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A Contrast of Legacies

Two men were born on this date in history. Different roots and upbringings and different choices determined their legacies. One made a choice under stress that led to the ruin of lives and a black mark on history. The other made a choice that led to the saving of lives, and ultimate recognition of it.

Greek-American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Ellia Kazan was born in 1909. He made great films but when he was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999 many in the Academy did not attend and a crowd of 250 protestors were lined up outside the venue. Why? Because in the midst of hearings of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, he named names. Many actors and producers were called before the committee and pressured to name names of colleagues in the film industry who were supposedly members of the communist party or had left-wing views and associations. Those who refused got banned and blackballed -their careers ruined by an unholy alliance between studio executives and right-wing politicians. This was part of the second red scare (the first was around the time of the Russian Revolution.) just after the end of WWII.

Eilia tried to explain away his collaboration by saying he had no choice However many others were faced with the same choices and resisted. Therefore his legacy is marred and his film work is largely forgotten.

In contrast, Daniel Inouye was born in 1924 the child of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. He witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor firsthand while a senior in high school. He could not enlist because of his ethnic background yet he volunteered for the Red Cross and aided victims of the attack. Later, when President FDR authorized a unit of Japanese Americans to fight he was finally accepted and was sent to fight in Italy. He sustained five separate wounds in one action, where he took out a machine gun nest -losing an arm in the process.

He had wanted to be a surgeon but the injuries prevented that. During recovery, he met future Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole, who told him of his desire to go into politics – specifically the US Senate – and Inouye was inspired. He joined the territorial senate (Hawaii was a territory before it became a state in 1959), and later he too became a US Senator. Both men had received serious wounds in battle, both had one arm disabled (Dole’s was damaged, Inouye’s was amputated), but both served their country honorably in war and peace. Though they belonged to different political parties (Dole Republican, Inouye Democrat) and held opposing political views they remained friends and showed how there can be compromise for the greater good. Both are American heroes and should be role models for public servants today.

Four Woman Activists

This was a date when four women activists were born, similar actions just far apart years. In 1795 Francis Wright, a Scottish-American author and advocate was born and started a commune to prepare slaves for eventual emancipation. Her experiment didn’t last long but her efforts started the ball rolling. In 1800 American educator and activist was born and fiercely supported the education of women and the inclusion of kindergarten in schooling activities. In 1860 two activists were born, in separate parts of the English-speaking world. In America, Nobel-prize-winning sociologist and author Jane Addams was born and advocated for both women’s suffrage and workers’ rights. And far away in Australia trade unionist and suffragist Mary Emma Jordan McConnell was born and became the first paid trade union organizer in Queensland.

Rights have to be advocated for all, not just for some. There have been times when the advocates for one group have clashed with other groups, seeking to be a first or higher priority. But if there is not justice for all, there is no justice at all. If some are left out on freedom and liberty then we are all the less. We must not fight amongst ourselves for the things that we all deserve. And those who have won the battle and received recognition of their rights should not fail to show up for others who have not yet.

And as some have wisely pointed out rights are not a pie. Recognizing the need for greater recognition of rights for those on the margins does not mean less for everyone else. There is enough for everyone. And this talk of “special rights” is ridiculous. Those who are fighting to be accepted are not asking for anything “special”, just to be accepted for being who they are, just as the rest of us are.

Let us remember this today. Look around you and see if there are others who are not treated as well as you. Then fight for their right to be accepted. And more so, reach out and show them acceptance. Be a light in this dark world.

Rights never take a Holiday

The more things change the more they stay the same. In 1789 the National Constituent Assembly in France, with the help of the Marquis de Lafayette (yes that Lafayette) and chief revolutionary theorist Abbe Sieyes, drafted into law the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It was a statement of the values of the French Revolution and had a great influence on the concepts of individual liberty and democracy in Europe and the world.

Shortly thereafter, in 1791 there was another document authored in response -The Declaration of the Rights of Women and of the Female Citizen. It was written by Olympe de Gouges, who was concerned that women were being left behind by the Revolution. Unfortunately, she ended up on the losing side in the internal fighting and though the old order had been turned upside down, it didn’t extend that far. She, like many other players in the Revolution, ended up executed as the Revolution fed on itself. And women are still fighting for equality today.

In 1882 the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City. Labor movements have endured opposition as well over the years. Even a globalist like President Wilson was resistant to both women’s rights and labor union activity and looped both into his support for the first Red Scare while in office (2012-2020). Today we often forget the significance of Labor Day and the improvements in working conditions that unions brought.

An example of this is OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Prior to that legislation, working conditions were much more dangerous. An example is the Theatre Royal fire in Exeter, UK. A fire broke out during a performance, killing 186 people in 1887. Contrast that to the Great London Fire of 1666, which ended on this date. Over 10,000 buildings were destroyed, but reportedly only 6 people were killed. Of course, there were significantly fewer people in London that long ago, but at least the buildings were not overfilled enabling such conflagrations to occur with deadly effects. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 (which caused 146 deaths) was even worse because the place was a factory and the outer doors had been locked.

Advocating for workers’ rights and women’s rights is a constant need and one we should remember on this Labor Day.

My How the Times have changed.

There were technical advances on this date that show the transformation of society. In 1882 the Pearl Street Station in New York City became the first power plant to supply electricity for paying customers. We all take electricity for granted, but it wasn’t always so. Six years later, in 1888, George Eastman registered the trademark Kodak and received a patent for his roll film camera. When was the last time you took (or have you ever taken) a roll of film to get it developed? Digital photography is the norm today and aren’t we all glad? But there was a time when photography itself did not exist.

And do you remember combing through the card catalog or hunting down a reference librarian to answer a research question? In 1998 two students at Stanford University founded Google, and it is so ubiquitous today that it has become a common verb – “google it” – like Kleenex or BandAid. Yet it and the whole internet did not exist as recently as when I was in college (okay, that was decades ago:) ).

Of course, those of us with decades of memories will remember the antics of DIck York of Bewitched born this day in 1928,, mourn the loss of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter in 2006, and relish the creations – like ” In the Hall of the Mountain King” or “Peer Gynt Suite” by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, who died in 1907.

And realize the oddity of today being Newspaper Carrier Day (US) when most newspaper publication is online.

Thanks for the Memories

Don’t judge a book by its cover, nor a movie by its initial reception. It’s A Wonderful Life was initially a flop. It came out in 1946 just after WWII ended and unlike Frank Capra’s earlier films, for which he won 3 Oscars, it was not a success originally. However in later years people, including film critics took another look and it skyrocketed in approval and became one of those films you watch every year, usually at Christmas time.

Why? I think part of the reason might be that touching on the Depression-era struggles was too soon. After all, it was released less than two decades after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and after coming out of the Depression in part by WWII buildup maybe people didn’t want to be reminded of those dark days. Movie watchers often just want an escape when they go to the theatre, not a reminder of the dark.

But the movie had timeless themes of family, sacrificing for others, and the importance of even one solitary soul. We often do not realize the importance of our presence and actions. Every one of us can make a difference in other’s lives often just by being there. Little things can be turning points that send someone in a better direction, or stop them from making big mistakes.

Of course, having Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the lead roles was great casting. There have been discussions about how much of Jimmy’s acting was not just lines on a page. He had gone through traumatic experiences in his military service and in some ways mirrored the feelings of George Bailey. His experience with acting in the film helped in his recovery.

This is the anniversary of the death of the director of the film – Frank Capra. It is good to remember that time can bring changes to our initial reactions to books, movies, and people. I can think of several artists that I have come to admire after they were gone more than when they were alive. Time has been good to Frank Capra and “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

White Ships Sailing into the West

Yes, on this day we reflect on the passing of a legend – J.R.R Tolkien – the author of The Hobbit – and what was originally intended to be its sequel – The Lord of the Rings. He also authored many other books about Middle Earth, his own creation, like the daunting Silmariion (I have made a third of the way through). He came up with Elvish and told of Dwarves and Orcs and Men and Elves, and Hobbits of course.

I think he might have liked this day being National Blueberry Popsicle Day, though they might have made it something else in Britain. After all he came up with the concept of Second Breakfast, and lembas (crumbs on his jacket1). You never saw rings the same way after reading his work. He loved nature and hated war, having been a participant in WWI.

His opus was completed just a short time before I was born in the mid-50’s What he would say about today’s world I can’t imagine. He died when I was almost in my senior year of high school, and I remember the chaos and the relative primitiveness least for computers- of those days.

He had a way with words and bringing life to a land nobody ever knew. I remember the trepidation everyone felt about the effort at the turn of this century to convert his words to images and motion. I think he would have been pleased with Peter Jackson’s work and the cast he gathered to make it so.

He was a legend and an inspiration to many. I particularly embrace the vision and works of a local Seattleite – Terry Brooks – with his world of Shannara. Nobody can duplicate a master, only reflect the genius and invite us to share his imagination. Steven Donaldson, in a darker realm, also was a world creator inspired by Tolkien.

And he brought a lot of us together to enjoy his vision and stories. We do that, to a lesser degree, even now. And we share a lot of great memories – and quotes, of course.

Thank you, Professor, for inspiring us. We will never be the same.

The Start of the Next War

Most people know that today, September 1st, is the anniversary of the start of WWII. Nazi Germany invaded Poland and England and France declared war on Germany because of a commitment they made to defend Poland. But most people would not know there were multiple “start of the war” dates. For some, it was long before. In the Far East war had been going on for years. Just ask the Koreans. Japan invaded Korea in 1910 and occupied it until the end of WWII. Ask the Chinese. Japan invaded the Chinese Manchurian province in 1931 seeking raw materials since Japan is resource-poor and dependent on imports.

Ask the Czechs. The Sudetenland was annexed by Germany in 1938. Ask the Austrians. The Anschluss by which Austria was taken over by Germany also happened in 1938. The argument was that the population of these areas was largely ethnic German and so Germany was just expanding the area of Germanic people.  But still, it was war in other terms and arrangements.

And ask the Ethiopians. Italy came under the control of an original Fascist – Mussolini – in 1924. In 1935 Italy occupied Ethiopia, the last country in Africa to be colonized, operating from their base in Eritrea, a long-time Italian colony. The emperor, Haile Selassie, was forced to flee and appealed to the League of Nations for help. But the League was a failed international organization and thus war came to the nation.

And then there were those for whom the war started later like the US. President FDR tried to help -there were deals with England where US pilots aided the English RAF in fighting off German bomber attacks. There was the Lend-Lease deal where China and the Soviet Union received military equipment. But there were strong isolationist voices in the US, including America First’rs like Charles Lindbergh who opposed US entry into the war. Lindbergh admired the German air force capability and was sympathetic to their cause, much like the abdicated Duke and Duchess of Windsor in exile from Great Britain.

So the US remained neutral during the early years, even with the fall of Paris in June 1940. We only got into the war because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. And only entered the European phase of the war because Germany declared war on us when we declared war on Japan, their ally. We really should not fault the French for sometimes being upset with US not just because of our standing by while France was occupied but also because it was still two and a half years after Pearl Harbor (Dec 1941- June 1944) before in D-Day and the liberation of France was begun.

The Soviet Union’s entry into WWII was also delayed -it began in the summer of 1941. They had negotiated a treaty – the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, whereby both nations agreed to not attack the other. As part of this, they divided Poland between themselves, so the Soviets were fighting earlier but not against the Nazis. Hitler got greedy and thus invaded the Soviet Union, repeating Napoleon’s error in 1812 and so in June 1941 WWII came to the Russians.

Three major nations remained neutral in the war – hard to imagine you could remain neutral? Sweden has had its share of wars over the centuries but chose to remain neutral this time. This was an aid to refugees and escapees from Nazi atrocities and kept Sweden from the occupation its neighbor Norway endured. Switzerland maintained neutrality and performed some of the same assistance that Sweden did, yet it was also complicit in providing financial aid to Germany and hiding stolen Jewish assets. And Spain was neutral in WWII. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had received support from Nazi Germany in the Spanish Civil War but he chose to remain nominally neutral and yet allowed Axis ships to use Spanish ports. So, for these nations they had no WWII start date.

History is complex and not cut and dried as many people might think. It is interesting to note the dates, like today, but it is important to understand the context. War involves flesh and blood people who are affected by the events. For me this is personal. My grandfather was in the military- Coast Artillery on the Pacific Coast -during WWII, so far from the conflicts but probably aware of the fears of Japanese invasion. He had served with the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI, so he had faced his share of hostilities. My dad was classified 4-F because of bad eyesight, so could not serve and had to suffer the accusations that were spewed at all able-bodied non-enlistees of that era. My uncle Phil was a casualty of the war – though far from the battlefield training pilots to fly.

Many were born and many more died on this date in history, but largely we remember few of their names. And that’s how it was 84 years ago today.

Gone too soon

In 1422 King Henry V of England died of dysentery while in France, his son  Henry VI became King of England at the age of nine months. In 1535 Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry VI’s grandson Henry VIII, from the church over his divorce of his first wife – Catherine of Aragon. In 1864 Gen Sherman launched the attack on Atlanta during the Civil War and in 1895 German count Ferdinand von Zepplin patented his navigable balloon, later named after him.

Two notoriously nasty Roman emperors were born on this date Caligula (12 AD) and Commodous (192). Both were assassinated at around the same age – 29 and 31. Three actors shared this birth date – Richard Basehart (1914 – Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Buddy Hackett (1924 – Love Bug), and James Coburn (1928 Westerns). It was also the birthdate for African-American activist and author Eldridge Cleaver (1938) and Israeli-American violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman (1945).

Leaving us on this date were boxer Rocky Marciano (1969), American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter John Ford (1973), and Princess Diana (1997).

Never forget those who are no longer here.

In 70 AD Titus ended the siege of Jerusalem after destroying Herod’s Temple. In 1916 Ernest Shackleton completed the rescue of all of his men who had been stranded on the ice of Antartica. In 1963 the Moscow-Washington hotline between the leaders of the US and the Soviet Union went into operation. In 1967 Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African American Assoc Justice of the US Supreme Court. And in 1984 The Space Shutte Discovery took off on its maiden voyage.

Notable people who were born on this date include French painter and illustrator Jacques-Louis David (1748), Frankenstein author Mary Shelley (1797), New Zealand-English noble prize-winning chemist Ernest Rutherford (1871), philanthropist Warren Buffett (1927), American astronaut Jack Swigert, who was the last minute replacement on Apollo 13 (1931), and journalist, author, and all-around thorn in George Bush Jrs side – Molly Ivins (1944).

Those who left us on this date included makeup artist and cosmetics firm founder Max Factor (1938), tough man character Charles Bronson (2003), Canadian American cowboy actor Glenn Ford (2006), and Michael Gorbachev (2022) who helped dissolve the USSR.

Today is the International Day of the Disappeared, to acknowledge and remember those who have been made to disappear, to uncertain fates, by autocratic regimes – like Argentina and Chile – often military regimes.

First reservation and first combustion engine

In 1758 the Treaty of Easton established the first American Indian reservation, at Indian Mills NJ for the Lenape tribe between British colonial governors and leaders of 13 native American nations. In 1831 Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, In 1842 Treaty of Nanking signing ended the First Opium War. In 1885 Gottlieb Daimler patented the world’s first internal combustion motorcycle the Reitwagen. And in 1912 a typhoon struck China, killing at least 50,000 people.

Notable people born on this date include English physician and philosopher John Locke(1632), American minister Charles G. Finney (1792) leader of the Second Great Awakening, Charley Parker (1920) saxophonist and composer, John McCain (1936) senator and presidential nominee, and the King of Pop Michael Jackson (1958).

Those who left us on this date include Mormon leader Brigham Young (1877), American journalist and author Lowell Thomas (1981), actors Lee Marvin (1987), Gene Wilder (2018), Ed Asner (2021), and Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman who was born (1915) and died (1982) on the very same date.

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