Tag Archives: john wayne

In Harm’s Way They Went…

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a busy day as we finished the major part of decorating our home for the Advent and Christmas seasons. I think that this year is the first year that we have everything ready before the first Sunday of Advent and that even means getting all the boxes that our decorations came in back up to the attic. When we finished we went out to our favorite local German restaurant, The Bier Garden over in Portsmouth.

Since we are coming up on the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and it seems that the United States may again become involved in a truly major and destructive war the likes that we have not seen since the Second World I decided to put on the classic film In Harm’s Way, directed by Otto Preminger and starring John Wayne and an all star cast. It is an unusual film because it deals with very fallible people who can be heroes and scoundrels who have miserable failings. It deals with families, strong ones and broken ones, and it also deals with a topic that is all too current, sexual harassment and rape.

Of course it is set during the Second World War and deals with the Navy in the Pacific during the early part of the war and though it is fictional it represents real battles around the Solomons. Those battles were often bloody. During the first engagement of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal a U.S. task force slugged it out at close range with a Japanese Force which had the mission of knocking out the Marine airbase on the island the Navy lost two cruisers and four destroyers and of thirteen ships engaged only one remained undamaged. To give an idea how brutal it was, both admirals embarked on the U.S. force were killed in the action.

The tag line for the movie is one that I really like because it kind of tells it like it is when a nation, not just a volunteer professional military goes to war: “In harm’s way they went. The men. The women. The lovers for a night. The lovers for keeps. The strong. The weak. They went, as they were…in Harm’sway.”

I have made two wartime deployments, one on a cruiser and one in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province. I have seen men and women, and families who have gone to war and come home, sometimes rather worse for the wear. I still have nightmares and night terrors from Iraq, but I have written about that before. PTSD is a bitch.

But anyway, as I ponder what is going on in our country and the world I realize that things are probably going to get much worse before they get better. I expect that many unsuspecting people will find themselves in harm’s way sooner rather than later, and like the Americans of 1941, complacent though the world was already at war, will come face to face with a rude awakening that will determine who we are and what we will be for at least a generation. The closing credits of the film are dramatic moving from waves braking upon a beach, to stormy seas, to the explosions of war culminating in the blast of a hydrogen bomb, before going back to a calm sea.

https://youtu.be/_OGVzjqoJ0Q

W.H. Auden wrote:

Defenceless under the night

Our world in stupor lies;

Yet, dotted everywhere,

Ironic points of light

Flash out wherever the Just

Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them

Of Eros and of dust,

Beleaguered by the same

Negation and despair,

Show an affirming flame.

Until,tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under film, History, Military, Political Commentary, world war two in the pacific

Padre Steve Remembers the Alamo

alamo

“I Messed With Texas and Now I Have a Rash” General Antonio López de Santa Anna

I remember the Alamo.  I have seen the movie, at least a couple of them and been to the Alamo. Needless to say the actual Alamo did not live up to the movie billing.

It was on this day in 1836 that the garrison of Texans defending the outpost across from te Burger King and Walgreens in downtown San Antonio was overwhelmed by the Mexican Army. Led by William Travis, James Bowie and his brother David, Fess Parker or John Wayne playing David (Davy) Crockett the other 133 Texians as the called themselves, outnumbered and outgunned by about one million Mexican troops finally succumbed to the inevitable after a 13 day siege. They were slaughtered but the cry “Remember the Alamo!” reverberates to this day.

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I always felt misled by the media about the Alamo. From my time watching Disney and John Wayne movies about the Alamo I assumed that the fortress was well out of town, preserved for the sake of posterity and surrounded by parking lots and souvenir stands. However that was not the case and I found out this bitter truth in the summer of 1983 while going through my Medical Service Corps Officer Basic Course at Fort Sam Houston.

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Those were the times of the heady Reagan military build up and my class had no room to stay on the base. We were billeted in amid the squalor of the Riverwalk Marriott Hotel in downtown San Antonio. Having to take a lowest bidder Bluebird school bus to and from the base every day was a difficult task for we newly commissioned officers however, we made do.

