Keeping Memorial Day Alive

Some towns have had more trouble over the years keeping the spirit of Memorial Day alive then others. In some towns, the interest dwindles until only a few people gather on the village green to remember the fallen.

Other towns, like the village we now play in every year, the people are packed in shoulder to shoulder through the center of town so that the band can barely get through.

The secret? It’s the kids. The Girl Scouts. The Boy Scouts. The Daisy Scouts (they’re so cute). The Pee Wee League. The Little League. The high school band. And of course, the fire department and the first aid squad can always be depended on them.

Veterans may be dwindling, but the kids just go on forever. More and more of them, every year. And the moms and dads are out there to take their pictures. Tell the kids to just to stand on the sidelines and they’ll squiggle and squirm to go home.

Get them involved, get them out there, and you’ll have a crowd like this town’s, and the town yesterday. These towns were very different economically. One is a working class, blue-collar town; the other, strictly upper middle-class, white collar.

No matter; they all have kids and they all turn out.

And that is the secret to the future of successful Memorial Day Parades. Veterans associations, please take note.

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Plug the Hole

In public relations, they call it “putting out fires.” In the department in which I work, our editors use that phrase all the time. The ringing telephone is the substitute for the clanging claxon, the exclamation point e-mail the substitute for the running script in red under a television broadcast.

Things go wrong. Sometimes it’s the result of a mistake, other times it’s simply a natural catastrophe, like a hurricane. Sometimes it’s murder. It’s not so much that these things happen or who’s at fault, but what we do about them and how we respond to them.

I worked for Exxon at the time of the Valdez oil spill. Exxon was so sensitive about what information got out about the company, just in general, that prospective employees had to sign a non-disclosure statement, vowing that they would never discuss any propriety information about the company, even after they’re no longer employees.

Violating that agreement can bring about a costly lawsuit. Exxon is serious about the old saying, “Loose lips sink oil tankers.” So is the company for which I work now. I cannot mention their name and I am not authorized to speak for them. In order to do that, I would have to attend a series of classes at corporate headquarters and sign a disclosure agreement similar to Exxon’s.

Thank goodness, I work in internal communications. When I get a reporter on the phone, I can blithely tell them I’m the company photographer. It’s the truth, as far as it goes (I’m not about to throw oil on the fire by telling them I’m also a writer but I’m not authorized to talk to them – I don’t want to wind up on tomorrow’s front pages), and I get rid of them – after a surprised pause – very handily. They’re too surprised to even be annoyed.

“I can take your picture,” I tell them, “but I can’t answer your questions. However, I can give you the cell phone number of the person you need to talk to.”

And I do. It’s company policy to give the reporter access to the informant, plug that hole, as quickly as possible. If you don’t tell them what they want to know when they want to know it, they’ll write in their newspaper article that the company had no comment.

Yikes.

I worked in Exxon’s international oil trading department. I was simply a clerk, so there’s no danger of revealing any proprietary information because I didn’t know anything and don’t remember anything lawsuit-worthy.

I just processed the paperwork. In that process, I often got to speak to the tanker captains. I may have even spoken to Captain Hazelwood. One of the captains told me about the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf and how it was a convenient place for terrorists to sink the tankers.

After the oil spill in Alaska, we employees watched in horror as television news reports showed, night after night, the oil lapping up onto the shore. There were the besmirched seabirds and angry fishing boat captains wanting to know when our company was going to do something.

Or at least, say something. Anything! We pleaded with our department supervisor to tell us what was going on. He said the lawyers had advised the public relations spokespeople to say nothing at all. Silence was golden. The best policy. Lawsuits were in the offing.

Meanwhile, our company was becoming oilier than the ducks on the beaches. Our reputation was sinking. The captain had been drunk and gave command of the tanker over to a junior, less-experienced officer at a critical moment trying to leave the bay. As a result, the tanker went aground (steering an oil tanker isn’t exactly like driving a Pinto or a golf cart).

The media pilloried Exxon for hiring alcoholic sea captains. My grandfather was a merchant seaman and taught at the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. And he certainly drank. The Valdez captain drank? That was their charge? So did the crew, no doubt. These were seamen, not Wall Street executives wearing Brooks Brothers suits (I’ve known those types, too, and they can drink and snort any seafarer under the table).

Of course he drank.

Neverthelesss, there was a big mess in Prince William Sound (the Valdez was named for the port town where the refinery was located – the ship has since been renamed and relocated) and no one – least of all Exxon, who was responsible for the accident, was doing anything about it.

John Denver scheduled a rare New Jersey concert in Waterloo Village, mere miles from Exxon’s headquarters at the time in Florham Park. There were a number of Exxon employees and fans of the singer at the concert.

Denver did not spare Exxon. He wrote a song specifically about the oil spill. The employees couldn’t divulge any information about what they knew of the spill. They couldn’t name the company. But they could sing along with John Denver – and they sure did.

Eventually, far too late, Exxon realized that it had failed miserably to put out this public relations fire. They got up to the microphone and they got up to Prince William Sound to clean up the mess. The oil has been cleaned up. To this day, they’re still trying to shake the public relations oil from their feathers. Upon hearing about this latest incident, the first name that comes up on comparison is Exxon.

People have to think a minute to remember the name of the tanker. Geographically-challenged, Americans problem don’t recall the body of water. The captain’s name is hazy in their memories. But they remember “Exxon.”

We fast forward now to Deepwater Horizon – British Petroleum’s (BP) Valdez. This involves a poorly-explained rupture in an oil well below the ocean. BP seems to have taken the early pages right out of Exxon’s hold-your-fire public relations playbook.

Thirty days out, they’re only now trying to do something about plugging the leak. Granted, the leak is not only miles down in the ocean, but a mile below the earth’s crust. Still, you think they could have done something by this point. Couldn’t someone stick their finger in the dike.

And that’s precisely what they’re going to do, apparently. Their top-kill method involves plugging the hole with mud. The public can only shrug its shoulders helplessly and hope BP knows what it’s doing.

We, the public, like we, the (then) Exxon employees, have a lot of questions about why a solution has taken so long that aren’t being answered. We can’t help wondering if strings were pulled to prolong this disaster for ecological political advantage.

We learn now that many oil drilling deals have been called off. Would they have been cancelled had the leaking well been plugged sooner, before the oil could reach the Gulf Coast and even the Gulf Stream?

This incident is now also going to affect my present company, and we’re receiving the same message we got at Exxon – that silence is golden. Say nothing. Don’t even say why we can’t say anything.

I tried to explain to a frustrated co-worker how it bears similarities to the incident at Exxon – an oil spill, letting fires burn, silencing our communications team (that would be us). But he’s young and didn’t buy it or didn’t get the message.

We aren’t at fault in this incident and have no responsibility for the clean-up, certainly. This is BP’s mess, not ours. But we will be suffering the after affects and will have to answer to our customers and the Media if we don’t get the message right.

It’s not looking promising that we will. We’re heading for troubled waters and what I was trying to point out to him was that in this oil spill incident we’re following along the same public relations path as my former employer.

