Proud to be an American this Fourth, despite you know who…

July 4, 2017

Proud to be an American this July 4th, 2017. The United States of America is bigger and better than its leaders, especially the current one at the top, you know who.

Frustration, inattention, distraction, apathy, a world changing at warp speed, all those factors led to the state of affairs our government is in right now. And, if you can believe the polls, 40 percent of Americans are comfortable with the person at the top.

But we are not the government, although the government is of our own making and is supposed to reflect our wishes.

But we are individuals in an as of yet still free nation where we are not obliged to be lockstep behind an authoritarian leader and engage in groupthink (formed by the group in power) and to try to understand its newspeak (where there are alternative facts, and by which we would be prevented from forming coherent and independent thoughts).

This dark era in our government will pass.

Maybe we needed it to appreciate what we have.

However, I could have done without it myself.

But I am proud to be an American and feel so fortunate to have been born here.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY TO ALL!

 

 


This trucker is going to see, make that did see the fireworks this year!

July 4, 2015
I have my road gear ready to go just in case.

I have my road gear ready to go just in case.

UPDATE: (7-5-15) I did see the show and it was spectacular. I feel both proud and fortunate to be a citizen of the United States of America.

—————————-

 

Maybe I’ll get to see those fireworks this year after all. I happen to be off the road recovering from some oral surgery — which is coming along nicely.

You see I have one of the best if not the best views in town from my apartment balcony. It’s real close to where they set the fireworks off each Fourth of July and it’s in line with the launch point too. They come right at me it seems.

But I think this makes the sixth show since I’ve lived here and I only recall seeing one, at least one clear through.

I’m an over-the-road truck driver and often am out on the road on this night each year. Last year I had off and was getting ready to watch the show — well it was still a couple of hours or so away — when my cell rang. Actually I think I was in the laundry room. I made the mistake of answering without even looking at the number (don’t ever do that). It was the dispatcher and they had an unexpected change to make on a run and that change was me having to work. At first I begged off but I got a guilty conscience and called back. Yeah I did. I did not have to leave until later that night or actually the wee hours of the morning (but morning is night that early).

I have a hard time what I call pre-sleeping. I mean I try to go to bed at maybe 9 or 10 as much as I can and sleep during the nighttime hours. But I knew I needed a nap because I had to leave in the middle of the night. But I could not sleep so I started to watch the fireworks. However, half way through I did become tired and went to bed. The boom boom boom actually lulled me to sleep… and then the alarm went off.

One year I got wise and put in a time-off request well in advance for the Fourth. On the third I was on my way back to the home terminal when I chanced to talk to one of my fellow drivers. He was complaining that some guys just drop trailers at our yard and leave them for some other guy to take them the rest of the way, simply asking for time off at the last minute. Yeah I hate that too I agreed. Turns out when I got to our home base he told the dispatcher he needed off. Guess who got to take his trailer the rest of the way?  Yeah, me!

That man has gone off to the big truck stop in the sky. Bless his soul.

Another year I could not make it home in time but as I descended a hill about two hours out, the town I was near was putting on their show and I had a good view.

But I am home today and I am not going to answer the phone.

Happy Fourth of July to all and happy birthday America!


As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, some thoughts about war…

July 4, 2010

I wanted to write about the Fourth of July. The only thing I could come up with is something I had already started to write a couple of weeks ago but never got time to finish or post. But since Fourth of July celebrations often play up the military and war, I wanted to share this:

There was mention in the news recently about the fact we reached the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

It got me to thinking about being in the Baby Boomer generation and my or our attitude towards war.

My introduction to war began when I was maybe five years old. My middle brother and I used to watch Saturday morning TV, and there were several weekly documentary type shows on. I think the Korean War had just ended (or technically was halted with an armistice or cease fire or whatever it is called — it has never been officially ended, we have all been reminded, and there‘s even been some recent threats that it might resume, with the recent sinking of a South Korean ship by North Korea and the accompanying South Korean casualties).

One show began with a tag line that said something about the “Korean Conflict”. At first it had been dubbed a “police action”. Politicians who for some reason are wont to commit troops to war often create euphemisms, such as “police action” or they even talk of the fantasy of “limited war”.

(There of course can be limited and temporary or even intermittent military action that does not rise to the level of what most would call war, but I am not writing about that.)

