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Voices of Concern for Our Imperiled Democracy

VOICES OF CONCERN FOR OUR IMPERILED DEMOCRACY

An Introduction by Gerald A. DiGrezio, Colonel, USA, retired

Below is a letter I signed along with 16 other members of my 1968 Infantry Officer Candidate School at Ft Benning, GA.  While we certainly do not claim that we represent the views of the entire class during this period of extreme political diversity, we are a group of mostly Vietnam Veterans with a very singular concern. The signers come from all political persuasions and areas of this country but are united in our concern for what has transpired during the past four years of this presidency.

We are in an era of time when each week a discovered situation would bring the demise of an administration, but we have become so shell shocked that it barely causes a ripple in the news cycle.  We are led by a president who is only concerned with his own image and is bereft of any concern for the Constitution and the rule of law.  Just two instances in a very long list are his multiple firings of Inspectors General and the U. S. Attorney in Manhattan.

The duplicity by the Republicans in Congress and the United States Senate has been palpable.  To watch the demise of a political party that prided itself on  patriotism and support of the Constitution has been mystifying at best and duplicitous at worst.

While we know that this letter will only be a raindrop in a deluge of national concern, the signers felt compelled to issue it.  After all, we took and oath to defend this country against all enemies “foreign and domestic.”  And while I never expected to say it, the greatest threat to the United States of America is resoundingly domestic.

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VOICES OF CONCERN FOR OUR IMPERILED DEMOCRACY

We the undersigned are former or retired army officers now in our seventies.  We share a common bond, having graduated from the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1968.  From there, we served in the military in a variety of capacities, wherever we were needed.  As young men, we were committed to defending America’s values, our freedoms, our democracy, and our Constitution.  Some of us made a career in the military, but most of us went on to have productive careers back home in the civilian world.  As a group, we have diverse political views: Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, and Conservatives.  But we are all concerned Americans.

In the past few months, our system of government has been increasingly under siege.  Our nation has reached this critical point under the current administration of Donald J. Trump.  Important voices have begun to speak out, led by respected members of the highest military rank.  We would like to join this chorus of alarm.

Our government structure, with its co-equal branches, is in jeopardy.  Our judicial system is reeling.  The FBI, the CIA and the NSA are being mocked and belittled.  Our Attorney General’s office is overtly politicized.  Our State Department is being decimated. Where are the voices of outrage in Congress? The Senate is virtually mute.

We are concerned that our country is rapidly spinning toward a Presidency staffed by family members and cronies in which the only prerequisite is blind loyalty.  The United States is withdrawing from the world, enjoying little respect internationally.  This cannot continue.  

Quoting James Mattis, a Marine Four Star General and former Secretary of Defense:

                 “We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority…We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

We honor the General’s courage, and emphatically call on both chambers of Congress to follow his lead in defending our democracy and our Constitution.  We urge all Americans to consider these ideals as you vote this Fall.

         Signed:                                                                   

John F. Baxter III (1LT, USA)
Mark T. Creaven (1LT, USA)
Larry W. Clark (1LT, USA)
Colonel Gerald A. DiGrezio, USA, Retired
Joseph F. Frisz (1LT, USA)
John A. Guy (1LT, USA)
Gary J. Goodman (1LT, USA)
Captain Robert R. Hammeras, USA, Retired
Daniel R. Mabesoone (1LT, USA)
A.C. (Budd) Mazurek (1LT, USA)
John F. McMackin Jr. (1LT, USA)
Carl A. Ohlson (1LT, USA)
Charles A. Powell (1LT, USA)
John B. Slidell (1LT, USA)
Lt. Colonel Charles R. Stone, USA, Retired
Lt. Colonel Ralph S. Swingler, USA, Retired
Wayne P. Yetter (1LT, USA)
 

Copyright: Gerald A. DiGrezio, all rights reserved.

 

BLM Is Gaining Awareness--Thank You, Pandemic!

BLM Is Gaining Awareness--Thank You, Pandemic!

By

Paul Thomas

Chuck's Note: Paul Thomas is an educator and a self-described "geek" and  "mutt." On his personal blog, A Reston Kid Rambles (restonkid.blogspot.com), he writes about race, music, politics, economics, and many other topics. An education consultant who does business as Docent Learning (www.docentlearning.com), Paul also blogs about educational topics at Driven to Learn (blog.docentlearning.com). Paul lives in Reston, VA with his wife and two kids. Paul originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission. 

