Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pray4America (part 6) - Christmas in Iran 1980

Away in a Manger

This was the first Christmas carol that I remember learning to sing.  And I was in kindergarten at the time.

Away in a Manger has been called "Luther's Cradle Hymn" for it had been thought to have been written by Martin Luther for his children.  Though Martin Luther's authorship has been discounted, this carol is beloved by both the young and old alike.  (reference: Away in a Manger: Lyrics and Music)

Below, this carol is sung with all three verses:

When I became a big kid, more aware of the big bad world, this "Luther's Cradle Hymn" had more meaning.   Especially in 1980.

Thirty years ago in America, times were dispiriting - much like today.  If you had lived through the 1970s into the early 1980s, you may remember the Iranian hostage crisis.

 1979 - 1981

On November 4, 1979, Iranian students had stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took some 60 hostages.  The immediate reason for the take-over was anger at President Carter for allowing the Shah of Iran into the United States for cancer treatment.

But revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was never one to waste a good crisis.  He used the seizure of the US Embassy and American hostages to demonstrate his anti-West defiance and hence raise his domestic and international profile.   (reference:  Iran Hostage Crisis)

Each day - from November 4, 1979 to January 21, 1981 - the news led with a story of another day of captivity for American hostages in Iran - which would rack up to be a grand total of 444 days.


This was not a good year nor a good start for the decade.  America continued to be humiliated in the eyes of the world as we seemed so helpless to do anything to rescue our countrymen.  And this impotence only added to the malaise of the economic problems of high inflation and the energy crisis endemic in the late 1970s.

Early in 1980, there was a bit of good news.  Six American diplomats had evaded capture and sought refuge in the Canadian and Swedish Embassies. The end of January 1980, they were smuggled out of Iran in disguise as Canadian citizens.   (reference:  The True Story Behind Operation “Argo” to Rescue Americans From Iran)

The real story behind this covert rescue was kept secret for 17 years.  But this year, 2012, a movie was released about this amazing rescue called -


But the rest of 1980, the remaining hostages did not fair so well.  In April, a failed rescue attempt to free them led to the death of eight American servicemen and more international humiliation.  (reference: The Failed Rescue of American Hostages in Iran – Background and Consequences of a Failed Rescue )  Though few hostages had been freed - some women, minorities, and one who suffered from MS - 52 Americans endured 444 days of captivity.   (reference: Unique Facts about the Middle East: Iran Hostage Crisis)

And President Carter took a big hit for this and doomed his re-election, as in November of 1980 he lost to his challenger, Governor Ronald Reagan.  (reference: United States presidential election of 1980)  As 1980 drew to a close, the 52 would spend a second Christmas in captivity and lose an entire year of their normal lives.

But that Christmas in 1980
Away in a Manger
was sung on the world stage

One of the two women hostages that endured the entire 444 days was Iowa native, Kathyrn Koob, who was serving as director of the Iranian-American Society when the embassy was stormed.   (reference:  Where Are They Now? Iranian Hostage Crisis: American Kathryn Koob)

Below is some of her story and a brief clip of part of the 3rd verse of Away in a Manger which she sang to the world that

Christmas in Iran 1980 

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray; 
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, 
And take us to heaven to live with Thee there. 
Verse 3: John Thomas McFarland

I remember when she sang that song during the news.  It brought me to tears.  They were tears of sadness, but also tears of hope.

Ms. Koob, who was raised in the Lutheran tradition, spent the 444 days of her captivity in prayer, developing her spiritual life, especially learning the call of Jesus to  love your enemies.  (Luke 6:27-28)  And that Christmas in 1980, she had expressed her faith during this dark time singing Luther's Cradle Hymn.

Her ordeal would come to an end in a month in early 1981.  A few hours after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, the 52 hostages were released.

Christmas 2012

It is more than thirty years later, and we still live in dispiriting times.

Unemployment is still high.  Many are underemployed.  Many have given up looking for work.  Many are troubled and fear an uncertain future.  And in recent news, December 14, 2012, the unspeakable happened with the massacre of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.  (reference:  School shooting reported in Newtown, Conn.)

It seems the world has gone mad. 

But these were the times that Kathryn Koob had lived through as a hostage in Iran.  And I draw hope from her story as we, in these troubled times, may draw strength from above and continue to

Pray for America.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.


Previous posts in this series:

Pray4America (part 1) - National Day of Prayer (2012)

Pray4America (part 2) - FDR's prayer on D-Day (2012)

Pray4America (part 3) - FDR's Flag Day prayer - June 14, 1942 (2012)

Pray4America (part 4) - It's a Wonderful Life, America (2012)

Pray4America (part 5) - United we stand? (2012)


Photo from  The Nativity

Saturday, December 8, 2012

BTTT (part 2) - Winged Coronet

Do you like historical fiction set during World War Two?  If so, the Winged Coronet by Joe Freitus weaves an engaging yarn during the tensions ramping up to D-Day.

During a storm, Sister Anne Marie, a nursing Daughter of Charity, mysteriously appears and bicycles toward the communities on the French side of the English Channel.  Her official documents indicate her mission is to serve the medical needs of the various seaside denizens, so symbolized by her winged coronet in her pannier.  But her mission almost fails from the start with a nearly fatal roadside accident.

Herr Major Henri Reichert steps in to help the Sisters of Charity after the occupying German forces confiscated or destroyed their previous clinic and housing quarters.  This former German army officer and World War One veteran has opened up his chateaux apartments to Mother Mary Rachael and her latest charge, Sister Anne Marie, who arrives unexpectedly as a casualty.  Herr Major, a man of surprising resources, revives the injured sister as he sees to it she is on the mend so she can work in the local clinic.
Meanwhile, the Gestapo watches the resentful civilians for evidence of the French Resistance, including new comer Sister Anne Marie, whom they suspect is on more than just a mission of mercy.  Their suspicion puts the nun in peril, especially when skirmishes with the Allies intensify and radio broadcasts from London babble with coded messages.

So the Winged Coronet unfolds a cloak-and-dagger mystery with a taboo romance between a French nun and former German officer.  The flavor of the English, French, and German accents in the writing makes the characters more distinct and real, while maintaining the balance of a smooth read without distraction.  Simply put, I recommend Winged Coronet as a story that both men and women would enjoy.


More info:  WINGED CORONET by Joe Freitus


Other post in this series:

BTTT (part 1) - The Colter Church Conspiracy  (2012)


Saturday, November 24, 2012

America's Story (part 11) - Sacajawea

Sacajawea Dollar

Remember Suzy B's?

Dollar coins that its.

In the 1970s, there was a campaign to move from paper dollars to coins.

The rationale?

The currency life of coins was much longer than that of paper bills. Hence, in the long run that would save money.
(In defense of the dollar coin - The Washington Post)

But in recent times dollar coins have hit public resistance and didn't seem to catch on.

The Eisenhower dollars, which were minted in the early 1970s, seemed too big and clumsy to carry around as pocket change. Yes, we have had silver dollars for some time, but since we went off the gold standard, silver dollars have became much more valuable than ... a dollar. It's called inflation. (Silver History)

Susan B. Anthony Dollar
So our government tried some good PR to coax the public into liking dollar coins, again. And what better way than to appeal to half of the population - women. Up to 1979 there were no US coins honoring women. This idea should sell big.

So in 1979 the mint honored suffragette Susan B. Anthony on the first new dollar coin, since the one honoring President Eisenhower. They are often nicknamed - "Suzy Bs" (Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979–1981; 1999))

Again, like the Eisenhower dollar, Suzy Bs were not that popular, though there was an attempt to make them appealing by their small size - about that of a quarter. But that proved to be a problem as they were often mistaken for a quarter.

And at the end of the Carter administration, when the country was plagued with high inflation, the shrinking size of the dollar coin (from the large Eisenhower coin) to the quarter-sized Suzy B seemed very symbolic of the woes of the economy. The public didn't take to it.

Try, try, again.

Two decades later, a new design was born - a gold color dollar coin - perhaps one that didn't look so much like a quarter? And you guessed it - perhaps the picture above gave a clue - in 2000 Sacajawea graced the next generation of dollar coins . And there was quite a story behind this. (Sacagawea Dollar Profile - The Sacagawea Golden Dollar)

One day while camping in the parks ...

As mentioned in another thread, Signs of the Times (part 1) - Camping in the Parks, we have stretched out our vacation dollars by ... camping in the parks. And last year, one of our destinations was the Yellowstone/Grand Tetons.

One evening in the Tetons, we were planning to attend a nature talk, but it had been cancelled. Instead, we found another talk nearby - Kenneth Thomasma stumping his book - The Truth about Sacajawea.

In fact, this book, which came out in 1997, was used to lobby for Sacajawea as the choice on the obverse of the new dollar coin to replace the Suzy Bs. And it was a great choice as this teenage mother has quite an important place in American history.

And most appropriate, what better time to tell this story than in November which has been designated as ...

Native American Heritage Month
(About - Native American Heritage Month)

Horace Greeley has been credited with saying
Go west, young man ....
which he most likely did not say, and John Soule, who actually said it, was misquoted, anyway.
(Go West, Young Man!)

Yet, Western expansion was an exciting time in American history. The video clip below from Schoolhouse Rock gives a quick overview of it. And it mentions Sacajawea was an important guide in the Lewis and Clark Expedition during this part of America's story.

There have been so many Sacajawea legions, but Kenneth Thomasma's book gets as close as anyone can to the truth. His primary source is the words written by Captain Lewis and Captain Clark and others during their expedition

The book is less than 90 pages mostly from journal entries about Sacajawea. The author inserts some comments of events and background for continuity. This candid log gives testimony as to what a remarkable woman Sacajawea really was.

Here is a flavor of those times juxtaposed with events in early American history:


George Washington
George Washington was in the process of being elected the first president of the United States under the Constitution. And he would serve from 1789 - 1797. (George Washington | The White House)

Meanwhile, a Lehmi Shoshoni girl, Sacajawea, was born in the west in a territory we know today as Idaho. In the 18th century, to be born a Native American Indian girl was considered one of the lowliest births in the social statuses of the time.
(Her childhood - page 1 | Sacajawea)

Growing up, Sacajawea would be taught many valuable skills for the survival for her people, which included management of the camp, gathering and preparing food, making clothing, and countless other skills needed to keep her people alive and well.
(Her childhood - page 2 | Sacajawea and the following pages)

1800 - 1803

John Adams
In 1800, John Adams was finishing his term as the second president of the United States (1797 - 1801).
(John Adams | The White HousePresident Adams ran for re-election that year, but was defeated by Thomas Jefferson.

Meanwhile in the west, when Sacajawea was about 12 years old, she and several others were kidnapped by the Hadatsa Native American Indian tribes after a battle with her people, the Lemhi Shoshoni. She was taken to a village in the area of present day North Dakota. Native girls back then were prized for their survival skills and work ethic.
(Taken from her home - page 7 | Sacajawea and the following pages)

Thomas Jefferson

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States and would serve from 1801 - 1809. And his administration would more than double the size of the nascent United States, of which Sacajawea would play a role.
(Thomas Jefferson | The White House)

About this time, French-speaking Canadian trapper,Toussaint Charbonneau, took Sacajawea as one of his wives. Legend has it, he won her while gambling.
(Life with Charbonneau - page 12 | Sacajawea and following pages)

Meanwhile, Napoleon Bonaparte had ambitions to build an empire in North America. But a slave revolt in Haiti and looming war with Britain convinced the French emperor to sell the territory to the United States to raise cash. Thus in 1803, the deal became knows as the Lousiness Purchase.

(Louisiana Purchase - The History of the Louisiana Purchase)

1804 - 1806

As a result of the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the territory as well as search for a passage to the Pacific.

The expedition was called the Corps of Discovery, which also became known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And the scope of it back in the early 19th century was as daunting and challenging as the race to the moon was in the 20th century.
(Lewis and Clark : The Expedition of the Corps of Discovery)

In 1804, the Corps of Discovery traveled up the Missouri River and eventually wintered in North Dakota. Here the expedition hired French-Canadian trapper Charbonneau and one of his wives, a teenager pregnant at the time with their first child, to help translate for them. It was here Sacajawea steps onto the pages of America history.

Sacajawea would soon give birth to John Baptiste Charbonneau and embark on an expedition of five thousand miles with her infant son. The captains learned that taking this teenage mother with them was the most fortunate thing they could have done for the success of their expedition.
(Life with Charbonneau - page 12 | Sacajawea and the following pages)

Kenneth Thomasma's book give the details of the journal entries from the captains and their men, but here are a few examples.

Grace under fire

Sacajawea kept a cool head during many crises. One such occasion was when the canoe she was in tipped over, and she got busy, putting herself in harms way, to save irreplaceable cargo. The captains realized she was as valuable or more so than any man in their army, as this note in the diary indicates  -

Thursday, May 16, 1805 Captain Lewis
"Sacajawea demonstrated fortitude and resolution equal to that of any man on board the stricken craft. She saved most the bundles which had been washed overboard."

And they held a very high opinion of her as shown how anxious they were when she had gotten ill and was near death on at least four occasions. They realized their success depended on her.

Saturday, June 16, 1805 Captain Lewis
"When Lewis returns to camp in the early afternoon, Sacajawea is near death. Four-month-old John Baptiste is held in the arms of his ailing mother. Lewis is extremely concerned not only for both of them but also for the expeditions's needs for an interpreter who can speak with the Shoshoni people.."

Meanwhile, Charbonneau did not rate such high marks. He often panicked, lost his head, and did the wrong thing that harmed the expedition. A disgraceful event recorded in both the captain's logs indicates how both captains were disgusted with Charbonneau for his abuse of Sacajawea.

Wednesday, August, 1805 Captain Clark
"Charbonneau strikes Sacajawea while the family is eating the evening meal. Clark reprimands him."

This abuse probably happened more than once. And the captain's journals tarnished Charbonneau's reputation among journalists and historians.


Important Guide

Sacajawea was not the only guide, but she was an important guide, as during their westward trek she recognized many regions in her native lands.

Many places in Montana bear the names she gave them, such as Beaverhead Rock(Lewis and Clark in History - August 8 - 14, 1805And several places were named after her.  (list of things named after Sacagawea)

Likewise, because of her training as a child, she was an expert at finding food when it was scarce and keeping the men in the expedition in good health.
(Woman Spirit - Sacajawea - Shoshoni)

Ambassador of Peace

Native American Indian tribes did not attack the expedition, for seeing the presence of the mother with her child indicated that this was a peaceful party. The captains noted the calming effect she had on their encounters with the natives.
(Searching for Sacagawea: Her Journey)

When the expedition needed horses, it was fortunate Sacajawea was reunited with her family. (Her Journey: August 1805)

And this helped the expedition push to the Pacific and back home again. There is much more to tell ... so read the book.

When the expedition was over,William Clark adopted Sacajawea's son in 1809, and John Baptiste Charbonneau led an adventurous and interesting life. (more info: pbs: lewis and clark)   Unfortunately, his mother did not live to see his success, none-the-less receive the accolades for her marvelous contributions during her short lifetime.  In 1812, Sacajawea passed away from "putrid fever" in what we know today as South Dakota. (Her final journey - page 21 | Sacajawea)

But, never before has a teenage mother and her child embarked on an "adventure of a lifetime" (Adventure of a lifetime - page 15 | Sacajawea) as part of an American expedition and a watershed event in American history.

And Sacajawea and her indomitable spirit and contribution to the expansion of our nation is part of America's Story,
which is to be continued ...


Other posts in this series:

America's Story (part 1) - The Speech that redefined us, November 19, 1863 (2011)

America's Story (part 2) - Savages! (2011)

America's Story (part 3) - Over There - 1917, 1941 (2011)

America's Story (part 4) - Christmas 1944, when we said NUTS to the enemy (2011)

America's Story (part 5) - Amazing Grace (2012)

America's Story (part 6) - GI Joe Tuskegee Airmen (2012)

America's Story (part 7) - When Reagan was shot (2012)

America's Story (part 8) - Memorial Day, Gettysburg, and Amos Humiston (2012)


from Wikipedia: Sacagawea dollar; Susan B. Anthony dollar; George Washington; John Adams; Thomas Jefferson; Lousiana Purchase; Lewis and Clark Expedition; Sacajawea
from amazon: The Truth about Sacajawea

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pray4America (part 5) - United we stand?

Red and Blue states

In the last century, we were never been so united as we were during World War Two.  Here is a quote from President Franklin Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor:

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."
 ( American Rhetoric: Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation (12-08-41) )

Indeed, united we were, at home and abroad, fighting - and winning - a world war on two fronts.

And after September 11, 2001 - at least for the first few weeks - America seemed to be united, again, after the attacks on New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.  The battle cry was - United We Stand.  And this slogan went out on flags, bumper stickers, posters, T-shirts, ...

United We Stand?

Really?  During the 21st century, we seem to have come apart at as shown in the red/blue map above, graphing the results of the 2000 - 2008 presidential elections.  (Red-GOP; Blue-Democrats; purple, a mix of the two.)  And this map has not changed much in 2012.

Let's look at some figures ...


This election was a nail biter, showing Governor Bush narrowly defeating Vice President Gore in the electoral college:  271/267.  But Gore won the popular vote.  Final percentage:  Gore - 48.38% vs Bush - 47.87%

The only election closer was in 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel Tilden.  Hayes won the electoral college by only one vote - 185/184,  though Tilden won the popular vote by over 200,000.  (Election of 1876)


President Bush got a larger number of electoral votes than his challenger Senator Kerry: 286/251.  But the popular vote was close, within a few points:  Bush - 51% vs. Kerry 48%


Senator Obama defeated Senator McCain in the electoral college:  365/173.  The popular vote margin widened from the last two cycles:  Obama - 53% vs. McCain - 46% - a 7 point spread.


President Obama fended off challenger Governor Romney in the electoral college:  332/206.  But the margin of victory tightened in the popular vote from 2008:  Obama - 51% vs. Romney - 49%

None of the recent elections was a total blow out, like Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Richard Nixon in 1972;  Ronald Reagan in 1984; Bill Clinton in 1996.

Divided we are!

We are now a divided country, and maybe we have not been so divided since the Civil War.  And these divisions go beyond the affiliations with the Democrat/Republic label, but in the falling away from the ideals of the "American Way of Life." (12 Concepts that Shape the American Way of Life)

In his article for the Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray wrote of this growing divide of values in which  the "working class falls further away from institutions like marriage and religion and the upper class becomes more isolated." Here is the link -  it's long, but worth the read:  New American Divide

There need be no essays to convince me.  The America I knew as a girl is not the one I see now in my retirement.  Some would argue this change may be for the better; some - not!  But this change may explain some of the baffling results from 2012 as well as the previous recent election cycles.  In 2012, half the country seems happy with the re-election of the president. Almost half are not.

But no matter who occupies the White House, the country faces daunting challenges - high employment, a stagnant economy, a crushing national debt, exploding federal spending, encroaching government intrusion, loss of personal liberties, a deeply divided electorate  ... to name of few. (Let's Be Clear, The U.S. Economy Is Just Awful - Forbes)

What is the root of all these ailments?  A strong case can be made that ...

The problem is *not* the president.

Say what?  Please check out the video, below:

The source of the problem is religious institutions that have lost touch with life and lost power to guide the people.  And long before YouTube, preachers have been pointing to the root of problems as spiritual, such as ...

Dr. McGee teachings - America needs a Declaration of Dependence
where he sums up three stages in the downfall of a nation

1. Religious Apostasy

2. Moral Awfulness

3. Political Anarchy

I had blogged about this in first post of this series:  Pray4America (part 1) - National Day of Prayer

America's decline is not in Washington or the current occupant of the presidency.  It is a heart problem.  And the remedy is revival.  Here are some messages from a few noted spiritual leaders in America:

Dr. J. Vernon McGee -

Even during dark days of rapid decline, a revival can come at the 11th hour.  There is a marvelous example, as in this sermon of the revival under King Josiah:  2 Kings 22:2-23:27 - Listen to Dr. J. Vernon McGee from Thru the Bible

The Reverend Billy Graham - 

A day after turning 94, Billy Graham writes: "I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday."":  BGEA - A Fresh Vision for America

Please continue to pray for a revival in America.  

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Psalm 33:12

For a prayer for our nation:  click here


Previous posts in this series:

Pray4America (part 1) - National Day of Prayer (2012)

Pray4America (part 2) - FDR's prayer on D-Day (2012)

Pray4America (part 3) - FDR's Flag Day prayer - June 14, 1942 (2012)

Pray4America (part 4) - It's a Wonderful Life, America (2012)


Photo from wikipedia:  Red and Blue States Map

Monday, November 5, 2012

America's Story (part 10) - Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin Cullum York
Remember World War One?  

My grandfather had fought in that war and it seemed like a century ago ... and it was.

In two years will be the centennial of the start of the First World War (1914 - 1918).  At that time, it was called  the Great War, the World War,  the War to End all Wars.  Only after the start of World War Two was it called World War One. (First World - A Multimedia History of World War One)

We see a legacy of the Great War this coming Monday.  Signing the Armistice to cease the hostilities of this war at 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - November 11, 1918 - has evolved to the national holiday we recognize as
Veterans Day.
 (History of Veterans Day - Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs)  

And on such a holiday, we are most thankful for all the veterans, who have put themselves in harm's way to defend us and keep us safe.  Where are all the veterans of the Great War, in which this holiday first honored?

Rest in Peace, World War One veterans

In 2011, the world bid farewell to the last veterans of that war who had fought on the front lines - Frank Buckles of the US passed away at 110 in February (Last living U.S. World War I veteran dies - and Claude Choules of Australia also passed away at 110 in May (Claude Choules the last-known WW1 frontline veteran laid to rest | Mail Online.)   And this year, 2012, in February, the last known veteran, Florence Green, who had served Great Britain's RAF as a waitress, passed away at 110.  (Florence Green, Last World War I Veteran, Dies at 110 -

As the Good Book says ....

One generation passeth away,
and another generation cometh:
but the earth abideth for ever.

Ecclesiastes 1:4
King James Version

But the heroes still live on in our hearts and in America's story.  One of them is a reluctant hero - Alvin  Cullum York
.(The Legends and Traditions of the Great War: Sergeant Alvin York)

As the link above indicates, many remember Alvin York as the laconic reluctant hero from the 1941 movie, Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper.    And Sergeant York did not seek the lime light as he had condemned war and even questioned America's involvement in World War One.  But later he saw war as a necessary evil under some circumstances.

