The Other Men and Women Who Fought and Died for Freedom

The big national debate this past week centered around professional football players taking a knee during the National Anthem in order to protest what they view as systemic inequality in America’s criminal justice system. Many Americans, spurred on by a campaign speech by President Trump and several subsequent presidential “tweets,” expressed outrage at the protest, claiming, among other things, that it disrespects the flag and the men and women of our military who fight and die for our freedom.

Let me be clear up front: I have tremendous respect for members of our military and the sacrifices they and their families routinely make in service to our country. I believe that we, as a nation, owe them both respect and gratitude.

But the respect we rightfully owe members of our military should not be used to conflate all issues surrounding notions of liberty and freedom in this country, particularly when it comes to our civil liberties. To do so does a disservice both to history, as well as a great many everyday people who fought and died in pursuit of liberty.

Lost in the conflation of these issues is an important fact: that the greatest threats to our basic civil liberties have almost always come from within our own borders, not some foreign power or regime. While wars have been fought across the globe, the battle for civil liberties has largely been waged in our streets, along docks, on busses, at lunch counters, and in courtrooms — not distant battlefields. The people who fought and sometimes died in these struggles most often wore everyday clothes, not uniforms, and were seldom buried with honor or distinction. And in fact, in many cases, it was men wearing uniforms who assisted in putting them down. This is far from a uniquely American problem.

[T]he greatest threats to our basic civil liberties have almost always come from within our own borders, not some foreign power or regime.

March 29, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee, USA — Civil Rights activists, flanked by tanks, are blocked by National Guardsmen brandishing bayonets while trying to stage a protest on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Image by Bettmann/CORBIS

I know a lot of people don’t like to hear this. We like our history whitewashed, scrubbed clean of unpleasant truths, complex realities, and above all, culpability. We prefer an oversimplified mythology, with clearly-defined enemies and heroes in white hats. But such a worldview simply doesn’t reflect reality, and pretending otherwise doesn’t truly honor anyone, including the men and women in our military. Mostly, it does a tremendous disservice to many others who fought and sacrificed in the long and seemingly endless struggle for civil rights here at home.

As always, thanks for reading, and my best to both those who put on a uniform in order to serve and protect, and those willing to take a stand for injustice and inequality.

– T

On the Human Chains that Bind Us

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.  — Mahatma Gandhi

I’ll admit, recent events have tested my faith in humanity. I’d like to believe Gandhi’s words, but it’s difficult — when looking around at the events of today — not to question whether the very ocean of humanity is corrupt and polluted.

I’ve frankly never seen my country less in touch Continue reading On the Human Chains that Bind Us

My Totality

As everyone undoubtedly knows, there was a solar eclipse yesterday. Idaho was fortunate to be in its path, the band of totality beginning about an hour north of Boise, where I live, and ending less than two hours north — a mere fifteen Continue reading My Totality

I Used To Think It Was Funny: Before the Right Wing Media Supplanted Moderate-Conservativism, Created an Ideological Monopoly, and Became a De-facto Propaganda Arm for the Extreme Right’s Agenda

I’ll admit, I used to think it was funny. Back in the beginning — when a red-faced, bulging-veined Rush Limbaugh was still relatively new to the nation’s airwaves and didn’t yet have a huge following. His show seemed so foreign and outrageous, like some dark, twisted parody of Archie Bunker. Continue reading I Used To Think It Was Funny: Before the Right Wing Media Supplanted Moderate-Conservativism, Created an Ideological Monopoly, and Became a De-facto Propaganda Arm for the Extreme Right’s Agenda

70 from the ’70’s

This is a sequel to a blog I ran last year entitled “80 from the ’80’s,” here. This time it’s “70 from the ’70’s” — 70 albums from the 1970’s that still sound great today. It’s not intended as a “best of” list; rather, a more personal take on a great decade of music, including some albums and genres that don’t always make these kinds of lists (no offense, Led Zeppelin IV).

This time, I’m stoked to include picks from several guest contributors. They include Continue reading 70 from the ’70’s

A Pirate Looks at Fifty

 

That’s me (bottom) and my older brother, Jeff, playing “pirates” on the back porch of the house we grew up in in rural Northwest Ohio. If I had to guess, I’d say it was around 1974 — the same year Jimmy Buffett released one of his most enduring songs, “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

 

Mother, mother ocean, I’ve heard you call
‘Wanted to sail upon your waters
Since I was three feet tall
You’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all

I should acknowledge up front that I was never really a pirate at heart — even Continue reading A Pirate Looks at Fifty

Who will save America?: On the Crumbling Pillars of Our Democracy

Trump Fires Comey

This week, Donald Trump fired the Director of the F.B.I., James Comey, who was leading an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, including possible collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign. Continue reading Who will save America?: On the Crumbling Pillars of Our Democracy

Thoughts on the War on Art

I’ve been thinking a lot about art lately. As some of you know, I’m a fan, as well as a dabbler. I recently joined the board of a local arts organization and am super proud of the work it’s doing. My brother, Jeff, is an accomplished writer and creative writing instructor. Art is important to me, my family, and many people I know. For some, it is their livelihood.

And the arts are under attack. Again. Continue reading Thoughts on the War on Art

A Belated Post-Election Narrative About Narratives

A lot of narratives have emerged since Donald Trump’s recent electoral victory. Some have held some merit. Others, not so much. Political narratives can be important, I think, especially Continue reading A Belated Post-Election Narrative About Narratives

On Birds and Words and Metaphors

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Just as I sat down to write this morning — to yet again try to write something meaningful and insightful, that might somehow make a dent in the current wall of confusion — I was startled by a loud “thump” against my window. Continue reading On Birds and Words and Metaphors