In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Children, Music, Love: Gangsters Can't Abide Them

Last week, a group of teenage Palestinian musicians from the Jenin refugee camp (on the West Bank of the Jordan River) performed for a group of elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Israeil town of Holon. The performance, by the 13-member "Strings of Freedom" orchestra, was organized by conductor Wafa Younis, a woman from the Arab village of Ara in Israel.

According to the Associated Press, most of the Holocaust survivors did not know the youths were Palestinians from Jenin, one of the more militant anti-Israeli strongholds in the West Bank, and the youths did not know that they were performing for people who endured Nazi genocide, or even what the Holocaust was.

Reportedly, as a host announced in Hebrew that the young people were from the Jenin camp, there were gasps and muttering from the crowd. Conductor Younis then explained in fluent Hebrew that the youths would sing for peace, prompting the audience to burst into applause. “Inshallah,” said one woman, using the Arabic term for “God willing.” The performance began with an Arabic song, "We sing for peace," and was followed by two musical pieces with violins and Arabic drums, as well as an impromptu song in Hebrew by two in the audience.

Younis said the main mission of the orchestra, formed seven years ago to help Palestinian children overcome the trauma of war, was to bring people together. “I’m here to raise spirits,” she said. “These are poor, old people.” An 18-year-old keyboard player named Ali Zeid reportedly said he was shocked by what he learned about the Holocaust. "I feel sympathy for them . . . Only people who have been through suffering understand each other." Zeid said his grandparents were Palestinian refugees forced to flee the northern city of Haifa during the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948.

A happy, hopeful story of reconciliation in the conflict-torn Holy Land? Well, maybe it was for the children and the old people, for a couple of precious hours. The AP now reports that Palestinian "authorities" in the West Bank have disbanded the orchestra and boarded up conductor Younis' studio there, on the ground that the Holocaust is a "political issue" and that she therefore "exploited the children" for political purposes. One local official said that participation of the children in the concert was a "dangerous matter" because it was directed against the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians. He accused "suspicious elements" of being behind the Holon event, saying that they sought to "impact the national culture of the young generation and cast doubt about the heroism and resistance of the residents of the camp during the Israeli invasion in April 2002." Reportedly, leaflets distributed in the Jenin area have also accused the concert organizers of exploiting the children, and warned Palestinians against participating in such events in the future.

For her part, conductor Younis denied that the issue was political, saying Jenin officials wanted to take over the orchestra to get its funding. "They want to destroy this group. It's a shame, it's a tragedy. What did these poor, elderly people do wrong? What did these children do wrong?" she said.

Indeed. In the eyes of the Palestinian "leaders," those poor, elderly people did wrong just by being Jews. The children and Ms. Younis did wrong by showing them compassion, and by raising a hope, however, remote, that their people and the Jews might be able to live together in peace and humanity. This is dangerous, subversive, and depraved heresy to the gangsters who rule the West Bank and Gaza (Fatah or Hamas, respectively; they're both the same). For them, there is only one allowable destiny for a young Palestinian: to be raised into a hate-filled robot, incapable of feelings or thoughts of their own, and good only for martyrdom to the cause of religious/ethnic murder. Ignorance, fear, and hate are the tools they've used for decades to keep their people subservient and in line. Allowing any other way would expose their own moral bankruptcy, undermine their authority, and lead to their ultimate irrelevancy. This is the way it always is with gangsters, wherever they hold sway.

There should be an a worldwide outcry in favor of this brave teacher and her students, and against the cynical, thuggish action that has been taken against them. The media should keep the bright light of public attention trained on this matter, if for no other reason than to make sure that Ms. Younis and the children are not subjected to reprisals or other harm. They should be in the prayers of Christians, Jews, and compassionate Muslims everywhere. Sadly, I fear the outside world may never hear of them again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Over the Rainbow, A Wonderful World

