Monday, August 1, 2011

Pioneer Stories....

I love history.  I love the stories that come with studying history.  Like a lot of people, I’m interested in the stories of my family.  I love to hear stories about my parents and grandparents.  The stories “round out” what I know of them.  I also love to hear stories about more distant relatives; particularly relatives who are also "characters."  One such character was my grandfather’s grandfather, Elijah Heitt Maxfield. 

Elijah was an interesting man, who lived an interesting life.  He was one of Brigham Young’s “boys.”  He was involved in a number of adventures, including the traveling as a teamster for a number of immigrant companies,  working a silver mine in Cottonwood Canyon, and spying on the United States Army for Brigham Young during the bloodless "Mormon War."  He was one of the volunteers who helped to rescue the stranded Willie and Martin handcart companies after the pioneer companies crossing the plains pushing or pulling handcarts were caught in Wyoming by an early blizzard.  He rode for the Pony Express and he was one of the earliest settlers of Wayne County, Utah. 

Elijah or “Lige” was born in 1832 in Prince Edward Island, Canada, to a rather well-to-do family.  He was 12 years old when his family listened to a talk by Elder J. Skerry, a Mormon missionary.  I don’t know the exact date of his baptism into the LDS faith, but I know he followed the example of his parents and other extended family members and joined the Church.  In June 1850, when Lige was 18 years old, he joined his family as the heeded the call to journey to "Zion," which, by that time, meant a journey across the country to the Utah Territory.  Lige and his family left behind 600 acres of timbered land, an active saw mill, a horse raising business, and interest in a shipbuilding company to journey into the unknown. 

The Maxfield party journeyed to Iowa, the "stepping off place" for many Mormon immigrants, but arrived too late to travel to Utah in 1850.  So they waited until the next spring to start their journey.  Lige, at 18, was the third child of 11 born to his parents.  While they waited at Winter Quarters in Iowa, Lige’s little brother, 15-year old Jesse, went back across the Missouri river to get medicine for the smallest child, who had been sick for a while.  On the way back, Jesse slipped and fell into the river and drowned.  They found only his hat.  The baby, 3-year old Quincy Benjamin, died shortly after his brother.  I could not imagine the terrible grief that Lige's parents suffered, having two of their children die so close to each other.  What is amazing to me is that their story is not unique.  So many other pioneer families lost family members on the trip West; yet they did not give up. 
Despite the tragedy of losing two children, Lige’s parents decided to continue to Utah and they left Winter Quarters the next Spring, in May 1851.  Lige’s mother, Elizabeth, started the journey five months pregnant.  As the time for the child's delivery grew near, Elizabeth became increasingly ill, so the company they travelled with delayed for two days at Ham’s Fork in Wyoming, 150 miles from the end of their journey in Utah, to see if her condition would improve.  It didn’t.  The wagon company had to move on, so the family had to decide if they would leave their mother and wife and remain with the company or stay with her in Wyoming.  Because of the dangers of a small party traveling alone the family had to choose.  They could stay with their mother until she died, and risk unfamiliar terrain or the possibility of Indian attacks, or they could continue on with the wagon company and enjoy the protection of numbers.  The family made the very tough decision to leave Elizabeth with a man and his wife who were camped at Ham's Fork.  So after making preparations for Elizabeth's burial, and saying their "final farewells," the family, including Lige, continued on their journey. 
Elizabeth gave birth to a son a couple of days later, and her health improved.  A small party of pioneers passing through Ham's Fork agreed to give her a lift into the Salt Lake Valley, and amazingly, she arrived before her family.  I can only imagine the reunion when the wagon company finally arrived in "Zion" and found not only their mother, safe and well, but a new baby brother as well. 
The Maxfield family’s story is just one of the multitude of stories of sacrifice, loss, triumph and faith that we can tell of our pioneer ancestors.  We come from amazing people. 

