“No matter which racial, gender, ethnic, religious or national group with which you identify, I’ve been listening to you every single day of my now rather long life; please take just a few minutes to return the favor and listen to me. I’ve fully earned at least that much.”
Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears
Despite all the superficial indications to the contrary, very few Americans today have an adequate understanding of America’s Irish immigrants. Thanks to the Brits, they were probably the largest of any past ethnic group to ever reach these shores and remain. Trickling in since the 1500s, they came from a small island in the North Atlantic in huge waves for a century from 1830 to 1940. They came a little earlier than others who today are championed by special interest groups, so that much of what remains in the popular culture about the Irish is rather silly nonsense. The Irish then had more children than any other immigrant group, so their generations of prolific offspring are now woven strong throughout the entire fabric of what America is and Americans are.
Still, even the term “Irish-American” is today full of absurdities that could only exist in the absence of accurate historical knowledge. Just consider an American named McCarthy, in 2014 tracing his ancestry back to his great-grandfather, concluding that he is “Irish” and a descendent of a family that occupied a 16th century castle in County Kerry – and then describing his joyous pride in his “Irish” identity in a national publication. With a name that is obviously Scottish, I guess it’s best if you don’t look too closely at history, and at British crown “plantations” specifically designed to subjugate and extinguish the true Irish “sub-human” natives with imported privileged foreigners – just like the later British intent in its “New World” colonies. It was not the heterogeneous “Irish” in Ireland who are globally revered today; it is the millions of homogenous Irish who fled the imposed atrocities in their homeland with absolutely nothing in their possession to make proud statements throughout the world, and especially in America.
Certainly through no fault of his own, McCarthy’s ancestors were, of course, Scots, imported to Ireland by the British nobility as privileged human “plantations” intended to overwhelm and eradicate the native Irish Catholic population in a deliberate “ethnic cleansing” process advanced by the British church-state. The Scots and Welsh were two groups upon which the Brits drew most heavily for that purpose. (And notice how they retain, even now, that distinct Scots-Irish, that Welsh-Irish, plantation identity, to place themselves apart from, and above, the lowly natives.) It was this 16th and 17th century “thinking” that led straight to the trade in human slaves, to the proliferation of “New World” colonial plantations and their “sub-human” work forces. By the 17th century the chances of finding a native Irishman living in his own castle was exceedingly small, if not virtually impossible; by the 18th century it was zero – by deliberate systematic intent. The 18th and 19th century period in Ireland was similar to the 18th and 19th century period in the American South, and guess which role was played by the native Catholic Irish and which role was played by the Brits and those they had for centuries imported to supplant the natives. McCarthy is an educated man who has no difficulty understanding how Native Americans view the European invasion of their lands, but remains oblivious to the same earlier, and much more ruthless, invasion of Ireland. (Just consider what would happen if native Irish declare themselves a single clan and borrow a library of American law pertaining to Native Americans living on their own sovereign reservations – different and apart from non-natives subject to different laws, including tax laws.)
But even today it’s difficult to find a true Irishman or Irishwoman in America who does not still have a very special place in their hearts for their Irish Home, the Emerald Isle. Even after many generations, the Irish story can still bring tears to their eyes. And anger, too. There seems to be always a sort of subliminal tension going on, between the Irish mind and the Irish heart. Some call it Irish Fire, a fire that refuses to be extinguished.
Below is a song about Ellis Island and Irish immigrants who sought a new life in America.* Ellis Island is in the Upper New York Bay, a little over a mile off the tip of Manhattan and just a half mile north of the Statue Of Liberty. Although millions of Irish immigrants had preceded her for over a half century of far harsher circumstances, the very first immigrant to step onto Ellis Island to process through the new immigration center in 1892 was Annie Moore of County Cork, Ireland, who was either 15 or 17. She settled in New York’s 4th Ward, in a rough and tumble seaport slum, and soon married a German baker. They had ten (or 11) children, five of whom survived. She died in 1923 at 47 (or 49) and is buried in Queens next to five of her children. She never returned to her homeland. Her story is very common for Irish-Americans of that period. Her age and the fact that she was traveling without her parents was also not uncommon; many such earlier immigrants lost relatives on the journey.
The overwhelming majority of the penniless Irish who came to America ended up in truly awful city slums – an urban cancer which they themselves introduced in America, although certainly not by choice. Martin Scorsese’s excellent 2002 film, “Gangs of New York“, does a decent job of showing a slice of mid-19th century life in the Five Points slum district of New York City; this was the time when the Famine-Irish were pouring into America. Boston was another major destination, and similar enforced ghettos quickly sprouted in a dozen other large American cities. Most of the rest ended up in the crude mining towns of Appalachia and Montana, and a few tried to make it on America’s dusty plains by turning the rocky grassland into farms by hand. Ron Howard’s 1992 film, “Far And Away“, depicts the story of an Irishman who ran off to America with his landlord’s daughter eventually to seek his fortune on America’s Oklahoma plains offered by the Homestead Act. (“Landlord” = “Lord Of The Land”, i.e., “Lord Carrington”, a term of unearned entitlement, a title bestowed by the Crown, usually accompanied by land, i.e., nobility, and then passed down through subsequent generations via family membership, i.e., birthright entitlement.) All of that was only 150 years ago. When I was a boy, I had grand-parents who had experienced those times in America first-hand. That number of years to a child still seems like an eternity. But if Emily asks her grandmother about the Civil War, and she says, “Oh, yes, my grandmother told me some very interesting stories about that time. Want to hear some of them?” – then things come into perspective. Emily suddenly realizes that the Civil War, and Five Points, and the Homestead Act, were only two lifetimes ago, and it’s all sitting right there talking to her through her own grandmother’s eyes.
While little in American culture today adequately imparts what preceded in Ireland the arrival of such people in America, or how much their pre-arrival baggage held them down after they stepped on to American soil, eventually the Irish spread out all over America. Almost all who survived eventually succeeded, pushing each succeeding generation a little further up the socio-economic ladder, mainly in the beginning by depending on their own families and religious-ethnic communities for support. As dismal as life was for them, it was still much better than they had experienced for centuries under British crown rule at home in Ireland. Those who survived oppressive life in Ireland, and the treacherous journey, and early misery in America, were the strongest and toughest of the lot. It was a simple case of Darwinian selection; Irish-Americans, progeny of Famine-Irish survivors, are indestructible.
It’s important to remember that, until recently, immigrants to America had embarked on a very major journey that usually took months, returning from which during their lifetimes was out of the question. These were the very bravest of their home cultures, who had struck out on a one-way “do-or-die” quest on little more than hope. Those aspects that made them stand out from their home cultures were what made America great. We got the most daring and adventuresome, and desperate, of the bunch. They had to make it work; there just was no going back.
The following song has become a stable in the repertoire of the popular Irish group “Celtic Woman”, often seen on American PBS TV performing in concert live on warm summer evenings ironically in beautiful evening gowns at old Irish castles. (Author: Brendan Graham.) It’s a song about two islands – Ellis Island and the Emerald Island – and home.
On the first day of January
They Opened Ellis Island
And they let the people through.
And the first to cross the threshold
Of the Isle of hope and tears
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was all of fifteen years.
Isle of hope, Isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, Isle of fears,
But it’s not the Isle
I left behind…
That Isle of hunger, Isle of pain,
Isle you’ll never see again
But the Isle of home
Is always on your mind.
In her little bag she carried
All her past and history
And her dreams for the future
In the land of liberty.
And courage is the passport
When your old world disappears
’Cause there’s no future in the past
When you’re fifteen years.
When they closed down Ellis Island
In Nineteen Forty-three
Seventeen million people
Had come there for sanctu’ry.
And in springtime when I came here
And stepped onto its piers,
I thought of how it must have been
When you’re only fifteen years.
But the Isle of Home
is always on your mind.
Can any American or immigrant today imagine what life was like for her in Ireland, or what awaited her in America? Only if they know the truth.
* Ellis Island in New York Harbor was America’s principle reception center for people from everywhere immigrating to America during the half century from 1892 to 1943. For 60 years prior to the opening of Ellis Island, Irish immigrants, sickly and improvised after centuries of oppressive British rule, came to America mostly on super low-fare slave ships they called “coffin ships” because so many died en route. During the great Ireland Famine years of the mid-19th century, in just one ten-year period over 2,000,000 starving Irish – almost half the island’s then-small population – left their homeland for America crammed like sardines into these small sailing ships. It is estimated that in that one decade 300,000 of them – men, women, and children, too – died before arriving, their bodies simply dumped overboard at sea. Many of the younger men who did survive the trip were quickly drafted into military service for the American Civil War in the armies of both the North and the South, depending on whether their chance port of arrival had been New York or Charleston. Many thousands of them died on both sides in great battles like Gettysburg before they ever had a chance to try their Irish “luck” in America. (See the separately posted article “Irish In America” for a summary of their journey.) And yet, just a short time later, when millions of newer European immigrants arrived in New York harbor aboard steam ships to process through Ellis, it was mostly Famine-Irish labor that had built that great city and much of the rest of the America that now welcomed them, including Ellis Island.
Of course, a few Irish had been coming to America from the very beginning. Some became famous in earlier times as explorers, hunters and trappers who also mapped a continent with Native Americans. And three of them helped craft and sign the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. They were: Matthew Thornton (Native Irish: Drennan, Meenagh, Tarrant or Skehanwas) born in Ireland in 1714 and died in America in 1803 at 89; James Smith (Scotch-Irish: MacGowan), born in Ireland in 1719 and died in America in 1806 at 87; and George Taylor (Welsh-Irish: Taylor), born in Ireland in 1716 and died in America in 1781 at 65, not quite long enough to see the birth of the nation he and the others had risked their lives to create.
The most important thing that the British crown taught Americans, especially through the Irish: The fundamental Rights of Man – such as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – do NOT emanate from any other man (or state), who (or which) can also remove them, but solely and unalienably from a Higher Authority – from God. All religions accept a Higher Authority above Man; once you weaken or remove that concept, you open the way for human despots, people who seek to re-engineer humanity according to their own will. That asinine notion is simply anathema to the whole concept of “America”, so there must remain a prominent place for a god in American philosophical thinking. It is the very foundation of all the unalienable rights of American citizens.
(On 14 July 1789 in France, six years after the end of the American Revolutionary War and one year after the US Constitution was ratified, peasants stormed the Bastille in Paris, and the French Revolution was underway. The thing that enabled the Bastille to be breached, and the thing that enabled the revolution, was not the peasants but French soldiers in Paris – who joined the peasants, turned on the aristocracy’s hired trappings of power, and opened fire. The Bastille’s armory then offered the peasants that which had enabled the oppressive aristocracy to rule over them – guns and munitions. The French bloodbath raged for the next 10 years – until Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup in 1799 and became dictator. Unfortunately the French of that period lacked leaders like George Washington, so they were great in theory, but dismal in practice.)
I’ve never been an especially religious man, but I most definitely am a man of principle. America’s Basic Law is the United States Constitution. Attached to, as an integral part of, the US Constitution are the Bill of Rights, amendments One through Ten, which enumerate specific rights of the people that cannot by violated by the state. They were introduced by James Madison with Thomas Jefferson’s support in 1789 and were subsequently ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1791, just two years later. The very First Amendment to the US Constitution states, in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” This is the very principle for which all Irish had been fighting, and dying, for the previous 200 years – in their own homeland – and would continue doing so for another 200. The US Supreme Court, relying on Jefferson’s letters written in 1802, subsequently (1879 and 1947) ruled that this clause of the First Amendment required “the separation of church and state” – that the state cannot establish an official religion nor can it prohibit or favor a religion – which had been the case in England since 1534 and used as the excuse to relentlessly brutalize Ireland and its people, with their different religion, since that time. This principle now applies in America to any of humanity’s many recognized religions, equally to Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all others. (Subsequent Americans have sought to twist this simple concept – prohibiting a church-state – completely out of shape by claiming that the amendment even prohibits the state from supporting secular efforts of major recognized religions that benefit the state and its citizens, which was never imagined by either Madison or Jefferson. Such anti-religious beliefs were central to Marxist-Leninist communist ideology and remain, naturally, also important to ever-malleable and self-serving social “progressivism”, which professes that only the secular state knows what’s best for the stupid and helpless masses.)
To establish religions, etc., is a right of the people and follows directly from the intolerance of the British crown’s official Church of England and the stark example of Catholic Ireland. Most of the original thirteen American colonies were founded by Puritans, Calvinists, Protestants and Catholics (the latter mainly in French and Spanish colonies) fleeing religious persecution, mostly by continental European monarchies. The original colonies of New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, however, were established by members of the Church of England – the official, and only tolerated, church of the British crown since Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife in 1534 by his own decree. Henry’s action led to his banishment from the Catholic Church of Rome and his establishment of his own religion in Britain. That Church of England was at once at odds with the entire Catholic population of Ireland, and became the pretext for the next 400 years of British crown oppression, plunder, killing, taxing and looting of Ireland. By the eighteenth century, when the Americans were designing their own government, the British had stolen nearly the whole country and everything in it and left the Irish people with not even enough to survive – and all in the name of a despotic state advancing its own religion.
Americans were not about to duplicate that tyrannical experience in their own new country, so the state is specifically prohibited from establishing any “official” state-sponsored religion – so as to allow all citizens the right to embrace and practice any faith they wished without fear of oppression from the state under religious pretext. There is absolutely nothing in the US Constitution precluding the state from supporting any efforts of any religion that seek objectives beneficial to the state and all its citizens as long as the principles underlying that state support apply equally to all religions. “Separation” is not meant to imply any antagonistic relationship between state and religion. On the contrary; that relationship should be both mutually independent and mutually cooperative. For example, while the state cannot mandate citizen behavior, religion can instill values encouraging voluntary behavior that is acceptable, even desirable, to both the state and its citizens. Government is great at confiscating and dispensing other people’s money; it is just terrible at channeling human behavior in positive manners. Thus religion has a valuable and beneficial role to play in the American state – a role the state should, in fact, encourage, but without favoritism.
The rest of the world has had 225 years to copy the American Constitution in whole or in part, but none has achieved the success with it that America has, primarily because in America it has ensured a relatively stable set of rules and principles reasonably accommodating most interests and highly resistant to change. In America “You learn the rules; you master the process; and you beat the jerks at their own game.” And yet one of the first things that those seeking short cuts to their own objectives, as well as some contemporary immigrants, especially those from privileged classes in their home countries, want to do is change or “re-interpret” various parts of the US Constitution – to “make it better”. Give me a break. Despots and other self-anointed “special” people have been playing that self-serving game since the beginning of recorded history. (See “Let’s Change The Rules!”.) Changing the rules is always about making it easier for “special me”, at the expense of “someone else”. Still, such changes are easier to accomplish among people with an inadequate understanding of history, of why our Constitution says what it says. Humans being humans, nothing significant in human relations is going to happen in the future that has not already happened in one form or another over the past 6000 years of recorded civilization. There are very few examples in modern drama that cannot be seen in the works of Shakespeare, written 400 years ago, and many of them can be seen in drama surviving from Ancient Rome 2,000 years earlier and from Ancient Greece even earlier. Humans are enormously better at ignorantly repeating the mistakes of the past than they are at brilliantly inventing anything “new”.
But since humans are capable of rationalizing literally anything, that history points to one certainty: Once you start playing around with the rules to better suit “me”, the future becomes fluid and unpredictable and invariably has unintended consequences of the negative variety. There are few things more disconcerting today than watching privileged immigrants walk in the door one day, assume positions at the top, and the next day start preaching to the dumb natives how they should re-shape their society. Often when confronted with such change arguments from first- or second-generation immigrants with a long list of impressive academic tickets, the first thing I want to ask is how that change worked in their native country. The usual simple truth is that if those native countries had the static rules that America offers, those immigrants would not have had such an easy path to the privileged top, that they probably would not have benefited so quickly from a system tipped in their favor, that in America they would have had to work and earn their way up like everyone else. This remains true even today, for example, in India’s highly stratified caste society, regardless of its constitutional democracy. Huge numbers of American women, too, having neatly divested themselves of the responsibility parts of their countless rights, never seem to stop trying to change the rules, or make up new rules, to tip things ever more in their favor; they have become America’s rapidly rising unassailable caste, no longer responsible for, or even interested in, the condition of anything beyond their own group, including the future viability of their own society, and most especially for the other gender. It is American women who have been advancing, and teaching, the asinine absurdity that America offers a plethora of rights, while all the responsibilities are for “someone else”; no society can survive under such stupid dogma. No one ever asks, much less answers, “What comes next?”
The hardest concept for some people to grasp is that there is simply no “special” in “equal”. As an Irish-American, I know that people starting from the top tend to view the rules very differently from those struggling up from the bottom. “All men are created equal” and thus all men are “equal under the law”. Such simple principles have profound meaning in American democracy, and, yes, “men” does include women. If you look carefully at the genesis of all the never-ending complaints of today’s women, you will discover that they are all the consequences of changes demanded by earlier women. Women have just never stopped blaming it all on “someone else”. In America, however, no one except the tax man forces anyone to do anything. The simple hard truth is that the society created by and for women is far less worth the time and effort and sacrifice of men. So what comes next? We now have the largest percentage, and steadily rising, of working-age men in our history who have simply dropped out of the labor market; these guys are even beyond the reach of the tax man. Some criticize these guys, but maybe they’re just smarter. After all, what’s in it for them? Leave the rules alone; just measure up to what those who went before built and handed to you for free. Besides, those who seek to change the rules are almost always just losers too lazy to win and just want everything handed to them because they’re “special”. Winners figure out how to win within the rules, like everyone else.
(Americans who disagree with this are in effect saying, “I am ashamed of my country, its builders and its culture, and since I have nothing of my own invested in it, I welcome everyone to come along and change it to whatever they want for themselves.” So then a logical person would have to ask, “Why then are you an American? Why don’t you just go somewhere you like better and leave the country I love alone? I’ve invested a lifetime defending America as it was, not as you are willing to have it trashed. Are you prepared to do the same for the country you design for yourself? Or do you expect “someone else” to continue doing what they did for their former country?” Real life doesn’t work that way. Guys with brains think with logic. As much as everyone tries not to notice, many millions of them have already walked away. Soon only a few still desperately clinging to an illusion will remain, however tentatively. If Americans aren’t even willing to protect and preserve the nation’s culture, why would they ever expect me to protect and preserve the nation’s security? There definitely IS a point, ladies, beyond which what I am expected to defend is simply no longer worth my life, that it’s time for someone else to step up and do the hard stuff necessary for THEIR society. For example, American women have always controlled the world’s most expensive K-12 “education” industry, but if they can’t run this most critical industry successfully and fairly, for boys as well as girls, for the nation as well as for individuals, what makes anyone think they can run anything else successfully and fairly? You can’t hide dismal failure behind incessant self-serving censorship and propaganda forever.)
ALL Americans, with so many impoverished Third World immigrants now flooding in, would do everyone a great favor if they carefully studied how the Famine-Irish made it in America, from the bottom up, and just try to measure up to that example. The Famine-Irish were America’s Third World immigrants of yesterday, and they managed to overcome great adversity with absolutely none of the hundreds of aids available today.
One Irishman Who Found The Pot Of Gold
Ireland is literally full of myths, legends and fairy tales handed down verbally over the centuries. (What other choice was there for a whole people forbidden by their rulers for
centuries to educate themselves, to learn to read and write, to document and study their own story?) One such tale, of course, involves finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s a legend about chasing dreams, about never giving up, no matter how elusive the objective seems. No one ever finds the pot of gold, but enough people have over time found reasonable substitutes to keep the legend alive. It’s actually a worthwhile principle.
Marcus Daly was an Irishman from County Cavan who immigrated penniless to America at age 15 during the Famine years in 1856. Five years later, just before events at Ft. Sumter started the American Civil War, he left the New York slums for California – then at least a six month journey away – to learn the mining business on the other side of the continent. Twenty years later, after bouncing around California and the West exploring mining from the subsurface up, in 1881 at age 40 Daly bought the small Anaconda silver mine in Butte Montana and discovered the largest deposit of copper on the planet. Daly had found his pot of gold, and it was copper. Soon Butte, “the richest hill on Earth”, was home to the one of the largest communities of Irish outside the Emerald Isle. Butte was one of the very few places in America where retail establishments and employers did not place “No Irish” signs in the windows. (Most of the other places were also very tough mining towns.) By 1900 Butte had 12,000 residents of Irish descent in a population of 48,000. A quarter of the population was Irish, a higher percentage than any other American city at the turn of the 20th century, including Boston. For nearly a century, from 1885 to 1980, and despite a major underground fire disaster in 1917 that killed 168 men, the Anaconda mine and smelter was one of the town’s largest employers and provided good-paying jobs for generations. Even today, a century later, Butte remains “Ireland’s Fifth Province”. The copper mined in Butte wired and helped power America, and made Daly and his partners very wealthy.
