held bridge. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) is not the best history. As a New York Times review noted, the film’s “protagonists are plainly anti-fascists,” but the movie did little to explain the muddled politics of the war. Still, it’s a magnificent movie. It earned nine Academy Award nominations and was number one at the box office that year.
We always seem to be doing something interesting with X-planes, but this one raises the bar — then hovers over it:
Pentagon wants a plane that can attain incredibly fast speeds while also possessing the ability to hover. The experimental Phantom Swift X-Plane will fulfill that role, and now Boeing has secured a $9 million to continue work it started roughly one year ago.
The idea for the aircraft, which resulted from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) VTOL X-Plane competition in 2013, will eventually be powered by an all-electric drive and measure 13 meters nose to tail and 15 meters from wingtip to wingtip, the military blog Defense Tech reported Aug. 28. The finished product is also expected to weight between 10,000 to 12,000 pounds.
Check out the previous installments in James Jay Carafano’s ongoing series exploring war films: The 10 Best Movies to Watch to Understand the Cold War, 10 War Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry, America’s First Wars in 10 Movies, 10 Movies For Understanding the Civil War, A 10 Film Introduction to America’s Turn of the Century ‘Small Wars’.
They called it the Great War, but not the good war. “The world must be made safe for democracy,” declared President Woodrow Wilson.
Others were not so sure. Many Americans were none too excited about Wilson’s war, Wilson’s peace or the anti-saboteur measures implemented at home that also swept up political dissidents, union activists and other innocents.
Over the years, American films have reflected a variety of views about World War I and its aftermath. After all, movies tell us more about the people who made them and their audience than the war they featured. Here are 10 examples of schizophrenic Hollywood in action.
10. The Lost Battalion (1919)
Wilson told Americans they were fighting the “war to end all wars.” America’s first filmmakers wanted to show America’s first movie audiences America’s doughboys in action. This silent film includes some of the real soldiers, including Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Whittlesey, reenacting the true-story of a U.S. battalion, cut off and surrounded, that holds out for six days until relieved. Six hundred men went into the battle. Fewer than 200 marched out.
Even in an epic poem, some scenes are more epic than others, and a few scenes just blow the top of your head clean off. The Iliad is packed with those scenes, and this week I’m bringing the five greatest hits to a theater near you. This is part two of my five-part series dusting off the awesome in the Iliad — last week I laid out the poem’s ten nastiest deaths. This week, I want to dig in a little more and think about one of the poem’s core ideas: heroism. What makes a hero? It’s a question we’re still asking, but Homer knew better than anyone what turns a man into a legend. So here they are: the Iliad’s five most intense scenes (each with my own translation, which you can read by clicking on the title), and some comments on the image they carve out of what it means to be awesome. Get out the popcorn.
When the gods go to war, you get your sorry self out of the way. Ares especially is the jacked-up juggernaut of them all, a bristling mountain of rusty bronze blades and throbbing muscles fueled by a raw thirst for carnage. But the Greek hero Diomedes charges full-tilt into Ares’ onslaught — an unheard-of and suicidally ballsy move. When the dust clears, Diomedes has done the unthinkable: he’s scored a hit and drawn divine blood. In the standoff that follows, Ares stares down the human who dared to stand up to him and retreats into the darkened sky.
Check out the previous installments in James Jay Carafano’s ongoing series exploring war films: The 10 Best Movies to Watch to Understand the Cold War, 10 War Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry, America’s First Wars in 10 Movies, 10 Movies For Understanding the Civil War.
“Is America a weakling, to shrink from the work of the great world powers?”
Having asked the question, Teddy Roosevelt proceeded to answer it: “No! The young giant of the West stands on a continent and clasps the crest of an ocean in either hand. Our nation, glorious in youth and strength, looks into the future with eager eyes and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.”
Teddy was chomping at the bit for America to go out into the world. But not everyone was “bully” about it. Between the Civil War and World War II, the U.S. had been involved in more than a few scraps. Often called “small wars,” few Americans were itching for bigger ones.
Hollywood hasn’t paid much attention to the Small Wars Era, a largely forgotten part of American military history. Finding 10 films was tough. Still, there is a cinematic and martial legacy worth noting.
10. The Wild West
Not all of America’s small wars occurred overseas. The U.S. military spent a good deal of its days after the Civil War conducting constabulary duties in the western territories. As military historian Andrew Birtle notes, “The Army has spent the majority of its time not on the conventional battlefield.”