But anyway, we watched newsreel footage on TV about the Korean War. We also saw a lot of footage about World War II. We also saw a lot of movies downtown while I was growing up that were about World War II. They were always mowing down all those “Japs”. They were also killing Germans by the score.

I was learning about world events and history and politics along the way — fortunately my folks were well informed and my father was a journalist.

But it was a little too early for me to completely understand the relations among nations. I was always bemused by the fact that so many of my toys were “made in Japan” (today that would be made in China).

It further puzzled me to some extent that my last name was German, in fact the famous name of some German handguns often carried by Nazi officers — Walther.

But I think what I really want to say here is that all the stuff we watched had the same theme. American soldiers always prevailed over the evil enemy. And we fought in the defense of liberty after being attacked without provocation and we were completely innocent.

My brother and I both told each other we wanted to be in the military when we grew up. We usually decided we wanted to be in the Navy, because our older brother was a career Navy man. But sometimes we wanted to be in the Coast Guard or the Marines or the Army — don’t recall wanting to be in the Air Force, but maybe.

We often played war or Army (or Navy).

We rooted for Navy in the Army-Navy football games.

As I went through school I learned more about our history of war — although I think I learned more from my parents or outside reading than from public school. In fact history at school seemed to stop sometime not long after the Civil War.

And I think I realized that any desire to be in the military was really a little boy thing. It did not stick with me, really.

When I was in high school what we now call the “Vietnam War” was beginning.

I have written much of our history there and will not go into all that now. But I know that although there was much debate in the government about whether we should go to war in Vietnam to prevent the communists from taking over our nominal ally, South Vietnam, the prevailing mood in the government and society at large was that surely if we did we would prevail — America always wins!

(Actually we have been reminded that we did not really “win” in Korea. It was more of a stalemate — but we did prevent the North Korean communists from latching on to South Korea, so that does seem somewhat of a victory to me, as opposed to Vietnam where we unquestionably lost or gave up before we could win.)

As a teenager, I was of mixed emotions myself. Possibly in the interest of my own self-preservation (but I am not sure about that), I tended to question whether we ought to go to war for something that did not seem to pose any direct threat to our nation (domino theory aside). On the other hand, I did not like to see the U.S. back down from a challenge.

At any rate, I too was sure the U.S. could prevail and it was not my decision to make. The voting age was still 21 at the time, so I couldn’t even express my opinion that way.

I also thought that surely that by the time I graduated from high school (I believe our direct involvement in the war began when I was a high school sophomore) it would all be over.

Lo and behold it was not. By the time I graduated from high school in 1967 we were nearly at our height of involvement in the war.

I recall going to register with the draft board, as required, and the lady telling me that if I volunteered for the draft, I could get it all out of the way, with two years’ required service.

And now I just recalled that her son was a Green Beret and with another soldier had come to my high school and talked to us in my gym class. They talked about setting up Claymore mines, a device that hurls hundreds of nails at its victims.

I think the general attitude among most of us was that was interesting or “awesome” as some kids might say today, but I don’t think most of us were focused on the reality of war; it was all like a movie or playing war as kids.

Also, I think by that time we had started realizing via the news that this Vietnam War was a different animal than our past wars. We were not always fighting a uniformed army face the face (although there were NVA uniformed soldiers in the fighting too), but more often black-pajamed guerillas hiding in the jungle who would ambush and then disappear.

Even though we had overwhelming superiority in armaments and complete control of the air, we were not prevailing over the jungle fighters (never mind that mindless claim that we won all our battles — if so, why did we lose?).

And I have been accused of having a good memory. This is something I can state for a fact and something that always frustrates me. Even though there became to be a deep divide in public opinion over the war as it continued, time and time again I heard people say that although they were not especially pro-war, they felt that if we must fight we must fight to win. But there was all this wrangling in the political and public policy establishment about whether we should fight harder. If we did, we would be guilty of “escalating” the war. Even then I saw that argument as nonsense (and I’m sure a lot of others did too). How do you escalate a war? How or why would you half fight if attacked? Apparently there was some fantasy that if you fought on a limited basis (pulled your punches), you could keep casualties to a minimum politically accepted level.

In the end in Vietnam, firepower lost to commitment on the part of the enemy who was in the thing for only one reason — to win. We also were hampered by a corrupt government in South Vietnam and a population who at the time did not share our dream of keeping them free.

Today. We face much the same situation in Afghanistan (and let’s don’t even talk of Iraq just now).

