Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Marine mess

There is, many think (and I agree with them), no greater fighting force these days than the US Marine Corps. Their bravery and ferocity are legendary. They have had a reputation of that for years, and while there have been a few groups who have been in the same category (in particular I think of the French Foreign Legion), none have remained atop the pyramid for as long as the Marines.

But I have to wonder about them.  About their mindset, their leadership, their ability to take care of their own. ESPECIALLY about the latter. Too much has come out in the past few years that shows they have lost their inner values and core beliefs. They’ve lost the corps, the unique mental aspect that differentiates them from other forces.

Camp Lejeune.  Storied home of Marine Corps basic training. For over thirty years the drinking water of the base was contaminated with a variety of toxic, cancerous chemicals.  Not only were the Marines in training exposed to it, so were the families living on base. Young families with children. For thirty-five years.  Even after it was known, it took years and years for it to be acknowledged; approval for funding for medical benefits didn’t occur until ….2017.

US Naval Academy.  Storied home of the best and brightest officers in training for the Navy and the Marine Corps. Duty, Honor, Country.  A Marine instructor pleads guilty to both obstruction of justice by lying to investigators, and encouraging another officer to lie.  His lie involved a sexual misconduct case with two female midshipmen that occurred while he was an instructor and ranking officer to them. So much for duty or honor.

Marines United. Sharing pictures (clothed and naked) and personal information on fellow female Marines, on Marine wives, on Marine girlfriends on Facebook, and since the story broke on dark web sites.  Violating the corps again, by violating fellow Marines.

And these aren’t the only cases, just the most recent.  Look back at the blood-pinning scandal of the late 1990’s. Look at the issues of rape within the Corps and where they are stationed (particularly Japan and Okinawa). Is there a thread here?  Yes. It is the callous disregard for the lives, the welfare, the well-being of others in the Corps itself as well as outside of it.  It is a failure of character and leadership that originates in the very heart of the training centers for Marine personnel and officers.

I value the Marines combat ability, their skills on the battle field, their superiority over our enemies.  But that can’t come at the cost of losing the character and humanity for which we are fighting.  Once again, and too often, Marine generals and leadership say this doesn’t reflect the Corps, that things will be changed.

The lack of change that occurs reflects, sadly, yet another failure of Marine leadership.

Flagging Memory

As I come into the gathering hall before church, it looks quiet colorful.  all the low, round coffee tables are decorated with numerous tabletop flag stands, holding flags from all around the world.  The flags are part of the months focus on world-wide ministry.


The cause me to smile, because they remind me of my youth.  I used to be quite fascinated with flags.  I knew the flags of all the nations, even the lesser known ones of Africa.  One of my fondest souvenirs was a set of paper flags from the United Nations and a trip there.  I remember gluing the flags onto little wooden sticks.  They were so treasured that I had them well into adult-hood….in fact, up until the Great Purge of the last couple of years.

Times have changed.

Names have been changed….Upper Volta, Ceylon, Burma.

Countries have gone….Yugoslavia, USSR, United Arab Republic.

And now there are a slew of ‘Stans, a Balkan’s full of little states, new island states.

And a flagging memory for recognizing them.

Time change

Even though we’re on the upslope of daylight, even though we are gaining precious minutes each week, even though I have so far survived this….I still feel the need to rail against Standard Time and mourn the loss of Daylight Savings Time.  Because I need to save all the daylight I can, have it touch me all that I can.  I don’t know the full story of the creating of daylight savings time and standard time. But it’s time for it to stop. Let’s do Daylight Savings and keep it there, year round.

The world has changed considerably since Summer Time, as Daylight Savings Time was first known, was introduced.  Things have even changed since we codified it in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  At one point it made sense based on how we lived and the condition of the developed world.  Technology and society have moved on and the reasons for supporting the constant switching of time are no longer so valid. We now have a 24-7 existence where people do everything from telework (thanks to the web) to shop and even go to the gym at all hours.  I’ve seen the Washington Beltway as busy at 11 pm and 1 am as it is at 11 am and 1 pm. We have designed energy-efficient facilities, use LED lights, and drive higher efficiency vehicles.  The idea of saving energy….has evaporated like frost in the sunlight.  A working world that was ruled by 9-5 schedules is different from what we have now.  Now it’s ruled by 24-7, and people do everything at all hours.

The time difference doesn’t help with farming and crops.  We have lost the society where there were large number of people on the land, and farming was a manual chore.  Now we don’t have large portions of the population living on farms and rising up early to milk cows and till the earth anymore. Farms are still important, they just are just significantly more automated and mechanized, and less impacted by the clock.

The time switching doesn’t help protect kids going to school.  The most dangerous time for pedestrians and for accidents is when the clock changes and we have a sudden shift in light and dark and twilight.  And now, because of football, band, aftercare and numerous other activities, they tend to go home in the dark instead of leave from home in the morning in the dark.

Finally… screws with my SAD and ruins months of the year for me (what?….why yes, yes, it IS all about me!).  Seasonal Affective Disorder is more widely recognized and understood, more widely diagnosed than ever before. It is the depression that comes from lack of light and disruption of rhythms, and the shift of the day only brings the dark of night upon us faster and faster.

Yes I’m grateful for the extra minutes I’ve been gaining these past couple of weeks.  Yes, it helps with my mood and my exercise; with my energy and productivity.  So I say “Down with Falling Back!”  Change the rules.  Have Congress do something useful AND unify the country (since there are a couple of states that don’t participate in this Ponzi scheme of the clock.  Stay with Spring Forward….do it in the spring and keep it there!

Standing with….

The flow of history is strange, with the eddies and currents that form, disperse, and come back to form again.  I’m mindful a commitment that I made, and now need to fulfill.

I just finished an abridged biography of the amazing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which reminded me of another  great German name, Martin Niemoller.  He is most famously known for the poem “First They Came”


I made a post on a smaller social media site there I quoted this, and made a commitment to remember this and to support it. And so to fulfill my commitment, I need to speak out and state that….
I stand with the LGBT community, for civil liberties, for civil ceremonies of loving relationships, and against discrimination and hatred.
I stand with Muslims seeking the peaceful practice of their faith and their lives, the way I am able to practice mine in this country.
I stand with the immigrants, who seek the type of life that I have and are willing to risk everything in the journey to here to have it.
I stand with the refugees who flee all they have ever known, all that they have, in order to simply live.
And, I stand with America in continuing to be the land of Liberty, the land of welcome, the land of waves of immigrants assimilating into society, strengthening us, and helping us to be the beacon of light we have been for so many years.



General Concern

As I have watched the unfolding of the selection of various Cabinet and high-ranking officials in the new administration, I find I have a General concern about three of them.

Three generals have been selected so far, and more could be tapped.  In general principle, I do not have an issue with the selection of military officers for Cabinet and other positions.  But I have concerns with aspects of these three.


The selection of Lt. General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor concerns me, on a couple of fronts.  First, his anti-Muslim views are too broad and run the risk of isolating the US from the world Islamic community.  I get that we are fighting radical Islam, and that the failure of the current administration to use that term has galled a number of people. Still, there are millions of Muslims that are not radical, not terrorist, not beyond the pale of our connecting.  It doesn’t appear that LTG Flynn has that nuance in his view, and that is a concern.  Second, his experience with Islam has been as a warfighter, which may not transition well to dealing with the diplomatic aspects of national security.  And then there are issues of managerial style, handling of classified information, and a tendency to alt-right positions.

The selection of General John Kelly for DHS is also disconcerting.  The DHS is a disparate, civilian, law-enforcement focused agency with a bad morale problem.  While a highly successful Marine Corps general, Kelly is a combat commander.  How that skill set will mesh with an organization that includes the US Secret Service, TSA, ICE, CBP,and FEMA, among others, will be challenging.  An individual with law enforcement experience would seem to be a more logical choice, or even a head of a multinational conglomerate where diplomacy and politics help make an organization operate.

The selection of a Warrior Monk to run the Pentagon would, at first blush, seem to be a smart option.  General James Mattis is a highly successful, highly regarded (almost worshiped) combat general with a reputation as a great leader and great thinker.  The role of Secretary of Defense should, however, be a civilian in order to provide the proper checks and balances on military authority, to ensure the realization of civilian control over military matters.  And least any think that clash doesn’t happen, remember Truman dropping McArthur because the general forgot that it was the President who made decisions.