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One day I had to stay late to do some research and missed the Army bus. I had to take a city bus from the base to the hotel. However the bus did not drop me off at the hotel. It dropped me off in Centennial Square, near a large granite phallic symbol which I later learned is called a “Centopath” a now extinct life form from the late Neosporin era. As I got my bearings I noticed the Walgreens, the Burger King and the venerable Joske’s department store. But nestled among them was a small and less than impressive building. I thought to myself that “that looks like the Alamo.” However I immediately dismissed the thought because I knew from the movies and Disney TV shoes that I had seen that the Alamo was on the outskirts of town and surrounded by parking lots. I then thought, “what a stupid place to put a replica of the Alamo” and proceeded to my hotel.

alamo-cenotaph

When I got to my room I told my roommate, then 2nd Lieutenant Barry Mitchell, now a retired Lieutenant Colonel about my discovery of this “fake” Alamo. Barry looked at me like I had grown a third head. He knew that I was a history major. However, in my defense I studied Europe and Nazi Germany, choosing to learn my American history from the movies and the Bible like everyone else.

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As I looked at the expression on his face I realized that I had been had by the media. Barry said “that is the Alamo” and I replied “but the Alamo is out of town surrounded by parking lots…” Barry looked at me and told me that indeed that this was the real Alamo. It was humiliating.

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So the next weekend after I had drank too much at Dirty Nelly’s tavern on the Riverwalk I went and made pilgrimage to the Alamo. I was supervised on the tour by some women from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who had seen the battle in person and shepherded through the exhibits, maintaining a certain reverence for the site of this battle.

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Now since then I have been to the sites of many battles in the United States, Europe and Asia and never seen a site so unremarkable as the Alamo. The fault is not that of the building, or the brave men that died defending it, but by the callousness of the citizens of San Antonio who allowed the hallowed ground to be reduced to about a city block surrounded by crappy looking commercial structures and an horrible monument.

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Now the fact that the Mission building remains at all is because of these very long lived women that supervised my tour. Those brave women, who echoing the Isley Brother’s song “Fight the Powers that Be” fought the powers that be to preserve the site much as had Colonels Travis, Bowie and Crockett in 1836.

Fess Parker

Now admittedly the Alamo holds a special place in the hearts of all that love Texas, Fess Parker and John Wayne. I will also never forget to “Remember the Alamo” but not for the reasons of so many Texas patriots. I will remember it because it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

So my friends, Remember the Alamo!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Just for fun, movies, purely humorous

Travels and Tribulations: Padre Steve’s Thoughts on Airport Security and Shared Sacrifice

Your Papers Please…

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

it is going to be a busy couple of weeks. I will be on the road a lot and doing a lot more time going through airports than I like doing.  I will be heading off for my denominational clergy and chaplain conference tomorrow morning flying from Norfolk to Houston Texas. Then I will return to Norfolk next Monday and then go to Germany for a Military meeting the following Tuesday and return on the 28th. It will be the most I have flown in a two week period since I was with Marine Security Forces back in 2006.  I hate flying or at least going through crowded airports.

Now I am an old hand at air travel especially in the post-911 everybody is a potential hijacker world. I have been accosted in full uniform by TSA agent and nearly made to strip despite having orders and ID for my travel in uniform back during the Bush administration while people that were obvious foreign nationals passed right by me and through the screening process. I have been groped, scanned and nearly stripped and personally I think that we have gone overboard and that in the end that it is bad for the country and for civil liberties.

When I returned from Iraq I had to take off my boots and nearly miss my connecting flight because of the tight connection. You would think that the bureaucracy would have the sense to figure out that guys coming back from a combat zone should be treated with a little more care. Thankfully despite the hassle I made my flight and the people were nice. However the ridiculousness of hundreds of returning combat vets just back from the combat zone being told to remove their boots and belts on their return to the United States is not just ridiculous but humiliating.

I hate going through airports now. I don’t feel safe. Yes it is part of my PTSD as with the exception of the ballpark crowded places scare me to death and the “security screening” process does nothing to help. I know that I have bitched about this before and I have been criticized by pond scum “national security” fascists that have never even served a day in uniform who have told me that I need to realize that we are “at war and that terrorist want to kill us” and that we all have to “make sacrifices.” My personal feeling is that those that spout this stuff and advocate more “pre-emptive wars” need to blow it out their ass. Otto Von Bismarck who by the way was not pacifist said “Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.” 

