Responsibility, a lesson from history.

I’m sure that I am going to severely piss off an awefull lot of people but you know what?
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get on with it.

I think that one of the problems that I have with most people is their acceptance of personal responsibility, or rather their lack of it. The way that I see things there are many things that are Ultimately an objective responsibility, even though exactly when they become an objective responsibility is subjective. That is, a whole lot of things are deeply personal or effected by other factors,  however ultimately that doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility.

An example of this might be the years between 1933 and 1945. At what time did any one person bear the responsibility to stand against Fascism? Well, if it is happening to you in your country, that responsibility might be immediate. After all if you aren’t willing to help yourself, then why should I be required to? Why would I be responsible for doing what you are clearly unwilling to do for yourself? As a matter of fact, I could quite rightly believe that you choose to accept it in some manner. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” Benjamin Franklin.
So by your acceptance of it you are in fact giving your tacit approval.  Even if ultimately fighting against injustice means your own death.

I place the responsibility of the people of  France, Poland, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, ect, just a bit closer to 1936. After all that is when they began to become intimately aware of and intangled with the events that were to effect them.

BTW big kudos to all of the resistance groups that sprang into existance. I’m not saying that this didn’t occur, nor that the general populus didn’t combat fascism. I’m just placing their responsibility to act, a bit closer to the start because it effected them earlier.

Britan’s responsibility I place nearer to 1939 (no I haven’t forgotten about the 1940 battle of France or Dunkirk).

American’s you don’t get off any easier, because by this time it was clear exactly what was going on in Europe, and through out the rest of the world, and though you may have wished to remain neutral and isolationist, it was clear that human rights were being violated, by the horrors of war if by nothing else.  Admittedly the extent to which these things were occuring would not be known in it’s entirety until much later, but still, big fail there on the whole human rights issue.

Switzerland, you don’t get off scott free either, your country not only sat by and watched it all occur, but in many cases actually collaborated with the NAZIs, primarily for money, so sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up!

Now what is going to REALLY confuse some of you is that, I also believe that we as members of the human race all  have the responsibility to combat bigotry, tyrany, and social injustaces wherever and whenever we become aware of it.
Let me explain. In 1933-39 the world was a much more differant and diverse place. Communication was rarely instantanious, Telephone, telegraph and short wave radio being the exception rather than the rule. The problem is or rather was, that in relatively few areas on Earth, and for a relatively few number of people were the use of any of these a common occurance. In my own family, until he was 12, use of a telephone for my father meant a trip of several miles on foot, down to the local dry-goods store.
Use of any of these for communication over large distances or internationally even more so. That means basically that in any given situation the vast majority of news is going to take longer to reach an area that is farthest from it’s event center.

It also means that in general, the farther away from the event center, the less chance that the event can physically be a threat to you, or effect you mentally, and  even less so to the people around you….in general. In addition when the event occurs within a differant culture or language than our own, that adds additional barriers to communication and acceptance as worthy of something to “Give a Shit” about.
We call it prioritizing. It’s what keeps us sane. I dare say that if you knew of and cared about every single injustice and violation of human rights occuring in the world which it was possible for you to know and care about, that you would go mad.
Quite frankly, while I think that the wars in Uganda and the Congo, along with the nearly inumerable human rights violations, are terrible, I have concerns which are much closer to effecting me. Namely the need to feed myself and my family, to keep them protected, to keep a roof over MY head and those of my family first.

Now many people would say that since America is the biggest richest country and wields the biggest stick, that they had the responsibility to act. Ah, but here’s the sticking point, at that time while we were “sort of” “A” “big stick” of the playground, we also had a relatively small, and obsolete military at the time. Seriously, a large number of our front line aircraft were biplanes or nearly equally obsolete technology, quite a few of our ships were pre WW1 vintage, and we were years behind the Germans in tank and artillary development. Not to mention a little matter of a few thousand miles of open ocean to cross ungaurded because our tiny (almost non existant) naval submarine corps was operating with outdated technology. We were the potential big stick, the sleeping giant which once roused would turn it’s head and unite in it’s determination.

To quote a great mind (Jim Belushi)
“We are all very differant people. We’re not Watusi, we’re not Spartans, We’re Americans, with a capital A. Do you know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog, we’re mutts, but there is no animal that is more faithfull, more loyal, more lovable than the mutt. Who saw “Ole Yellar”….? Who cried when “Ole Yeller” got shot at the end? ….Nobody cried when “ole Yellar” got shot? I’m sure…..I cried my eyes out. So we’re all dog faces, we’re all very very differant, but there is one thing, that we ALL have in common” …..We are ALL Americans.