Sergeant York agreed to have the movie made seeing Hitler as the personification of evil.  And a film of his life would to help to combat the isolationist stance of the America First Committee, endorsed by Charles Lindbergh.  (But the committee as well as America's isolationist stance dissolved after the attack on Pearl Harbor.)  (Charles Lindbergh's Noninterventionist Efforts & America First Committee

Alvin York - Humble Log Cabin Beginnings

Alvin York was born in a log cabin near Pall Mall, Tennessee in 1887.  He had little formal education, but worked on the family farm and hunted to help feed the family.  Hence, he had developed his skills as a marksman.  When his father passed away in 1911, Alvin helped his mother raise his younger brother and sisters.

Alvin York - Sinner

As he came of age, Alvin York had earned a reputation as a deadly accurate shot as well as a hell-raiser.  He drank, gambled, fought, had been arrested for bad behavior, and considered a nuisance and someone that "would not amount to anything."

Alvin York - Coming to Jesus

As shown in the clip below, the movie depicts Alvin York literally coming to Jesus after a lightening strike as he was seeking revenge on his rival for cheating him.  Most likely this story was an embellishment, but it makes for a good yarn - especially in Hollywood.  (Sergeant Alvin York - Mental Floss

But in 1915, Alvin York embraced the Church of Christ in Christian Union,  a fundamental sect that forbade many things including drinking, dancing, movies, swimming, swearing, popular literature, and moral injunctions against violence and war.  His conversion may have been prompted by the senseless death of a close friend in a bar fight, whereas Alvin York attended an H. H. Russell revival meeting and came to Jesus, turning from his wicked ways.  (reference:  The 100 Greatest Heroes)  

Alvin York - Conscientious Objector

After the Great War broke out and America entered into the fray in 1917, American men were being drafted.  As part of his religion, Alvin York did not believe in killing and violence, which is what war is all about - killing people and breaking things.  Turned down by the draft board as a "conscientious objector" since his church was not recognized as a legitimate sect, Alvin York, nearly 30 years old at the time, appealed the decision, but reluctantly went to Camp Gordon for basic training anyway.

The Tennessee native proved himself in training with his excellent marksmen skills.  And his superiors were intrigued by this man who wrote on his draft card - "Dont [sic] want to fight."  The scene below captures some of this struggle and Alvin York's final decision "to render unto Caesar "  hence go to war -  

Private Alvin York finally came to the conclusion that there were times when war was moral and ordained by God.  He believed that God would keep him safe as he committed himself to become a good soldier.  When his regiment of the  82nd Infantry Division was deployed to France, he kept a diary of his adventures.   His moment of destiny came on October 8, 1918 in Argonne Forest during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.

Alvin York - War Hero

Then Corporal Alvin C. York with 16 other soldiers were dispatched to take command of the Decauville railroad. Misreading their map (written in French not English), they mistakenly found themselves behind enemy lines. The Americans engaged the enemy resulting in the unexpected surrender of a superior German force. 

Once the Germans realized that the Americans only numbered 17 men, the German machine gunners on the hill opened fire on them killing nine Americans and wounding the Sergeant, who turned over command to two of his corporals.  The corporals then ordered Alvin York to silence the machine gun, which he did and - using his turkey hunting skills - captured  132 prisoners in the process.

This amazing scene is played out in the clip below 

This feat led to Alvin York being designated the “greatest soldier in history” and secure his place in the history books.

Corporal York was promoted to Sergeant York.  He continued to fight in France until the Armistice was signed on November 11th. Sergeant York was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, the Badge of Nobility, and the French Croix de Guerre, among  others.

Alvin York - an inspiration 100 years later

Sergeant York has been an inspiration as a reluctant American hero, even likened to Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Abraham Lincoln for his roots in the quasi-frontier and a figure rising on the national scene.   Much more could be said of his humility, his desire to help educate those in his native Tennessee, and willingness to do what he could to help during World War Two.  

And below is a tribute to him after he passed away in 1964,

More information about his remarkable life and legacy can be explored here:  Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation

And Sergeant Alvin York for his convictions and bravery during the trial of war are part of the America's story 
which is to be continued ...


Previous posts on  World War One:

Veteran's Day 2011 - final homecoming of the WWI vets (2011)

Veterans Day - World War One Soldiers Remembered (2009)


Other posts in this series:

America's Story (part 1) - The Speech that redefined us, November 19, 1863 (2011)

America's Story (part 2) - Savages! (2011)

America's Story (part 3) - Over There - 1917, 1941 (2011)

America's Story (part 4) - Christmas 1944, when we said NUTS to the enemy (2011)

America's Story (part 5) - Amazing Grace (2012)

America's Story (part 6) - GI Joe Tuskegee Airmen (2012)

America's Story (part 7) - When Reagan was shot (2012)

America's Story (part 8) - Memorial Day, Gettysburg, and Amos Humiston (2012)


Photo from:  Wikipedia - Alvin York

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Culture 101 (part 6) - Gilligan's Island and Breast Cancer Awareness

The month of October has been designated
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).  
(reference:  National Breast Cancer Awareness Month |

Hence the pink ribbon - universal symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness.
(reference:  The Pink Ribbon Story)

But what's with the title of this post?

