DONALD TRUMP RACIST? STILL NOT THE PROBLEM

I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said, “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.

I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.

Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”

Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. He is just the enabler.  The Alt-Right was there all along, they have simply embraced President Trump.  The League of the South or people like them have been there all along and they too have embraced him. Fear bred hatred of people not like us, has been there all along, President Trump’s campaign message just allowed it to uncover the litter box.

Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own litter boxes (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

Blog Picture from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/unite-rally-virginia-sparks-counterprotests-state-emergency/story?id=49176243

More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings may be accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

Advertisements

RADIOACTIVE DUST

It was October 21, 1962.  I’m quite sure of the date.  The twelve-year-old me listened intently to the adults gathered around my Mother’s formal dining room table awaiting Sunday dinner.  That would-be lunch in more civilized circles.  Twelve-year-old Donnie was doing as I had been told repeatedly, “children are to be seen, not heard.”  Despite being a pre-teen, I was unsure of my standing and decided not to chance a thrashing with a “keen hickory” at the hands of my grandmother.

The news around the table was terrifying to the pre-teen me.  Nuclear weapons right down the road in Cuba.  Just ninety miles from the good old US of A.  An uncle, a member of the Navy reserves, was afraid he was going to be called up to help blockade the island that had become a bristling launching pad of fire and radioactive ruin.  A cousin, an army reservist and paratrooper, was afraid he would be making night time drops attempting to capture the nuclear sites.  Everyone at the table agreed they would rather be “dead than red.”  Everyone but me.  Me?  I wasn’t at all sure.

Despite my youth, I understood the Soviets and the United States hated each other even if the reasons behind the hatred escaped me.  My civics teacher had hammered the differences between the Soviet Communists and our democratic form of government but I just wasn’t sure about the “dead rather than red” thing.  I had a lot of living to do even if it was under the thumb of the goose stepping Red Army and I could see no good in circling the earth in a radioactive cloud.

The following Monday, after an “In Case of Nuclear Attack” drill, I kept watching the heavens hoping not to see a Bear Bomber with its red star dropping a bomb on Indian Land, South Carolina, population…not many.  I also prayed not to see the telltale contrail of a missile zeroing in on Indian Land School.  Just to be sure I kept my largest textbook nearby so I could protect myself if the bomb went off.

Once home I tentatively approached my father.  He was hard at rest working on a crossword puzzle after an eight-hour shift a Springs Mills.  Ernest didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned that the “Dogs of War” were nipping at our heels.

“Dad?”

“Yes, son,” looking over his reading glasses.

“I’m worried about this Cuba thing.  Do you think we ought to get a fallout shelter?”

“I tell you what.  Get the shovel and pick a place.  When you think you’ve dug deep enough call me and I’ll come see.  Right now, I need a four-letter word that means a dueling sword.”

I wish I felt as calm and collected as he appeared.  As I read about North Korean nukes and a President threatening “fire and fury”, I am sorely concerned.  In 1962 cooler heads prevailed.  Russian ships intent on breaking the barricade reversed course, nuclear weapons in Cuba were removed and I did not add my ashes to a mushroom shaped cloud.

I don’t know if we have those cooler heads.  The little Korean guy scares me.  I think he has “little man’s disease.”  Our own guy scares me and if you are waiting for me to say something about “small hands”, well, I just did.  I wish it was a sick dream and these two guys were not in charge of nuclear codes but the truth is they are and they are on a collision course with us in the middle.

Think I’ll watch “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”  Maybe Peter Sellers can give me perspective since my own president can’t.  Where is Slim Pickens when we need him?

