Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GETTYSBURG THEN AND NOW

Today it can be looked back upon as three days of hell.  On July first through July third in 1863 chances are that many of the thousands of men who were caught on the battlefield outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania thought that they were in hell.  Three days of battle that left approximately fifty thousand dead Americans defined the American Civil War.  There will be those readers who say that there weren't fifty thousand Americans because half of the battle was waged by members of the Confederate States of America.  To me, even the Confederates were still Americans who had beliefs that conflicted with the United States establishment.  These beliefs were strong, so strong that they felt they had to fight for the rights they believed in.  On November 19, 1863 President Lincoln visited the battlefield at Gettysburg, stood before a small crowd that had gathered to dedicate the battlefield and spoke seven words that every American would recognize as he said, "Four score and seven years ago....".  He spoke but ten sentences that day.  Ten sentences that every American should revisit and find out what truth that short speech holds for each of us.
After the battle - Gettysburg Pennsylvania July 1963
It seems like every nation goes through what the United States went through during those four years that marked the bloodiest war in the history of our country.  Most countries go through this type of upheaval more than once.  Thinking back on my history lessons in school, the American Revolution comes to mind as well as the Russian revolution, the French revolution, the Spanish Civil War and so on up through today's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Syria and many others that are being waged around the globe as I write this.  It seems to be a necessary step that a country must go through to obtain some kind of civility and stability for it's people.  The civility and stabilization seldom lasts though and we, as humans, tend to go through these wars over and over never learning the lessons we thought we had been taught.

I look at my country and see that battles are still being waged.  We have been in many armed conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and others, but we are also still fighting among ourselves here in our country.  It's as if the Civil War ended for a short period of time, but then continued on other fronts.  True we have never had a bloody conflict between our shores to rival that of the 1860's but the battles being waged in our country carry just as much passion and belief as those that brought about the fifty thousand casualties in Pennsylvania 150 years ago.

We now fight several wars among ourselves.  The battle between the people of different races in this country still rage on.  We can look back and see how much progress has been made, but the progress has not gotten to the point of where all people feel themselves equal.  Like the Civil War, there are soldiers on each front waging this war.  There are Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Middle Eastern people looking for what this country showed promise of, that being that all men are created equal.  The battle lines are blurred at times as there are people of each race who do come together in agreement but still have to fight for what they have come to believe.  There are people of different races who try to enter the country illegally to take part in the American Dream causing a chain reaction that results in limiting those who can enter and become Americans in their own right.  I am proud to say that my Grandfather was a soldier in the war of the races, and he was on the right side I think.  He did not believe himself to be better than anyone else based on race or a number of other qualifiers and he stood up to be counted for what he believed in.  His legacy has been one that has seen those that follow him in life carry on his thoughts and beliefs.

There is a war raging among the economic classes in this country.  This war has been raging for many years as well and still continues to be fought on a daily basis.  This land was once known as a sort of promised land where people from all over the world would immigrate to and try to partake of what became known as the American Dream.  Some say the dream is dead, or at least dying.  No man, woman or child should go hungry in this country that supplies so much of the food for the world and actually pays our farmers not to grow too many crops.  It is a complicated war though with many different ideas clashing on what is the proper way to keep the American Dream alive.  I do not have an answer to that.  I do have my own ideas and beliefs that every person who is lucky enough to be a part of this great country should also contribute to the greatness of this land.  The great battle seems to be between the overly rich and the overly poor and it is up to the middle class to take most of the casualties in this war.  There is an answer to this situation and perhaps we will stumble across it one day, it doesn't appear to be close at hand.