Elia Kazan’s classic film “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (USA, 1945), based on a 1943 novel written by Betty Smith, tells the story of a poor but aspirational, young second-generation Irish-American girl (Francie) and her family in a Brooklyn tenement during the period of around 1912-17, right before millions of American men were shipped out to World War I. While Francie’s mother was the practical child of Austrian immigrants, her father was the romantic child of Irish immigrants, and he was, like most good husbands and fathers, worth more dead than alive. And so her mother becomes the family budget director and main breadwinner. Perhaps reflecting the very large proportion of second- and third-generation male immigrants again serving in America’s armed forces, the 1943 novel was one of the most popular books shipped to American military personnel for free during World War II. (Betty Smith said that she received ten times more fan mail from soldiers than she did from civilians. Smith, a second-generation German-American (Schmidt) also born and raised in Brooklyn, obviously based much of her novel on her own life. Despite their enormous population numbers during the previous century, books written by hardscrabble Irish laborers were very rare in America until well into the 20th century, but the Irish often made inviting subjects for others. Most readers find that her book’s dialogues ring so true that they seem verbatim transcripts of real people going about the routines of normal daily life.) Francie does manage to realize her father’s fondest wish and graduate from a good high school and go on to college, but not without a lot of heartache along the way. It’s unclear what became of her brother Neeley, one year younger than she. Constantly shaped into the person the women of the family want him to become, with no mention of the life path he would choose for himself, Neeley comes across as little more than an obedient and malleable prop in the world women would shape for themselves. So while the book is weighted heavily towards the woman’s view, it does provide a very good window into turn-of-the-century immigrant life in America and reflect very well a number of important themes, including immigrant poverty, the “American Dream”, the role of education, the compromises and sacrifices required of survival and advancement in the “American melting pot” prior to the societal “safety nets” put in place by the Greatest Generation before and after WW II. Smith published a sequel of sorts 20 years later with her “Joy In The Morning” (also made into a film, USA, 1965), and again her events are strongly autobiographical and her characters predominantly second-generation Irish immigrants in late-1920s post-War Brooklyn. Far more was written about the Irish than the Irish ever wrote about themselves. (One exception was James T. Farrell, who drew on his own early experiences in abject poverty-ridden South Side Chicago during the early years of the 20th century to create his very hard-hitting Irish-American “Studs Lonigan” trilogy during the Great Depression of the 1930s.)
It was not all good or rewarding. There were bumps along the way. And some things became clear only long after the fact. Life for one member of the Irish mob in the Mid-west Chicago region during the Great Depression year of 1931 is shown in the finely tuned fictional movie “Road To Perdition” (USA 2002). An orphan raised by Irish mob boss Rooney, the main character Sullivan both fears and admires the man who now ensures his own family’s welfare during such very tough times. Forced into an untenable situation and knowing full well that he is on an irreversible road to eternal damnation, Sullivan still goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure the survival of his one remaining son in the fervent hope that the boy not follow in his father’s footsteps. While the film contains several themes, the central thread concerns the relationships between fathers and sons within the Irish sense of duty and honor and family honed over centuries of stark choices and heavy responsibilities. The original story was a product of quite successful Irish-American mystery writer Max Allen Collins (1948-present) who was born, and still lives, in the same region depicted in the film, a region I know well. Collins admits to having had a difficult relationship with his own father, yet much of his work is grounded in the popular history and fiction of America during the period of his father’s early years (1920-60) and is full of hard characters with Irish names solidly grounded in Irish-American values. Like most Irishmen, the son Collins has not yet realized how much the relationship between he and his father shaped the man he became. It took a gifted artisan like the man who directed “American Beauty” (USA 1999), incredibly a Brit heavily grounded in classical theater, Sam Mendes, to polish Collin’s story and shine the proper light on that relationship.
And Irishmen were still slugging it out in the ring. The son of Irish immigrant parents, Jim Braddock was born in Hell’s Kitchen in 1905 and decided to pursue a career as a boxer between his shifts as a dockworker. Married, with two sons and a daughter, he gradually worked his way up and at age 30 in June 1935 during the Great Depression beat the younger German-American Max Baer in 15 grueling rounds at Madison Square Garden for the World Heavyweight Championship. A 10-to-1 underdog, he won what was called “the greatest fistic upset since the defeat of John L. Sullivan by Jim Corbett.” Braddock held the title for two years until he lost to Joe Louis in 1937, but he used his prize money to buy a house in New Jersey where he and his wife lived for the rest of their lives. At age 37 during WW II in 1942 he enlisted in the US Army, where as a lieutenant on Saipan he trained enlisted infantry soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. Later in his 50s he helped construct the Verrazano Bridge (1964) connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn. Three decades after he died at age 69 in New Jersey, Ron Howard told his story in the film “Cinderella Man” (USA, 2005). Jim Braddock had used brutal boxing, and an indomitable spirit, to earn his pot of gold.
Propaganda has a way of focusing on events in isolation, in service of the target group, out of context with the larger picture. The brutal and extremely scarce labor conditions glimpsed in “Cinderella Man” during the Great Depression were very common across the entire country throughout all of the 1930s. And the moment a glimmer of light began to appear at the end of the dismal employment tunnel, the country again needed many millions of such men to fight World War II. And that need pulled huge numbers of men out of the labor market just as they were needed to keep the booming domestic war munitions machine churning. It’s not enough to round up men to fight wars; you also have to provide them the tools to fight those wars, while also keeping the home front running. The only solution was to pull many women into the domestic labor market, into factories redesigned to enable women to do the labor previously required of men, but very carefully. (Similar efforts during WW I had not gone so well, especially for the many men who returned severely maimed, disfigured, diseased and missing limbs.) WW II men who had struggled for over ten years fighting for hard labor scraps and now expected to go off and fight more years of deadly war were not anxious to be greeted by more unemployed soup lines when they returned – because women who did not have go to war had taken all the jobs in their absence. Government programs, including “Rosie The Riveter”-style propaganda programs, from 1940 to 1960, carefully managed mainly by the US Army, were designed to take such very real economic and social realities into consideration. The adoption of greatly improved Ford assembly-line technologies, which essentially broke work down to smaller and smaller parts all assisted by mechanical devices to reduce the “hard” in labor, to a wide range of other production facilities and endeavors was also crucial. It was NOT just a simple-minded matter of “men feeling emasculated by empowered working women”; women would have been “empowered” if they had gone to work in truly brutal pre-1940s-style factories or had been drafted as cannon fodder just as were men. Large numbers of women in the industrial work force during WW II forced dramatic revolutionary changes in the design and operation of the entire assembly line concept, changes which male laborers had been trying to implement for decades as they also struggled to build the unions that could force them.
Fortunately, the post-war “marriage and baby” boom, coupled with enormous strides in safe and automated working conditions and a sudden explosion in union growth, soon created an economy that needed large numbers of workers of both genders. By the 1960s the economy was strong enough to allow Baby Boomer women to make the choice. (But their “choice” ever since has been to demand BOTH work AND the home, and to insist that everyone else make that possible by picking up their slack on both ends. And they almost never view their “choice” as also risking literally everything and dedicating their lives to the creation of new businesses and companies that employ many thousands of others, both men and women; that really hard “choice”, apparently, is still a responsibility for men only.) By the late-1960s, during another war, they literally flooded into a now rather comfortable labor market, demanding even more changes around every corner. Most of them just never grew up enough to make an adult choice and stick with it. They firmly believed that every job must be as much a permanent, high-paying, routine and pampering socialist utopia as that of bureaucrat, whose employers only have to confiscate the money needed to provide all that luxury, no competition or effort required, and whose employees can switch government employers at will with no loss of pay, seniority or benefits. (The problem with American women is that no one has ever challenged their self-serving “thinking” about such things. “I only want MY truth!”) The sudden influx of great numbers of women workers during the 1960s and 1970s dramatically cheapened the value of labor, systematically destroyed labor unions, decimated pension and health care plans, undermined the life-long permanency of good employment, and made it necessary for two workers to provide the same level of income for a family previously provided by one – things male workers had fought very hard to accomplish for the entire previous century.
“Brooklyn” (UK/Ireland, 2015) moves the Irish-American story a little further along, to the post-War 1950s, when a young Irish woman named Eilis Lacey leaves Enniscorthy (1951 pop.: less than 4,000) in County Wexford to seek her own future in now full-boom America. The film is based on the Booker Prize-winning novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín that was published in 2009. Tóibín was born in 1955 to a family in Enniscorthy whose past was rich in Irish rebellions lost. He made the town also the home town of Eilis Lacey. It’s a good story about overcoming homesickness and quickly learning to adapt to a whole new world of opportunities, while home still tugs. (The timeline coincides with my father’s death during the Korean War and the start in earnest of my mother’s career in the US Defense Department.) With all the centuries-long suffering and violence now gradually receding in Irish memory, the prose is quietly understated, the only noticeable turmoil taking place within the young woman’s own emotions. By the 1950s most of the poor and working-class Irish-Americans formerly based in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan had moved across the river to Brooklyn to better homes and communities, even though most continued to work in the city. Early in the story, told in rich detail, Eilis is asked by the Irish parish priest who sponsored her entry into America to assist with a charity dinner for elderly men. As over a hundred of the old guys file into the hall to take their seats at long dining tables, Eilis asks, “They all Irish?” “All Irish.” “Why don’t they go home?” “Because if there’s nothing there even for clever young girls like yourself, there’s even less for them. Some of them have been here fifty years. They’ve lost touch with everyone. These are the men who built the tunnels, the bridges, the highways. God alone knows what they live on now.” (Writers: Nick Hornby, Colm Tóibín) Eventually Eilis is forced to decide between Ireland and America, and the important thing is that now she could make that decision; such had never been the case for most of her countrymen who had preceded her to America. Quickly after WW II, America’s economic engine kicked into super-charged high gear, and that booming consumer economy, driven mainly by marriages and babies, was soon felt around the world, including in Ireland. An interesting aspect of this film is that the actress who plays Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) was born in Brooklyn to Irish parents who moved back to County Carlow in Ireland when she was three (1997). That, too, was a decision that could now be made.
A lot of Americans in recent times pursue an interest in names, in genealogy, with tracing their ancestors back in time, often with some never quite articulated hope of finding somewhere in the past a link with nobility (and castles). Rarely does there seem to be a real curiosity or understanding of the broader story, the history, involved, as if it was always like it appears today. It often seems a superficial effort to follow names back in time, and then to attribute to “me” a certain timeline, a continuity, an unearned relevance. Rarely do they attribute actual human lives, human conditions, environments, with the name. If they do make an effort in that direction, it’s usually to apply some label of livelihood to a name, such as “carpenter”, “farmer”, “dress maker”, “stone mason” and then to define those labels in terms of today’s definitions. After all, how do you equate “farmer” with “serf”, especially when it was not that so long ago, especially when it was almost always some border bureaucrat assigning the label, and especially when “serf” is not an especially appealing ancestor for one to have? A serf is a slave for whom the owner attributes no value and accepts no responsibility. Who today would consider being a cooper as a way of life? A cooper makes wooden staved barrels, and this was the “profession” of Jack Kennedy’s great grandfather – who managed to survive for nine years in America before dying of cholera in a Boston slum at age 35. Would you call him today a carpenter? At least he wasn’t a “farmer” – a laborer who worked someone else’s land by hand and then handed over the crop to the landlord, all solely for the “privilege” of growing a few potatoes for his family in a tiny rocky corner and storing them in a dark corner of the family’s mud hut. Today, we might label him a “tenant farmer” – which leaves 90% of the real picture out of the equation.
(The vast majority of Ireland’s pre-1922 (British) government census records were destroyed in the first days of the Irish Civil War by a fire started by bomb explosions at the Public Record Office at Dublin’s Four Courts on 30 June of that year. Almost all of the records it held, some dating back to medieval times, were lost. However, many records remained (mostly in Latin) scattered in the country’s many church parishes, and also in some tax records and newspaper archives, but this has made ancestral research, especially of native Irish, considerably more daunting. (The Irish Civil War, 1922-23, followed a year after the end of Ireland’s War of Independence, 1919-21.))
And why would an Irish-American be trying to find some link with nobility anyway? That whole subject is not exactly filled with actual nobility. There are very good reasons why the very first article of the US Constitution also prohibits both Congress and the states from granting ranks of nobility and why government officials, including the President, are prohibited from accepting foreign titles or profiting while holding office of trust. Unearned “birthrights” of power are “un-American”. There is no “special” in “equal”, and pervasive efforts to pervert that simple truth through incessant propaganda via powerful lobbies and interest groups are equally “un-American”.
Today in America, “history” is essentially the study of various “victim” groups driven by their lobbies, a focus on past injustice that enables today’s members of such groups to wallow ad nauseam in vicarious victimhood or unearned relevance. The Famine Irish, of course, never bothered to engage in such self-involvement, probably because they had far more important things to do with their lives. One of the aspects of the American Civil War that has always interested me, for example, is the degree to which recent historians have relied on still-existing private letters written between soldiers and family members to provide “new insight to the past’s realities.” But the simple fact is that half of Civil War soldiers, and those who sustained by far the highest casualties, were very recent Irish immigrants who had been for the previous 300 years aggressively denied by the British crown anything resembling an education and therefore could neither read or write. (For the Irish serfs to teach and learn was actually against British law, very similar to the treatment of slaves but with no responsibility for their welfare.) For all those hundreds of thousands of male Irish conscripts used as cannon fodder in the American Civil War, there were no letters sent, and none received. There were no dog-eared battlefield journals and no town newspaper articles chronicling their service. Filled with hope for a future better than the ruthless starvation and slavery behind them, they found themselves in America still “expendable”, and even their names vanished with their blood spilled on rich green fields across their new country. Most still too young to have started families, their lineage ended with their lives right there in the mud and blood of America. There would be no future descendants tracing ancestors, no lobbies championing self-worth, no future privileged research writers chronicling their miserable stories. Under our asinine “system”, the dead are just dead; one must be living to qualify as a “victim”. Their one great legacy, and the most ironic, was that their lives were sacrificed by the tens of thousands in a war that ended in America the British-transplanted evilness that still ruled their occupied Ireland. Surviving written documents, including newspaper stories, have always been critically important to any real understanding of history, but fully understanding those documents, as well as those writings that never existed, and placing them all in proper context, is just as critical. Just because it wasn’t written down does not mean that it didn’t happen, that it wasn’t an important part of the full story.
Today more Americans emigrate to Ireland than Irish immigrate to America. No American force – economic or military – ever came in to solve Ireland’s externally-imposed centuries-long problems for them. The Irish hung in there long enough to outlast the bullshit. Now Ireland is a vibrant nation of 4,500,000 people (with another 1,800,000 in “northern” Ireland). (For perspective, in 1831 Ireland had a population of about 7,767,000, a number that continued to decline with every census for 80 years, down to 4,228,000 by 1926 – only about half of what it was a century earlier – despite a constant very high birthrate throughout. Today Ireland has a much lower birthrate and a much more healthy economy, and in most of the country the British rulers are gone.) But an interesting true story of more recent Irish immigrants to America was made into a good little movie released in 2002. It is “In America” (Ireland/UK, 2002), and, this time, the Irish family crosses the border in 1982 from Canada by car using legal tourist visas, with the intention of remaining illegally. (Today well over 100,000 privileged western Europeans do this every year – flying in comfort with legal visas to become illegal “immigrants”, with money, and remaining “under the radar” of all the attention focused on far poorer Hispanic immigrants. Another 100,000 Canadians do the same – every year.) But in 1982, over 30 years ago, once again these poor Irish immigrants move into a New York City slum tenement in Hell’s Kitchen. (Their very first exchange with a resident of Hell’s Kitchen: “Are you the police?” “Nah, we’re Irish.” “All Irish are the police.”) (Writers: Jim, Naomi & Kirsten Sheridan) But this time it’s not an ethnic religious community that lends a hand to the young Sullivan (true name Sheridan) family, or some bureaucracy, but rather someone quite unexpected. The thing that struck me most about this story was the little girl Christy Sullivan (10). Older and wiser and far braver than her years, she has all of the right stuff of Irish immigrants from an earlier time. She will succeed in America (if she doesn’t become too “Americanized” too quickly). There is nothing that American women (and men) can’t do, with their own capabilities, if no one grants them excuses. In America there is no legitimate excuse for whining. Every adult has the freedom to make choices; if they’re not satisfied with their condition, with the consequences of their own choices, they can just stand up and make better choices. Christy at 10 already has all that it takes.
Today it’s not easy finding a good representative of “Irish In America”. So widely dispersed among the larger population they have become, they are indistinguishable from any other group of older European ancestry. They do seem to have larger families than the average. (But is this a matter of religion, or due to some ingrained instinct from the dark past, due to some innate human need to survive in the face of constant poverty, adversity, infant mortality and premature death?) A decent representation of a contemporary Irish family in America can be seen in the TV series about a New York Irish-American police family (“Blue Bloods”), with all its contemporary variations. There you have it in a nutshell: three honorable generations championing law and justice under one roof seated around the Sunday evening dinner table with the fourth generation kids. Even a son and brother killed on duty and a wife and mother whose time ran out are there in spirit. (When I was young, such an Irish-American family would extend all the way back to the Civil War.) What more genealogy is needed? The astute writers of this TV series occasionally slip in comments spoken by various members of this family in multi-ethnic New York City that seem inconsequential to the casual viewer, but which take on significantly greater meaning to those who really know and understand the history of the Irish, including the Irish in America; this fictional family is obviously well aware of its heritage even as its members keep it submerged, private. Both that awareness and the public portrayal of it are very rare in contemporary America; the Irish have no lobby, and most of them today know only tiny pieces of their heritage.
Sometimes Frank Reagan, the fictional family patriarch, when confronted with abrasive comments from others about some perceived slight to their own group, will pause to gather his thoughts and restrain his temper. To those very few who know the history, his extended silence speaks really huge volumes as they, too, pour over that history in their own minds. But eventually Frank will speak a few words that tend to evidence adult wisdom and sympathy without loosing sight of the standards. But, really, what else can he say in one or two sentences to those who have zero knowledge of his own people’s story over the previous centuries, including the last couple right here in America? Why would they care to know? So the silence works, and the story remains untold, private, Irish.
Even the show’s title is a play on the cultural history involved. “Blue blood” is a term that refers, probably since before recorded history, to an aristocracy using its unearned familial birthright entitlement for succeeding generations to rule over lowly others to its own advantage. But in the show the term refers to succeeding generations of dedicated people who serve their fellow man in the trenches wearing blue police uniforms for the greater good of all as an earned familial tradition. (I happen to view this as a key distinction between useless and useful humans; the show lets the title’s antiphrasis speak for itself. Unlike in Europe, in America, which has struggled since its inception to excise and overcome the effects of birthright entitled nobility, “blue”, referring to a group, always invokes “police”.) A key factor in the origins of the British term is skin color – very light translucent versus very dark tanned, with a gradient range in between – to separate the few “special” rulers (nobility, aristocracy, etc.) who could remain in comfort protected from the sun from those many “subordinate” masses (slaves, serfs, etc.) who toiled in manual labor under the sun. It is thus also the origin of class distinction, of group favoritism, of caste, of bigotry, of racism.
And, of course, Irish cops are like Irish soldiers: self-promotion is just incredibly gauche, undertaken only by those with a need to inflate reality. IRS Treasury agent (“T-man”) Mike Malone was an Irish-American from New Jersey who went under cover for three years as an Italian-American gangster (“Mike Lepito”) from Philadelphia to infiltrate the very deadly Al Capone gang in Chicago and document minute details of the gang’s finances – details that enabled the government to convict and imprison Capone for tax evasion in 1931. Malone later went on to help solve the “crime of the century” – the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son in 1932 by establishing a relationship of trust with the famous father. This quiet cop died on the job in 1960 at age 67 of a brain aneurysm. His work then remained unknown for a half century until his great nephew discovered boxes of Mike’s old files in his sister’s attic. The files documented parts of his life-long work for IRS criminal intelligence, work that had been publicly attributed to others, including in major Hollywood movies like “The Untouchables”. “A man lets his record do the talking.”