I tell you what, those that spout that kind of crap piss me off to no end. When we actually resume the draft and something more than 0.5% of the country’s population actually bother to serve in the military and go to war then I will agree about all of us making sacrifices. Until then I think that all the talk about shared sacrifice is so much bullshit. The only people that have made the sacrifice are the military, those employed by the military and our families.

The real truth of the matter is that very little of this country is at war. It is not enough just to put a bumper sticker that you “support the troops” on your car or be able to quote some patriot bullshit out of a war movie. It actually means being connected and part of the war effort. It means paying taxes and volunteering to help the troops… wait even better join the military.

Back in the Vietnam Era the American film icon John Wayne went on Rowan’s and Martin’s “Laugh In.” In line that I will never forget Wayne walked on stage with a red white an blue flower in his hands. He began: “A Poem: The Sky: The sky is blue, the grass is green. Get off your butts and join the Marines.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp6_–RqzdM

We are not a nation that even acts like it is at war. We ignore the fact that Americans and our allies are fighting and dying in Afghanistan because we are more interested in our political party’s agenda or our personal economic bottom line.  Really, how many people even realized that a bunch of Americans were killed in Afghanistan during the past week or that the Taliban attacked supposedly secure areas in Kabul including the US,  Russian and German embassies as well as the Afghan Parliament building? Actually to read the news unless you follow MSNBC, CNN, NPR or perhaps BBC or Al Jazira you probably didn’t see it in the Drudge Report or other “conservative”media outlets. In fact it was’t mention by Drudge. I guess that it is not important then.

So tomorrow I will begin my travels and since I don’t do well in airport crowds after my time in Iraq and fond those places terrifying I will remember that any humiliations that I endure at the hands of the TSA are all for the war effort and to make everyone else feel better. At least I can have a beer at the sports bar in the airport for breakfast before I go through security. That will make me feel a bit better.

I hope that doesn’t sound too cynical but I have seen too much of war to listen to those that think that strip searches, genital fondling and scanners that show one in all of their naked glory do little for the actual security of the country.  It does make the average person feel better but it does little in the way of national security.  I mean really…

Think about it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under national security, PTSD, travel

A Weekend of Old Navy Movies: Mister Roberts, The Caine Mutiny and In Harm’s Way

Well I have the duty pager for the hospital this weekend so I have been hanging out at the Island Hermitage with my dog Molly watching classic Navy movies.

Friday night I watched the classic film Mister Roberts. Yesterday I watched In Harm’s Way and The Caine Mutiny.

All three films are fictional and because of that I find them great for understanding the complexity of Navy life and leadership.  Mister Roberts and the Caine Mutiny the films deal with the complexities of life and leadership on small and rather insignificant ships while In Harm’s Way deals with more senior officers and their lives. All three deal with subjects that are uncomfortable because they still exist not just in the Navy but throughout the military. Thus all three offer insights into toxic leaders, poor morale, discipline, mental illness, alcoholism and subjects such as sexual assault and suicide.

Mister Roberts stared Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon and William Powell. It is set on the USS Reluctant a Light Cargo Ship in the backwaters of the Pacific in the closing months of the Second World War. Released in 1955 the film was based on the 1946 novel of the same name by Thomas Heggen.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/323485/Mister-Roberts-Movie-Clip-Up-All-Night.html

Cagney plays a despotic former Merchant Marine Captain, LCDR Morton an officer of the type that the Navy did not want portrayed on film then, and still doesn’t today.  He is petty, self serving and rules as a tyrant in order to secure his promotion to Commander. His prize possession is a palm tree which was awarded to the ship for handling the most cargo which he believes will be his ticket to promotion. Lemon plays the ship’s Laundry and Morale Officer Ensign Frank Pulver who creatively finds ways of avoiding work. He is so successful that Captain Morton doesn’t know who he is despite having been on the ship 14 months. Pulver provides amusement and aggravation to Henry Fonda plays the ship’s Cargo Officer LTJG Doug Roberts. Roberts is liked by the crew and always in conflict with hs captain.  He is desperate to be transferred off the Reluctant and serve on a ship on the front lines. He fears that the war will pass him by and sends in letter after letter to get transferred to a fighting ship only to have Morton send them on without recommending approval.

