Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hope

...a continuation of What is an American Part V.


"I go to New York and I saw a big sign saying 'Smirnoff' and I said to myself, what a country! 'America Loves Smirnoff'!" - Yakov Smirnoff

In America pursuing Happiness is something we are all allowed to do. Some have turned that pursuit into something truly amazing.  They have made our nation the envy of the world...and touched the hearts of many who were in need. This is the story of one of those immigrants.

Thanks for the Memories
The Story of Bob Hope.

Bob Hope immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1908 to Cleveland Ohio from England. He was a natural at making people laugh.  For me to attempt to do even a small biography of this man would be impossible in this space, but what I can do is highlight his love for this nation.

"I have always been in the right place at the right time.  Of course I steered myself there."
Bob Hope

Bob Hope was a big star during his time.  He was so big that he often upstaged some of the more serious actors.  He could name any price for his appearances, but there was one group that he worked tirelessly for...and that was the American Soldier.  

His first performance was in 1939 aboard the Queen Mary as World War II began.  For the next 50 years he performed for the American Soldier as part of the USO.  Over 60 tours he has been in every theater of war in which America has participated.  He almost always performed in Army fatigues.  He personalized his act for the troops, and understood the hardships they endured.

When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered, Bob Hope should be high on the list. This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people.
John Steinbeck

Bob Hope brought laughter to those who needed it most.  His work for our troops during the most difficult of times.  He understood that his humor provided relief at a time when the troops needed it most.

If I have to lay an egg for my country, I'll do it.
Bob Hope

Not an American by birth...but certainly an American by spirit.


P.S. Sit down and share a Bob Hope movie with your Grand Kids.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How the Indian Lost His Feathers

...Continuation of What is an American Part V.




I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet
Native American Proverb

When you think of the Great Plains of the United States your mind conjures up images of a vast flat sea of grass. This is true for many parts of the Great Plains, but there is this spot in Southeast Montana that does not fit the picture.

The geography of Montana shows its character like the face of an old withered man.  The winter's are harsh, the summers hot, even the animals that live there must fight for survival.  My first experience with Montana came when I arrived there in April, many moons ago. I did not go of my own volition.  The military had sent me there...in fact when I received my orders for Montana, I thought I was being sent to Spain.  An honest mistake. When I arrived it was cold.  This was in stark contrast to that hot day on June 25th 1876.  

It is not necessary for eagles to be crows.
Sitting Bull

The United States had changed its approach to dealing with Native Americans.  George Washington and Henry Knox had envisioned an assimilation of the Indians into America.  What they did not understand was that for many of the tribes this was not acceptable. They did not want to be Americans...they did not want whites living with them...they did not want to live with whites.  At least some of them didn't.

The people among the Five Civilized Tribes (called that because they embraced European values) lived among the whites...and lived as if they were whites.  They were learning to be Americans.  The converts did maintain some of their old ways, but they also learned how American law worked...how to fit into a new society.  Just as it appeared that all was well with these tribes...the Federal Government changed course.

Andrew Jackson had no love for the American Indian.  He remembered the brutality of the natives during his childhood, and how twice the natives had allied with America's enemies.  The most recent memory was the brutality of the Natives in the fighting around Detroit during The War of 1812.  This led to the relocation of eastern tribes, primarily those in the South East to the newly created Indian Territory of Eastern Oklahoma.  This is also known as The Trail of Tears.

An arduous journey lay ahead of the Natives as they are forcibly moved from their homes, and businesses.  Although they were by actions becoming American...they were not legally Americans.  They were sovereign nations with in the boundary of the United States.   They were not part of any state, but instead were considered under the protection of the Federal Government.  There were many excuses made for moving the Indians, but when all is said and done...greed was the primary factor.  Tens of thousands of Native Americans died along the way to their new homes.

The feathers of an Eagle are sacred to the American Indian.  They stand for strength, bravery, freedom and wisdom.  When taking an Eagle Feather the Natives do it without harming the bird...in essence the Feather transforms the young Brave into the Eagle.