As Americans I’m sure that we are seen as a rather pecular people, slow to rise to great anger, united once we do. We will retaliate with awesome power and burn your fucking huts to the ground, and then…once our anger is abated, help you rebuild it in freedom. How great is our determination? Just ask the population of Berlin from 1941 until 1948. Flights of bombers that darkened the daytime sky, braving anti-aircraft fire that will kill 9 out of ten men, before unloading their deadly cargo OR,  flight after flight, day after day, 600 flights per day, eventually totaling nearly 9000 tons per day, of food, coal, and medicine, to the same city that only three years before we utterly destroyed. (and before anybody chimes in, yes I am fully aware that the British RAF also did this)In 1948 We made Berlin the busiest airport in the world. Aircraft crews would buy out entire stores worth of candy, and gum out of their own pocket, to drop to children. To us neither are a contradiction, and both can be done in the name of humanity.
To quote Gary Cooper as “Sergent Alvin C. York”, a true story about a one time hard drinking, hard fighting, Tennesee mountain man from Pall Mall, Tennesee in the valley of the three forks of the wolf(river), (Which BTW is about 50 miles west of Bumfuck Anywhere Tennessee) who found God in a rainstorm as he was on his way to kill a man, and became a consiencious objector to war. When asked about why he was able to kill the crew of a German machine gun. “Well sir, I’m agin killing as much as ever sir,but it was this way Colonel, when I started out, I felt just like you said (ie willing to die for his country  but not kill for it), but when I heerd those machine guns a going, and all them fellers a dropping arround me, I figured that them guns was a killin hundreds maybe even thousands, and there weren’t nothing that anybody could do but to stop them guns,and that’s what I done”.

You see we are the eternal optomist. As a nation, we like to think that eventually we will all get along. We aren’t perfect, but we are trying to do better, even if we have to drag ourselves kicking and screaming to do it. It is that mentality that led Dr Martin Luther King Jr to make his famous “I have a dream” speech.
We know that we aren’t perfect, hell, we have no problem poking and picking at our own scabs. We do it for entertainment. Have you seen any of our movies?

We have no problem pointing at out our own differances, prejudices and bigotry, and then picking at the scabs …you name it, very few topics are too sensitive for us to pick at. We rail against our own history and injustices. Just look at the “Tuskeegee Airmen”,  a group of all black fighter pilots who in their own way fought against racism and segregation. They formed the 332nd fighter squadron (Aka “Red-Tails” or “Red Tailed Angels” by bomber crews because of the red tail of their P-51 fighters). They fought for the right to not only be seen and treated as equals, but to fight along side of their white commrades, for a nation that did not treat them as equals at home,  eventually becoming the most requested fighter escort in the military at that time. In 179 escort missions they only lost 25-27 bombers due to enemy aircraft while the average was 46 (the infamous “No bomber ever lost” tag is actually a fallacy due to incorrect data at the time, which has since been corrected, but still it is an impressive record).

The movie “Glory” portrays the “all black” (except for all white officers …of course) 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry fighting prejudices of both their own Union army and the Confederates, durring our civil war. Members of this unit were well aware that capture by confederate forces meant immediate death. “Jefferson Davis’ proclamation of December 23, 1862 effectively put both African-American enlisted men and white officers under a death sentence if captured”. “Ironically, during the week leading up to the 54th’s heroic sacrifice near Charleston,(South Carolina) simmering racial strife climaxed in the New York Draft Riots. African-Americans on the city’s waterfront and Lower East Side were beaten, tortured, and lynched by white mobs angered over conscription for the Union war effort. These mobs directed their animosity toward blacks because they felt the Civil War was caused by them. However, the bravery of the 54th would help to assuage anger of this kind”.

“The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Japanese: 第442連隊戦闘団)    of the United States Army was composed of Japanese American enlisted men and mostly white officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment (in the United States due to fear of spies and collaborators). The 442nd was a self-sufficient force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The unit became the most highly–decorated regiment in the history of the United States Armed Forces, including 22 (Congessional) Medal of Honor recipients (A medal which has the unique distinction of usually being given post humously btw, due to it being a recognition of uncommon valor). The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was “Go for Broke.” (Which BTW is about as American of a sentiment as Mom, home, baseball and Apple Pie) By using the 442nd in Europe, the US military ensured the safety of individual members, against being mistaken for the enemy, as well as ensuring that if any spies or collaborators were amongst the ranks, they could not be used to effect.
While one can argue that internment was an injustice, one could also argue that given the very real threat of spies and collaborators, that it was, at least in the beginning, a necessity.
We did the same for a large number of German born citizens for exactly the same reason. It also quite honestly kept many of them safe from also becomming the target of civilian suspicions of collaboration. I’m just being honest here. It wasn’t a perfect system, just one that worked for the immediate time. Nor am I saying that it was exactly  a Right, Good, or Just, thing to do. Just that it worked, to do exactly what it was intended to do ie elliminate (or at least severely decrease) the possibility of foreign nationals, to hide out in an already existing large population of Japaneese-American/German-American citizenry, thus decreasing the need to watch as large of a number of people, so that our intelligence groups could concentrate on the unseen ones.
The USMC Navajo code talkers. As seen in the movie “Windtalkers” In 1942 the United States Military and the Marine corps in particular had a very serious problem. Every single code that they developed had been broken by the Japanese. “Philip Johnston proposed the use of Navajo to the United States Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II. Johnston, a World War I veteran, was raised on the Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary to the Navajos, and was one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language fluently.  Because Navajo has a complex grammar, it is not nearly mutually intelligible enough with even its closest relatives within the Na-Dene family to provide meaningful information, and was at this time an unwritten language. Johnston saw Navajo as answering the military requirement for an undecipherable code. Navajo was spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest (mostly on Government administrated reservations), and its syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, made it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training. One estimate indicates that at the outbreak of World War II fewer than 30 non-Navajos could understand the language.” It is also noted that it was the code talkers themselves that developed the code which they used, as it was determined that phonetically spelling out all  military terms letter by letter into words—while in combat—would be too time consuming. Some terms, concepts, tactics and instruments of modern warfare were given uniquely formal descriptive nomenclatures in Navajo (the word for “potato” being used to refer to a hand grenade, or “turtle” to a tank, for example). It is however, untrue that Navajo code talkers were given white body gaurds with instructions to kill them if they were in danger of falling into enemy hands.

