Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Years 2012 - the Good worth fighting for!



Baseball. Apple pie. The American dream.

Those were the days? ....

As I flip the calender to a New Year - 2012 - I reflect on growing up in a seemingly more innocent America and I get nostalgic with a tinge of sadness. Many songs express these feelings, as one of my favorites made popular in 1968 - Those Were the Days - sung in this video clip below.



Those were the the days, my friend.

We thought they would never end ...

Not so long again, October 2011, I wrote a blog: America in Decline?! The news has been (and still is) bad for so long that it has affected the national psyche. Even global tweets in twitter show we are depressed: Is Twitter Showing We're Depressed?

And I find myself getting older, but not wiser?

How did that happen?

Let's go back to the "Good Ol' Days" - 1983

I wrote a poem some 30 years ago, which I had posted more recently on my web page: here. Back then, I had been a little then depressed - it was raining - and I was between jobs. In 1983, the country was still in a deep recession as we were just starting to pull out of a national malaise. And I had written this poem to express my feelings - looking back to my more optimistic school days,

Lamenting the "Good Ol' Days"

The past is gone
The future dim
We lament
What could have been!


As the rain
Blows in wind
We yearn the sun
That could have been!


Time wears away
As the rain
That pounds and drips
Against the pane ...


What could have been!
Dare we say --
Will be the 'morrow
Which is today?


(C) 1983 by S. K. Smith

But after 1983 came ...

1984

It was an ominous sounding year with the ring of disaster thanks to George Orwell's novel - 1984. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. Yet in 1984, the national spirits and the economy took off. It would not be an exaggeration that in 1984, it was - Morning, again, in America.

Now at the doorstep is ...

2012

Like 1984, 2012 sounds like an ominous year. Some ancient prophesies predict a year of disasters. According to the Mayan calender - December 21, 2012 will be the "End of Time" (Also, reference: 2012 Mayan Predictions ) And there was the 2008 disaster movie - 2012 Doomsday.

2012 has become the new Y2K (2000).

The Future dim?

We survived Y2K - whose predicted disasters did not live up to the hype. With the turn of the new Millennium, The Lord of the Rings trilogy made it to the big screen in its latest version, starting in 2001. After the unpredicted disaster of 9/11, the story offered hope for the future as the protagonists faced and overcome overwhelming evil. One of my favorite speeches comes near the end of the second movie in the trilogy - The Two Towers (2002):




Looking back to stories in the past gives me hope for the future. There have been many dark days in our history. Like in the Lord of the Ring trilogy, the real life hero and heroines had many chances to turn back, but they did not. All were hanging on to the hope that there was some good in this world worth fighting for.

These stories still inspire me and we have their stories easily accessible to review in many forms of media. Here is a sample of some of those stories - with video links:

* The Revolutionary War

During the dark days when the "Glorious Cause of America" seemed lost, George Washington never gave up: George Washington insights

* The War of 1812

During the Battle of Baltimore and the fierce British bombardment of Fort McHenry, it looked like the United States would lose its "Second War of Independence." Great Britain had offered us an easy out if we took down our colors and surrendered. But we did not. Then enemy gave it everything they got. Against the odds, we prevailed. This battle inspired Francis Scott Key who wrote the words that became our national anthem: The Star Spangled Banner Story

* The Civil War

During those very dark days, it seemed the United States would dissolve, especially after the terrible losses such as at the Battle of Gettysburg. But Abraham Lincoln reminded us of the good that was worth fighting for: The Gettysburg Address

* World War Two:

During the dark days as Europe was succumbing to Hitler's juggernaut, Sir Winston Churchill reminded his people and allies as the United States that Christian civilization was worth fighting for: Their Finest Hour Speech

* The Cold War

During these dark days, it seemed communism was gobbling up the free world, imprisoning millions under dictatorial regimes behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains. Yet, Ronald Reagan reminded us that freedom was worth fighting for: A Time for Choosing

As in the stories above there is still Good in this world and ...

it is worth fighting for!

This 2012,

Fight the good fight of faith ...

1 Timothy 6:12
(King James Version)

-----------------------------
-----------------------------

Previous New Year's posts:

New Year's Lessons from Gilligan's Island (2010)

Eucatastrophe for 2010? (2010)

New Year's Resolutions and Blue Monday - the cure (2009)

-----------------------------


Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Americana

Saturday, December 17, 2011

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


Anthony McAuliffe

December 1944


World War Two was in overdrive. The major powers were slugging it out about the world - in Europe, Africa, and in the Pacific for 5 long years already- since 1939.

