Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hey, hey, LBJ ... how many kids ...

Whenever the exigencies of the military/police/security/surveillance state are accorded greater importance, and greater legal protection, than the rights of the people, I believe the groundwork is laid for tyranny. It means that "State interests" are superior to individual rights in the US.

The justification for that? War.  Always war.  New wars, and a continuous state of fear.

That is the very nature of every totalitarian state that ever existed.

It's made possible only by a state of perpetual warfare. 


And it wasn't a defensive war that turned Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Syria into ISIS strongholds. 

The people of these countries aren't nomads ... they are people who have occupied those lands for generations; since long before the United States existed.  And they are resisting US-led attempts to occupy, subjugate, control and exploit their countries.

They aren't going to permit it.

And they should NOT.  When I was just a kid, like 12, that would've been 1969, we lived deep in the mountains of the western Appalachians, North Carolina ... we had no TV, and I read everything I could get my hands on.  Which made me one obnoxious little shit because it was easy to find fault with many of the things the adults were saying about Vietnam.

Even as a 12-year-old child, living way back in the mountains, I could not believe that there was any way that the Viet Cong could be defeated on their own turf.  I said so ... of course, I was told I didn't know what I was talking about.

Except, apparently, I did.

Those people who are fighting western imperialism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia ... they cannot be defeated, unless they lose the will to fight.

Ho Chi Mihn and General Giap said so ... and they certainly weren't wrong.

They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the Insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity but cultural, tribal, and land-based, too.
___
Lydia Wilson, an Oxford researcher
http://www.thenation.com/article/what-i-discovered-from-interviewing-isis-prisoners/

A world-class project: The Aizaha Suspension Bridge

Exactly four years ago (March 31, 2012), the Aizhai suspension bridge (photos below) opened to vehicle traffic in Hunan province, central China.

The total construction cost of the Aizhai Bridge was $610 million.

The United States of America has paid an average of $10.2 million every single goddamn hour since 2001 to maintain a military occupation of Afghanistan.

So the Aizhai Bridge costs approximately what the US spends to occupy Afghanistan for 58 hours.  Less than 2 and a half days!

Two lousy days.

Or, put it another way:  for the $800 billion that has been spent to occupy Afghanistan, the US could have completed 1,311 Aizhai Bridges (100 every year since the war began), or projects on a commensurate scale.  Every US state could have had 26 such projects; and the jobs that go with them.

Wars do not inspire young men and women to do and build great things. That's a myth. Wars are not strengthening and enriching Americans today.  They are weakening the nation – diminishing the nation.

Americans have a serious problem with their value system.

Don't waste your time arguing with me ... do something to fix your broken country!


The Aizhai BridgeInline image 1
Inline image 2



Inline image 5

Inline image 6

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tony Grant; just some random guy I met


Anthony "Tony" Grant
1948 - 2015

I knew this guy.  I met him years ago.  He died in December.

http://www.inmemoriam.ca/view-announcement-532797-anthony-grant.html


Tony was 101st Airborne and served two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Tony was reclusive.  He almost never left his home in St. Antoine, New Brunswick which is 15 kilometres from where I live.  He had a sound studio in his house and worked there (he was a musician).  I met him when, on a few occasions, he drove his wife and picked her up after work.  She works as a librarian in the Moncton Public Library which occupies the first two floors of the building I work in.  I met him when he was parked waiting for her to get off work, and the only time I ever talked to him was when he was in his car, waiting on his wife.  Our conversations always took place through a car window.

Tony told me that he came to Canada after he was visited by US government officials with warnings that he was not to tell certain things he witnessed in Vietnam.  He said he fled the US because he feared "they" were going to kill him.  Yeh, the mysterious unnamed "they."  I know very well what that means.  Tony was delusional, right?

But I also know that it was no delusion of my own when I received photos of my farm, and my Polled Hereford breeding cattle with the cryptic note, "It would be a shame if they turned up dead, or your barn was burned, because of your political opinions."    Or when those same veiled threats were made against my wife and daughter (who was only 12).

Yes, Tony might've been totally delusional about the whole thing; he might have been telling the truth; I'll never know ... but I know HE believed it, whether true or not.  And if he was suffering from mental problems, the war did that to him.

I think that perverted immoral war made mental cripples of a lot of good men.  Like Tony Grant.