Roberts is caught in the position of many young leaders where they are torn between their duty and their loyalty to their crew.  Eventually he  William Powell in his last film plays ship’s Medical Officer, the wise sage whose advice and counsel is invaluable to Roberts.  Eventually Roberts gets off the ship because the crew forges a request for transfer along with a forged recommendation from the Captain. When he leaves the ship the crew presents him with their “Medal” the “Order of the Palm.” He is transferred to a destroyer and is killed in action. His final letter to Ensign Pulver tells of his appreciation for the crew and comes along with a letter from a friend of Pulver’s on board the destroyer Roberts was transferred telling of Roberts being killed when the ship was hit by a kamikaze.

In the letter Roberts expresses that he finally understood the enemy faced by those in rear areas and all of those that cannot see why they matter or know their place in a war.  The challenge of leaders to understand “that the unseen enemy of this war is the boredom that eventually becomes a faith and, therefore, a terrible sort of suicide.”  He finally after having seen combat that those that he served with on the Reluctant “Right now I’m looking at something that’s hanging over my desk. A preposterous hunk of brass attached to the most bilious piece of ribbon I’ve ever seen. I’d rather have it than the Congressional Medal of Honor. It tells me what I’ll always be proudest of: That at a time in the world when courage counted most I lived among 62 brave men.” 

The Caine Mutiny adapted from the novel written by Herman Wouk deals with a another ship where leadership challenges abound. The Captain of the ship, LCDR Queeg played by Humphrey Bogart is plagued by doubt, fear and paranoia.  A Regular Navy Officer on with a wardroom of reservists he comes to the ship battered from two years in the Atlantic. He is also plagued by his Communications Officer, LT Tom Keefer played by Fred MacMurray who spends the time not writing a novel in spreading poison about his ship, the Navy and his commanding officers. Queeg begs for their support and understanding.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/413561/Caine-Mutiny-The-Movie-Clip-Like-A-Family.html

However Keefer is so successful at undermining Queeg that in the midst of a typhoon the Executive Officer, LT Steve Maryk played by Van Johnson takes command and relieves Queeg on the bridge supported by the Officer of the deck Ensign Willie Keith.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtqf0CCVUek

Maryk is tried and acquitted at court marital but his defense attorney, LT Barney Greenwald played by Jose Ferrer has to destroy Queeg on the witness stand to do it.  During the trial Keefer is called as a witness for the prosecution lies on the stand to avoid incriminating himself while damaging the case of his friend Maryk. At the end Greenwald confronts Kiefer at a party and provides the leadership lesson for a wardroom which abandoned their sick captain long before the mutiny occurred.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKeISsYKROI

[Greenwald staggers into the Caine crew’s party, inebriated] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: Well, well, well! The officers of the Caine in happy celebration! 

Lt. Steve Maryk: What are you, Barney, kind of tight? 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: Sure. I got a guilty conscience. I defended you, Steve, because I found the wrong man was on trial. 

[pours himself a glass of wine] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: So, I torpedoed Queeg for you. I had to torpedo him. And I feel sick about it. 

[drinks wine] 

Lt. Steve Maryk: Okay, Barney, take it easy. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: You know something… When I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you, Willie, were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh, no, we knew you couldn’t make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did! And a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn’t crack up like Queeg. 

Ensign Willie Keith: But no matter what, Captain Queeg endangered the ship and the lives of the men. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: He didn’t endanger anybody’s life, you did, all of you! You’re a fine bunch of officers. 

Lt. JG H. Paynter Jr.: You said yourself he cracked. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: I’m glad you brought that up, Mr. Paynter, because that’s a very pretty point. You know, I left out one detail in the court martial. It wouldn’t have helped our case any. 

[to Maryk] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: Tell me, Steve, after the Yellowstain business, Queeg came to you guys for help and you turned him down, didn’t you? 

Lt. Steve Maryk: [hesitant] Yes, we did. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: [to Paynter] You didn’t approve of his conduct as an officer. He wasn’t worthy of your loyalty. So you turned on him. You ragged him. You made up songs about him. If you’d given Queeg the loyalty he needed, do you suppose the whole issue would have come up in the typhoon? 

[to Maryk] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: You’re an honest man, Steve, I’m asking you. You think it would’ve been necessary for you to take over? 

Lt. Steve Maryk: [hesitant] It probably wouldn’t have been necessary. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: [muttering slightly] Yeah. 

Ensign Willie Keith: If that’s true, then we were guilty. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: Ah, you’re learning, Willie! You’re learning that you don’t work with a captain because you like the way he parts his hair. You work with him because he’s got the job or you’re no good! Well, the case is over. You’re all safe. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. 

[long pause; strides toward Keefer] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: And now we come to the man who should’ve stood trial. The Caine’s favorite author. The Shakespeare whose testimony nearly sunk us all. Tell ’em, Keefer! 

Lieutenant Tom Keefer: [stiff and overcome with guilt] No, you go ahead. You’re telling it better. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: You ought to read his testimony. He never even heard of Captain Queeg! 

Lt. Steve Maryk: Let’s forget it, Barney! 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: Queeg was sick, he couldn’t help himself. But you, you’re *real* healthy. Only you didn’t have one tenth the guts that he had. 

Lieutenant Tom Keefer: Except I never fooled myself, Mr. Greenwald. 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: I’m gonna drink a toast to you, Mr. Keefer. 

[pours wine in a glass] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: From the beginning you hated the Navy. And then you thought up this whole idea. And you managed to keep your skirts nice, and starched, and clean, even in the court martial. Steve Maryk will always be remembered as a mutineer. But you, you’ll publish your novel, you’ll make a million bucks, you’ll marry a big movie star, and for the rest of your life you’ll live with your conscience, if you have any. Now here’s to the *real* author of “The Caine Mutiny.” Here’s to you, Mr. Keefer. 

[splashes wine in Keefer’s face] 

Lt. Barney Greenwald: If you wanna do anything about it, I’ll be outside. I’m a lot drunker than you are, so it’ll be a fair fight. 

In Harm’s Way was filmed a decade after the Caine Mutiny and Mister Roberts. Starring John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Patricia Neal, Burgess Meredith and Tom Tryon it was a epic that was panned by critics as having a shallow plot. It involved the intersecting lives of a number of officers during the war with John Wayne playing Rear Admiral “Rock” Torrey. Although the plot is relatively shallow the film brings up several very serious subjects that are faced by leaders even today.  The topics of alcoholism, sexual assault and suicide are touched upon through the character played by Kirk Douglas, Captain Paul Eddington.  Eddington is plagued by alcoholism and a failed marriage that ended when his wife was killed while with an Army Air Corps Officer on the morning of the Peal Harbor attack.  Sentenced to a backwater assignment he is called to be Torrey’s Chief of Staff.  In that position he ends up raping a nurse played by Jill Howarth that happens to be the fiancee of Torrey’s son. She then commits suicide. When Eddington discovers that she is dead he sets off on a suicide mission to find the Japanese fleet.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/348030/In-Harm-s-Way-Movie-Clip-The-Navy-s-Never-Wrong.html

The questions raised in the film are not answered, there is no Barney Greenwald to point out the moral of the story.  John Wayne plays a flawed hero surrounded by characters of that are all in some way dealing with their own personal demons. However the questions are those that have been faced by military leaders for generations.  How does a leader deal with men and women in failing marriages? How does one deal with those that simply are advancing their own careers? How does a leader deal with key staff that are dealing with alcoholism? How does one prevent sexual assault in a combat area and prevent suicide?  The truth is that we still deal with all of these questions and none of us or any military in the world has solved any of them.  Perhaps Henry Fonda as Admiral Nimitz sums up the situation that we still face “Well, we all know the Navy’s never wrong. But in this case, it was a little weak on bein’ right.”