For more of Don Miller’s writings and musings, including his latest release, Olivia, please follow his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Shared from Sally Edelstein, Envisioning The American Dream Immigration- RAISE Act or Race Act…You Decide — Envisioning The American Dream

Only In TrumpLand does Lady Liberty lament : “Give me your xenophobes, your angry, your middle masses yearning to be free of those damn foreigners….” Donald Trump has been busy recently taking up the case of oppressed white people first going after affirmative action and now keeping out those darn foreigners by supporting the RAISE […]

via Immigration- RAISE Act or Race Act…You Decide — Envisioning The American Dream

HERITAGE, HATE AND THE LIBERTY PLACE OBELISK

I’m not sure where I stand on the removal of monuments celebrating the “Lost Cause” mentality of the War for Southern Independence…well I guess I am sure. People have pontificated about the removal of monuments as being paramount to removing history itself. I doubt it. Jefferson Davis is still going to be the only president, ever, of the former Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, it’s most noted general and P. G. T. Beauregard, the commander of Confederate forces who first fired upon Fort Sumter, regardless of what monuments are removed. Southern history will remain, including Southern history contained within the pesky primary documents written prior to 1866. I view the dismantling of later memorials as removing the CELEBRATION of certain histories not removing the history itself. I view the Liberty Place obelisk, recently dismantled and removed from Iberville Street in New Orleans, as one of those monuments which should be hidden from sight…except for those who WISH to see it in a museum somewhere…and yes it should be treated with the respect it deserves.

We Southerners WILL continue to wage war defending our heritage, but the monument celebrating “The Battle of Liberty Place” had LITTLE to do with our late great, great grands attempting to stem the tide of a Federal invasion in 1861. Rather, the obelisk had everything to do with the memorialization of white supremacist attempting to disenfranchise one group and re-establish a government run by and for whites just before the end of Reconstruction. The original inscription, added by the City of New Orleans in 1932, leaves little confusion as to why the 1874 battle was fought. An all-white militia, made up of members of the Crescent City White League, fought a pitched battle against racially diverse metropolitan police for control of the city of New Orleans. The inscription stated, before being covered later, the battle was fought for the “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers” and that “the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” No confusion at all.

With the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction ended and Federal troops marched out of Southern states leaving the Redeemers to usher in constitutional changes reflecting their beliefs; disenfranchisement, Jim Crow and placing whites back on the top of the pyramidal pecking order. It was not only true in Louisiana but true in most, if not all, Southern states after President Hayes ended Reconstruction as part of a backroom political deal even modern Americans should be familiar with. This is a part of OUR Southern heritage and it too should not be erased…or ignored.

MY DIFFICULTY with monuments which praise of our Confederate forefathers, including the Battle Flag, has much to do with the other side of the coin. If we embrace our heritage, do we not have to recognize the other side of the argument? I read posts from many ardent supporters of Southern heritage espousing the “need for some people to just move on.” Isn’t “moving some people along”, while wrapping ourselves in the Confederate Battle Flag and lamenting the removal of memorials such as the obelisk, a bit hypocritical? Shouldn’t we just come out and say, “Our glorious heritage is MUCH more important than the pain YOUR forefathers experienced?” If we are going to own one side of the coin, do we not own the other?

For more of Don Miller’s writings please visit https://goo.gl/pL9bpP on Amazon.

IN PRAISE OF DIVERSITY

I thought I would avoid this question but I got the dreaded “When are you going to teach white history?” Why are some of “white” America so “butt hurt” over Black History Month? I have seen social memes and comments that have included “When is White America going to have a Month?” “Black History Month is Racist!” “Why do we have to have a Black History Month?” In a perfect world, YOU WOULDN’T. Nor would you have Women’s History Month, in March, a Native American Heritage Month, in November, a Hispanic Heritage Month beginning in the middle September or any of the others you can take the time to look up…including Irish-American Heritage Month in March. Unfortunately, we are not, nor have we been, living in a perfect world. To quote a former student, “We celebrate white history in all months which don’t begin with F.” Well, there are those two months teachers are NOT on vacation.