I'm surprised they all don't do what I fear I would in the same circumstances.

Rest in Piece, Tony ... I am very, very sorry that I didn't try to be a better friend. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

An Example of Moral Courage: Ron Ridenhour (1946-1998)

Ron Ridenhour's press card

While serving in Vietnam, as an infantryman and helicopter gunner, 22-year-old SP5 Ron Ridenhour heard of the 1968 My Lai massacre from friends. While still on active duty, he gathered eyewitness and participant accounts from other soldiers. On his return to the United States, Ridenhour sent letters to 30 members of Congress and to Pentagon officials. The Pentagon didn't respond until Ridenhour's own Congressman, Mo Udall (D-Arizona), asked the House Armed Services Committee to call on the Pentagon to conduct an investigation. The Pentagon did so, but later denied that they did so at the urging of Congress, instead claiming that they acted independently and honorably. They didn't. Had it not been for Ron Ridenhour you would never have heard of My Lai. That Pentagon probe led to several indictments against those involved in the massacre, and to the conviction of Second Lieutenant William Calley. 

Ron Rindenhour's account of learning about the massacre can be found in the article, "Jesus Was a Gook", published in Nobody Gets Off the Bus: The Viet Nam Generation Big Book. You can read that online here

What did Ron Ridenhour do that was so courageous? He refused to accept murder as "one of those things" (words used by his good devout Christian friend who was a participant in the massacre). He refused to describe murdered children as "unfortunate collateral damage." He refused to let his government determine right and wrong for him. All morality – his morality; my morality; yours – is individual; it isn't determined by the State or by the Church. 

Ron Ridenhour stood on his own principles, and he refused to compromise them. Does that take courage? I'm here to tell you that it does. But not exceptional courage; not at all. Just the type of courage we all should display in our day-to-day lives, just commonplace courage ... the type of courage that is rarely seen in our society, almost never rewarded, and often punished. Why is one of America's most divisive (and moral) issues, torture, really about the concealment of the truth? No one wants to debate the question of torture; they want to protect those who would hide the truth about that torture from the world. Like there were those who thought Ron Ridenhour was a traitor for revealing the truth about the My Lai Massacre. Is that what we're about as a people? Hiding the truth and hiding from the truth? Is the truth about ourselves that bad, really? If it is, shouldn't we change what we're doing? 

Ron Ridenhour displayed a type of courage that every one of us can exhibit, and every day. 

Ridenhour, a 1972 graduate of Claremont Men's College, went on to become an investigative journalist, winning a George Polk Award in 1987 for his expose of a tax scandal in New Orleans, based on a year-long investigation. 

Ron Ridenhour died of a heart attack while playing handball in 1998, aged 52, in Metairie, Louisiana. 

Ridenhour was the inspiration for the Ron Ridenhour Prizes which "foster the spirit of courage and truth" in journalism. 

Jane Mayer, herself a 2009 Ron Ridenhour Prize winner, of the New Yorker magazine (who won the Ridenhour for her book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals) said of Ridenhour: "one of his contentions was always that there was authorized slaughter there. It was not just Lt. William Calley who was going on a berserk spree on his own. And so I think that it's kind of fitting that the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] report comes out which shows, again, the point that I was trying to make in The Dark Side, which is: This was not just an isolated episode of bad behavior, it was not just the people at the bottom of the barrel, as Donald Rumsfeld called them." 



Some people – most, it seems – will, under some circumstances, do anything someone in authority tells them to ... Government institutions, like most humans, have a reflexive reaction to the exposure of internal corruption and wrongdoing: No matter how transparent the effort, their first response is to lie, conceal and cover up. Also like human beings, once an institution has embraced a particular lie in support of a particular coverup, it will forever proclaim its innocence.

– Ron Ridenhour, Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1993

Saturday, March 19, 2016

An Example of Moral Courage: Hugh Thompson (1943–2006)

WO1 Hugh Thompson, Jr.

The My Lai Massacre was a mass murder conducted by a company level unit of the U.S. Army in the Son My village in the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. Between 347 (which was official count of the U.S. Dept of Defense) and 504 people (the number of names on the monument erected at the site) were killed. All of the victims were civilians and a majority of them were women, children (including babies), and elderly people. 