Taken as a whole the three films all are valuable for today’s naval leader as well as military leaders in general. The I do learn something new every time that I watch them and all challenge me to be a better leader.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under film, leadership, Military, movies, US Navy, world war two in the pacific

Elvis is still Dead and Michelle Bachmann wants to Wish Him a Happy Birthday…I can’t make this Up

Let’s all wish Elvis a Happy….uh maybe not

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTYg2Q-vDJ0

I can’t make up material like this I have a rather substantial article on the committee that is making proposals to gut the current military retirement system but want to take more time before I go final with it.  I have been been thinking about Elvis Presley’s death much of the day today. I remember how I found out that he died; it was on a car radio just outside of Stockton  California. I was with a number of kids from my church youth group with one of the kid’s father driving us out to an end of the summer youth group activity.

When the news broke over the radio, I think that we were listening to either KFRC fromSan Francisco or KJOY in Stockton, both of which were AM Top 40 stations and my friend’s dad pulled over to the side of the road and started crying.  It was strange to me as a 17 tear old to see an adult cry over the death of an entertainer but even though I knew Elvis was important I had no idea at the time just how important he was to those that grew up with him in the 1950s and early 1960s.  When I got home I found that my mom was distraught at his death.  In the years since then I have learned what they were feeling that day.

When you are young you often fail to understand the cultural impact of great musicians, especially the ones just before your generation.  Music plays to our soul and spirit and Elvis with his unique sound and style changed how we listened to music and watched musicians from that time forward.  He had a commanding stage presence that combined a boy next door innocence and hip shaking sexuality which drove his fans wild.

Elvis died at the beginning of a comeback. He had just released an album called Moody Blue and a couple of weeks before he died I won a copy pressed on blue vinyl at a different local radio station’s promotion of the album. I thought that it was amazing.  Unfortunately it disappeared during one of our military moves.

I am amazed when I listen to Elvis at the richness of his voice and the great variety of music that he performed.  When I see old videos of his performances I am equally amazed at his stage presence.

I was thinking about what to write when I read about Bachmann’s latest insertion of foot into mouth.  She played the song Promised Land and then exclaimed “Before we get started, let’s all say happy birthday to Elvis Presley today!” Since Elvis is still dead, unless like in Men in Black he just “went home” to wish him a “happy birthday” is in bad taste, it would be like wishing any other dead person a “happy birthday.”  It shows no class.  However to make matters worse she ignored a person in the audience that shouted “He died today!”  Instead she launched into her campaign talking point speech.  After the speech she corrected herself when talking to reporters and said “As far as we’re concerned, he’s still alive in our hearts.”

But this is just the latest in a series of attacks of foot in the mouth for Bachmann.  When she launched her campaign in June inWaterlooIowashe called it the home of “John Wayne” except it was not the film icon it was the serial killer, John Wayne Gacy.  Earlier in the year she stated that the battles of Lexington and Concord  were in  New Hampshire, but they happened in Massachusetts.  Instead of just admitting the mistake and going on she posted on Facebook “It was my mistake,Massachusetts is where they happened.New Hampshireis where they are still proud of it!” I guess that she doesn’t think that the people of Massachusetts are proud of it.

In January back in Iowa she discussed the issue of slavery and the founding documents of the nation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution saying that “the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Wrong, a whole bunch of them owned slaves and made sure that people had a right to own slaves in states that allowed them.

Bachmann must be gold for late night comics, personally in all of my years I cannot remember a front running candidate continue to do this and not pay for it in the polls.  If she was a Democrat these gaffes would be played and parodied on talk radio 24 hours a day. Limbaugh would make a mint off of her if she was a Democrat.

This is really a Bizarro World where a leading Presidential candidate wishes Elvis a happy birthday on the anniversary of his death….well at least he’s still alive in our hearts, right?

