Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quiet Power of Memorial Day at Home

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 25:  U.S. military vetera...Memorial Day reminds me that Washington is so much more than politics.

In remembrance of P-38 Lightning pilots who died in WWII, many squadron friends of G. C. PrimmWWII veteran, captain, Army Air Force

America is more than politics, governing, and congressional elections. We remember that fact on this Memorial Day weekend, when we listen to military families whose loved ones died in service to country. That is what this Day is all about, to remember the fallen. Memorial Day starts in homes, families, neighborhoods.
There is a quiet power that is keenly aware and ready to respond in times of need in seen and unseen actions. This quiet power motivates many young men and women who volunteer to serve in the military aware that it may cost them their lives. 

I have been privileged to witness this quiet power in a family waiting at home. Thankfully, my brother did return from WWII. I was 2 years old when he left home, soon after Pearl Harbor, to enlist to train for air combat. I was not exposed to my parents' anguish over my brother's life in the war, for they kept going day by day. I saw my mother as a smiling person and my dad as the one who worked and was reluctant to discipline me. I loved that. I remember the tone of my mother when flowers came one Mother's Day and I knew they were from my brother who was flying airplanes somewhere in war, but even the word "war" does not sink in when it's far from home. A child often does not know the anguish but can observe their attitude of hope. Parents may not speak of worry or hope, but live within both. Their quiet courage is so amazing that it cannot be fully appreciated until years later.    

Memorial Day reminds us that those who lose their lives in service to their country are from among us, from our neighborhood, town, county, state...or home. Their parents go through what mine did, and then worse. The worst. We honor the sons and daughters who died in military service as fighters or as part of support and help teams. We honor the fallen...their ultimate sacrifice.   

This article has been re-edited to reflect that Memorial Day is the day when the nation  honors those who died in war and service with the military. Veterans Day honors those who served and returned home.  

The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery...these and more are at the heart of the character of the United States of America.

Writers, now is the time to begin writing something for this coming July 4 holiday.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another American Election and Freedom

American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, ...
American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, and the American flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jean Purcell

The American 24/7 news is more than a cycle. It's now taken as an entrenched right for news junkies, and this can lead to mix ups, especially six months before a presidential election (congress, too, don't forget) and barely eight months before the next inaugurations.    

There is talk of founding fathers, mothers, documents, liberty, democracy, progressive, change, liberty (ditto), government, freedom, taxes, free, individual, independent, King George, "exceptionalism," change, liberty (ditto), leaders, followers, disenfranchised, dependent, independent, entitled, entitlements, freedom (ditto), transformation, boot straps, entitlement, gimme, grow up, imperfect, needy, answers, victims, improvement, racist, reviving, wealth, wealthy, freedom (ditto), caring, faith, church, economy, state, freebies, free, gimme, take this, wake up, take that, failing, succeeding, IPOs, boondoggles, pride, Armani, issues, cupcakes, liberty (ditto), vitality, democratic principles, the people, free, global, taxpayer-paid-for luxuries, security, securities, health, education, welfare...liberty (ditto)...

...the themes are many enough to cover almost infinite numbers of lines of gibberish and meaning thrown together behind bad hair, glossy hair, smiles, frowns, fear, reassurance, boldness, warnings, diatribes, accusations, disrespect, reaching out, embarrassments, arrogance, blame, defense, attack (ditto), rhetoric, oratory, hubris, and American political verbiage contracts and expands like a badly played accordion.

It is for freedom that I have set you free.

Sitting at bistro tables along Paris streets and eating various cuisines, citizens and immigrants discuss the recent French election, progressive reforms, and their latest application for a visa to the U. S. Just to see what it's like. 

An Egyptian wife asks her Egyptian husband: "Do you think we want to stay here or try to live in the United States?

"United States," he says. He's seen it all, except democracy in action. He might learn and try to take it back to his homeland or he might teach at Harvard or Berkeley, Liberty University, or Georgetown. 

He too has dreams, one for himself and his family and one for his country. They are like the same dream. Right now, back home it's a nightmare and his brother in Syria is trying to get out of there, too. 

A recent college graduate in New York City is remembering something he heard not that long ago, a truly emotional monologue about loving America. He cannot decide whether to love it or take advantage of it, to serve or to make lots of money through 21-hour work days or to try to do both.

