But goddammit, this round is on me
Nobody learn no nothing from no history
~Gogol Bordello, Ave. B
There’s a story out there, pretty horrible story at that: a superpower gets involved in the Mid-East because of vital national interests; forms and supports a local government; finds itself overextended around the world; walks away from the nascent government leaving the area in chaos; Islamic Fundamentalists take advantage, declare jihad and a Islamic State; they start small with no arms to speak of; grow rapidly, unnoticed by the world; they arm themselves by taking the arms of their enemies – arms supplied by the superpower; they declare full-out war against the Infidel, terrorize swathes of the area, take cities, slaughter the non-believers – not just of Islam but also the Muslims that don’t recognize the leader’s charismatic views; they become infamous for their beheadings. Continue reading
Just a quick thought or two on the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech. It occurs to me, as I flip through the morning sports channel news – a time consuming exercise on any cable system – that a great part of the elegance of Gehrig’s farewell was what happened immediately after he said goodbye and continued for almost two years until his death: Nothing.
A stoic man said goodbye, left as gracefully as anyone has ever left anything and …. that was it. No days of interviews along with a 24 hour loop of the speech; no hosts of doctors endlessly conjecturing off a few facts; no knee jerk blame tossed arbitrarily; no upset fantasy baseball players; no ‘why didn’t the Yankees trade him before this’ radio chatter . . . no anything. And it wasn’t as if the man moved out to the Mayo Clinic to escape the big city glare, he stayed at his home in Riverdale, a few miles from Yankee Stadium.
Elegant. I’m hoping it still is after the sports nation gets through with it today.
By the way, if you love baseball and think you know a lot about Lou Gehrig but haven’t read Johnathan Eig’s book The Luckiest Man, you don’t.
The 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand just passed – the seemingly fairly minor event (this is where one usually adds the disclaimer “but not for his family” – not so much the case with the Archduke) that unexpectedly triggered World War I.
“Unexpectedly,” and “triggered,” and a few hundred other like words will be written between now and August 1st. The 100 year narrative – the Archduke is assassinated, threats, recriminations, ultimatums fly through Europe, alliances are enforced, honored, Europe is at war in 33 days – is so entrenched that Franz Ferdinand is now the name of a pretty good Scottish indie band. Continue reading
June 25, 1876. Custer’s Last Stand . . . has any other piece of our history generated more (a) ‘experts’, i.e. everyone who has seen a movie or read anything on Little Big Horn; (b) books per capita of men engaged in battle – just under 700 troopers with Custer, perhaps as many as 1800 Native American warriors, 4,275 books listed on Amazon today; (c) debates -scholarly and otherwise – over exactly what happened; (d) movies; (e) [really] bad art; (f) [really] bad acting; (g) enduring myths?
Just to get a bit of perspective, the Seventh Cavalry’s total casualties for the day were 258 killed, 52 wounded – that’s right, wounded, Custer’s command was not wiped out, he split his forces (through the mists of time one can almost hear him thinking “it worked for Robert E. Lee”), the five companies unlucky enough to follow him were annihilated, the others managed to get along under extraordinarily harsh conditions without their leader (who was hardly beloved in any event). Three hundred and ten casualties – that represents about six minutes of fighting at Antietam, Marye’s Hill, Cold Harbor. Continue reading
We are almost four months into the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, The New York Times is running a daily blog recapping events to the day, evoking immediate comment and argument from the multitudes who are still fighting it – just verbally this time. The re-enactors are gearing up for the ‘big’ ones, had a warm up a week or so ago with the anniversary of First Manassas (Bull Run); the National Parks are already seeing an increase in attendance that will reach a flood by the summer of 2013.
The Parks are an eclectic experience: peaceful, evocative, serene, haunting, bewildering in a ‘what made them do this’ sort of way, fascinating, somber, bucolic . . . . and occasionally annoyingly kitschy, overbearing, celebratory where it most definitely should not be. I am referring here not to the gift and antique shops that crowd the edges of the parks vying for space with fast food restaurants and cheap hotels, but to the monuments that litter (yes, I deliberately chose the verb) some of the fields.
Quick Update: Add to the following Christopher Dickey’s article this week in the Daily Beast: How I Learned to Hate Robert E. Lee
In the past week Robert E. Lee’s legacy has been “debated” in many forums. Law students at Washington & Lee want Rbt. E. dropped from the masthead; the NAACP petitioned to have Lee’s portrait removed from a County Seat in Florida; it’s the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, the former estate of Colonel Robert E. Lee, United States Army; Michael Korda released a new Lee biography, appeared on NPR and received more hate mail than pretty much anyone ever in the long history of On Point.
This reminded me of an incident at Ft. Dix. I was writing at a picnic table on a warm – for late November – night when a scene from the later – much later – part of my Civil War Trilogy hit me like a ton of bricks. It came out of nowhere, I scribbled furiously, was completely caught unaware by an emergency ‘Recall” bell (i.e., back to dorms or else). I calmly organized my papers, a friend ran over, yelled it was serious, as in ‘move your ass or report to the SHU’ serious, so I did . . . and left the folder. I didn’t realize it until I was in my room, no way to get out to look for it. Continue reading
Paul Ryan, newly attuned to his Irish heritage
Paul Ryan announced today that after immersing himself in Irish history and literature he will be announcing a new poverty initiative in the coming weeks.
“The criticism last week really got to me,” Ryan said, “I mean, I’ve seen The Quiet Man like a hundred times, drink green beer on St. Patty’s day, loved The Departed, and the Family Guy Irish history episode . . . but I guess none of that counted with the liberal media.”
Nevertheless, the Congressman began an intensive study, with unexpected results.
“It was remarkable, really,” Ryan gushed, “I had just finished some leftist drivel about Oliver Cromwell and was dreading tackling the Penal Laws,” the Congressman rolled his eyes, “when I saw it …. ”
“A well thought out, well written answer for our ongoing poverty problem. Brilliant, really – and to think it was called A Modest Proposal!”