Anyway, despite Bachmann’s latest goof we pause to remember the King of Rock and Roll who passed away 34 years ago.  Elvis was great and he will be remembered as long as music is part of our lives. May he still rest in peace, but if he’s listening somewhere I hope that he is laughing his ass off because we can’t make this up.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, music, Political Commentary, purely humorous

Life’s Tough…It’s Tougher When You’re Stupid- The Peril of Misusing Principles, Attributes and Quotations Out of Context

sgt striker

I am cursed with having been born with a logical and analytical mind.  As such it is a cross that I bear.  This may sound pompous and even arrogant but unfortunately it is true.  I am confronted every day with people, some of who that I love and adore who use principles and attributes badly and make themselves look foolish.  Sometimes even bordering on being stupid. Often this involves personal hurts where because of something that was said or done a person makes a quantum leap intol illogical absurdity.  For example, “My boss yelled at me thus my career is over.”  That may or may not be true but it is not a foregone conclusion.  Likewise something like this: “My friend did not call me back, they  must hate me.”   What is worse for hurt people is when they find a quote taken out of context and use it in an illogical manner.  I had a dear friend do this the other day.  I cannot break any confidence but I basically told my friend that if someone was wrong in something they said about my friend that my friend should tell them to go to hell.  I also told my friend that if what the other person was true then that he needed to deal with it and make whatever corrections necessary.

I find that the use of principles and attributes as a lazy way for people to try to look intelligent. A person who uses them in such manner as a way to prove a point neither understand the principles or attributes of what they think that they understand.  If physicians or scientists approached life in that manner we would be in big trouble. Yet we see it all the time in religion, popular philosophy, pop-psychology, popular leadership and management programs.

My friend made a comment on a social networking website regarding assumptions.  It was a bad use of a bad quote, probably taken out of context, unless the person quoted was an idiot, which after reading stuff about him I believe that he is.  The quote was by Don Miguel Ruiz and said: “The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth”   There is a big problem with this.  Good Old Don Mike is an idiot.  Assumptions are how logical people begin the process of discovery through inductive and deductive reasoning.  The problem with Don Mike is that he assumes that people who assume use assumptions in ignorance.  You see Don Miguel is a “spiritual” teacher, and as a spiritual man of course he operates above logic. He lives in the world of unreality and illogic, however it looks like he makes good money doing it.  Guys like this are actually dangerous because they say things that sound neat, but are absolutely idiotic.  Now can we make bad assumptions about ourselves or others? Definitely.  Crap I do it all the time, however that does not lessen the value of making and acting on assumptions.   If the assumption is wrong, you re-assess and move forward.  If someone makes an assumption about you which is wrong you don’t throw out the value of making informed decisions based on evidence and from that evidence making assumptions about how to proceed in the future. This can be in personal, financial, career, spiritual or any other dimension of life.  We all make assumptions about ourselves and others and based on those assumptions live our lives.

Let’s take this quote about assumptions.  Every month that we work we assume that we will get paid.  It is part of the deal. We sign a contract or have a set pay scale and pay days.  In the military we get paid on the 1st and the 15th of the month.  I assume that when I read my pay advisement that that money will be in my bank account on the date the advisement says that it will.  I operate on the assumption that I will be paid.  If I am unemployed and have run out of unemployment benefits this may not be so.  I should make the assumption that unless I get a job that I will not be able to buy my dog Milk Bones.  True, Molly would not be happy about this but I would be a fool to assume that I will have money.  This may happen. I may get a job or someone may help me out but I do not assume this to be the case.

One of the worst ways I see this is with religious people.  Some of my fellow Christians for whatever reason believe that somehow God owes them.  This of course comes from the “name it claim it, grab it stab it, God owes me because” heresy of the prosperity preachers.  Unfortunately this crass, insipid and idiotic “theology” is not based on the assumption that God cares about them.  It is however the presumption that because I did something that God is contractually bound to do it.  It assumes wrongly that the Bible, believe a particular doctrine, give my money to the church or a ministry, or pray a certain way that God is obligated to do things the way that I want.   This is an error of presumption as well as a theological heresy.  It “cherry picks” scripture, something called “proof texting.”  This is simply lifting the part of scripture that we like from its historical, cultural and theological context and arbitrarily determine that it means what we want it to mean. God loves us and cares for us but does not owe anyone anything.  The Deity Herself assures me of this.  The way I see it is that God is no respecter of persons, even me.  Thus, I cannot presume on God.

Moving back to the topic of the misuse of principles and attributes by those who presume to be intelligent or spiritual:  Principles and attributes have to be understood in context in order to be used correctly. Context includes the meaning of the writer or the person quoted. The context matters if we are to correctly interpret principles of life made by any individual.  The Enlightenment Philosophers and Theologians called is the “situation in life, or Sitz im Leben. Things do not occur in a vacuum and how people arrive at their conclusions is as much a part of their environment and experience as the end product.

