Tag Archives: United States

The Greatness Within You


Joe Louis (left) poses with Max Schmeling

Joe Louis (left) poses with Max Schmeling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, let me give my disclaimer. In this column, I will use the masculine form of the personal pronoun. This is a literary device, not politics; this column applies to everyone, men, women, and children.

There is an expression, “Behind every great man, you will find a great woman.” A book could be written on the many great truths of that simple sentence. In the United States, we call the generation who fought World War 2 “The Great Generation.” However, greatness does not happen in a vacuum. Among writers, the standing joke is it takes twenty years of hard work to be an overnight success.

In the case of The Great Generation, it was 14 years of hard work from 1929 to 1943. The 1930’s is my favorite time in America. Those 14 years of hard work is “the woman behind the great man.” It was the depths of the depression. President Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House, and together with congress, they were creating programs to put America back to work. But, it was slow going. It was during that time the foundations of greatness were implanted in men. Government, families, and friends can give a hand up, but greatness, true greatness only comes from within.

Greatness cannot be given to a man, or implanted in him. Greatness only comes when a man faces a challenge so great, he feels his failure is guaranteed. It is at that moment when a man stays average or rises to the greatness that is within him. A greatness that is within all of us, but few ever achieve. You look into the abyss of certain defeat, and you accept the challenge. If you succeed, you can go on to greater things. If you fail, you have a choice to make. “Do I pick up and persevere, or do I take my place in the crowd.” Those men we think of as great from world history, failed many times; but they always picked up and persevered. Henry Ford had several failed car companies before he succeeded; Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he made the incandescent light bulb.

We think of the 1930’s as the time of the great depression, a time when people were desperate and down on their luck. There were people in Kentucky who were eating weeds to stay alive, and people in the great dust bowl of the plains who wished they had weeds. When we think of the great works of the 1930’s, most people think of the projects the government designed to put men back to work, like the Hoover dam. They miss the very foundations that created the victory in World War 2. Look at the heroes of Americans in the 1930’s and you will see what I mean.

Joe Louis defeated Max Schmeling in a boxing match that Hitler declared would demonstrate the superiority of the Arian race over all other Peoples of the world, so much for racial superiority. What most people do not know is this was not the first time Joe and Max fought; Max had already beaten Joe before, knocking him out in the 12th round. Americans from coast-to-coast celebrated Louis’ victory, particularly those Americans who were chaffing at the bit of a segregation that though separate, was decidedly not equal.

Then there was a little horse that captured America’s respect and admiration. A horse that inspired all who were down on their luck, to “give it another try.” He was literally little, much smaller than the horses he competed against. When ran he was easy to spot, he threw his legs out in what looked like an awkward gait. By the time he was three years old, the peak age for racehorses, he was an experienced loser. He was not alone though, he was surrounded by losers. First, there was the trainer, a displaced cowboy, many saw as old and tired. There was the jockey who was blind in one eye, and too tall to be a jockey. Last, there was the owner, a man mired in the grief of losing a child, a loss that led to the breakup of his first marriage.

When he began racing for his new owner he was laughed at and ridiculed, “The horse is too small, the jockey too big, the trainer too old, and the owner is too dumb to know the difference.” He didn’t just look bad running, standing still he looked like nothing as well. You see, when he started winning, it wasn’t because of great stamina or strong legs, he had none of that.

When our little pony was younger, abuse was heaped upon him. He was beaten repeatedly as trainers attempted to conform him to the accepted mold of a racehorse. When he did not conform, he was used to train other horses. He was forced to lose to the horses he trained to build their self-confidence. Finally, he was sold to others who raced him. But, he did not race at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, he raced in the lowest of all horse races, the claim stakes. Competing in two races a week he did what they taught him to do, he lost. He was then sold one final time. It was for this new owner that he finally began to win.

His best race, in my opinion, was against a monster of a horse. His nemesis, War Admiral, stood 18 hands tall, bigger than all other horses, and he dwarfed our little pony. A millionaire who had previously owned Man of War, the greatest racehorse in the history of horseracing, owned War Admiral. War Admiral had the best trainer, best jockey, and best stables money could buy. War Admiral won the Triple Crown, America’s three premiere horse races, and easily defeated every horse he went up against by a wide margin.