We lost nearly 60,000 and suffered thousands more of gravely wounded in Vietnam in a decade-long war. The casualties are not as high yet in Afghanistan, past 1,000 now — but give it time.

While I think the reality is that we cannot re-make Afghanistan in our own image and make everyone love us and not want to come over and blow us up (and it was Saudi-Arabians who tried that, really, but let’s don’t confuse ourselves with the facts), that is all beside the point.

At this juncture we really have no interest in Afghanistan.

The only reason the public puts up with us still being there is its inattention, complacency and distraction caused by the Great Recession (ironically fueled to some extent from the costly war),and most of all to the clever move by politicians and the mistake by peaceniks in creating an all-volunteer professional military and doing away with the military draft.

If all were subject to the draft, there would be no war.

I will stop here and note that if one wanted to argue the case, there is a slightly better rationale for being in Afghanistan than there was in Vietnam. We were attacked by forces that staged and were aided and abetted by some in Afghanistan. In Vietnam, we were not attacked on our homeland and we faced no such imminent threat of attack. But Osama Bin Laden, the master-mind of 9/11, has moved on, possibly to Pakistan (our nominal, but not real, ally) or possibly to the grave. Al Qaeda, the organization we are supposedly fighting, has essentially moved on to Pakistan as well. Of course it could set back up in Afghanistan or even Iraq, once we clear out of the area — but then again, with its decentralized and surreptitious nature it can set up in spots all over the globe.

But back to baby boom generation and the Vietnam War — is that what I was talking about more or less?

I first attempted to get into the Navy right out of high school, more for lack of anything else to do — I wasn’t ready for college — than anything else.

But I could not pass the test for the Navy (and there is a strange and silly story to that, which I may or may not have blogged about before — I once wrote a newspaper column about it, but I’ll skip it for now).

But several months later I decided to join the Army. And this at a time when the casualties in Vietnam were mounting. I was in this strange disconnect world where I did not really admit to myself that I was essentially volunteering to be possible cannon fodder (to borrow a term I think used a lot during World War I).

However, as it happened, I was sent to Germany, where the only thing I suffered was some near frostbite and dish pan hands from too much KP.

During my three-year enlistment I experienced the phenomenon of my middle brother being caught up in the draft between college and law school. He served his year in Vietnam, in the Army, and continued along his path to becoming a lawyer.

And now on this Fourth of July, I stop and think how much I love my country and feel proud that I did my service, such as it was.

Even though what I did was relatively inconsequential, at least I served in uniform — something a lot of the war mongers of today never did!

But let’s not be negative on this our nation’s birthday.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!


The United States is something worth celebrating…

July 5, 2009

(Blogger’s note: I posted this late in the afternoon Pacific Time on July 4, but on my blog time it was already July 5. Hope everyone is enjoying their July Fourth weekend.) 

 

As we celebrate this Independence Day, the Fourth of July, this year the 233rd birthday of the United States of America, we might wonder independence from what?

We have our Constitution, to include its Bill of Rights. We have an elected government. We are not ruled by a king who proclaims a god given right to tell us what to do (although some political candidates would have you believe that God is on their side and Satan on the side of their opponents).

So we are independent from governmental tyranny, except for the fact we may have created such a monster of government in the name of protecting ourselves from ourselves that we may not be as free as we think we ought to be at times.

But we must have something going. People from all over the world have and still do flock to our shores and cross our borders, legally and illegally, to be part of America.

And to use a much abused or misused word, we are “unique” as a nation. Unique means one of a kind, and that we are. Nothing really like us existed before 1776 and nothing just like us has existed since. We have some close imitations around the world, but we stand out still as one of a kind.

Without going into some complicated history lesson where I would likely botch the whole thing anyway, I will just write here that yes we began as a colony of Englishmen, primarily. And those who revolted from the mother country were basically, as I understand it, only asking for the rights of Englishmen, of which they asserted they were being deprived. And I risk really going out on a limb here with ancient history, but the notion that men (and that really means women too in the modern context) should not be deprived of individual rights by an all powerful leader (read king) goes way back to the signing of the Magna Carta in England in 1215.

But once we got going with the revolution thing, we as a new nation totally abandoned any idea that we would have a sovereign at the head of our government. We did not invent Democracy, the idea came from ancient Greece and Rome, but we took it to a new level. We decided that we would have a government of and by and for the people.