Hugh C. Thompson was a Chief Warrant Officer from Decatur, Georgia; he was the pilot of an OH-23 observation helicopter that day, flying reconnaissance over the My Lai 4 hamlet. In the tiny chopper with him was Spec 4 Lawrence M. Colburn and Spec 4 Glenn U. Andreotta (KIA 8 April 1968). They had already marked injured Vietnamese civilians with green smoke in order to bring medical assistance to them only to return to find those civilians had been killed. After flying over a deep drainage ditch and seeing that it was full of people, mostly women and children, and that some were still alive, they knew something was terribly wrong. 

Thompson put his chopper down between a group of American soldiers who were preparing to fire on a group of 11 Vietnamese (women, old men, and children) who were huddled in a bunker for safety. Before getting out of the helicopter, Thompson told Larry Colburn, his door gunner, to cover the GIs and if they tried to harm the villagers, to shoot them. He said, "Y'all cover me! If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!" Colburn promised. He was behind a door-mounted M60 7.62mm machine gun. 

Colburn later said that he wasn't sure he would've followed Thompson's order to fire on the American soldiers if they'd tried to shoot the Vietnamese. He said, "I wasn't pointing my gun right at them, but more or less toward the ground. But I was looking their way." 

Thompson then called for two (UH-1) helicopter gunships to land and pick up the civilians. While waiting for the gunships to arrive, he stood between the American soldiers and the group of civilians. 

Coburn later said, "[Thompson] stood between our troops and the bunker. He was shielding the people with his body." 

By the end of his tour of duty, Thompson had been hit eight times by enemy fire and lost five helicopters in combat. He left Vietnam after a combat crash broke his back, and was awarded both a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His bravest act of all, though, was the one he took alone

It's not always easy to know the right thing to do, and to have the intestinal fortitude to do it. The right thing to do isn't always the thing that benefits us the most, or the thing our peers or family thinks is the proper thing to do, or what the church or the military tells us to do. The difficult choices are always those we must make alone. Not because they are safe, easy choices, or popular choices, or socially approved choices, but because they are right. 

How many people participated in the My Lai killings? Twenty-six U.S. soldiers were charged with criminal offenses for their actions at My Lai. Only one was convicted. Many more witnessed or knew about the murders; none tried to stop them. It took the soldiers an entire morning to kill 350 to 500 civilians with M-16 rifles, bayonets and grenades. A few of them expressed regrets years afterward, and sought to ease their consciences. Most though, didn't have what it took to stand up when it mattered, and say "No, I will not do this." Hugh Thompson and Larry Colburn and Glenn Andreotta stood alone that day. Everyone else either didn't know that what they were doing was wrong; or they thought that they were supposed to follow orders even if they knew those orders were wrong. In other words, they chose not to care about the difference in right and wrong; for them, that was someone else's decision. 

Hugh Thompson and his crew of two stood alone. And that's not easy. A hero is a person who stands tall when everyone else around him/her crawls. 

Friends, when you let someone else decide morality for you; you are acting immorally. All morality -- Hugh Thompson's morality; my morality; yours -- is individual; it isn't determined by the State or by the Church or by the U.S. Army or Marine Corps. 

It took three decades (until 1996) before the Army recognized Hugh Thompson's courage. He, along with SP4 Lawrence Colburn and SP4 Glenn Andreotta, was awarded the Soldier's Medal (the highest award the Army can give for valor not under enemy fire). Thompson refused to accept the medal when he was told the U.S. Army wanted to award it to him secretly. He insisted that the award be made publicly to him and to his crew. The citation said the three crewmen landed "in the line of fire between American ground troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians to prevent their murder." 

For thirty years, Thompson was treated like a traitor, suffering snubs from fellow servicemen who refused to speak with him, and he received death threats as well. He was even verbally maligned by a U.S. Congressman. Through it all, he stood by his actions in the hamlet of My Lai 4. 

In 2004, Hugh Thompson told The Associated Press, "Don't do the right thing looking for a reward, because it might not come." 

Hugh Thompson died in a Veterans Affairs hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana on January 6, 2006 at the age of 62. Larry Colburn, who had flown from Atlanta, Georgia to be with him, was at his bedside. 



