I’ve been away awhile. Academic pursuits demanded my writing time. Today, though, it seems appropriate to remember. It will be enough, to just remember.
He was a grizzled fellow, as if he’d been at sea his entire life. He walked like Popeye, but lacked the character’s bulky forearms. Still, this ancient mariner strode confidently off the bus in crisp cracker-jacks with his first-class machinist’s rating badge and across the parking lot toward the cemetery grounds. He was one of many thousands returning to Normandy for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, or rather, as the French say, the Liberation of France.
I was there as part of a joint military honor-guard. We were the ‘visible’ sign of a modern military presence and ‘security force’, meant to respond to the needs of the veterans visiting. Off shore lay a joint fleet of NATO allies, thirty-some ships centered around the USS Eisenhower. President Reagan was coming, along with a dozen other world leaders.
There was a familiarization session at the Omaha Beach Cemetery and Pointe du Hoc the day before. We spread out to look over the several acres of memorials and the walkways down to the beach. We were looking for obvious points of concern that would cause physical difficulties for the returning veterans. This 40th anniversary was likely to be the largest crowd ever for the event; most old enough to want to come back before they were too frail to do so.
This day, I happened upon two men traveling together. I walked with them down toward the stone stairs that went to the beach. They began recounting the routine; who they were, what their ratings were, what the tasks were for that infamous day so long ago. That five minutes was a gift to me and only a warm-up for them. When they began recounting who they were with, the larger of the two men broke into tears. It wasn’t long before he was in full on remorse and remembrance. His friend could not console him. They were back at D-Day. I said a simple thank you and stopped walking.
I was late getting back to the bus and the Army sergeant in charge and the Embassy officer in charge were none too happy with me. My ‘punishment’ was to be assigned to the Pointe du Hoc location the next day. Well, sometimes ‘punishment’ is a gift. That evening, in the nearby French village in Saint Pierre du Mont, my Air Force roommates and I had the pleasure of the company of Rangers who assaulted the Pointe on D-Day. Sixty-seven of the two-hundred men that came ashore that day returned to honor their brothers. They wore uniforms close to what their class ‘A’s were in 1944; khaki trousers and ‘blouses’, with the unit insignia on the shoulders. They wore long, narrow caps with ‘Ranger’ on the side and their VFW/American Legion insignias on the other. They were survivors, and they were there to meet with their French civilian count parts who also survived. What an honor to be there with them! It wasn’t the only one I’d be part of that weekend.
Walter Cronkite was a war correspondent during WWII and he was imbedded with the troops on D-Day. He was flying in the nose of a B-17 observing the landings. On this 40th Anniversary, he was broadcasting for CBS from the bluff above the English Channel at Pointe du Hoc. After the festivities and a mock rush of an old blown out bunker, I was able to make my way over to the tables where he and others were wrapping up their equipment. Shaking Mr. Cronkite’s hand was an unexpected honor.
I have one more person from WWII to remember each Memorial Day. My Uncle George was an aviation flight crew chief. After the war ended, shuffling the fleet of planes became routine work for the air corps and the Navy was no different. George was crew chief on a cross-country route from Norfolk to San Diego, ferrying a patrol observation plane from one coast to another. Corpus Cristi TX provided a refueling stop for the crew and the bird. The pilot took on an extra two passengers the morning of launch for the second part of their trip. He, his passengers, and my great Uncle died that morning when a malfunction occurred and the plane crashes after lifting off. Uncle George was our family’s military hero.
Before my own service, I learned of Korea in history books and I watched Vietnam on the television news from Mr. Cronkite. My own service saw shipmates and associate crewmen die on active duty. Just after I retired from the Navy, the United States suffered the 9-11 tragedies and entered the Second Gulf War. My son, nieces, and nephews have accomplished their service. They’ve lost their comrades. We each are links to the past and the future, with our chain of memories of family, friends, and shipmates to remember and to honor.
Will you join us, this Memorial Day? Before the picnics, before splashing the boats or starting out on the project for the camping trip, before striking the BBQ grill, will you pause with your own family and friends, perhaps visit the military memorial in your local cemetery, or join the parade, or go to church, will you stop for a moment and pray the souls who have gone before us, having given themselves to service for our country, will enjoy the blessings of heaven and support us as we continue defending our nation’s people. Please.
May the Grace and Blessings of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be carried to each of them, and to all of you, by the Holy Spirit. Amen.
November 20, 2016
Dear Mr. Trump,
I am writing to suggest a small piece of the puzzle in making America great again, maybe just a reminder since I learned of your secondary education in military school at NYMA. There is a need for a common belief in core values. There is a need to return to schools, public and private, the Pledge of Allegiance and the like to our routines.
Your expertise as a builder and developer gives you insight about the importance of an exact set of drawings, plans, and schematics to drawing a team of engineers and contractors to the start, continuing effort, and completion of a project. Every ribbon cutting you’ve participated in is a testament to this as fact. I suggest it is a fundamental Truth of success in building.
Certain factions of our populace have been changing the fundamental plans of our national project, and they have used our courts to do it instead of the voting booths across the nation. First prayer fell, then the Pledge of Allegiance, and along the way our songs also fell. God Bless America, America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee), and America, The Beautiful are only a few of such pages of the plan that have been set aside. All this began during the celebration of our Bicentennial.
These simple songs and words provide a basis of thought for what is the American dream. Upon this foundation, the stories of the struggles of pioneers from Roanoke Island, and Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, opening the Ohio Valley, the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, and clipper ships to California frame the dream in the passions, struggles, failures, and successes of the People, of “We, the People”.
Some among us have changed the blueprints. They argue the plans are flawed because of errors that were made. The argue that genocide was committed in the name of Manifest Destiny and this makes the basic plan flawed. They see no value in the plan. They replaced the plan, rather than modify it, singularly focusing it on individual groups, creating divisive cracks in the foundation of the American dream. The argument made is one based on a freedom ‘from’ religion, rather than an appropriate freedom ‘of’ religion.
I suggest these words and songs mentioned represent the American Civil Religion, the basis for a common belief in the American dream and necessary to the survival of this grand project called The United States. Robert N. Bellah wrote (from Berkeley) in 1966;
“I think it should be clear from the text that I conceive of the central tradition of the American civil religion not as a form of national self-worship but as the subordination of the nation to ethical principles that transcend it in terms of which it should be judged.” 1
Mr. President, as you work to Make America Great Again, may I humbly suggest that you use “The Midas Touch” to renew the plans for this nation’s future, to correct the misuse of the original blueprints, and restore the ethical principles to the People. Find within your routine and build within your team the means to restore the teachings of the Pledge of Allegiance, America, and America The Beautiful to our national fabric. Those wandering in the streets protesting today were never taught that purple shadows on mountains can be majestic, that amber waves of grain feed the world, that it is pilgrims’ feats of blood, sweat, and tears which build alabaster cities, no matter what station in life they start their journey from.
With great respect and awe, I am your loyal servant,
John L. Zoll
- Bellah, Robert N. “Civil Religion in America”. Daedalus, Journal of the American Arts and Sciences, Winter 1967 Vol 96 No 1 pp 1-21.
It’s been three years since I began a formal program of study in theology. The longer I have engaged in it, of course, the deeper and more involved the work has become. It’s not that I’ve written less, rather my concentration and activity have been drawn away from the whimsy and self-expression of this web log to more detailed and directed works. Some of those I posted here early on, however I have been sparing any followers from the fifteen- and twenty-page theological works of the last couple of years. The reading for these alone has stretched my mind to limits I didn’t know I had and coming closer to completion (in May ’17, with some hard work) these limits are being pushed back further and further. All this reading and research precedes that which will accompany an eighty-page thesis.
Sailing ‘Lifeline’ on Alum Creek Lake has also been affected. Classes have been held on Wednesday evenings at the same time the boat club races are held. As I’ve been attending school year ’round it has meant missing race night for the second year running. And this year, I haven’t trailer’d ‘Lifeline’ out of the lake to the larger venue of Lake Erie.
All this to say the experiences that have driven half of my essays on FaithandFlag.Wordpress.com have been siphoned off to other efforts and for the foreseeable future will continue in the same manner.
That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, just posting shorter works on other venues. If you’re interested, you’ll find professional commentary in a series of fifty essays at www.linkedin.com/in/johnzoll where I’ve been sharing both industrial notes and managerial content. Also, By-Dawn’s-Early-Light at www.facebook.com/By is a site dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner. The recent posts there include comments on the controversy of whether our National Anthem is a racist poem, with links to CNN stories concerning the same.
(photo credit to the author. 1812 National Ensign is signed by the National Park Ranger who hoisted it over Ft. McHenry in June 2014. Signal flags are Charlie Mike and Bravo Zulu, welcoming grandchildren to our annual summer camp)
In the wake of the shooting incidents in Orlando Florida the week of June 7th, 2016, the ‘major’ media outlets spent several days trying to write stories that might explain the tragedies. Jihadist attacks in San Bernadino CA, Paris France, and Belgium were all reviewed. My opinion is a rough ‘rant’, but however poorly written, it seems a much better explanation than we are given by the traditional writers of our immediate history.
A true void is impossible to picture. There is no reference to anything else, thus, no real picture. The Void of Space is presented as a point of thought while you read.
You took it all away, you ‘Intelligencia’.
You took it all away, Our American civil religion.
We were a nation of the Book. Not the Captain’s log book, but the scripture that was the foundation of Our Nation that likely accompanied the Captain’s log.
It arrived with Columbus in the Bahamas. Cortez brought it when he arrived in Mexico. It arrived in Roanoke and then at Jamestown with Captain Smith. The Pilgrims brought it to Plymouth Rock. Jacques Cartier brought it to the Gaspe’ Peninsula in Newfoundland. Surely, it was the Christian Book, yet that Book drew from the Jewish one.
You attacked these bold men for their transgressions. You took Your modern principles and applied them in retrospect, and decided their crimes were greater than their achievements. You vilified them, and you vilified Our history with them.
The Book traveled across the sea, and then across the continent. Books, rare and costly as Our country grew, only one was likely carried most prevalently. Because it was the one, we taught Ourselves and Our children to read out of it. Because it was the one Book, we talked about it, we discussed it, and we relied on its wisdom. Even in the great wars we fought, the Book accompanied US and was the source of Our repentance in the aftermath.
We were inspired and wrote songs about the subject of the Book. The words of “America” replaced those of “God Save the King”, and we praised the Creator of Liberty for Ours, just as the Israelites praised him for theirs. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” called Us to remember who lit the fires of justice in Our hearts. “America, the Beautiful” reminds Us of the pilgrims’ feet traversing the land. “God Bless America” invokes the Creator’s beauty and bounty given Us, even as the Psalms we read recalled the same sentiment from two millennia earlier. Arlo Guthrie gave Us “This Land is Your Land”, joining Us all together from coast to coast, further describing the beauty and grandeur of Our Country. And at the end of the twentieth century, Lee Greenwood was inspired to give Us “God Bless the USA”.
Our Book taught us to “Promote the welfare of the city to which you have been exiled. Pray for it to the Lord. For upon its welfare depends your own” (Jer 29:7) A hundred years ago, in the midst of the massive immigration of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when people were pouring into Our country from cultures around the world, Our schools taught Our children and Us to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag. “George Cohan wrote songs celebrating that Flag, that grand symbol of what we were becoming. That tri-colored banner of stars-and-bars represented US, on Our streets, over Our government buildings, over Our ships and Our troops. We waved it proudly as we came upon the world stage. To Our Pledge we added, ‘under God’ after the horror of a second world war in half a century.
But you, you “Intelligencia”, you have different ideas.
Vilifying Our Founders was just the start for you. You took away prayer from Our schools in 1962 (Madalyn Murry O’Hair). You allowed Us to commit genocide beginning in 1972(Roe v. Wade). You attacked Our religious freedoms in 1990 (Employement vs. Smith). You destroyed a millennium of social law by attacking marriage in 2015. (Obergfell vs. Hodges). Americans for the Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberty Union, and others…your churches of worship.
Our public schools don’t teach those songs above any more. There are no more ‘Christmas’ concerts.
The schools don’t have students pledge their allegiance to a flag any longer. It’s now ‘offensive’ to immigrants, rather than a rallying point. You celebrate as ‘art’ the desecration of the Stars and Stripes. Spattered with feces, walking on top of it, and burning it are applauded as ‘freedom of speech’. But Our protests of the same are to be silenced and shoved aside.
You teach Our children that men and women are interchangeable, in spite of the decades of social statistics you otherwise Used to promote the building of families requiring both. Contrary to the lessons of the Book some still carry, and contrary to others’ professions, any number of adults of any chosen sexual assignment or chosen gender may substitute in place of those once vital statistical facts.
You, you ‘Intelligencia’, you’ve taken it all away, and in your rush to destroy Us you’ve given Us nothing to replace it with but chaos and confusion. You’ve failed those who trusted you and you betrayed those of Us who relied on you to promote Truth.
Why do Our children fall into despair? Why do they turn to drugs? Why do they choose the violence of firearms? Why do they commit suicide in ever greater numbers?
Why do those who do survive their youth, and then fail as adults commit horrendous crimes?
Why are Our ‘Citizens’ faithful to Islam find their radical counterparts so compelling that they would join with them and bring carnage to Our own shores?
You took away Our Book. You took away Our civil religion built on the book. You’ve given Us nothing in return to believe in but individual ‘freedom’. And when each person is free to choose, without guidelines for the choice, then there are as many choices as there are people, and the ‘People’ will cease to exist.
I began writing on LinkedIN about management and how what we read builds our corporate climate. If Twitter, Instagram, Snap-Chat have supplanted Email, and all have diminished our use of policies and procedures to train and adhere to, then we are building our businesses on sandy and shifting grounds. Not good training policy for long-term business strength.
This line of thinking brought me back to how we have shifted the stories we embrace about our country over the last century. Without getting into a great deal of social science, here’s a ‘story’ to consider in review of the divisiveness that appears to be more and more prevalent.
It is true. We do become the ‘stories we read’, whether those stories are read in a book, a magazine, on a tablet, through a gaming video monitor, or on the ‘silver screen’. Those ideas enter our minds and become part of our thought processes. This is the first step in education psychology. Teachers tell a story, exercise the story, and then test on comprehension of the story told. It is fundamental learning.
Let’s just look back a century when the U.S. was coming of age as a world power. Our predecessors were taught about how Admiral Columbus ‘discovered’ America, and how Signor Vespucci (Amerigo) gave the continents his name (he was the first successful map-maker of the continents). They were taught that America (these United States) is a great nation, to honor the flag that represents it. How many stories do we hear of people coming through Ellis Island, looking at and learning “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor…”). “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” were songs newly written and still to come to popularity. Broadway was filled with Mr. George Cohan’s plays celebrating America. Little of our bigotry and our struggles were emphasized, especially after the Second World War and with a Bicentennial celebration approaching. These United States were strong and the People were of one mind and purpose. Or were they?
The social revolutions were already underway. Our country never really recovered fully from that Civil War in the mid-1800’s. Jim Crowe laws kept the Negro (Spanish for Black), no matter where s/he came from, and a second class citizen. A reminder of the 1890 Indian massacre at Wounded Knee, SD came in 1973 when Russel Means and the American Indian Movement had a standoff with federal officers. We were reminded that there were other people oppressed in our land and by our Law. Mr. King and two Mr. Kennedy’s were assassinated. Scientists found it was Leif Erikson, a Viking, who discovered this continent, not Admiral Columbus. Then, Admiral Columbus became a villain, a bringer of disease, and a murdering tyrant. History stories about Ellis Island and the poem became eclipsed by current events on immigration and modern slave trade. New musicians write about ‘killing cops’ and the Viet Nam War’s ‘military industrial complex’ tarnishes the sacrifices by both combatants and civilians through two World Wars. The Nation’s People are divided. Minorities of all sorts become ‘special interests’ and ‘special laws’ are written to ‘protect’. One political party claims to embrace everyone while it supports all the ‘special interests’ and another political party is shown to really only ‘protect’ business interests.
We become the stories we read. And we read in school, in the news, and in what was called ‘jingo’ now called ‘tabloid’ presses just how terrible our lives and our country is.
The Truth is somewhere in between. Life was never as rosy as we were taught a century ago. There were oppressed peoples and there were successful ones. Life isn’t as terrible today as we are told. There are people who are continuing to find success and there are those who still flood to our country no matter the laws that work to restrict them.
The Truth is somewhere in between. We can find it if we follow a simple guideline most of us would call ‘common sense’ for our own lives and families. We celebrate our successes. We lament our known errors. And somewhere, each of us hides ‘sins’ of some sort in the closet. Our relatively young nation has successes to celebrate. Viking Erikson may have discovered the continent, but the Admiral brought it to the attention of Europe. Institutionalized slavery took us a century to fully overcome in Law. But we have overcome it. Our country was a bastion of Freedom through two World Wars and helped the world recover. We should still be teaching and singing “God Bless America”. And, we should be working more as partners with other nations rather than ‘saviors’ who are owed allegiance.
We become the stories we read. Let’s shift the balance back to center, and read more to celebrate our successes than exalting our failures, watch more about real heroes, and less about destruction, talk more about what we have in common than those things that make us different. Let’s choose to become a united, “We, the People…” and stop letting some play us against each other for their own profit.