Our corporate public relations adviser pointed out that a storm might disperse the oil and we could be spared any nightmares. Only it’s said that oil and water don’t mix. Oil has a tendency to suppress waves and storms, becalm them. It’s heavy and may not disperse but head right for the beaches.

But as we’re only regional communicators, not corporate leadership, we’re not allowed to question corporate directives on this issue much less defy them, though this oil spill may very well affect our regional business.

Our job, as public relations minions, is to seal our lips and pour oil on troubled waters. We bobbled our heads when our adviser gave us the message points for this upcoming incident. What else could we do?

The lawyers have spoken and have the last word in public relations.

But so okay. That’s what companies do and what company employees have to do. We receive a salary to keep our mouths shut when we’re told to do so. We all know the story and the deal. That’s what it is.

When our government starts acting like a company, though, when the President of the United States acts like the Chief Executive Officer of a company, deciding what questions he will and won’t answer, that’s a problem.

When he and his government withhold information, and delay responses and recovery efforts beyond what would be considered a reasonable time, that creates a public relations hole. We shouldn’t still be seeing oil gushing out of that well.

During Hurricane Katrina, President Bush only delayed his visit a few days and for valid reason. Louisiana was a flood zone and in the middle of a crisis. His early appearance might have made for great media visuals but would have diverted officials from their real task of helping people in the area in order to accommodate him. The only people incommoded by his later appearance was the press.

Obama ultimately placed the responsibility (where it belongs) on British Petroleum. However, there’s been no good explanation for the delay in oil spill fighting tactics. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and where there is silence, there is a lawyer. Or government bureaucrat.

Oh there is certainly the inevitable leaking memo, laying the blame on BP officials for not reacting in a timely manner to the impending crisis, when it looked like this leak could not be contained. The memo sheds no more light on why exactly it occurred. But we know who’s at fault. Sort of.

Now that he’s waiting long enough for this oil spill to evolve into a full-blown crisis. Now that the oil has reached the shores of the United States and is heading for the Gulf Stream. Now that we have the pictures of oil-saturated wildlife and grasslands.

Now that all the pieces are in place, Obama and Congress can come to the rescue with legislation. Ta-ta-ta-DAH!!! Here he comes to save the day! They can’t cap the oil well but they can cap and trade the oil companies.  This oil well didn’t have a safety cap, incidentally.  That’s the cause?  Or that would have been a solution?

It’s this miraculous timing that raises suspicions and doubts about the timing of this incident and the delay in preventing it. Have we anticipated the chessmaster’s moves? Are all his pieces now in place, so that now he’s willing to parry questions from the Media?

Rush Limbaugh has been suspicious and skeptical since Day One and geological experts had to be trotted out (on cue?) to allay those suspicions and accusations and forestall further public inquiry with predictably incomprehensible scientific answers.

Impossible to fix it, at least immediately – it’s a mile below the crust of the earth. Oh yeah? Well they managed to drill the well hole and get the pipes down that far in the first place, didn’t they? Is it that BP didn’t have the ability to do it? Or is that they weren’t allowed?

Did our government insist on doing “environmental impact studies” before they would permit BP to proceed? Did the government insist on signing off first on whatever solution was found? Did the Liberal politicians need more oil to gush out first in order to fuel their agenda?

When the Liberals were ramming TARP down our throats, they claimed economic Armageddon was looming. We were facing a worldwide economic collapse if we didn’t bail these companies out (!).

Health care reform! People are dying! We’ve got to do something. It was lie; no one was dying from lack of health care insurance. Now they’ve all but signed off on yet another government-encroaching, freedom-sucking financial bill. This is an emergency they said. They’re saving us from evil Wall Street Bankers.

When Conservatives said, “Hold on a minute; we’re not sure about all this. We need to study whether this is really good for the country” the Liberals cried foul. The Conservatives were obstructing progress (darned right).

But when an oil well in the Gulf spews billions of gallons of oil into the ocean, they need to “study the environmental impact” of any solution. Sounds more like they’re studying the political impact to discover what kind of hay they can make of it, how they can blame it on a past administration, and how it can be made to serve their cap-and-trade ambitions.

Sometimes you have to dig a hole before you can plug it.

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  

A Shocking Idea

“I meant to kill a turkey and almost killed a goose instead.” Benjamin Franklin, 1750

Glenn Beck is a national treasure; he truly is. He should receive some sort of medal for service to America with his outstanding efforts to educate the American people on their history, their heritage, and the imminent danger they are in of losing their freedom.

But now and then, he displays a disconcerting lack of, shall we say, common sense? In particular, his common sense is unfortunately wanting in regard to the controversy over the 15-story mosque/playland being planned a few blocks from Ground Zero.

According to news reports, this building is well within sight of this tragic landmark, providing an unobstructed view of the blasted-out area. The local zoning board just approved the project and Glenn supports their right to build there on constitutional grounds.

He’s very proud of our nation’s tolerance for all religious beliefs. How can the American public say no to a religious group wanting to build a place of worship (a community center, actually, according to the planners), even if it is near enough to Ground Zero to roast marshmallows?

Citing the intent of the Founding Fathers, he constitutionally welcomes the right of Muslims to worship in America, although even he would be hard pressed to regard suicide bombing as a form of Constitutionally-protected religious worship.

The law is blind and so is Glenn. Where the law is silent, human judgment must take a hand. There are many things the Founding Fathers were unable to foresee. Looking into the future, they couldn’t have predicted that Muslims would pose such a threat to freedom.

Perhaps they recognized Islam’s dogmatic nature. Transportation of the times, slow and expensive, though, limited any invasion by immigration. Recognizing it might be possible, on the other hand, they did provide Americans with the ability to restrict immigration, protecting those ho already lived here from those with less invested in the nation.

They didn’t foresee opportunistic politicians gutting those legal barriers. They didn’t foresee a revolution in transportation, giving us the jet plane that could fly unimaginable numbers of people to any point in the world and unimaginable monsters into unimaginably tall buildings.

They didn’t foresee the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not only making discrimination of foreigners, and their intent in coming to America, illegal, but even penalizing criticism of certain protected groups. They didn’t foresee the concurrent gerrymandering of Congressional districts that would give those minority groups unlimited power to perpetually vote in their corrupt politicians.

They couldn’t begin to imagine Americans who hated freedom and who would use our own freedoms, our own Constitution against us, to destroy that freedom.

Glenn has urged his followers to create their own “freedom libraries,” with books on the founding of the country and the issues of freedom. I’m happy to say I created my own library years ago. One whole shelf is devoted to 9/11.

How would I answer Glenn Beck on the issue of a New York City Mosqueland, if I could? What can I at least say to my own readers about what’s wrong with the knuckle-headed idea this zoning board in Lower Manhattan has about reaching out to the Muslim community?

I sought the answer in my 9/11 library – the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam. Surely, if any book could tell you what the problem is, this one could. As I took the book down from the shelf, I noticed there was a bulge. I had placed some other book inside its front cover. A pamphlet on the Koran, I supposed, or something of that sort.