This morning at work, as I often do, I had my earphones on with my computer tuned to an Internet radio station, in hopes that it would keep me awake while I tried to review an insufferably boring article. The station was from Israel; today, over the Internet, you can listen to radio from anywhere on the planet. Out of the blue, they played a number sung by--fittingly, given the station's location--Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. He was a wildly popular Hawaiian musician who, tragically, passed away in 1997 at the age of 38. The song was his medley of Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World, two of the most beautiful popular songs ever written. "Iz," as he was known to his fans, sung them in a uniquely soulful way, and married the songs perfectly with his signature ukulele playing. I hadn't heard this number in over a decade, and it just sent my spirits into the stratosphere! I had hoped to find a video version on YouTube, but apparently it's not available there due to copyright issues (you can see an Iz version of "Over the Rainbow" alone, here). Fortunately, there's another version performed in a very similar and appealing style by the teenage Canadian singer Aselin Debison, which is featured below. If you could use a dash of hope and sunshine, here it is!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Links Archive

This site features a periodically-refreshed collection of links to first-rate web sites and blogs on a wide variety of topics and viewpoints, including faith, the arts, news, politics, history, nostalgia, and almost everything else. This particular post collects and groups by subject matter all of the web site and blog links that have been so featured to date, so that you can always find the link to a good site that you found listed on Marching On!, even if it's been retired from the featured list. This collection will be updated regularly. Just click where indicated below the Links Archive heading in the right-hand column, and you're here! Return often to find a familiar site or discover a new one.

Art Renewal Center
Great Buildings Online
Web Gallery of Art

CHRISTIAN/FAITH LINKS Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages
Blue Letter Bible - Christian Email, News, Music, Chat
Evangelical Outpost
First Thoughts
Fr. Frank Pavone's Blog (Pro-Life)
oremus Bible Browser

Astray Recipes - Recipe Search and More
Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1918)
Recipezaar Recipe Categories

A Blog About History
Civil War Interactive
Find A Grave
Old Pictures
Pearls of History
Shorpy Photo Archive (historical photography)
Sir Martin Gilbert Online (British historian and biographer)
Sir Winston Churchill - The Churchill Centre
Step Into History (index of living history sites in the US)
To the Limits of the Soul's Ideal: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
World War II History Blog

Bing Maps
NewsRadio 1180 WHAM (Rochester, NY)
Opposing Views: Issues, Experts, Answers

Chabad Lubavitch
DoubleTapper (IDF)
Jerusalem Post
Jewish Thought of the Day
Point of No Return

Internet Movie Database
Project Gutenberg

Dave Barry
Live Ships Map - Vessel Traffic and Positions

Best Loved Hymns (YouTube channel)
Co-Existence Band
Cyber Hymnal
Iceberg Radio
Pandora Internet Radio
Playing For Change | Peace Through Music
Wordwise Hymns

Drudge Report
McClatchy News | Exposing Liberal Media Bias
Washington Times

The Art of Manliness
Baby Boomer Memories
The Buffalo Broadcasters Association (Buffalo, NY radio & TV history)
The Fifties Index
Lisa's Nostalgia Cafe
Steve Cichon's -- Recalling the Golden Age of Buffalo Radio & TV
WKBW Radio (Buffalo, NY radio history)

Donna Randall's Blog
i have to say...
It's A Wonderful ...
Mrs. Happy Housewife

Brits at Their Best
Florida Memory Project - Florida State Archives
Grand Island, New York
The Monarchist (advancing British traditions)
Park Vision: Images of the National Parks
Sacred Destinations

Big Government
Chronicles of Atlantis
First Thoughts — A First Things Blog
La Shawn Barber's Corner
LifeoftheMind - Home of The Savage Nation
Pajamas Media (conservative commentary)
The Politics Blogspot:
Power Line
Team Sarah
Verum Serum
Works and Days (Victor Davis Hanson)

Baseball Almanac - The "Official" Baseball History Site
Buffalo Bills
Major League Baseball

First Rate Blogs Archive

One of this blog's features is a periodically-refreshed collection of links to excellent blogs hosted by other folks, whether of the personal/family variety or those focusing on a particular topic or vantage point, such as faith, culture, the arts, politics, hobbies, or anything else you can think of. This particular post collects and groups by subject matter all of the blogs that have been so featured to date, so that you'll always be able to find the link to some good blog that you've found listed on mine, even after its "time in the sun" has ended. The list will be updated quarterly, more or less. Just click where indicated below the First Rate Blogs Archive heading in the right-hand column, and you're here! Return often to explore and find old and new gems.

