My Country, Tis of Thee …


“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

John F. Kennedy  Inaugural Address (1961)

This speech inspired many young Americans to think about service to their country.  This period in our history could be described as a watershed moment, nestled between the knee-jerk and sometimes paranoid patriotism of the Cold War era and the coming roller coaster of the Sixties and beyond.

When viewed from our vantage point, Kennedy’s word about defending freedom before the events of the later Sixties and on into our own war-torn time, almost seem quaint.

Sometimes I miss that optimism and simple patriotism which touched so many of us, before the cold realities of geopolitics and global economies.   Like the last words of Steve McQueen’s character Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles (1966): What happened? What the hell happened?” 

However, Kennedy’s statement may not be a simple exhortation to mindlessly serve a particular administration, but rather a reminder that we are inextricably tied with the country in which we live.  

Not to follow that country’s actions blindly or to choose partisan politics while claiming to do so for the country, but with an eye to making our country as good a place as it is capable of being, for everyone, in all ways.

Patriotism is not wearing a flag lapel pin, or celebrating the Fourth of July, or giving money to political parties that act in ways you support.

Patriotism is about paying attention, giving energy to those programs and actions which serve to reinforce our country’s ideals based on equality and democracy, which safeguard the rights of all, not just some.

If you can handle one more Boomer reference – In the words of Joni Mitchell:

“We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

Feeling just a tad nostalgic, rather patriotic in my own special way, and somewhat optimistic in the Heartland ….

John

 

Giving a Hand or a Boost?


“You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

William Boetcker in The Ten Cannots (1916)    From Brainyquotes.com:  Often misattributed to Lincoln because the leaflet upon which it was published also contained words from Lincoln.

Time is short today and computer problems abound.

This is a fine statement on the face of it.  Of course, people should help themselves, as most research supports.  Those who have a hand in determining their own destiny and earning their own “keep” are happier and more engaged.

However, sometimes this sentiment is misinterpreted.

“Could” and “Should” are conditional terms indicating the presence of ability and responsibility.  If you have the ability to do something for yourself, you have the responsibility to do it  … no argument so far.

However, the above and similar statements have been used to justify all manner of cruel and  inhumane treatment of those who suffer.

A small child or a disabled person may not have the ability to help themselves in the same way that an able-bodied adult does.  A person suffering from an illness (and yes, I consider drug addiction an illness) is sick and does not have full control of their actions.

Individual responsibility is fine, but not at the expense of our humanity.

A little compassion and a little discernment, please …

At another time, I’ll discuss the role of education in addressing the concerns of many, but be warned – it will involve talking about more support for public programs which help people learn how to help themselves.

Discuss amongst yourselves while I continue my efforts to avoid having to buy a new laptop.

Working hard to the best of my ability in the Heartland ….

John

Memorial Day In A Small Town …


Today is Memorial Day in the United States.

A day we set aside our daily routines to honor and remember those who have served our country, especially those who have died.

Memorial Day has also been known as Decoration Day and it is like Veteran’s Day (formerly Armistice Day), in that the sweep of history has made this a somewhat “quaint” holiday for many of us.

In my small Missouri hometown as I grew up, this was a Big Day.  

My father joined many other community men, sometimes in uniforms that fit a little snug and sometimes in nice civilian clothes to march around the town square and take part in a ceremony honoring the names inscribed on the war monument  there in the center of town.  The local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) post was The social organization to be a member of in our little town and they always provided the vivid reminder that this day was not about some faceless heroes, but the men who were raising us, running farms and shops, and teaching in our schools.  They were our parents, our role models, our shepherds,and our leaders.

Those names on the monument reflected those from our community who would never march around the square.  Military service was an honorable thing and a strong aspect of the culture in my hometown.   We cared about those who served, both those who returned and those who did not.

Soldiers were sons, uncles, fathers.  I’m betting the only difference today is that now they think of daughters, mothers, and wives as well.

This is where I learned to stand in respect the flag of our country and to honor those who served it.  This is where I learned to be very quiet when certain traditions occurred, especially when the lone trumpet played “Sleep, Soldier Boy” at the end of the ceremony.

In small towns, you know everyone and it was unusual not to see every blessed soul from town and the many small farms in the county, all gathered together as  part of this ceremony.  This was not an isolated thing that just those with veterans or who had lost someone did … everyone was a part, even if only to bear mute witness to the community’s demonstration of remembrance and respect.

Afterward, two things occupied the rest of our day:  Food and Flowers.

Most families had extended family gathering, where every female relative of a decent age brought something home-cooked and delicious to share.

First, however, was the visit to the cemetery where relatives were buried.    For our family, this was a little quarter-acre (about a MacMansion house plot size) around a half-mile up the road.  We would plant flowers on the graves, along with those little American flags which sprout like dandelions on holidays in the summer.  Not much discussion, but a time spent with family in quiet meditation.

After came the food and the conversations became much more lively as extended family and special guests communed and refreshed bonds of friendship and love.   My father loved these times, maybe because he was mindful of all those who were not there to enjoy their own family time.

I always thought this was just the way it was:  No big extravaganzas, no One-Day Only super sales, no major athletic events … just a simple parade of some aging veterans, a show of support from the community, some simple memories, and some food.

Life went on as usual the next day and the next … but the routine and the trivial stopped for that one day … every year … without fail.

Remembering in the Heartland ….

Building or Tearing Down Fences?


“Love your Neighbour; yet don’t pull down your Hedge.”

Benjamin Franklin  As quoted in Early American proverbs and proverbial phrases, (1977) pg. 309

Much paraphrased and reworded in modern terminology … which indicates that Franklin really had something here.  The question is “What?”

Is this about paranoia?

Are we so fearful of those around us that we need walls to protect ourselves? I grew up in a rural area where we lived out the idea that people are generally friendly and good, until we were given good reason not to consider an individual as having those qualities.   In the urban areas I call home, we tend to start with the assumption that people are not trustworthy and make them earn our trust. Continue reading

Why Bother With Social Media …?


I spend a fair amount of time doing social media.  Okay, I spend a lot of time doing social media.

Because of this, I am often asked to explain why I have made this a priority.  I point out the values I see in connections with other people, most of whom I will never meet in person.

I talk about the expansion of my personal horizons from having a relationship with someone who lives “somewhere out there.”

However, I now have a handy source to refer to when I am asked to justify energy poured into online connections.

Ann Tran describes a happening and gives us all object lesson in why we spend our time doing social media ~ click the link below to read her post:  

THE POWER OF CONNECTIVITY IN SOCIAL MEDIA

While you are there, if you have an interest in life, social media, connections, and culture, might as well subscribe to get Ann’s ongoing thinking – well worth it:).

Here are the lessons I got from this well-written post

1)  Connections happen over time ~ they do not happen just because you need something.

2)  Connections require trust ~ see above.  Trust is not earned with one interaction or in one minute.

3)  Something may not have clear or immediate value ~ be open to possibilities and serendipity which comes on its own time schedule, not ours. 

4)  Openness creates an atmosphere where more is possible than when we are not open ~  see all the above.  To earn trust, we must risk.  To risk, we must be open.

This all comes down to how you view the online world.  If you see it as a fearful and dark place (which it is sometimes), you will not risk and trust.  If you see it as a microcosm of the physical world (which it is all the time), you either will or you will not, depending on how you view your world.  

Either way, it ‘s all up to you:)

Okay, your turn:

How do you see value in online connections?

What has happened in your life which would not have happened without social media?

What would YOU say to those who say “Why would anyone ever want to go expose themselves to strangers and foreigners?”

Waiting to see how you view the world as I risk, share, and trust from the Heartland ….

John