“Men of Honor” is a film based on the true story of Carl Maxie Brashear  (January 19, 1931 – July 25, 2006) who was the first African-American to become a U.S. Navy Master Diver, in which he was portrayed by actor Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Born the sixth of eight children to Kentucky sharecroppers, he fought racism and prejudice to enter the US Navy diving school and graduate, becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School and the first African-American U.S. Navy Diver. Brashear was also the first African-American U.S. Navy Master Diver and the first amputee diver to be certified or re-certified as a U.S. Navy diver. “While attending diving school in Bayonne, New Jersey, Brashear faced a good amount of racism. He found notes on his bunk saying, “We’re going to drown you today, nigger!” And, “We don’t want any nigger divers.” Showing a tremendous amount of fortitude at such a young age Brashear pushed on”.

You see, we celebrate the underdog, even when it is we ourselves who have created them.
No other country is quite like us because no other country CAN be quite like us. No other country was birthed with the idea that all men were created equal (despite how we actually treated them at the time). We take pride in our differances and stubborness as a people.
A great example is presented in the movie “The Lost Battaleon”. A movie about the United States 77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I, after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner.

A young Lt (Leek) from Texas, is captured by German forces and taken to their HQ. The German Major (Prinz) explains to the American Lt that the Americans are surrounded and vastly outnumbered and asks him to return to his troops and urge them to surrender and that there is no dishonor in surrendering under such terms. The young lt then explains to the German Major that surrender without dishonor may be true for him, but “My guys are differant” and then goes on to explain to the Major, exactly what HE is up against.
“What you’re up against Major is a bunch of Mic, Polack, Dago and Jewboy gangsters from New York city. They’ll never surrender, never”.
Now I don’t know if that particular bit is true, though I rather suspect that at least in part it was artistic license on the part of the director, but either way, it doesn’t matter. You see, in the big picture, despite our differances, we are and always shall be Americans. We are brothers in a true sense of the word in that we can squabble and fight, make fun of ourselves….but let anybody else try that and they are in for a very rude awakening.

From the Great philosopher John Wayne
The Hyphen, Webster’s Dictionary defines,
Is a symbol used to divide a
compound word or a single word.
So it seems to me that when a man calls himself
An “Afro-American,” a “Mexican-American,”
“Italian-American,” An “Irish-American,” “Jewish-American,”
What he’s sayin’ is, “I’m a divided American.”

Well, we all came from other places,
Different creeds and different races,
To form a nation…to become as one,
Yet look at the harm a line has done –
A simple little line, and yet
As divisive as a line can get.
A crooked cross the Nazis flew,
And the Russian hammer and sickle too-
Time bombs in the lives of Man;
But none of these could ever fan
The flames of hatred faster than
The Hyphen.

The Russian hammer built a wall
That locks men’s hearts from freedom’s call.
A crooked cross flew overhead
Above twenty million tragic dead-
Among them men from this great nation,
Who died for freedom’s preservation.
A hyphen is a line that’s small;
It can be a bridge or be a wall.
A bridge can save you lots of time;
A wall you always have to climb.
The road to liberty lies true.
The Hyphen’s use is up to you.

Used as a bridge, it can span
All the differences of Man.
Being free in mind and soul
Should be our most important goal.
If you use The Hyphen as a wall,
You’ll make your life mean…and small.
An American is a special breed,
Whose people came to her in need.
They came to her that they might find
A world where they’d have peace of mind.
Where men are equal…and something more-
Stand taller than they stood before.

So you be wise in your decision,
And that little line won’t cause division.
Let’s join hands with one another…
For in this land, each man’s your brother.
United we stand…divided we fall.
WE’RE AMERICANS…and that says it all.

Yes, we are more than keenly aware of our history, our  faults and foilbles, but we are trying to do better. That I think, along with thewillingness to accept responsibility when and where needed is the key to overcomming mankinds propensity to attempt to destroy ourselves and our neighbors. History is not biased, it just IS. It is how we learn from our history and ourselves that matters.

BTW, for all of you who are now totally confused, this was not how I origanally planned this post to go….it just worked out that way, because when I do “train of thought” posts….well you get my train of thoughts.  Though now you get a unique view into what I go through on a daily basis…confusing isn’t it?

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