Chronicles of Atlantis
Evangelical Outpost
First Thoughts
Fr. Frank Pavone's Blog (Pro-Life)
Jewish Thought of the Day
M E N O R A H (Jewish/Israeli issues)
The Anchoress (views with a Catholic touch)

A Blog About History
The Abraham Lincoln Blog
Civil War Interactive Newswire (history podcast)
Mystic Chords of Memory: true adventures of a history-lover
Victorian Times (19th century fashion for the ladies!)
World War II History Blog

A Day Like Today
Donna Randall's Blog
i have to say...
It's A Wonderful...

Brits at Their Best (celebrating English traditions)
Chronicles of Atlantis
First Thoughts
La Shawn Barber’s Corner (notes on faith, culture, politics)
Little Green Footballs (news and views from the right)
Mrs. Happy Housewife
Pajamas Media (conservative commentary)
Power Line (conservative commentary)
Sarah Palin (AKGovSarahPalin) on Twitter
The Anchoress (views with a Catholic touch)
The Art of Manliness
The Monarchist (advancing British traditions)
The Politics Blogspot:
Works and Days (historian Victor Davis Hanson)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Beard and Me

A few days ago my sweet daughter posted to her blog about My Dad and His Beard, noting a certain resemblance between me and the bewhiskered leprechaun on a St. Patrick's Day greeting card. I was flattered; the leprechaun seemed to be a most charming and friendly fellow--just like me! Then I thought that this might be the perfect opportunity to reveal to my friends and family those mystical secrets of me and my facial hair that I'm sure they've been dying to know all these years.

I started growing a beard, for the first time in my life, in April of 1998. I had just become a Civil War reenactor, and thought I looked too much like a middle-aged, desk-bound, 20th century schlemiel to make a very convincing 19th century soldier. Beards and mustaches were becoming all the rage just as the Civil War approached; it was the heyday of personal expression through facial hair, and the ranks of both Union and Confederate armies reflected every style imaginable. So, I thought I'd grow some of my own to help me better look the part.

I didn't emulate either Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside (left) or Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart (right), however (Melany wouldn't have stood for either one); instead, I chose the more neatly trimmed and conventional mustache/beard combination shown in my profile photo (below).
My dear Grandma Moran didn't like it at all (though she expressed her disapproval quite gently). This was ironic, for her own maternal grandfather, John Fleischman (pictured at left in the 1870s), sported a whiskered jawline himself. I didn't want to dwell on things that were painful for Grandma, so we never did discuss why it was OK for him but not for me.

About four years later I decided to shave the mustache and leave the fringe, which gave me an appearance more like old John Fleischman's and rather akin to that of the Amish gentleman in the picture immediately to the right of mine above. In fact, I was told by my children, other kids in the neighborhood thought I WAS Amish--maybe the broad-brimmed straw hat I liked to wear around the yard had something to do with that. I thought it was pretty cool in any case, and did nothing to dispel their misimpression. To my delight, spectators and even other reenactors at Civil War living history events repeatedly complimented me on my appearance, especially my beard. I didn't even have to pay them all that much.

However, over the years the role of flaming oddball started to wear on me, and last spring I decided to grow the mustache back (see left). Is it an improvement? You be the judge. I do seem to get fewer stares and quizzical looks, especially when I go into Amish stores. Personally, I think it puts me more in the category of those fine examples of Southern manhood depicted below.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Musical Double Dip: Down That Lonesome Road

I seem to have a weakness for musical posts lately. Of course, they typically take less research and writing than more serious academic statements, and are probably more fun for me and my readers! And, music is such an important element in my life. Rare are the moments when I don't have some tune or piece playing in my head, and I can't hardly do a menial chore, like dishes or ironing, without plugging into my iPod or switching on the radio to stir my spirit. As Shakespeare said, “The man that has no music in himself, nor is moved with sweet concord of sweet sound, is fit for treason, stratagems and spoils.” (The Merchant of Venice). That's certainly not me!

