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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———————–

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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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About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

8 Responses to Thought for the Day: Columbus Day, 1925.

  1. Jon Ross says:

    Bravo William. Many Americans lose sight of what it is to be an American; and many American have little or no knowledge of the basis of the forming of our republic.

    We think alike and I am happy to say that this is one of the reasons I always read your posts.

  2. Carl Orton says:

    I’ve always been conflicted when we claim to be American over “citizens of the United States.” After all, if you think about it, Mexicans are Americans, Brazilians are Americans, as well as every other country in the Western Hemisphere. We’re really more “United Statians” than anything. We are the United States OF America. I know, I know, America, America, God shed his grace on thee… Too late to change, but I always enjoy seeing the look on folks’ faces when I tell them Canadians are American. Kind of like calling a C-47 a DC-3….

    • Dave Hoehn says:

      I live in a medium sized town a few miles north of the Mexican border, and a trip to almost anywhere north of here necessitates at least 1 stop at an off-border border patrol check station. Rolling down the window, and a casual greeting of ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, or ‘evening’ is usually sufficient to get waved thru, but occasionally the CBP agent will ask a question while he is waiting for a high-sign from the canine handler and the usual question concerns the citizenship of the vehicle occupants. It always amuses me when the question is ‘Is everyone an American citizen?’. I usually just nod, but occasionally I’ll say ‘Yes, we are even US citizens’.

  3. Kevin C says:

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

    I fear that many, if not most average Americans have willingly surrendered to a “tyranny of the mind” in the pursuit of the modern-day “American dream”. No longer is it “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. It is a dwelling that is much more than you really need, a new car every X years, even if the one you have is still perfectly fine. It is constant entertainment and constant distraction so you don’t notice your life is passing you by while you waste your time accomplishing nothing of significance.

    I am sure that many will read this and will say “pure drivel”, but I know it is true because it is true of me. I am busy trying to drag myself out of that damn pit all the while I am living to work – instead of working to live. But the more the TV is off, and more time is spent building something that I am going to actually fly, the better things get.

    • Kevin,
      Personally, I think you are spot on. Jefferson’s quote is from a letter he wrote to Benjamin Rush. The specific ‘tyranny’ Jefferson was speaking of was the hierarchy of organized religious practice, Arguably, consumerism is the new god people are indoctrinated to devote their lives to, which makes a direct connection with Jefferson’s thoughts. After I wrote ‘amphibian story’ at the beginning of the year, I to came to the conclusion that a leaner still approach to life, one where things which are actually and directly important to me are prioritized and all else is discarded, was the only way I could utilize my resources and remaining hours to get closer to the character in the story. So I am all in with you on this one. Here’s to knowing when you are on the right personal heading, detractors be damned.

      • Kevin Conklin says:

        I have to say…

        A few weeks ago when I started contemplating Corvair for my Waiex project, I reached out to a few folks who are building or flying this plane with Corvair. On guy to remain nameless wrote ‘I don’t want to say anything bad about WW, but…’. Then spent two paragraphs doing just that, telling me to visit your site to see what he meant. I am sure he would want a sterile site that was just simply the technical specs on how to convert and why to do it a certain way – completely devoid of opinion.

        But I am not doing this because I want to “manufacture” an airplane. This is a personal journey. It would have been a hell of a lot easier and probably cheaper to just but an older used plane. There are lots of reasons I am doing this that I’ll never be able to explain to anyone, and I don’t even full understand myself. I don’t know much of anything other than what I am learning along the way – and that is a ton.

        But one of the best parts is the ‘other stuff’ I am picking up along the way. I have met some pretty amazing people in aviation, people who are giving back in their own way. And I for one love how you tie your philosophy back to your ideas about aviation.

      • Kevin,
        I have come to accept that being ‘offended’ is the new national entitlement. For people who just want the plain parts, I have the Flycorvair.com products page, they can call and order them, and they speak with the Weseman’s and never have to deal with me. Nothing on FlyCorvair.net is required reading, I label every non-technical post as “Philosophy”, some of them have direct statements saying “no technical info” in the header, the thought for the day is Stated to be “thought provoking not thought providing”, and I frequently point out that I have a two digit IQ and a very healthy measure of self doubt…..and yet I still have people who read all the philosophy stuff just looking for something to be offended by. When Howard Stern got started on radio he had large ratings because they found out people who loved him listened for an hour a day, and people who found him deeply offensive listened for two hours a day. -ww.

  4. Sarah Ashmore says:

    While my distant relatives came from countries like Ireland I feel no allegiance what so ever to those nations and have no desire to return to “My Roots”. They abandoned those counties for a variety of reasons but obviously they felt their life would be better here then where they were and they worked hard to succeed. I was born into the United States of America and that is where my loyalties lie and I would no more hyphenate nationality with that of my ancestors then I would swear an oath of loyalty to those nations. Yes my nation did some horrible things in it’s past and to ignore that history would be to doom us to repeats of such but to constantly rub our faces in it does no good either.

    Keep up the writing William, it provides some hope for the survival of this great nation.

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