Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bullying - Part 2

             So, following up from last week, I wanted to look at this whole idea of bullying a bit more.

I’ll get right to my basic concern. From everything I can determine ours is a government that has taken on the role of bully in leading the American people. Like many of you I have watched this encroachment taking place for many years. The rule of Eminent Domain, for instance, had the original intent of allowing the government to legally acquire personal property from private citizens. By definition, it is “the power the government has to obtain the property of an individual even without the person's full consent. In most countries, including the U.S., the land owner will be compensated for the land at fair market value. This power allows the government to seize land to be used in public enterprises such as roads, schools, or utilities installations. Eminent domain is generally found in some form in most common law nations.”

The trouble with eminent domain is it has morphed into something abhorrent where bureaucrats and other elected officials have routinely abused and bullied private citizens. These American citizens are ousted from their homes only to have the property be used for something not covered under the intent of the Constitution. The Institute for Justice web site has this to say about the overreach of eminent domain. “For half a century, unrestrained local and state governments have taken private property not for ‘public uses’—such as for bridges or public buildings—as permitted by the Constitution, but for private businesses in the name of ‘economic development.’ Private homes and businesses have been bulldozed, replaced by newer businesses and homes owned not by the public, but by private, politically powerful individuals and corporations.” Most of us don’t pay much attention to the eminent domain problem because it flies under the radar of news reporting.

However, there are other ongoing efforts to bully the American people that should be getting a lot of attention. The first is a Congress that could not be any more out of touch with the American people than they are right now. Our federal government for several decades has been flexing the bully muscle any time it chooses. The fiasco at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas is a classic example. Why did the government determine it was necessary to send in armored vehicles and armed officers with sophisticated weaponry against a group of Americans, who were following a religious nut job? Was this the only way to deal with these folks? A total of 54 adults and 28 children were dead as a result of the raid by federal forces.

More recently we have been subjected to an overreach by Congress, particularly the U.S. Senate, and specifically Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Mr. Reid has decided that a certain rancher, one Cliven Bundy in Nevada, is a “domestic terrorist.” Why? Because of some dispute over land Mr. Bundy and his family have been raising cattle on for a century or more. Now, I don’t know anything about the legalities of Mr. Bundy and his claims to the land he’s using, nor his ill-advised use of the English language in the past few days that has cast an unfortunate pall over this whole mess. However, none of that excuses the dreadful behavior by Senator Reid personally insulting American citizens as well as encouraging the Bureau of land Management (BLM) to forcefully confiscate some of Mr. Bundy’s livestock. This is frightening when you consider that armed officers of the law rolled into Mr. Bundy’s ranch, forcing a dangerous confrontation that nearly turned into a gun battle between American citizens and government agents fully armed. Senator Reid is an embarrassment and should have the decency to remove himself from Congress.

The final bullying that is immensely troubling is, once again, courtesy of our federal government. You and I as American citizens are being forced to purchase, whether we like it or not, a medical plan provided by the government. This is another violation of the Constitution! The argument will continue over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, euphemistically dubbed, Obamacare. But regardless of how the Supreme Court has ruled, no one can convince me that I, or any American, should be forced to buy something we do not want. This is an outrageous abuse of power perpetrated on the American people by a government run amuck.

Such abuse by our own government must stop! Unfortunately, I do not believe our elected representatives will police themselves. So, it rests with you and me as private American citizens to use the peaceful power of the election box to rid ourselves of power-hungry politicians who have lost respect for the American people which they were elected to represent.

However, inaction on the part of the American citizenry should not be misinterpreted by those holding power in Washington as a sign of weakness. The power-brokers in our nation’s capital would do well to remember that we are not chattel – we are Americans. Enough of your bullying!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bullying

         The subject of bullying has been in the forefront of the news the past several years. Ever wonder why? Well, I have and I do not like where this leads. Let me see if I can adequately explain myself.

Growing up I had my share of confrontations with other kids. We’d square off and have at it. The “Sweet Science” (referring to boxing) is anything but sweet when two kids are flailing away at each other, and what may have looked like boxing at first usually ends up a wrestling match in the dirt. After this exchange, each battler would check themselves for damage, usually in the form of scrapes, abrasions, lumps, a throbbing nose, and the taste of your own blood in your mouth. Win or lose, or even a draw (truce), you walked away feeling good about yourself. You stood up and defended yourself. There is something immensely satisfying in not backing down in the face of aggression. And as often as not, you became good friends as a result of the brouhaha.

My step father was a Marine in World War Two and was a strong, powerful man. He had an amazing grip. But he taught me to avoid unnecessary confrontations. I say “unnecessary” because there are times in life when you are not given a choice. As I grew into my early teens I was doing fifty pushups every morning and every night. They had to be done the correct way – straight body, chest to the floor, elbows locked at full extension. Even though I was shorter than most guys (and it seemed I was shorter than all the girls!), I had few fights because I was strong – and that kept the bullying-types away. And that was fine by me. In my mid-teens I decided I wanted to learn how to defend myself better, so I went into boxing and martial arts. With boxing I discovered I could block any punch with my face! In martial arts I was just a little slower than my average opponent. Not a good thing.