But of course the “Irish in America” are more than policemen. Sometimes it’s helpful to pick a few good examples of those who made their own relevance far beyond America. Two other prominent and devout Catholics were Bill Casey and Vernon Walters. Irish-American William J. Casey, who died in 1987, was head of OSS’s Secret Intelligence Branch during World War II, and was bought out of retirement by President Reagan to be Director of CIA in 1980; the grumpy mumbler’s style harkened back to wartime OSS Chief “Wild Bill” Donovan, the Irish-American guy who laid the foundation of the CIA. Extremely articulate Army General and Ambassador Vernon A. Walters, who died in 2002, had also begun his career during World War II, was an exceptionally gifted multi-linguist who subsequently served as military diplomat, as interpreter for a succession of US presidents, as deputy CIA director (1972-76), and as “roving” ambassador for President Reagan. Casey and Walters worked together in the background to play a major role with Pope John Paul II in coordinating US covert support and assistance to the Solidarity movement and the Catholic Church in Poland, which proved to be, as the two men had postulated, the linchpin that led to the unraveling of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Communism – the end of the “Cold” War. General Walters then served as US Ambassador to the United Nations and also to Germany (1989-91) as the “Iron Curtain” came down; he assisted in the treaty that reunified the nation that had been divided as East and West Germany since the end of WW II. Walters’ career thus began and ended (1941-91) with Germany, a half century apart. It was just bad luck that kept Casey from living long enough to see the results of their brilliant and very risky clandestine efforts to bring that long and constantly terrifying global war finally to an end, peacefully. Hundreds of millions of others were then able to seize the opportunity to free themselves from the yoke of “entitled” oppression and decide their own destiny. Two aging gifted American military men working in the shadows accomplished what all the diplomats and politicians on the stage for decades had not. (The price of the Vatican’s secret cooperation in ending the global “Cold” War was Reagan’s agreement as President to quietly oppose the only thing that was and remains of concern to all those American women selling their votes – abortion. For American women voters, nuclear Armageddon is NOTHING compared to irresponsible pregnancy.)
And, of course, there was an American Michael Collins, too. One of the most famous names in Irish history is Michael Collins, the guerilla leader who led the rebellion against the British during the Irish War of Independence, 1919-22. Less than a half century later, on 16 July 1969, another Michael Collins, a US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, piloted the NASA spaceship command module for the Apollo 11 mission, as his passengers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to ever set foot on another celestial body, to make “a giant leap for all mankind” and permanently stamp their names in the history of the ages. These three men now reside among the first of history’s greatest human pioneers. Collins, whose second-generation Irish-American father (James Lawton Collins) was a US Army major general who had served in the Philippine-American War, World War I and World War II, eventually retired from the Air Force, also as a major general. His second-generation Irish-American uncle, General J. Lawton Collins, commanded VII Corps during the WW II Invasion of Normandy, and was chief of staff of the United States Army 1949–53, the Army’s senior officer throughout the Korean War.
The Collins family ancestors were Famine Irish immigrants who settled in and around Cincinnati, Ohio. Collins’ grandfather, the Irish immigrant father of both of these generals, and the grandfather of Astronaut General Collins, served in the US Civil War as a 16-year old bugle boy before settling in an Irish community in Algiers, Louisiana, near the terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad, where he married his boss’s daughter and fathered eleven kids – many of whom became professional American soldiers who left their proud mark on the nation’s, and the world’s, history. (Astronaut Collins, from the command module, took a photograph of the descending lunar lander with Earth in the background. Contained in the frame of his picture is every human, living or dead, except Collins.) (The Greatest Generation sent men into space and on to the Moon, and brought them back alive. Building on that monumental accomplishment, my Silent Generation quietly designed, built, trained and launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which handed mankind 40 years, and counting, of a continuously growing encyclopedia of knowledge about our entire solar system, and beyond. Those two craft also carry knowledge about humans, their enormous diversity, and their home planet. This is significant since both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will live on even after Earth and its star, the Sun, have vanished from the Universe. The two craft will tell anyone who finds them as they journey through space and time, “This is who our makers were.”)
Not one of the many millions of Irish-Americans ever bought their way in, received government help, went on to Harvard or Yale, and then assumed positions at or near the top. They all started at the bottom and steadily over generations worked their way up – as Americans following “the American Way”. It’s not difficult to understand why they are not so enamored by those newer arrivals who don’t follow a similar path. “Such people come to milk, definitely not to mine.”
There was never any hint of entitlement from the Famine-Irish; America and Americans owed them no more than what they had already offered: entry. Now they had an opportunity to see if they could survive on their own without the Brits screwing them over on an island at every turn and contribute in meaningful ways to their new nation. By the time Ellis Island opened in 1892, the Civil War and the Draft and Orangemen riots had become, as with similar events in Ireland for the previous three centuries, part of Irish-American verbal history. The Famine-Irish migrant flood was winding down to become not so out of proportion to immigrant groups from other parts of Europe, such as Germany, Italy and Poland, who began arriving in rather large numbers at the turn of the century. But most newer immigrants arrived with at least basic educations and more marketable skills than had the Irish of a generation or two earlier, so it took the Famine-Irish a little longer to draw even with the newer Ellis Island arrivals (1895-1930) despite their much larger numbers. And, of course, Famine-Irish laborers had built much of what greeted the newer arrivals in America, including the Brooklyn Bridge (1883), the Statue of Liberty (1886) and, of course, Ellis Island (1892).
Things hadn’t changed much for the descendants of the Famine-Irish by 1920 when my own mother was born prematurely in a small town in the gritty coal-mine Appalachian mountains of western Maryland and placed in a cardboard shoe box “crib”. The town was about 80 miles west of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) and Antietam (Maryland), sites of the great Civil War battles of 57 years earlier where her immigrant grandfather and uncles had fought. One of five children (three boys and two girls), her sister and one of her brothers died before age two during the 1920s. Health, medical, safety and labor standards among most Famine-Irish children and grandchildren still left much to be desired. When she was 15 during the 1930s Great Depression, her father died of injuries incurred in an accident while working for the railroad, and her mother died of cancer. She was then raised by an aunt and uncle, while her two slightly older brothers struck out on their own. While in college, she married her high school sweetheart, and the two of them left coal mine country to find a brighter future together in the nation’s capital on the eve of World War II. Not much later, now with three little children of her own, her husband died during the Korean War. But my tough Greatest Generation mother, and her three children, survived, and succeeded.
She steadily rose on her own merit in that “male-dominated” military world of the Defense Department, beginning as a code-breaker with the birth of its National Security Agency (Army Security Agency) at Arlington Hall Station (projects VENONA, BORIS, etc.), long before “feminism” started complaining about everything in sight. This was before lobbies turned women into perpetual victims and gave them all (1) a truly perverted understanding of accurate history, and (2) a million excuses for not doing what needs to get done. After moving with NSA to Maryland in 1954, all three of her children completed twelve years of private schooling, without vouchers or day care or pre-school or after-school or even handy grandparents, nannies, tutors, the internet or cellphones. She did it just like men did it – by starting at the bottom and working her way up, by hanging in there through thick and thin no matter what for as long as it took to prove herself at each step along the way, systematically building her training, experience, longevity, knowledge and seniority. She used a mortgage to purchase a decent red brick house, which many years later she gifted to her youngest daughter and spent her last years living comfortably in her other daughter’s home.
And, more important than anything else, she embraced her full measure of responsibility for others, something that women, including women Supreme Court justices, today never even mention. It was NOT just about her rights as a women; it was just as much about her responsibility as an American. (That Baby Boomer women, in the interest of self-serving “equality”, were first systematically stripping out all the responsibility parts of all those rights they were demanding for themselves simply incensed my mother, who wanted to know what happens to society when men, also in the interest of equality, did the same. Who then has the responsibility? The evidence today clearly shows that she was correct. The world was then emerging from a half century of relentless global calamity and wars that took countless millions of lives, and opportunistic American women were now taking full advantage of the relative calm and bounty that surviving Greatest Generation men had delivered between the inevitable storms. Their Baby Boomer sons didn’t wait long to divest themselves of the responsibility of the Draft; our society has been coasting downhill on steadily declining standards ever since. Will WOMEN step up to the responsibility next time? The state of boys alone is clear evidence that American women today haven’t a clue about the concept of responsibility, which, obviously, is only for “someone else”. When you are always handed what you want just by making demands of others, while no demands are placed on you, the only “talent” you develop is for self-serving dictatorship, in your own delusional vacuum.) Nothing would have lit my mother’s fuse faster than any mention of quotas, of “special” consideration; she earned respect, just like men did, and I never once heard her whine about anything. She became a respected SIGINT Russian expert, linguist and cryptologist, and finally retired near the top of NSA’s Soviet Division as the “Cold” War came to a peaceful end – while her only son, owner of a very good university education, was working his way up from his years of service in the long war in Southeast Asia as a clandestine HUMINT field operative in Europe, already with decades of international special operations case officer experience in his own résumé.
My widowed mother ensured that all three of her kids grew up healthy and well-rounded in a decent well-maintained home and got twelve years of very good private schooling. She did that without any assistance from anywhere while also paying taxes to support public schools. When each of her children graduated from high school their options were very wide indeed, a matter solely of their own individual choices. It certainly could not have been easy for her, especially with an independent son like me. Ignorant people now look at my life-long career as a professional soldier and assume my mother’s impressive accomplishment was largely wasted on her son. On the contrary, I went on to a highly respected university, earned a degree, and pursued a path available only to the nation’s most trusted and capable few. Like my mother, I also did that on my own without any assistance from anywhere. My employer later enabled me to add appreciably to my academic tickets, including in foreign affairs and languages, primarily as an adjunct to my service to country. It is true that I could have pursued any of a number of other career paths, all of which would have been far more financially rewarding. But I didn’t. I made my choice, and that choice matched my heritage, my sense of responsibility, and my need to prove myself to myself in an extremely tough endeavor for as long as that was possible. I owed at least that much to my heritage, my country, my dead father, and, most of all, to my mother. By the time I was 20 and on my own, they all had fully earned whatever I had to offer others, and idle chattering – so common among so many – would never be enough. Knowing my dad was watching, knowing I had to live with myself for the rest of my life, knowing that there were certain labels I could never have associated with my name, when it was time I sucked it up and did as expected of Irish-American men. On the ground, up close and personal, I went off to war.
I most definitely could never have even considered sending “someone else” in my place, arrogantly anointing myself as too “special” to do the hard stuff myself.
When I was a boy, we didn’t talk about Irish heritage, and nothing on the subject was ever offered in school, not even in Catholic K-12 in the Washington DC region. (My parents and grandparents were all direct descendents of Famine-Irish immigrants, on both my mother’s and father’s sides.) By the time the Silent Generation of Irish Americans came along, only the third or fourth generation removed from the Civil War, it was the eve of World War II and just a few years before they closed Ellis Island. I can’t recall my parents ever making an effort to tell their off-spring about their own past stories, their own beginnings, at least in a way that had meaning, relevance, to young children. Why did I think the way I did? No one ever sat me down and said, “This is our story. These are our rules.” So where did I get my values, my principles, my sense of justice? Why did I know that, for some cowardly actions, there simply were no acceptable excuses, no self-serving rationalizations? What I learned I gleaned from watching and hearing what was going on around me, and my formative years were spent in and around Washington DC when it was overflowing with World War II people, mostly strong men in scratchy uniforms and pretty ladies in hats and nylons. All the men around me behaved and spoke in certain ways, as did all the women. They all set the standards, the values, by their own example. And they had fun doing it.
Gradually I began to attach relevant significance to isolated, and rather unremarkable, incidents involving my father that had mysteriously remained very clear in my memory. I began to understand what my father had taught me, mostly by example with very few words, before I was eleven, without ever making it seem like a lesson. Eventually I realized that I had assimilated my dad’s values, and they became the guiding force for my entire life in thousands of different situations all over the world. Those dozen or so incidents were enormously more important than all I ever learned from my mother, who herself was a good and admirable woman; despite her best intentions and over a longer period, she simply had not had nearly the same influence on who I would became. It was my Irish-American dad who, for example, ensured that later I would form such a quick and strong affinity with Jack Kennedy and other such rare brainy men cast in his same masculine mold. (This aspect requires some clarification. While my dad had a winning personality and seemed to just naturally command respect, I always somehow sensed that my mother’s IQ was superior to his, perhaps because her smarts were so exceptional. So I am willing to grant that I got my brains from my mom. And because those brains are considerable, it has not always been easy living with them, especially in a society that delights in denigrating soldiers. Of course, there is some irony here in that it was those brains that made me a target for military recruitment in the first place.)
With little more than faint hints of people and places, I, as first-born son, didn’t learn about most of the above, and more, until many decades later, when both of my parents were gone, and could then fill in huge empty spaces in the story. In 1940 the Irish in America were just Americans looking ahead, still climbing, not Irish looking back, still groveling. They still had the religion, but it was now a sort of Latin world-religion, no longer strongly associated with ethnic communities, with post-Roman Empire Gaelic Ireland forever under the wrath of Henry VIII’s Church of England. Famine-Irish offspring were still dedicated to ensuring their children received the best educations they could possibly afford, no matter what sacrifice that required. But their excellent church-supported schools, born out of necessity to help them overcome centuries of educational deprivation in Ireland, now welcomed students from all races and ethnic groups whose parents were also willing to make an extra investment for better results for their kids. And then all those millions of different American soldiers serving together all over the globe during World War II and Korea seemed to wash away the Irish past forever. After the wars there were far more important, and constructive, things to do, and the Greatest Generation opened wide a million big doors to opportunities everywhere.
So then if a boy whose father was dead wanted to find his roots, understand just who he was, he had to go find the answers himself. It wasn’t easy. There weren’t any Irish lobbies, any special interest groups churning out Irish history stuff, no pervasive politically correct censorship imposing historical revisionism and artificially inflated self-worth. Hollywood, and even the multi-ethnic Catholic Church, were occasionally trying to gloss over the past with silly nonsense. The story of pervasive bigotry against, and oppression of, the Famine-Irish Catholics got diluted and buried behind a broader “discrimination against Catholics”, not surprisingly since many other Catholics and Catholic groups had been participants in the earlier bigotry. Besides, in certain quarters, especially in the backwoods of the South, while Bing Crosby was still crooning on the radio, some Irish in the 1950s were still trying to overcome the mysterious old “white nigger” label, one of the few Irish slurs still heard of the previous century’s many. I got into a lot of fights as a boy wandering on his own in the South, fights that I later had difficulty explaining, even to myself. Today it’s far more my brains than my heart that gets my blood quickly boiling with Irish Fire. I have an extremely low tolerance for self-serving revisionist bullshit.
Irish-Americans And National Politics
Two months before the election of 1960, Famine-Irish descendent Jack Kennedy made a famous speech in Houston in which he drew on the centuries of Catholic Irish experience with the British crown and its one officially sanctioned church, while carefully avoiding articulating that history. The nonsense about Catholic lemmings marching to Rome’s tune was still at the forefront of American politics 32 years earlier in 1928 when he was a boy of 11, and another Irish Catholic, New York Democrat Al Smith, had run for President against Herbert Hoover, a Republican. Four years earlier at the Democrat Party Convention in 1924 Smith had to wage a very bitter and raucous battle against a candidate strongly supported by the Ku Klux Klan; that battle, which included a mass demonstration by 20,000 cross-burning Klansmen, proved so divisive that a third candidate was finally selected in the third week on the 103rd ballot – who was then crushed by Calvin Coolidge. Smith managed to win his party’s nomination four years later in 1928, but in one of the dirtiest political campaigns in American history, this time the Protestant religious establishment mobilized against him, spreading the old lies that he would be nothing but a “dumb tool of the Vatican”. That charge seemed more palatable to the broader American population than were most of the “sub-human” claims of the Klan. Smith suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in American political history, winning less than 41 percent of the popular vote. Such attitudes were still lurking in America three decades later, so Kennedy had no choice except to get out ahead of the deeply entrenched prejudices – and to do so in the Church of England’s South where it was still strongest. Religious and ethnic prejudices and hatred were still very important factors in American politics.
In that 1960 Houston speech Kennedy invoked Jefferson’s views on the separation of church and state, which had now become American political doctrine, making very clear that the state must never rule from a religion, must never rule over religion and that the people must never be subject to rule by a religion, that as President he would govern according to the secular laws of the United States and not according to any religious doctrine, including that emanating from either Rome or London, but would, however, be guided in his presidency by his own religious beliefs, as is the just right of any American. Knowing full well that America and its Constitution were based solidly in broad Judeo-Christian precepts in a secular society, Kennedy did not focus on religious principles, but rather on religious institutions and their group identity trappings. “I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none–who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him–and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation. This is the kind of America I believe in–and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. … I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office. … And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died–when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches–when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom… And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland…”
Kennedy was talking about the US Constitution’s Article 6 that “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” a mandate that grew directly out of the Irish example under despotic British church-state rule. This is written into the basic Constitution, not added as part of the Bill Of Rights. (The Constitution establishes elsewhere that a church-state – secular rule by religion – is also “un-American”.) But, despite his best efforts, religion remained a major factor in that closest election in American history, with many districts throughout the country in 1960 decided along predictable religious lines, especially in the South where religion was still a deeply entrenched aspect of the culture. One of the things that made the election so close was the fact that over 20% of Catholic voters, some fearing a resurgence of anti-Catholic fervor arising from anti-Famine-Irish bigotry, did not vote for Kennedy. (Kennedy’s winning strategy late in the campaign, against the very heated objections of his brother, was to select Lyndon Johnson as his running mate despite their mutual animosity and distrust – to win his Texas and other segments of the South, to keep a thumb on the powerful Southern politician, and to use his unique skills in the legislative battles ahead. Kennedy men had a far greater sense of ugly anti-Famine-Irish Catholic history than almost anyone else, including his own aristocratic wife, imagined.)
Two years after the last veteran of the American Civil War died, Famine-Irish Catholic descendent Jack Kennedy became the American President in a razor-thin election.
As late as 1960 a lot of people in the US, thanks to four centuries of intense bigotry against Irish “sub-humans” promulgated by the British aristocracy’s church, were still worried about one of us, Jack Kennedy, absurdly “taking orders” from Rome’s pope, rather than from London’s king. So the Irish idea was to forget the past totally and just be American. I didn’t notice it until much later, but when the “Kennedy clan” was on the national and global stage, there was never any mention in the media of their first American generation and almost nothing about the second. It was as if the family suddenly appeared on the scene with the ascent of the father Joseph during the 1920s Prohibition era, as if nothing but privilege had preceded the father. Beyond the father, the family seemed to have no further past; it was best to leave old outrages sleeping, and neither the Kennedys, the press or the politicians ever mentioned “Famine-Irish”. It much later emerged that even Jack’s snobbish aristocratic wife, Jacqueline, had never understood the demons lurking in the ancestral background of her husband’s family and its tough rise from such humble roots. Even though most of those demons had been due to the very type of aristocracy which she represented, all she saw in subtle signs was some absurd derisive sense of “Irish guilt”, and Jack had apparently given up trying, or perhaps never tried, to explain to her things so very far from her sheltered comprehension. Still, it was obvious that Jack needed his wife’s innate sense of style and grace to smooth over some of his family’s rough edges in its public image no matter how brilliant and likeable was Jack the man. Jackie seemed to lend a certain “legitimacy” to their “Camelot”, and the smart Kennedy men welcomed the help. (Kennedy would have greatly preferred to marry the beautiful actress from New York society, Gene Tierney, whom he had dated after the war in 1946-47, but his father felt strongly that marriage to a divorcée wouldn’t be beneficial to his future. He married the wealthy heiress Jacqueline Bovier, who at least did have distant mixed Irish roots, in 1953 after winning his first Senate seat.)
The monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed in the House and Senate by over 70% majorities under the expert maneuvering of President Johnson, was the same bill presented to Congress by President Kennedy exactly one year earlier. So Kennedy’s election strategy did pay off, even after his death. From that point on, and even with the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the biggest role in making civil rights history shifted from the politicians to the news photographers and television cameramen recording events in the American South for all the world to see. And I was there, too.
By the time I was well into my college years, Irish heritage began cropping up briefly, like a hiccup, in old American folk songs, the history of which almost no one knew or understood, as guys like me went off as expected to war in the jungles of Vietnam, many, as always, never to return. But Irish roots vanished almost entirely among most Irish-Americans after Greatest Generation Jack’s and Bobby’s assassinations and the Baby Boomer turmoil over the Draft for the war in Vietnam. The killings of the two Irish-American brothers had snuffed out far more than just two great and brilliant leaders. (See Footnote #3.) During the later 1960s and 1970s the virulent black rights movement also led to a concerted effort to paper over the direct role played in American slavery by the same British state-church that had enslaved the Irish. Gradually thereafter a vague awareness of tiny pieces of Irish heritage slowly re-emerged, mainly through the efforts of the New York City police department to celebrate the countless Irish police and fire officers who had served that city and all of its citizens for the previous century, many of whose service had cost them their lives. (By the early 20th century over half the policemen in New York City were Irish, and many of them passed that tradition down to their children and grandchildren. There were even greater percentages of Irish among the city’s fire fighters.)
Back home in Ireland, however, even after standing with the Americans and the Brits through World War II and Korea, even as many of her soldiers were branded as traitors by their own countrymen for doing so, very little had changed, and the dirt-poor Irish Catholics were still fighting mad. (It wasn’t until the beginning of this century, in 2010, 450 years after it all began, that real change seemed to finally come to Ireland.)