I often wonder if I could have taken that walk in faith; that leap into the unknown.  I don't know if I have the qualities of character that our pioneer ancestors had.  I wonder.  I know that all of us can do what needs to be done, but in today's world, we are not asked to leave everything we own and everyone we know and take a journey toward a promise.  I think that I need to find those pioneer qualities that my great-great grandfather Lige had within me. 
Elder Dalin Oaks of the LDS Church explained it best.  He said,

The foremost quality of our pioneers was faith. With faith in God, they did what every pioneer does—they stepped forward into the unknown: a new religion, a new land, a new way of doing things. With faith in their leaders and in one another, they stood fast against formidable opposition. When their leader said, “This is the right place,” they trusted, and they stayed. When other leaders said, “Do it this way,” they followed in faith.

Two companion qualities evident in the lives of our pioneers, early and modern, are unselfishness and sacrifice. Our Utah pioneers excelled at putting “the general welfare and community goals over individual gain and personal ambition.”
Faith, unselfishness, and sacrifice.  These are the pioneer characteristics that I need to  emulate.   I am a beneficiary of Lige's faith, his unselfishness and his willingness to sacrifice.  I want to honor him, and his family, for their courage.  What better way to do so than to remember their stories and to try to live with the same characteristics of faith, unselfishness and sacrifice? 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"My Love for You is Deathless...."

Many of the early battles of the Civil War were fought 150 years ago, including the first Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run, if you prefer).  It was a time of intense struggle for our country and its citizens.  Today, many of us (including my Happy Cousin) honor those who lived and died during that period by reenacting the time period and the battles.  The PBS series on the Civil War opened that history, and it's stories, up to all of us.  I love that series.  I think it's because I love the human stories that make up history.  One of the stories brought to the public in that series was the story of Major Sullivan Ballou.

Major Ballou was a Union soldier who fought with the 2d Rhode Island Regiment in the First Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run).  He was mortally wounded there, on July 28th, 150 years ago.  He died a few days later.  The battle was a bloody one, with over 3,500 dead and wounded, and over 1000 missing or captured.  The night before the battle, Major Ballou wrote a letter to his wife.  It was this letter, this story, that Ken Burns used in his PBS series to demonstrate the cost of the war and the internal struggle that a soldier goes through before battle. 

The famous letter is exquisitely written, and it's words touch our hearts even today.  The emotions Major Ballou describes are so poignant; perhaps because they are so real, perhaps because for anyone who has a loved one serving today....they are so timely. 

Read it for yourself.  Here's the letter:

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure -- and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done.
If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.
I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows -- when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children -- is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles I have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.
I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me -- perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been!
How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood.
Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters.
Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them.
O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great Dogs!

If there really are such things as "dog people" and "cat people," then I'm definitely a "dog person."  I love dogs.  All types of dogs; big dogs, small dogs, furry dogs, skinny dogs.  I just love dogs.  Dogs keep your feet warm at night.  Dogs want to go with you when you go anywhere.  Dogs love you without condition.  Dogs are the definition of a best friend. 

We have a great dog, Bella.  She's a mix of Australian Sheppard and Border Collie.  We found her at the pound and rescued her.  She's the smartest dog I've ever met.  She loves to go.  Anywhere.  It doesn't matter if we're hiking or riding horses, she's right there with us.  She loves to ride in the back of the Razr (a side-by-side 4-wheeler, for those who don't know).  We take her just about everywhere we go.  She's a very polite dog.  She's also protective.  When anyone stops at our house, or comes in our yard, she'll come rushing through the doggie door to tell us someone's there.  She doesn't bark, much, but she'll tell us anyway.  When my horses got out, she kept coming in to let me know.  It just took me a bit to figure out what she was trying to tell me.  When we're travelling, she always stays between me and any stranger....which is sometimes frustrating because she'll watch the stranger instead of taking care of "business."  She's a great dog! 