Perhaps the biggest war that is pushing this country against itself is the war of political philosophy.  We casually pigeonhole everyone in to one of two categories.  Liberal or conservative.  Democrat or Republican.  In reality, Americans fill a broad spectrum of philosophies that lie between those two extremes.  Lately though the extremes have seem to have taken over the battle cry for each side.  This did not start with the current administration or the one before it.  I am not sure when it started.  My thinking is that this battle has been raging ever since the days of John Adams vs Thomas Jefferson.  Never before has it been as loud of a conflict or as dividing a conflict as it has grown to be in the current age of politics.  New weapons have come out that heighten the level of this war for the minds of people.  Radio, television, cable television and now the internet all contribute to information being fed world around in a split second taking away the time needed to do some thinking, and digesting of ideas and news before reacting to them.  This is, I believe, why the extremes of conservatism and liberalism have come to the forefront so fast.  We react to news or ideas as soon as we hear of them instead of having the time to think things through and figure out what the proper reaction would or should be.  The President is expected to react almost immediately when something happens on the other side of the world.  Gone are the days when our leaders, our thinkers, our writers and our philosophers could take time to think, to look at different sides, to listen to different ideas before setting up a policy to deal with whatever the event is.  This, I believe is the most dangerous war we, as citizens, are involved in.  This is the kind of war that can once again tear our country apart and replay those four terrible years of 150 years ago.  We need to back off, sit and think.  All of us need to do this, not just the leaders of our country.  As Americans, we are still seen as leaders of not only the free world, but of the world in general.  I see our grasp on that claim slowly slipping.  cool heads and thoughtful minds are call for in these turbulent fast moving times.  We all, the whole world, needs to put on the brakes just a little bit.

There are many other wars being fought in The United States today.  Too many for me to write about.  We need to find a way to deal with these situations that all of us face every day.  What President Lincoln said in Pennsylvania is a good start I think.

As Americans, we should never forget those ten sentences that President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg on that November day in 1863.  We should read them.  We should consider them.  We should make those words come alive as we live in this great country along side of each other.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. 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 should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Read it.  Consider it.  Think about the words and what they mean to all of us today, because these words do have meaning to us today.  These words sum up the history of The United States and the future of The United States.  No matter what philosophy each of us subscribe to, these words have a message for all of us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

RICHARD NIXON TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

This is a portion of President Richard Nixon's statement to the American people concerning his feelings about letting the country down through the Watergate scandal during the David Frost interview sessions.  I believe this tells more about the man, the honesty and sincerity of a man who was broken by outside forces beyond his control.  A man who cared for his friends and for people in general.  History has come around to being just a little bit more lenient to the Nixon Administration and I fell as time goes on, it will continue to do so.  He was a statesman.  He was an expert on foreign policy, which as most of you know I think that should be the President's main concern.  After what we have been through with President Clinton, who did commit perjury to a Federal Grand Jury, who did suborn perjury of witnesses, who did point his finger at the American people and lied to them as boldly as any man has ever done, who did think himself above the law and went through a Senate trial that partisanship allowed him to indeed be above the law, Richard Nixon, in this brief quote ending the Watergate section of the interviews, proves how much greater of a President he was then those that followed him, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.  Read with an open mind, and you will see a small window into Richard Nixon's soul, that he very seldom let people see.