The Crow is not like the Eagle.  The Crow is a scavenger, picking up the left overs from the toil of others.  The Crow is a coward who will fly away at the first sign of danger, and is dependent on others for its survival.

The Crow's Nest
1876
Montana Territory


There is a Mountain that overlooks the Little Big Horn River.  By Montana standards it is really more like a hill.  George Armstrong Custer looked out from the hill and saw an Indian Village.  Military reports said that there would be about 800 Indians occupying the village.  From what he could tell, that was true.  He calculated that the village was just waking up..and this would allow him time to occupy the bluffs overlooking the village. 

In the village were the targets Custer had been sent to find...and capture.  The Indian Leaders who had taken their people off the reservations in Dakota Territory, and returned to the nomadic life they understood.   The most important of these were Crazy Horse, and Gall.  However, the Indians had been brought to this place by the visions that Sitting Bull said he had.

In Sitting Bull's vision the Indians would defeat the American soldiers and once again return to their ancestral ways.  Sitting Bull had vowed he would never take handouts from the whites, live on their reservations, or accept their handouts.  Sitting Bull saw himself as an Eagle..not a Crow.

Instead of their being 800 Indians in the camp...there were over 2000.  They had come from tribes that had never worked together...they had formed a coalition to provide common defense..and attempt to insure their freedom to live in the old ways.  At first things went very well...the Natives had moved about freely for several weeks.  But then the Cavalry came.

The actual events during The Battle of the Little Big Horn are in dispute...what is not in dispute is this...Custer was dead...the Indians would be forced back to the reservations....and Sitting Bull's greatest fears would be realized.

They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they did.
Red Cloud

Red Cloud had no idea how much more would be taken from the Native Americans.  The U.S. Government granted to all Natives a large plot of land that would be their's forever (as long as certain rules were met).  Blankets, building materials, food, teachers,  and healthcare were provided.  All free of charge.  

Unlike their Eastern cousins, the Western Indian knew nothing about cultivating crops, or living in one place.  They had traded their freedom for the security of Government assistance...they had sold their pride for safety promised by the Great White Father.  

They have become the children of Government, as such they have lost their pride.  They are no longer the Eagle...but the crow. Greedily eating the scraps from the Great Fathers table. 

That is how the Indian lost his feathers.

We Live, We Die, and like the grass and the trees, renew ourselves from the soft earth of the grave. Stones Crumble and Decay, faiths grow old and are forgotten but new beliefs are born. The faith of the Villages is dust now...but it will grow again...like the trees.
Chief Joseph

According to the stories from old...when the Europeans arrived in the New World the Natives taught them how to survive.  At present Americans, and Native Americans are in the same lodge.  Too many of our people have lost faith...they have lost the desire to live as free people.  They turn to Government to feed them, clothe them..and provide for their needs.  They have traded their freedom for the safety of someone else to blame for their failures.  

I work to restore our country to the splendor that it once was...it will be a painful and dangerous journey..but it is one that we can accomplish and still keep our villages safe..and rebuild the pride that many have lost.  

We can get our feathers back.






Sunday, April 17, 2011

What is an American Part V

All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.

John Locke

Freedom is not something that can be gifted.  When a people are living in an oppressive system they seldom see it that way.  People are adaptable to their environment...they do what it takes to survive. In time...what we see as a horrible way to live...becomes normal to them.  That is until some catalyst opens their eyes. This is a collection of stories about those people...and how they define what an American is.

Rich...Young..and Smart.

In modern America some of us tend to revile the rich...in fact..some of us want to run them out of the country.  This story is about a very rich young man..who not only brought his wealth...he brought us his brilliance. 

Early Colonists were refugees from religious oppression in Europe...primarily England.  Our first subject was born into a very important family in England.  His father had earned a very high rank in the English Navy and by his deeds secured lands in England and Ireland.  As with many teenagers he revolted against his parents lavish lifestyle and began cavorting with the dangers of religion outside the Anglican Church.  His flirtations with the fringe led to his being kicked out of his father's house and his inheritance withheld.  