The United States had entered the fray when the US Congress had declared war on Japan (December 8, 1941) for attacking Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941).


Then on December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy had declared war on the United States. We were in the war for the long haul. 

Early December 1944, we had thought the war, at least in Europe, would be over in a few weeks and we'd be home for Christmas. 

But Adolf Hitler  had other plans and fought back with everything he got.


The European Theater - the Battle of the Bulge

Starting in December 16, 1944, Hitler had launched a surprise counter-offensive, the largest one in the war, against the Western Front. Its purpose was to drive a wedge between British and American armies and capture the Port of Antwerp to get the Allies to negotiate a peace.

The German offensive,
December 16-25, 1944
It would be known as the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 - January 25, 1945). And the legendary General George S. Patton was key to frustrate the Germans in this offensive.

(For an interesting analysis of the the Battle of Bulge, check out:  HOW HITLER CAUGHT US NAPPING – DICK MORRIS TV: HISTORY VIDEO! )

In December, 1944, Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101th Airborne, was attending a conference in the United States when the German army attacked. Acting in command was Brigadier General McAuliffe - who had showed his mettle when he parachuted in Normandy on D-Day.

During the German counter-attack, the 101th Airborne was called to defend the critical road junction at Bastogne, Belgium at all costs. Here the Germans surrounded the 101th in what would be known as the Seige of Bastogne.

This scene from Band of Brothers (2001) in the forest near Foy, a village near Bastogne, gives a glimpse of what the Allies were up against:




On December 22, 1944, the German commander, General Heinrich Freiherr von L├╝ttwitz sent the following ultimatum for immediate surrender to General McAuliffe at Bastogne.

That morning, General McAuliffe delivered his written answer -

To the German Commander,

Nuts!

The American Commander.

The verbal exchange is shown in the clip below from Battleground (1949) :


(For a longer clip - I could not embed this one - check out: The Siege of Bastogne.  And for the text of the German ultimatum and American response: "NUTS!" Revisited)


Help was on the way!

Enter General George S. Patton and the Third Army.

Though caught by surprise, General Eisenhower saw an opportunity in the German counter-attack. It was easier to defeat the Germans when they were on the offensive. General Patton made the claim that he could have two divisions to counterattack in Bastogne in 48 hours.

At the time, Patton's army was in the northeast of France. And the troops made good on that claim as the Third Army turned 90 degrees left and in 48 hours had linked with the defenders of Bastogne - a move that surprised General Eisenhower. (Reference: Battle of the Bulge)

And here is Patton's famous weather prayer that Christmas 1944, shown in this clip from Patton (1970), requested that December of 1944.  (For the rest of the story, Patton's Weather Prayer.)





That December 26, 1944, Patton's Third Army broke through the German lines and entered Bastogne, relieving the valiant defenders and ultimately pushing the Germans east across the Rhine.


Against overwhelming odds, the Americans held Bastonge and prevailed that Christmas of 1944 and after.


And General McAuliffe's - NUTS - at Bastonge and General Patton's gutsy leadership during the Battle of the Bulge in World War Two are part of America's Story

which is to be continued ...
 
------------------------------------
------------------------------------

Previous posts in this series:

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

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

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


------------------------------

Previous posts on the World War 2:

A kiss immortalized in August 14, 1945 (2010)

Remembering D-Day - June 6, 1944 (2010)

Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 - World War Two Soldiers Remembered (2009)


------------------------------------

Previous Christmas posts:

The King James Bible: 1611 - 2011 (2011)

Random Acts of Christmas (2010)

Remember Ebenezer Scrooge? (2010)

Christmas 1776 - the gift of freedom (2009)


------------------------------------
------------------------------------

Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Anthony McAuliffe, map of the Battle of the Bulge

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The King James Bible: 1611 - 2011


This year, 2011, has marked the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Check out this article:

Happy 400th Birthday To The King James Bible -- The Most Influential Book In The English Language


The headline of this article is no hyperbola.