Perhaps the most iconic movie of the “Indian Wars” period is Fort Apache (1947). This John Ford film stars John Wayne and Henry Fonda in a fictional story that borrows from historical events, including the Fetterman Massacre (1866) and Custer’s Last Stand (1876). An American classic, this film should not be missed.
Crossposted from Asia Times Online
The late Leo Strauss (1889-1973) was a thinker sufficiently nuanced to allow a wide range of interpretation of his views, and a teacher broad-ranging enough to influence students with divergent interests. I am honored to contribute occasionally to the Claremont Review of Books, associated with the so-called West Coast Straussians (although I am persona non grata among some East Coast Straussians). In fact, some of my best friends are Straussians.
As my friend Peter Berkowitz argues in a recent essay for RealClearPolitics, it is silly and not a little mendacious to portray the late emigre philosopher as an arachnidan spinner of right-wing plots.  My problem isn’t simply with Strauss, but with the ancients whom he admired. He taught that we have something fundamental to learn about statecraft from the ancient Greeks. This in my view is woefully wrong.
Greek philosophy, to be sure, remains one of the ornaments of human endeavor – as it applies to epistemology, ontology, aesthetics and logic, among other fields. Plato and Aristotle, though, came into adulthood just as the Greek city-states destroyed themselves through their own cupidity. What was left of Athens after the disastrous Peloponnesian War was ruined by Alexander of Macedon, who employed Aristotle as a tutor. I do not mean to deprecate the importance of the Greek polis as an exercise in democracy, but Aristotle was hardly its advocate.
“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim,” begins the Nichomachean Ethics. But Aristotle’s assertion that all men seek the good (or at least the good as they see it) is wrong on the face of it. Frequently men seek perversion, violence, and the destruction of themselves and all around them. That is typical of civilizations that have reached their best-used-by-date, and at some point has been true of every civilization west of the Indus during the past 2,500 years with the exception of Israel.
By the time the Romans walked in, all of Greece could not field two regiments of phalanx-men. The rational, logical Greeks chose not to have children and disappeared. They did so after Athens built an empire that looted its colonies to pay off the Athenian mob, relying on imperial exactions for half of its food supply. Athens was a slave society that preyed on its neighbors. What is the sum of Athenian wisdom after the war was lost? For Sophocles (in Oedipus at Colonnus) it was that the best of all possibilities is never to have been born (“But who has such luck? Not one in ten thousand!,” said Yankel to Moishe in the old Jewish joke). It was Sophocles more than Aristotle whom Hellas took to heart, and ensured that its next generations would not be born.
Let’s get one thing clear: this is not your grandmammy’s Iliad. You’ve probably snored through a few excruciating lectures about “the subtle mastery of Homer’s poetic scansion.” Please. This is not some prissy love sonnet. This is a poem in which 12-foot-tall he-men use rusty bronze spears, devastating serrated blades, and boulders the size of tractors to rip each other to shreds over a stolen girlfriend in the most brutal and gratuitous cage match known to history. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reclaiming the Iliad in the name of awesome, with a series of posts designed to brush the dust off of Homer’s epic proto-action-movie. First up: the 10 most stomach-turning kills in the war between Troy and Greece, from least to most disgusting. All the translations are my own. All the bloodshed is Homer’s.
1. Twelve Sleeping Trojans: Gutted by Night
The fact that this is the least gory item on this list should tell you something about the upcoming mayhem. When the Greeks lose their star fighter, Achilles, they’re playing at a serious handicap. In desperation, they send two undercover operatives, Diomedes and Odysseus, to slaughter the Trojans in their sleep. It’s a low blow, but it gets the job done: while the Trojans are cuddled up all snug, the two Greeks eviscerate twelve of them, spilling their guts on the ground. “Unholy shrieking rose from them as they died,” Homer says, “and the ground ran red with their blood.”
Right now, three Dolphin II-class submarines are under construction at Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems shipyards in Kiel. Once the submarines complete their trials and head towards the Mediterranean, they will become the most powerful Israeli submarines ever.
More than 225 feet long, the diesel-electric Dolphin II class is part attack submarine, part nuclear strike ship and part commando taxi.
They’re also painted in an unusual combination of black, blue and green colors. That’s “meant to make the ship less visible, and thought to be especially effective in Mediterranean waters,” Defense News noted after recently publishing new photographs of the fat, oddly-shaped boats in dry dock and on sea trials.