But, Seabiscuit, an enigma to science, triumphed. Why is Seabiscuit an enigma to science? Because, by everything measurable by science, Seabiscuit should never have beaten War Admiral, or any of the other horses he beat. So, how did Seabiscuit become one of history’s greatest horses? How did this horse win against better horses, with better training, better riders, and better support? He had heart, and three losers who had heart; and saw the heart within the breast of that little pony. You can see the greatness within him in his races. He would look those other horses in the eye, and it was almost as if he said, “Not today, you will not beat me today.” The racetrack operators didn’t “level the playing field” by giving him a head start. No, he had to go head-to-head with horses that looked like racehorses, horses that had star trainers, star jockeys, and owners who knew horseracing and had the money to win. If the races had been made fair for Seabiscuit, he would never have become the great horse that was deep inside of him, he would never have beaten War Admiral. Seabiscuit did not just beat War Admiral, he beat War Admiral on War Admiral’s home track using the starting bell War Admiral was used too and was unfamiliar to Seabiscuit. He beat War Admiral by four furlongs an unbelievable feat.

Seabiscuit’s new team did not attempt to conform him to the accepted mold of what a racehorse should be. They did not demand a just and fair field of competition. They saw the greatness in Seabiscuit, and encouraged that great will power and heart deep within the breast of that little pony.

We all have that kind of greatness within us, the harder the battle, the greater the victory. When my youngest brother was three years old, he asked me to teach him chess. He pestered me until I taught him how to play chess. For more than a dozen years, I beat him every time we played. I could see in his face the pain of defeat, many times, I was tempted to let him win a game, but I did not. If I let him win, he would know I let him win. Maybe not immediately after his victory, but eventually he would know, and this would be as bad as not winning. I knew if he persisted one day, he would win. I never removed one of my pieces or gave any other advantage to him, we always played as equals, even though we were not. I was older by 10 years and 11 months, I had played in sanctioned chess tournaments and had a rating from the United States Chess Federation, there was nothing fair about our games.

I always encouraged him, but never leveled the playing field. Then one day, while I was home from the navy, he beat me. I cannot remember what we said to each other, but I will never forget the look in his eyes. There was a calmness in his eyes, a self-confidence I had never seen before. He had risen to the challenge; he had accomplished this victory by never giving up. I stood there understanding for the first time, the joy Pete  Lamoreaux must have felt the first time I beat him. I knew now that no matter where Jason would go in life, he would succeed. Like Joe Louis and Seabiscuit, Jason had found his own greatness within himself.

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… And The River Flows On


(written April 17, 2013)

Have you ever looked at a river, really looked at a river. Looked at the things that make up a river, the surface, below the surface, and what is on the bottom of a river; are all different things, but they all make up part of the river. The river always flows on. You can change its direction, you can dam it, but the river ultimately determines its own path. You can fight the river, but the river wins. The river will break through the dams and levies and go where it will. What you can do is to take care of the small piece of the river where you are … nothing more. This helps. However, the river will clean itself as well, burying all the bad, deep within the confines of the river bottom. The bad is still there on the bottom, with more coming down the river. You will never get rid of it, but you can stir up the river, bringing back the old bad and mixing it with the new.

Yesterday was an historic day for many reasons. In 1912, April 16, was the day that the world awoke to realize the Titanic had sunk with a great loss of life. April 16, 2013 was a day that people around the world mourned the loss of a loved one or friend who died in a terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. It was a terrorist attack, this was not a robbery gone bad or a dispute between two people. Yesterday was an attack, by an attacker, on people the terrorist did not know personally. This is terrorism. Terrorism is not new in time or to this country. Ancient Rome experience terrorism. There has been an ebb and flow to terrorism in the United States. No matter the time, no matter the place, there is one reason for domestic terrorism and only one. There is one reason for foreign terrorism against the United States, and only one.

Before I go any further, I want to state that terrorist, all terrorists, are criminals. No matter their own self-justification for their actions, they are criminals. They attempt to use fear to increase their power over us. Terrorist seek only power to force their will on others. You cannot work with terrorists, but we need to work together, only then can we weaken the power terrorists have over us. Terrorism has always existed, and always will.

The power domestic terrorism has over us, exists because we refuse to work together. One side vs. the other. One side (our side, whichever side that is) must win and utterly destroy all opposition. The commentators of CNN, NBC, and others were speculating yesterday (and will probably continue to today) by saying, “of course, since domestic terrorists are always extreme-right-wing-conservatives…”, and ” this latest act of terrorism must be the work of the T.E.A. party or a veteran.” I am not here to talk politics, and I do not care what your politics is, I want you to see the futility of this mess we have created. A mess we created and blame on others. Could anyone call Bill Ayers a “right-wing-conservative?” Bill Ayers has freely admitted to terrorist acts and continues to state to this day that he did not do enough in his earlier terrorist days. What about the Weather Underground, The Black Panthers, Earth Liberation Movement, or the Animal Liberation Movement; could any of these be called right-wing. Timothy McVeigh, now there’s a right-wing terrorist (well sort of, he wasn’t a Marxists at least). These terrorist act not because they are right-wing or left-wing. They act because we do not work together. We do not work together to heal those with mental problems. They act because we do not work together to explain the importance of freedom. Freedom? Oh yes, we know what freedom is, but what does that have to do with terrorism.? I am sure I can find people who can give hours of instruction on freedom, volumes of books have been written on freedom, wars have been fought over freedom. Do you know what freedom really is? Choice. Yup, that’s it. The definition of freedom has fewer letters in it than the word freedom itself.

If you may choose between A or B, (or more options) then you have freedom in that area. However, when your choices are limited by others, or you are not allowed to choose for yourself, you are not free. A great man once said, “Freedom works every time it is tried.” Criminals use terror to get us to limit our own freedom, our own choices. Governments, from ancient Rome to modern governments, use terrorism to increase their power over us, to limit our choices. They legislate away our freedoms in the name of security.

This brings me to the one cause for foreign terrorism. Because we have been successful. We are a democratic republic, only a democratic republic attempts to give equal protection to all citizens under one law. A free, democratic republic with a capitalist economic system, because (unlike other economic systems) in a capitalist economic system each person controls their own money and property. The individual chooses what they will do with their property. We are a collection of free people who have chosen the freest political system and the freest economic system. These two systems are not perfect, but they do allow the most freedom to all citizens. Americans have used this freedom to create the most successful country to date. The United States is 4.52% of the world population, consumes 24% of the world’s natural resources, and creates 25% of the world’s production. Those who do not like the United States’ capitalist system point out that the United States uses more resources than any other country, without out mentioning the GDP. Those in favor of unlimited capitalism point to the GDP of the United States compared to the rest of the world, without mentioning the cost.

The cost is great and the results are great. No matter what you think of the American system, we are attacked by terrorist because we are successful. We produce more and have a better standard of living, our people have enjoyed (over the course of our history) unparalleled individual freedom. Today our greatest external threat comes a small group within the Islamic community. A small group that would have their religion rule every part of the lives of their people … and the people of the world, if they get a chance. This group is only the latest to target us, there have been others in the past, and there will be others in the future. There is no reason for you to remain inactive, either you agree with the American system and work to preserve it, or you disagree with the American system and work to destroy it. The choice is yours.

So, why do we have domestic terrorists? Because we refuse to find common ground and work together. Our division is used by the terrorists.

Why do we have foreign terrorists? Because the American system is successful (I did not say it is right, and I did not say it is wrong, only that it is successful).

The pursuit of power is the root of all evil, not money. If you want to know who is the person or group behind a criminal act, do not follow the money; follow who has power to gain through that criminal act.

I am not taking a side in this one way or the other. Oh, I do have an opinion, but that is mine. Here, on my column, I shun my own personal opinion as much as possible. I shun religion, politics, and money (my grandfather always said it is best to avoid these subjects in polite company). Just as with the Hunley and many other topics I have written about …

… when there is no clear-cut, scientific, black/white, right/wrong answer, I present what I can to you and leave each of you to write the last paragraph of the column. This Sunday, I am not going to publish a column. Spend some quality time with the ones you love, or maybe some quality time alone, you know what is best for you. But, while you are in that quality time this Sunday, think about this column and which side you support. What will you do? We all take sides, even the decision to “sit this one out” is indeed, taking a side. I am not asking you to go join some organization, or march around with signs. You take sides with your voice to those you come into contact with, changing the world … one mind at a time.

My prayer for you is for peace and joy.

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The Mariner


Oct. 1980, first official navy photograph.