Finally, all three are veterans of the long war in southern Asia.  The military, and indeed the government, tends to focus on getting the last war right and learning the lessons from it, and not so much learning how to prepare for the next one.  While we need to end this conflict and prepare to solve the accompanying mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, we also need to be prepared for the cyberwar that is coming, for dealing with the next generation of warfare and challenges.  None, including Flynn, are heavily focused on cyber. Or Russia.  Or China.  And if these leaders aren’t focused on these areas, how will they be able to advise their newly elected boss?

Time will tell.



Death Marks

I had first seen the signs, but forgot them.


I had passed by the signs on my walks a couple of times, and didn’t pay any attention to them.


And then it hit me.  Death marks.  The trees that graced my walk path were going to be removed.

By paint on the trunk, and marks on the road, the tree is marked for removal.

tree           road

It is, undoubtedly, due to the Emerald Ash Borer.  We’ve lost a lot of trees in the region, and in Columbia, from the pest.  I understand the need to remove them, although the change in the view of my path will be sad to see.  It was right beside the first tree in the first picture that I saw my first (and only) in-person pileated woodpecker.

I suspect my only real compliant with the process is wondering, since it has likely been known for a couple of years that the trees would eventually have to go, why new ones weren’t planted sooner, to give them a little time to grow, to give them a little shade.

It does make me more attuned to the issue of biological diversity.  For history has shown the effects of a dependency on a particular species, whether it is the potato, the elm, or the ash.  And perhaps it should be considered when we think about the other crops of corn, wheat, rice, bananas.  How dependent are we on a single sources, which can be susceptible to a particular disease….or biological weapon.

For now, I know I will have a tree-less promenade next spring and summer, and a significant change in my shade.


No, God didn’t….

One of the more disturbing quotes I’ve seen since the election came from Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and an evangelical leader in his own right. I have, until now, had the greatest respect for Franklin Graham and the great good that has been done by Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.  However, his politics has become increasingly far right in recent years.   The quote I found upsetting was “….I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.”

No, God didn’t.  At least not the God I’ve known and worshiped.

I do not believe that God intervened in the election  on the politics of one side, because it would mean that God would be endorsing the politics and morals (or lack thereof) of the winning side. I do not believe that God intervened for the prayers of hundreds of thousands of Trump evangelicals and ignored the prayers of the hundred of thousands of anti-Trump Christians (yes, you can be Christian and be anti-Trump). I understand that the political evangelical community supported Trump over Clinton because of Trump’s anti-abortion stance (although it’ll be interesting to see how that works out).  I understand that many of that community would support a perceived pro-Christianity/anti-Muslim stance (from a man who has said he hasn’t had to ask God for forgiveness, because he hasn’t done much wrong, according to his own words in the campaign).  But did God intervene in the election to support a man who doesn’t need to involve God (Trump’s words)? A man who was unfaithful to his first two wives? A man who failed to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s in his taxes, or render unto God what is His? A man who has said he has little to ask God’s forgiveness for? Or whose whole campaign was the antithesis of the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)?  A man who used blatant lies about a birth certificate and faith to denounce, challenge, and belittle an intelligent, faithful man?

I am tired of the evangelical “christian” community invoking God’s name for all manner of things to make some political statement, usually one with some aspect of hate, division, self-righteousness.  This isn’t the first time the evangelical community has done this.  It has happened with California droughts, with AIDS, with Katrina, with Sandy.  And now this.  I see no respect for God or His word in this politicizing of events, especially in a case where the alleged benefactor is so totally an anathema to the Gospel of love and grace.

I wonder, though.  Perhaps the evangelicals should consider a case where God did answer the prayers of a people…prayers that were perhaps as equally based politics.  The Israelites wanted a king, they wanted one badly.  So God gave them one, Saul.  He was not what they hoped for, and in their answered prayer their relationship with God was forever altered, for the worse.

Whether in direct actions by the new President, or in the inevitable backlash of the rest of the country, I wonder if this “intervening” will work out the way they think.


Two Days

Yesterday.  Quite surprising.  Dreary.  Gray. Depressing. Difficult.

Today.  Quite different. Warm. Hopeful. Encouraging. Upbeat.

The two days could not have been more different.