So, bear with me as I present two wonderful recordings for your listening and viewing pleasure. The first, Walk Down That Lonesome Road, is a beautiful acapella piece by James Taylor. Like several other songs that I've featured, I first heard this sung several years ago by the Brockport, NY High School Choir, of which my son Colin was a member. It's a somewhat sad song, reflecting a difficult truth we've all experienced at some time: that if we act impulsively and say hurtful things, we may lose the companionship we so need in life's journey. The pain is worth it if we learn the lesson, though, and this is as appealing an expression of it as you'll ever hear. Lyrics are reproduced below the video.

Walk down that lonesome road, all by yourself.
Don't turn your head back over your shoulder.
And only stop to rest yourself, when the silver moon
Is shining high, above the trees.

If I had stopped to listen once or twice,
If I had closed my mouth and opened my eyes,
If I had cooled my head and warmed my heart,
I'd not be on this road tonight.

Carry on (carry on, carry on),
Never mind feeling sorry for yourself.
It doesn't save you from your troubled mind.

Walk down that lonesome road, all by yourself.
Don't turn your head back over your shoulder.
And only stop to rest yourself when the silver moon,
Is shining high, above the trees.
Now, for something completely different! While searching YouTube for Walk Down That Lonesome Road, I stumbled upon another song very similarly titled, Look Down That Lonesome Road, by bluegrass artist Tim O'Brien. If you were feeling a little blue after Mr. Taylor's song, Mr. O'Brien's will lift your spirits back up, and then some! So lean back, kick off your shoes, and prepare to slap your knee! Again, lyrics appear after the video. Enjoy!

Down where that Southern rail crosses the Yella Dog,
I met an old auctioneer, I heard his monologue
He said I got horses, I got mules, and I got sheep
Some I wanna sell boys, and some I wanna keep
Says I got a tale or two that I need to tell
Sit down beside me and rest yourself a spell
I've lived a good long life and I've got no regrets
Let me tell my story before I forget

Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on
I hate to say goodbye, so I'll just say so long

See the way that Bay horse rides, it seems just like a sin
That horse is broke in two, he lost his couplin pin
And yonder there's man a comin, bless his poor heart son
His head's all empty, his bread it's just not done
But look at that old mule here, the one with one lamp lit
He's about half blind but there's work in that mule yet
He'll pull a heavy load boys, I know him well
They never did give that mule no back up bell

Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on
I hate to say goodbye, so I'll just say so long

They say whiskey slows you down and clouds up your thinkin
But as long as they make whiskey I'd say we'll keep on drinkin
As long as life keeps hittin hard, a drink will help you to take it
And long as we drink whiskey, they'll continue to make it
Some folks have to slow down if they're maimed or lame
Other folks keep movin, keep rockin on just the same
I walk like an old fox, I shake my big old tail
Even though there's a hell hound he's sniffin on my trail

Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on
I hate to say goodbye, so I'll just say so long

Just kick this old dog, make real sure he's dead
Then find go another dog, don't you hang your little head
Gonna be a lot of livin after I am gone
I'll leave a little for you son, come get your share done

Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on
I hate to say goodbye, so I'll just say so long
Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on
I hate to say goodbye, so I'll just say so long
Don't ask me what these lyrics mean, but the song is so rousing, who cares?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Changing Times

Did you remember to turn your watches/wall clocks/alarm clocks/computer clocks/oven-timers/VCR-timers/DVD-timers/cellphone-timers etc., etc. back--oops, I mean forward-- last night--oops, I mean this morning? Which is it, anyway? Oh, well--we've changed a couple of clocks and a watch or two, one way or the other; I'm not sure which. It's OK--we never quite know whether we're coming or going in the Fleming household, or when.

