Thought for the Day: Columbus Day, 1925.

Builders;

170 years ago, half my DNA lived in Germany, the other half in Ireland.  The first element of the Irish half came to America in the form of a 12 year old girl who walked 90 miles to a port, took 4th class steerage to Castle Garden immigration station, and began 8 years of work as an indentured servant in a wealthy home in New Jersey.

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She had a number of sons, almost all of whom became police officers, among them my Grandfather Michael Wynne and his older brother William Wynne. Starting before WWI, they worked as patrolmen for the Passaic and Clifton departments respectively.

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On Columbus day 1925, my great uncle was on duty for the parade in Clifton. He observed the marchers in the lead holding the Italian flag up high, while intentionally holding the United States flag dipped beneath it. He was not one to tolerate such intentional disrespect, and he stepped off the curb and grabbed the pole of the Italian flag.  When a number of the marchers moved on him, he drew his revolver to make it clear he would not be assaulted without cost.

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The mayor was pressured to fire him, but there was a public outcry, exemplified by the poem in the paper shown below, written by a woman who’s father was a civil war veteran. William Wynne kept his job, but in the long run paid a price for it. He advanced through the ranks, but not at the pace he deserved or one that matched the success of his brothers. If he ever regretted his actions that day, he never mentioned a single word of it to anyone. He put his loyalty to the ideals of this country above all else.

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My Grandfather and his siblings were aware of their heritage, but were not attached to it; They considered themselves 100% American. In their formative years, Teddy Roosevelt was the outspoken president of the United States. One of the things TR spoke against was anyone identifying themselves as a “Hyphenated American.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyphenated_American ) . Roosevelt was absolutely clear that he considered any naturalized citizen just as good as one who was born here, but he had no tolerance for people who were unsure of their loyalty. To some of todays ears, this is terrible, but my grandfather and his siblings understood it without reservation. A century later, I confess to feeling the same way.

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We have all seen the commercial for DNA testing where some person feels their life is changed because they discover that 300 years ago their ancestors lived in a Slavic country, not Spain. I find the very premise laughable, because that person could have traveled to both Slovenia and Spain, and they would really know nothing of the customs, far less the mindset, yet the new results bring them some “identity”.

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Conversely, I have no confusion on these issues: for better or worse, I am an American, period, end of sentence. I have known many Germans, worked with them and have been to Germany; in spite of the fact 50% of my DNA is from there, I feel no attachment to the culture, it isn’t mine to claim. In Munich I was simply a tourist just as I have always been in other countries. I suspect the peoples of those lands would prefer Americans didn’t harbor the fantasy their DNA tests qualify them to understand what it means to be a native of those places.

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Unlike most Americans, I am particularly well read on our history, including its lowest points. I was born 72 years to the day after the US 7th Cavalry killed several hundred people, mostly women and children, at a cold desolate place called Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  This was considered the very last ‘battle’ fought between Native Americans and all the people who had come since Columbus.  398 years of warfare came to an end that day, not with just peace, nor even a fair fight.  On a day where most people are somehow blindly celebrating a man who ushered in the Europeans, you can set yourself apart by reading the story of Wounded Knee, including the really ugly parts where women with infants who ran miles from the battle where run down and executed by US soldiers. There were less that 500 soldiers there, but 22 of them were awarded the Medal of Honor for their ‘heroic’ actions.

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The awareness of my countries failings doesn’t condone or justify weak loyalty. The awareness just requires my vigilance against further mistakes during the ‘watch’ of my adult years as a citizen. There will be national failings, such as this: Political Reality Check , but they should not be cynically accepted as inevitable. It is beyond me why many people believe that our mistakes are made by the other party, my personal feelings are expressed here: Patriotism has no Party .

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Worth reading:   What the 4th of July means to me.

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Your Aviation Connection: Just as I believe that a person can choose to be an American, and make the conscious choice to live within our laws and values, I also believe that anyone, can choose to be an Aviator, and abide by and enjoy the equal protection of the laws of physics chemistry and gravity.  It has been my long experience that the rewards of being an aviator go to the people who give it the ‘loyalty’ of their best efforts, not those who dabble in it with half hearted interest, a hyphenated loyalty where the casual retain the customs of lands outside the airport fence where “It should be alright” is a national moto.

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Read: Risk Management – Human factors ” The evidence that fools present for the existence of luck is vague and anecdotal at best.  Hard, proven and factual evidence for the existence
of Physics, Gravity and Chemistry can be found at any crash site.”

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When I was little, maybe 9, my Father took us to The Jefferson Memorial. There he explained to us that The United States of America was neither a business nor a playground, it is a set of ideals, which made it the last best hope of mankind. The dream that mankind had moved past kings and dictators, past theocrats and oppressors, to a world where individuals governed themselves as equals. We could look at the ceiling and read Jefferson’s words plainly:

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“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

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 From there we went to Arlington, where my father explained that the nation had set aside an eternal resting place for the citizens who had laid down their lives for the ideals of this country, and if he were ever to take a place among them, we should not weep, as it would only mean that he had lived for something greater than himself.

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