Hugh Thompson, on the right, and Lawrence Colburn, his helicopter door-gunner
My Lai village, 16 March 1998

Lawrence (Larry) Manley Colburn,  the last surviving member of a U.S. Army crew that ended the My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968, was diagnosed with cancer in late September 2016 and died Tuesday, December 13, 2016.  He was 67.

Monday, March 14, 2016

America: why don't you just carpet-bomb Syria?

I'm always surprised when I hear people say that the war against ISIS can be won, if only it is fought with more vigor.  Expanded.  Prolonged.  Intensified.
It won't happen.

Friends, I'm here to tell you ... an enormous amount of resources (and time ... 15 years so far) have been devoted to America's wars.  And the US is far further now, from victory, than they were when they launched this series of wars.  A series of wars that (it is hoped) will last forever.  There is no light at the end of this tunnel.  There was never intended to be.  There's no bottom to this pit. 

Consider that more than eighty nations are now at war with ISIS, and there are virtually no restrictions on who they target or what weapons they choose to use.   In Syria, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's a "kill on sight" policy. No matter who is killed; no matter what is destroyed; it is simply called "the target," and no one is ever supposed to question the reason for the death or the destruction.  Kill them all; let God sort out the corpses.

But the ability to kill on sight is not "victory."  Victory in this war is simply impossible. No amount of bombs will defeat this enemy. Remember that the US had complete air and ground superiority of force in Vietnam. That did not guarantee an American victory in that war ... it totally failed to demoralize the enemy, or destroy his willingness to fight.  And the unconquerable American military proved absolutely no match for a bunch of guerrilla warriors fighting with grenades and small arms.

Most people have no idea how hard the US tried to defeat the Viet Mihn ... the US dropped an absolutely insane amount of bombs on Cambodia and Vietnam, triple the tonnage dropped in all theaters in World War II.  (source)

Americans pursued mass murder with a psychopathic intensity in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  They sent two millions soldiers over there.  They carpet-bombed the countryside, sparing no old man, woman or child.  They killed over a million people. Yet, the more they bombed, the more they lost.  With every bomb dropped; with every village burned, the US was steadily losing ground in that war for years.  For years.

As in this one.

The leading candidate for the GOP nomination for the US Presidential election to be held this November makes appeals to American isolationists by promising to refrain from foreign adventurism and then announces that another 20,000 to 30,000 troops will be needed to "knock out ISIS ... knock them out fast and then we have to get back home."

What American really believes the myth of the quick and easy war?  America's current wars have lasted, now, for almost 15 years.  They'll last at least another 15.

And, one day, the US defeat will be unarguable. Just like Vietnam.


Saigon, 1966


Saturday, March 12, 2016

An Example of Moral Courage: Franklin McCain (1942-2014)

Franklin McCain was one of four young black college students who sparked nonviolent sit-in protests across America's Deep South in the 1960's.  McCain died in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 9, 2014. He was 73.

I am 58 years old. I grew up in the Deep South in the 1960's. I know very well that I am not supposed to feel the way I do about Franklin McCain.  Franklin McCain is a personal hero of mine, and was I believe, a man of tremendous courage.

Twelve years ago (it was "post-9/11", as much as I hate to use that term), I was in a small barbecue restaurant in my home-town waiting for a take-out order (a pound of of pulled pork, a dozen fresh buns, and my choice of sides). I was surprised to see a middle-aged black man sitting alone at a center table eating a pork bbq sandwich. I was surprised because you rarely see black people in that town who aren't in cars and passing through town quickly. This guy was simply a truck driver who stopped on his way down U.S. 231 to grab a bite to eat.

He was facing the front of the restaurant, away from the group of local guys were sitting at a corner table in the back. They were telling "n*gger jokes" in a loud voice so that he could hear everything they said. He just ignored them and kept eating. I was pretending not to see what was going on, but I was keenly aware of what was happening. One of them "ol' boys" announced loudly that he was "gonna see if that n* needs help finding his way out of town," and he got up and went to the man's table. He stood across the table from the man, right in his field of vision, and said something to the effect of "You must be lost, boy."

I can remember how I felt. I felt something was about to happen, and I didn't intend to be involved; but I also didn't intend to leave; I was going to stay and watch everything, and offer to act as a witness. That was it. I wasn't going to involve myself. I had to live in that town. Besides, it wasn't my fight.

