Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our history refined... truth be known


I am watching PBS' American Experience: The Great War. I used to think President Wilson a pragmatic pacifist, and a horribly racist man. While watching part II, I have discovered his administration was most expert at public manipulation that I suspect the Trump administration has emulated closely.

Prior to America's involvement in World War I, public sentiment was overwhelmingly against U.S. involvement. Once it became clear that mindset could not survive, Wilson's administration launched a public affairs effort to change the hearts and minds of Americans' attitudes.

Almost overnight, our government's stance changed from its isolationist, pacifist to one of aggressive participation. Propaganda posters and millions of leaflets were posted everywhere. To maximize the effort, the leaflets were published in English and 18 foreign languages.

Worse, President Wilson acted aggressively to squash public dissent with the passage of anti-espionage and sedition laws. Wilson would not permit public opinions that would endanger his efforts to bolster our military's ability to wage war.

It became clear to Wilson a strong effort to grow our military would be necessary. At the time, prior to our involvement in the "war to end all wars," the U.S. Armed Forces was ranked 18th in military might.

Conscription laws (the draft), long unpopular in our country (look at what happened during the Civil War--riots, imprisonment, and even public hangings were used to force those who wished not to fight or succumb to government policy).

Wilson's racist beliefs visibly manifested itself on the military registration card. The bottom left-hand corner had a tear-off section with the instruction that it be torn off IF the applicant was of African-American descent, thus formalizing (for the first time) a strictly segregated Army.

Blacks were seen as a problem. The thinly veiled belief was the fear made clear in a statement made by a US Senator from Mississippi that "once you draft a Negro man and give him a gun and tell him to fight with it, it is one short step for him thinking he should fight for his rights at home."

Pacifists and Conscientious objectors were characterized as unpatriotic and called "slackers." A movement to demonize Americans of German descent, even those whose ancestors had lived here as far back as the Revolutionary War, was put for both in public sectors as well as in government housing. German-Americans were forced to register letting the government know where they resided, worked and worshiped.

Encampments were created to house people who the government considered a threat to national security.

Does any of this sound familiar to today's readers?

The documentary is sobering. History books all t often white-wash our nation's past. One group shot photo showing the first battalions look like a lot like today's GOP (all white, all male).

I find all of this very troubling because 1) History classes in elementary and high school have not taught these events (or spent much time focusing on these particulars. 2) The documentary shows how easy we have been steered into war, and 3) How easy nationalism has shaped our behaviors and how we have treated minorities in times when our nation faced adversity.

The documentary is available for purchase... or go to your local library. I strongly urge you to watch this documentary to see our involvement in WWI and to see just how easy our government has found it to manipulate the public into going to war.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Vir has gone to the stars

Actor Stephen Furst Stephen Furst has died. He was a favorite of mine based on his performance as Vir Cotto on the science fiction program Babylon 5, but his career far predated that with his part in the movie Animal House and later on NBC-TV's St. Elsewhere.

Furst loved his fans and I have a funny story about Mr. Furst that will I forever hold dear. Ten years (or was it 15?) ago, my friend Sherri and I went to a Star Trek convention in Chicago. Furst was one of the scheduled guests. Back then I used to run nearly every day. Early that particular morning I slipped into the hotel gym and was running on the treadmill for about 15 minutes when Mr. Furst joined me on the treadmill next to mine.

I kept looking at him, thinking "I know this man, but from where?" ... and I could not figure it out... This went on for about 45 minutes. Silently, I left and went to my room and showered. After Sherri and I had breakfast we joined our friends from USS Magellan (a Star Trek group of which we were members at the time).

Later in the day, we went to the convention hall and spent our time listening to the guests speak. When Stephen Furst came on stage it dawned on me who he was.

Now here is why I did not recognize Mr. Furst, something he discussed while on stage, he had lost approximately 50 lbs. in an effort to better his health. He looked very different than his persona on B5.

At one point when he was taking questions from the audience, I stood up to ask him one and he stopped and pointed at me, "You! You're the dude that was running with me at the gym this morning!" When I nodded in the affirmative, and said, "Yes, that was me." He replied, "damn dude, you're a speed demon!"

I loved Mr. Furst on Babylon 5 and mourn his loss. He was a warm, personable comic actor. My condolences to his friends, colleagues, and family. He was 63 and passed away due to complications from diabetes. Rest in peace, sir.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Surprise, surprise, surprise


Sometimes, homophobia and racism (not to mention being thin-skinned) raises its ugly head in the most surprising of places.

I have been a long-time member of the science fiction FB page Science Fiction Multiverse. Its moderator is a bit of an egotist and likes calling himself "emperor of his domain (or something silly like that)." Heck, recently he was mad at Facebook for forcing him to use his real name instead of his self-title.

Today, he posted a story about George Takei--that's Mr. Sulu to you non-TREK fans--who called out some trolls who have been making scenes complaining the new Star Trek series isn't "white" enough, isn't "male-led" enough.

