Thought for The Day – Have we squandered the great gift?

Builders,

Today I am sitting with my father in NJ, watching media coverage of the life of one of his favorite sportsmen, Yogi Berra. He was the last living connection to the golden era of baseball in my father’s youth, held sacred with memories like this: Thought for the Day “The luckiest man on the face of the earth”  My father feigned stoic indifference, but he was clearly bothered by the last light of an era fading out.

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Seventy three years ago, the world had descended into madness, and offered a stark choice. It would either be freed by moral and ethical men, or it would be as Orwell said “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” 

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When he turned 17, the young man who would become my father 21 years later,  joined millions of other free men, and took up weapons to prevent the human race from being enslaved by the most vile totalitarians the world had ever known. They imagined a decisive conflict, but it didn’t play out that way; my father is a WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Cold war veteran. Each of those conflicts took the lives of friends and family, men who’s names he can only speak after a long pause or hard swallow. He well understands the cost of a forty year struggle to keep that boot off mankind’s face.

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I have not watched TV at home in many, many years. But here, in the home of my parents, I sit beside by father, his mobility robbed by age, as he looks into the TV to find some evidence that we have not squandered the gift, a free world, which we received from the men of his generation, perhaps your father among them. It is a gift we didn’t earn, they purchased it for us anyway, at a staggering human cost.

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Father is an eternal optimist, he only needs to find some trace of good that was built on the foundation we were bequeathed. But in an hour, there is nothing to hold on to, nothing to salvage from the endless waste of consumerism, at astronomic levels of narcissism, all acts of selfless heroic deeds pushed aside by a tide of greed and gluttony, bathed in comments from the most inane actors pretending to be journalists, offering no insight, only triggering knee-jerk emotional reactions to dog whistle phrases.

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I do not look at the screen, I only see it reflected in my fathers glasses as sifts through news channels looking for some bit of rectitude hidden in the waste. When I can take no more, I put my hand on his, and impulsively say “I am sorry”. For a moment he looks in my eyes to assess if I really understand what the gift cost. At this moment I understand that every old story was told in the hopes that we might understand what was done for us, not so we would thank them, just so that we wouldn’t waste it. On this day, I remain profoundly sorry for how little we have done with the gift.

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-ww.

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Media Correction: Several times today, I heard an elected $80,000 per year government bureaucrat who refused to work, resign, or obey the law she swore to defend, referred to as a “religious martyr” for spending 5 days in a minimum security jail for contempt of court. This is one of the things I detest about corporate controlled media entertainment and marketing pretending to be “News.”  If anyone cares, I offer an actual definition of an actual religious martyr: Thích Quảng Đức

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Thích Quảng Đức , Saigon June 11th 1963. This is the last act in this world of a devout, 66 year old Buddhist monk. He was protesting the repression of the majority Vietnamese Buddhist population by the ruling Vietnamese elite, who were Catholics. Madame Nhu, the de-facto first lady called it a “barbecue” and stated, “Let them burn and we shall clap our hands.” Most other people in the world, including JFK in the White House, had a different reaction.

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Lest any American see this as the act of a different culture, know that there were at least five Americans, of different faiths, who repeated this act on US soil between 1965 and 1970 as a war protest. The last was a 23 year old UC student named George Winne Jr, who just like me, was the son of a US Navy Captain.

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If you have the courage, you can watch the 2 minutes of film of 11 June 1963 on You Tube. In a supreme act of will, Thích Quảng Đức does not even flinch as he is consumed. Having once been partially on fire myself, I suspect it takes more than a minute to die, and I will assure anyone it is more painful than your imagination allows you to believe. Before anyone asks if I think people with suicide vests are martyrs, I don’t think that takes courage at all, and I have no respect for people who wish to harm others to please their God.

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Your aviation connection:  Your shop should be your own fountain of truth: Believe what you have made with your own hands, what you have seen with your own eyes, what you have learned with your own mind. When you do these things, and live with kindness and tolerance, both giving and insisting on human respect, then perhaps we are making the best use of the world our fathers made for us.

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* I am not just a critic of the modern media, the issues of reality extend to most forms of journalism, and have been there for a long time. I am particularly well read on 20th century US conflicts. The two best known US writers on Vietnam were Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam, the latter was an eye witness to the picture above. Both writers  had two things in common: The won Pulitzer prizes for their Vietnam work, and both of them heavily relied on a time/Reuters reporter in Saigon named  Phạm Xuân Ẩn. In 1976, after the war, it is revealed that Phạm Xuân Ẩn was the highest ranking North Vietnamese spy, who fed both of the writers and his employers disinformation throughout the war, but they never suspected this. To learn how US journalists were manipulated, get a look at the 1985 Truong Nhu Tang book “A Vietcong Memoir.” It was written in French, but is available in English.

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