What is America for Mummy?

633701545[Not long after wwe met, Jessica asked me in an email, 

Perhaps the parallel goes beyond just the early pilgrims? America is either a vision of what can be, or it is nothing.

That is the choice we face, and it’s a stark one. Either we are who we have always said we are, or we are just another slave state like Europe.The question must be answered by the American people, we already know what the government thinks, don’t we?

Churchill said, in the Grand Alliance

But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before—that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is ignited under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.

That is true, we are Americans, we can do anything, if we choose to. Is the fire under the boiler lighted? If it is not, the dream is over. If it is, anything is possible for us.

This is one of Jessica’s first posts here, I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of freedom above all, but also of material prosperity.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation built around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to the army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

I also have a post up at Jess’ Watchtower, and last year I had a pretty good musical post.

Happy Independence Day

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From the sound of it, Bill Whittle didn’t much like this movie

It’s hard to believe they could screw up that vision, of our childhood, even in a movie isn’t it?

But they did, and worse they screwed up the vision of the country that had that vision as well.

Planetary Soldiers


The phrase comes from Robert Leckie’s The Wars of America and has been apt since the Spanish-American War. American Forces have fought just about everywhere and in just about every climate, in defense of freedom. And so this weekend, from Fort MacPherson, Nebraska, to Manila, The Philippines, to Luxembourg, to Cambridge, England and on Robert E. Lee’s own fron lawn, free men and women will honor American soldiers who died for their freedom.

This is Memorial Day weekend when we honor those brave men (and often women as well) who gave their lives to save America, and to keep the beacon that was lighted so long ago, lit. America, the first Revolutionaries, winning our independence in war with the Greatest Empire of the Age, and keeping the torch lit down through the centuries.

On 13 December 1636 a Royal Regiment of Foot was organized in Massachusetts from the pre-existing trained bands. From that regiment once known as the North Regiment is descended the 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard.

37762_132550020116358_2738621_nThe unit carries battle honors from French and Indian Wars, American Revolution, War of 1812, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, Mexican Expedition, World War I, World War II, Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Iraq War, and Afghanistan War.

Their honors include: Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for actions in the ARDENNES (1944), French Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star (1918), French Croix de Guerre with Palm (1945), French Fourragere (1945).

This is the oldest military unit of the United States formed only 16 years after the Mayflower and in existence for 376 years. From that day till this we have depended on our military for the defense of our liberty and they have never failed us.

Of them, General of the Army Douglass MacAurthur said this

Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast.

But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.

In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.

And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.

General MacAurthur’s words seem a bit dated sometimes, his verbiage a bit purple for our tastes but I say the deeds they commemorate are the only justification they need. An example follows.

View from the Trenches: Open Letter to the SARC

Screen-Shot-2015-05-14-at-9.33.52-AMI’m a senior electrician and operations manager. In both roles, my major function is to lead, and to get people to do their best, as well as to get the job done: on time and on budget. In other words its up to me to get the best my people can do, whether they are white, brown, black, or purple; male, female, or other. I just don’t care.

Are you a competent electrician, able to do all of the duties of the position? That’s my only question. Granted there are parts of the job that require physical strength, there are parts that require a certain type of intelligence. If I need five hundred feet of trench hand dug in wet clay, I’m unlikely to (if I can help it!) send a five foot two, 98 pound electrician (whatever their gender) to do it. To me that’s common sense. But it happens, it also happens that I end up doing it myself, I don’t like it either, but that’s life. The mission is the thing. And my mission is to get the electrical done, come hell or high water.

One of the places I learned that was in Air Force ROTC way back in the age of steam airplanes, and I learned it from men who had driven airplanes from England to places like Schweinfurt, and from islands like Saipan to Tokyo. They understood the costs of the mission very well and accepted it. That mission (unlike mine), projecting through air power the overwhelming force of the United States, cost them the loss of many of their friends. They, and their friends, willingly paid it. They were warriors.

And we are lucky, we still have warriors but, it seems to me that the Air Force has forgotten their mission, and become a touchy-feely, don’t hurt me outfit. If so, it has become a flawed weapon, not to be trusted, and that is the point of this article.