And as October is coming to a close, what does Breast Cancer Awareness have to do with that silly 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island?

Just sit right back and we'll hear a tale ...

Baby boomers and those who watch classic reruns surely must have this introduction to the second season impressed on your DNA -

Of the seven castaways, three of them were women:  Mrs. Howell, the millionaire's wife (Natalie Schafer); Ginger, the movie star (Tina Louise); and Mary Ann (Dawn Wells).

In the 1960s, the censors ensured that Ginger only showed a limited amount of cleavage and Mary Ann did not show her bellybutton.  (reference: Tina Louise - Her 60's Look)   But the censors did not have any problems with Mrs. Howell.  She was fully covered and wore high necklines.

The sitcom ran for three season (1964-1967), two animated cartoons, and three movies - not to mention the infinite reruns.  (reference:  Gilligan's Island -

One special was made in 2001 telling the story behind Gilligan's Island -

Surviving Gilligan's Island:

The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History.  (reference:

Among the castaways, Natalie Schafer was one of the most mysterious and had many secrets.  Among them was her real age, which no one knew till after she had passed away in 1991 at 90.  Yet, there was another secret that was more poignant, which is dramatized in the clip below.

For the Natalie Schafer story, the clip starts at 7:10 and ends at 11:10

One of Natalie's friends was depressed as she was to have a mastectomy the next day.  Natalie's friend didn't  know if she could go through with it, felt all alone, and wondered what kind of life she would have after that.  Natalie assured her that she was not alone and must go through with the operation as many other women had and survived.  And these women continued living full lives even when medical procedures were more radical and primitive.  Then Natalie revealed a personal secret that she had hid so well.

Natalie Schafer was a breast cancer survivor.  And her body was one of those scarred by the radical and primitive procedures to remove the cancer.  But she went on living till she was 90 years old, working in the acting field that capitalizes so much on the physical.

Natalie's friend at the end of the clip said - She saved my life that night.

Next time you see a rerun of Gilligan's Island, think of Mrs. Howell.  As we learned in Surviving Gilligan's Island, "Mrs. Howell" survived more that a shipwreck - she survived breast cancer.

And the sitcom Gilligan's Island and the spirit to survive is part of the American culture.


Previous posts in the Culture 101 series:

Culture 101 (part 1) - Reagan's Challenge (2012)

Culture 101 (part 2) - Easter Eucatastrophe (2012)

Culture 101 (part 3) - Paul Revere's Ride (2012)

Culture 101 (part 4) - Gold Diggers and the Great Depression (2012)

Culture 101 (part 5) - Blue Bloods and 9/11  (2012)


Photo from Wikipedia Commons:  Pink Ribbon

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ZAMM (part 7) - Yes or No - Gotcha!

Carter - Reagan 1980

It's 2012 ...
and another presidential election cycle.  

As we are smack in the middle of the month of October, that means we are smack in the middle of those political debates.

And October has been known for its surprises - that "Gotcha" moment.  Once a candidate has misspoken ... oh, the shame ... you might as well just hang it up ....  especially if most of the press is hostile toward you anyway, not mention the beating you will take in cyberspace as your words go viral.

Pundits, challengers, reporters, opponents, bloggers wait like cougars to pounce on their political prey when they stumble and make that career-ending gaff.   Even a minor gaff can change the course of the election.  Just ask President Gerald Ford who, in the debate with then Governor Jimmy Carter, had a brain freeze and said there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.  (reference: Gerald Ford's Denial ) Goodbye President Ford.  Hello President Carter.

Often to pin down a politician, a reporter will push for a "Yes" or "No" answer.  As shown in the clip below,  when pressed for a "Yes" or "No" about a senator receiving a gift of free suits - among other similar questions, the spokesman deflects with a broad statement - we may call it a "talking point."  But the reporters are not buying it ... and the spokesman is not giving a "Yes" or "No" answer, either.  Stalemate.

Yes or No?  Fair enough question?  Was the senator trying to hide something?  Possibly.  Then again, possibly not.  The spokesman may not know the answer to that specific question and is making a broad statement to avoid a trap.

But as the Psalmist David wrote -

I said in my haste, All men are liars.
Psalm 116:11

Many would give an amen to that - especially for politicians and their spokespeople.  But "all" would include the reporters as well.  And a hostile opponent or press corps prays for that "Gotcha" moment to distort the true position of a candidate or discount the fair assessment of a situation.  It's called propaganda

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM) has something to say about these "gotcha"  questions.