While serving in the Marine Corps I worked on other ways to defend and protect myself. I experienced my share of bullying as a kid because of my small size. I don’t like bullies, and I do not like to be bullied.

But kids today are exposed to a form of fighting and retribution that is way over the top. It’s not enough to simply have a fist fight. Television has introduced us to the embarrassment of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), what is euphemistically called (gag!), “Professional Wrestling.” Worse yet is the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), a barbaric form of gladiatorial combat which shows little resemblance in showing respect for your opponent. Body slamming is part of the drill in defeating your antagonist. Once down, the one on top showers punch after punch into the face and head of his foe. Never mind that the poor schmuck is unconscious! I fully understand why parents are fearful of their kids getting into fights. I got that.

So parents – teach your kids (boys, and especially girls) to learn how to defend themselves. If you think this world is going to become kinder and gentler (Did I just quote former President George H. W. Bush?) then you’re living in a fantasy.

Now back to this hubbub over bullying.

The present teaching offered through the hotly contested Common Core educational curriculum advises that anyone who is aggressive toward your child should be allowed to pretty much run rough-shod over them unopposed. The adults will supposedly deal with the bully. Such an approach merely weakens those who might otherwise stand up to bullies. Bullies do not like to be challenged. They particularly do not like being on the receiving end of a bloody nose.

Yet, as I watch our government operate these days I am reminded again and again of the tactics that a bully would use. Loud, confident, always trying to intimidate and silence any and all opposition.

There are any number of government agencies and departments that are behaving much like bullies. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) certainly comes to mind. So does the ATF (Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco). Senator Rand Paul has written a book recently entitled, “Government Bullies.” The following is taken from the book. “;Government regulations are out of control. They dictate how much water goes into your commode, and how much water comes out of your showerhead. They determine how hot the water needs to be in your washing machine, and how many miles to the gallon your car must achieve. Since the Patriot Act, your banking records, your gun registration, and your phone bill are easily accessible by government snoops. Mothers are arrested for buying raw milk. Families are fined for selling bunny rabbits without a license. Home and property owners are strapped with obscene fines, entangled in costly legal messes, and sent to federal prison, all for moving dirt from one end of their land to another. Unelected bureaucrats, armed with arbitrary rules and no need to back them up, stonewall and attack American citizens at every turn. The damage can be overwhelmingly taxing---financially, emotionally and even physically.”;

And there is much more. Next week I will look at the current attack and intimidation tactics being used by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid against a cattle rancher, Cliven Bundy, in Nevada whom Reid has labeled a “domestic terrorist.” This is governmental bullying of the worst kind. It must stop!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tootin' Your Horn

               A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the time I was the bugler during infantry training in the Marine Corps. It was not exactly a glamorous job but it did provide me with a certain distinction, albeit, a dubious distinction in the eyes (or should I say ears) of my fellow Marines. I admit to having enjoyed a certain pleasure in blowing Taps each evening at 10:00 as the melodic sound echoed off the surrounding hills. I had a different kind of pleasure at 4:30 in the morning knowing my blaring out Reveille would be a jolt to each man’s REM.

Bugles, and thus buglers, have played an important role in military life for nearly as long as man has been traversing this old earth. A fascinating use of horns is found in the book of Joshua, chapter 6, where God instructs the Israelites to circle the city of Jericho once a day for six days with seven priests carrying seven trumpets marching before the ark of the Lord while blowing the trumpets. This instrument is called the yowbel. Throughout the circling of Jericho the seven priests blew their horns. On the seventh day they did the same thing, only this time they circled the city seven times before blowing the horns. Then the command was given to sound the “war shout.” When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted and the walls of the city collapsed. Now that’s cool!

Ancient horns were usually made from the horn of animals, such as the shofar, used in Jewish religious rites which are still used today. Another horn used back in antiquity was the conch shell, salvaged from some denizen of the sea, and is used throughout many regions of the world for reasons that range from a calling of the gods (in Fiji the horn is called davui) to a conch shell being used to spur on Tongan football players. In the Far East it is used extensively in Buddhist ceremonies. The taqowa‘ was a Jewish military trumpet which is mentioned in Ezekiel 7:14.

In the western world, the trumpet has become the instrument of choice primarily because of its shrill, penetrating sound that immediately grabs the attention of those nearby. However, the North Korean army made good use of trumpets during the Korean War. Just prior to an attack, North Korean soldiers would loudly blow trumpets creating a strident sound, accompanied by the clanging of gongs. This had a demoralizing effect on United Nations and American troops. So much so that many soldiers ran away in a frenzied state upon hearing the discordant sounds of the trumpets and gongs.