His friend and former classmate talks about the basic founding principles of this country, human value and freedom...but she's as worried as he is about the future. 
It is for freedom that I have set you free.
"You know what?" she asks him one day over pizza, "I can tell now the difference between someone who says they love this country, and means it, and someone who says the words with tones and facial expressions that don't ring true."

When she says that a documentary on Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President Reagan, and a speech by Condi Rice influenced her significantly, he listens, unless they're with other friends, when he laughs nervously. And he's not sure who Sen. Moynihan is or was, but maybe a Democrat.

Sometimes she goes on and on. "I read that in the USSR during the Cold War years a man went up to an American trying to fit in on Moscow streets, and whispered, 'You are from America?'" And the American said, 'How do you know?' 'Because you walk free,' came the answer, and then the man was gone as quickly as he had appeared. Fear of the eyes and ears of KGB and other watchers was palpable, the article said."     

The young American listens to her. He knows that some people speak emotionally, in heartfelt tones, about "America," "God-given freedom," and America's founders' documents "intended to defend, enshrine, and guard the new nation for generations to come." Talk radio jockeys ride the tide and go on and on about the Declaration of Independence ("July 4, 1776"), and the Constitution of the United States "(September 17, 1787"), and the U. S. Bill of Rights, "ratified December 15, 1791 by three-fourths of the States of that time," according to one.

One says, "In fifteen years--a short time, when you think about it--of conflict, turmoil, oppression, and longing to determine their own futures, they came together for one purpose, an experiment in freedom untried anywhere in the world up to then, an experiment they wanted to make last!" 

Others say, "Yes, I know all of that, but...." Some laugh over such "patriotic regurgitation," as they call it: "This is the 21st century, for cryin' out loud! We have bigger fish to fry! Let's move on!"

It is for freedom that I have set you free.

Some words and arguments (cases, debates) sound more intelligent than others to some hearers, while others scoff at them. "Who will 'cave' first?" 

"When will this election finally be over?" many ask, wondering if they will vote at all.

"Who's running anyway? What's one vote?"

"Yeah, I've got bigger fish to fry, like finding a job, getting my own place...."

"We'll push our lobbying firm to increase their pressure soon," some corporate types resolve after meeting with an important government contracts client.
A short reading list

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Friday, May 4, 2012

It's time. Can you hear me?

An Irish Traveller in Dublin watches the neigh...
An Irish Traveller in Dublin watches the neighbor kids play from her trailer window. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's time to take a break. There is a time for everything, you know. Work. Rest. Relax doing something that has no deadline but gives lots of pleasure. 

I cannot explain it, how I love to read good books so much that I do not want to put them down. Sound familiar to you, too?

Is it lazy to read? Are you kidding? 

Is it a waste of time? Well, ditt-o!

Can you hear me? 

I remember a time one summer when one neighbor slyly criticized another in our townhouse community. We were all parents of young children and the neighbor under critique was about eight months pregnant.

And there she sat on the little front porch of her townhouse that had a pretty little traditional doorway with ivy all around the shrubs and even a leafy tree giving lots of shade, all up a little hill from the rest of us. Almost idyllic in our location. 

"Do you see what she is doing?," said the neighbor I met as we were both going and coming that stifling summer afternoon. "She does that every afternoon. Just sits there." That a woman, even one eight months pregnant, would sit and...well, sit. And in the shade of her porch! Maybe she was even daring to make private observations of flowers around her, or listening to bird calls. Maybe she was thinking through another of her problems. Maybe she was even snoozing behind her sunglasses! (All while listening for waking sounds from two very young progeny taking a nap upstairs.

Who could know?

That's what can be annoying to some people about other people that take the time...sitting, or thinking, or even reading. There are no clues as to what these quiet, contemplative people have going on in their heads when they are "sitting on the porch."

"Isn't it frustrating when they do that?"

All of that neighborhood stuff was another time and place. Late on this Friday afternoon, I am going to stop work and leap into the time, place, and space of a quiet spot to finish the book I was up into the early morning hours with last night. No apologies. And no explanations about the title of this unusual mystery novel, who wrote it, what style they used, or what bag of tricks and misdirections they contrived until they let the answers come out. It's all between my brain and the book.

Hope your weekend has some spaces. It's time.

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