Robert Pirsig, the author, during one of his Chautauquas discussions, points out the flaw to this Yes-or-No ...  True-or-False ... One-or-Zero  logic.  The real world -  whether in the realm of science, politics, religion,... however you slice it -  is complicated.  And often a truth cannot be captured by an answer to a simple "yes-or-no" question or an assessment of a "true-or-false" state.

An example from high tech comes in the binary world of computer data.  A circuit is said to have two states, "1" or "0."  But what is the state of the circuit when the power is off?  Neither.  It's indeterminate.

Another old warhorse and its infinite variations come with this line of questioning.  A hostile reporter asks a man running for office, for example,  "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?  Yes or No."  The correct answer is an emphatic - "That is a stupid question!"  Neither a "yes" or a "no" reflects the true relationship of this man with his wife - that is, if he is not abusive to his wife.

mu - ouyang
To paraphrase Pirsig  -

Often the question is too small for nature's answer and the context of the question must be enlarged.

Japanese culture had a term for this type of answer to an inadequate question -

Mu.  (shown to the right)
No thing.  No class.  Null.  Void. Not one, not zero, not yes, not no.
(reference:  The Japanese Word, Mu, by Robert Pirsig)

But back to in the world of politics ...

Isn't "mu"  just fancy talk for dodging the question?

Yes and No.  Mu.  (I'm serious.  :) )

Knowing all things, discerning all things, the Jesus of the New Testament knew the absolute Truth and yet ...

Jesus was the Master of Mu.

Let's pull out one gem illustrating this from the Gospels, which is relevant for the presidential debates of today.  One issue talked about in the world of politics (and this can be another career-ender)  is


In the 1984 elections, President Ronald Reagan's challenger Walter Mondale stated quite bluntly that he would raise our taxes.  (reference: Walter Mondale Raise Taxes 1984) The result? Landslide victory for President Reagan.  (reference: 1984 Presidential General Election Results)  In the 1992 elections, President George H W Bush lost to his challenger, then Governor Bill Clinton, who largely capitalized on President Bush breaking his read my lips - no new taxes pledge that he had made in the 1988 campaign. (reference: George H. W. Bush

Like bitter political rivals of today trying to destroy their opponents, the religious leaders hounded Jesus during His earthly ministries as they relentlessly tried to trap Him.  They thought they could get Him on an issue.  Taxes.  And they pressed Jesus for a "yes" or "no" answer on whether it was lawful for them to pay taxes to Caesar, as shown here in this clip from the Jesus movie (1979):

If Jesus had answered - "Yes" - then the leaders could question how could He could possibly be the true Messiah if He were in league with Rome.  If He had  answered "No" - then they could accuse Him as being a traitor to Rome as Rome was ruling over Israel at the time.

This was a "gotcha" question.  Either answer - yes or no, they had Him.  So they had thought.

But Jesus recast the question.  He asked them for a coin and asked whose image was on it.  It was Caesar's, of course.  Jesus responded to their answer - So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.  (reference:  Matthew 22:16-22

Smart Jesus.  Brilliant - the "mu" to the nth degree.  His critics' original question was too small to contain the greater truth - both in the realm of politics and religion.

The answer that the critics gave to Jesus' recast question lent credence that they did owe Caesar something.  Rome had given them law and order, roads, safety, common currency, security, some justice, some measure of peace.  But likewise that did not exempt them from their obligations to God.  And this is only one example of many of the "mu" answers in the teachings of Jesus.  Each time He recast their "stupid" questions meant to trap Him, and He elicited an answer of a greater truth, which we still marvel at 20 centuries later.

Back in the world of politics, most likely the candidates are dodging the questions as politicians try to be all things to all people to get votes.  It's called pandering.  But also politics is a dirty sport. Many questions are not sincere intelligence gathering.  They are traps.  Neither a "Yes" or "No" is adequate to contain the truth or properly address the issue that was raised.  And the real intent of the question is to harvest ammunition to destroy the opponent in that "Gotcha" moment.  Rightly Jesus called those asking such questions hypocrites.

And the best answer to such inadequate "yes-or-no" questions is .....

* MU *

Couldn't resist the pun or the cute cat....

Question:  Any "mu" answers you would like to share?


Previous articles in the ZAMM series:

ZAMM (part 1) - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2011)

ZAMM (part 2) - Journey through Life (2011)

ZAMM (part 3) - Chautauqua, then and now (2011)

ZAMM (part 4) - Ghosts (2011)

ZAMM (part 5) - Sheldon vs Penny (2012)

ZAMM (part 6) - Sloth, or just not caring ... (2012)

Photo from:  Wikipedia - Carter Reagan Debate 10-28-80 , muTiberius