As a retired, high school history teacher I know history books are written from a decidedly European-American point of view…well…at least where I taught and if any of the research I have done is to be believed. Asians are mentioned about four times. Transcontinental Railroad, Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese involvement in World War Two and China goes communist and the Cold War. That makes five. Hispanic contributions, maybe a bit more. Spanish colonization, Mexican-American War, Imperialism, Pancho Villa, and then a jump to NAFTA and the question “Why are they taking our jobs?” Notice, these are all mostly decidedly negative when viewed from a European point of view. Native Americans are prominent but disappear after Wounded Knee unless you happen to bring them back up in the Sixties with the many social movements. Again, until recently, Custer’s Last Stand was viewed negatively by European America. Damn Redskins stepping on our Manifest Destiny and the only good Indian…! I digress.

I rarely taught Black history during Black History Month. I was wrong. I deluded myself into thinking I taught ALL HISTORY ALL YEAR LONG and didn’t need to focus on Black history. Then I began to assess what I had taught. I’m not happy. Kind of like ALL HISTORY CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK HISTORY MATTERS. Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois versus Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and maybe Malcomb X. There were others but most were only related to only two aspects of African-American lives and American history, slavery and Civil Rights. Decidedly important aspects but besides George Washington Carver and Langston Hughes there little about other contributions.

Black History Month should be viewed as an opportunity to spotlight contributions by African Americans. Musicians, artist, writers, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, business people, soldiers, etc. As a teen, I picked up one of my father’s books, Foxes of Harrow. It was written by Frank Yerby. I read all his books my father had and along the way picked up a few more. They featured historical fiction and a bit of…latent eroticism. Nothing graphic! As a young adult, I was looking for more of his books and found out he was bi-racial and from Georgia. Who knew and it didn’t matter. Just like celebrating Black History Month shouldn’t matter to those railing against it. It should be a positive educational experience.

Three of my last four years teaching were teaching “cultural” geography. I loved it. One, I had no end of school testing pressure and could go off on any tangent I desired go off on. I could be creative and allow creativity from my students. It became about cultural diversity. It also reminds me of a paragraph I wrote in a story about a former student. “Today I look at diversity as a smorgasbord of delights. I believe we should just focus on how diversely different people party. How can you be distrustful of people who produce such wonderful food? My life without Latin, Soul, Oriental and Cajun foods would not be life ending but life would not be as joyous, especially without a Belgian, Mexican, Jamaican or German beer or maybe some Tennessee whiskey to go with it and a Cuban cigar for afterwards. Someone might as well play some Blues, Reggae or a little Zydeco to help the atmosphere along. It is just as easy to focus on the positives about diversity as it is the negatives and again with knowledge comes understanding.”

I realize I am a social liberal and make no excuses. I believe the rights someone else is given doesn’t take my rights away from me despite what I might think, including the right to celebrate Black History Month…or Cinco De Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day for that matter. In fact, I have joined in. Who knows? This old dog might just learn a new trick or twenty.

Uniquely Southern, uniquely insightful, books by Don Miller can be bought or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

SHANTIES

This past spring, on a trip to the coast, my wife and I decided to forgo the speed and ease of interstate travel for the interest factor of backroad pig trails. Despite the black water rivers and swamps cutting the land, vast fields and pastures seemed to overtake the two-lane road. Where there were homes, yards were at a minimum…except where pecan tree lined drives led to two story homes featuring circular drives, wrap around porches and columns. Mostly of the homes peaking my interest were small, broken down and square, four room homes dating from share cropping days or possibly earlier. The shanties sat on small square parcels of land and would be surrounded by towering corn stalks, tobacco or cotton by late summer. Known for rice and indigo during our colonial period and cotton during antebellum times, I guess land was too precious to allow for large plots of land to be used for recreational purposes…especially when there was little time for recreation. “Early thirty to dark thirty” days would soon be upon the farm workers of this coastal city and the surrounding area just as it had been decades ago…or may be centuries.