So... I have seen articles about why Black Lives Matter is gaining such traction now. Why didn't it gain this sustained attention after the deaths of Trayvon Martin or the Charleston Nine or Philando Castile? I know that the movement has been building in strength for years, and that the current political climate helps shine a light on the issues. But I think we have something else to thank for the current focus: The Pandemic.

Thanks to the pandemic, the normally short news cycle is lengthened. There are no playoffs or movie premiers or new seasons or political rallies to distract us. We aren't splitting our time between conference rooms and gyms and brutal commutes and Little League and band concerts and parties. Instead, we're sitting in our homes and focusing on the problems around us. We're worried about the heroes caring for the sick and the underpaid workers who are barely hanging on. We're worried about widening opportunity gaps for students who are falling farther behind. We're worried about how small businesses will recover. We're worried about how we are all going to move forward!

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In this sea of worry, we see this horrific video, and there is nothing to distract us from it. Now we have something for which we can stand up and fight. We can't do much about many of the things we worry about, but we can stand up and protest the systemic racism of which police brutality is a symptom.

Thanks, pandemic!

You've made us a captive audience that can't turn away from the structural racial issues in our society that we haven't made the time to focus on before. They aren't new, but now we are giving them the attention for which they have been screaming for years!

Copyright: Paul Thomas; all rights reserved.

>>>Want to share your thoughts? Send them to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

Bobby Kennedy Is Buried; I Graduate From College

Bobby Kennedy Is Buried; I Graduate From College
by
Chuck Cascio
 
     My college graduation was forever marred by an event that I still remember in detail. On June 8, 1968, I graduated from Wagner College on Staten Island, NY, a school I loved. At Wagner, I developed close friends with whom I knew I would share a lifelong bond (I was correct). While that day was one of great satisfaction, it was also the day that Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had emerged as the political hero of my life, was buried after being shot in the head at close range on June 5 in a Los Angeles hotel.
     
     To me, and to many in my generation, "Bobby" Kennedy was more than just another politician. He was fearless. He walked into riot-torn cities and tried to calm protesters. He united with Civil Rights leaders to champion their causes. He spoke with deep passion in a way that a young person could not only relate to but wanted desperately to emulate. 
     
 

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     Yes, he was born wealthy, but Bobby Kennedy understood that what he was given was not something that everyone was given...nor was it something that everyone could attain. But he wanted to make everything possible for everyone. He wanted to create opportunities. He strove fiercely for fairness and equality. 

     There were times when I was home from college that I would drive by Bobby's home, called Hickory Hill, in McLean, VA, and catch a glimpse of a small group of people playing what looked like touch football in their yard. Was that him? Did I see Bobby? I don't know for sure. I will never know. But I know this: 
     
     His energy and commitment and words are burned into my memory. 
     
     On the car ride home to Northern Virginia following my graduation, my parents and I saw glimpses of crowds gathered around train tracks to mourn as Bobby Kennedy's body, which had been flown into New York, was being taken by train to Arlington National Cemetery. The crowds were so dense, the normally four-hour train ride took more than eight hours. Bobby was buried that night, the same night my diploma was mounted on a wall in my bedroom.
     
     Over the years that have passed I, like so many others, often reflect on my college years, the learning, the experiences, the friends. But I also have found myself reflecting on Bobby Kennedy's unique idealism and, lately, certain words spoken by him--and other words spoken about him--spring to mind. This is Robert F. Kennedy speaking on the importance of acting against injustice:
     
     Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.
     
     And this is what Bobby's younger brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, said at the end of his eulogy for Bobby on the night of June 8, 1968:
     
     My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
     
     Time has flown, and I can't believe 52 years have passed since I graduated from college. But time also seems to have stood still, as  I can't believe that  52 years after the burial of Robert F. Kennedy I have not yet seen that "what he wished for others" has, in fact, "come to pass for all the world."   
     
     Perhaps the world will graduate to that level someday soon.
 

Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

Of Vice and Men--Life In the Time of Corona (Seventh In An Unlimited Series)

Life In the Time of Corona (Seventh In An Unlimited Series)
 
Of Vice and Men
By
Marc Cascio
 

Chuck's Note: Marc Cascio is my son and (I don't mind saying!) an outstanding English teacher, soccer coach, father, and viewer of humanity. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

     I once heard a great story about a Jewish shopkeeper in Germany just before the Holocaust. The poor shopkeeper was besieged by a small clan of German youths who would stand outside of his store and hurl antisemitic invectives at him. The young men terrified customers away and deeply upset the shopkeeper and his family. One day, the shopkeeper had an idea- he confronted the hoodlums and said, "I will pay you two deustscmarks per person per day to stand her and insult me". The bewildered Germans laughed and escalated their tirades. After two days, the shopkeeper came out and said, " Very well done! For the next few days, I will pay you five deutschmarks per person per day to stand here and insult me". Again, the young Germans ramped up their assault, laughing at the crazy Jewish man paying them to insult him and drive his business away. After a few days, the shopkeeper approached the teens and said " You have done such a fine job that I can no longer afford to pay you. I am afraid there will be no more money". The leader of the thugs responded, "We will not stand here all day for free!" and they all left. 

     I cannot prove the veracity of the story, but in my mind the principle can be easily proven: avarice supersedes reason. For most, if not all of us, we can always find a way to justify getting what we want. Don't believe me? Then why do so many people have staggering credit card debt? Why go out to eat when you have a freezer full of food and say " Well, we deserve this"?  

     I am a teacher though, and I have further proof. You can get students to do almost anything by uttering one two word term - EXTRA CREDIT! The student who is failing hopelessly and the student whose average is pinned at 100 alike will do most anything for it. Hell, as a teacher, you don't even have to really DELIVER it, you just have to SAY you will. The term "extra" makes it seem like they are getting something special and exceptional, and you can make students dance (trust me) for it.

     If you need further proof, check out the "Singer Solution to World Poverty" or, better yet, read the amazing short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin - spoiler alert: the person you wish you were, would walk, the person you are, would never.

     So, what's the point? 

     The pictures below are of Ocean City, Maryland's boardwalk on Memorial Weekend and of Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, maskless and greeting people at Virginia Beach. (Northam has since apologized.)


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     For the masses at Ocean City, the desire to be out and enjoying a beautiful Memorial Day weekend supersedes the ignorant actions of gathering like this in the face of a pandemic! If you rolled out the corpses of the 100,000 that this thing has killed on to the boardwalk, people wouldn't come. However, because the threat isn't immediate, and because people are too thick headed to postpone what they DESIRE instead of doing what is right, some of these people will get sick, and some of those who do will either die themselves or transmit the virus to those who will die.

     For Northam, he evidently (at the time, at least) lacked the moral and intellectual fortitude to forego acting in a manner that he would condemn in others in order to attain photo ops to further his own agenda. I am quite sure Northam would blast Trump for his Michigan idiocy, yet here he is hypocrisizing himself for what I assume is to curry political favor.

     A virus is stupid and egalitarian. It doesn't discriminate between smart or stupid hosts, black , white, or any other color hosts, gay or straight hosts, or religious or atheistic hosts. It just does its thing provided the opportunity. It isn't even malicious: it's a mindless predator of primitive derivation.

     Science and religion don't converge often. How ironic would it be if a virus, at the bottom of the evolutionary realm, were to decimate humans, at the top of the evolutionary realm, because we refused to use the gift of intelligence bestowed upon us via evolution or a creator due to the Biblical sins of greed, pride, and vanity? Eschewing common sense in favor of transient happiness may be the curse of humanity, emanating from its supposedly greatest asset. 

Copyright Marc Cascio; all rights reserved.

Comments? Write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

"That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement--Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)

 
Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)
 
 
"That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement
By
Robert Sihler
 
Chuck's Note: Robert Sihler lives in Driftwood, Texas, where he works in special education in the Dripping Springs Independent School District. His passions are rock climbing and mountaineering and getting his children to roll their eyes at him! He often moonlights as a climbing guide and instructor. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

 

I don't do politics and religion on my Facebook page. There are people I like and love who have widely different views on these things than I do-- both to the left and to the right-- and it just isn't worth fighting about this with any of them. On a personal level, I like them more than I dislike their positions.

But I feel compelled to throw my own worthless two cents in on a particular subject: masks.

I'm of the Atticus Finch school, which is that you should try to see other points of view. 

So far, most people reading this will agree, but here's where the split will happen:

A majority of Americans, including me, want the nation to reopen. But among that majority is a majority that wants to be careful about it.

And this is where we are splitting now. Suddenly, wearing a mask or not wearing one has been turned into a political statement by conservative media. Either you are a brave patriot eschewing masks and flouting distancing guidelines, or you are a coward trembling in your living room under the sway of the deep state and the media and, predictably, George Soros, and, preposterously, Bill Gates.