In one of those moments that you're not thinking, sometimes you say the things that are really in your heart.
When you're thinking in advance and you say things that, you know, are tailored to the audience.
I had a lot of difficult meetings those last days before I resigned.
And the most difficult one, and the only one where I broke into tears.
Frankly, except for that very brief session with Ehrlichman up at Camp David, it was the first time I cried since Eisenhower died.
I met with all of my key supporters just a half hour before going on television.
For 25 minutes we all sat around the oval office: Men that I had come to congress with, democrats and republicans, about half and half, wonderful men.
And at the very end, after saying, "well, "thank you for all your support "during these tough years.
"Thank you particularly for what you have done "to help us end the draft, "bring home the P.O.W.s, "And have a chance for building a generation of peace"-- which I could see, the dream that I had possibly being shattered-- "and thank you for your friendship, little acts of friendship " you know, you sort of remember with a birthday card and the rest.
Then suddenly you haven't got much more to say, and half the people around the table were crying.
Les Aarons, Illinois, bless him.
He was just shaking, sobbing.
And I just can't stand seeing somebody else cry.
And that ended it for me.
And I just--well, I must say I sort of cracked up.
I started to cry, pushed my chair back.
And then I blurted it out.
And I said, "I'm sorry.
I just hope " well, when I said: "I just hope I haven't let you down," that said it all.
I had.
I let down my friends.
..
The country.
I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but will think it's all too corrupt and the rest.
Most of all, I let down an opportunity that I would have had for 2 1/2 more years to proceed on great projects and programs for building a lasting peace, which has been my dream, as you know from our first interview in 1968 before I had any-- thought I might even win that year.
I didn't tell you I didn't think I might win, but I wasn't sure.
Yep, I let the American people down, and I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life.
My political life is over.
I will never yet, and never again, have an opportunity to serve in any official position.
Maybe I can give a little advice from time to time.
And so I can only say that in answer to your question that while technically I did not commit a crime, an impeachable offense-- these are legalisms-- as far as the handling of this matter is concerned, it was so botched up; I made so many bad judgments.
The worst ones, mistakes of the heart rather than the head, as I pointed out.
But let me say, a man in that top job, he's got to have a heart, but his head must always rule his heart.  - President Richard M. Nixon

Sunday, November 10, 2013

EXPLANATION OF "RETIREMENT"

Just before I began writing this piece, I re-posted an entry from October of 2010 titled "Retirement".  The message of "Retirement" is one that takes us into the thinking of a person who feels they have lived their life to where it is supposed to end.  It takes us into the mind of a person who feels that there is nothing left for them to do in life and so life is without purpose and they retire from life.

The reason I posted "Retirement" again was to give me a point to start from in explaining to those of you who are interested who I see myself as being.  When I wrote "Retirement" I was not suicidal and had no plans in actually retiring from life myself.  The thought of being able to retire from life though visited my brain and my mind on almost a daily basis.  sometimes I am able to shake the feeling off while at other times that feeling of retiring from life sits and simmers in my mind changing form and direction and taking me away from what I would normally be thinking about.  There are times when I am watching a good baseball game or a historical documentary and suddenly I discover that I have missed the show and my mind had traveled to darker places than National Geographic could ever take it.  I miss out on a lot of life in this manner.  One of the reasons this blog exists  is to record events that I do remember once in a while because I know they won't be in my mind forever.  Another reason for writing here is to let people know me now and in the future after I am gone.

There are a few things I need to make clear before you read any further.  It is important to know that I do not expect anyone to have a clear understanding of what goes on in my mind.  I cannot understand what a couple of my friends have felt because they lost a child nor can I understand the pain they continue to carry inside of them years after losing that child.  I have never been in that situation and I hope I never am.  The pain must be unbearable to them.  I know the pain they feel is unbearable because they have told me.  they have tried to explain it to me, but there is absolutely no way I can begin to understand the pain they feel.  It is much the same with the feelings that go on in my mind.  I can try to explain it but will come up short and if you have not been where I am, there is no way you can understand what my mind feels like as it moves in and out of those dark places it wanders into almost on a daily basis.  I don't expect you to understand and it would be best if you didn't try.  you won't get there and if you did, you would wish you hadn't.

I am not looking for anything from anybody.  I am not looking for people to feel sorry for me or to pity me or to try to make changes in the way they relate to me.  What I am writing is just a part of me so that if I do appear strange to you or appear to be quiet and standoffish, you might take a second thought and not pass judgement on me too quickly.  I am not looking or asking for anything.  I am just putting down a record of who I am and how I feel as I work my way through life.

I think I must have been this way since I was born, but out of the natural feeling of surviving I ignored it and went on with life as I saw it around me.  I watched how people related to each other and I believe I tried to mimic that action.  I learned not to be the real me but rather put up a front that society would accept.  Walls went up around me and I only let people see the part of me that I thought they wanted to see.  I developed a fairly good wit and learned how to smile on the outside while on the inside I was feeling anything but the way people were seeing me.

