Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day

Today is Veterans’ Day.

In 2004 we were on Gibralter on November 11. At 11:11 our guide stopped everything and we stood in silence for two minutes.

The First World War, the horrible War To End All Wars, came to an end at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. It slaughtered about half of the young male population of England, and in honor of their sacrifice on this date every year, the entire country comes to a halt at 11:11.

I think it’s a beautiful gesture, and a wonderful way to honor those who gave their lives for our country as well as those who gave a portion of their lives.

I know too many of them. My college roommate and best man Mike Baldwin suffered the effects of Agent Orange from his time in Viet Nam. Another college roommate, Jerry Smith, stepped on a land mine there. He survived, but at what cost?

My father, Dan Moser, and my father-in-law, Eugene Butler, both were veterans. They survived World War II, and lived long and useful lives. Eventually.

My chosen son Derek, who graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, was at NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain on Nine-Eleven. He talked with all the honchos - when he could locate them - and conveyed the order to ground all commercial domestic flights. When he left the Navy and moved back to Illinois, my blood pressure went down.

And countless other friends and acquaintances served in the military.

I don’t think we can minimize the effects of military experience on those who served and those around them. Eugene came home unable to sleep for weeks. Only with the help of those who truly loved him was he able to assimilate back into society.

Today at 11:11, I urge all of you to stop what you’re doing and observe a minute of silence. Think about the sacrifices of those heroes who serve - and served - our country.

And please ponder the following poem by Wilfred Owen, who was killed seven days before the Armistice that ended that awful War To End All Wars. The Latin, by the way, means "How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country.”

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. --
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

As always, please feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween at the Mosers

I was a Shoe Tree.
Ann dressed as a French Maid.

As always, feel free to comment below.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Those Who Know Best

Halloween has come and gone, and with it the frantic messages from Those Who Know Best about devil worship, paganism, impending planetary chaos, and general going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket of those who celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

I think Halloween is fun. It used to be more fun when I was a kid, but that may have to do with the fact that I was a kid. I kind of think not, however. When I was a kid, the naysayers may have been around, but they didn’t have such a large presence in American life (except for Jo McCarthy, of course). At that time Halloween hadn’t eclipsed Christmas as a moneymaker for businesses and manufacturers of costumes and decorations.

We carved a pumpkin - without advice from Martha Stewart. Our jack-o’-lanterns were were crude, and they all had triangular teeth, but we had fun making them and throwing the slime at our little sisters, and we got to roast the seeds and eat them. Or not. We made our own costumes instead of buying them. Our parents helped us put them together, and frequently we used old clothes from a box pulled out of the attic. In those days, we had attics, too.

In the middle Fifties we went trick or treating for two nights - I was an elementary school student living in Albuquerque. We went out for hours. It was dark. People gave us popcorn balls and apples. And we ate them without incident - except for the sugar overload from all the candy (which was made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. How did candy makers manage in those days?) We were gypsies or hobos or cowboys or old men (never President Eisenhower) and we bought rubber masks that we filled with sweat as soon as we put them on.

And no one told us how sinful we were. It was a time to let loose and be someone else, if only for a couple of hours.

What I find most irritating about Those Who Know Best about religion, is that they have lost track of the idea that in America we get to chose how we worship. And those who chose not to worship have that option too. No one in the United States is allowed to force their ideas onto anyone else. It's guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

I have learned that once we make up our minds, it’s pretty useless to try to change us. I have give up arguing about religion and politics because all it does is raise my blood pressure and alienate my friends. To my chagrin, I never change anyone’s mind.

Those Who Know Best don’t understand that. And they seem to have no concept of the doctrine of Free Will. You know, the one that says God isn’t the puppet master using us as marionettes to perform His (Hers? Its?) every whim.

I am going to believe what I believe whether anyone else likes it or not. I may pay the occasional lip service to other people’s ideas to get them off my back, but more likely I say that I have my own beliefs and they are entitled to theirs. As long as theirs don’t step on mine.

And that’s the way it is with Halloween. And Harry Potter books, and ghost stories. I can enjoy them without buying into whatever Those Who Know Best think is behind them. Like Christmas in America and Martin Luther King Day or Veterans' Day Mattress Sales, Halloween has taken on a life of its own and people of every stripe and feather celebrate it without regard to its origins.

And somehow, whether I like it or not - and even if Those Who Know Best don’t like it at all - that’s all right.

Please feel free to comment below (even, or perhaps especially, those of you who went Halloweening as Republicans wearing Sarah Palin - Jeb Bush 2012 tee shirts. Just because you’re entitled to your beliefs, doesn’t mean I don’t get to tease you occasionally).