The most serious part comes further down in the story:
Although not admitted by the Israeli government, the Dolphin II is widely believed to soon possess nuclear-tipped Popeye Turbo cruise missiles. The submarine’s armament includes non-nuclear anti-ship Harpoon and anti-helicopter Triton missiles.
That’s a lot of hurt for the bad guys packed into one boat — and Israel is buying three of them.
Throughout our history, American women have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with fighting men, spied on the enemy, protected the fallen, even led troops into battle. Without our women’s active and aggressive participation, this country could never have become what it is today. Women built this land just as men did, cutting down trees and clearing land, killing dangerous animals and sometimes dangerous humans. With such a legacy, it’s no surprise that American women seem a little tougher, a little bolder than most other women.
Hundreds of women can be commemorated for their war efforts. The famous burlesque dancer Josephine Baker, for instance, worked for the French Resistance during World War II as a spy. Clara Barton worked tirelessly to heal wounded soldiers during the Civil War. In World War II, millions of American women went to work in munitions factories to free men for fighting. Without women as camp followers or running farm and businesses, even George Washington’s Continental Army might have failed, and the United States would never have been born.
But not all women were willing to take a secondary or noncombat role. Instead, these women picked up weapons and entered the battle alongside men. Most of these women have been forgotten. A few, however, have been remembered in the footnotes of history.
(image is Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Mary Read was British or Dutch, not American. Via Wikimedia Commons)
1. Anne Bonny
Born in Ireland, little Anne Cormac came to Charlestown as a child. She grew up tough, wild, and independent, the perfect mindset for the pirate she became. Anne met Mary Read, another female pirate, when they worked together on Calico Jack Rackham’s crew, and the two female pirates helped terrorize the Bahamas for over two years.
When the British Navy finally caught up with Rackham’s crew, the men were below decks and thoroughly drunk on brandy, the spoils of a recent victory. The women had been left on deck to guard. By themselves, Anne and Mary held off a British warship for a good while, yelling at the men to “come up, you cowards, and fight like men,” even firing pistols into the hold to get the drunk crew’s attention. Their efforts were in vain, and Captain Jonathan Barnet, commissioned by the governor of Jamaica, captured the ship and crew.
In Jamaica, all the pirates were sentenced to hang, though the two women were spared because they were pregnant. Jack, before his hanging, requested to see Anne one last time. According to legend, she said to him, “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.” She refused to speak to him further.
While it is known that Mary died in prison, probably before giving birth to her child, the fate of Anne is a mystery. There is, however, good evidence that her father, a wealthy merchant, bribed her jailers to release her, then sent her to Virginia. Here she married a farmer, had children, told stories about her pirating days, and lived to a ripe old age.
In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that fractious republics were little good when a “nation must defend itself against other nations.” Still, he thought America would get along fine since in the new world, man “has no enemies other than himself. To be happy and free he has only to wish it.”
Boy, did Tocqueville miss the boat on that point! Even on a continent protected by two oceans, Americans have always found it necessary to fight for our freedom.
Most Americans give scant thought to the sacrifices made by the fighters who forged our nation. Filmmakers aren’t much different. But when it saw the chance to make a buck, even Hollywood couldn’t resist cranking out a few film gems that remind us of the heroism of the early republic.
10. The Shot Heard Round the World
Few Americans can name even one serious revolutionary war movie other than The Patriot (2000) with Mel Gibson. But four decades earlier, Hollywood produced a doozy: The Devil’s Disciple (1959). During the Saratoga Campaign, “Gentleman” Johnny Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier), the British general, takes time out from battling the Continental Army to root out revolutionaries in Websterbridge, New Hampshire. A brooding, black-sheep colonial (Kirk Douglas) finds his courage, risks his life, defies the British and puts the American cause above his own.
Before Ancient Rome was a titanic empire, it was a collection of huts, a tribe of outlaws, and a few unshakable ideals — courage, virtue, and duty. The defense of those ideals inspired some of the greatest war stories and acts of heroism ever written down. Here are the 10 most badass heroes, ranked in ascending order, from Rome’s legendary history and historical legends.
The legendary founder who gave his name to Rome also carved out the city’s place in blisteringly hostile territory. Etruscans to the North, Samnites to the East, and Latins to the South: Italy was no safe place for a little village made of mud and bricks to stake its claim. Romulus led his ragtag team of rejects and outlaws against the peninsula’s fiercest tribal armies, saving Rome from being annexed or enslaved. But he had an erratic, unheroic temper that kept him from making it higher on this list — legend has it he murdered his brother in a violent rage.
(Livy 1; Dionysius, Roman Antiquities 1-2)
See the first five parts of this ongoing discussion and you are invited to leave your ideas in the comments or submit via email: DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail dot.com
Dr. Helen Smith: Would You Want a Wife This Clueless About Sex and Your Emotions?
Dr. Helen Smith: A Classic Example of White Knighting
Francis W. Porretto: Some Thoughts on Sex and the Bonded Couple
I very much appreciate your contribution to the discussion about sex and marriage yesterday. As I made explicit in my answer to Dr. Helen Smith’s reply, I think these disagreements about marriage and sex are really expressions of more fundamental philosophical and religious conflicts. These comments of yours in particular jumped out, indicating that our worldviews start from very different places as I already knew from these years of enjoying your great comments and occasional pieces. Emphases mine:
Male orgasm — his spasmodic release of tension and seminal fluid — is not the reason a decent man cherishes his lover’s body and access to it. That there are a fair number of “indecent” men roaming about need not cloud the central issue.
Indeed, a mature, self-assured man, properly reared and past the urgings of adolescence, is less concerned with his own physical pleasure than with bringing pleasure to her. Her desire for his desire, with all that follows from that, gives him what he most wants: the opportunity to bring her pleasure, even if he gets little or none for himself. This has often been dismissed as merely a form of politeness, but in fact it’s the source of his greatest sexual fulfillment and, apart from progeny, his principal reason for wanting her to want him.
Yes, there are men so self-absorbed that a woman’s sexual desire is merely an opening through which to seek their own fulfillment, including the evanescent and essentially trivial pleasure of orgasm. Yes, there are men who never bother to learn “what she likes.” But in any decent society these will be a minority.
I’ve written over the years about my ideological shift from Nation-style progressivism to Tea Party conservatism. I’m not the person today that I was a decade ago at 20, in the middle of my undergraduate days when I expanded my studies from English to political science. Amongst the many shifts that I’ve made gradually over the years as life experiences and new philosophical influences chipped away at the ideology I was indoctrinated in from K-12 through college, one of the most fundamental has been my change in understanding human nature. It’s a change from what Victor Davis Hanson has described as the “therapeutic view” to the “tragic view.”
When I was a progressive who supported big government programs and a dovish foreign policy it was because I naively assumed that most human beings wanted the same things, were decent people at heart, and could be trusted not to deceive others. Multiculturalism taught that all cultures were equal and all religions expressed the same basic, universal moral values. Anytime someone did something wrong it was because they were ignorant or mentally unbalanced in a way that was distorting their perception of consensus reality. Sure, occasionally nature would make a mistake and burp out serial killers, child molesters, or Hitlers but in general such people were aberrations. Thus it was possible — and necessary — and moral to move forward with trying to reason our way to a perfect, peaceful world by convincing everyone else what was best for them to do.
But I don’t believe that at all anymore. Now I believe the exact opposite. The state of nature from which humanity escaped is chaos, cruelty, hatred and selfishness. More people in the world are evil than good, more of the cultures in the world will die through suicide rather survive. It’s more normal for humans to worship death than for them to pursue eternal life. And the pimp-prostitute, promiscuous, polygamous sexual culture is more natural and universal than monogamous marriage. The absolute nuclear family that powers American prosperity is an aberration that we take for granted — see James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus’s amazing America 3.0 for more on this. And in failing to understand and defend this culture today it’s slipping away.
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh collection of interviews and story excerpts spotlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island. An index of 8 newly-released stories can be found here. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.”
Most importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.
2. Steve Poling: Is Cthulhu Tastier Fried or Barbecued?
5. Keith Korman: ‘I Have No Friends: I Make My Mind My Friend.‘
6. Abbey Clarke: A Demon’s Heart: Can Evil Incarnate Ever Find Salvation?
7. Jamie Wilson: A Gen-X Gandalf Mom Casting Thomas Sowell Spells
8. Clay Waters: ‘You Obviously Feel This Ocean Mythos Deep In Your DNA…’
9. Todd Seavey: ‘It Was Star Wars That Taught Me to Love Science, Fantasy, Music, and Capitalism Simultaneously’
10. Stephen McDonald: ‘Long-Term, I’d Like to Hire Others to Produce More Content Set in This Shared Universe…’
11. Pierre V. Comtois: Golfing on the Moon
12. Aaron Smith: ‘I Spell ‘Magicks’ With a ‘K’ to Both Confound Proofreaders and to Signify It’s Not a White-Bunny-Being-Pulled-Out-of-The-Hat Kind of Magic.’
14. Ted Elrick: ‘When a Guy’s Got That Kind of Control, You Gotta Admire It.’
15. Frank J. Fleming: Who Murdered the Dinosaurs?
16. R.K. Delka: ‘I’m the Constitution, Dammit!’
18. Roy Griffis: ‘An Antidote to the Nihilistic Crap That Is Being Peddled’
19. David Churchill Barrow: ‘The Smoking, Dirty, Jagged Line of Rocks on that Ridge Seemed to Mock God Himself…’
20. Michael Sheldon: What Could Be Better Than Fresh Apricots?
21. Sabrina Chase: Women Can Be Mad Scientists Too
23. Erich Forschler: ‘The Road Might Be His Best Work, But My Favorite is No Country for Old Men.‘
24. Tom Weiss: In the Ashes: A War Screenplay
Editor’s Note: Discover innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island. See this collection of interviews and story excerpts from 22 of Liberty Island’s writers. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” An index of 8 more newly-released stories can be found here.
1. That In Those Times We Will Remember by David Churchill Barrow
2. Point Man by Ted Galacci
3. Shadows: A Danse Macabre in the African Desert by Roy Griffis
4. Even the Pilgrims Needed a Few Good Men: ‘By the Sword Seek Peace’ by David Churchill Barrow
John Phillip Sousa on 33 1/3 blasts from the Hi-Fi — yes, you heard right, “Hi-Fi” — conducted by my flag-waving Grandfather, proudly standing at attention at 8 o’clock in the morning in the doorway of his open garage, wondering why it took us so long to get there. We may have been at the shore, but Memorial Day was not about a barbecue on the beach.
My grandparents lived down the street from my Great Uncle and Aunt. My Grandfather idolized my Great Uncle (his brother), naming his only son after his brother who had spent World War II as a gunner on a Navy ship in the Pacific. Having broken his back before the war, my Grandfather wasn’t able to get into the military during the conflict. Instead, he busied himself crafting knives to send to his buddies overseas (yes, they censored letters, but allowed knives to be carried through V-Mail) with the instructions “leave them in the enemy’s guts and I’ll make you a new one when you get home.”
My grandfather also played a key role in the war effort, one that goes overlooked when we take the time to honor the troops on Memorial Day. Recruited by the FBI in 1940, my grandfather and his father played a key role in the creation of the Iowa Ordinance Plant, the largest shell and bomb loading facility in operation during the war.
In the autumn of 1940, when a fairly isolationist population still dismissed the idea of entering into Europe’s conflict, my grandfather was pulled out of his job as a tool and die maker by two fairly typical FBI mugs. They strapped secret plans for a military facility, designed by Day & Zimmermann, Co., to his body and handed him a train ticket and a gun with the instructions, “Don’t be afraid to use it.” At the age of 23, my grandfather was the perfect cover: “If anyone asks, you’re on your way out west to go to college.” His job was simple: Escort his father, recruited by the government for his skills as a tool and die maker, to San Francisco to convene with a number of highly skilled Americans engaged to prepare America for war.
We are getting used to tales of heroism from US Navy SEALs. They have become almost mythic in stature in both fictional and non-fictional accounts of covert ops and wartime derring-do.
But perhaps the bravest thing I ever saw was the last mission of Harry Dale, one of the first Navy SEALs, among the first in Vietnam—and it happened nearly a quarter century after his retirement.
I met Harry in the mid-1990s. The retired Naval officer had called the Flint Public Library because he was looking for a co-author. The librarians there said it sounded like it was right up the alley of a local book reviewer who liked that kind of stuff—me.
If you scratch a book reviewer, you will find an aspiring novelist. So when Harry called, I arranged to meet him at his home. I arrived about 15 minutes early, having misjudged the time the drive would take.
When I pulled in, I saw this wiry old guy climbing out of the lake. “Hi, Dave!” he greeted me. “Sorry, I thought I had time for a couple before you got here.”
“A couple?” I echoed, impressed. “You swam across and back a couple times?”
“Hell no, I’m an old man. I don’t go out that deep. What if I had a heart attack?”
Then it hit me. He was doing laps. Now I was impressed. Harry brushed it off: “Not much compared to my old frogman days.”
Frogman… the age… “Were you a SEAL in the Vietnam era by any chance?” I asked.
“Very good, I think the ladies sent me the right guy. Have a seat while I get some clothes on.”
“It is well that war is so terrible,” General Robert E. Lee lamented, “otherwise we would grow too fond of it.” On the other side of the Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman stated more simply that “war is hell.” They knew fighting for a cause always meant good soldiers suffer; some make the ultimate sacrifice; and often innocents get tragically caught in the crossfire. War always comes at a terrible cost.
Here are ten war films to watch this Memorial Day that will make you weep.
#10. Gunga Din
A 1939 adventure film “inspired” by the Rudyard Kipling poem follows the exploits of three British army lieutenants — Cutter (Cary Grant), MacChesney (Victor McLaglen), Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) — on the Indian frontier. The movie is all dash and panache, except for the erstwhile native water carrier, Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe), whose only dream is to be a real soldier. In the end, it’s the regimental “beastie,” shot, bayonetted, but carrying on, who saves the day before he falls. Sob along at the end of the film when the colonel declares over the funeral pyre, “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”
The smell of pork fat cooking with crushed hardtack over the supper fires is in the air, mingled with strong coffee and a hint of chicory. A chorus of frogs wafts in from the Chicahominy River and Boatswain’s Swamp. A harmonica is softly playing a tune that reminds the boys of life back home – a life many of them have not known for three long years of bloody fighting. There are other sounds in the night air; sounds that chill their souls. They are close enough to hear the Rebel axes and shovels building breastworks. It is no secret that they will be ordered to attack those works at dawn – ACROSS THE OPEN GROUND.
Why are several of them hunched over in their shirtsleeves, fiddling with their jackets? Is it mending time? No, they are pinning bits of paper or cloth to their backs with their names and home towns written on them. You see, there were no dog tags back then. In the morning, as they offer themselves up to be shredded by minie balls and canister, they don’t want their last thoughts to be that no one back home will know what happened to them. For there was a multitude of brave boys in grey and butternut on the other side who were willing to die for the idea that there was no such thing as the UNITED States of America, and no “Yankee government” was going to tell them how to live, or tell them they had to stop holding African Americans in bondage. So they built their ramparts that night and waited – ACROSS THE OPEN GROUND.
The next day the attack would fail to take the Rebel works, and and over 7000 Union soldiers would be killed or wounded – going ACROSS THE OPEN GROUND.
The man who called this nation “the last best hope of earth” admonished us to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion.” Our unique way of life was purchased at a dear price; by men who somehow found it within themselves to get up, form up, and go ACROSS THE OPEN GROUND.
image via shutterstock / steve estvanik
A controversy erupted last week at the National September 11 Memorial Museum over exactly how the museum should depict what happened on that fateful day. So it’s time to give them a few unsolicited suggestions.
The New York Times reported that Muslim leaders in New York are angry about a film that is slated to be shown at the museum titled The Rise of Al Qaeda because it “refers to the terrorists as Islamists who viewed their mission as a jihad.” Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, the imam of Masjid Manhattan, wrote to the museum’s director: “The screening of this film in its present state would greatly offend our local Muslim believers as well as any foreign Muslim visitor to the museum.”
Wait – aren’t the “local Muslim believers,” as well as any given “foreign Muslim visitor,” supposed to be part of the vast majority of Muslims worldwide who abhor and reject al Qaeda? So why would a film about al Qaeda offend them? Because, Elazabawy explains, “unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between Al Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam, leading to antagonism and even confrontation toward Muslim believers near the site.”
Akbar Ahmed, a professor at American University and a renowned and respected moderate Muslim, complained that people who see the film are “simply going to say Islamist means Muslims, jihadist means Muslims.” While he acknowledged that “the terrorists need to be condemned and remembered for what they did,” he warned that “when you associate their religion with what they did, then you are automatically including, by association, one and a half billion people who had nothing to do with these actions and who ultimately the U.S. would not want to unnecessarily alienate.”
But this is a sleight-of-hand: it is not the 9/11 Museum that is associating their religion with what they did. It was the 9/11 hijackers themselves who associated their religion with what they did. Elazabawy and Ahmed want the museum to ignore and whitewash that fact, and it will almost certainly comply: it has already begun to do so by removing mention of “Islamic terrorism” from its website.
In a just world, however, it would highlight these five truths: