Thursday, March 28, 2013

Plato: The Cave

ca. 428-347 B.C.

Plato (a student of Socrates) was a teacher, philosopher, mathematician, writer, etc.  In his Allegory of the Cave- Plato's Republic , he symbolically describes his belief that:
1. The world as we know it is not "the real world" but a poor copy (shadow) of it.
2. The real world can only be understood by teachers directing student's minds toward what is real/ important and allowing them to comprehend it for themselves.
3. The pursuit of knowledge and truth is a natural (ingrained curiosity) and sometimes uncomfortable (hard work, painful, etc.) human endeavor.
4. The only way to obtain knowledge (education/ truth) is to take what we have about"anchor it"...and search/ think about it some more!
5. "Educated" individuals have a duty and responsibility to help bring out the best in their world.
 Watch this clip to help understand this post...
In The Cave: Prisoners are chained (unable to turn their heads to see what goes on behind them) within the darkness of the cave...behind the prisoners, are "puppeteers" and a fire casting  shadows on the wall- "hypnotized by their ignorance" - it is the only reality the prisoners know.

Fog's Analysis- The Cave = modern technology...television...text messages...Facebook...twitter...PowerPoint presentations...conventional wisdom...political talking heads...etc.

"The Cave"

Freedom From The Cave: Once the prisoner is released, he is forced (by his teacher) to look upon the fire/ objects that were once his only reality and to climb a long stairway out of the cave to "see the light".  Plato describes how the real truth will be painful (but ultimately wonderful) to the eyes of the prisoner, and how he would naturally want to return to The Cave where "the truth" is pleasant and painless.

Fog's Analysis- Freedom = seeking...questioning...introspection...hard work...appreciating various viewpoints...reading primary sources...more introspection...truth...etc.

Outside The Cave: When the prisoner finally climbs out of the cave, he is fully immersed in the light (truth)...confused, afraid, unsure, takes time for his eyes to adjust to his new reality.  The prisoner is excited with his "new understanding" and decides to return to speak to the unreleased prisoners.

Fog's Analysis- Outside the Cave = True education leads to uncomfortable truth...character...freedom...a life of service...killing jellyfish...etc.

" just have to walk out on a bad movie."

Back In The Cave: The prisoners laugh and ridicule him for "his ignorance and stupidity"... he is crazy!!!  It's at this point that Plato describes the "duty and responsibility" of a leader to do his best to share his new understanding of the world.   Plato then asks the question, "if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead them up, wouldn't they kill him?"

Fog's Analysis- Back in the Cave = Citizen-Leaders who pursue truth, freedom, justice, equality, peace, virtue, etc. are often mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted by those "in power"...

"Students must have initiative - they should not be mere imitators.
They must learn to think and act for themselves - and be free."
      -Cesar Chavez 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Who was John Basilone?

Who was John Basilone?  He was a Marine Sergeant who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Guadalcanal and the Navy Cross (posthumously) at Iwo Jima during WWII.  Warning: Video clips contain graphic violence and some offensive language.

HBO Tribute: John Basilone Remembered
GUADALCANAL: On October 24, 1942, 3,000 Japanese began an attack to take control of the airstrip (Henderson Field) on Guadalcanal...Basilone commanded two sections of machine guns (15 men) that maintained continuous fire for 3 days and nights without food or sleep.  They fought using defensive positions until only he and 2 other Marines remained.  During the battle, ammunition ran critically low and John fought through hostile enemy lines to resupply his fellow soldiers with urgently needed ammunition, at times using only a .45 caliber pistol.  Following this battle, John was awarded The Medal of Honor and ordered to return to the United States where he helped the government raise millions of dollars in a War Bond Tour.  He continually requested to return to fighting and after getting married was reassigned to the Pacific Theatre in early 1945. 
Basilone "Buy War Bonds" Poster
IWO JIMA: On February 19, 1945, Basilone led his men on to the beach at Iwo Jima where they were quickly pinned down by heavy Japanese machine gun and artillery fire.  He charged the machine gun nest, destroyed it with grenades/ demolitions, and led his men off the beach to begin the battle for Henderson Field.  
HBO: Iwo Jima Attack Scenes (10:20)

While advancing toward Henderson Field, he helped an American tank that was trapped in a Japanese mine field and was killed by enemy mortars.  John Basilone's actions during the early stages of the amphibious landing at Iwo Jima helped his fellow Marines attack nearly impenetrable Japanese forces and fight their way off of the beach.
John Basilone is interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bataan: We Shall Never Forget

  On April 9,1942 Luzon commander Gen. Edward King surrendered his forces to the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula. Numbering between 70,000-100,000 (Filipinos and Americans). Without food, ammunition, or military was the largest American Army surrender in history. Some refused to become prisoners and fled into the jungle and with Filipino guerillas started a significant resistance movement which grew to over 150,000+ throughout the Philippines. 
While the Japanese attacked Corregidor Island (which would surrender on May 6), they led their prisoners on a forced march now known as the "Bataan Death March".  The march lasted days over more than sixty treacerous miles of rugged terrain, inhumane atrocities, and intense heat with almost no water or food.  Between 5,000 and 11,000 never made it to Camp O'Donnell, where years of "hell on earth" awaited them.
 "The worst thing about the march was having your fellow American fall
and not being able to help had to keep going...keep going."
                                                                    - Vincent Silva
Several Stories
John Mims Story 
Vincent Silva reading an original poem (1:53)



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oh, Danny Boy

"Danny Boy" Sitting on Great-Grandpa Monie's Lap
circa early 1960's
Who is my favorite Irish-American?  That is an easy question...of course it would be my Scotch-Irish Great-Grandma Mae!  She was feisty, loving, loyal, temperamental, a great cook, and sometimes vulgar!  She loved my name because it would give her an excuse to sing "Danny Boy".  The words to "Danny Boy" were written by an English lawyer and songwriter Frederic Weatherly (who never even visited Ireland) in 1910.  In 1913, he modified the lyrics of "Danny Boy" to fit the melody of "Londonderry Air"...a popular Irish folk tune.  "Danny Boy" is considered to be the unofficial song and "national anthem" of the Irish who immigrated to Canada and America.  I can still hear her singing it from many decades ago...

Joan Baez sings "Danny Boy" (2:26)

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flow'rs are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The McCollum Memo

For years (and almost immediately after Pearl Harbor), conspiracy theorists have speculated that FDR knew in advance about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and used it as a "back door" to enter the war against Hitler's Germany.  One of the biggest "smoldering guns" in regard to the Pearl Harbor attack is The McCollum Memo.  What is the McCollum Memo? It’s a 6-page letter (declassified in 1994) written by Lt. Col. Arthur McCollum, a Naval Intelligence Officer in East Asia, and submitted to his superiors on October 7, 1940.  His superior officers were Navy Captains Walter Anderson and Dudley Knox, two of President Roosevelt's most trusted military advisers.  Lt. Col. McCollum gave his analysis of Japan’s strengths/ weaknesses and suggested a plan to consider political and military responses that might lead Japan "to commit an overt act of war".

Lt. Col. Arthur McCollum
Here is a summary of McCollum's 1940 "what if" plan to defend against/ provoke Japanese aggression in East Asia:
1.  U.S. Navy use of British bases in the Pacific, especially Singapore.
2.  A total embargo of all U.S. (Dutch and British Empire) trade with Japan, especially oil & steel.
3. Give all possible aid and military assistance to the Chinese government of Chiang-Kai-Shek.
4. Send a division of naval cruisers to the western Pacific.
5. Send two divisions of submarines to the western Pacific.
6. Station the main fleet of the U.S. Navy in the Hawaiian Islands.
 He finished the document with this interesting statement,
“If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better.”
Captain Knox read McCollum’s letter and added his comments…

"It is unquestionably to our interest that Britain be not licked - just now she has a stalemate and probably can't do better. We ought to make certain that she at least gets a stalemate. For this she will probably need from us substantial further destroyers and air-reinforcements to England. We should not precipitate anything in the Orient that would hamper our ability to do this - so long as probability continues. If England remains stable, Japan will be cautious in the Orient. Hence our assistance to England in the Atlantic is also protection to her and us in the Orient. However, I concur in your courses of action. We must be ready on both sides and probably strong enough to care for both."

But, what about the million-dollar question…does the McCollum Memo prove that FDR knew, provoked, or allowed Pearl Harbor as a "back door" to defeat Germany? At this time, there is zero factual evidence that the McCollum Memo ever landed on FDR's desk or that FDR allowed the attacks to happen.  Remember, it was Japan who attacked first, regardless of real or implied U.S. provocation, and it was Japan who (through diplomatic bungling also admitted by Japan in 1994...the "Declaration of War" was to arrive 25 minutes prior to the attack and arrived 1 hour and 20 minutes late) never intended the attack to be an undeclared act of war.  

But, take heart conspiracy theorists..there are other "smoldering guns"...many documents (including pre-attack intercepted messages...aka "Station H" and "JN-25") have yet to be declassified and released to the public domain. We can still hope for a better understanding of "the truth" of history in the future!

"History is an argument without an end..."
-Pieter Geyl



Monday, March 11, 2013

Sweet Land of Liberty...

April 1939
My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee WE sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

On Easter Sunday, 1939, the great contralto Marian Anderson sang for almost an hour on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the shadow of "The Great Emancipator"...drawing a sharp contrast between what had been...what was... and what should be. 

The Daughters of the American Revolution had refused her appearance at Constitution Hall, because of the color of her skin. In response, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the D.A.R., and arranged with the help of the NAACP for Marian's outdoor performance.  Marian traveled that morning from Philadelphia with her mother and sister (because no hotel in Washington, D.C. allowed African-Americans) and performed for thousands who attended and millions who listened to it live on radio.
I feel a hint of defiance, pain, sadness, pride, and resolute strength in her rendition of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee”.  When Marian changed the line “Of thee I sing” to “Of thee we sing”  the message was clear...true freedom, equality, justice, opportunity, hope of a better future must come. The impact of her performance had a powerful and immediate impact on millions of Americans...

One person in the crowd who was significantly impacted was 10 year old Martin Luther King, Jr...later at age 15, he entered a speaking contest on the topic “The Negro and the Constitution,” and he mentioned Anderson’s performance in his speech:
“She sang as never before, with tears in her eyes...when the words of ‘America’ and ‘Nobody Knows de Trouble I Seen’ rang out over that great gathering, there was a hush on the sea of uplifted faces, black and white, and a new baptism of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
That was a touching tribute...but Miss Anderson may not as yet spend the night in any good hotel in America.”
"Of Thee WE Sing!"
Two decades later, Dr. King stood on the same Lincoln Memorial steps to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech...he surely had Marian Anderson on his mind.

As long as you keep a person down,
some part of you has to be down there to hold him down,
 so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.
                                                                         -Marian Anderson

Monday, March 4, 2013

"The Only Thing To Fear Is Fear Itself"

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself...
and the fiscal cliff, global warming, $16 trillion deficit, sequestration, rising oil prices...
bad traffic, barking puppies, Rocky VII, out of control asteroids, Snowmageddon 2013...
breaking news about the breaking news..." 

Today is the 80th anniversary of FDR's first inauguration speech...commonly referred to as the "Nothing to Fear" Speech.  Considering the gridlock in American politics, the hysterical gyrations of the 24 hour news cycle, and the never ending "crisis" mode, may be good to reflect on FDR's timeless message.

March 4, 1933 FDR First Inaugural Address

Excerpts of FDR's speech:

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for... We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well...if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The overall messages (still applicable today) from this great speech include:

1. This great nation will thrive...if we focus on values.
2. Panic, hysteria, paranoia, and overreaction tend to make problems worse.
3. Despite living in hard economic times, we have much to be thankful for.
4. Political solutions to national problems requires "give and take".
5. We must depend on each other to solve our nations problems.
6. We must always consider the common good.

"America will never be destroyed from the outside.
If we falter and lose our freedoms,
it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
                                                                           - Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Helen Keller and The Miracle Worker

March 3, 1887
The first day that Anne Sullivan was introduced to Helen Keller.

As a young boy, one of my all-time favorite movie memories was watching the Academy Award-winning movie “The Miracle Worker” (based on Helen Keller's autobiography "The Story of My Life"...required reading when I was in junior high). The movie portrays the story of Anne Sullivan, a visually impaired 21-year-old graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, teaching a deaf and blind 7-year-old Keller about language. The scene of Helen holding her hands under a water pump, feeling the water and exclaiming, “Wa! Wa!” (when she understood for the first time the meaning of language) is forever etched into my memory.
Helen Keller is an inspirational role model for all of us -- not just as a young girl who overcomes her disabilities...but as a woman who worked for justice for everyone. A 1904 Radcliffe College graduate and staunch pacifist...she wrote 14 books, met with 12 presidents,  supported the NAACP, fought for union worker rights, joined the Socialist Party, helped start the ACLU and was considered radical enough that the FBI considered her a "person of interest" with a sizable file.  She fought against war, disability-ism, sexism, racism, poverty, large corporations, and corrupt government officials.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)
“My sympathies are with all who struggle for justice.”

Helen had a difficult time being taken seriously when she protested and wrote against injustice...

 "When I wrote about my disabilities people called me wonder woman,” Keller said, "but when I spoke out against racism and poverty, they claimed I was a poor, helpless creature.”
Unfortunately, the all-time classic book and movie have been virtually forgotten in the schools, where students once read it, and where it ought to be read! Sadly, the only thing most students can recall about Helen Keller today are the tasteless and insensitive Helen Keller "jokes" that fill the Internet. "The Story of My Life", published in 1903 was extremely popular well into the 1970s, when Gallup polls consistently showed Helen to be one of the most admired women in America.  Mark Twain compared her to Shakespeare. Winston Churchill called her “the greatest woman of our age.”
Watch rare footage of Helen and Anne...
"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision."
                                                                                                 -Helen Keller
Let us not allow Helen Keller and her vision for a better America fade from our memories...


Saturday, March 2, 2013


W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington
Recently in class we compared and contrasted Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois' philosophies and strategies to improve the lives of African-Americans in early 20th century America. Washington urged African-Americans to focus on self-help...economic and professional advancement through a focus on vocational skills. He believed that if African-Americans secured an education, held steady jobs, and owned property, that white America would learn to respect them, and civil and political rights would follow.  W.E.B. Dubois rejected this philosophy of social uplift and its strategy of patient self-improvement. He argued that African-Americans should confront, rather than accommodate, racism and segregation at every step. This confrontation was mostly done through a pursuit of classical education and NAACP legal assaults on Jim Crow racism. 

This "public debate" led me to think about the poem "Lift Every Voice and Sing!" written by James Weldon Johnson.  I feel the poem strongly supports the philosophies and strategies of both men.  Instead of contrasting and focusing on differences in philosophy, his poem beautifully combines Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois' philosophical struggles, anger, pride, hopes, visions, etc. and suggests all of our dreams are necessary for a better America.

James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamund Johnson
James Weldon Johnson (future Harlem Renaissance writer, NAACP leader) was a 29 year old educator at racially segregated Stanton School-Jacksonville, Florida when he was asked to prepare something for a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1900. He wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing!" and asked his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson (a renowned Harlem Renaissance composer/ musician) to set his words to music.
1939 Lift Every Voice and Sing Statue (The Harp)
sculpted by Augusta Savage
Cognizant of history, Johnson (a disciple of both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois) uses imagery of the past to remind readers of the path from Jim Crow lynchings and "the hypocrisy of freedom" in a land where "All Men Are Created Equal" a future hope of true freedom.

In the struggle to create the poem Johnson stated, 
 "I could not keep back the tears and made no effort to do so!"
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was adopted by the NAACP and widely sung during the Johnson brothers lifetime, as the "Black National Anthem". They commented that Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner" was the national anthem and never encouraged this practice. But instead, they recognized the song for what it was -a source of great racial pride.  I fear that our generation has failed the youth (few students know even one line or the melody) in not teaching and expecting them to memorize and embed the meaning of the song into their lives. 

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

 “Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its
stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory.”
                                           –Mahatma Gandhi