But no; it was a children’s book on the inventions of Benjamin Franklin. “What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?” In my hasty housekeeping, when I shelved the PI Guide to Islam, it must have devoured this children’s book.

Instantly, as I bemusedly perused it, I came to the section on Franklin’s experimentations with lightning. Franklin was a prolific inventor (the whole point of this children’s book). He sought out the answers to the mystery of lightning in order to discover some invention that would prevent colonists’ houses from being burnt to the ground (he founded the first fire company, among other things).

A Dutch scientist had discovered that electricity could be stored in glass bottles. The latest fad of the time was to watch electrical experiments. Franklin bought some electrical equipment in order to conduct his own experiments.

Two days before Christmas 1750, he decided to hold an “electrical picnic.” His plan was to kill a turkey with an electrical shock and roast it in its container, which was connected to electrical circuits (grizzly, to be sure, but in those days, there were no frozen dinners. It was strictly do-it-yourself).

However, as he was conducting the experiment, he was distracted by the conversation of his guests (much as we were distracted by the chatter of our Media before 9/11). Holding the two top wires of the unit in one hand while grounding himself by a chain attached to the jars containing the electrical charges with the other, he electrocuted himself.

When he came to, he noted in embarrassment to his alarmed guests, “I meant to kill a turkey and almost killed a goose instead.”

Critics of America enjoy noting that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center served as a “lightning rod” for Islamic extremists. We “asked for it,” they claim. Nervous Lower Manhattan planning board members quickly changed the name of the new World Trade Center building being built from Liberty Tower or Freedom Tower, to a simple street address.

The Twin Towers, lightning rods? Possibly. But those buildings should have been well-grounded in the American principles of freedom and free enterprise and better able to absorb the unpredictable lashings of a frenzied religion. If the Twin Towers were not morally grounded, as they obviously were destroyed, it may be because we had not grounded them in American principles as firmly as we ought to have.

We had just finished eight years of the Liberal Clinton administration. His experiments in political correctness left America dangerously exposed to the effects of Islamic lightning strikes. Other Islamic “lightning rod” experiments had been successful; we did not keep up with the current journals on their effors.

 The Twin Towers are gone; some remaining buildings in the area still bear the scorched scars of those lightning strikes eight and a half years ago. There is still no memorial to its victims. The replacement buildings are mired in bureaucracy and empty-headed politics.

But this zoning board quickly approved the Mosqueland building, a veritable picnic ground for extremists to come and admire the handiwork and victory of Mohammed Atta and his crew. That is the way common sense Americans and the 9/11 families see it.

The Liberals and the Lamestream Media would have us believe in some sort of La-La Land of religious tolerance. They obstruct the building of a memorial while heralding this obscenity disguised as an Islamic Disneyland, open to the general public.

Come, swim in our pool, dine on fine cuisine, enjoy the view of the former World Trade Center, and at the same time, learn about the diversity and tolerance of Islam. Share in our cultural heritage. 9/11? Oh, let bygones be bygones.

Roasted turkey, anyone?

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 7:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Knowing Your Place in History

“We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.” Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863

 If Barack Obama doesn’t want to perform the simplest duties as President of the United States, why doesn’t he just quit? The Associated Press reported yesterday that our commander-in-thief will be skipping the wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day to vacation in Chicago, instead.

Funny, he didn’t mind decorating himself with laurel leaves during the campaign.

If he really feels that way about the duties of his job, we’ll happily accept his resignation. He’s certainly given every indication that the United States of America isn’t his kind of country. He disapproves of the Constitution. He pillories states that try to enforce the laws of the land. He hasn’t held a press conference since last summer, refusing to answer the questions even of a docile, supportive news media.

If my poll numbers were in the low Forties, I wouldn’t want to answer any questions about terrorist guys, gushing oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, or drug-dealing illegal immigrants, either.

He bows to foreign potentates. He wants to redistribute our wealth, tell us what to eat, what to say, and what to think. Does that sound to you like someone who enjoys being President of the United States of America? I didn’t think so; me, either. So we’ll understand if he wants to turn in his title and his laurel leaves. Let’s give the guy a break; I’ll even volunteer to help him write the letter of resignation.

 Oh, he wants to be president. The top dog. Just not of the United States of America. Since he can’t run for an office in another country, he’s stuck with this one. So he’s reshaping it, transforming it to his own liking, like a diva “transforming” the Star Spangled Banner into an unrecognizable hodge-podge of melismas, runs, trills and wrong notes. 

Some Liberal a long time ago (I can’t remember who or when), said they hoped one day that Memorial Day would become an obsolete holiday; that with the end of all wars, there would be no need to memorialize dead soldiers.

Well, you know, the trouble is, dead is forever. Once our soldiers in uniform made that sacrifice, there was no taking it back. Jesus will return on Judgment Day and all souls will answer to His call. He’s the only one who can bring the dead back to life. Until that day, it behooves every patriotic American to remember this solemn occasion.

It’s not supposed to be a holiday, as in “Let’s Party!” Until Congress enacted the Monday Holidays law in the 1960s, it wasn’t. Yes, people celebrated Memorial Day weekend as the beginning of summer. It’s the holiday when the white shoes and bags come out of the closet.

Originally called Decoration Day, it was first enacted to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War. Memorial Day was expanded after World War I, when we went on having more wars. The First Decoration Day was held in Charleston, S.C., at a racetrack that had been converted into a cemetery for Union soldiers. Former slaves exhumed the bodies from their mass graves and reburied them properly in individual graves, according to a Yale Historian.

On May 1, 1865, a Charleston newspaper reported that a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2,800 children, went in procession to the location for a celebration which included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day. The first official observance was in Waterloo, N.Y., on May 5, 1866.

Maybe now Obama would like to rethink his vacation plans? It’s very nice that he wants to honor Abraham Lincoln, a courageous president who put his political career and his life on the line to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But if he could speak, he’d probably tell Obama to do his duty and lay the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.

Or if he really wants an historical holiday where he can give his daughters a history lesson (he could use a few lessons in American history himself), go to Gettysburg, the most famous of the Civil War cemeteries. Let him walk on a few Union graves and then tell us they didn’t die so he could one day become president of the United States.

Many Southern states refused to celebrate Decoration Day, due to unabated hostility towards the Union Army and also because relatively few Union Army soldiers were buried in the South. In 1882, the alternative name of “Memorial Day” was first suggested, though it did not come into common usage until after World War II.

No one really knows why the date of May 30th was selected, except that there were no battles scheduled on that date. But that date now is pretty much lost to history anyway, thanks to the Congressional act of 1968, declaring Monday holidays. Without an actual date and advertising circulars, no one would remember exactly when Memorial Day is.

Guess Obama figures it’s just an arbitrary, made-up holiday (like Kwanzaa?), so why bother? History isn’t exactly his strong-suit.