And I think what has really done the trick is that we went beyond a group of Englishmen, and sons of Englishmen, to a nation of immigrants from all over the world who yearned for individual freedom and opportunity to live a better and freer life than they otherwise would be able to experience.

We’ve faced some problems and contradictions along the way. Slavery was recognized in our constitution but finally abolished after a civil war (in law anyway). And of course we ran roughshod over the native inhabitants of the American continent, but people fighting each other over the competition for land and resources is a large part of the story of man, just read the Holy Bible.

From the beginning of our nation there has been a disagreement as to how much freedom we should have and how power should be distributed. Some think there ought to be strong central rule and others think the power should be more loosely distributed, and some think there should be as little government as possible. And many have no precise notion of how governmental power should be distributed, except that individuals should be able to keep their freedoms – we can all agree on that.

And I think I am correct in stating that the Founding Fathers did not want or conceive that the United States would become a world power. But with people from all over the world coming to us we came to represent the aspirations for freedom and opportunity of everyone on the planet, and in the modern age we have become a super power, in fact, at present, THE super power.

And as much as it often seems the rest of the world loves to hate us, in reality in seems also that the world in general looks to us as a beacon of freedom and is disappointed when we fail or are perceived to have failed in that regard.

Our main problem now is that while we are free and independent as far as individual liberties, we are not free from the constant struggle of life. There’s that constant struggle for survival, the struggle for resources. Such struggles are not only between nations but within nations. And we are experiencing that struggle right now big time. We call it a recession or economic downturn or financial crisis or depression.

Throughout history, when people become desperate they have often turned to forms of tyranny that lessen their freedom but promise protection from want and attack.

Some would charge that under President Barack Obama and his stimulus program and his push for health care reform with the so-called public option, and his green energy program we are headed that way now, just as some did back in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal social programs, designed to add financial security and help bring us out of the Great Depression.

I don’t think so, but I do think there is always a danger that we might give up all of our freedoms in the name of some kind of security. Just as the current economic turmoil is caused larger numbers of voters to move to the political left, concern over a loss of moral values under a morally corrupt president, Bill Clinton, caused the nation to move decidedly toward the right, and then even more so as the result of 9/11 and our concerns for security from attacks by terrorists. And for some time the public seemed quite willing to put its trust in a secretive White House led by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that made war and spying on its own citizens and ignoring constitutional protections of liberty, that set us apart as a society, its mode of operation.

In the extremes of left and right, liberty is curtailed in the name of national security and well being. In order to maintain our freedom we need some type of equilibrium.

The good news is that so far we always have been able to do just that and there is no reason we cannot keep on doing so.

And while we all together celebrate our nation’s independence today and tonight, we may not be altogether in our preferred approach to the enjoyment of freedom.

But that is part of what makes this nation unique. We can agree to disagree.

And that is the essence of freedom. Unlike in places such as Iran, one can disagree without threat of imprisonment or death.

P.s.

And I for one support the troops as they say. I question some of the policies that got us to where we are today, but I think we owe our all to those we send into harm’s way. And we should all give thanks for their sacrifice this Day and night and always.


Leading the people on…

July 4, 2008

(Copyright)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The phones are working today. My computer files seem to be intact. And I’m not dealing with bureaucracy, because, for one reason, it’s a holiday, the Fourth of July. So, Happy Birthday America! Got the flag flying out front, which it has been doing since before Memorial Day when the wife purchased it (made in the USA).

If you read my previous blog, you know what the first three sentences were about.

Now today, I should be writing something super patriotic and inspirational, but I’ve already got a late start, so I’ll just cheat a little and run the blog I managed to retrieve from my file. I hope it doesn’t read too negative. And you will note, if you bother to read further, that I have used the term “nut case” several times. Maybe that term was too harsh. So, if you want, just read it as “eccentric.”

And now the resurrected blog, with maybe a few updates:

I really don’t want to vote for either John McCain or Barack Obama for president now that I have read of all of their inconsistencies out on the stump.

Sadly, I have to agree, politicians will say or do anything in their quest to get elected. In fact, they are forced to by the fact that they need votes to get elected and unless they say what people want to hear, they’re not likely to get their votes, that is, perhaps, unless voters are voting against the other candidate.

So, in the end, we’re asked to vote for the lesser of two evils or the liar we prefer.

And we really only have two choices, Republican or Democrat.