Now mind you the series has yet to air and already there are some fans... the fringe elements, if you will, who are loudly complaining about things for which they have no clue... and George rightly called them out.

The moderator of the SF group called George an idiot and I raised the question, "idiot?"

In his next post, he went on an on ad nauseum about how liberals, Asians, gays, etc. are ruining SF filmmaking. I merely replied, "Funny, I thought this was a page about science fiction films."

Next thing I know, I am cast out and blocked. Now (said in my best baby voice) "waaaaaah, I am so hurt."

I guess "his majesty" doesn't like it when people disagree with him, something I already knew to be true as I have seen him bragging about banishing other [former] members for "their transgressions."

I guess I was a little bit surprised, and maybe I should not have been. I tend to think--and it appears I am wrong about this--that science fiction fans, and especially Star Trek fans, are more forward thinking and less biased.

Anyone who follows TREK faithfully knows of the show's concepts of IDIC and respect for all things different. I remember the firestorm a few years back when the web series Star Trek Phase II - The New Voyages dared to air an episode written by David Gerrold that included two gay characters (Peter Kirk, no less).

Let's just say a whole lot of the comments were pretty base... okay, vile. So, I really should not have been surprised today.

I'd rather not have a debate going on about this... so please, if you have any comments, I don't want to read any incendiary comments belaboring the evils of conservatism (or liberals, for that matter). 

My point of even mentioning this incident was this: Upon noticing I was blocked, I immediately was struck by the words, "can't we all just get along?"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where is the outrage?

Where is the outrage? What in the hell is wrong with the GOP? 

Imagine if you will this scenario: Madame President Clinton knocks out executive order after executive order that clearly benefit the rich. 

Pretend Madame President invited the Russians into the Oval Office and forbade the American press from being present, BUT invites the Russian press instead (because you know, "that mean bad fake press has been mean to me"). 

AND imagine if Madame President invited the Russians for tea, cookies AND states' classified secrets? Sorry, no launch codes today, maybe the next time. Raincheck?

Now tell me, what do you think would be turtleneck O'Connell's reaction? WWPRD (What would Paul Ryan do)? 

You can bet your ass they'd be building the gallows and firing up the legal writers drafting up documents for impeachment. Hell, they probably had a version drafted the day President Obama took office... and for a President Hillary Clinton, all they would have to do is change the names and dates.

And what about GOP supporters who all voted for "anybody but Hillary (like my family members)?"

They'd be hanging Hillary in effigy. Right?

So again I ask, where's the outrage?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The great pretender


Did you watch Mr. Trump's address to Congress last night? I saw but a scant few minutes.

I did not watch or listen to most of his speech--and I wouldn't have listened to any if I had not needed to see the severe weather warnings scrolling across the bottom of my TV screen (my hometown was in a tornado warning at the time). 

My impression of what I heard? If I wanted to take the easy road, I would say he seemed more residential than in any time since he assumed office, but I am not so easily fooled. He certainly did a good job of pretending.

Again and again, he said all the right things and meaning none of them. How do I know that? He made so many claims of what he planned to do and in the short time since his inauguration did just the opposite. Drain the swamp, he said. Hardly. I think he meant the septic tank.

He has and surely will contradict his previous promises. Yes, I know, a lot--heck, most politicians do that. It's called pandering and man, did he serve up a deep dish of cheese last night. In any case, I needed my wading boots while reading his speech today.

A family member, someone who I respect, but rarely agree with, told me last night I need to give him a chance and that sometimes if we elect the wrong man (or woman), we'll get the chance to correct things four years down the road.

Thing is, what damage can this man and his political comrades unleash in four years? I shudder to think. If the GOP has their way, they are going to wreck everything just to appease their corporate masters and to the rest of us, screw you!

There is an old maxim that respect is not given but earned. Resident Trump has not yet crossed that chasm in my book.

Let's not mince words. I don't like Mr. Trump. I don't believe a word he says. I don't respect him. As such, he is merely the man occupying the Oval Office, but he has done absolutely nothing to deserve that honor (The same goes for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. None of these men have shown me that they share one concern for the people they claim to represent).

With no disrespect intended to Jackson Browne, he is the great pretender. I pray we don't suffer for it.

Another friend told me to knock it off by calling him "not my president." Sorry dear, but you do not get to tell me who shares my values AND this man definitely does not share mine. How could a man whose home is adorned with gold covering almost every inch? What can he and his billionaire cronies possibly know about you or me?

So I ask the question again, did Mr. Trump look presidential last night? Does it matter? He sure did a good job of pretending to look and sound like it. His supporters will lap it up with oohs and ahs, he's our savior. The press, still embarrassed that they built him up, will scramble to say he did, all the while he has yet to prove he has one single iota, one single shred of empathy for the average American...

For the foreseeable future, RESIST is my mantra.