As I drove through the land I imagined poor whites and poorer blacks inhabiting the old share cropper’s shanties, battling each other for a life as “casual” farm laborers, having given up on the pursuit of jobs in the city. An elderly black woman stepped out of one of the tar paper houses, its broken-down front porch resembling the sway back of an overused plow horse. She was dressed as her ancestors dressed, a brightly colored scarf wrapped around her head and a long-sleeved print dress above what appeared to be bare feet. As I breezed past I almost asked out loud, “I wonder what tales she could tell?” While the journey was interesting, I became somber and introspective.

Tar paper and graying, slab wood shacks occasionally dotted the landscape around my childhood home. There was an abandoned and overgrown shack next to my house used as a clubhouse of sorts by my best friends and me. The younger me never thought about what it or these other broken-down homes represented. Our clubhouse was just a place to discuss girls, sneak smokes and talk about whatever preteens talk about…until our parents found out. I didn’t understand share cropping, tenant farming or farming on the lien back then. People bound to the land living from harvest season to harvest season, praying to pay off their crop lien or having a large enough share to put a bit of money away for the future. Hoping to buy a small piece of heaven of their own.

A friend of color told me of an ancestor of his born into slavery. Working as a tenant farmer on the same expanse of land he had toiled on before his own day of jubilee. Scrimping and saving until he could buy his own parcel of land. Clearing the land with his four children and wife, milling his own lumber and building his own four room palace. I’m positive he felt it was a palace. Filling it with hope and joy, twelve kids worth, growing his own work force and I hope expanding his little piece of heaven. There must be a tribute of some sort, especially when one considers the road blocks thrown in front of former slaves. Perseverance, persistence and a lot of patience I would suggest paid off in the long run.

As I’ve written before, my grandparents began their married life as farmers on the lien but they had several safety nets; family, the textile mills and they were white. Their dream included sixty acres and putting a child through college. Maybe there is hope instead of sorrow and the American Dream still exists. Hard work may in fact pay off.

Uniquely Southern, uniquely insightful, books by Don Miller can be bought or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

TRANSITION OF POWER

This is the day that power is transferred from one President to another, something which has taken place since George Washington turned the keys to the office over to John Adams in 1797. Interestingly, inaugurations were held on March 4 during those days rather than January 20…well maybe not that interestingly. I pray that despite all the indications to the contrary, this too will be a peaceful transition of power.

The first election and inauguration I remember was in 1956 and I remember it well because of my grandmother’s interest and concern. My grandmother was a Republican and seemed to be quite worried that a mid-western Democrat might somehow steal the election from the incumbent Republican. With 2017 twenty-twenty hindsight, I wonder why she was a republican, living in the South in 1956. At the time, I didn’t understand what it meant to be a member of the party of Lincoln in the South, or on this day sixty-one years ago, the party of Eisenhower. With 2017 hindsight, I doubt Lincoln, Eisenhower or my grandmother would even recognize the Republican Party of today.

She had great regard for Dwight Eisenhower, a well-deserved regard I would guess. Most of the people had high regard for Eisenhower because he defeated Adlai Stevenson quite handily…twice, after having defeating the Nazis, once, during old WW II. The anomaly of course was a South that normally voted Democrat during those days and this year it did again. The only break in rank was Texas and Louisiana. South Carolina’s eight electoral votes went to Stevenson who captured seventy-three total electoral votes, most from the deep South. Eisenhower garnered four hundred and fifty-seven. That Mr. Trump is a landslide.

I have snatches of memories from those early years, one IS the Election of 1956. During those days, my little brother and I stayed with my grandparents at night because of my parent’s shift work at Springs. My grandmother’s bed in one corner of the bedroom, mine in the other and my little brother’s crib in between. On the opposite side of the room from our beds was a woodstove, allowed to die during the winter night and then resurrected in the morning. This night the old RCA radio had been added, pushed in next to my grandmother’s bed. This so my grandmother could keep up with the election results during the pre-computer days of hand counted ballots and a media that didn’t include internet or satellites.

The election process and its “the peaceful transition of power” were a big deal for my grandmother. She had participated in the very first election that allowed women to vote in 1922 and would continue to exercise her hard won right until she died in 1999.