Evidently, it’s a date our Commander-in-Chief would just as soon forget and not be bothered with. He’s chosen to “celebrate” at a more convenient location near Chicago. He and Michelle can get a little shopping in, maybe a little golf. He can forget for a few days that he’s President of the United States.

One group that won’t forget May 30th is my band. It’s the birth date of our band. We were formed on May 30, 1884 – Memorial Day. We’ll be out on the street parading, our trumpet-player performing  Taps at the cemetery, as we have for the last 126 years.

The original members of the band have long since gone to that Great Bandstand in the Sky. Our uniforms are different. Our instruments are somewhat different. Our musicians – in some cases – are different. Others are related to the original members. They’re not so different.

Only one member has something like an 1880’s mustache. We have women on the band now. When not in uniform, our members wear jeans and tee shirts, or suits. They jet off to meetings in Europe and Asia. They have laptops, cell phones, and I-Pods.

But aside from the technological changes and variations in fashions, they’re still Americans. They know their history and know why we march down the street every Memorial Day. Because of the unbroken link in our band’s history, we still retain that tie to that first, distant Memorial Day when our band honored those who gave their lives for freedom.

Unlike the President of the United States, no matter what else we do that weekend, on Memorial Day morning, our band knows its duty and its place, on Monday, on Memorial Day, and in history.

Where will you be on Memorial Day?

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 7:06 am  Leave a Comment  

My Generation, Right or Wrong

“You make this world lousy.” “We didn’t make it.” West Side Story

I’ve been on such a music kick this last week or so, my blog followers must be wondering whether I’m becoming a one-note bell and what all this has to do with politics?

In a word, everything. (Just as a reminder to my followers: I chose my blog/online name for a musical, as well as political, reason. The bells are the instrument I play).

Music – popular culture – is the driving force behind our political lives. It’s the drummer we all march to. Each generation seeks to find its own, distinctive drummers who determine whether we step off on the left foot, the right foot (traditionally, marching units step off on the left foot – no offense, my conservative friends) or whether we straggle down the street in a sort of a mob.

If music is the universal language, the teens of the Sixties and early Seventies certainly spoke a strange dialect. We, their younger brothers, sisters, and cousins followed along dutifully. We didn’t mind the folksy Hippie tunes (“If I Had A Hammer”).

But the wild guitar riffs of the likes of Jim Morrison – a friend once described his version of The Star Spangled Banner as 13-car pile-up on the freeway – well, either you liked it or you didn’t. There was no middle ground with heavy metal.

Strangely, it seemed to be a white kid thing. The black kids, as far as I could tell, didn’t think too much of heavy metal. Heavy metal music made one glad to be a social outcast. My kindly older brother, worried about my declining social status, tried to bolster my interest in popular music.

I had no veneration for the musical gods of rock.  I was too much of a music-lover and drew the line at what was passing for music in those days. Elton John, yeah, okay, even though you couldn’t understand a word he sang. Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple – not so much.

Where I went to school, the heavy metal stuff was all the rage. Thank goodness there were pop alternatives to the migraine-inducing heavy metal rock.  John Denver was my particular favorite. Barry Manilow – definitely chick music, but easy on the ears. Michael Jackson, very cool, obviously a real musician. He could carry a tune.

By the mid-Seventies, heavy metal rock was drifting off into its own current, out of the mainstream. Though it still had a large following, the Kid Brother generation had had enough of music you couldn’t dance to.

What, were our big brothers and sisters stupid or something? How were guys and girls supposed to get together to that kind of music? Much to the dismay of hard rock hucksters, in came Disco. Bland, soft, and melodic, they hated it. No matter, the kids were dancing again.

People started recognizing songs once more, even, perish the thought – adults. They could sing the lyrics. Dance bands could play the tunes at weddings and bar mitzvahs. It was fun. They invented dances to go along with the music. Couples entered disco dance contests.

Meanwhile, the hucksters on the left were fuming. People were enjoying music again. Couples were partnering. Everyone was out on the dance floor, having a good time. Having fun. Where was the angst, the rage, the anger? People were – uniting.

So they began a campaign against disco music. Can you imagine? Launching a smear campaign against possibly the most innocuous music of all time? But it worked. The creatures came crawling out of the woodwork, snarling into the microphones once more.

Disco passed its popularity zenith, as all musical forms, do. Dancing, thanks to Michael Jackson, didn’t go away, though. However, by the Eighties, we’d passed once again into a lyric-free, melody-free zone. The music, such as it was, sufficed for the current moment then vanished into a void, never to be remembered.

But an awakening seemed to have happened during the Seventies, for which my generation (right or wrong) I believe is responsible: they became more open-minded to all sorts of music, not just rock. Frank Sinatra regained his rightful place among the pantheon of musical stars.

I’m officially old now and well past the point of knowing any more what music is popular and what isn’t. The no. 7 song in 2009 – “My Life Would Suck Without You”. From what I can hear on the company muzak station, we’ve drifted back into a gentler, rhythm and blues current (thank goodness).

From what I can tell, it’s a more peaceful generation of music. Whether it passes the test of time only time will be able to tell. Whether it makes it into the canon of Americana depends on how much the music has to offer to Americana.

That is where the Generation Gap becomes a real problem. From generation to generation, we’ve isolated ourselves, planting our generational flags on one brand of music or another. Some music transcends time better than other music does.

American Patrol (written in 1885; recorded by Glenn Miller in 1942) and Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A (1984), though written a century apart, fit very nicely into the same portfolio. Last summer, one of our bands tried to appease the Sixties crowd at a Fourth of July concert with some number by The Doors as part of American pop culture.

Some of the musicians thought it was groovy (it was certainly tamed down from its original arrangement for electric guitar); the rest of us begged the director to never do that to us again. The other band I played with once jettisoned a band arrangement of the disco number, “Gloria.” A John Denver medley barely made that band’s estimation of pop music and younger members actually vetoed The Beatles.

 If you want to hear one of my bands play a pop tune, it better have been at the top of the pop charts for a long, long time. The band will play Take Me Home, Country Roads or Rocky Mountain High, but not My Sweet Lady (pretty number, but only John Denver fans know it).

 If a brand of music is dependent on a certain type of musical instrument or piece of equipment, if it isn’t “portable”, it isn’t going to make it. Music that is artist-oriented, likewise, will fall into the time trap. That is one reason deejays have become popular at parties. It’s the only way artist-oriented, technology-oriented music can survive. 

Today’s audiences would rather hear a recording than live music by someone other than the artist. Such musical parochialism guarantees royalties for the artist and their estate. Still, deejay music just doesn’t have the same impact as an old-fashioned sing-along.

Recordings have the tendency to discourage audience participation. Sing-alongs need a leader, and a band, where possible. Somehow, I can’t see people at a Memorial Day or Fourth of July concert waving American flags to the strains of “Back to the U.S.S.R.” The idiots do wave flags to Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” though. (Why is rock music so loud? So you don’t hear the lyrics.)

Contemporary music, save for some country-western artists, isn’t particularly patriotic, either.