But it is the Civil War that once again attracts me, where the bugle played a critical part of daily life for the soldiers of both the northern Yankees and the southern Rebels. The bugler introduced an additional layer of orderliness and discipline in the lives of these warriors. They quickly learned to develop an ear which enabled them to discern the different bugle calls.

The first order of the day was the bugle-call known as the Assembly of Buglers. It was sounded at 5:00 AM, or during the winter months, 6:00 AM. This was preparatory for Reveille, whereupon the men would grumble and grouse as they rolled out of their blankets, preparing for the start of a new day. Some disgruntled soldier might call out, “Put the bugler in the guardhouse!”

The next call by the bugler was Assembly. The men would fall into formation where roll-call would be taken.  Following this bit of administrative necessity, the next sound of the bugle was, Stable Call. The soldiers (cavalry and artillery units) brushed their horses with curry-combs, while their mounts enjoyed their feed-bag. The next call was Breakfast Call. It is at this time in the morning that the troops had their chance to eat their first meal of the day. Next came Sick Call at 8:00 AM followed by Fatigue Call, which meant the troops “policed” the area – that is to say they walked about looking for stray debris which made the area unfit. This also included chopping firewood and filling water barrels and various other necessities of camp life.

Throughout the day various bugle calls would be sounded by the bugler, such as Drill Call, a monotonous, mundane repetition of military maneuvers intended to bring about quick, smooth responses by soldiers particularly when battle with the enemy was imminent. The next call was Boots and Saddles (again for cavalry and artillery). Although this call was originally intended as a time for practiced precision, later, during times of war, it was used to prepare men to be ready for engaging the enemy. Dinner Call came at noon, and in the hearts and minds of the men, it never came too soon.

Shortly before 6:00 PM the bugler blew Assembly followed by Retreat, where a roll-call was once again taken. This roll-call was followed by the bugle call Dress Parade of the infantry. The men stood in formation, having to endure more administrative clap-trap. This was followed by some lecturer, pontificating on whatever his supposed area of expertise was. The next call was Assembly of Guard, which consisted of those soldiers selected for guard duty, protecting the camp while their fellows slept.

At 8:30 PM the final call for Assembly was sounded where one last roll-call was made before the men were dismissed to their stockade Sibley tents. This last gathering is known as Tattoo. At 9:00 PM the bugler would blow Taps to end the day.

In many of these bugle calls a drummer might be used as well. And other calls were used when engaging in combat. But the bugle and the bugler have become an historical fixture in the annals of our American military.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Reveille

               Looking back, it must have been 1957. I was nine years old and in 4th grade in Mount Kisco, New York. This was a new school for me, having previously lived in New Jersey and Connecticut.

One day, the music teacher, Mr. Salvo came into our classroom. He told us about the music program and how we could all learn to play an instrument. Sounded good to me, so when he was listing various instruments, kids would raise their hands. When he said “Trumpet,” my hand shot up. I’m not sure why I chose the trumpet, except perhaps I liked the sound of the word, trumpet. Those early group trumpet classes were painful. When we did manage to make some air come through the bent tubing which is a trumpets design, the sound we corporately produced resembled a herd of elephants in distress.

I dutifully carried my school trumpet back and forth from home every day for the next three years. I had lots of fun learning to play and perform.

So, in 1969 at the age of twenty-one, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. After graduating from boot camp, we entered into our next phase – infantry training. Those in charge of us at that time were called “Troop Handlers.” You see, we left the “Drill Instructors” back in boot camp. We’d moved up, although the resemblance between drill instructors and troop handlers was striking.

Anyway, our troop handlers wanted to have a bugler for our company of fresh, young Marines. Yours truly was deemed worthy of this dubious honor. Actually, the only time I had to blow the horn was taps at night (10:00), and reveille in the morning (4:30). This meant that everyone else got to hit the sack ahead of me, and then I had to be awakened every morning at 4:00 to blow reveille at 4:30.

One morning after blowing reveille, I heard the bellowing voice of a troop handler, calling, “Bugler!” I sprinted to their hooch (Quonset hut), screeching to a halt to announce my presence, “Sir! Bugler reporting as ordered, sir!” What happened next was terrifying to me. I actually thought this might be my last day on earth. It just so happened that one of the troop handlers had been out on the town the previous evening and was sleeping off a serious hang-over. Several troop handlers had gathered in the hooch, snickering and grinning like they’d just eaten the canary. I could see nothing but bad things resulting from this confab, but there was no place for me to go.