Penniless he moved in with the most dangerous of religious dissenters.  They did not believe in the superiority of one group over another.  They believed that every man was created equal in God's eyes.  A very dangerous concept...since the Anglican's believed the Monarch was appointed by God.  Of course...this landed him in Jail...and set in motion some very important future American beliefs. 

 He was finally arrested for his religious beliefs and tried by the Lord Mayor of London.  The young man demanded to know the charges against him..and the laws he had broken.  Although this was his right under the law, his demands were denied.  The Lord Mayor also ordered the Jury to return a verdict without hearing the defense.  

The jury found the young man innocent and refused to change their verdict....they joined him in jail.  From jail the jury fought for and won the right of all English juries to be free of a judges control.  The idea of Jury Nullification was now part of English Common Law and is a very important part of modern day American Law...along with the Writ of Habeas Corpus (The right to face your accusers).

At the end of his life the young man's father used his influence to gain protection for his son...and respected his son's tenacity and convictions.  In a plan that offered the Crown the ability to rid itself of religious troublemakers...William Penn was granted the lands of Delaware and Pennsylvania.  The grand experiment that would play a very important role in the development of our Constitution began.

 “It is a clear and just thing, and my God who has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.”  - William Penn

In his charter for Pennsylvania Penn promised that Freedom of Religion would be absolute.  He drafted a list of liberties that included; Trial by Jury, Freedom from unjust imprisonment, and Free Elections.  As bold as these goals were Penn was a sloppy businessman. With his death in 1718 the Pennsylvania colony became a dangerous place for dissenters.  


Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson studied Penn's ideas, and his thoughts inspired the and fueled the discourse in the development of the Constitution.


To be continued...


Friday, April 15, 2011

What is an American? Part IV

The Committee for Public Safety

Any law which violates the inalienable rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all. - A Leader of the French Revolution*

Revolutions are dangerous things.  Although the goals may be admirable, often times the result is far from what those goals were.  The French Revolution is a case in point.  Today it would have been called a popular uprising.  The peasants rising up against an oppressive King....storming the castle and celebrating freedom.  That is how it should have been, but something went terribly wrong.

The king must die so that the country can live. -A Leader of the French Revolution*

The King and Queen were both executed by the victorious mob...then the friends of the King...then the families of the King's friends...then anyone that posed a threat, or was perceived to pose a threat were executed.  During the period known as the Great Terror between 16,000 and 40,000 people were executed.  When you consider that the Great Terror only lasted a year...that is a very large number.

The Revolution was to remove a repressive monarchy, and was replaced by an oppressive dictatorship under the guise of the Committee of Public Safety.  Supported by the population the committee considered terror as the approved method to control the population.  All decisions by the Committee were for the public good.  All the while the economy of France was crumbling.  Taxes increased, farmers were pressed into service against their will.  For the people the only change was that things got worse.  In the end...King Louis was replaced with Emperor Napoleon.


What does the French Revolution have to do with being an American?  The American Founding Fathers believed in the virtue of people.  They knew that the people needed to be more than just part of the Government...the people were the Government.  That is why our constitution starts with "WE the people..".


"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America".




The preamble to the U.S. Constitution sets the context for the document.  As simple as the statement may seem it is used by those who want to change the landscape of America...and change what an American is.  From the day it was written and ratified the Constitution has been under assault.  Although America did not fall into the black period of the Great Terror as France did...235 years later we may be facing that prospect.  Our devolution from a free people, to a Government controlled country has been in progress for a very long time.  


What was an American..and what is an American has changed.  Today for many Americans the purpose of Government is to provide for us.  We can live our lives in complete freedom from responsibility for our actions...we can not worry about providing for ourselves..we turn to Government to feed us, clothe us, and heal us.  At no cost....well...except for our freedom.