More and more, big fireworks extravaganzas are accompanied by egotistical rock singers trying to plug their latest me-generation romantic ballads (which have nothing to do with Independence Day) than Sousa marches or God Bless America. I’ve been known to turn off the sound on the TV and use my own considerable library of music.

America is at juncture in the road of history where it’s ready to get back together and party, if the Tea Parties are any indication of the current trend. Like the high school pep rally I mentioned the other day, we’re tired of the gloom and doom, the same old Liberal war songs.

They’re singing patriotic music at the pep rallies, not anti-war songs from the Sixties, disco numbers from the Seventies, or whatever they sang in the Eighties. The Liberals have been trying to silence the Tea Party music, from a distance.

We need to put the Liberals on mute and turn up the volume on Americana, fife and drum corps, marching bands, country and western singers, even doo-wop groups. You can’t march if you don’t have a drummer. The Liberals know the value of music in uniting people of disparate generations to a cause (or disuniting them, as the case may be).

But so do we.

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm  Comments (1)  

The Who?

It’s official. The Beatles are history.

They are square. Passe. They’ve joined other Sixties rock groups like the Rolling Stones and the prophetically named The Who on the ash heap of musical history. They are yesterday’s news, according to yesterday’s edition of our local newspaper. And it couldn’t happen to a better group.

Their decline as a hip rock group began some years ago, when today’s older teens were still in their playpens. A friend happened to mention The Beatles to her then-teenaged daughter.  My friend received the classic teenaged eye roll.

Never a big fan of the Fab Four, I was still surprised. After all, we were talking about the most famous and most successful rock group of all time. If they didn’t exactly invent the genre, they certainly defined it.

I asked the girl about Elvis Presley. She became serious for a moment. “Oh,” she faltered, with something like a hushed reverence, “he’s kind of old. But he’s okay. Grandpa told me about him. He and Grandma used to listen him.”

Her answer confirmed my theories about the musical Generation Gap. There’s true musical history.  The Greeks and their lyres.  The Romans and their rams’  horns.  Gregorian chants. Beethoven’s Sonata.  Strauss waltzes.  Sousa marches.  Ragtime.

Then, there’s ancient musical history. That is, the music your parents cut their teeth on. There’s always an overlap between the parental generation and the grandparental generation. As a very little girl, I loved Glenn Miller because my grandmother taught me to dance to him, but regarded Frank Sinatra (who was of the same era) as totally outdated and boring.

Once I got into my teens, though, I discovered how musically-bigoted and ignorant my peers truly were. As a budding musician and music-lover, I couldn’t bear to be confined to their narrow definitions of what good music was, and I became a musical anti-rebel, a musical counter counter-culture revolutionary, if that makes any sense.

That’s okay – nothing made sense in The Sixties. I didn’t care. I considered myself free to listen to and enjoy any music, from any period, that I chose. Personally, I couldn’t understand the swooning over The Beatles. I was a little young for the teeny-bopper squealing, but I remembered the long lines around the local theater for “The Yellow Submarine.”

The Beatles were okay. I liked some of their music. My parents bought me a record-player for my 6th birthday. The record I requested was “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”  The group became too transcendentalist for me, though. They soon began to scream instead of sing, and I was done with them (apparently, Paul McCartney had the same complaint, and it’s reported that that was one of the reasons the group broke up).

I didn’t get the hype, and I wasn’t surprised when The Beatles dissolved.  They became more concerned with making headlines than making records, with making movies instead of music.  They made records instead of playing concerts.  Their electronic music, while making enormous profits for them, forever distanced musicians from the audiences for whom they were playing.  They depended on ratings and profit margins to tell them whether they were playing what their listeners wanted to hear rather than applause.

Instead of deciding for themselves whether they liked what they were hearing, young people depended on deejays, musical middlemen, to tell them they liked what they were hearing.  Groundbreaking, indeed.  The Beatles were no longer making music; they were making noise. 

Still, the profit margins, the Top 40 lists, declared that not only were The Beatles successful, but that they were a phenomenon.  What was it John Lennon boasted?  That they were bigger than Jesus?  Something arrogant like that.

Sadly, the young people could no longer tell the difference.  Even when the lead singer, Paul McCartney himself, declared that The Beatles were producing musical garbage, the young people could no longer hear.  Other heavy metal bands picked up where The Beatles left off.

The theme of the times was “Trust No One Under 30.” That is to say, your parents. As many of our teachers were under 30, they didn’t count. The rest of the authority figures, though – tune them out, we were told.  Drugs and alcohol helped enormously.

The next person to inform me of the demise of The Beatles was my nephew, now finishing his junior year of college. He had the same opinion of the group, and gave the same answer about Elvis Presley.  Presley passed the Pop-Pop pop music test.

But The Beatles?  Be serious, Dad!  My brother was crushed.  I was delighted.  One has to wonder, though, what they’re teaching the kids in school these days about modern music.  Aren’t The Beatles supposed to be the icons of rock music? 

You can’t blame the kids, though.  The Beatles broke up in 1970, forty years ago.  Two of them are dead.  For some of the kids with young-ish parents, even their parents weren’t born yet when The Beatles broke up.

Now this, in the local paper. Our local paper has a section called “The Young People’s Page.” Local schools send in students’ poetry, essays, short stories, and art work. A young man, asked to depict something “archaic”, chose a phonograph of 1920s vintage.

Underneath, to give a modern comparison, he shows an I-Pod.  Still, in order to illustrate an example of “archaic” music, the I-Pod display shows The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” (a song Lennon admitted he got all wrong.  Let that be a lesson to the next generation.  When you’re reading and writing verses about Lewis Carroll, don’t drop acid.)

“If something is archaic,” the young artist writes in the caption, “it is used in earlier times and not commonly found in modern times. It is something old and ancient.”  The Beatles, for their times, advocated overthrowing the old generation in favor of the new.

Still, in their early days, when they were trying to make a name for themselves as recording artists, they did what many groups did – they recorded previously published songs to prove they had the musical chops to cut it.  They could write their own material later.

I have a tape of one of The Beatles’ early records.  One of the songs Lennon sings?  “Ain’t She Sweet?”  This 1961 re-recording is up-tempo and I guess it has their iconic back-beat.  It’s quite good – for a song written in 1927, the year Lindbergh flew solo over the Atlantic.  My mother was three at the time.

Ironically, it was written by Milton Ager for his daughter, Shana, who would grow up to become ultra-feminist political commentator Shana Alexander.  Known for his irony, perhaps that’s why Lennon chose it.  Personally, I prefer “Ain’t She Sweet?” to “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

And that is the news for today.  If my theory holds true about grandparental influence over musical history, there may still be hope of resurrection for The Beatles.

But for now, it’s:  R.I.P.:  The Beatles.

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 7:17 am  Leave a Comment  

A New Hope

“Thank the Maker!”

Thirty-three years ago, a new kind of science fiction movie burst upon the movie screens, with a flourish of heralding trumpets. It was unconventional, unlike anything anyone had seen before, yet borrowed conventions from every successful Saturday-afternoon serial.

Later, its creator, George Lucas would give the movie the subtitle, “A New Hope.”

Spike TV is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the second in the series, or the fifth, depending upon your point of view. Lucas added the subtitle to the “original” Star Wars after he released this second film.

“A New Hope” was an appropriate title. Not only was Luke Skywalker to the “new hope” for the struggling rebel alliance against the galactic empire, but he – and the movie – were a new hope for a generation struggling against deplorable, revisionist movie-making.

After 1965’s the Sound of Music, movie-lovers were cast into a wasteland of dreadful films. We were sold a bill of goods on the quality of movies like The Graduate, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Clockwork Orange, and Easy Rider, and The Wild Bunch, and Bonnie & Clyde.

And those were considered some of the better films of the Sixties. Real popcorn with butter flicks, yes sir. Movies improved somewhat with the dawn of the Seventies – Patton, The French Connection, The Godfather. M*A*S*H, an anti-American, anti-war movie.

Things were still looking pretty bleak. Then Steven Spielberg and George Lucas burst upon the scene with American Graffitti and Jaws. Still grim, but at least the latter was entertaining. Science fiction was still in the Dark Ages.

2001: A Space Odyssey. Give me a break. Maybe it was because my brothers and I were left at the movie theater while my parents went to my cousin’s college graduation party (they couldn’t afford a babysitter and my grandparents were at the party). We suffered through countless sittings of this film until I thought I would go out of my nine year-old mind.

The movie theater was quite a distance from home, over a dark, busy road with no sidewalks and no streetlights. Still, I begged my older (12) brother to take us home. I told him I’d rather face all the drunk drivers in northern New Jersey than have to sit through this movie again (we’d been there since the first showing in the afternoon).

Finally, he called my parents and told them we couldn’t take it anymore: we were going home. And we did; we left the theater and started walking. It was dark and scary. But I was so relieved to get out of that theater, that I didn’t care.

Our horrified, if clueless, parents finally caught up with us and piled us into the station wagon. They vowed they’d never leave us alone in a theater again. And I vowed I would never watch that piece of garbage movie ever again.

In fact, I swore to never go to any science fiction movie ever again because of 2001.

To this day, I can’t believe critics who tout it as one of the greatest sci-fi flicks of all time. (I wonder what we would have thought if we’d known what the real year 2001 would hold in store for us?)

What a revolution Star Wars was, in comparison. The “Dark Ages” were over.

Just a few years earlier, we had staged our American History revolution. We’d spent our early years watching and listening to our older brothers and sisters fawn over the hippies and the anti-war movement. We just didn’t get it.

Finally, we had enough. I remember at a high school pep rally, that there was a battle going on whether to continue the anti-establishment, anti-everything positive, mood, or to chuck it.

The cheerleaders were tired of it. They wanted the band’s buy-in. The older band members sneered at them. But we younger generation agreed. If our older brothers and sisters wanted to zone out, let them. We wanted to have fun.

The revolution – or counter-counter revolution had begun. We were taking back our school, our culture, and (with our history class revolution), our country. Our high school band director had just quit in solidarity for the assistant director, who’d been fired for having a transsexual operation.

Good riddance to that band director. He was a jerk of the first order. He was solidly in the anti-establishment camp. Our marching band was the laughingstock of every band festival. F-Troop, they called us. He didn’t believe in marches, or drilling, or competitions. And it showed.

The new guy was totally different. He expected us to work hard, to practice, and to give 110 percent. The older band members who were loyal to the old guy, quit the band. Only five junior class members remained on board. I was one of them.

He was another one of the heroes of the “revolution”. By the year after I graduated, F-Troop became an award-winning high school band, winning a regional competition held in Philadelphia.

That was the year after Star Wars came out. A few years after that, Ronald Reagan would be elected President of the United States. What a victory it was for Conservatives.

But “The Empire” did “strike back”. The propaganda machine was relentless in their criticism of Reagan. The teachers went about their business of not teaching history, science or English. Hollywood went on to make other terrible propagandist movies, like Fern Gully.

They managed to get a man elected to office with no experience other than one term as a U.S. senator and a community organizer.

However, they hadn’t bargained on the “Class of ‘77”. We’ve simply been biding our time. That time came with the Tea Parties of 2009. When you see us, and wonder what our inspiration has been, tune in this weekend to the Star Wars films.

Star Wars taught us to think once again in terms of black and white, good and evil, destiny and responsibility, hope and courage. That there are things worth fighting and dying for (wait – that was Gone with the Wind and Mr. O’Hara was talking about land, not freedom).

That freedom is worth cheering for.

Published in: on May 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm  Comments (1)  

Land of Hope and Glory

Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.  It’s probably one of the best known songs in the world, beloved of graduates everywhere.

In England, it’s not just a popular march for graduation exercises.   They sing it at proms, rugby and soccer matches and other sporting events, and serves as the Conservative Party’s anthem.

Yes, I said sing.  This is a song with words, written in 1902 by essayist A.C. Benson.

King Edward VII thought the trio from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance would make a nifty song.  Once words were set to the music, it became the Coronation Ode (“Crown the King”; later “Crown the  Queen” for Elizabeth II’s coronation).

However, Edward fell ill with appendicitis two days before the ceremony and the coronation was postponed.  The publishers of the music saw great commercial potential in the number and asked Elgar to create a separate song, which was first performed by Madame Clara Butt in June 1902.  In fact, only the first of the seven stanzas of the Ode’s final section was re-used, as the first four lines of the second stanza below. This stanza is the part which is popularly sung today.

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
            How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
            Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
            God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
            God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

The song is as popular in England as God Bless America is in the United States.  There have even been movements to have this song replace “God Save the Queen,” which is Great Britian’s national anthem.  A trip to Wikipedia will lead readers to a link where they can hear Madame Butt’s original rendition of this song.

One of the band’s with which I play performed the commencement exercise music for a community college.  Naturally, we played the Pomp and Circumstance March.  My company allows us a day’s worth of time to devote to supporting education in the community.

My supervisor thought it was a stretch but allowed me to take the time.  Now I can tell her I not only supported education at a community college, but learned something I didn’t know about this familiar musical number.

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 7:06 am  Leave a Comment  

The Treaty of Tripoli

America is at war. And it is very much a religious war. She is besieged on two fronts: fanatical Muslims on the one extreme, led by the most “irrepresible” leader since Saladin, Osama Bin Laden, and American atheists on the other, who not believing in a deity, are led by the American Civil Liberties Union.

As early as 1628, America had trouble with the piratical, Muslim states of the Barbary Coast (northern Africa). The Barbary nations (Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis) considered themselves to be at war with any Christian nation that had not negotiated a “peace treaty” with them for a sum of money.

Hostages captured by the Barbary privateers (government-sanctioned pirates) were either ransomed or forced into slavery, contributing greatly to their vast slave-trade. Captives, particularly Christian captives, were treated harshly and many died from their treatment. Some captives converted to Islam, making life in captivity easier and increasing the ranks of the Muslims.