My help wasn't necessary. The truck driver finished his meal, and without saying a word to anyone or looking his antagonists in the eye, he got up calmly, and he walked out. He never showed any sign of emotion; not anger, certainly not fear.

The 2010 census revealed that town to be 98.3% white when I lived there a figure I think is underestimated. That would mean there are 120 people in the town who were non-white. If there were, I never saw 'em. And if there's a whiter place on earth, I ain't been there. If asked, I'm sure 9 out of 10 people in that town would've agreed that that black man had a right to sit down and have a meal in that restaurant. But I would also bet, not one of those people would've lifted a finger to help him. It wasn't their fight.

I can tell you this, though ... I witnessed cowardice in bullying that day. And I witnessed a man who would not be bullied.

I witnessed an extraordinary act of courage that day. Extraordinary? Absolutely. It was an act that was beyond the ordinary; exceptional; unusual.

I'm 58 years old. I can tell you this, in my lifetime, I have known very few men that I believe would even dream of doing something that took that much courage. That man put his safety at risk for a principle. He had nothing, absolutely nothing, to gain. He risked paying a big price simply to preserve his dignity. I can do that! (or can I?) Most people I have known in my life, when the chips were down, folded instantly on matters of principle. Not their fight. They've got to live in their towns.

I believe that truck driver, perhaps without even realizing it, emulated the acts of others who have calmly, and peacefully, exercised their rights and asserted their dignity, damn the consequences.

56 years ago, on February 1, 1960, a man named Franklin McCain did the same courageous thing. He sat down a coffee counter at a Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina. He and three friends (all students from an all-black agricultural trade school) sat at a counter in a Woolworth five-and-dime and asked to be served like any other patrons. And those four young men unintentionally started the famous Greensboro sit-ins.  Within two weeks, their sit-in had spread to fifteen cities in five Southern states.  By the year's end, 50,000 people had participated in demonstrations in 100 cities, and 3,600 of them had been put in jail.

The story of Franklin McCain's extraordinary act of courage was best told by the Charlotte Observer on the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins, and I reproduce that article below. I would only add this, Franklin McCain fought again as an Air Force officer during the Vietnam War later in the late 1960's. He later said, "This is my country. I not only fought for it, I fought for the chance to make it right. No one's going to deny me the opportunity."

And I witnessed an exhibition of extraordinary courage by a man who emulated Franklin McCain's historic example. I'm wiser, richer, and stronger as a result of the actions of a man I never met; and never will.

Because he sat down, everything changed

By David Perlmutt
The Charlotte Observer
, Monday, Feb. 01, 2010
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/local/story/1217514.htm

Fifty years later, the event that made Charlotte's Franklin McCain an historical figure continues to define his life. Nothing's compared since.

"Not even close," McCain said last week. "Not even the birth of my first son. I told him that, too."

On Feb. 1, 1960, a Monday like today, McCain and three other freshmen at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro, walked a mile from campus to the F.W. Woolworth five-and-dime on North Elm Street, to make a statement against segregation. They purchased a few items - McCain bought toothpaste and a composition book - and asked for receipts. Then they found the "whites-only" lunch counter and simply sat down.

First McCain and Joseph McNeil, then Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan) and the late David Richmond.

They ordered coffee.

Today, McCain will return to that five-and-dime to take part in the opening dedication of the long-awaited International Civil Rights Center & Museum, following a weekend of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro Four's history-altering protests.

All four had arrived at the Greensboro campus of like mind, angry "at the system," said McCain, 69.

"It had betrayed me," McCain said. "My parents and grandparents told me if you believe in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution; if you adopt the Ten Commandments as a code of ethics; if you go to school and work hard and do things for other people - quite often without them knowing it - if you did all those things, you'd have a good chance at success.

"The system still betrayed us. I considered myself as part of the big lie. All four of us did."

McCain and Richmond, who died in 1990 of cancer, were roommates in Scott Hall; Khazan and McNeil lived down the hall. That semester they had three classes together and met nightly to study and talk about injustices.

"The more we talked, the more we felt we were living out the lie," McCain said. "The only thing we'd done is dissected a system, criticized it and our parents and other folk who tried to nurture us.

"We didn't like that feeling."

A plan to 'make a statement'

So the night before, the four decided to sit down at the Woolworth's lunch counter. Back then, F.W. Woolworth had stores around the country and overseas - big enough to bring their protest visibility.