I can’t help but wonder what she would think of “the peaceful transfer” in 2017. I have an idea she would be stoic…suffering in silence as she did when a Yankee, Roman Catholic, Democrat won in 1960. She was always big on being stoic…”it is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you a fool than to open it and remove all doubt” unless my brother or I screwed up, then she wasn’t too stoic and we would find ourselves doing the suffering, not her. My guess is she would have said “this too shall pass” which is the philosophy I shall take. I’m just not sure about keeping my mouth shut.

For more of Don Miller’s unique (odd? bizarre?) views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

HART’S ISLAND

The train headed north, making its way to New York where Allen Kell and the thousand prisoners captured at Sutherland’s Station would be processed into the hastily constructed Hart’s Island Prison Camp on Long Island, New York. Any relief the prisoners had over not being sent to Elmira soon turned to fear and despair. They were told they would head home as soon as the war ended and they took an oath of allegiance to “faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States thereunder.” Until their release occurred they were to consider themselves prisoners in every sense of the word. Anyone attempting to escape would be shot.

Within days, the population of the camp swelled to over three thousand, all contained within the confines of less than in five acres. There weren’t enough tents and Allen Kell was thankful to be crowded into a tent away from the camp’s sinks…not that it really mattered. The stench was discernable anytime the wind blew from the wrong direction.

The prisoners received the news of Lee’s surrender with mixed emotions on the morning of their third day on Hart’s. Disbelief, relief, anger and fear coursed through the detainees while the small contingent of guards used up a month’s worth of ammunition until their superiors ordered a halt to their celebrations. Little changed inside of the camp. Poor food, and little of it, boredom, the stench from the sinks and death followed them daily. No day past without burial details being formed under guard to take gray clad soldiers to their final resting places. Buried in mass, their unmarked graves were dug by ex-slaves, nothing to mark their passing or their extreme suffering.

A week later, Allen Kell awoke early with a sense of foreboding. Moving silently as not to disturb the rest of the prisoners sleeping fitfully in the overcrowded tent, Allen Kell stretched outside of the tent flap. As he did his eyes fell upon the flag flying at half-mast outside of the camp’s gate. “Some bigwig Yankee musta died,” he thought. Wandering over to the guards congregated outside of the fence, he stood at attention and waited.

“Whatcha’ want Reb?”

“Who died, must have been someone important?

“President Lincoln was assassinated last night by a yellow-bellied rebel coward. Shot in the back of the head in front of his wife.”

Allen Kell stood silently, dumbfounded and confused, attempting to sort out his feelings. His hesitancy might have saved his life.

“Word to the wise Reb. When its announced at roll call there better be no celebration if you know what’s good for you and your…kind.” He said “kind” as if he had bit down on a turd.

Allen Kell went straight back to his tent and broke the word.
Once again Dugan shot off his mouth, “Well ain’t today the grandest of days!”

“Dugan, you stupid Mick! I should have let you charge the Yanks at Sutherland’s Station. Those Yankee guards are as pissed off as any yellow jacket nest you’ve stepped in. They are just looking for an excuse to shoot us all. We need to get the word out. No one is to celebrate when it is announced unless you want to eat Yankee lead. Go pass the word.” As Dugan turned to go Allen Kell cautioned him, “Dugan, I don’t much care if the Yanks shoot you or not but if you cause the death of anyone else, I will choke the very life out of your black soul.”

Later in the morning the Commandant, Colonel Wessells, broke the word. There was no open rejoicing over Lincoln’s death. A few diehards, like Dugan, silently smiled believing Lincoln’s assassination gave the Confederacy hope but mostly there was fear and confusion. For several days the prisoners feared reprisals. Exercise was suspended until further notice and they were told any groups of three or more seen talking together might be fired upon.

***

Young Wyatt was sick. Too weak to get to the sinks, he had shit himself.

“Gawd, we got to get him to the hospital. The stench is awful.”

It was Dugan. The more Allen Kell was around Dugan the more he wished Dugan had resisted and gotten himself killed.