Back home in Ireland, four centuries of ruthless British efforts to stamp out Catholicism and its Irish “sub-human” followers and impose its own religion, were for naught. Sure, the Brits managed to steal almost the entire country, enslave the whole population, crowd it out with imported populations, and nearly extinguish it, but their original intent failed, and failed miserably. Even today, after so many horrific scandals involving “pedophile” priests, the Irish faith in their religion seems as strong as ever. Their faith in the Catholic Church, however, an institution so desperately in need of priests that it would even tolerate and protect serial rapists of children among its bureaucracy, is definitely at a historical low. (In contemporary America we are never allowed to know the sexual orientation of those perpetrating sex crimes unless they are heterosexual males, and we are not allowed to know the gender of their victims unless they are “girls” or “women”. The rape victims of “pedophile” priests, of course, are literally thousands and thousands of boys, but in our lobby-ruled and censored society only females are allowed to be victims of sex crimes, and women and homosexuals never do such things. And boys are never victims of “rape”, a crime reserved exclusively for females; if there’s no way to avoid a label, boys are always “child” victims of “sexual assault” – solely to purposefully cloud the whole subject.)
This self-serving censored charade is, of course, totally despicable – which makes the whole subject even more vile. There are even a lot of moronic nitwits out there who think it’s funny when a woman rapes a boy, that “all equal under the law” is just another meaningless phrase to be perverted any way the propaganda of the most powerful self-serving lobbies want to, an extension of the asinine absurdity that males exist to serve self-involved women.) (See Footnote #4.) In America, partial, intermittent and anecdotal press reports and judicial documents over decades indicate that police officials, politicians, community leaders and even judges associated with local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America have, at least for most of the 20th century, often rivaled Catholic priests in their systematic abuse, mistreatment and rape of young, vulnerable and impressionable boys. (See “The Last Minority“.) But such things very rarely ever get much publicity. In modern Ireland, as in modern America, it seems, you can do anything you want to boys, and no one will ever say anything – until there’s money to be had. Boys, you see, don’t have a lobby, not in Ireland, and not in America, either. Heterosexual boys, you see, simply “create themselves”, right there on the street corner, like magic, and then immediately and automatically assume full responsibility for whatever they created. Boys, you see, are assumed fully responsible by age 10, but girls don’t get the same standard until well past age 35. (Yes, it’s all completely asinine, designed solely to absolve women of their own just responsibility.) Boys are the easiest target there is for concerted bigotry in a wide range of venues, including in our female-dominated schools. So I guess it’s smart to reject the church, but hang on to that religion, and keep on praying hard; many of us – from pedophiles to censors – are going to need a lot of help getting through those pearly gates. I only hope there’s a boy standing there helping to decide who gets in, and who doesn’t.
This is the America everyone else expects guys like me to defend with our lives.
The most asinine notion in the western world is women’s demand for “equality” while also insisting that they remain “special”. It’s pure unadulterated bullshit. Despite their incessant propaganda to the contrary, there is NO “special” in equal. Any woman who can’t handle that simple truth needs to find something other than “equality” to whine about. (I long ago gave up trying to guess what reality we’re in at any given moment in time and just judge all women by the exact same standards they use to judge me.)
Religion, by the way, has always been a pillar of civilization, and pre-dates even ancient Greece. It was religion, more than any other single factor, that united the Greeks, even during their dark ages, into a single culture and gave rise to the city states which then evolved into the Greek Empire – at least two thousand years before the birth of Christ. That religion dates back to the Mycenaeans (1600 to 1100 BC) and even earlier, all the way back to the Minoans (3650 to 1400 BC). At the pinnacle of that religion was Delphi. And yet religion, so fundamental to the culture, did not stop the Greeks from becoming the world’s first scientists and philosophers, beginning with Thales (635-543 BC). Even democracy was born in Athens (in 507 BC) when (some of) the people took charge – long before the rise of Rome.
“John Paul II was a prophet. The Polish pope had a vision that politicians were lacking. And John Paul had foreseen certain events. The Holy Father realized that once we discovered freedom we could get completely lost in that freedom, that we could move towards an understanding of freedom without any foundations. Europe, after the French Revolution, went the way of separating morality from the pubic sphere, from the economy. But John Paul said that was not the only way. It was possible to take a different route, where we integrate the Ten Commandments and morality with public life and the state we want to have, the law we want to have, the economy we want to have. And that’s what John Paul II encouraged. He realized that, despite the liberation from Marxism, we may still end up in moral and cultural poverty.” – from “John Paul II; Liberating A Continent” (USA, 2016). The words are quotes from several eastern European academics speaking of post-Soviet trends with its oligarchs, corruption, low birthrates and “populism”, but they have universal applicability, including for a now deeply fragmented “multi-cultural” United States that is rapidly becoming meaningless mush, signifying nothing. Is it that human groups need adversity to forge a unifying purpose? Certainly not if all you have to do is designate “someone else” to take the blame, pay the bills and do the hard stuff for “very special me”.
The Occupied Territory
And “northern” Ireland is still there, like a big festering sore eternally in search of a cure. The bigoted “Orange” marches and demonstrations that scarred Manhattan and ended Tammany Hall in the 1870s no longer take place in America, and, if they did, very few today, including Irish-Americans, would understand their significance anyway. But this entrenched bigoted nonsense does continue in “northern” Ireland – every year with hundreds of huge bonfires and big celebratory parades past Catholic areas, never failing to invoke American images of the Ku Klux Klan. They are essentially a pathetic effort to derive some phony vicarious sense of “superior” self-worth based on what others did – three centuries ago, under a French monarch – and always backed up by the occupation British nobility and its powerful military forces. (The Orange Order was instrumental in creating the “Northern” Ireland province in 1921 shortly before the rest of Ireland won its hard-fought independence from Britain; that province, at that time with a heavy “planted” Protestant majority, remained under the British crown and a constant bloody thorn in the side of Ireland ever since.) This organized and officially sanctioned “Orange” intimidation has always reminded me of throngs of racist white southerners and their hate-mongering politicians and thuggish police forces with their guns and rifles and batons and attack dogs and high-pressure water hoses, of hooded Ku Klux Klan with their own insulting bonfires and symbols and slurs, all of which I experienced first-hand in the US during the 1950s and then in the 1960s when Black Americans had finally had enough of that “entitled” superiority crap – a whole century after slavery in America had ended. Then Famine-Irish descendants President Jack Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy decided to use the power of the national government to forcibly uphold US Constitutional law and finally end the bigotry. Few at the time understood the juxtaposition of all the unspoken history and tragic irony and social threads, and fewer still understand it today. But the Kennedy brothers did; their tough dad had taught them well.
Éirinn go Brách
Today it’s difficult to imagine such things in America, but in “northern” Ireland, the Brits and their government have always supported it, rather than summarily relegating it all to the most shameful dustbin of history. They see no irony at all in their condoning the Orange Order while condemning its American descendent – the Ku Klux Klan. These are the same self-serving Brits who wag their sanctimonious finger at the American experience with the same “entitled” bigotry that Brits imported to America via their “sub-human” Catholic Famine-Irish serfs and their favored British church-state religion with its “entitled” adherents. The Brits alone bought slavery to all their colonies in America long before America was a country. Obviously, delusional fools who live in glass houses have no reservations about throwing accusatory stones at others; they just pretend not to see their own reflection in the glass. (At least these days the police in “northern” Ireland are just as likely to turn their water cannons on rioting Protestants, who keep stepping up their senseless “Orange” mayhem as their numbers slip inexorably below the majority line and rising Catholics, no longer so intimidated by the brutal thuggery, step up defense of their own.) Primarily because the Famine-Irish history in America had been assisted to vanish with time, the Americans never made the case about the behavior in Ireland of their British “allies” – behavior that duplicated their own earlier behavior with the Blacks (and Famine-Irish and Native Americans) in America. (Much of that Famine-Irish history was consciously buried by the larger multi-ethnic Catholic Church in America – the same Church that later tried to bury its culpability in the massive abuse of children, and most especially of boys, in its care.) “Northern” Ireland, of course, has always been a direct reflection of the American antebellum South – in fact it’s very roots, the original plantation, “the source”.
No one ever demanded that American soldiers go in and fix Ireland’s problems; the Irish fight their own wars, even if they last centuries. No one ever handed the Irish a microphone in front of TV cameras to sell their case to tens of millions of Americans in prime time. And the British even got the Americans, who had fought two wars against the British, first to win and then to retain their own freedom, incredibly to label the Irish freedom-fighters as “terrorists“. So any private support coming from America had to run the gauntlet against both the formidable US and British legal and military opposition. This also guaranteed that zero support would ever come from the Defense or CIA clandestine services – which REALLY rankled Irish-American men like my OSS dad.
Now most of the violence in the Ireland “plantation” is instigated by the Protestant Loyalists (Unionists) as they see the tables turning on their hegemony as a consequence of simple, and peaceful, demographics; the Catholic Republican (Separatist) population has been rising faster than the Protestant population has been declining. That “one man, one vote” thing about democracy has a way of making things come back and bite you in the ass, eventually. (What was that 1960’s slogan? “Make love, not war.”) As an Irish-American, I naturally equate the Protestants in “northern” Ireland, and their British defenders, to the descendants of American slave owners and those few even today in the American South still clinging to their past obscenities, of self-anointed “special” people lording over the “sub-humans” they created with their centuries of ruthless oppression. It’s a bitch when the slaves fight back, isn’t it? (I often wonder just how a black American President views “northern” Ireland. Does he even know or understand the history? Probably not.) Just imagine: the Catholic Irish will very soon become a majority in their own homeland once again, after only 400 years of “plantations” – a scary prospect for some (even if a majority of the total “northern” Ireland population at the moment is not so eager to join an Ireland with all that debt to pay off). Still, at least Protestants can take some comfort in the fact that there are now certain legal protections in Ireland’s constitution against the “entitled” bigotry of ‘tyranny of the majority’ rule.
After 475 years of British atrocities, started by an arrogant monarch seeking to set himself up as a god on Earth, and prosecuted by countless legions of self-anointed “special” followers claiming “entitled” nobility status, it’s time for Britain to cut the cord and return their obscene human “plantation” in “northern” Ireland to the Irish people and once again make St. Patrick’s Emerald Isle whole, peaceful, and Irish.
In the end, the Irish Catholics won.
Never in my life did I accept a single dime I did not earn with the sweat of my brow. I never expected to get rich in the Army, but somehow I did manage to end up comfortable enough, and without any extra government benefits. After the Draft ended and military pay was increased in 1975, my income has always been around the American average, which has been adequate for me to do what I wanted to do even with all the overseas service. Today I would do more traveling, but I really hate being treated like an animal by commercial airlines. (I prefer to catch a ride in the cargo bay of a military flight going my way.) From time to time I still do accept missions abroad on behalf of my country, but these are becoming ever less frequent. The first time I retired (during the 1990s, before 9/11), I designed and built a large five-bedroom house on acres of undeveloped property I had bought decades earlier. The place has everything a large family could want, including a separate two-car garage, work shop, paved driveway, den, three bathrooms, entertainment room, game room, separate apartment, great view, etc., upon which appraisers (and tax officials, my insurance company) have placed a price far above my intentions. For a long time while serving overseas, I always planned to fill it full of kids. But once completed I realized that would require me to place it and my life in the hands of an American woman, and my worst nightmare has always been that I would end up with a fanatical Queen Hillary type ruling every aspect of my life – a fate worse than death. Why invite all the extra headaches that come with a modern wife you don’t really need? So I’ve lived in that big house alone ever since it was completed, with 80% of it closed off except when I have house guests. I use the SUV, the ATV, the trailers, the boat, infrequently. I maintain a small mortgage in order to keep my credit rating active. I spend my free time when not traveling on projects that continually maintain and upgrade the house, mainly to keep busy. When I get too old to maintain it, I’ll sell it and parcel out the proceeds to charities of my choice – mainly to top-rated all-boys schools. I know it’s all pretty much a waste, but, to me, there just was no other logical choice, in America, for an American man who still has a spine and some dignity. I’m sure I could have made a better decision here, been more effective there, but, overall, I’m satisfied with my life’s record. My only regret is that the law, women and bureaucracies make it impossible for expendable single guys like me to have kids.
It’s a good knowledge of my own heritage coupled with my own life experiences all over the world for decades that gives me such a low tolerance for all the various and sundry “victim” groups in America today, and most especially women social “victims”. It’s mostly childish whining nonsense. No one and no thing is forcing any American or American group to do anything. Everyone has choices. And yet privileged American women literally wallow in their eternal victimhood, relish it, crave it, even compete for it, ad nauseam. Not even responsible for making their own better choices, there is never a moment when there is not something paltry for them to whine about. As an example of how stupid this stuff can get, in 2016 Hollywood women were again making a big stink about not getting their “fair share” of big roles and Oscar award nominations at their annual self-adulation orgy. One of the women at the forefront of the whining was an actress who was paid $52 million the previous year to recite lines written by someone with actual brains in movies financed by others. (Her pay was about what 1,000 professional American soldiers earn for a year of combat.) Of course there is absolutely nothing anywhere restricting that woman from using a chunk of her $52 million to create her own movie company, where she can make any movies she wants — and see if they can compete in the global market. All it requires is for her to actually risk loosing a big part of her own wealth while also creating jobs for others who were not lucky enough to be born as very attractive American women. Who knows? Maybe there are many millions of people out there eager to shell out their money to watch even more privileged women whining up there on the big screen. If so, maybe she can then create a new judging organization to hand out awards to other self-adoring women, too! Life is NOT just about a “right” to jump on the backs of others for a quota free ride. Just get off your throne, and DO something.
Spend some time with the women of Afghanistan, the population of adult Japan, the people of Iran, the Chinese after Mao. Just look at Bridget Kennedy – who fought off disease and bigotry in a Boston slum enormously worse than anything seen in America for the past century, who lost her son and husband to cholera, yet managed alone to keep her remaining family going while gradually building a successful business in the worst possible environment; her great grandson became President! Bridget Kennedy didn’t have the ability or the time to leisurely chronicle her story. What will a future women President say got her there? All those rights without responsibilities? Affirmative action? “Special” privilege? Another quota system? “It’s my turn!” A plethora of voluntary choices? Just what have you ever done for me, for any group other than your own? Just who is responsible for hiding for decades the truth about American schools failing our boys? What group runs those public schools? What group “reports” on their “progress”? Maybe they all didn’t send an offspring to the White House, but the Irish in America, men and women, starting from less than zero, have today countless sterling representatives who became all they wanted to become and more, in the caldron, on their own merit. Is this the reason why so many “feminists” have such a problem with women who speak of personal responsibility, including responsibility for others — that these “feminists” prefer to maintain their manufactured myth of birthright entitlement, that these privileged women seek to exercise their “right” to simply ascend to the throne, become a new nobility adept only at making demands of others? On the basis of what? Whining?
How does a “leader” lead anyone from the safe rear while always complaining about their own problems and those of their own group? Victims whine; they don’t lead. And leaders never whine. A leader leads from the front – by using their gifts to show and help others accomplish objectives equitably for everyone. It’s not about “me”; it’s about “us”, all of us. What do women really care about the problems of the very boys and men they’ve been blaming for everything for a century? Those guys are their excuses. And hiding behind “children” doesn’t cut it, either, when what you really mean is “me”. If women hate men, constantly demand that men take the blame, pay the bills and do the hard stuff for “special me”, just what are they teaching their sons? No elected woman in the history of American democracy has ever championed a cause for a group other than her own. The United States is a democracy, not a monarchy. We elect leaders, not rulers. The US Constitution is an indictment against birthright entitled nobility. Ours is a society that seeks equal opportunity, not caste entitlement. Our economy is based on competitive capitalism, not on socialist communism. And there are very good reasons for all of this. American women have long had the numbers to exercise their “tyranny of the majority” and elect anyone they wish, but they will never actually lead until they get their minds around such things. Figurehead celebrities are a dime-a-dozen, and most have difficulty leading their own pets. Any twit on any street corner can scream orders to morons from the very safe rear, and only morons would follow them.
The answers can be found in history, even in history that was not so long ago, Irish-American history. Consider the differences between two women who lived only forty miles apart at the same time – one was a wealthy, privileged and entitled “feminist” named Louisa May Alcott writing about her idyllic life, and the other was a penniless businesswoman named Bridget Kennedy struggling in a violent and disease-ridden slum. One was a protected single daughter in a long established family led by a respected male doctor, and the other a lone widowed mother very far from anything even familiar. Which would you elect as a leader? Which has demonstrated the requisite responsibility? Which truly understands what America is really all about? Which has demonstrated the requisite ability to marshal all of us in a great common cause, a truly American cause? Of course, a major problem is that Bridget didn’t leave behind a rich legacy of journals and letters and news articles for contemporary elitist “researchers” to easily pour over and impose their own world view on while providing their self-serving “revised and updated” version of “history” that views the subject in isolation out of context with the world around it – and champion the privileged famous writers rather than the not-so-glamorous unknown doers.
In America, there is no asinine “war on women”; there is only the never-ending “war among women”, the talkers and the doers. Is it any wonder that privileged “feminists” and their lobbies see such a threat in a Sarah Palin, a Michele Bachmann, a Carly Fiorina? That threat doesn’t come from men; it comes from women, American women, strong American women made of the same stuff as Irish women of the past. They can do it all, with their own devices, by making hard adult choices and accepting responsibility for those choices. (See Footnote #1.) They actually earn respect, trust, benefits, leadership; they don’t simply demand position or power due to some made-up sense of entitlement of “special” privilege, of pathetic quota, by incessantly whining about every perceived petty slight. I’d follow Army Specialist Monica Brown’s lead (or that of fictional Detective Jocelyn Carter) long before I’d even consider doing the same with a Hillary Clinton or any of those fanatical ideologues hiding behind Obama White House and State Department curtains, safe in the knowledge that a super-power military will cover their incompetence.
Just as women have taught me all my life, I do not think like a woman. No politician ever bought my vote by promising something for me or my group, by so insulting my integrity; they earned it by promising to do things that I believed were best for my community, my state, my country, for the future, were best for all the humans in those entities, and most especially for all the children, girls and boys, equitably. I am not a member of any union, lobby, party, dogma, special interest group; I am an independent Irish-American who knows what’s right, and why. Simply because I, through no fault of my own, was born a white heterosexual male, I have been bowing to the incessant demands and whines of everyone else for over a half century, and that is enough. There’s not much left to give anyway, and the whines are becoming simply inane. After over a half century of favoritism, affirmative action, laws, policies, quotas, special rules and regulations – two whole generations – why are American “feminists” still whining about their “fair” quotas, for example, in business management, in private clubs and organizations, on boards of directors, in movie awards, in elected political bodies? Why are not men complaining about such things in businesses and clubs and institutions and industries created and run by women? It’s all about rights with zero responsibility, all about a “right” to jump on for a free ride on the backs of what others manage to accomplish despite all the artificial “leveling” impediments thrown in their way. At the end of this dependency road is a dead end, with no exit. If you’re never going to actually do something, then shut up and get out of the way.
I do NOT believe in an “evolving sense of civil and political rights”, an asinine perversion of newly invented rights ever more devoid of responsibilities solely to serve “me” and the “special” people, a new “religion” of “enlightened” “elitists” that harkens straight back to 16th century England and all that followed that supreme nobility hubris. I’ve been around the block a few times; I know bullshit when I see it. Those who seek to impose themselves and their views on me and my group, when they are free to act as they will and hold their own views, are simply engaging in another form of despicably arrogant tyranny. Go form your own business, build your own institutions, create your own society, craft your own “truth”, but don’t ever try to impose yourself or your views on me by claiming some “evolutionary” theory that is designed solely to suit yourself at my expense – and most especially when you would never tolerate the same from me. Just because my group has no lobby to counter yours does not deny my group its own rights, as an equal under the law. You can not apply rules to me that do not also apply to you. As a student of history and a veteran of wars, I am a much more substantial person than such childish selfishness and petty jealousy reveal. Only during the first 18 years is it proper and necessary for responsible adults to tilt the table in any way necessary to ensure the end result is both balanced and equal. After childhood, after age 18, America offers freedom of opportunity; it does not offer freedom of imposition.
This blog is filled with articles describing and explaining a once-great society in irreversible decline due to a wide range of ugly cancers within. Recorded history is filled with similar examples, most notably, for America, that of ancient Rome. Most of the causes of those cancers are directly attributed to the erosion of the very core values that made the society great, values based solidly on Judeo-Christian precepts emphasizing a belief in a deity above man, and personal responsibility in the interest of the greater good. Even our legal system is based firmly in such Judeo-Christian beliefs, theoretically originating from a god, starting with the Ten Commandments. They are NOT “The Ten Requests”. A nation founded on such solid precepts exists today outside of almost any common core beliefs among its members except the ever-shifting absurdities of asinine left-right politics, of rampant narcissism. The national “religion” has become one long incessantly idiotic and utterly childish whine about “victim me” stuck on incredibly stupid. Once the emphasis shifts from “us” to “me”, once members of the group are no longer united by beliefs and values held by all, once its members have nothing better to do than whine about the most inane of imaginary slights, once many of those in the group elect to anoint themselves as “special”, blame “someone else” for the consequences of their own free choices and their own elective behavior, there is no longer a group, but rather a rabble of self-interested grown-up children who, in sum, signify nothing, except really irritating noise. Ours is a society not merely in decline, but also in reverse, with a membership that grows ever more absurd and infantile with each passing year. No longer united by religious precepts, seeing that politics now worships only at the vote-buying alter of stupidity, not even understanding what philosophy is, we are left with nothing but brainless herds reinforcing each other with utter inanity in “social media”, chasing hither and yon after each ever-shifting propaganda theme of the moment, all while sucking on a government teat itself assumed to be eternally fed by “someone else”. Our enemies already know that we are long past our prime, that we are ripe for defeat, but, then, why bother? “Americans” today can easily do a better job of destroying “us” than any external enemy ever could.