I start with the original poster’s explanation of the author because it is right to do so.

Kayce M. Hagen is a pen name assumed by an active duty enlisted airman. She wrote the following words to capture her thoughts after attending mandatory annual training given by her base’s Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) office. I’m publishing her letter here not just because it captures in visceral form a sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly from airmen who are frustrated by increasingly tone-deaf and overwrought approaches to this issue, but also because I believe her input raises (or renews) two important questions. First, what is the current Sexual Assault Prevention program doing for the Air Force? Second, what is it doing tothe Air Force? Kayce’s input explores these questions in a powerful way. Enjoy and respond. -Q.

★       ★       ★       ★       ★

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way. […]

When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

Read it all: One Airman’s View: Open Letter to the SARC : John Q. Public.

There is nothing to add to that, except to thank God for women, no warriors, like Kayce.

Lead her

Follow her


Get the hell out of her way!


I’ll be honest with you, I’m still bouncing around the clouds that Jess both got out of the hospital yesterday, and that I had some small contact with her.

Cut me some slack here, it’s only a week since we thought we were going to lose her. Frankly, I never opened my reader yesterday, and it’s likely I won’t today either.

So in honor of a miracle, lets just enjoy one of Jess’ (and mine as well) favorite movies.


Starting Another Year

The arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlbo...

The arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, are encircled by both the Garter and the collar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it very important to thank Jess for her wonderful article yesterday. She said many nice things about me, some of which are true. :-) Where she is really right, is the strain of writing a blog. I decided quite early that it was reasonable to post at least once a day, and while I have never really reconsidered, doing my 4-15 hundred words 7 times a week and 52 weeks a years has often been a strain. Part of that is the unrelieved gloom of the political situation. and part of that is my memory of a better America, where a man worried about his honor. The good thing is that I have found it still exists, you just don’t see it on TV. And not just us old Americans either. One of the lessons that Jessica brings us is that the generations coming after us, and indeed in England as well as America, are very much like we are. We definitely need to increase the tribe, but that can be done. We are not starting completely over.

And, never doubt that she is an integral part of this blog, her by-line hasn’t appeared much in the last few months, and there are reasons for that, I understand and agree with them, but without her, this blog would have gone under several times, when she has rescued me from the ‘Slough of Despond’. It will likely happen again. So, if you like what I write, remember what I told a distinguished contributor from her wonderful blog, All Along the Watchtower yesterday, ” A lot of it, which won’t surprise you, is Jess, more behind the scenes than I would prefer. Muse, partner, supporter, and more, I wouldn’t have made it this far without her.”

One of my hobbies (time-wasters, if you prefer) has become the real estate listings in the £ Daily Mail. No, I’m not seriously shopping but when you live in a world that was settled slightly over a hundred years ago, it is fun to look at houses that are a bit older. Like this one.

CLI140692_01_gal (1)

Click to embiggen

It’s in the village of Painswick in Gloucestershire, and it’s called Castle Halle. The description says it is the third castle on the site which records say was occupied by Saxon Thane Ernsige before the Conquest. It passed into the control of the Lords Talbot, and the final Talbot, John of Shrewsbury  demolished the castle in about 1442 and there are some traces remaining. Sir Henry Winston lived here until his death in 1618 and presumably raised his daughter, Sara, here. Sara made a pretty good marriage, marrying Sir Winston Churchill whose son, John Churchill, later the First Duke of Marlborough, who became Queen Anne’s great general, and whose family eventually brought us another Sir Winston, and intermarried into the Spencer’s as well, thus being ancestors of Princess Diana as well.

I don’t care what you say, you just can’t buy a house with a history like that like that in Nebraska :-) I would bet ours are a bit more energy-efficient though.

But, hey, it’s Sunday and we try most weekends to have a movie. So let’s start the fourth year right, with a John Wayne flick. How about War of the Wildcats, and while we watch it, maybe we should think about having an oil boom somewhere besides North Dakota and Texas.


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