Oct. 1980, first official navy photograph.

I wrote this years ago, at a time when if someone would have suggested that I would be a writer I would have scoffed at them. Looking back I have always been writing, but never considered myself a writer. Unfortunately, I have almost nothing of my earlier work. So here is one of the few. I also have an article about the newlywed couples on the Titanic that I will be sharing soon.

I was thinking today of my last voyage at sea. It was a night trip from Puerto Rico to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands; we left in the late afternoon. Since it was a short trip, our Captain decided to make it on the surface. I was the sonar supervisor until 6 pm. I got off watch, checked the after watch clean-up of my sonar men, reported the clean-up done to the off-going chief of the watch, and ate dinner. Afterwards, while the evening movie was playing on the mess deck (only a couple of men were watching the movie), I packed the few things I had left. My last night as a submarine sailor, a job I loved; this job, this world, this life was all I knew. I wandered the submarine; this was my last night at sea — ever.

I ended up in the control room just as they were changing the lookout up on top of the sail (conning tower). I was still a qualified lookout, though I had not stood the watch since I qualified as a sonar supervisor. I volunteered to go up. The chief of the watch passed the word to the bridge on top of the sail.

Petty officer Combs to the bridge to relieve the lookout,” said the chief.

Coming up through the hatch into the Caribbean night sky was awesome. My soul has always been at peace, at sea, surrounded by the ocean. The sonar division officer was the officer of the deck.

“Are you sure you want to give this up?” he asked scanning the horizon with his outstretched arm.

No, I did not want to give this up, but “this” did not happen often enough. A submariner’s life is spent below the surface of the ocean, in darkness. His world illuminated by red lights and the glow of electronic equipment.

The first night on a voyage is unique, though this was more than first night. First night, men not on watch go to their bunks, it has been a long hard day. The normal routines of a ship at sea are not part of that first night. Those men on watch are exhausted from the day’s work of preparing a submarine to go to sea, and then taking that submarine to sea. The usual banter between the men on watch is absent that first night. Only the whir of electronic equipment fills the air with sound.

Words are inadequate to describe being at sea with a deck under your feet. There you are alone in your thoughts, you and the sea. Your family, friends, and responsibilities back on shore still exist, but they might as well be on Pluto. You cannot affect them, even if you wanted too. Quite literally all of your problems are behind you. That great equalizer, the sea, is spread out as far as the eye can see before you. No privileges, no obstacles. You stand there on deck feeling the sway of the ocean and the vibrations of the ship. All is as it should be, all is at peace. The sea is constant and plays no favorites.

If Jesus was a carpenter … God was a mariner.

My commanding officer Commander (later Admiral) Frank "Skip" Bowman just pinned the Submarine Warfare pin on my chest. Standing behind me is my first sonar chief Lee Goodyear.

My commanding officer Commander (later Admiral) Frank “Skip” Bowman just pinned the Submarine Warfare pin on my chest. Standing behind me is my first sonar chief Lee Goodyear.

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A Special Lady Indeed


Marilyn Monroe onboard the SS United States. CBS Sunday Morning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvzaMIaDAow

Marilyn Monroe onboard the SS United States. CBS Sunday Morning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvzaMIaDAow

video clip

No, this beautiful lady is not Marilyn Monroe, though Marilyn was beautiful. This beautiful lady is under Marilyn’s feet in the above photograph. This beautiful lady is the SS United States. Impressed by the Cunard liners RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, which transported hundreds of thousands of troops to and from Europe for World War Two, the United States government sponsored and heavily subsidized the SS United States. The American government wanted a large fast ocean liner that could transport large numbers of troops to Europe in a time of war. The government paid $50 million of the $78 million construction costs, and subsidized the operating costs. The was designed by the same firm that designed more than two thirds of the ships built during World War Two, and they put the best naval architect in America on the job, William Francis Gibbs.

English: SS United States and SS America in Ne...

English: SS United States and SS America in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SS United States is truly the most impressive ocean liner ever built. Not just for her day (she was built in 1952), but even today 61 years later. You may find that hard to believe now, but hopefully by the end of this article you will understand why I make that claim.

English: This is a picture postcard showing th...

English: This is a picture postcard showing the SS United States. These postcards were sold on ship for passenger and souvenir use. 日本語: 客船「ユナイテッド・ステーツ」のポストカード (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SS United States was built to US Navy standards because of all the money they were pouring into it. She was heavily compartmentalized so she could take quite a bit of damage and not only stay afloat but under her own power. Her engine room and hull below the water line were classified. In 1978, nine years after she was laid up, this information (still classified) was leaked to the public. Her cruising speed was 32 knots ( 37 mph, 59 km/h) her maximum sustained speed was 35 knots and her maximum speed (for short sprints) was 38 knots (44 mph, 71 km/h). She had 240,000 shaft horse power. Her maximum displacement (weight) was 47, 265 tons. Maximum gross registered tons (cubic feet of cargo/passenger space 100 cubic feet = 1 ton).

SS United States sun deck during eastbound tra...

SS United States sun deck during eastbound transatlantic voyage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On her maiden voyage, she broke the east bound speed record for a ocean liner in regular trans-Atlantic service. On her return trip, she broke the west bound speed record for a ocean liner in regular trans-Atlantic service. This gave the SS United States the Blue Riband, an honor the SS United States still holds to this day. There have been catamarans who have bested the SS United States east bound record and they received the Hales Trophy, but they were not ocean liners in regular passenger service and they did not make a westbound crossing. So, the SS United States retains its west bound speed record and the Blue Riband.

English: United States (ship)

English: United States (ship) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SS United States had the luxury you would expect of the world’s greatest ocean liner in passenger service and catered to some of the most famous people of her 17-year career. Presidents, royalty, stars, athletes, and the wealthiest of the wealthy, all took passage aboard the SS United States.

SS United States disembarking at Le Havre

SS United States disembarking at Le Havre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

video clip

I would like to be able to tell you that all is ll with this historic ship, but it is not. An anonymous donor donated $5.8 million to preserve the ship. Not just the greatest ocean liner ever made in the United States, but in the world. However, the SS United States Conservancy is stll $500,000 short and they have about two months to raise the funds. The good news is the effort is being spearheaded by the William Francis Gibbs’ grandaughter, and you can help. Just $1 USD can buy one square inch. Below are more articles and video clips where you can learn even more about this unique historic ship, and what you can do to help. Thank You!

https://www.facebook.com/SSUSC

http://www.nbcnews.com/travel/itineraries/titanic-undertakings-can-classic-ocean-liners-make-comeback-1C8543842

http://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/travel/cruises/2012/11/12/ss-united-states/1699479/

http://ss-united-states.com/galleryvt.html

http://www.mail.com/news/us/1977354-historic-ship-philly-short-funds-time.html#.7518-stage-hero1-2

http://youtu.be/SFW9ugJ6VyY    http://youtu.be/6AOxta5koIM    http://youtu.be/AtXUAYkKOvA

http://youtu.be/BvzaMIaDAow    http://youtu.be/SFW9ugJ6VyY   http://youtu.be/t6RJnOeVlD8

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Sunday’s Article … “I Found My Lance Chivalry Part 3”


English: A Palmetto Glade Near Palatka, Florida.

English: A Palmetto Glade Near Palatka, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Sunday’s article will be from a Southern perspective. Mine. I am a Southerner who has spent 20 years in self-imposed exile. The first thing I learned about living in the north, is that there are plenty of people who treat you like you are stupid as soon as they find out you are a Southerner (not all northerners, just some). It does not matter how smart you are (my IQ is over 160) they still treat you like you are stupid. The first thing I did was work hard on losing the Southern accent (I didn’t know I had one until I moved north). Then I started to pull back on everything my family, neighbors, teachers, and other adults in Palatka, Florida taught me as a child growing up in the South, just so I would “fit in” with northerners.

There is a bible verse that says something to the effect “raise your child right and they will return to it when they are older.”

Official seal of Palatka, Florida

Official seal of Palatka, Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is just what Palatka did, and I am returning too it. Of course, “you can take the Southerner out of the South, but you can never take ALL of the South out of the Southerner.” So, I didn’t hide from everything, and it will be easier for me to get back to who I am.

This Sunday’s article will be what that little Southern town taught me about being a man, and what my responsibilities are as man. In other words this Sunday’s article will be about Southern Chivalry.

Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning (Photo credit: jspaw)

So, until we meet Sunday, have a chivalrous day.

Joe

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