My friends, this is completely false.

 

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First, let me say that I'm personally not that concerned about covid-19 affecting me. I have always had a strong immune system. On the rare occasions I do get sick, I recover very quickly, and without medical treatment. So although I could be tragically wrong, I suspect that if I contract the virus, I will be asymptomatic or that I will experience mild symptoms that will pass quickly.

Next, I do understand the frustration and desperation building out there. I am lucky to be among those staying home but still getting paid, and I am supplementing my income by working online as a copywriter. Not for a second do I dismiss the worries of those who have been out of work for weeks now and are facing a financial and mental abyss.

Finally, I think I look plain stupid wearing a mask. For a while, I didn't bother wearing one except where it was required. But now I am wearing one in enclosed spaces where others are near.

You can call me a coward if you like, but as I've already said, I'm not really afraid of the coronavirus for my sake. I wear a mask because I have no idea if I might be carrying and so I don't want to risk passing it on to others if I happen to sneeze or cough while I'm standing next to a bunch of people in the bread aisle.

Over the past couple of months, I've continued going to grocery stores and convenience stores. I've probably climbed more than I did the previous two months. I've been spending money and supporting local businesses, not cowering behind the couch at home and wishing it would just all be over.

You might be of the mindset that masks and distancing are pointless and we might as well just get it over with. If you are, I know I can't persuade you. But if you're of that mindset and you intentionally get close to people when you know many are trying to avoid that, why are you doing that?

What if you are an asymptomatic carrier and you infect someone and that person dies? How would you feel about that? Are you that person who knowingly serves a person a food he or she claims to be allergic to just because you don't believe it? I mean, I get tired of all the accommodations allergic people demand, too, but I'm still not going to crack my pistachios over the head of a person with a nut allergy. So why can't you make your statement from a distance?

When I put on that stupid mask, it's not for me; it's for you.

When I put on that stupid mask, it's not a political statement. And it isn't one for most people wearing them.

Unfortunately, it has become a political statement to not wear a mask and to not distance yourself from people you don't live with. It's been turned into a loyalty test, loyalty to Trump.

It doesn't have to be this way. Here in a pretty red area of Texas, I routinely see bearded guys in big pickups wearing masks indoors. There's no way more than a few of them vote D. They're going to vote for Trump, but they're wearing masks because they get that the virus is not political and that they may have vulnerable loved ones; there are a lot of old people here, and Texans, for all their faults, do have strong family bonds.. 

Vote however you want in November. If you vote for Trump and Trump wins, I'm not going to have a meltdown and unfriend you because I think that will really show you, lol. And if Biden wins, I hope most of you who vote for Trump won't do the same. I expect better from all of us because of the connections we had way before all of this. And, as always, I'll climb with anyone regardless of politics as long as you're a solid partner.

But please reject this false dichotomy being peddled for the sole purpose of dividing us. You can wear a mask and still vote for Trump. If you won't wear a mask, you can at least respect the distance others want and expect. Trolling is fun, but it's not funny when lives could be at risk.

You can also be a Biden voter and be completely fed up with some of the restrictions. That's okay, too; some of them are ridiculous.

I remember Ronald Reagan's calm and compassion after the Space Shuttle disaster had the country in tears. I remember George H.W. Bush's competent leadership when the Middle East was blowing up and we thought war was coming. I remember Bill Clinton trying to comfort and heal after Columbine. I remember George Bush rallying a shocked nation after 9-11; his words moved me, and when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle led Congress in singing "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes and felt proud to be an American. And I remember Barack Obama trying to lead us out of a terrible recession that hurt so many people.

All of those presidents and their policies had flaws, but they tried to unite the nation in times of crisis. They stepped up to the moment. History will judge their efficacy, but they did try.

Today, we have a president who hasn't even tried to do that. As polls and facts and numbers have increasingly gone against him, he says he never said what he is on video saying, he moves the goalposts, and he pursues division, not persuasion or correction or reconciliation.

If you like Trump, okay. If you don't, okay. But it's clear he's not going to lead us out of this. Please, let's stop talking past each other trying to score points and instead talk to each other. If I can have rational conversations with family and friends who vote differently than I do, so can you.

And you can wear a mask in the grocery store or at least stay away from others if you won't. It's not hard and it's not much to ask, and it's not violating your rights under the Constitution.

Stay safe, be well, and climb on!

Copyright, Robert Sihler; all rights reserved.