We see this in a number of ways.  I love reading amateur historians, political or military pundits do this with the great military thinkers. I particularly get a kick out of people who quote Sun Tzu or Clausewitz out of context to make some point.  I see this often.  You can go to any bookstore and pick up a book of quotes or principles derived from some philosopher, theologian, military, business or political leader.  They are usually entitled something like this: The Leadership Principles of __________. On occasion you might find a book of quotes, again usually out of context called ____________ Rules for Success in Life. Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill are two of the most quoted in this manner. People love to do this with quotes of Jesus taken from the Gospels, of course who would argue with God incarnate.  The problem is that the quotes are usually taken out of context and not congruent with the basics of the Christian faith.  Even Scripture is abused in this manner.  This is not assumption, it is presumption.

I remember a book entitled The Attributes of God which I read back in college.  The problem with the book, from a Christian perspective, and the author was a Christian; was not that it’s assumptions about certain characteristics or attributes of God was wrong, it was the fact that God was approached through attributes rather than from the Cross.  One does not know God simply through studying his attributes.  If you are a Christian you know God through Christ who you know through the Cross, not just sayings of Jesus taken out of context.  A person is not the sum of their attributes.

The same is true with those who quote various philosophers, theologians, political or military leaders out of context.  People love to do this with Sun Tzu and Clausewitz.  I have lost count of the books I have seen published in recent years that do this.  To understand Clausewitz one has to understand the Enlightenment, Classic German Liberalism including the Philosophy of Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard as well as the theology of theologians such as Scheilermacher.  Clausewitz properly understood is more than a political-military philosopher but a man who understands the human condition.  To reduce his work to cool quotes is to miss the point.  Since most people can’t spell or correctly pronounce “Scheilermacher” I am sure that they have not read him.  Same is true with Kant, Hegel and Kiekegaard. Without understanding this or Prussia’s defeat and and occupation by Napoleon’s Army and the subsequent recovery, one does not understand Clausewitz.  Clausewitz deals with the human condition as amuch as he deals with political and military philosophy.

Now of course I chose the historical, military and religious examples because that is my academic background.   However, to do this one uses all the facts that one has, analyzes them, evaluates them and uses deductive reasoning to determine the “truth” based on the facts on hand.  However we have to understand that we never have all the facts, and that even “facts” that we have might not withstand the test of time or further examination.  This is true in history and the sciences.   It also has some basis in faith, which is why I prefer the historic Anglican-Catholic triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason versus a Scripture alone or Scripture and Tradition basis for faith.  Will I always be right? No, but I will use my errors to discover truth and not be content to remain in them.  To plan we make assumptions about the future.  Those assumptions must be tested as the situation develops.  In Medicine physicians when diagnosing a condition make a differential diagnosis.  It is a manner of testing our assumptions based on the facts on hand.  The military uses a planning process in which assumptions are tested.  Assumptions based on the evidence that we have are essential to planning for the future.  Again this goes for personal matters as well.  To quote MCDP-5 Planning, the Marine Corps Planning Process:

the defining features of the planning challenge are uncertainty and time. More than anything else, considerations of time and uncertainty dictate our approach to planning. All planning is based on imperfect knowledge and involves assumptions about the future. All planning by definition is future-oriented, and the future by nature is uncertain. No matter how determined we are to be fully prepared for a situation, there are finite limits to our ability to plan for the future. The more certain the future is, the easier it is to plan.”

This is not easy, but making assumptions and planning for an uncertain future is far better than quoting people out of context to make it look like we have things figured out when we have never seriously studied them.  As Sergeant Striker (John Wayne) said in the Sands of Iwo Jima: “Life’s tough, it’s tougher when you’re stupid.”   Living life based on unstudied principles and attempting to determine the nature of someone by their attributes is not logical or rational.  We have to be careful.  This may not seem to be too spiritual but as Jesus said “Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”  Or as a Trekkie might say: Be as crafty as a Romulan but peaceful as a Vulcan.

Peace,

Steve+

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