Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Patriotism

What is Patriotism to you?  Is it putting a flag in your yard on holidays to show your allegiance to your country?  Is it your willingness to serve at all costs in the armed services to protect your country and defend others' human rights to live in freedom?  Is it loving your country by loving your countrymen and loving the rest of the world by loving your country first?  Is it blindly following the leaders of your country, or the freedom of practicing your 1st amendment right to speak your mind and object if you believe your government is hurting your country?

Many a great mind have spoken on the subject of Patriotism.  These are just a few of the many quotes made by patriots whether you agree with them or not.  They did practice their right to speak on the subject.

"Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance.  It is also owed to justice and to humanity.  Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong." - Bryce James

"The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree." -Campbell Thomas

"A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation's flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the Government, the principles, the truths, the history which belongs to the Nation which belongs to the Nation that sets it forth." -Henry Ward Beecher

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." -Abbey Edward

"Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country."  -Calvin Coolidge

"A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle."  -George William Curtis

"True Patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else."  -Clarence Darrow

"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned.  When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him.  For then it costs nothing to be a patriot."  -Mark Twain

"A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works."  -Bill Vaughn

"We stand for freedom.  That is our conviction for ourselves;  that is our only commitment to others."  -John F. Kennedy

"He is a poor patriot whose patriotism does not enable him to understand how all men everywhere feel about their altars and their hearthstones, their flag and their fatherland."  -Harry Emerson Fosdick

"Are you a politician who says to himself, 'I will use my country for my own benefit?'  Or are you a devoted patriot, who whispers in the ear of his inner self, 'I love to serve my country as a faithful servant?"  - Kahil Gibran

"A politician will do anything to keep his job, even become a patriot."  William Randolph Hearst

"Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may."  -Mark Twain

"What we need are critical lovers of America.  Patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it."  -Hubert H. Humphrey

Wikipedia describes Patriotism as, "Patriotism is, generally speaking, cultural attachment to one's homeland or devotion to one's country, although interpretations of the term vary with contest, geography and political ideology.  It is a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism."  

How would you describe it?


Monday, August 4, 2014

70 Years Since Anne Franks Last Diary Entry

This month is the 70th anniversary of the last diary entry of Anne Frank.  For me, she has been the number one reflection of all that is good and evil in this world.  Anne herself being the good and pure of heart in the world, and the Nazis' and all others who, through their hatred, wish to destroy anyone who is not just like them being the pure evil in the world.

In her last entry Anne wrote, "I'm afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side.  I'm afraid they'll mock me, think I'm ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously.  I'm used to being taken seriously, but only the 'lighthearted' Anne is used to it and can put up with it. The 'deeper' Anne is too weak."  Three days later on Aug. 4, 1944 she and all eight who were hiding with her were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Below is the blog I wrote about her on Aug. 8, 2012.  Nothing much has changed in the world.  Two years later the fighting continues in Syria and has spread through out the Middle East.

Aug. 8, 2012

Watching the news on the Syrian Civil War, or Syrian Uprising as they prefer to refer to it, makes me think back to news of World War II and what Hitler did to the Jews and any other class of people he felt were inferior.  All world leaders, religions, and the everyday people on the streets said never would such heinous acts be allowed to be perpetrated on man again.  Then I look at the news and what do I see?  A government slaughtering its own people, men women and children, to the tune of over 10,000 killed, 1.5 million displaced internally, and with several thousand fleeing into neighboring countries.

I would like to pay homage by putting a brief story about Anne Frank on our blog.  We do not have the stories of the innocents being murdered in Syria yet, but one day those stories will come out.   Will we help or once again look back and say, never again?  Is history just going to repeat itself?

-Acting on a tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captured 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man, and were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the "secret annex" working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.

Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.

On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne's older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi "work camp." Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank's business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist, the eighth occupant of the hiding place, joined the group.

For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne's spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.

Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne's diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. In 1947, Anne's diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch as Diary of a Young Girl. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 50 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Medicare Turns 49

On July 30th of this month Medicare will turn 49 years old.  Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Medicare was the answer to health care insurance for elderly Americans.  Americans 65 or older were provided hospital and medical insurance as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935.  19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect a year later in 1966.  President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare's first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card.  President Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at that time by Congress.

At its creation, Medicare consisted of two parts.  Medicare Part A hospital insurance coverage, which was financed by payroll deductions and charged no premium to those who had contributed, and Medicare Part B an optional medical insurance program for which enrollees paid a monthly premium.

Medicare's first beneficiaries paid a $40 annual deductible for Part A.  The monthly premium for Part B, in which Truman did enroll, was $3.  As of June of 2013 the cost is $1,184 for the annual Part A deductible and a premium of roughly $105 a month for Part B, plus a $147 annual deductible.

Today, nearly 50 million Americans, 15 percent of the nation's population, depends on Medicare for their health insurance coverage.  With increasing life expectancy and more "Baby Boomers" turning 65 every day, the number of people on Medicare is expected to double before 2030.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Beatles and The Cultural Shift

There was a cultural revolution in the 1960s.  It was probably the biggest and fastest change in the way the youth in America dressed, wore their hair, music they listened to, and rebellious attitude towards "The Establishment," meaning the older generation and the government.  The Beatles were just the beginning of the shift.

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow landed at New York's Kennedy Airport, and "Beatlemania" arrived.  It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll group that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with "I want to Hold Your Hand."  The "Fab Four," dressed in mod suits along with their trademark bowl haircuts, were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the group stepped off the plane.

Two days later, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show which was aired in black and white.  The audience was packed with screaming teenage girls and made it hard for the estimated 73 million television viewers to hear their performance.  Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month.  The group made its first public concert appearance on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, DC with 20,000 fans in attendance.  The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the music hall because of chaotic fan hysteria.  On February 22, they returned to England.

The Beatles' first American tour left a major imprint on the nation's cultural memory.  From the big band music of the early 1950s through Doo Wop in the middle of the decade into the Rockability of the late 50s, teenagers of the mid 60s were poised to break away from the more rigid landscape.  The Beatles, with their new sound and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift.

Their singles and albums sold millions, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs.  By the time they released their first feature film, "A Hard Day's Night," Beatlemania was epidemic the world over.  In August 1964, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold out arenas across the country.

The Beatles gave up touring to concentrate on their innovative studio recordings, such as 1967s Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, a psychedelic concept album that is regarded as a masterpiece of popular music. The Beatles' music remained relevant throughout the great cultural shifts of the 1960s, and critics of all ages acknowledge the songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney team.

In 1970, the Beatles left a legacy of 18 albums and 30 Top 10 U.S. singles to pursue solo careers.

As a side note... This author saw the Beatles on September 22, 1964 at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. We could barely hear because of all the non-stop screaming. I am not sure we will ever see anything like "Beatlemania" again.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Draft and Vietnam

In January of 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

In total 100,000 draft aged Americans went abroad in the late 1960's and early 70's to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.  Ninety percent went to Canada.  Others hide out in the US and Europe.  In addition to those who were "draft-dodgers," a relatively small number of about 1,000 were deserters.  Others were labeled "Conscientious Objectors."

A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws, while government officials estimate another 360,000 were never formally accused.  If they returned home they would have faced prison sentences or forced military service.

President Carter's decision generated a great amount of controversy.  He was heavily criticized by veterans' groups and others for allowing "unpatriotic lawbreakers" to get off scot-free.  The pardon and companion relief plan came under fire from amnesty groups for not addressing deserters, soldiers who were dishonorably discharged or civilian anti-war demonstrators who had been prosecuted for their resistance.

Although today, when reaching the age of 18 all males must register with the Selective Service, many people born after 1975 are not familiar with the draft and what it meant to young men and their lives.  From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and war, only men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary service.  All men between the ages of 18 and 26 had to sign up with the Selective Service, also known as, the"United States Draft Board".

A lottery drawing, the first since 1942, was held on December 1, 1969 at the Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  This event determined the order of call for the induction year of 1970. All registrants born between January 1, 1944 and December 31, 1950 were in the drawing.  This lottery differed from the 1942 lottery as the oldest were not called up first.  It was determined by the order that the dates were pulled.

With radio, film and TV coverage, the capsules were drawn from a jar.  The first capsule drawn was the date of September 14, so all men born on that date in any year between 1944 and 1950 were assigned lottery number 1.  The drawing continued until all days of the year had been batched to lottery numbers.  If you were number 1 you were going.  Number 365 would probably never see service.  The lowest numbers were drafted first.

If the draft were held today, it would be dramatically different from the one held during the Vietnam War.  A series of reforms during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way the draft operated to make it more fair.  If a draft were held today there would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service.

Before Congress made the changes to the draft in 1971, a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree.  Under the current draft law, a college student can have his induction postponed only until the end of the current semester.  A senior can be postponed until the end of the academic year.  Today a man would spend only one year in the first priority for draft, either the calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended.  Each year after that he would be placed in a succeedingly lower priority group, and his liability for the draft would lessen accordingly.

Women are still not required to register with the Selective Service, but this could change with the new policy of allowing women to serve in combat arms specialties.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Beginnings And Wrapping Up Old Ones

The New Year is the time for new beginnings and wrapping up old ones.

The New Year was 1789, and the first election for President of the United States was held from Monday, December 15, 1788 to Saturday, January 10, 1789.  It was the only election to take place partially in a year that was not a multiple of four.

On January 7, 1789 the first President of The United States was elected.  At the time there were no real political parties.  Candidates were either Federalists, meaning they supported the ratification of the Constitution, or Anti-Federalists, meaning they opposed ratification.  In reality both sides were united in supporting George Washington as president.  The only real issue to be decided was who would be chosen as vice president.  Under the system then in place, each elector cast two votes.  If a person received a vote from a majority of the electors, that person became president and the runner up became vice president.  All 69 electors cast one vote each for Washington.  Their other votes were divided among the other eleven candidates.  The candidates were:  George Washington, Independent; John Adams, Federalist; John Jay, Federalist; Robert H. Harrison, Federalist; John Rutledge, Federalist; John Hancock, Federalist; George Clinton, Anti-Federalist; Samuel Huntington, Federalist; John Milton, Federalist; James Armstrong, Federalist; Benjamin Lincoln, Federalist; and Edward Telfair, Anti-Federalist.  John Adams received the most votes of the eleven candidates and became George Washington's vice president.

In 1804 the Twelfth Amendment was ratified requiring each elector to cast distinct votes for president and vice president.

With the thought of new beginnings and wrapping up old ones, here are a couple of quotes to start the New Year.

"Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."  Carl Bard

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover." Mark Twain

Friday, November 22, 2013

Proof Of The First Thanksgiving

Before the arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans the Wampanoag people gave thanks, feasts, and ceremonies for the Creator's gifts of a successful harvest, hope for a good growing season in the spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child.

In 1621, after a year of sickness and scarcity the Pilgrims along with the Wampanoag tribe, gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty with feasting and celebration.  To these people of strong Christian faith this was not merely a feast, but a joyous outpouring of gratitude.  E.W. Winslow, a Pilgrim and later Governor of New England who had lost his wife to the elements in the new land, wrote a letter to his friend in England saying, "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty...These things I thought good to let you understand that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favourable with us."

In 1622, Winslow's letter was printed in a pamphlet that historians commonly call Mourt's Relation. Winslow's and William Bradford's accounts were written between November 1620 and November 1621. They described in detail what happened from the landing of the Pilgrims at Cape Cod, their exploring and eventual settling at Plymouth, to their relations with the surrounding Indians, up to the first Thanksgiving and the arrival of the ship Fortune.  Mourt's Relations was first published in London in 1622 by George Morton. This publication of the first Thanksgiving was lost during the Colonial period and rediscovered in Philadelphia around 1820.  Because of Winslow's letter historians have long contended that it was the first Thanksgiving celebrated in America.

The holiday changed as the strictly held customs of the Puritans of the 17th century evolved into the 18th century's more cosmopolitan New Englander.  By the 1700's the emotional significance of family united around a dinner table over shadowed the civil and religious importance of Thanksgiving.  As the people began to migrate westward New England's holiday traditions spread to the rest of the nation.  It was not until 1941, under the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Congress established the 4th Thursday of November as the national Thanksgiving holiday.

We at National Write Your Congressman wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving 2013.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Veterans Day - Wounded Warrior Project

On this Veteran's Day, I have chosen to honor Wounded Warrior Project and congratulate them on their 10th Anniversary of service to our nation's wounded servicemen and women.

Almost everyone remembers where they were when our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001. In the midst of overwhelming tragedy, loss of life, and all the ensuing fear and chaos many brave men and women stepped forward to join those who were already serving in the United States military to join the fight against terrorism.

As the war progressed several veterans and friends, moved by stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, started providing backpacks with various comfort items to wounded service members. This was the beginning of the Wounded Warrior Project.  Over the last 10 years, WWP has developed 19 programs and services and provided assistance to injured service members with their visible and invisible injuries, like post-tramatic stress disorder (PTSD), at no cost to the warrior. They currently have more than 35,000 warriors and 4,100 family members registered with access to WWP's "high-touch" and personalized services.

While a number of veterans' service organizations assist post 9.11 veterans with the challenges of today, Wounded Warrior Project offers programs to help members with both their immediate and long-term needs. The programs and services range from mental health, economic needs, physical health and wellness to engagement with other warriors. The programs help injured service members work through more immediate challenges and establish a foundation for a lifetime of success.

WWP has also launched services and pilot programs that address some of the toughest issues surrounding long-term care for the most severely injured. The Independence Program works with local rehabilitative service providers to assist profoundly injured warriors in regaining the ability to perform the types of daily tasks that most people take for granted. The Long Term Support Program is in a pilot phase and was crafted to ensure that the most severely injured warriors will have access to quality care after their family member/care giver is no longer able to provide care.

The mission of Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP's purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the publics' aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. 

I became a member of the "Advanced Guard" of WWP two years ago, and I have found it to be an honest and honorable group who want nothing more than to just help our wounded servicemen and women.  If you are looking for a truly service-oriented organization to contribute to, please consider Wounded Warrior Project.  To learn more, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.  You can also "Like" their Facebook page and receive updates and inspiring stories at https://www.facebook.com/wwpinc.fans.