“As God as my witness Dugan, if you don’t quit yur bellyaching I’ll ….”

“I know, you’ll choke the life out of me…one of these days I might just want you to try.”

Allen Kell felt a touch. Weakly Wyatt pleaded, “Don’t fight! I got the bloody flux ain’t I Allen Kell?”

“No Wyatt, you just got a touch of the ‘quick step.’ We goin’ to get you to the hospital. They’ll treat you and you’ll be right as rain.” He hated himself for the lie. The surest way to die was a trip to the hospital. At least it was shady and airy…and away from the stench of the sinks. Maybe they had some laudanum to ease the cramps.

He and Dugan half carried, half drug Wyatt to the gate. Either one could have carried him by themselves had they too not been in such a weakened state. Allen Kell doubted Wyatt weighed more than one hundred pounds. The guards allowed them to pass and under guard escorted them to the hospital where they turned Wyatt over to the staff.

“Wyatt. You’ll be right as rain and back with us before you know it.”

Wyatt attempted to smile, knowing it was a lie. “Thanks for tryin’ Allen Kell. I want to ask a favor. My momma and my sister live in New Orleans. If you ever get down their way could you look ‘em up? Adele and Lucrecia Noel. They live off Magazine Street in the Irish Channel, all you need to do is ask around. Everybody knows Adele. If you do get down there, can you tell them I was brave?”

“Sure, Wyatt but it won’t be long you’ll be telling them yourself, okay. Just rest now and get stronger.”

He died three days later. One more piece of Allen Kell died with him.

***

A month later, they took the loyalty oath and within a week Allen Kell was headed toward home. Transportation passes and enough bacon and hardtack for a week, two if he was frugal. Four railroad changes to get to Pittsburg and then onto a barge being towed by a side-wheeler to New Orleans. His trip home would have to be delayed.

Until LEGACIES is published try more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

“GODSPEED JOHN GLENN”

I remember sitting in a second or third grade class, I know it was prior to 1958. The reason I know will become evident in a moment. We came into class and noticed something unusual…a television set was sitting in the front of the classroom. Most unusual. It was an unusual day, Mrs. Crenshaw or Mrs. Wilson explained that we were going to watch the United States launch its first rocket. This was during the days when the United States and the world had been caught with its “pants down” after the Soviets had launched Sputnik, the first satellite into outer space. I remember the oohing and aahing. Fire shot out of the rocket as it left the launching pad only to explode and crash in flames. It would be 1958 before the US successfully launched the Explorer satellite on top of a Vanguard rocket. The space race had begun and we were way behind.

In later years, I watched, always on the edge of my seat, as the Mercury astronauts attempted to get us back into the race riding what looked like trashcans launched from the top of Redstone rockets. One of those astronauts was of course John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth in 1962. An American hero to be who many of his superiors thought was too old for the job at forty.

John Glenn was the picture of an American hero, despite his thinning blond hair. Before becoming an astronaut and later the oldest man to fly into outer space as a seventy-seven-year-old payload specialist on the Discovery Space Shuttle, he was a Marine fighter pilot during World War Two, flying fifty-nine combat missions. He would fly jets during the Korean Conflict with future Hall of Fame baseball player, Boston’s Ted Williams, as his wingman. Glenn would record three kills in Korea and many citations including six Distinguished Flying Crosses. Glenn would fly a total of one hundred and twenty-nine combat missions over two wars. As a test pilot, he would become the first man to traverse the United States at supersonic speeds, Los Alamos, New Mexico to New York in a hair over three hours. Sandwiched in between his Mercury and space shuttle days, he had a successful tenure as Senator John Glenn. A true Renaissance Man.

Glenn just looked heroic whether it was in his Marine dress blues or the blue suit of a Senator. More importantly, he acted it. His television persona was of a quiet man who did not seem comfortable with his fame. Soft spoken he had the demeanor of a man who knew he was heroic but who had nothing to prove to anyone other than himself. Honest and straightforward, we need more men like John Glenn. We need more heroes like John Glenn…especially in this day and age.