Is it too late?  I do not believe so.  In 2009, Millions of Americans began a Great Awakening.  For the first time since the revolution the people have began seeing what those little changes have done to our world.  The question is...will we make it through without suffering a Great Terror?


In part V I will provide examples of how average everyday Americans are reshaping the American Dream...and the part our latest wave of immigrants are taking to that end.








* The quotes attributed to "A leader of the French Revolution" were made by Maximilien Robespierre.   Robespierre was the head of the Committee for Public Safety and was responsible for the Great Terror.






Thursday, April 14, 2011

What is an American Part III



Government has no other end, but to the preservation of Property - John Locke

Liberty is a concept that is difficult to understand for many people.  No one is free to do as they please...without facing some consequence for their actions.  Most humans understand this to be true. For instance, murder and theft are wrong.  Regardless of your religious, or lack of religious convictions, stealing and killing another human being is wrong.  

Everyone is born with the right to be responsible for themselves.  To make their own way in this world...unhindered by the views of others.  Of course, this does not mean we have a right to infringe on the rights of others.  In a peaceful society there must be rules by which we live our lives, and though the majority of us understand that, there must be enforceable rules that establish standards, and penalties for those who step on the rights of another.  Even the most primitive of societies understood this concept.

Although our early ancestors did not have the ability to write down their rules, they certainly had them...and enforced them.  The natural born leader, may have been the smartest, or the strongest among the clan...and his rules were supreme...as long as he could enforce them.  When the leader grew weak, or if he was challenged, he had to either abdicate his position, or fight it out. It is the natural way of things.

If you observe a pack of wolves it becomes readily apparent that the leader of the pack is respected for his strength and intelligence.  If a member violates the rules...the leader and his followers banishes them to the wilderness.  The pack behaves as a family...of sorts.

From ancient times...up until the American Revolution there had been many forms of government.  None of which offered the type of freedom that would be created in the New World.  The United States created a country ran by the people....and the people would be protected from infringements of their freedom by a written Constitution.  The goal was to create a country in which the people were happy and free. 

You are free to practice any religion you want...you are free to practice no religion at all.  You are free to speak out against the government with out fear of reprisals.  You can speak any language and not have your right to life and the pursuit of happiness infringed upon by government.  That is the promise..and firm belief of every American.

In terms of our freedoms, much has changed since the Revolution.  Our freedoms have been taken one at a time.  Some have given up on being responsible for themselves, and turned it over to government.  They have done this for an empty promise of security..only to find that their security is neither real or absolute.  The fears of our forefathers has been realized, and what was once a flourishing free society has become totalitarian under the guise of elected protectors. How did it come to this?

In part IV I will delve into the steady assault on self-determination and freedom.



Thursday, April 7, 2011

What is an American? Part II

"In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue".  The discovery of the New World, changed the economic and political landscape of the planet forever.  Although many European Kingdoms would profit from this discovery, it would lead to their eventual destruction.

As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, European colonization of the New World began with a surge led by Spain at first, and quickly followed by England, France and the Dutch. Small colonies began springing up all over the New World...some languished and were lost...others slowly began to expand.

Although the Spanish were ruthlessly cruel in their initial conquest of the New World, in 1542 Charles V imposed new laws that prohibited slavery.  This in part allowed for a relatively peaceful assimilation of the native peoples.

As the Reformation continued the English, Dutch, French, and Germans began flocking to the New World.  They were leaving their native lands to escape religious persecution.  The New World lured them with the promise of religious freedom, cheap land, and the promise that they could make a better life by their own hand.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" - Declaration of Independence.


An American does not just believe this to be so...they live it.  The Declaration of Independence provides us with insight into why the Europeans of America found it necessary to cut their ties to the ancient European governmental structure.


An American believes that everyone has the right to do with their life as they please...to be responsible for the outcomes of their choices...to be allowed to take the risks and rewards that lead to their happiness. This is the basic definition of an American.  It is the promise of America. 


That is what an American Is.


Part III will expand on this definition.



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What is an AMERICAN? Part I

Well, there is a question I had not thought about?  I was an American....but other than the fact I was born in the United States...how would anyone know?  The first time I thought about this question was many years ago sitting in a college classroom.  The question was one of those that just forced me to look at myself, my country, and my fellow countrymen in a totally different way.  This was one adventure that changed my outlook on not just my country, but also the world...and inevitably myself.

As a Security Police Training Instructor I had learned how to formulate questions to evaluate different aspects of that job.  One thing I learned in creating those questions is that the question reveals much more than an individuals knowledge...that truth is hard to explain in the space of a small blog...so I will not try...just think about it.

In verbal communications...face to face...Humans are able to express much more meaning than is possible in written form. For instance: "What is a duck"?  If you saw that question on a written test you would likely attempt to describe a duck.  If someone said this on the phone in a dismissive manner, you would think they may dislike ducks.  In a face to face encounter they may grimace while saying it and that might lead you to believe that to them a duck is disgusting.  Why is that even important?  It is because of the person who asked "What is an American"?

Dr. Chris Hables Gray is a progressive.  This is not just a label that I throw at him...he admits it freely...he is proud of that fact.  I respect him on many levels...this does not mean I agree with him...but I do respect him.  On this Adventure he plays a very important part.  "What is an American"?  He did not ask this as a calculated question...it was not a trap or trick.  It was as if an idea was being born.

To define what an American is...I must define what America is.  America, for the purpose of this blog, is The United States of America.  Although Canadians want to be known as Americans...they are not.  Sorry Canada, you must continue to live in your frozen hell.

What is an American? At first a seemingly easy question...it conjures images of Norman Rockwell, apple pie, baseball, Jazz, Rock and Roll, and the Blues.  As American as those things are...they do not describe an American.  It could easily be argued that baseball has more meaning in Japan than here in America.

What is an American?  As with any question that is asked on a test...you must stop and think. For instance,

1. What is an American?
  a. Freedom Loving
  b. A Hot Dog Eater
  c. Someone who speaks English
  d. All of the above
  e. None of the above

It has been said that your first answer is the right answer.  If you chose to not answer that question...you would be right.

If I were take two people...one born and raised in the United States...and another that was born and raised in Germany...and neither one said a word...How could I tell the American from the German?

This is where the lesser educated would say...well the White guy is certainly German.  Now that the stupid people have left the room lets continue.

Wait...lets invite the stupid people back...they have a point.  If this were the 1940's you would certainly not find any Black German Citizens.  Is the question time based?  Historically there have been Blacks living in both countries.  Legally, American Blacks have had the right of Citizenship for much longer that German Blacks. However, Americans are no longer of a particular race...neither are Germans.

Race is not a component of the answer.

Hold on...what about the Native Americans?  They are certainly Americans.  This is absolutely right..and although they were here long before Europeans discovered America...even the Native Americans came from someplace else.  So race is not a factor in the answer.

I am going to stop this post right here...and here is why.  I made a statement back at the beginning that I hope got you thinking about What is an American.  I will ask you to give me an example of what you think an American is based on traits that can be found in the majority of Americans.


The Big Adventure



Life is one great BIG Adventure.  At least it is for me.  Whether it is exploring a creek in the North Carolina woods, drifting down the Yellowstone River, or driving the streets of Tampa; there is always something new and unexpected around that next corner.  As with any adventure there are perils, joys, sadness, but most importantly Discovery.

For the next 19 months I will be dedicating this blog to the American Adventure...I will be inviting you to join the discussion...we will equip ourselves with the knowledge of our past and present...which will ultimately give us a glimpse of our future.  I will include examples from my own life..and most importantly examples from the lives of others.

Will I be fair? Sure.  Everyone that wants to post can do so...but there are some rules.

Rule 1. Stick to the subject.

Rule 2. If you are going to make a claim provide references to back it up.  Otherwise, it is just uneducated opinion.

Rule 3. No Idiots allowed.