I'm firmly convinced that most problems in American society are traceable to confusion over the twice-yearly time changes we've all been subjected to since, well, as far back as I can remember. It was worse when I was a kid. We didn't have to change all those timing devices (which, back then, consisted only of clocks and watches) ourselves; Mom and Dad took care of that, if they remembered. But that was the kicker--would they? We vaguely understood that there would be some dire consequences if they didn't, but we didn't know exactly what. Forgetting might mean that we'd be too late (yay!) or too early (boo!) for church. Would it mean that we'd have to eat every meal an hour earlier (yay!) or an hour later (boo!) than usual, for the next six months? Maybe forgetting would mess up the TV schedule. Would there even be any TV? (BIG boo if not!) On top of that, we were told that the time "officially" changed at 2 a.m. So one of us has to stay up until 2 a.m. to change all the clocks? What if he/she fell asleep and woke up at 2:01 a.m.? Would it then be too "late" to change the time? Would time for our family then be an hour earlier or later than for everybody else?

In the face of all this uncertainty, we tried to remember to remind Mom and Dad to change the clocks. But usually, we forgot. Besides, we were never told why this had to be done, and if we were, the explanation wouldn't make any sense anyway. So the Sun can stay up an hour longer in the evening? Explain to me, please, how my Dad moving the hands of a clock around is going to arrest the relative movements of the Sun and the Earth! And, if everything is moved to an hour later at night, how come my bedtime is still 8:30? Huh? NOW I HAVE TO GO TO BED BEFORE THE SUN DOES? Obviously, it was all a nefarious Adult plot.

Nor does the confusion cease just because we've grown up. On the bus home from work Friday I listened to a 20-minute debate among half a dozen people in their 40s and 50s on whether we were supposed to change our timepieces in March or April (as we did for years until some d_mn fool decided to change THAT too), whether they had to be moved "forward" or "back," whether we were "gaining" or "losing" an hour, and whether we'd get "more" sleep or "less." No consensus could be reached on whether the rule is "spring forward" and "fall back," or vice versa. I've never been quite sure about that formula, anyway--at my age, I don't do much springing in any direction, and I'm at least as likely to stumble and fall "forward" onto my face as "back" onto my keester.

To heck with the whole thing. If I don't change all these infernal time pieces at the moment I'm supposed to, the Time Police can just come and arrest me. Wait, this is creepy: the time on all my electronic gadgets has apparently CHANGED ITSELF! I knew they were all going to get together and take over the world--"sooner" or "later."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hijacking History--And Your Government

Recently, Canada's National Battlefield Commission announced that it was cancelling its plan to host a 250th-anniversary reenactment this summer of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, at the site of the 1759 engagement in Quebec City. More than 2,000 military reenactors were expected to take part in the commemoration, some coming from France, Germany, and England.

The battle, which occurred during the Anglo-French struggle for North America known in the United States as the French and Indian War, pitted several thousand British soldiers under General James Wolfe against a similar number of French troops and Canadian militia under Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. The British appeared on the Plains after climbing a steep cliff beneath the city during the night, and surprised Gen. Montcalm, who decided to fight them then rather than wait for a reinforcing column to return to Quebec from the west. The battle itself was mostly confused and indecisive, and lasted less than an hour, but before it was over both Wolfe and Gen. Montcalm were mortally wounded (as depicted in the above painting, The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West). The British finally overwhelmed the French force and took control of Quebec City, which they managed to hold until the following year when the French government found itself unable to supply and reinforce its troops in Canada, and lost Montreal; this left Canada entirely in British hands. Rightly or not, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham has been seen as the beginning of the end of the French empire in North America.

While reportedly many francophones did not favor the planned reenactment, radical Quebec "separatist" groups, including Le Reseau de Resistance du Quebecois, Bloc Quebecois, and Parti Quebecois, went further and forcefully denounced it as "disrespectful" and "offensive," promising to bring out masses of demonstrators to disrupt it. There were veiled threats of violence, with some protesters allegedly planning to arm themselves with paintball guns. Finally, on February 17, Battlefield Commission chairman Andre Juneau declared the re-enactment cancelled because the Commission "because of the impossibility of ensuring the safety of the public and the participants." He even expressed a willingness to resign over the incident, something that many separatists had demanded. One of their spokesmen called the cancellation a "victory for citizen mobilization."