So, just maybe, in the end, the ancient Romans were on to something important, that there always was something worthwhile about religion and its robust role in a functioning society – as long as the specific religion is not imposed by the secular state. Humans need to believe in something greater than themselves, something that makes it all worthwhile, something far greater than what any one of us could ever accomplish, achieve, on our own. It’s not just a question of how people working together built Stonehenge, but why. Just who do young Americans today think built all the bounty they found around them when they arrived? Why was it done? If they don’t know the answers, and accept an equal measure of responsibility to measure up, to make similar sacrifices, to keep it going, then it will all have been for naught. And not one scintilla of it was ever built by a whine.
Immigration, Multi-culturalism and Universal Ownership
All sorts of twisted rationale can be used to change secular rules to suit those pushing the change, to tilt things in their favor, but a religion presents ageless values that apply equally to everyone and which cannot be changed. A religion forces everyone to learn how to live within the rules, and succeed on their own merit with the support of similar others. Those who push or allow religion in our society to erode and disappear are simply killing us from within. It’s not so much which religion you embrace; it’s more important that you actually do freely embrace a Judeo-Christian belief system and its core religious values, in a uniting cohesion that secularism can never provide. “This is who we are. These are our values. These are our rules. Together they made us great. They are what made our society attractive to you. We believe these values and rules will maintain us into the future. We hide these values and rules from no one, shout them loud to all the world. You are welcome to join us as long as you accept our values and rules. If you cannot, we wish you well elsewhere.” It’s just that simple. Nowhere is it written that a society must change what it is simply to accommodate those who want to come in and impose their own values and rules – to alter who we are and what our society is, to suit themselves – after all the hard parts are done and all that’s left is for slackers and late-comers to jump on for a free ride. America was not built by someone waving a magic wand; it was built by the blood, sweat and tears of those who went before us, who believed they were creating with their sacrifice something special for their children. No one is forcing anyone to come to America. No one is forcing anyone to stay. Everyone is free to make their own choice. Religion offers the values; secularism offers the rules. Only when the latter are in agreement with the former can a society succeed. Once you’ve established such a foundation, then you can delve into philosophy, according to your own inclinations and abilities, but the foundation must remain firm and unchanging.
Why would anyone want to change what attracted them in the first place? Just because they don’t want to make the investment in effort and risk required? How asinine is it to expect soldiers to die defending a nation that does not even want its citizens defending their own culture? Soon they will shout back, “Go fight your own damned wars!” The “land of the free, home of the brave” is not just about its tiny few ground soldiers.
For the record, entry into the United States of America is a privilege; it is NOT a “right”. American citizens elect representatives to decide the conditions under which people can be admitted to the nation; these are laws, in a nation of laws. The conditions for entry established in law by those elected representatives have changed periodically over the past 250 years depending on the needs of the nation. Prior to the Baby Boomers, for example, those laws specified that a person who wished to live and work in America, to be granted permanent residency, or to be granted US citizenship, etc., had to first demonstrate their ability to support themselves with gainful employment in waiting jobs and not become a burden on the nation, and also that a responsible US citizen was willing to sponsor in a legal contract such newcomers to further ensure that they would not become a burden on the nation. Such laws had a natural tendency to favor those with good educations or advanced skills, which, in turn, tended to favor those arriving from First World countries like those in Europe. When Baby Boomer birthrates began dropping through the floor in the 1970s, those laws were changed to favor Third World people with high birthrates – to compensate for the irresponsible failure of native Americans to adequately ensure the future viability of their own society. As the need for future taxpayers (babies) continued to rise because of drastic native shortfalls and burgeoning entitlements, the immigrant requirements for education, skills, waiting jobs and sponsors were also dropped, and the shift to ever-increasing burden on government assistance rose.
For the last few decades our politicians have elected not to aggressively enforce our immigration laws, allowing the largest flood of immigrants in American history. Without ever articulating it, the real reason for this is that native Americans have made the choice to have less than half the number of children needed to simply maintain the status quo, much less to meet more than a third of their ever burgeoning entitlement wants. Those who object to such an uncontrolled flood are labeled “anti-immigrant”, “xenophobic” or “racist”, but the truth is that those who support the flood are, as usual, simply getting “someone else” to do the really hard stuff of having and raising tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers critically needed to pay for their own socialist wants for themselves. They have simply shifted their own responsibility, the most fundamental responsibility of all, to “someone else”, proclaimed themselves too “special” to do the hard stuff themselves – and forced everyone else, and society, to pay for it. Spoiled narcissistic Americans have steadfastly refused to reduce by more than half all those birthright entitled benefits they expect “someone else” to provide for “very special me”. So, because of our own shirking of the most important societal responsibility – having and raising enough children to keep us viable – our society cannot survive without importing millions of others to take up our slack. How pathetic is that? (The same has been happening in Britain over the past decade or so. As a recent article in the London Times noted, “this rapid transformation of Britain by its politicians was never predicted, explained, planned or voted on.” It’s a rare case of politicians doing what must be done to enable the society to survive despite the childish self-involvement of its myopic citizens who take such great offense whenever someone tells them the pathetic truth about themselves.) The most valuable minority of citizens in America today are mothers who, with the help of a constant and equally influential male partner, have and raise on their own two or more loved, healthy, balanced and well-educated children, girls and boys, from conception through the first 20 years of their lives. These full-time home workers, dedicated to the greater good, have become America’s true heroes, withering under constant assault by the huge whining “me” hoards.
Furthermore, despite the popular myth (promulgated by propaganda), not all of the nation’s 11,000,000 illegal aliens are employed harvesting the nation’s agriculture produce. Over 18% of them are located in just two metropolitan areas – New York and Los Angeles. Over 61% (6,700,000) reside in 20 metropolitan areas, most employed in domestic roles by people, like Hollywood celebrities, wealthy enough to pay someone else below minimum wage to do things traditional families do for themselves. It’s not surprising that the self-interested women’s lobby is a far louder proponent of illegal immigration than is the agriculture lobby.
The problem is that until the last half century, immigrants who were allowed to enter the United States did so under definite rules with the understanding that they had to be disease-free, self-supporting and able to realize their own way forward, that they would not become an appreciable and lasting burden on American society. (This is a “merit-based” view of immigration.) Today there are no such sensible requirements, enormous resources are expended in assisting immigrants “in need”, and the haphazard procedures inevitably lead to unfair treatment of those who play by the rules versus those who do not. The citizens of 38 countries, including those in Europe, don’t even need a formal visa to enter the US, which fosters a general impression among such people that the US belongs to them, too, that everything is free for the taking – even though they have invested absolutely nothing in their “ownership” and other “rights”. These self-involved cheapskates even depend on the US military – American soldiers and taxpayers – to defend their home countries as another of those presumed “rights”! Every year, 100,000 people enter the US aboard comfortable airliners from western Europe, over-stay their welcome, disappear into the American landscape, and become illegal aliens; there are now well over a million such privileged Europeans in America. My nation needs poor hard-working families from Nicaragua raising their own American kids FAR more than it needs privileged Europeans sitting on their asses while lecturing the dumb natives with their “superior knowledge”. (Talk, of course, is the cheapest thing there is.) If your very first act in America is to violate her laws with impunity, just what does that say about your future behavior in America? In the past the thinking was that America was opening her doors to opportunity; today the thinking is that America is opening her doors to dependence. This massive flood is rapidly changing the American fabric, and with little or no grand thinking, and much faster than most Americans can adjust even as they are required to pay for it. How many babies are those Europeans having and raising in America? Huge portions of the money confiscated from all American taxpayers are being used by our self-interested Baby Boomer politicians to buy dependent votes, now, damned tomorrow. And all because the natives no longer want to do the hard stuff necessary to pay for their own lucrative social welfare entitlements, including committing themselves to a lasting two-gender marriage, to family, to raising the healthy and well-educated children the nation needs to survive. And that dodge “entitles” our “special” native women, too?
There’s a hell of a lot more to the full equation than just “very special me”. The most sickening presumption in American culture comes straight out of American “feminism”: “I have RIGHTS! I do NOT have responsibilities! Everyone else has responsibility for ensuring whatever rights I decide to demand for very special me!” The nation’s requirement to import millions of babies is prima facie evidence that American women are demanding far more from their society than they are delivering on their end. The nation’s requirement for well-educated foreigners to fill many hundreds of thousands of advanced high-tech positions is prima facie evidence that the female-dominated “education” industry is failing miserably in its mission to both the nation and is citizens. At any one moment over 500,000 high-paying high-tech jobs in the tech sector alone go begging for qualified applicants. A rational mind can’t help asking how something that pathetic is even possible in a nation of 320,000,000 people. What, exactly, is on the positive side of such equations? When do American women as a group become accountable for their failures? Will it ever be possible to publicly criticize the “special” people?
So now the first thing you learn when you come to America is that the rules don’t count, that there are no rules, that the rules are whatever serves “special me” best, at any given moment in time – a societal recipe for conscious and deliberate self-destruction. It arises straight out of “feminism” with its millions of rights all devoid of responsibility, with the “birthright entitlement” of gender. Couple pampered immigrants with privileged women, none of whom accept responsibility even for their own choices, their own behavior, none of whom have ever been required to do anything, and it’s all downhill from there. Those “someone else” left holding the responsibility parts gradually dwindle into oblivion, as does the society.
The asinine notion that America belongs to everyone, free for the taking, is simply Marxist communist ideology (common ownership) hiding behind the phony label of “tolerance”. For the record, renouncing in a signed written statement any affiliation with the communist ideology is still a condition for admittance to the United States. Making false testimony on that statement is a felony, grounds for fine or imprisonment, revocation of residency, and deportation. It does not seem unreasonable, for example, that the people’s representatives in Congress could add “Islamic militant extremism” to that statement. On the other hand, what should be done about those members of Congress, mostly women, who fully embrace the communist ideology while pretending that it’s something else? (Yes, even righteous politicians lie.) A country that doesn’t bother to control and defend its borders isn’t a country; it’s just a lawless junkyard free for the pillaging and unworthy of defending. And anyone advancing such an asinine notion isn’t worth defending, either. I certainly wouldn’t defend it, or them. Why would I? Such a wasteland that no longer even knows what it is, isn’t worth risking a scratch on my hand.
Then there are those nitwits who want to import and nurture other cultures into America, and force Americans and America to pay the price for that, too. “Multiculturalism” is supposed to equate to “immigration”. It does NOT; there is a really great world of difference between the two. I am a firm supporter of immigration according to rules established by the US Congress, but I believe that “multiculturalism” is just brain-dead stupid. (Why would anyone want to change the culture that attracted them in the first place? Besides, Americans are destroying their nation well enough alone; they don’t need people from elsewhere coming in to speed the process.) Support for “multi-culturalism” is inversely proportional to the value of what an individual has personally invested in the society. It’s usually just a demand of “entitled” leeches to reap the rewards of what was built and defended by the very real sacrifices of others, while expecting the society to change what it is to accommodate “very special me”. (You see the same dynamic in very successful companies; in most cases those making the loudest demands are those who contributed nothing of their own to building it and just want a lucrative free quota ride after others somehow managed to make it successful. We are becoming a nation of “entitled” blood-sucking leeches.)
America has always adopted bits and pieces, including words, of all the world’s cultures from those who came to America, but the main objective was always to simply become “American” – to assimilate, enrich and strengthen – and leave the rest behind. That must remain the main objective, or there will be nothing worth attracting anyone, including native-born Americans. I happen to like well enough, warts and all, the American culture that my multi-ethnic ancestors crafted here by working together as one over centuries; it made the nation great. Those ancestors learned the rules, mastered the process and beat the jerks at their own game. Since it is made up of humans, our culture is far from perfect and never will be perfect, but don’t mess with success! Those who wish to impose themselves and their culture on Americans are free to go try it in any of the world’s other 140 countries. Or, even better, after they’ve gotten all they can get out of the American culture, they can go back and make their home culture better. That would be an actually worthwhile endeavor. Here you can contribute bits and pieces that enrich, while leaving the rest behind. I have actually lived in many of the world’s other countries; a tiny few are pretty good, but there are sound reasons why I like mine better.
Consider the one profession of medicine. Despite the trillions of taxpayer dollars it consumes, this country’s female-dominated school system is so pathetic it ends up producing less than 75% of the doctors the nation’s citizens need. (And they specialize in such tiny parts of the whole that you need a whole platoon of them to figure out what’s wrong with one patient.) And then the vast majority of that 75% gravitates to the nation’s major metropolitan centers, leaving really huge medical shortfalls in vast regions outside those big-city ant hills. So our nitwit politicians step in with asinine policies designed, not to educate more doctors or to distribute them equitably throughout the nation, but rather to simply import those needed to fill some of the rural shortfall. The vast majority of those imported doctors come from Third World countries where they are needed far more than even Americans without doctors. Over 15,000 of them, for example, come from Iran, Syria and other war-torn countries in that neighborhood. So if you’re an American citizen in an area with a huge shortfall in available medical care, you have difficulty deciding whether you should be more disgusted with our failing schools, our stupid politicians, our gold-digging doctors, or Third World jerks turning their backs on their own people – and end up just feeling ashamed seeking medical attention at all. Just which idiots do our “thinking” for us? (This type of “someone else” crap has become so “acceptable” that my blood boils with contempt when I see hundreds of thousands of healthy young men running away from Africa and the Mid-east to safe havens in Europe and the US to demand refuge and comfort, while everyone wants American soldiers to go fix the bloody messes they left behind. If it were up to me, I’d issue a loaded rifle to every one of those girlymen between 18 and 38 and send them back to fix their own country’s problems. Then I’d do the same with every young woman not caring for a child and every doctor seeking bigger bucks in America. I know bullshit when I see it.)
I know that what Americans enjoy today did not happen by accident, without sacrifice. No one creates anything of value by demanding that everything else be diluted, twisted, perverted, that everyone else bend and bow, to meet petty whines. In America everyone is free to go do something great and worthy on their own merit, through their own effort. No one accomplishes anything by forcing themselves and their views and their standards on others – except deep resentment. One of the things that I resent most is how far standards have fallen in my society over the last half century, to be replaced by little more than a sickening cacophony of incredibly petty whines, standards so incredibly low that literally anyone can meet them with no real effort at all. “The best cheater wins”, it seems, has become the national motto, and there are now a million ways to cheat, including imposing rules that best suit “me” and censoring truths that might damage “my” fragile self-esteem. Today women absurdly blame men for behavior women taught them as boys by their own behavior, their own example. How asinine is that? I also know that America cannot possibly survive without subordinating a very considerable amount of the petty “me” to the greater “us”. Tough competition, winners and losers, is what moved humanity this far, moved America this far. It can go no further if the whiners cripple the competitors solely to make themselves feel better about themselves for accomplishing nothing, or to jump on for a free ride on the backs of crippled others going nowhere, to shamefully gain a vicarious self-worth through association with the ever smaller achievements of a tiny few. None of American society’s major fundamental problems today were unknown forty years ago; they were just enormously smaller, and manageable. Just who is this “someone else” with all the responsibility? Taking a half-century-long nap? That “someone else” is now YOU. Get off your ass and do something!
Soldier, Scholar, Traveler … Irish-American Man
I had already answered Irish-American Kennedy’s clarion call to “ask what you can do for your country”, but I eventually discovered who I was, and why, among the improvised, starving, oppressed, exploited and war-torn people I encountered around the world – as a professional American soldier. The Irish in me was always right there, waiting to be roused for a just cause, a cause that harkened straight back to my ancestors in Ireland. Interestingly, others, including a smart and savvy priest who eventually went back home to die in his native Italy, knew who I was long before I made that discovery myself. (Later he would chide me that I should have become a philosopher priest rather than a philosopher soldier and thought the Jesuits would have been a better fit for me than the military.)
Sometimes you have to follow threads that crop up in unexpected places. If you’re a fan of old movies, as I am, you can catch a glimpse of such threads in stories about something else entirely. One such film starred four big names of old movies – Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, Robert Ryan and Gloria Graham. (When I was a boy, it seemed that a lot of my movie heroes were named Robert, too; I guess it sort of imparts a man of reliability. My favorite Robert was the “outsider” Mitchum.) The movie, which was released in 1947, has a good murder mystery that takes place in Washington DC, where I was born and grew up, shortly after World War II. During the war, Washington was really packed full of people, far more people than the city could accommodate at that time, most of whom were supporting the global war effort. Construction of the massive Pentagon was begun in 1941 and completed in 1943. In the meantime, the War Department almost overnight built thousands of temporary one- and two-story wooden buildings in just about every free space that was available in and around both sides of the Potomac River area and filled them with soldiers and civilians from all over the country. It seemed to me then that many thousands and thousands of soldiers were always coming and going, night and day, especially at Union Station. When the war ended in 1945, they began sending the people back home and dismantling the “temps”; this is the time period of the film. (By 1960, with a very few exceptions, it was nearly impossible to tell that the temps had ever been there.)
The movie, titled “Crossfire”, involves several enlisted men assigned to an Army signals (communications) unit in the city still awaiting deactivation and getting more bored by the day. A murder takes place, seemingly without motive, which an Irish-American police detective (Young) is tasked to solve. (Today, of course, Robert Young is probably best remembered for his role in the long-running TV series “Father Knows Best”.) Mitchum and Ryan play soldiers assigned to the signals company and housed in a small hotel. (Both actors had served in the wartime Army.) It eventually becomes clear that the movie is not about the military at all, but rather about anti-Semitism. Still, about four-fifths of the way through the movie, the pipe-smoking Young, playing Washington police captain Finlay, has a riveting monologue than runs for several minutes in which he tells the story of his grandfather. Included in that monologue is this: “My grandfather was killed just because he was an Irish Catholic. Hating is always the same, always senseless.”
The story, originally a novel published as the Nuremberg Trials came to an end, was written by Richard Brooks (Ruben Sax), whose parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, but he obviously knew a thing or two about Famine Irish immigrants, too. It was threads like this one that got me to wondering about who I was, but I didn’t see the movie, or begin to put some threads together, until after my dad was gone. So I had to go find out for myself. Still, there is no small irony in the fact that here it is an Irish-American who makes profound statements about anti-Semitism, while also revealing something profound about his own history – in a story written by a Jew shortly after revelations of the Holocaust. Think about that a moment. And the story takes place in the same country whose Roosevelt government was unwilling to accept Jewish refugees, including many thousands of children, trying to flee the onslaught of the Holocaust just a few years earlier, the same country that less than a century earlier had accepted millions of penniless and uneducated “sub-human” serfs fleeing deadly British oppression in Ireland.
For those who know unvarnished history well, sometimes current events can come together to suddenly create huge monuments right there in front of you … and just take your breath away.
It was in that same year, in 1947, that Elia Kazan released his timeless masterpiece, “Gentleman’s Agreement”, based on a novel written by Laura Z. Hobson, which really picked apart the whole sickness of discrimination by self-anointed “special” people.
Around this same time (1946-48), there was high drama taking place in and near what is today known as Israel. Palestine had been occupied and administered by the British from 1920 to 1948. Toward the end of this “Mandate” period, when Jewish refugees from Europe after WW II were trying to reach the promised new Jewish state of Israel, the British were trying to control their numbers with a sea blockade, while also trying to contain fighting between Arabs and Jews on land with a huge military presence. When refugees who managed to get through the armed British blockade reached Palestinian shores, among the first men they met on the beach were Irishmen who had gotten them through the British gunboats and were fighting to help the Israelis establish their new state. (An interesting film on this subject is “Sword In The Desert” (USA, 1949) which shows the British Army Of Occupation opposed by the Jewish Army Of Resistance. The film has been hard to find since its release, primarily because the Brits don’t come off very admirably, and the one American character, played by Dana Andrews, is also less than sterling, but Liam Redmond plays a seasoned Irish soldier from Dublin who’s been fighting British military occupiers for a very long time – and uses that knowledge to assist the Jewish refugees.) Most of these Irishmen had gained their expertise through service in the British military and also by conducting similar blockade-running operations around their island homeland.
Even today, since it was never taught by schools or interest groups, or even by their own church, you have to follow such bare threads to find the true story of Famine-Irish Americans, and to realize that the story involved a really huge number of totally unsung people, strong and mostly principled people from a small oppressed island who became the very fabric of America, without ever pausing, much less wallowing, in their “victimhood”. They gave to their new nation a million times more than they ever asked. They learned the rules, mastered the process, and beat the jerks at their own game, on their own. And the whole nation reaped the rewards.
Still, they all thought Jack Kennedy would have eight years to finish the job, but he didn’t make it to three, and his younger brother Bobby wasn’t even allowed to reach the starting line. There were still some things fundamentally kilter in America. Maybe it’s best if you don’t aim all the way for the stars, especially if you have no excuses for not reaching them. Maybe it’s best if you ease up just short of the goal line, if you just learn to somehow tolerate all the blustery boobs, if you just keep playing your B game in the trenches until the clock runs out. “They always get you in the end.” – Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms” (1929).
In the Steven Spielberg film “Bridge Of Spies” (USA, 2015), based on a true story, Brooklyn insurance lawyer Jim Donovan is asked to defend the Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel in 1957 New York. It’s at the height of the brinksmanship of nuclear war tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, and American public animosity against the Soviet Russian Communists is intense, yet a fair-minded Donovan tries his best to defend his hated client against a stacked deck. Since his arrest a year earlier Abel has refused to reveal what secrets he knows, and agents for the CIA expect Donovan (who had served as a US Navy lawyer for OSS during the war and also at the Nuremberg Trials) to pass on to them what he learns from Abel, which under American law would be a violation of attorney-client privilege. Donovan, speaking to a CIA agent: “You’re agent Hoffman, yeah? You’re German extraction. My name’s Donovan. Irish. Both sides, mother and father. I’m Irish. You’re German. But what makes us both Americans? Just one thing. One. Only one. The rule book. We call it the Constitution. And we agree to the rules. And that’s what makes us Americans. It’s all that makes us Americans. So don’t tell me there’s no rule book. And don’t nod at me like that, you son of a bitch.” (Writers: Matt Charman, Ethan and Joel Coen.)
“A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
There are a lot of vulgar people in the world. Although his client was convicted, and also lost his appeal to the Supreme Court, Donovan did manage to avoid execution for Abel, which paid dividends later. It was also his reputation as a dogged unassuming attorney of principle, honesty and integrity that earned him the trust and respect of friend and foe alike to broker future difficult solutions. In the film, Abel tells Donovan that he reminds him of a man in Russia he watched as a little boy, a man who remained rather unremarkable until the day the man was captured and faced repeated beatings and grave danger to his life. After each brutal beating, the man rose again to his feet and awaited his fate, until such brave behavior eventually won him his life and the admirable nickname the “Standing Man” (‘Stoikiy muzhik’). It was a very high compliment from a man like Abel. (The Colonel Abel case presented the American justice system a problem with which it is still wrestling today: Is someone engaged in unconventional warfare a criminal or a soldier? The answer still seems to be whichever is more convenient for the government deciding. And, of course, whether the man is dead or alive when the question is asked.) Of course, Abel was a military professional in service of his nation, who brings to the table a separate set of principles.
As an American soldier I spent the better part of my life fighting the communists on battlefields and in the shadows. As a professional intelligence officer I was for all that time entrusted with some of my nation’s most sensitive secrets and knew many of other nations. For many years I was a citizen of Berlin and a clandestine operative far behind the “Iron Curtain” working against the Warsaw Pact and proficient in much of Colonel Abel’s tradecraft. I knew Berlin, Potsdam, East Germany and Glienicker Brücke, plus some of the players who participated in prisoner exchanges across that bridge. But it was always a few quiet men like Jim Donovan and his defense of The Rule Book who made me most proud of my Irish-American heritage. In a world of mediocre measures, the Irish seem to have more than their share of principled men who easily rise to a higher standard.
As an Irishman, I’ve always felt a strong affinity with the US Army’s Special Forces. The SF persevere against concerted domestic opposition. They go in for the long haul, work hard and get the job done, without fanfare. They are really good at what they do, the best in the world. They avoid the stage, the camera, the selfie, the self-glorification. Letting their accomplishments speak quietly for themselves, they don’t waste time hyping their own story. And they never whine. There’s an axiom that the best products sell themselves, don’t need advertising. Maybe that’s why so many Irish-American men have served with the professional green berets. Some of the best things about the SF are what they don’t do. They don’t shoot off their big mouths to show how stupid they are, don’t jump up on the stage like children showing off for mommy, don’t wrap themselves in the accomplishments of others while doing next to nothing themselves, and don’t quit and run to publishers with an idea for a tell-all book.
“The only men on Earth worth their time on Earth are those willing to fight for other men.” – dying American soldier, a friend, a kindred spirit. I have shaken hands with presidents and kings, stood beside Soviet Russian and Communist Chinese “enemy” generals, fought with the best of Earth’s soldiers, worked with ministers and ambassadors, met emissaries and traitors, befriended people from dozens of countries, and enjoyed a front row seat to the world’s history from 1960 to 2010. I’ve been doing what I do for a very long time, and the proudest moment of my life was watching the ugly wall around a Berlin I had come to love finally come down, without one single shot being fired. It was the final great achievement of the Greatest Generation. Twenty years later I bought a new car at a dealership in Montana from a guy who had come to America as a boy from Berlin the very year I first went in to his walled home town almost forty years earlier. He never went back. But I did, often. I’ve learned a few things over the years, and one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s usually far better for a small handful of guys who know what they’re doing to solve big problems ethically in the permanent shadows than it is for armies to slug it out on bloody battlefields – even if that means that a whole bunch of folks back home never get a reason to pump themselves up on vicarious machismo, and intellectually bankrupt politicians never get to buy their votes with the wasted deaths of others. I prefer fighting wars quietly in the shadows – invisible, unnoticed, minimal.
The only assist my country or my family ever gave me was the gift of not granting me any excuse for not succeeding, for not accomplishing what was expected of me, for not assuming full responsibility for myself and for others, on my own, no matter what adversity I faced anywhere along the way. Never having had anyone else to blame, I still managed to weather all the incessant bullshit and end up comfortably on my own two feet. I am an Irish-American soldier. I am not, and never have been, a terrorist.
Irish soldier’s dirge by Melissa Etheridge (“The Devil’s Own“)*
Take off my shield
Carry my sword
I won’t need it anymore
Find me a sky
Give me my wings
Frozen and broken but free
Tell them I’m all right
I’m coming home
Tell them I’m all right
I am alone
This war is over
I’m coming home
Take off my shame
Bury it low
I won’t need it anymore
Find me the sun
Give me it whole
Melt all the chains in my soul
Tell them I’m all right
I’m coming home
Tell them I’m all right
I am alone
This war is over
I’m coming home
Take off my pain
Carry me slow
I won’t fight here anymore
Tell them I’m all right
I’m coming home
Tell them I’m all right
I am alone
This war is over
I’m coming home
There’s always another war, isn’t there? And dead soldiers, too.
I didn’t tarry long at my Montana retreat.
(*As a professional Irish-American soldier who has served overseas for decades (1967-2010), I’d rate this as the best dirge for a dead soldier I’ve ever heard, in any language. It’s especially fitting for an unconventional fighter (“special ops”) such as was the character in the film. I also like that it invokes the soldier’s own thoughts of home with images that harken all the way back to Roman centurions. There are reasons why such rare men do what they do, and have done so for millennia. Among the very best of them were Irishmen of principle and clear vision, willing to risk it all for a higher purpose, even if, in the end, it was not enough. Irish soldiers have a special place in Irish, British, American and world history. (Read Marcus Aurelius for greater understanding.))
As an Irish-American Catholic well versed in history and heritage, Jack Kennedy today would not hesitate for one second to recognize and oppose the existential threat to the United States and all that it stands for that is presented by Islamic militant extremism – accepting zero separation between church and state; to such extremists, the state is the religion, and there is only one acceptable religion tolerated. Such a notion is, inherently, the antithesis of “America”. As an ideology it thus represents a greater threat to fundamental American principles and freedoms than even the Soviet communist ideology was to American democratic capitalism. The history of Ireland from 1560 to 1960 is the ugly lesson, beginning with a similar ruthless demagoguery in Henry VIII.
In America everyone is free to hold their own views on matters of religion, but no one has the right to impose their views on others. In America, no one is forcing anyone to do anything. Anyone making free choices, engaging in elective behavior, cannot shift responsibility for those choices, that behavior, to “someone else”. If someone finds that their views are in conflict with a particular religious group or organization, no one is forcing them to join that group or organization, and there is no penalty for not doing so. Everyone has choices; everyone is free to make better choices; everyone is free to go elsewhere. Anyone making a case about their rights without equal consideration of their responsibilities is making a false case that considers only the self-serving half of the issue. It’s an infantile construct born in birthright entitled “feminism”, itself born in birthright entitled aristocracy, and despite the self-serving emotionalism pushing it, is entirely un-American. It’s a theory of “disparate impact” appropriately applicable to little children captive in state schools being idiotically applied universally to grown adults in a free society, and it is steadily destroying us from within. “Your rights do NOT trump my rights, and I am NOT responsible for your choices, for your behavior.” If you cannot accept my opposition to your imposition, then you should not expect me to oppose the imposition of the Taliban – for there is no difference. “Get off my back! Henry VIII is finally gone!”
Stand, or fall, on your own merit! Earn your place! Just as I do!
If you take the approach taught by privileged American women and their clones – that everyone has rights while the responsibilities are solely for “someone else” – you are on your own, unworthy of my support. In my book, you earn for “me” no more than you contribute to “us”. (And those who hedge their bets by maintaining two passports, or a “green card”, for longer than five years are inherently highly suspect. I figure such people will be the first to run when the going gets rough, placing their own personal interests above those of my country. This includes privileged Europeans who have so benefited from a century of American sacrifice that they tend to assume a certain arrogant sense of entitlement, even an ownership, of American welfare, but shamefully remain unwilling to make the same costly commitment to others, to step up to their own responsibilities in the world. Well over a million people from western Europe now reside and work illegally in my country, having overstayed their visas, something their home countries would never tolerate of Americans. If after five years you can’t commit totally to American citizenship, then you are just serving yourself at the expense of my country, and unwilling to make the necessary investment in your home country, too. Why would I ever trust such a person?)
Among the most powerful words I ever heard about heritage are those spoken by Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) in the movie “Amistad” (USA, 1997). The African slave explains to John Quincy Adams, “I meant my ancestors. I will call into the past, far back to the beginning of time, and beg them to come and help me, at the judgment. I will reach back and draw them into me. And they must come. For at this moment, I am the whole reason they have existed at all.” (writer: David Franzoni) Would that we all had such a sense of purpose as to imbue our own descendents with confidence in those who gave them their proud identity, who set the firm unvarnished foundation for further journey. (The movie does not mention the fact that the New Haven judge, fearing passions could lead to civil war if the case was not decided in the slave-owners favor, relied on testimony from the famous Irish abolitionist Richard Robert Madden and American property law to defy enormous political pressure and decide the case in the slaves’ favor. The Dublin doctor Madden had married a woman whose Scottish father owned hundreds of slaves on his Jamaican plantations. While the two were living in Cuba she converted from the Church of England to his Roman Catholicism, and the worldly Madden became a very powerful voice in the abolitionist movement in Jamaica, Cuba, Africa, England and the US.) (See Footnote #2.)
Never study your ancestors to acquire vicarious self-worth, but to determine the standards they set for you to exceed.
Despite their squalid beginnings and their subsequent contributions to everything around us, including the nation’s history, there have never been “Irish Studies” programs in American universities offering tenured professors the luxury to lecture students about their own past. There were no laws, policies, programs, lawyers, lobbies, etc., protecting their rights and ensuring their opportunities as a “special” people; they had to carve all that stuff out of life in America for themselves as best they could, starting with their own schools, until it was no longer needed, until they could move forward under their own individual merit and assume their earned positions in American society. Their true story got clouded, papered over, and eventually lost. The Church’s motives were just as much an effort to bury the participation of other American Catholics in the century of intense anti-Famine-Irish bigotry as it was an effort to dissipate old ethnic rivalries within the larger American Catholic community, to even enable all Catholics to join in as similar “victims” of some nebulous past bigotry. Looking back on it now, I realize that as a cognizant Irish American, even as a boy, I never met, read or even heard of an Irish-American person, man OR woman, regardless of their condition, who considered themselves some sort of victim, of anything. It wasn’t in the vocabulary. You reap what you sow. Those who trumpet their group’s past victimhood only perpetuate that victimhood – so as to absolve themselves of responsibility, for themselves and for anyone else. It’s a cheap phony blame-shifting crutch. All they have to do is sit there and make demands of others. I guess this was the one thing about the past, about the Home Country, that Irish-Americans were always determined not to put behind them. The Irish don’t whine; they fight.
But, sometimes, they remember, and tears come to the eyes. “Celtic Woman”, for example, can stir very powerful emotions in Irish hearts. (See Footnote #5.) And Ireland still produces wonderful people of spirit and substance, women like Veronica Guerin, formerly of Dublin’s Sunday Independent newspaper, who also make their bold marks in America. And, yes, Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell, too.
One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American author and poet, 1850-1919.
‘Tis the set of the sails
I am an Irish-American, and I have nothing to lament despite all that went before me, either in Ireland or in America. I have never dallied a single moment in self-pity, in casting about for someone else to blame for what I could have become and did not. My country offered opportunity, so I became what I chose to become. I met my obligations, took my lumps and kept on marching. Although now considerably more battered, I still weigh what I did at 15, am still fit and active, still have a full head of brown hair with only tiny flecks of grey. I was born in Washington DC, but I long ago became a citizen of the world, an Irish-American citizen of the world. I am not alone. My personal story is full of well over a half century of American and world history irrevocably woven into my very soul, and, like any thinking man, I do have regrets, and the detritus of a nomadic life and fallen comrades, but I am proud of myself and proud of my ancestors. I suppose that if I allowed you to get close enough you might see deep in my eyes truths that few would want to see. The world is a tough place, and rightly so. If you value your own life, have a sense of duty beyond yourself, you will embrace that toughness, and try to make it better, if only for a while. And you will find purpose. But you will never sacrifice your standards for the man you are.
And you will never buy the bullshit.
“We met upon the Level… an’ we parted on the Square.” – Rudyard Kipling
In America today no one is forcing anyone to do anything. We are each the sum of the choices we have made, choices made by the set of our sails. Don’t look back. Keep your eye on tomorrow. Don’t make choices that keep you stuck in the past. Just keep your head above the bullshit and make sure that, at each step along the way, “the past” is always just memories that make you proud of the man you are.
This Irishman looks away from no one.
I am the last of my line. Having lived an honorable life on my own terms, on my own merit, I will leave behind these written words, this unvarnished story of my heritage. It’s a worthwhile story, an Irish-American story.
I was an educated American man, a citizen-soldier who left a record, his own record.
I am, I wrote.
.The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
– Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish poet of soil and strife (1995 Nobel Prize), in “Digging“, describing his illiterate father digging potatoes and his illiterate grandfather digging turf, in the British plantation of Ireland. As a Catholic born and raised in Protestant “Northern” Ireland, Heaney once described himself as someone who “emerged from a hidden, a buried, life and entered the realm of education.” Also a translator of classic literature, Heaney’s most famous work is his translation of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf” (2000), which he also recorded in his own mesmerizing voice. (Beowulf, the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, was written in England sometime between the 8th and the early 11th century.) In 2009, when the Irish poet turned 70, two-thirds of the poetry collections sold in Britain the previous year were Heaney titles. Overcoming the obstacles imposed on his Irish predecessors, Seamus Heaney never stopped learning, and never stopped teaching.
(The above is sort of my epilogue to 1. “Terrorist Or Freedom-fighter – Irish“ and 2. “Irish In America” , posted separately. I could write books on most of the topics posted here, but who would read them? I’m just a soldier.)
(Check out “Walt Kowalski – An American Man“, for the story of another American man of different, but similar, foreign descent.)
Footnote #1. Whenever I watch America’s Megyn Kelly I understand why the British for centuries were so concerned about the Irish getting educated.
This amazing woman has a mid-day two-hour show (“America Live”) that airs live daily on the US Fox News Channel, and she has every ticket anyone could ever hope for – including looks and brains – in really great abundance. I’m much older than she is and have some decent credentials of my own, but this women can easily hypnotize me with her really terrific sense of humor, solidly based values, winning personality, extremely fast repartee, precise diction, and very wide ranging knowledge. A practicing attorney (and aerobics instructor) before being hired by FNC, her mind always seems to be working in super-charged overdrive, way out in front of her many different guests, but still able to make everyone comfortable with her humor and self-deprecating wit (all while suffering with some off-camera producer chattering away in her ear). She frequently appears as a guest on other FNC shows and anchors special public events carried by Fox, but, with all those amazing gifts, Megyn Kelly is still at her best when she is just being herself, at ease and comfortable with the woman she is, a really smart lady who can mix it up with anyone and enjoy doing it.
Megyn (now 42), whose dad died of a heart attack when she was 15, is one of three siblings – an older brother and a sister. She was a Girl Scout who played basketball, hockey and cheerleading in high school, then got a degree in political science followed by a law (J.D.) degree – all in up-state New York (Syracuse University, Albany Law). She is married with two young children – a son (3) and a daughter (1), and is now (2013) pregnant on camera with her third child. Those kids are going to have a tough time measuring up to mom. (26 July 2013: It’s a boy.)
I know of no Brit who this Irish-American woman does not put to shame, and I have no doubt that Megyn Kelly could run for any elective office in the land, and win on her own merit – which is why I am tired of listening in America to whining women. With none of the usual rote regurgitation of sixty-year old “feminist” pablum from this independently thinking lady, I’d hate to have to debate her. Her mind is just too quick, and her instincts are just too accurate. I don’t know what her politics are, but Kelly’s values are squarely where they should be for an American. (And, yes, she does give other women the obligatory five minutes every day to discuss their various “issues” of the moment, but does not reciprocate for men or, especially, for boys. So she does have at least this one typical responsibility blind spot afflicting all American women.) I also think she’s an effective parry to another famous Irish-American, Bill O’Reilly, in spirited debate; the much older O’Reilly may top her in breadth of knowledge and disciplined logic, but Kelly doesn’t bully or interrupt in her delivery to win points, or seem so condescending, and, despite O’Reilly’s Harvard training, the two have equally well trained and fast minds.
Even more so than O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly makes me proud to be a no-nonsense Irish-American, too. (Maybe I just like her style.) And I’d bet that her 19th century ancestors were those who helped make the Erie Canal the gateway to the American Great Plains and transformed New York City into a global metropolis. That monumental canal project cost the lives of thousands of Irish and Scots-Irish Catholic workers, and today the canal region is still dotted with many small towns that grew up around Irish communities that remained between Albany on the Hudson River and Buffalo on Lake Erie after the canal’s major construction was completed. Syracuse, of course, is midway along that route; other canal cities include Troy, Schenectady, Utica, Rome and Rochester.
(There’s a curious quirk in that the canal takes its name from the lake, the lake takes its name from the Native American tribe (of the Iroquoian culture) that populated its southern shores, and that that name must have struck the illiterate Irish laborers on the canal as eerily (alliterative pun intended) similar to the original Gaelic name (Éire) of the Emerald Isle.)
Bill O’Reilly, on the other hand, is many things, but from my perspective he’s primarily what I call a Baby Boomer “war evangelist” – one who believes that exercising America’s military might wherever possible is a sign of “strength”, and that those who council caution and more intellectual approaches are displaying signs of “weakness”. He uses his powerful stage to whip his many disciples into what often seems like constant war fever, but there never is any consideration of what comes after America has gone to war in some remote place, or any real explanation of what it has to do with America’s national defense. (It’s primarily a simple-minded video game mentality, with no real understanding of the complexities of military matters in the real world.) Born in 1949, O’Reilly was prime Draft material when he graduated from a New Jersey high school in 1967, when the need for male bodies to throw at the senseless war in Vietnam was reaching its peak. But, like so many young men in his age group, he avoided the Draft by attending college in New York and London and teaching high school history in Miami (!) for a year before returning to college in 1973 at Boston University to get an M.A. in broadcast journalism – just as the Draft conveniently ended. He never served in the military himself, of course, but today is a fervent advocate of sending the sons of others off to risk their lives in war in support of his causes – which almost always are far more about domestic politics than anything else. Typical of his Baby Boomer sort, of which there are really huge numbers, he has never displayed enough spine to even stand up for the civil rights of America’s boys in our dismal public schools, but he does use his wealth today to donate to a variety of charities, including one dedicated to providing advanced wheel chairs to veterans maimed in today’s wasted wars. In short, the US military serves as vicarious machismo, a kind of national Viagra, for those who excel at nothing more than talk and refuse to address glaring societal problems right in front of their faces. (Many of this sort of American “men” spend a LOT of time playing video war games, where avatar soldiers symbolizing “me” are sent forth to do bloody battle for their beautiful queen – the one with the big bouncing boobs, just like mom’s.) If it wasn’t for his drive and intelligence, I’d feel a little ashamed of O’Reilly’s Irish-American heritage.
When asked to name a famous author in the fictional military-spy genre, most Americans think of Irish-American Tom Clancy and his fictional Irish-American hero Jack Ryan (“The Hunt for Red October“, “Patriot Games“, “Clear and Present Danger“, “The Sum of All Fears“). But another famous contemporary Irish-American was author Vince Flynn (1966-2013) who suffered his whole life with dyslexia. One of seven children of a teacher-coach father and wildlife artist mother, he attended Saint Thomas Academy, the only all-male Catholic college-prep military high school in Minnesota. He then went on to the University of St. Thomas, a private Catholic liberal arts university located in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, but was then medically disqualified from the US Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. Most of his very popular fifteen novels published between 1997 and 2013 involve his fictional hero Mitch Rapp, an under-cover CIA counter-terrorism agent focused on thwarting Muslim terrorist attacks on the United States. Rapp is an aggressive operative willing to take measures that are rather extreme and is constantly frustrated with policy procedures and bureaucratic red tape. Author Vinnie Flynn lived with his wife and their three children in the Twin Cities area. He died of prostate cancer at age 47.
And, for the record, the operations officer “hero” of John le Carré’s classic 1963 British masterpiece, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold“, Alec Leamas, was an Irishman.
Another famous Irish spy was Kimball O’Hara, although this Irishman began participating in “The Great Game” over a half century earlier and at a much younger age. (The “Great Game” was originally used to refer to the period of intense rivalry between the British and Russian empires throughout the 19th century for control of Central Asia – a rivalry that continued to play out in varying degrees throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.) In Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel, “Kim” (1901), O’Hara was the orphaned son of a sergeant in an Irish regiment of the British army and his poor Irish wife, both of whom died in what is present-day Pakistan (formerly part of the British colony of India) well before Kimball entered his teens, after which the boy ran off to fend for himself in the teeming late-19th century city of Lahore (roughly 1893-98). He soon comes to the attention of operatives of the British Secret Service who, not realizing that the boy is white, employ him in various surreptitious communications tasks. Early in the story, the exceptionally independent, bright and inquisitive Kim befriends a Tibetan lama to whom Kim confesses to having a dream in which he saw a red bull on a green field; in the dream, the vision preceded war. Kim’s “dream” actually recalls some words from his father – “nine hundred first-class devils, whose God was a Red Bull on a green field“, which the boy had taken literally. A red bull on a green background was the symbol on the flag of a battalion of the Irish Mavericks Regiment (“Royal Loyal Musketeers”), which also kept a small statue of the bull. Both icons symbolized the strength, tenacity, unity, esprit de corps and central importance of the battalion to its 900 Irish soldiers – Kim’s very heritage. But from the eyes of the boy observing from a distance, “The Sahibs (European men) prayed to their God; for in the centre of the mess-table—its sole ornament when they were on the line of march—stood a golden bull fashioned from oldtime loot of the Summer Palace at Pekin—a red-gold bull with lowered head, ramping upon a field of Irish Green.” Kim proves himself a valuable asset with considerable talents and is bought before the head of the British Secret Service in northern India (now Pakistan). His true identity revealed, the ever-maverick Irish boy is sent off to a formal school operated for the sons of members of the British military and diplomatic corps, and also provided further training in the art of espionage. Kipling’s novel is steeped in the fascinating and roiling history, cultures, religions, languages, ethnicities and rivalries of dozens of competing interests in 19th century India and adjacent lands, including Afghanistan, in which Kim, with his unique background and vantage, plays a direct, knowing and often secret role. Kim was, to me, a kindred spirit.
(There is sound reason why Kipling returns often to Irish military men in his works. Charles James O’Donnell, an Irish colonial administrator in Bengal (1891-1900), observed in 1913 that “India was the great prize of a Gaelic-speaking army recruited by the East India Company exclusively in Ireland under Irish generals.” This was a bit exaggerated, but it did contain a healthy measure of truth. When colonial power shifted from the exploitive East India Company to the exploitive British Empire, so did the Irish soldiers. Irish infantry soldiers and Irish generals made a significantly disproportionate contribution to the military power around which British rule of India (and elsewhere) was built (along with strategic use of the Muslim minority in Hindu-dominated India). Life as an Irish soldier in frequent deadly combat was better than life as an Irish serf in constant groveling hunger. So there is also a healthy measure of truth in the observation that “Irish serfs built and defended the British empire.”)
Footnote #2. Wilberforce. England also had its abolitionist man of principle – William Wilberforce (1759-1833). As an Independent Member of Parliament, and friend of future Prime Minster William Pitt (1759-1806), he battled for 20 years to get the Slave Trade Act of 1807 passed and another 26 years until his efforts finally saw near-complete success with the passage of his Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. Wilberforce died three days later; both he and Pitt are buried in Westminster Abbey. The film “Amazing Grace” (UK/USA 2006) tells his story. England was officially out of the African slave business. But slave ships of other monarchies were still sailing to the West Indies (Caribbean). The Spanish La Amistad ended up off New England in 1839 as the exodus of Famine-Irish serfs aboard similar slave ships was beginning.
Footnote #3. Killing Kennedy. People frequently ask me if I can remember what was happening on that day in November 1963 when Jack Kennedy died in Dallas. Yes, I can, as if it all happened yesterday and not a half century ago. I was then a student in college in Washington DC with a very heavy course load, and I was watching it all live on television in the student union during a break in my class schedule. When it happened, it felt like someone had kicked me hard in the stomach, and I just couldn’t breathe for what seemed like a very long time. That day, and in the days that followed, it seemed that American TV had nothing else to offer except a non-stop minute by minute account of every tiny event surrounding the assassination, the family and the presidency – most of which became permanently burned into my memory. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly so much his Catholic Famine-Irish heritage that held my fascination as it was his mind. This man was very intelligent and very fast on his feet, with a quick and comprehensive grasp of very complex matters that he could articulate with a smooth and natural impromptu easiness in very concise, and precise, English that always seemed square on the mark. The guy spoke off-the-cuff of complex matters in logically organized paragraphs that were easy to follow. And he did it in diction that properly enunciated the English language; there were no lazy or sloppy shortcuts, or unnecessary repetitious “fill words”, for this well educated man. The Washington Post would publish verbatim his frequent press conferences, and they all read like thoroughly edited transcripts ready for book publication. I remember thinking, when hearing of how he had died, of the great irony that, of all possible parts and gifts possessed by this man, his marvelous brain had been the target. I know it probably sounds a bit macabre now, but that nevertheless was definitely on my mind at the time, and that unfortunately just seemed to magnify the tragedy in my own mind. The world lost a really beautiful and very well trained mind that day, but still a mind of a man who had fully earned his position of leadership, from the front, by embracing his responsibility for everyone else and with a stoic can-do attitude that managed to overcome every adversity thrown his way.
Kennedy, still in his teens, gradually came to believe that he was not destined for a long life. So he decided to compensate for that “inevitability” by living as much of life as possible while he was still able to both appreciate and enjoy it. (See * below.) Afflicted with a number of closely-held illnesses and injuries while still rather young, Kennedy didn’t have a “death wish”, but he definitely was interested in living dangerously. That fearlessness was a key factor in his successes. No one ever experiences real success without first embracing risk, and Jack Kennedy was driven to succeed, even more so after his older brother’s untimely death during World War II.
In those days mainstream news didn’t speculate, politicize or fan fear. But Americans had questions and wanted answers about the murder. What made it worse was that there were just so many other things going on right out there on center stage to make it all so incredibly confusing to everyone. Here are a just few of them: The Soviet Russian Premier, Nikita Khruschchev, who had toured the US in 1956, in 1959 banged his shoe on his table at the UN and later made comments to US journalists that were interpreted as “We will bury you.” This is the nuclear weapons hair-trigger world, with its very real potential to vaporize humanity, that greeted Kennedy in the 1961 White House. Not only was the very real potential for total nuclear war with the Warsaw Pact (aided by communists hiding behind every American door?) on everyone’s mind, but the very scary post-apocalyptic Gregory Peck film “On The Beach” (1959), with its now-haunting theme song (“Waltzing Matilda”) had attracted a lot of attention just before the election. And now the equally scary Frank Sinatra movie “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), about a pre-programmed political assassin, had just been a major success, too. In October 1962 the Saturday Evening Post had serialized a story that immediately became a best-selling novel titled “Fail Safe”; the story involved a quickly negotiated trade-off to avoid the total destruction of both the United States and Russia by instead destroying one major city in each country each containing many millions of innocent citizens. The public knew that secret enemy espionage and sabotage agents operated constantly among them, that all of these well-known fictional dramas were entirely within the realm of very real possibility.
Real events were already scary enough. During Kennedy’s first year in office the Communist East Germans, with Russian concurrence, suddenly erected a 12-foot high wall completely around the Western three-fourths of the huge US-military-occupied city of Berlin. Smack in the middle of all this was the failure of the Bay Of Pigs (1961) invasion of communist Cuba (planned under the previous Eisenhower Administration) and the Soviet Russian attempt (1962) to pepper Cuba with an arsenal of intercontinental nuclear missiles aimed at every major city in America – too close to stop, not enough time to respond. Americans and their government were spending hundreds of billions of dollars to build the Defense Interstate Super-highway System plus countless big and small nuclear bomb and fall-out shelters all over the country, while the Air Force and Navy were acquiring ever more pieces of the “nuclear triad” ostensibly to serve as a retaliatory “deterrent”. The extremely valuable British/American spy, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, had just been quietly executed in Moscow.
(In 2015 Americans worried about the potential of a few crazies with home-made bombs are pathetically laughable in comparison to Americans of the 1960s. In 1963 only the super-spoiled Baby Boomer children, already worshipping their navels, were oblivious of real world realities, and would remain so for the rest of their very long and very comfortable lives. Older Americans in 1960 knew full well that they were in a life-or-death struggle with Soviet communism and its Warsaw Pact military juggernaut, but were still determined to live as normally as they could.)
Then there was the Mafia that wanted back their Cuban casino money machine. The Kennedy election campaign had used Sinatra to reach out to major Mafia bosses to help them win the support of labor unions in key states like West Virginia and Illinois, which they did, only to have Attorney General Robert Kennedy go after the Mafia with a vengeance – and the Kennedys distance themselves from the very famous singer – after the election was secured. Then the tabloids were running stories of Jack Kennedy’s relationship with a woman, introduced to him by none other than Sinatra, who was also the girlfriend of one of those Mafia bosses, who clearly felt betrayed by the Kennedy brothers and (mostly) their influential father. The mainstream media, on the other hand, was full of stories about racial discrimination, emotional demonstrations and violent conflict throughout the boiling South. It’s not difficult to conclude that the brief period 1959-1963 was one of the very most intensely challenging, and scary, periods in American history.
And then someone killed the President, the Commander-in-Chief, whose primary responsibility was to ensure the defense of the nation from all real and present threats. Constantly suffocating world realities made it imperative that only the most wise, experienced and steady among us, with the very best advisors possible, be allowed to occupy the Oval Office. Because the nuclear weapons threat at that time was so real and so present, and potentially so massively catastrophic to the entire nation, procedures had been put in place which enabled the President or his successor to order defensive (preemptive) military action unilaterally and immediately, despite the Constitution’s requirement of prior consent and war declaration of the Congress. Constantly within feet of the President was a uniformed US military officer with a briefcase containing nuclear missile launch codes should other uniformed US military officers inform him that the nation was under imminent attack by incoming nuclear missiles. Because of the constant threat posed by the Warsaw Pact and its huge air-land-sea nuclear arsenal from 1950 to 1990, the position of President was of absolutely critical importance to the life of every American. And someone had scored a direct hit on that position, right in front of everyone.
(The ability of the President to unilaterally direct military action should have been either withdrawn or greatly restricted when the Warsaw Pact imploded in 1990 and the US emerged as a single unchallenged super-power which no longer faced a real and present threat to its survival. But, as with so many other temporary practices, the Baby Boomers, who never did learn how to think, allowed that presidential power to become permanently institutionalized – for no valid reason – and set the nation’s governance on a course to something akin to that of 17th century monarchies. Now we have quite marginal politicians who never made it through a year in the boy scouts trying to operate far beyond their competence levels in a very complex world as if they were all clones of General George C. Marshall, as if the nation still faced imminent existential threats. Such politicians now use both the armed forces and intelligence agencies primarily, not for the nation’s defense, but for cheap domestic political aggrandizement and advantage. “Strategy” is now something like swatting flies, until it gets boring, regardless of the number of dead and maimed soldiers – the only Americans who ever pay a price for political incompetence screwing up threats that are puny compared to those of the past.) (Politicians fan fear of foreign bogeymen primarily to divert public attention from a dozen far more serious problems right here in front of everyone which they have proven incapable of solving for decades.)
In the years and decades that followed his death, every conspiracy theory imaginable has been minutely examined and re-examined – from the Mafia to the Klan, from Cubans to the Russians, from the CIA to the military, and, ultimately, discarded. Save one. That one other theory has only been whispered in the shadows among the few, and never quite resolved. Perhaps this is because Americans tend to view “history” in terms of their own brief lifetimes and to judge all that went before of little interest and zero consequence. But, among those who actually know history and can view the centuries of anti-Irish bigotry that preceded that day in Dallas, and especially considering his brother’s subsequent death in Los Angeles, this one other theory – originating with England and its “superior” aristocracy and state religion and passed down to their respective political and religious descendants in America – must stand equally among the others. To date it has not.
(The Third Man. There was always a strong Irish-American supporter to the Jack and Bobby political duo. Kenny O’Donnell, born in Worcester in 1924, was a young WW II veteran who became perhaps the most trusted and influential of the tightly knit band around the President and his brother Bobby. During the war O’Donnell flew 30 missions as a bombardier in a B-17 squadron before he was shot down over Belgium. He was imprisoned, escaped, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters. After the war O’Donnell entered Harvard on a scholarship where he was Bob Kennedy’s roommate and friend and distinguished himself academically and as an athlete. O’Donnell and Bob Kennedy were teammates on the Harvard football team for three seasons, beginning in 1946. He was a slim, wiry man, much like Bob Kennedy, who made up for any lack of size and natural skill in determined aggressiveness. Bobby pulled O’Donnell into the last Kennedy House election campaign in 1950 in preparation for his run for the Senate in 1952, and he became a permanent fixture with the brothers thereafter, a front row advisor, observer and sounding board of every major official event to visit the two Kennedys thereafter, including the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Along the way, he and his wife, Helen, had five children — three sons and two daughters. But the cumulative effect of all this constant pressure and heartbreak eventually proved a bit too much for O’Donnell. It’s probably not too much to suggest that, when Jack and Bobby were assassinated, something within O’Donnell died, too, and this affected both him and his marriage. Helen O’Donnell died of depression and alcoholism in 1977 at the age of 50, and Kenny died of depression and alcoholism shortly thereafter in Boston at the age of 53.)
While I know that many very powerful forces swirled around the Kennedy brothers, including a lot of suppressed history that remains suppressed today, I personally do not subscribe to any conspiracy theory in their assassinations. The same applies to the death of Dr. King. At the time of Jack Kennedy’s death, I did have a number of suspicions, but I eventually concluded that far too many good people were seriously invested in getting to the bottom of the matter for anything of substance not to surface, either then or in all the subsequent years since, and especially after the end of the “Cold” War thirty years later. I also believe that the Warren Commission was very seriously devoted to ascertaining exactly what had happened, especially during a period that was exceedingly dangerous for world peace. The American arena has always generated a great deal of emotion among all factions, including those invested in politics. The same is true of philosophical ideologies, power structures, religious beliefs, criminal enterprises, economics, entrenched special interests, military matters, wars, etc., in the ever-roiling American caldron. Some people get so invested in their own beliefs that they become ever more resistant to anything that might run counter to those beliefs, become far too inflexible in their thinking. Jack Kennedy was one of the bravest men in American history, and he did not shy away from any of these seething tempests, often against the best council of his closest advisors.
(Jack was the second-born son. I often wonder what the first-born son, Joseph, would have accomplished had he survived World War II. We never got to know this young man. And Jack could easily have been lost to us in that same war, too.)
With a very gifted and flexible mind and a very competitive nature, Jack Kennedy understood these tempests well and was not afraid to wade into them, but softly and with a pleasant smile and a good sense of humor that was quite disarming. But he also knew that in America everyone except the most demented among us always knows that there are far too many options available to destroy opponents far short of an assassination that would inherently be fraught full of potential unintended treacherous consequences. One of the things that continues to bother me personally is the relentless effort to cloud the century-long bigotry leveled against Famine Irish Catholics as somehow absurdly just a part of some far broader and inexplicable “anti-Catholic” campaign. The simple fact is that the bigotry was far more specific than that, and that many other ethnic Catholics, especially older and more established Catholics, were full participants in the bigotry leveled against the working class Famine Irish. It was his very Famine-Irish heritage, far more than his Catholic religious beliefs, that shaped the man that Kennedy became, and he wore that heritage proudly, if rather subtly. He knew all about the “white nigger” slurs. His family had overcome everything thrown against it, and prevailed, and he stood there on the grandest stage as a shining example of what was possible in America. It was that fact alone that made him an inviting target for society’s losers. He didn’t have to articulate anything; those who knew the true history knew that the man’s mere presence on that stage said all that was necessary, to everyone, including the Brits. During just one hundred very tough years, the Kennedys, the Famine-Irish Kennedys, in just three generations, starting with a penniless widowed mother battling to keep herself and her children alive in a squalid Boston slum, had learned the rules, mastered the process, and beaten the jerks at their own game – grandly and in splendid style.
Kennedy was killed by one guy with a very twisted mind. Period. There was no conspiracy involving other parties or movements or philosophies or motives. I’ve had a half century to study the matter inside and out, and, to me, that conclusion is inescapable. Karl Jung observed that, “The desire to reveal is greater than the desire to conceal,” and nowhere is that truer than in that great sieve of secrets – Washington DC. Americans used to go to Washington to “serve the nation”. Today they get themselves employed by the federal government on the people’s dole for wealth, power and self-aggrandizement. And they will blab whatever secrets they learn that will further that objective. It is nearly impossible to keep anything secret Inside The Beltway. You are simply nobody if you don’t have secrets to blab at every opportunity. We now even have pathetic politicians who will run up on stage like school children, grab both the microphone and the spotlight, assume full credit for military actions, and then blab everything secret about those actions, stupidly assuming that the secrets will never be needed again. It is literally impossible to accept that three subsequent generations of Beltway bureaucrats would not have spilled any beans about Kennedy’s death that were available to spill. And many of those bureaucrats, including those employed by both the FBI and CIA, were smart and very demanding Irish-American guys just like me. Kennedy’s killer was a guy who just never figured out how to fit in. HIS killer acted on an emotion that was extremely wide-spread throughout the country at that moment. Kennedy and his family were just too loved, represented far too well the Great American Dream, had managed to achieve everything that all of us hoped to achieve, seemed to proclaim so perfectly to all the world, “We are America,” and with a pleasant smile, a self-deprecating humor, a smooth and very fast wit and intellect, and a magical sense of style – all wrapped up in a quite comfortable self-confidence. Everyone wanted this man and his family to be their next-door neighbors. Everyone wanted to be them. This was distinctly American royalty – a fully earned position of actual leadership, from the front. These were people who had punched all the hardest tickets on the way forward and upward, and succeeded, in America. That success was what made the target.
Unfortunately the killing of the killer also robbed us all of the disciplined examination of the relevant facts of the case in a public American courtroom. All we had were the conclusions reached off-camera by highly esteemed others, the Warren Commission, which we, and everyone else, had to read, not experience. After the absence of a public trial, the main problem is that many, myself included, just have difficulty accepting that such greatness could be so easily snuffed out by such an inconsequential speck of nothing. Somehow, even for a guy who knows all about such things in wars everywhere, both noisy and quiet, that notion is just terrifying. So, in some perverted way, it might just be easier to live with if it had been due to a vast hidden conspiracy lurking out there in every shadow.
I had earlier participated in the Kennedy Presidential Election Campaign (1960, during which I was fortunate enough to briefly shake his hand in Silver Spring, Maryland), the Inauguration (1961), the March on Washington (August 1963), a number of events in the American South (1962-66), and also the March on the Pentagon (March 1967), shortly before finishing course requirements for my first degree, visiting my dad’s grave, catching a flight out of Travis AFB aboard Flying Tiger Line, and reporting for duty in Saigon. When his brother Bobby died in 1968, I was still in Vietnam, and not able to follow events so closely; the same applies to the death that year of Martin Luther King, whom I had met in 1964 in the Florida panhandle. I was still in Southeast Asia in 1970. I had found my niche, had become .. comfortably numb. Thereafter it was mostly a matter of coasting at three-quarter time, very rarely needing to rise above my “B” game wherever they wanted me to go. “And so it goes.”
“For mine own good, All causes shall give way: I am in blood, Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
– Macbeth (Act 3, Scene 4), William Shakespeare
You eventually reach a point when there’s just no going back. A little earlier in 1968 the women at my state election office had sent me a notice that, since I no longer maintained a residence in the state, but rather in Vietnam, I was not eligible to vote and my ballot was therefore rejected. That notice reached me in the jungle along with my state tax forms containing a big bold-type paragraph on the first page proclaiming to all that military personnel definitely were not exempt from either filing the forms or paying full state income taxes, wars or not. Most military pay at that time was well below the poverty level, but I did pay my taxes due even though I had been denied my right to vote. Well over 90% of US military people back then were young, single and, of course, “oppressor” male, i.e., expendable, like Jack Kennedy and his brother Joe had been during World War II. Young people and immigrants today have a tendency to think that time began with their own arrival, and thus make judgments of the past based on what they see around them today. When they get a few more years under their belts they begin to realize that people have a way of remembering history that they actually witnessed and in which they actually participated, and in this young nation, history is not that long ago at all, and a lot of it was very important. Still, it definitely did not begin around 1975 or 1980 with the ascendancy of the spoiled Baby Boomers. For some of us, a half century ago, 1960, or even 1950, was yesterday. We know the Real Story, not the self-serving revisionist lobby version.
In 1992 the immigrant widow of a Czech man I had known in Europe during dangerous times of the “Cold” War finally succeeded in getting me to accompany her to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC. Her husband had bought her ticket to America with his death in the service of an ideal, and she was determined to understand it all, not just me. It was my first and last visit to “The Wall”, America’s most visited memorial by foreign tourists, many of whom know first-hand what dead American soldiers mean to them and their families, if not to other Americans. I salute the very young Chinese-American woman, Maya Lin, who so astutely designed that unforgettable structure, but I prefer to avoid the added pain even as I can’t escape the memories.
“You don’t live with me. You live among the remains of dead people. You sift through the detritus, you read the terrain, you search for signs of passing, for the scent of your prey, and then you hunt them down. That’s the only thing you’re committed to. The rest is the mess you leave as you pass through.” – Heat (USA, 1995, Michael Mann)
There are those who now try to cast Kennedy as a liberal Democrat, and those who try to cast him as a conservative Republican, mainly in an effort to acquire some unearned benefit from such an association – a tactic so very common for Boomers and their kids. But neither characterization is anywhere near accurate, simply because the definitions of both have changed so very much in the intervening years. The only way to understand Kennedy, and those around him in his administration, is to view him in the context of his own generation and in full consideration of his unique ethnic background – Famine-Irish Catholic. He just seemed to naturally attract the best and brightest of us all. Few among us have such a sense of their place in history as did Kennedy and the men of his family, and so the man must be viewed solely within the moment in which his life was forever frozen in time. As a full-fledged member of the Greatest Generation, he knew precisely who he was – his own man. He also knew what was right, and what was wrong, and, far more importantly, he knew why.
Beginning in the mid-1970s there has been a steady effort among Baby Boomers to “revise” the public’s, and especially the vulnerable young student’s, understanding of President Kennedy and his administration. Continuously killing Kennedy long after his death has been part of a favorite pastime of a certain despicable segment of American society. These are the same people who so hate American soldiers, mainly, I believe, out of some sense of guilt, or self-loathing. This pervasive revisionist effort has been leveled on most past male American figures of stature, including even the nation’s Founding Fathers. There seems to be a certain delicious delight among many of today’s lesser mortals to vilify those who stood out as worthy leaders to emulate, primarily because they were white and male, but also because they set standards that subsequent generations, and especially the spoiled and slacker Baby Boomers, refused to meet. At the forefront among this worthless Boomer clique have been our legions of privileged “feminists”, followed by those basking in care-free socialist academia. “If the standards are too high, just destroy those who set them.” This makes lesser others who follow after them feel better about themselves for accomplishing almost nothing except negatives. While male-destructive Baby Boomer revisionists in academia focused on Kennedy’s role in civil rights and foreign affairs, female Boomers focused on his personal life to denigrate. Together they succeeded in very considerably lowering the stature of the man and his brief 1000-day administration in the eyes of subsequent generations of Americans.
Inexorably lowering the standards everywhere has been the Boomers’ single greatest talent, most notably exhibited by American “feminists”. Of course, over 90% of the revisionism has been just petty jealousy of inconsequential people who have always been far better at destruction than at construction, far better at whining than actually doing anything. (The “thinking” behind this relentless assault on standards is that, if the standards are eliminated, then any twit can demand a “quota right” – a “birthright entitlement” – to fill any position they like, with no real effort, record, capability, or even brains, required. Today you can see its effects throughout government and “education”, and now moving smartly into business and throughout society. The inmates are running the asylum.)
Take it from a man who knows, who was there: Don’t buy any of it; no Baby Boomer was ever worthy of shining Kennedy’s shoes, least of all any self-serving “feminist”, in any venue in which he ventured. All you have to consider is the fact that Kennedy always led by his own example, from the front, and that he knew very well what his generation was capable of as well as the limits of the speed with which he could bring his nation along with him. He was even able to almost completely hide from public view the fact that he lived most of his life in excruciating pain and instead displayed on stage the image of a young vigorous American in the prime of his life. (Shamefully wallowing in one’s perpetual victimhood was then definitely not anything to ever even consider in America.) This very gifted man was able to reach back into his Famine-Irish heritage and stir us all, deep within our souls, to strive one last time to rise to the occasion, on a course that was true, right and just, in a land that offered that greatest of rights – opportunity. Jack Kennedy stood on the shoulders of just three short generations of American Kennedys who had started with less than nothing – to reach, within just 100 years, the planet’s pinnacle position, on his own demonstrated merit.
For me, America began its long slow death on 22 November 1963, and by August 1969 the causes of the illness had become starkly clear. It’s been downhill ever since.
(See “August 1969 – The Dividing Line”.)
(I was never impressed with Ted Kennedy in the same way that I was with his older brothers Jack and Bobby. Ted seemed to come from a different crowd, had more of a sense of entitlement because of the family’s name, and his political philosophy rapidly diverged from the original Kennedy mantra of citizen opportunity to one far more based on citizen dependence. Ted Kennedy, lacking the talents of his brothers, quickly followed the example of most Baby Boomer politicians – and simply bought the votes he needed with other people’s money. After a very rough start that would have ended the career of anyone not standing on the Kennedy name, Ted quickly learned to play to the Baby Boomer game of “me-ism”, by using government revenues to buy his “leadership”, rather than actually earning it by his own example. Knowing that he and his early life’s record fell far short of his three older brothers, Ted simply embraced the Boomers’ standards and spent the rest of his career buying the dependency votes needed to remain in office.)
By 1960, Army Major General Edwin Walker, a West Point graduate who had served with distinction in World War II and Korea, had became progressively more ultra-conservative/ anti-communist – until he garnered the ire of both President Eisenhower and President Kennedy in succession. This guy just kept testing the limits, in public, and finally stepped over. As a consequence of his public non-military actions, he submitted his resignation, twice. (A US military resignation, unlike a retirement, forfeits earned retired pay (or “pension”).) Eisenhower in 1959 rejected the first, but Kennedy in 1961 accepted the second.
The next year, in 1962, Walker ran for Texas governor and lost to John Connally, and then got arrested at Old Miss for leading riots against the admission, supported by the Kennedy brothers, of black student James Meredith. On 10 April 1963, a bullet fired from a high powered rifle from only 100 feet barely missed hitting General Walker in his own home, but the shooter remained unknown. Seven months later, on 23 November 1963, a bullet fired from a high powered rifle about the same distance did not miss hitting President Kennedy. The shooter of both the far-right conservative leader and the moderate liberal leader was the same loser with the same rifle. That nut job had told his wife in advance about the first assassination attempt, but she never told anyone until after the second, and successful, assassination.
She knew, but she never said anything…..
Two centuries earlier, in 1770 the Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke made an observation that was repeated in different terms in 1867 by the British philosopher and political theorist John Stuart Mill. In 1961 President Kennedy addressed the Canadian Parliament and used a slightly different version of the original Burke quotation: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Or women. She knew, but she never said anything…..
If you are uncomfortable with any of the inconvenient truths I post here, know this: Silence is not an option.
*This was one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite poems:
by Alan Seeger* (1888 – 1916)
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
*The poet Alan Seeger was an American who fought in World War I while serving in the French Foreign Legion (1914-16) and died during the Battle of the Somme at age 28. First published posthumously in 1917, it is unclear when it was written, although it does echo a letter he had written in 1915 from France. A classmate of T.S. Eliot and Walter Lippmann at Harvard, Seeger edited and wrote for the Harvard Monthly. Among his friends at Harvard was the Communist John Reed, though the two had differing ideological views. His brother Charles Seeger, a noted pacifist and musicologist, was the father of American folk singers “Pete” Seeger, Mike Seeger, and “Peggy” Seeger.
In December 1914 Seeger wrote of his frustration with life in the trenches: “This style of warfare is extremely modern and for the artillerymen is doubtless very interesting, but for the poor common soldier it is anything but romantic. His role is simply to dig himself a hole in the ground and to keep hidden in it as tightly as possible. Continually under the fire of the opposing artillery batteries, he is yet never allowed to get a glimpse of the enemy. Exposed to all the dangers of war, but with none of its enthusiasms or splendid élan, he is condemned to sit like an animal in its burrow and hear the shells whistle over his head and take their little daily toll from his comrades.” Eighteen months later Seeger sustained mortal wounds in the stomach from a barrage of six German machine guns during his unit’s costly but successful assault on the heavily fortified village of Belloy-en-Santerre on the 4th of July in 1916. (This battle was intended as a diversion from a much larger assault near Verdun, about 120 miles to the southeast, where 300,000 soldiers died in an effort to re-take an earlier abandoned French fortress.) Buried in a mass grave, he was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille Militaire – for dying in someone else’s war on America’s Independence Day.
The action which took his life is known by the British as part of the Battle of Albert – in which British casualties totaled 85,000, French casualties 25,000 and German casualties 40,000, in a single battle (1-20 July 1916) that accomplished nothing but bloodshed. In his part, on 4 July, about 2,000 legionnaires and war-period-volunteers of the Marching Regiment of the Foreign Legion (RMLE) attacked fortified German positions at Belloy-en-Santerre, just 800 m (875 yards) distant. Hundreds of the legionnaires were quickly killed by intensive shelling and German machine guns before liberating the occupied village. The RMLE lost almost all officers and NCOs and more than 800 soldiers. After many strong counter-attacks launched all night by German forces, the RMLE took about 750 prisoners (more than the number of combat-ready men then within the RMLE itself), including 15 German officers. (One of the German soldiers wounded and evacuated to Munich from that same Somme battle was a young messenger named Adolf Hitler, who was awarded the Iron Cross before voluntarily returning to the front lines, the same Iron Cross he wore on his uniform for the rest of his life. He never forgot the rage he felt against his own incompetent officers and against his country’s ruthless enemies. Others wounded there included Harold Macmillan, Otto Frank, J.R. Tolkien and war poet Siegfried Sassoon.)
Seeger’s poems are valuable as a manifestation of the naïve idealism that swept over his generation despite the manipulations of aristocratic rulers seeking their own survival at any costs to others. In search of intense excitement in life, Seeger the romantic also had a fatalistic streak and seemed attracted to the possibility of his own death. The outcome of the war was of less interest to Seeger than the glory of comradeship and adventure. And yet he writes about having a premonition of his death and regrets leaving behind life’s pleasures and love. But he does not fear or abhor death. Instead he is stoic, making his rendezvous a matter of honor. But there really was very little that was honorable about the way he and most other soldiers on all sides died during World War I. Waiting for bombs to bury you in your mudhole and running straight into blazing machineguns are things that even politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, aristocrats, “special” people – of both genders – can do, and should. Just dump their dismembered bodies in a mass grave and send a little “Cross Of War” medal home to their survivors. “Next!”
Footnote #4: Equality. The most fundamental principle of American law and justice is “all men equal under the law“. Once you start playing around with that principle, for example, to designate “special” people or “special” circumstances, you are firmly on the road to legalizing anything, including bigotry, slavery, even murder. You are also in violation of the United States Constitution. There is no “special” in equal, and civil rights are shared equally by all Americans, including boys. (A lot of nitwits anymore have considerable difficulty getting their tiny brains around such a simple concept.)
Footnote #5: Irish Music
Here are a few of the Irish-Gaelic-Celtic songs that I like. Among them, Connie Dover has a voice that seems to drift for miles across lush green hills and quiet valley streams. And if you think that all Irish fiddles cry, just check out what Natalie MacMaster and Máiréad Nesbitt (of Celtic Woman) can do with one.
Altan – “Dulaman”, “Stor, A Stor, A Ghra” and “Uncle Rat”. (Altan’s music has always been true to the Gaelic roots from which it grew.)
Capercaillie – “Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda” (Capercaillie is a Scottish group that specializes in Celtic Gaelic roots music.)
Celtic Woman – “Granuaile’s Dance” and “Mo Ghile Mear” (Celtic Woman has become a popular Irish institution, moving out into a world far beyond its Irish roots, just like the Irish themselves, and finding the common emotional thread that still links them all. Slender, smallish and fit, Celtic Woman’s blond 5’2″ Máiréad Nesbitt seems to defy her sterling classical musical credentials on violin and piano. She plays that fiddle so fast while dancing quick step with herself in an evening gown that you can’t see her hand move the bow on the strings – and she never misses a note. The spirited Irish Tom Boy … all dressed up pretty in m’lady’s clothes. And even the gown and the castle can’t hide the tightly bound energy of the delightful Irish farm girl at the Friday night town pub. Her music is her Irish soul.)
Chieftans – “Tá an Coileach Ag Fógairt an Lae” (The Chieftans group has remained dedicated to traditional Irish instrumental music, mostly built around pipes, since forming in Dublin a half century ago.)
Clannad – “Teidhir Abhaile Riú” and “Coinleach Glas An Fhómhair” (Clannad is a band from Donegal that blends traditional Irish music with New Age sounds in music that can also be heard as sound tracts to movies like ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Last of the Mohicans’.)
Connie Dover – “Fear An Bhata” (The Boatman), “How Can I Live At The Top Of The Mountain”, “I Am Going To The West” and “Weston” (Dover is a superb American folk ballad singer constantly researching and exploring the interplay between traditional Celtic and American music – Scotland-Ireland and Appalachia-Old West. When I was young I met Joan Baez over beers at 1789 in Georgetown (DC), so I know that Connie Dover is in that same class.)
Enya – “Athair Ar Neamh” and “Na Laetha Geal Móige” (Enya is a gifted Irish singer-composer with a global fame whose music transcends its solid Irish roots blended with church and classical music to create evocative new sounds.)
Máire Brennan – “Against The Wind” (This Irish folk singer, songwriter and harpist from Dublin began performing professionally in 1970 when her family formed the band Clannad and is now widely considered the “First Lady of Celtic Music“.)
Méav Ní Mhaolchatha – “She Moved Through The Fair” (This singer and songwriter from Donnybrook and formerly with Celtic Woman specializes in traditional music of Ireland.)
Natalie MacMaster – “Tullochgorum” and “David’s Jig” (MacMaster, from Nova Scotia, Canada, whose music follows a trail similar to Connie Dover’s – from Ireland and Scotland to rural Canada and American Bluegrass and square dancing.)
Orla Fallon – “Siuil A Run” and “Ma Ghile Mear” (Fallon is a harpist and singer formerly with Celtic Woman from County Wicklow.)
Skilda – “The Flower Of Finae” (Skilda, led by singer Naia Wolf from Limerick, follows Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland to Breton (northern France) to blend the past with the present in a new continental sound.)
When you know enough about Irish music, you’ll be able to hear it in the score to “The Last Of The Mohicans” and begin to understand nearly forgotten New World connections.
Then, of course, there’s Dublin’s Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, and his band U2.
And if you want to experience romantically adventurous times long gone, sample the special storytelling talents of Canadian soprano Loreena McKennitt – “Highwayman”, “Night Ride Across The Caucasus” (Listen to the drums and hear the hooves galloping along mountain trails.), “Lady Of Shalott”, “Mummer’s Dance”. Loreena is the brave and beautiful flaming red-haired heroine whose music travels the back roads of the planet, usually on fast white stallions, pausing briefly here and there in very special and dangerous places for a romantic adventure such as great legends and Zhivago novels are chiseled in dreams.
And, I don’t care what the experts say; I remain convinced that the “American square dance” was born in Ireland as reels and jigs, popularized in Appalachia by Famine Irish, and introduced to Europe, especially in Bavaria, after World War II by Irish-American GIs. They just had to make it all much simpler for the non-Irish to master. When you realize that Riverdance has its roots in complex Irish stepdancing, you begin to see why I know I’m correct. (Or as correct as an Irishman can be about such things.) :o)
Of course, I’m also a member of another group that has always been subject to self-serving bigotry – professional American soldier. This is that group that everyone else presumes is made up of “brainless nitwits” who always do “whatever they are told to do”, who are those inanimate widgets superior others like to call “troops”, expendable riffraff who are “paid to die”, for “special me”. This is the group responsible for providing essential vicarious self-worth, for winning elections and garnering promotions, for lesser others. I know that many who have taken the time to read even one or two of the articles posted here are quite surprised to discover that an actually thinking soldier knows this stuff, and obviously a library more, and can easily articulate it so others can, too. Few understand how rapidly a guy like me can get bored senseless by many of those I now meet outside my world.
Literally everyone likes to imagine that there are others who are “inferior” to “me”, over whom they can smugly wield their “inherent” superiority. That is the self-serving fantasy at the foundation of literally ALL bigotry, since the beginning of humanity. It’s much more comforting to blame others for our own shortcomings, to belittle those who do a better job than we do, to accuse those who succeed in the arena of all sorts of inane conspiracies, etc.. But just think about it a moment. Professional soldiers don’t enjoy the luxury of basking in the self-serving comfort of delusion. It’s important to their very lives to know the real truth, to aggressively question popular beliefs, to challenge group think and incompetent direction. And knowing what they don’t know is equally important to their continued lives; a soldier who engages in wishful thinking is a dead soldier. Worse, people who immediately get incensed with the deliberate murder of one of their “special” own can very easily simply dismiss the murder of “worthless” soldiers, whose deaths and maiming in stupid wars we send them to can simply be written off as of zero consequence to themselves, or anything else. We will readily sacrifice a dozen or more of those soldiers to rescue one civilian, and think nothing of it – except to blame them all if the effort fails.
There are no lobbies, no unions, no politicians buying votes, to champion these widgets, to defend their rights, to counter the bigotry, etc.. Today there is almost no one in their larger society who even understands them, or cares. We just pay them when they’re needed, and fire them when they’re not, no questions asked or answered. And when we do need them, we assume they can just pop out of their boxes and go to work like primed and ready incredibly advanced machines capable of flawlessly executing any job we are capable of dreaming up for them. It never seems to dawn on us that they are us, all of us, that they come from everywhere in America, are often diamonds mined from the rough lying everywhere. At this moment we are firing them by the thousands into a society where 24,000,000 others are looking for jobs; have you heard a peep of protest out of any of them? Outside bully lobbies literally salivate knowing that members of this group can simply be dictated to, that they have no lobbies of their own, that they actually give up, willingly, many of their own rights as American citizens in order to serve honorably in those uniforms. Their group thus makes the perfect petri dish for all sorts of externally imposed social engineering experiments by those with their own separate politburo commissariat policing their every breath – dictates which, of course, can not be so easily imposed on the larger society. (It’s always reminded me of Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, the odious tyranny of unassailable passive-aggressive dictatorship, in the holy name of “me”, damned the consequences to anyone else. In my mind, Nurse Ratched IS American “feminism” – along with its moronic emasculated minions.)
I am a man who has spent his entire life with no less than five big targets on his chest – “white”, “male”, “heterosexual”, “American” and “soldier” – the very safest target there is for all the little people in my society and throughout the world. (It’s even safer, if that’s even possible, to use us as targets after we’re dead, and a lot of those lesser twits really love to profit from that simple fact, to defame our memory after we’re gone.) I deeply sympathize with those who went before me with yet a sixth target on their chests (or backs) – Famine Irish.
I have never in my life benefitted from “affirmative action”, from “unearned birthright entitlement”, never once benefitted in any way simply due to marriage or money, much less to membership in any “special” minority group. I have never sought anything from anyone, except the same level of competent professionalism as everyone has always expected of me. I have spent my entire life in the “acceptable” free fire zone, at home and abroad – not because of anything I have ever done or not done, but for just being a member of groups responsible by default for everything. So I don’t accept anything that I haven’t independently proven to myself, ugly warts and all. But it does pain and embarrass me to encounter, in the 21st century, so many really ignorant and stupid “men”, and offensively “entitled” women, everywhere around me, like an epidemic, a disease. Is there something in the water? I am forever thankful that I got a decent formal education before venturing out into a world that taught me enormously more. But what the hell has been going on at home while I was busy elsewhere? The continuous worship of “special me” has stripped away the standards, and there’s no one left with the responsibility, no one to hold accountable. (Did you ever see “Idiocracy” (2006)?)
Lyrics by Pete Townshend, The Who
No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies
But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free
No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you!
No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through
But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free
When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool
No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
I am NOT reponsible for your free choices, for your elective behavior. Measure up!