"We were trying to make as big a statement as we could," McCain said. "We wanted to exploit a racial dichotomy in terms of service."

They met at the A&T library after classes the next day to go into town.

They'd show no violence.

The four entered the store about 3:20 p.m. They made their purchases and then took four seats at the near-empty lunch counter.

A white waitress walked by and said nothing. On her way back, they asked for service.

"I can't serve you," she said.

"We've not only made purchases and have the receipts to prove it, we've already been served," McCain said.

"We just don't serve colored people here," she said.

A black woman who cleared the counter told the boys to order at the stand-up counter downstairs. "She treated us like we were the ones creating problems," McCain said.

The manager, Curly Harris, appeared. What do you want?

"We just want to be served," they told him.

"We can't," he said. "It's the custom."

The four tried to reason. Soon a police officer appeared, and began pacing the aisle, slapping his hand with a nightstick. "I was preparing to pick up my brains from the floor," McCain said.

The students went unserved, but didn't budge. The only other lunch patron, an elderly white woman, got up to leave. As she passed, she stopped and placed her right hand on McCain's shoulder and left on McNeil's.

"I was convinced we were going to get an earful," McCain said. "But then she said: 'Boys I am so proud of you. I only wish you'd done this 10 years ago.'

"That taught me never to stereotype anybody."

They left just before closing time, vowing to come back.

That night, the four met with 24 student leaders. They told the leaders what they'd done and asked them to join.

Sit-ins begin springing up

Only McCain and McNeil showed the next day, with two other students they'd recruited. But as the news spread, the sit-ins grew. By the fifth day, 300 protestors took turns at the counter. Lunch counter sit-ins began in other cities, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville and Rock Hill.

It took six months of sit-ins for the Greensboro Woolworth to desegregate their lunch counter.

"That day, Feb. 1, 1960, was the best day of my life," said McCain, who became a chemist and sales executive. "And just for sitting on some dumb stool. It was a reaffirmation of who I am and what I'm supposed to be."

Now that Woolworth, closed since 1993, is a museum. A length of the counter is at the Smithsonian.

McCain thought he'd get kicked out of school. In the 50 years since, he's prodded officials for voting rights, better schools and medical care for minorities. When he saw wrongs, he spoke his mind.

He says he's "still angry," though more optimistic by the election of a black president. "I had a good feeling about where we were headed," he said. "Now I'm not quite sure. I see the same ugly heads rising."

He's a former A&T trustees chair and a current member of the UNC system's Board of Governors. There's a February One Monument on the A&T campus with a bronze statue to the Greensboro Four.

Over the weekend, four new dorms were named for each of them. Recently, McCain took his grandson, Franklin McCain III, to see them.

He looked at the one named for McCain: "He said, 'Granddaddy, that building says Franklin E. McCain, but nothing about senior. I believe I'll claim it for myself.'"
Franklin McCain, 1960 (Age 19) 
 
Franklin McCain, 2010 (Age 69)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

An Example of Moral Courage: Eddie Albert (1906-2005)

Have you ever watched the 2001 movie The Majestic?  Canadian actor Jim Carrey plays the part of a Hollywood actor who was blacklisted during the McCarthy communist witch-hunts of the 1950's. The actor is unable to find work in Hollywood because of the blacklist.  Despondent, he crashes his car and suffers an injury that causes him to lose his memory.  Leaving the scene of the accident, he wanders into a small town where he is mistaken by the locals for a World War II hero who never returned from the war 9 years earlier, and was listed as "missing in action."

At first, the actor is convinced that he really is that lost war hero, and he looks for clues to help him remember his forgotten life. He tries to fit back into the community, and to save the town's old movie theatre (named "The Majestic").

When he eventually begins to regain his memory, he realizes that he's not really from that town, and he is certainly no "war hero." When he discovers that he's actually a out-of-work movie actor, and learns of the blacklist that destroyed his acting career, he decides to go to Washington to do what the government wants: give false testimony identifying other innocent people as "communists"  ... just like many actors actually did (among them, actor Lee J. Cobb, who later expressed regret for naming 20 people he knew were not communists).