From a literature standpoint - this translation is one of the greatest piece of literature in the English language. (reference: Why the King James Bible Endures)


From a scholarly standpoint - the bar was set very high in making this translation. (reference: An enduring legacy)


From a cultural standpoint - no other book has influenced so much of the English speaking world, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, .... (reference: King James Bible - Influence)


From an American standpoint - this version had a great influence in many of the American founding documents and laws. (reference: Concurrent Resolution (House & Senate) Recognizing the 400th Anniversary of the KJV)


The story of how this translation came about is rich in historical twists and players - saints, sinners, martyrs, persecutors. (For further reading, check out: English Bible History)

And now for the video clips highlighting the King James Bible ....

The History.

Below is a video (one of many good ones) that captures the high points:


The influence on the English Language.

This cartoon version presents quite succinctly and humorously the influence of the King James Bible on our language and culture:




The influence in Music.

Many sacred pieces take their lyrics from the King James Bible, such as the musical masterpiece, Handel's Messiah.  During this Advent/Christmas season, what more appropriate example of a song from this masterpiece than this one:





For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6
(King James Version)

The source of many Idioms.

Below is a tribute to the King's English, as the narrator easily pours from his lips so many of the idioms that have become part of our every day speech:




The King James Version in outer space?

Who would have even imagined that in 1611! Yet it happened. One of the most unforgettable Christmas Eve's was in 1968 when the crew of Apollo 8, while circling the moon, read to the world these words from Genesis in the King James Version:



P. S.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
Genesis 1:31
(King James Version)


Happy 400th Birthday KJV, which
Praises the King of King and Lord of Lords!

Merry Christmas
And God bless us all on the good old Earth!

------------------------------------
------------------------------------


Holiday eCards from Dayspring.com:

Hanukkah:

Messianic Hanukkah Greeting

General Hanukkah Greeting


Christmas:

Love Came Down

Silent Night

Unto us a Son is Given

The Father's Hands


------------------------------------


Previous Christmas posts:

Random Acts of Christmas (2010)

Remember Ebenezer Scrooge? (2010)

Christmas 1776 - the gift of freedom (2009)


------------------------------------
------------------------------------


Photo from Wiki Commons: King James' Bible, 1611

Saturday, December 3, 2011

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


George M. Cohan (1878 - 1942) - entertainer, singer, dancer, composer, actor ...

George Michael Cohan is an American icon as he wrote many patriotic songs, such as Give My Regards to Broadway, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, You're a Grand Old Flag, which are played in this video clip below:



And James Cagney played this song-and-dance man in the musical Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), which was made during a time when the United States had recently entered into World War Two.

The importance of music, especially in arousing passions and lifting spirits, is keenly felt during troubled times such as war ... especially a world war.

April 6, 1917

As newspaper headlines that day broadcast that the United States had declared war on Germany, one man, George M. Cohan started humming a tune, which he would compose a song and set to lyrics -Over There. (reference: Story behind the Lyrics)  And during World War One, Over There inspired young men to go and fight overseas as well as consoled those on the home front who were concerned for their loved ones - over there.

This story behind the lyrics is shown in this scene from Yankee Doodle Dandy: Over There
(It's worth a look, but I was not able to embed it, since its source on YouTube has disabled that feature.)

So we went over there in 1917. And we came back when it was over, over there. That is till the winds of wars inflamed the world again, and the United Stated was about to enter World War Two.

In this clip of the final scenes from Yankee Doodle Dandy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt presents George M. Cohan the Congressional Medal of Honor for his work on patriotic songs, such as Over There - which had inspired the nation, as shown in this clip:   Yankee Doodle Dandy Finale
(Again, I was not allowed to embed this one.)

And this scene of the James Cagney's tap dancing down the stairs was completely ad libbed. (reference: IMDb trivia)




In reality, George M. Cohan was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1936 by the US Congress - not the Congressional Medal of Honor, but this fiction made for a good Hollywood story ending  to complete the circle of Over There and the life of this composer, whose songs were so important during two world wars. (reference: House History, George M. Cohan)

And after December 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor Day

we did go Over There ... Again ... 70 years ago.

George M. Cohan's legend and patriot songs are part of America's Story, which is

to be continued ...

--------------------------------
--------------------------------


Previous posts in this series:

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

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


--------------------------------

Previous posts on the World Wars:

World War 1:

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

Veterans Day - World War One Soldiers Remembered (2009)


World War 2:

A kiss immortalized in August 14, 1945 (2010)

Remembering D-Day - June 6, 1944 (2010)

Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 - World War Two Soldiers Remembered (2009)


-------------------------


Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Over There