At some point space exploration became humdrum. I remember watching Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon while I was standing at a crowded bar. It’s not that I thought it unimportant, I was at an age when girls were more important but at least I paused long enough to watch and cheer. After our quest for the moon was realized it seemed our interest waned with every successive trip to the moon. Even the Space Shuttle Program did nothing to renew our interest. It has waned so much we now must hitch rides to the International Space Station. I wonder what John Glenn thought about our hitching rides into space?

Age gets us all and John Glenn wasn’t going to get off our blue ball again alive. At least he got to see it in all its glory as we got to see him. “Godspeed John Glenn.”

For more of Don Miller’s musings, http://goo.gl/lomuQf will take you to his author’s page.

REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR

I was a decade away from even being a glimmer in my parent’s eyes when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941. I really have no true remembrances of the “Day Which Will Live in Infamy”. My remembrances come from listening to my father and his buddies talking, history books and movies.

My father, a single, twenty-six-year-old at the time, did what many patriotic young men did and with several friends headed to the Marine recruitment center to join up…only to find out he was 4F due to a birth defect he didn’t even know he had. Determined, he attempted to enlist in the Navy and Army but was turned down. Two years later, the now married twenty-eight-year old, would receive a postcard that began “Greetings, your friends and neighbors….” Drafting a married, twenty-eight-year old missing an entire row of ribs and vertebrae they attached to should tell you how dire the situation was in late 1943.

I remember sitting as a family in front of our black and white television on a Sunday evening, December 3, 1961. Walter Cronkite was the narrator of the CBS documentary program, The Twentieth Century. On this particular night, the Sunday prior to the fifteenth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, we sat as a family watching and listening. The episode was “The Man Who Spied on Pearl Harbor” and Cronkite’s distinctive voice narrated the black and white action scenes, some made as the attack occurred, most staged for propaganda use during the war itself, as we remembered Pearl Harbor…and as I remember that night in 1961.

Over the years my thirst for knowledge about Pearl Harbor and my father’s war has caused me to read, watch or listen to most every available program, book, movie or interview about Pearl Harbor and World War Two. Thankfully I had access to the History Channel when it actually aired programs about history rather than programing about Alaskan truck drivers or pawn shops. I continue to remember Pearl Harbor, the men who lived it, died during the attack, the ships that were sunk, some later resurrected…and my father who was thousands of miles away at the time.

I have never outgrown my love for World War Two movies seen repeatedly over again, especially those taking place in the Pacific Theater, the theater my father said he didn’t fight in. “Which wave did you go in on Daddy?” “Son, I was so far away from the fighting the nurses went in before we did.” His admission did not deter my interest…or my pride. My favorite movies were movies involving Pearl Harbor on the periphery. Not quite the center stage like “Tora, Tora, Tora.” Instead it was movies like “From Here to Eternity” or movies starring John Wayne, the John Ford classic “They Were Expendable” and my absolute favorite, Otto Preminger’s “In Harm’s Way.” My favorite line in a movie filled with them was uttered by Henry Fonda, portraying Admiral Chester Nimitz, “On the most exalted throne in the world, we are seated on nothing but our own arse.” Good words to remember. I’ve already checked today’s programing. If I want to watch any of my favorites, I’ll have to download them from something other than my TV.

I hope we continue to “Remember Pearl Harbor” and the generation characterized by Tom Brokaw as the “Greatest Generation”. We need to remember the sacrifices they made in our last righteous war before the concepts of good versus evil became so blurred during the Cold War. I watched a news story night before last on a one hundred and four-year-old Ray Chavez, the oldest known survivor of Pearl Harbor. He has worked for three years with a strength trainer to insure he would be strong enough to fly to Pearl this year. Ray Chavez boarded his plane this past Saturday and I could not help but cry. For him, for the ones we’ve lost and a bit for a father who wasn’t even there.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf