A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
Last December I wrote a blog with this same title. It addressed my thoughts on some fundamentally different approaches to Mid-East peace, and my desire that one of the Presidential candidates would make it a major foreign policy discussion of their campaign. This posting will deal with the same desire but on a different issue - The United Nations.
Do you remember??
Eighteen years ago today our City was hit by a blitzkrieg. About 3 AM heavy rain turned to snow, and by daylight nearly ten inches of the heavy wet stuff covered most of Waukesha County. Trees, shrubs and all manner of plant life were devastated by the crushing weight, and though it would melt by the afternoon, the damage was done. We spent a good part of that summer cleaning up from the storm, and the sound of chain saws reverberated throughout our city for weeks.
While reading the news of President Bush's inept appeal to the House of Saud to increase its oil output, I was listening to an obscure Rolling Stones song called Sweet Black Angel, from the 1972 double-album Exile on Main Street. Recorded under surreal conditions, with the band mired in the downward spiral of guitarist Keith Richards' heroin addiction, the album remains one of the seminal works in all of rock. Angel is a tribute to the 1960's radical activist Angela Davis, and the lyrics include the "n" word - rightfully shocking in its raw and forbidden impact. The combination of the song and the news got me thinking about another "n" word that, unlike the one in the song, we should all be talking about.
The discussion of energy policy in this country is dysfunctional. Politicians who know nothing of economics blather about lower gas prices, trying desparately to believe they hold power over the law of supply and demand. Many others demand a decrease in carbon emissions, while others still remain steadfast in their refusal to allow exploration or drilling ANYWHERE in the United States, despite growing evidence of significant U.S. reserves. And of course EVERYONE wants to be less dependant on mid-East crude. Yet somehow this is all supposed to just happen of its sweet accord?!
I take the name of this article from the ancient lines of the Greek Poet Simonides:
“Go tell the Spartans, those that passeth by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie”.
These lines refer to the Leonidas and his heroic group of three hundred Spartans who blocked the Pass of Thermopylae, protecting their homeland from the advance of Xerxes’ Persian Army. They knew they would die, but chose to stay. They did so because they were raised to believe some things were worth more than their lives.
On Memorial Day of 2008 I think of many people. I think first of my father, father-in-law, and two uncles – all four World War Two Veterans. And I think of Brookfield Central Lancer and US Army Sergeant Scott Brown, and remember his young family.
I think of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who penned their names to a document ending with the words “and to this Declaration we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor”. Many would dangle at the end of a British rope for having signed that document. They felt their honor was worth that price.
I think of the private in the US Army of the Potomac, writing a letter to his young wife and four sons just a few days before Gettysburg. It is a missive of such pure and evocative beauty that it transcends our physical experience. I remember St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, and gazing in stupefied awe at Michelangelo’s Pieta. But even that did not have the impact upon me that Gettysburg did. Standing there on that hallowed ground in Pennsylvania, I remember thinking I would not want to meet the person who could do so and remain unmoved.
I think of Winston Churchill, alone and magnificent, defying Hitler as he proclaimed to the imperiled Free World, “We shall never surrender”.
I think of Douglas MacArthur, America’s greatest soldier and a distant relative of Churchill's. I envision him in his eighties on the plain of West Point, jaw still firm and shoulders square as he gave his last public address to the graduating Cadets, proclaiming as the theme of his address: “Duty, Honor, Country”.
I think of the opening scenes of Spielberg’s masterpiece Saving Private Ryan, with the enormous, overarching American flags lofting in the Channel-fed breezes, keeping vigil over the fallen that lie in the cemetery at Normandy.
I think of another cemetery - Arlington National outside of Washington D.C. It is a place of such reverential beauty that it beggars description. The land for the Cemetery once belonged to the family of Robert E. Lee and was confiscated by the Federal Government after the Civil War. I suspect that Lee would approve of how his land is being used.
The market always works. For centuries legislators have tried to control it, but the laws of economics are immutable, and stand well beyond the reach of their rhetoric.
The price of corn has tripled in less than eighteen months. While it is fair to say there are a few factors causing this, there is a primary cause - and that is the well-funded and horribly misguided rush to legislate ethanol fuels.