Advances in European military strategies and armament finally began to curb the marauding Barbary nations. The American Colonies were under the protection of Great Britain and her considerable Navy. During the American Revolution, we came under the protection of France.

After the U.S. won its independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), it had to face the threat of the Barbary pirates on its own. Two American ships were captured by Algerian pirates in July 1785 and the survivors forced into slavery, their ransom set at $60,000. Without a standing navy, the U.S. was forced to pay tribute monies and goods to the Barbary nations for the security of its merchant and naval fleets and the freedom of its captured citizens.

The Treaty of Tripoli, otherwise known in English as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey [“chieftain”] and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, was signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796 and at Algiers (for a third-party witness) on Jan. 3, 1797, finally receiving ratification from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.

Treaties with some of the other Barbary Coast nations – the Barbary Treaties – had previously been reached. Individual treaties were negotiated with Morocco (1786), Algeria (1795). The Treaty with Tunis was signed in 1797. All of them had been negotiated more than once, all of them required money, and all of them were broken.

The Pasha (bashaw, or Lord) of Tripoli broke the treaty with the U.S. in 1800, a mere three years after it was ratified by the U.S. Senate.

General William Eaton, consul to Tunis, wryly explained to Secretary of State John Marshall in 1800, “It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that ‘The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well.’”

In the course of negotiating with the Barbary nations, each of the Barbary rulers continuously demanded increased payments to maintain peace, even while occasionally capturing U.S. ships. The Pasha of Tripoli was jealous of the ships the U.S. “presented” to Algeria, and demanded a similar tribute.

On September 25, 1800, Tripoli captured the U.S.S. Catherine, robbed the crew, and plundered its cargo. Although the Pasha said it was a mistake and the captain responsible for the capture had been punished, he warned American Consul James Cathcart that if the U.S. didn’t send additional payments, within six months he would declare war on the United States and its vessels.

The Pasha told him that America had to pay tribute to him the way every other nation did. When Cathcart pointed out we had already paid him, the Pasha noted that was for arrears of peace. If we wanted to maintain that peace, we had to keep paying him.

According to the Wikipedia entry:

Meanwhile, the U.S. was quickly losing patience with the Barbary nations, and had been building up its Navy in preparation for armed confrontation. On May 15, 1801, President Thomas Jefferson’s cabinet again advised him to send a squadron to the Mediterranean, but only as a retaliatory force.

On May 20, 1801, Commodore Richard Dale was commissioned to lead three frigates and a schooner to patrol the Mediterranean sea lanes. They set sail on June 2, 1801.

However, unknown to Jefferson, the Pasha of Tripoli declared war against the United States on May 10, 1801. In sending the Navy squadron to the Mediterranean, Jefferson declared,

“To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean.”

Soon after Commodore Dale sailed into a neutral British port near the Straits of Gibraltar, he discovered that Tripoli had declared war on the U.S. Dale’s commission only authorized him to blockade adversarial ports and capture hostile ships, so he could not attack Tripoli directly. However, he notified the Pasha of Tripoli that he could negotiate terms of surrender.

 Through subsequent battles, Tripoli eventually agreed to terms of peace with the United States. Tobias Lear negotiated a second “Treaty of Peace and Amity” with the Pasha Yusuf on June 4, 1805.

 To the dismay of many Americans, the new settlement included a ransom of $60,000 paid for the release of prisoners from the USS Philadelphia and several U.S. merchant ships.

By 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking U.S. ships and seamen hostage. Distracted by the preludes to the War of 1812, the United States was unable to respond to the provocations until 1815, with the Second Barbary War, thereby concluding the encompassing Tripolitan Wars (1800-1815).

One of the most controversial articles of the Treaty of Tripoli is Article 11, which states:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The official treaty was in Arabic, and a translated version was ratified by the United States on June 10, 1797. Article 11 of the treaty was said to have not been part of the original Arabic version of the treaty; in its place is a letter from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. However, it is the English text which was ratified by Congress.

The Pasha of Tripoli did not consider the treaty valid until he received his gold.

This scholarly assertion is of dubious merit; there is no proof and it is highly unlikely the U.S. would have willingly made such declaration. The U.S. Consul-General to the Barbary states, Joel Barlow, had been a chaplain in Washington’s Army. However, he renounced Christianity in favor of rationalism and was said to have had a hand in the authoring of this treaty.

This is the source President Obama and the Liberals consider the authority for his contention in April 2009 that “we are not a Christian nation.” The conservatives and the liberals have been debating this clause, unbeknownst to any of us, for years and years.

So imbedded is this debate in the national elite dialogue, that even our own conservative constitutionalists have forgotten to clue us average Americans in on this little-known treaty. Thank goodness for the Internet and Google.

This is one of the documents the Liberals use in their Jeffersonian argument of separation of church and state; “the wall.” as they like to call it. The treaty had already been signed long before it reached this side of the Atlantic, although President Adams readily supported Barlow’s treaty.

No Christian-American wants a government-sponsored, state religion. The very reason the colonists fled here was to escape religious persecution in Europe and worship God their way. There are too many factions among them, and all that would result is religious war within a religious war.

What American Christians want is for the government to honor and respect that clause in our U.S. Constitution that states the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of.”

But that doesn’t mean the government should be telling them when and where they can worship. ‘Worship God anywhere you like – as long as it’s not on public property’ – something, with TARP and all the government bail-outs, that’s becoming increasingly hard to find.

It goes to the old saw about Ford’s assembly line, everyman Model T – you can have any color you want – as long as the color you want is black. You can talk about God anywhere – as long as you don’t do it at a high school graduation, on the subway (‘public’ transportation), or in some public venue (that’s prosleytization).

Conversely, you can’t criticize the government in God’s house. If your minister or priest does, say, criticize the “science” of global warming, your church could lose its tax-exempt status.

The Constitution says “Congress” shall make no law, of course; it says nothing about the U.S. Supreme Court. American Christians believe the government, in staking its flag on what it calls “government property”, is prohibiting the free exercise of religion on what it is declaring as neutral territory.

The Liberals admit, grudgingly, there is a religious, Christian-based ethic in the Declaration of Independence. But not in the U.S. Constitution, they cry. These are the laws of the people, say they. Only the first amendment deals with that very subject: the free exercise of religion.

President Adams, the second president of a very new and unique nation, no doubt took great pride in our young nation’s public stance on religious neutrality. Young America knew all too well the dangers of mixing religion and government.

Towns were forming in which only practitioners of certain religions could live. Before we became a nation, with constitutional laws, Maryland was originally devoted to those of the Catholic faith. Jews were driven out of certain conclaves in New England.

The U.S. Constitution put a stop to all that, guaranteeing that anyone of any religious persuasion could live in any community they had a mind to live in. That was the Jeffersonian ideal, and what the “Founding Fathers” were thinking of when they agreed to that clause in the Treaty of Tripoli.

Should schools be teaching religion? Perhaps not. But in its ever farther, claw machine grasp of power, the U.S. government is making it more difficult for private schools that do want to teach religion and parents that want to send their children to those schools.