But weather in Maryland is like that. (yes, I had to set it up that way 🙂 )

It also works to describe politics, and the state of the union. And much as we need to handle and manage the changes in weather, we need to handle them in politics, too.  I admit to not understanding the meaning of the election, beyond the obvious that more Electoral College votes went to Trump. There are casual, surface-level conclusions (anti-Muslim, anti-foreigner, pro-white, pro-isolation) but I’m not yet convinced that they all hold.  There are deeper, more root-cause aspects (disenchantment, depression, change-aversion, disparity) and those need to be examined and discussed.  I’m not yet ready to believe that half of the country views immigrants, people of color, non heterosexuality, and non-Christian religions as inferior, unwanted, and targets of persecution.  Maybe that is the conclusion, but I haven’t reached it. It does challenge me to think about it more broadly, more deeply, more carefully than the past two elections. And to remember…..

Tomorrow is another day.




Lose-Lose :(

Well, I voted.


I hope this is the most objectionable election I ever have to go through, because I doubt I can take it getting worse. A pox on both their houses (little me bring a little Shakespearian civility into this at least).

And to make matters worse, I know this is a lose-lose proposition.

One candidate has no governmental experience, or working in collaborative environments.  Worse, there is frequently a thinly disguised vein of woeful contempt for the government, along with a lack of understanding of how it works. Practically unforgivable is the calling of the election process rigged, poisoning the well of the American process as well as public opinion before any voting begins. Combined with a tendency for impolite, impolitic, downright rude verbal proclamations, and the dysfunctional mess that is our current Congress will only get worse.

The other candidate has a stellar resume, yet has made some jarringly poor decisions. On top of that, the candidate bears the stigma of gender, of following the first African-American president, and her own spouses baggage. We’ve had eight years of showing we weren’t ready for a racial minority as president; I can only imagine how a gender trend setter will be viewed.  The opposition is already talking about impeachment hearings and trials, before the election even begins — the same opposition that has spent the past 8 years raising issues of birth, religion, and anything else to inhibit the process of government.

It’s lose-lose.  No matter who wins, there will be little in the way of civility or effective progress in the next four years.

D + 15….. we’ve forgotten

I’ve driven the section of the Washington Beltway from Legion Bridge up to I-95 many times, at all hours of the day and many hours of the night; I’m always amazed at how packed it is during the day, how wall to wall it is at rush hour, and how crowded it is even at 2am.

That day, I drove the whole route from Northern Virginia to Howard County at 75 mph, with no more than four or five cars in sight at any time in both directions; overhead, in that unforgettable blue sky, was the distinctive crack and boom of supersonic fighter jets patrolling.

Never forget.


It’s a good slogan. But we have. We have already forgotten.  What we have forgotten are the indelible lessons of that day. We have forgotten that we are one nation, that we can come together despite politics, despite race, despite religion, despite economics, to help one another. We have forgotten what it is like to care for one another, to help one another, to support one another. We have forgotten the resiliency of our spirit as a people. Instead, we focus on hating those that did this. We focus on disparaging those who disagree with us. We focus on us, ourselves, our needs, our opinions, our voice.  We have forgotten “us”, remember only “me”.


Over the years, I have developed belated admiration for a couple of pairs of lessor known people in the story. First up are Secretary Mineta and the FAA Command Center who ordered all aircraft down immediately, and closed US airspace. Going out on that kind of unanticipated limb of authority takes audacity….or fear. We aren’t talking about the President, or any elected official.  We’re talking an appointee and a civil servant.  Either way, it was a gutsy call.

The other pair is Col. Marc Sasseville and Lt. Heather Penny. Scrambled from Andrews AFB, their mission was to protect the Washington, DC with their F-16s. Unfortunately, they had no weapons. Amazing as it is now to comprehend, there were no jets on hot standby with armaments. They got the planes up, but they did not have functioning weapons on board. What they had was only their skill and their intention. They would have had to use their planes as aerial kamikazes. Up they went none the less.

My admiration also extends to the now somewhat better known story of the town of Gander, Newfoundland. A town of 10,000 that suddenly had 10,000 visitors in the form of planes that were forced to land due to closed US airspace. A town that opened doors and opened homes and took people in, embracing them and connecting with them. O Canada.

I wonder what D +30 will show, what will be remembered, what will be missed. I hope we don’t forget anymore.