While appearing before the House UnAmerican Affairs Committee in Congress, Carrey's character has a change of heart, and instead of reading his prepared statement and the list of names of those he intended to accuse, he begins to read the US Bill of Rights from a small copy of the US Constitution, to fervent applause from onlookers in the House gallery, while the Committee chairman (played by Hal Holbrook) pounds his gavel and commands him to be silent.

I said to my wife while watching the movie some years ago, "Do you remember Eddie Albert? 'Mr. Douglas' from Green Acres? I think he was on the Hollywood blacklist and was one of the few who were able to find work in Hollywood after that."

My memory was correct about Eddie Albert being "blacklisted" as a Communist during the McCarthy period ... and also about him being one of the few people on the "Hollywood Blacklist" who worked again in Hollywood ... I bet you don't recognize another name on this list, because the careers of nearly all the rest were destroyed.

Eddie Albert was no "communist." In fact, Eddie Albert served his country in the United States Navy during the second world war, and participated in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, on the island of Tarawa in November 1943. He was in the first wave to hit the beaches in that battle that took the lives of over 1,000 American soldiers. Eddie Albert was credited with rescuing up to 70 wounded Marines who had been abandoned under heavy enemy fire. For his bravery he was awarded the Bronze Star with a combat "V" and he later refused to speak about it publicly. That's the way men like Eddie Albert were.  That's the way men like my father-in-law were (he landed on a beach at Normandy on D-Day+3, with a construction battalion, and was immediately sent to the front to work on the Red Ball Express.  He refused to speak of it, except to say, "we did what we had to do.")

Senator Joseph McCarthy, on the other hand, frequently bragged about his service in WWII, and made up a number of stories involving airplane crashes or anti-aircraft fire to account for his "war wound", which turned out to be an injury he received aboard ship during an initiation ceremony for sailors crossing the equator for the first time. What a despicable liar. What a coward. What a traitor to his country.

In her 2003 book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, columnist Ann Coulter tried to turn Joseph McCarthy into a hero of the rightwing. The woman is absolutely despicable. As are all modern-day equivalents of Joseph P. McCarthy, demagogues who tell us who to fear, and promise to deliver us from those we fear. I use the word "despicable" deliberately, and in its proper sense: these people deserve to be despised by the rest of us for what they are, and despised for what they represent.

Eddie Albert died in May 2005, after a Hollywood career that began in 1936.

Eddie Albert was no "communist." Neither were most of the other people whose careers were destroyed so that men like Joseph McCarthy could further their own. And how about Gene Kelly (Dancing in the Rain)? In 1947, Kelly was part of the Committee for the First Amendment, the Hollywood delegation which flew to Washington to protest at the first official hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. His first wife, Betsy Blair, was accused of being a Communist and MGM was planning to yield to pressure from the American Legion to fire her. Yes, the American Legion has that shame on their record. Gene Kelly successfully threatened MGM by saying he'd walk off the set of It's Always Fair Weather unless his wife was allowed to keep her job.

Eddie Albert and Gene Kelly stood straight when others around them crawled. When others decided that destroying innocent people to get at "communists" was justifiable. The ends justify the means? Hardly. Americans don't do that; Americans don't excuse evil done in the name of good.

Joseph McCarthy wasn't censured by Congress in 1954 for attacking communists. He was censured for not attacking communists. He was censured for attacking innocent people. Hundreds of them. And for telling hundreds of lies. In the same manner, and more recently, President Bush was not criticized for attacking terrorists ... he was criticized for not attacking terrorists, instead choosing to divert 160,000+ troops into an unarmed and defenceless country that did nothing to our own, and for lying to the American people to justify that diversion.

Joseph McCarthy was a sociopath. He simply didn't care who he destroyed with lies in order to further his own personal agenda. In a fitting end to a miserable life, Joseph McCarthy drank himself to death the year I was born, only three years after the Senate censure. History has given Joseph P. McCarthy a special place of infamy. I don't need to say a word to deepen the humiliation of his legacy.

But, don't get me wrong ... Joseph McCarthy served an important social purpose. He was a mirror held up to the American people, in which they could see their own cowardice and shame, clearly. And remembering Joseph McCarthy allows us to identify dangerous demagogues like him, and to provide us with a precedent for how to deal with these types of people. Certainly don't lend your support to their political campaigns.

Instead, we should all choose to admire men like Eddie Albert, not fear-mongers and haters.


Eddie Albert (1906-2005)