As a lifelong history enthusiast and a military reenactor myself, I was shocked and dismayed when I learned of this incident--not only because a chance to teach history to thousands in such an impressive way was lost. That's unfortunate enough. What's worse is that history itself was hijacked, held hostage, and used to serve the narrow political ends of an unscrupulous few, and a government supposedly of laws effectively helped them do it.

Obviously, the separatists couldn't care less about history; everything they said and did served only to undermine its cause. First, of course, they have deprived many people of an opportunity to teach and learn, in a uniquely compelling way, about one of the most important events in Canadian history. The separatists might have even participated in the event to help present the French-Canadian viewpoint, and won some sympathy and support. But, apparently, exhibiting their little parties' political influence was more important. What gives them the right to decide for everyone else what can and can't be taught about history, and how? Their ancestors may have played a part in the Battle or the events that led up to or followed it, but they don't "own" it. The truth belongs to all--no matter how much pain or regret it may entail for some people--and all have a right to teach and learn it. If the study of history doesn't stay free and uncompromised, by political correctness or any other distorting influence, it can't properly be learned from, and we'll keep making the same kinds of mistakes that the separatists and others now complain of.

Also lost for everyone is a chance to commemorate the sacrifices and suffering of the men on both sides of the Battle, French and French-Canadian as well as English. No one doubts the valor of the separatists' own ancestors, regardless of the Battle's outcome. So, why shouldn't we all join in remembering and honoring them? This is what we do, with true reverence, for both the Union and Confederacy at every American Civil War reenactment. The separatists' determined effort to prevent such an event almost suggests that they are ashamed of their ancestors' performance that day on the Plains of Abraham. Perhaps Gen. Montcalm's decisions on that occasion were questionable, but this hardly reflects on the valor of the common soldiers who fought for him. Are the long-term cultural and political consequences of the Battle, regretted though they may be by many French-Canadians, any reason to suppress the memory of what was contended for there?

Certainly, then, history meant something to the separatists only to the extent they could exploit people's feelings about it to advance their own political interests. That was the only interest served by cancellation of the reenactment. Who lost? The people of Quebec City and Province certainly lost the tourism, dollars, and good will that the event would have brought them. And we've seen what has been lost in terms of public education and appreication of heritage. But the most grevious injury from this episode was to the dignity of, and public confidence in, government itself. By caving in to the radicals' intimidation tactics, the Canadian government effectively handed over the powers democratically given it by the people to a handful of gangsters, who now call the shots. As the Calgary Herald observed, "The lesson in all of this, sadly, seems to be that threats of violence sometimes pay off. The federal commission's decision to cancel is akin to meeting the irrational demands of terrorists."

This is how the tail comes to wag the dog; how democracy and the rule of law are subverted by the power-lust of a small clique wielding the carrot of political correctness and the stick of fear over timid, small-minded officials. A sensible approach for those officials would have been to reassure the public of the government's commitment, provide for enhanced security, and use some diplomacy to get responsible French-Canadians to participate actively in the event's planning and presentation. Apparently, this was simply beyond their capacity. Now the Canadian people will learn the hard lesson that once surrendered to, gangsters only get stronger and bolder, and their list of demands ever longer.

This is a dangerous development for the United States, too. In the southern states we have already seen how vocal, self-serving pressure groups can intimidate officials into removing Confederate flags, statuary, and other elements of a proud heritage from public spaces and school curricula. Will they now be emboldened to "protest" reenactments of Civil War battles that the Confederacy won, or any public demonstration of Southern heritage? Will increased pressure be brought on the National Park Service to interpret the Civil War at our battlefields only in ways that the "interest groups" find satisfying? Will Latinos band together to oppose any public exhibitions about the Mexican–American War of 1846-1848, because its consequences may be "painful" for them? Let us pray that truth, common sense, neighborliness, and official responsibility on this side of the border are not casualties of what's transpired north of it.