The troop handler who had initially called for me proceeded to tell me what he wanted me to do. “Now you take that little horn you’re holding there, see, and blow reveille in this troop handler’s ear. As you can tell he’s sound asleep in his rack. I want you to blow real loud, do you understand me? Now, wake him up!” I stood there terrified. When this guy comes up off the rack he’ll be looking to kill me! The troop handlers all gathered around for the fun. I put the horn to my lips and gave a full rendition of reveille. Fortunately for me, when this troop handler shot up off his rack, he realized he’d been had. His pals were doubled over in laughter, enjoying the moment at his expense. I was quickly dismissed, at which point I beat a hasty retreat. I was sure this guy was going to hunt me down, but nothing more was ever said, to my great relief.

The day we completed infantry training, several of my fellow Marines came up to me to thank me for blowing taps and reveille every day. But I’ll always remember how one Marine put it. He said, “I loved to hear you blow taps every evening. I’ll never forget that.” I smiled and thanked him. However, he wasn’t done. “But,” he said, “I will not miss hearing you play reveille in the morning!”

At this particular juncture in our service in the Marine Corps, all of the guys I’d gone through training with had orders to other places. I was headed for Jacksonville, Florida where I learned to work on the electrical black boxes on jet airplanes. Training days were over. No more bugle calls.

I long for the days when a bugle, or at least a trumpet or cornet was used during training. A real person would blow the horn! A real person who could put feeling and emotion into the sound emanating from the instrument. Today, most of what I hear whenever taps is played (usually at a military funeral) is an electronic horn. All the “bugler” has to do is stand there, put the horn to his lips (simulation of playing), and turn on the button to start the tinny, lifeless rendition of “Taps.” At that point in the ceremony I’m usually distracted by the squawking noise being emitted from this artificial horn, which sounds altogether unnatural.

The bugle and bugler may have gone the way of the dinosaur in the military. However, I am looking forward to another bugle blast! When the angel Gabriel puts that golden trumpet to his lips, it means just one thing – Jesus is coming! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

At the Cross

             Last week was the final concert for the 2013-14 season provided by the Ripon Arts League (RAL). It has been my good fortune to be a board member of this organization for the past 14 years.

         Each year we provide five monthly concerts beginning in September and ending in March. We intentionally skip December and January due to the hectic pace of that time period for many people each year. For the first 20 years of the RAL’s existence the Program Director was Joe O’Leary, a well-known and respected educator in our community. After Joe retired the position of Program Director was passed to Leo Zuber, an equally well-known and respected educator. The Program Committee selects an eclectic array of performers each year, attempting to appeal to a variety of musical tastes. To attend the five concerts, you only pay an annual membership fee of $30.00. You can’t beat that deal!

So last Tuesday night we played host to pianist Richard Glazier. Mr. Glazier sat at the piano sharing a variety of songs from the past, his expertise being the music of George and Ira Gershwin. He’s only in his early fifties, but he has managed to meet some of the greats in the world of Broadway and Hollywood. Some of the writers and composers he highlighted with his playing were “Where or When” by Richard Rogers, “So in Love” by Cole Porter, “My Fair Lady” by the musical duo of (Alan J.) Lerner & (Fredrick) Lowe, and of course numerous tunes from the Gershwin’s, such as “Swanee,” “Bess You is My Woman,” and “Embraceable You.” In between songs he would share stories, anecdotes, and personal encounters he had with many of the legends of song and dance.
 

One particularly fascinating person he had the opportunity to meet and befriend was Camilla Williams. Ms. Williams was perhaps the finest opera singer of her era if not of all time. Her musical career began in the 1940s when she became instrumental in breaking the color barrier for opera. “After studying with renowned teachers in New York City, she was the first African American to receive a regular contract with a major American opera company, the New York City Opera.”

Ms. Williams was born and raised in Virginia where her father was a chauffeur. Faith played a significant part in her life as she reveals in this comment. "My grandparents and parents were self-taught musicians; all of them sang, and there was always music in our home." Camilla's grandfather, Alexander Carey, was a choir leader and singer. "All my people sing. We were poor, but God blessed us with music." By the age of eight, Camilla was dancing, playing the piano, and singing at school and Danville's (Virginia) Calvary Baptist Church.”

Richard Glazier shared a cute exchange he had with Ms. Williams when they were discussing racial issues and those who hate another person based solely on their skin color. Ms. Williams said, in her soft southern voice, “Honey, bless your enemies, and leave ‘em at the foot of the Cross!”

No doubt this comment brought a smile to your face. But think about it! Those people in life that are your enemies may get under your skin, and cause you constant irritation. But as I once heard, when you allow someone to bug you like that, you have allowed them to take residence in your heart and mind rent free!

The Bible once again shows the wisdom of God’s Word. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had these poignant remarks concerning how to best treat those who are enemies.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Camilla Williams left this life for the glories of heaven in 2012, but she obviously had this matter of dealing with your enemies figured out well before hand. And, in her own unique way, she graciously shared it with others.

Psalm for the Day