I mean, could you ever see a Libertarian candidate making it? No. One good reason for that is that they are usually nut cases (okay, eccentric), living in their own version of reality. If you happen to be a Libertarian, sorry to offend you, but I’m just going off of personal observation through the years. Maybe you’re an exception.

I actually interviewed a Libertarian presidential candidate once, although I can’t remember his name. At that same time, I had been covering a local election in the Sacramento suburbs in which an eccentric doctor (well actually, he may have been a nut case) was running for an officially non-partisan office, a county supervisor spot, sometimes called county commissioner in other states. He was a Libertarian.

Now at the time, and even now sometimes, I could agree in general with the Libertarian approach which really confounds those who see things as either conservative or liberal, because Libertarians are both at the same time and neither one.

But, who cares about all of that? Libertarians are usually nut cases (sorry, again). Sure they sound good sometimes, for awhile, but the ones who are true to their ideals don’t believe in having city police departments or even publicly supported fire fighters. And they don’t believe in public parks, among other things.

But, I like Ron Paul’s stances on a lot of things. He is the Libertarian who decided to run for president as a Republican, probably concluding no one would take him seriously as a Libertarian candidate (and despite internet money raising success, he still didn’t get much attention), because, well, Libertarian candidates are never considered seriously.

Oh, and remember Ross Perot? I stood a few feet away from him on the capitol steps in Sacramento when he was running for president on the so-called Independent Party ticket. Before he was introduced he was peeking around the corner of a pillar waving to some folks, big ears and all – 0oh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t – I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swath and lead the people on (lyrics by Carol Hall). Yall, I had to drop out of the race because they was going to interrupt my lil darlin’s weddin. But I was for widdlin down big guvament, especially after I made so much money off of it in my computer business contracts, and I was against NAFTA, but for a special free trade airport me and my son was developin.

Sorry about that, I’m back – Come to think of it, the one thing that the Libertarian presidential candidate, whose name I can’t recall, told me that made sense was that they know they can’t get elected president any time soon (and that was more than a decade ago), but that if they work at the grass roots level and get elected to local offices they can build from there. The other guy, running for county supervisor at that time, well, he lost.

Today, so-called maverick McCain has decided to basically support Bush policies, and though I loved what he said about we ought to be ashamed for condoning torture, he flip flopped on that – he now supports it (as long as he’s not the recipient – been there, done that). And Obama is running to the center, flip flopping on many things such as his original stance against domestic spying – he now supports wire tapping our phone calls and computers and giving the phone companies immunity in doing so, and while he campaigned against free trade, he now says some of that was “overheated rhetoric” and it’s old news that he had secretly (although you can’t keep secrets too well, thanks to blogs) assured some Canadians that his words against NAFTA were not sincere (just for local audiences). 0oh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t – I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swath and lead the people on.

(Obama attempted to explain his wire tap turnaround in a blog Thursday in the Huffington Post — should I go into the side step song again? And out on the stump, Obama also seemed to give conflicting statements about his position that he would pull troops out of Iraq. On that one, I would think he would have to make the decision only after he is elected, if he is elected. So we won’t go into the side-step routine.)

Bob Barr, the congressman who led the impeachment move against President Clinton, heavily criticizing Bill’s sleazy sexual antics in the White House, is said to have engaged in his own sexual antics during at least one public gathering and reading about his political positions, he seems to be the king of flip flop and side step (you can look that up on Wikipedia and other sites). Barr is running for president as a Libertarian.

Now back in 1980, I cast my vote for John Anderson. The other choices were a B movie-grade-actor looking to become the leading man in the biggest show ever, that would be Ronald Reagan, and the ineffectual, but highly educated peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, running for re-election. I forget what Anderson stood for, but he sounded reasonable and credible to me at the time.

But in our system the deck is stacked against third party candidates.

What I would really like to see is a series of formal one-on-one debates between McCain and Obama – not panels, not town hall meetings, but arguments where the participants are on their own and have to make formal openings and use evidence to support their arguments and have to respond directly to their opponent and not go off on a tangent to change the subject. If you can’t hold your own in a real debate, then you shouldn’t be running for president. And it doesn’t matter who the pundits say wins a debate, because the voters are free to make their own decision in that regard and act accordingly.

And the more polished debater, and one would expect Mr. Obama to be that, does not always win in the voters’ eyes or maybe voters don’t always look for who won in strict debating points, but who they can most identify with in political philosophy.

If in doubt, I say write in Alfred E. Neuman (What Me Worry). And where is Harold Stassen when we need him?