There came a time several years ago when I was not able to hold it all in anymore.  Sitting at my desk eating lunch one day the main event happened.  I refer to it as the day my mind broke.  It was a major panic/anxiety attack that ripped my thinking apart from that day forward.  Never again would I feel like I really knew myself and I damn sure knew that nobody else knew me even if they thought they did since the day they met me or all the way back to 1956 when I entered this world.

From the day that my mind broke up to today  I became aware of the walls that I had built around me.  No one had been inside these walls my entire life.  There was a Bill that ventured outside the walls and the Bill that stayed hidden within the walls.  As each day goes by, I feel more uncomfortable every time I venture outside the walls.  I find myself trying to put on that facade that family and friends have come to know over the years with more difficulty as each day passes.  Perhaps it is because I am getting older and it is easier for me to tire of trying to keep that facade up.

Very few people recognize the fact that I am a fake when outside those tall dark moss covered walls.  I am aware that at times I feel myself slipping back behind the walls when out but quickly gather strength to put the fake Bill up again.  Nobody notices when I slip back inside.  It happens and I go back out again before they notice.  When I get home though, I am exhausted from being outside the walls and am grateful to get off by myself and crawl back into the darkness of the room that walls surround.

So what is it like inside the walls?  It is dark and it is lonely.  It is quiet and sometimes calm.  At the same time it can be a horrible scary place.  Thoughts of my past wash over me and remind me of all the mistakes I have made in life.  Mistakes in dealing with people.  Mistakes in acting proper in society.  Mistakes of losing my temper when I could not hold myself in check while outside the walls.  I had and still do have a terrible temper.  Sometimes when I lose track of keeping myself in check in public, it lashes out.  I have not only surprised but have also hurt a lot of people with my temper.  When I hurt someone when I lose my temper, there is no making it right.  There is no way to explain why I did whatever I did to hurt them.  After losing my temper and hurting myself during the day, I crawl back behind my walls at night and beat myself up for letting it happen.  I feel like I deserve to be hurt as payment for hurting them and I do my best to inflict pain on my mind within the walls that trap me.

Inside these walls my mind feels like it is under attack.  Thoughts that I do not want to have seem to always find their way to me.  Under what seems and feels like a constant hitting in my mind, I have found a few ways to try to control it.  Music is a huge tool that I use to quiet the noise in my head.  Music is magic almost.  Music can take some of my feelings and put a different spin on how I feel.  Some of the most depressing songs that I know are the songs that are able to bring quiet inside the walls.  I feel like these songs written by people such as John Lennon, Paul Simon, Warren Zevon and Bob Dylan fight back my own thoughts with their thoughts and things seem to balance out sometimes.

And so we come to "Retirement".  I am getting old.  I am getting tired.  I have been venturing outside my walls far too long putting that mask on so people will see the Bill they expect to see.  I focus on everything that is said so I don't get lost in what is going on in a situation with people where they might notice something is wrong.  I am just too tired at times.

There comes a time in life when it is time to lay down your tools, stop your labor and go into retirement.  That is what that piece is about.  Recognizing that the time has come and it is time to simply retire.  We retire when our labors are done.  We are retired when we have done what has been expected of us over the years and now it is done.  We retire when we finally finish the job that we have set out to do.

The man in "Retirement" has come to this realization.  He has done everything that he can do in life.  His life is no longer moving forward, but rather has leveled out.  He has nothing left to do in life and so he decides to retire.

As I sit inside my musky damp walls alone with my thoughts in the dark, my mind goes over my life.  It recalls to me what has been accomplished and what hasn't.  It tries to balance things that have been my life over the last 57 years in a meaningful way.  My mind has a dark spin to all of the events over all the years, especially the years since that day that my mind broke.

It tries to talk me into retirement.  Sometimes I feel like my dark mind is right in what it is telling me.  Sometimes it feels like it is time to retire even though deep down in my soul, I know it isn't.