Religious schools find themselves under the same textbook mandates, for instance, and the same progressive, liberal standards for promoting socialism that reach far beyond that mandate of public education.

The Boy Scouts of America have increasingly found themselves “unwelcome” in any public buildings for their steadfast stance against homosexuality, one concretely founded in their religious beliefs, even though they are not, per se, a religious organization, but a community group.

And this is just the domestic religious war that the Treaty of Tripoli propagates. There are also the international implications.

According to the website “Wall Builders”:

The Muslim Barbary Powers (Tunis, Morocco, Algiers, and Tripoli) were warring against what they claimed to be the “Christian” nations (England, France, Spain, Denmark, and the United States). In 1801, Tripoli even declared war against the United States, 7 thus constituting America’s first official war as an established independent nation.

Throughout this long conflict, the four Barbary Powers regularly attacked undefended American merchant ships. Not only were their cargoes easy prey but the Barbary Powers were also capturing and enslaving “Christian” seamen 8 in retaliation for what had been done to them by the “Christians” of previous centuries (e.g., the Crusades and Ferdinand and Isabella’s expulsion of Muslims from Granada 9).

In an attempt to secure a release of captured seamen and a guarantee of unmolested shipping in the Mediterranean, President Washington dispatched envoys to negotiate treaties with the Barbary nations. 10 (Concurrently, he encouraged the construction of American naval warships 11 to defend the shipping and confront the Barbary “pirates” – a plan not seriously pursued until President John Adams created a separate Department of the Navy in 1798.)

 The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, as noted, was broken, and a new treaty drafted in 1805. Article 14 of The Treaty Of Peace and Amity between the United States of America and the Bashaw, Bey and Subjects of Tripoli in Barbary read:

 As the Government of the United States of America, has in itself no character of enmity against the Laws, Religion or Tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said States never have entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mahometan Nation, except in the defence of their just rights to freely navigate the High Seas: It is declared by the contracting parties that no pretext arising from Religious Opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the Harmony existing between the two Nations;

The phrase declaring that the “government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” goes away. The treaty offers assurances that the United States will not interfere with their religion or laws, but the assurances are reciprocal.

What comes of a conflict between a secular government, founded on Christian values but governed by democratic principles, and a theocracy, whose government is guided completely by religious dogma?

What kind of relationship evolves between a federated republic that does in fact, build a wall between government and the various religions its population chooses to individually worship so that it cannot dictate to its citizens how to worship (if at all), and an emirate that demands lifelong subjugation to its religion, where there is no differentiation between government and religion, and where apostasy is considered a criminal act punishable by death?

The former, time and again, declared war upon the other, without provocation, breaking every treaty to peace, whose terms were strictly monetary and favorable only to the former. The only terms favorable to America were that her ships would not be captured and her sailors and passengers, enslaved.

The United States was basically negotiating with terrorists then and is still doing so. The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, therefore, is an invalid document, having been violated by the other side who, today’s Liberals, would defend, and are defending still today.

Remember that America – now that you’ve learned this little-known item of history, if you had not known it before. There’s a difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion. The ACLU and the Liberals are no better than the Pasha of Tripoli in their determination to hold us hostage.

They demand the same tribute and hold the same hostages for defying their all-encompassing decrees, passed by our potentate Supreme Court. As with the Muslims, its all or nothing for the Atheists and their ilk. When Boy Scouts – kids, for God’s sake – are denied use of a public building for their beliefs, the gods can’t be pleased.

As for the Muslims, we find ourselves very much in the same position we were in in the Mediterranean in 1797. Pirates are seizing our ships on the Horn of Africa and in the South China Sea. We have a dilettante president reshaping our foreign policy to accommodate them and a propagandist media propping up this humbug and holding the American public at bay while we pay tribute to religious theocracies obviously antithetical, even hostile, to freedom.

Our president, using the earlier Treaty of Tripoli as his model, declares we are not at war with any Muslim nation. He will not even permit – if an American president can censor words – the words “Islam” or “Muslim” to be used in regard to this war on terrorism. H e But as every Conservative pundit has pointed out, they are at war with us.

And we have every right, obligation, and duty to defend ourselves. We are not bound by a treaty our enemy has already violated time and again.

Published in: on May 20, 2010 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Heavy Lies the Head

The Miss U.S.A. Pageant has apparently added a new category to their criteria for selecting their winner: courage.

Yes, I must hand it to newly-crowned Miss U.S.A., Rima Fakih, a Lebanese immigrant and Miss Michigan entrant in the contest. Pageant officials are uncertain, but they believe she is the first Arab-American contestant to win the title.

Not much on history, they also didn’t mention whether she was the first immigrant to win the contestant. That would be okay. We may not and should not be electing immigrants to the highest office of the land, but why shouldn’t legal immigrant citizens be able to vie for this beauty contest crown?

Miss U.S.A. is without question one beauteous young lady. Her intelligence, as judged by her answer to the Intelligence question – not so much. She believes contraceptives should be covered by health insurance because they’re an “expensive.” “controlled substance.”

Meanwhile, runner-up Miss Oklahoma, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, paid the penalty for her intelligence and independence, qualities the pageant considers mutually exclusive. Because she supported Arizona’s newly-minted illegal immigration law, she was relegated to second place.

Still for an Arab-American woman to “strut her stuff” on camera in front of millions of people on television is extraordinary. It didn’t take long for the news of a pole-dancing video of Miss U.S.A. to surface. A fatwah, denouncing her and condemning her to death, didn’t seem far behind.

Thankfully, for her sake, it hasn’t appeared yet. In fact, the Arab-American community was bursting with pride. The head of Hezbollah gave a mild denouncement of her achievement, saying of parading around in bikinis and revealing evening gowns, “Women don’t do those things in our part of the world.”

No, because if they did, they’d have their throats slit.

It’s a pity she wasn’t asked about her stand on the American Pediatrics Association’s recent mute approval of sending third-world girls back to their third-world countries for genitalia correction.

Or whether, as the first Arab-American Miss U.S.A., she would be the Arab-American ambassadress for education for girls in the Arab world. Or whether she would advocate for women’s rights in the Middle East. But perhaps she’s saving those answers for the Miss Universe pageant, which Miss U.S.A. is automatically eligible for, later in the summer.

Meanwhile, the pageant’s considerable lack of judgment in choosing and judging intelligence questions is appalling. Clearly, freedom of speech is not on their minds. In the Miss U.S.A. pageant, there is a right or wrong answer, and that answer had better fit within their politically-correct parameters.  Miss U.S.A. hopefuls need to give their most submissive, bobble-headed responses if they want that crown pinned to their pretty little heads.

Miss Oklahoma was punished for her honest and articulate answer. Miss Michigan was crowned for her barely articulate and woefully inaccurate reply. But no matter, because this is a beauty pageant after all.  All that matters is appearance.

 Still, if I were the new Miss U.S.A., I’d sleep with one eye open from now on.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 7:12 am  Leave a Comment