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Memorial Day is always a mixed bag for me. I do weep for those who served and suffered. But most of them were followers, even the officers, of political leaders who had made life and death decisions on their behalf, sometimes for very bad reasons. Of late, especially since Vietnam, those reasons have been somewhere on the scale between questionable and dead wrong.

When we had the draft, in the Vietnam era, one could have great compassion for the young who sacrificed their options in life to serve their country when called. Even those who dodged service gave up option then. Since the end of the draft, many who have served have done so just to get a job and some training that was not otherwise readily available for them. We can have sympathy for them that they made such a Hobson’s choice.

Today, as we honor those who served, and especially those who suffered and died in place of ourselves, and as we remember their families, we might best respect their loyalty to their nation  by questioning the motives and the thinking of those who are our political leaders today, as to their military strategies. Do these strategies justify the continued use of our military might, and are the American people being served well by these strategies and the people behind them?

The loyalties and sacrifices of generations of Americans who have served and supported the military are best served, I believe, by an engaged, questioning, demanding public,  that holds our leadership accountable for their strategies and decisions, and speaks out boldly on behalf of those who have served, are serving and those yet to be called.

America has too often been a nation of Forest Gumps, being led to the slaughter by cynical, distant leaders. Memorial Day should be about honoring those who serve by questioning those who lead. It’s not just about memories, but accountability. For a personal story about questioning and service, see my essay, “All That Glitters,” as presented to the Chicago Literary Club. http://www.chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Ebeling%20–%20All%20That%20Glitters.htm

A sprawling bur oak, lively as ever, dated to 1499, visited on Friday, in the High Wine Historic District on the bluff near Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois. 

We live in an era where big business may begin to take a backseat to local enterprise, and that is certainly the case wherever farmer’s markets have arisen, bringing fresh, locally-grown produce to the tables of appreciative cooks. A “locavore” is someone who appreciates and purchases such food. It was the “word of the year” in 2007, yet is still being discovered today. The team of senior college public relations majors who won the 17th Ebeling PR-ize for cause-related communications yesterday at Bradley University beat six other excellent teams to win the award, presented at the Mark Twain hotel near Peoria’s famous waterfront, soon to become the home of the #100 million new Peoria Riverfront Museum and the $37 million Catepillar visitor’s center. The PR-ize program, created by Bradley alumni Chuck Ebeling, challenges student teams to bring together all of the PR skills they have learned in a real, pro-bono joint project for the benefit of a local for-profit and a not-for-profit organization, demonstrating that it is possible to do well and do good in our modern society. The student work is on a par with that of a professional public relations agency or department.

Spherical Representation Of Earth’s Water.

If you gathered all of Earth’s water into a sphere, it’s diameter wouldn’t even span a third of the distance of the continental United States. It’s a thought provoking bit of imagery provided by USGS. Thanks IO9.

Here is my brother-in-law Jay pulling his hot vintage red AC Cobra continuation sports car onto the car park at Applewood Lodge, after over-wintering in our garage.  Jay bids his sister Vicki (my wife) farewell, before he motors off down Woodchuck Way toward the County road, back to Glencoe on a sunny spring day. 

With CNN reporting that President Obama has secretly arrived in Afghanistan to sign an agreement for some kind of continuation of forces beyond 2014, one can honestly question whether this generation will ever see an end to U.S. involvement in the conflict there.

The only acceptable “excuse” for America‘s continued presence might be as some sort of insurance policy to keep nuclear, radical Pakistan at bay, although why that can’t be accomplished without ground forces is a mystery to me.

My concern is not just about the continued exposure of U.S. troops to what amounts to civil war, in which the U.S. serves as a political mercenary force. My concern is that the massive economic cost of our continued presence will be even more destabilizing here at home than would our total departure from Afghanistan.

Our continued presence in Afghanistan is one more reason why the next generation of Americans will not get enough education or job opportunities, that is, unless they volunteer for military service or contract service to the military. Another generation will loyally go to war, while leaders will write books about their difficult choices, and the populace will wither because of the unfortunate choices those short-sighted, narrow-minded “leaders” have made on our behalf.

May 2012
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