So, when I read this story by Cpl Jeff Drew about "Willy Pete," I was touched by his dedication and loyalty....but then that's what dogs are about.  Here's the story (with a hat tip to Lynnis):

Afghan dog fights like a Marine

Posted by regionalcommandsouthwest on July 11, 2011
Story and photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew

COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - "Willy Pete" and Marines with Company D, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), rest before going out on a recent patrol. Willy has gone on more than 30 combat patrols in the last 60 days.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PAYNE, Helmand province, Afghanistan – He defends Marines and sailors with love and tenacity, protecting them as any Marine would protect a brother-in-arms. He is the epitome of man’s best friend, shielding service members from the enemy while providing companionship and camaraderie. His name is Willy Pete, and he’s a warrior, a protector, a friend. He’s also a dog.
Company D, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), arrived in the Khan Neshin District in the summer of 2009 for a seven-month deployment and established a coalition presence in the Southwest part of Afghanistan. The LAR Marines pushed west to gain a firm position in a town called Qal’ah-ye Now, where they found two dogs in a compound they began using as a patrol base.
The dogs were beaten and malnourished. One of them was pregnant and the Marines named her Sandy; the other dog was small and frail, and the Marines fittingly named him Scraggles. The company adopted the two dogs, who accepted the Marines as family. Sandy soon had her litter of puppies, one of which would be named Willy Pete. All the puppies went to local residents to protect their farms and herd livestock, but Willy had a different opportunity – he went to the Marines of Company D for companionship.

Scraggles and Sandy grew fond of the Marines in Qal’ah-ye Now and began to protect the patrol base, keeping unwanted dogs and suspicious people away. Willy began to demonstrate the same protective traits of his mother as he grew. He also learned how to patrol with the Marines, what a patrol formation was, and how to react when they came in contact with the enemy. Willy has gone through three complete combat rotations since then as each LAR unit has taken charge of the area in the past two years.
The veteran dog usually takes the lead when the Marines go on patrol now. He stays in front until the Marines pass through the bazaar outside the combat outpost. Local residents often look up in recognition of the dog, who seems to fancy himself a Marine. Willy relocates to a new position once he establishes a clear path for the Marines and begins moving from one side of the patrol to the other, warning Marines of anyone’s approach with a quick bark or a low growl.

The many stray dogs in the area tend to be very aggressive and travel in packs. Marines routinely spot Willy scrapping with a pack of wild dogs that approach his Marines.
“I had my squad on a local security patrol in Kala Shureh – we refer to the town as ‘Dog Town’ because of the large amount of wild dogs in the area,” said Sgt. Joshua Davis, an Auburn, Maine, native and squad leader with Weapons Platoon, 2nd LAR. “All of the dogs were overly aggressive and tried to stop the patrol’s movement by intimidating the Marines. Willy Pete single handily fought off five wild dogs to protect them. After Willy engaged the dogs, my squad was able to push through the village to complete our patrol.”

Willy also remains an integral part of security when the Marines and sailors return to the patrol base. He tours the grounds with the sergeant of the guard, chasing stray dogs out of friendly lines and warning the watch standers if anyone approaches the outpost.
The Marines said they appreciate Willy’s dedication, as he provides them companionship and demonstrates his loyalty each day by returning to the fight.
“Willy never walks in the other direction or tries to hide when he sees a squad heading out for a patrol,” said Lance Cpl. Philip Bulford, an Alabaster, Ala., native and mortar gunner with the company. “I believe that Willy believes it’s his duty and an honor to protect us from what may lie ahead.”

Willy bears the scars from the explosion of an improvised explosive device and a gunshot wound from an enemy insurgent due to his relentless enthusiasm and unyielding vigor to protect the Marines. Still, his loyalty to the Marines is unrelenting.
“He is a proven veteran and a wounded warrior,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony J. Eichler, a Pittsburgh native and the platoon sergeant for Weapons Platoon. “Willy is always tirelessly watching over what I would assume he considers ‘his’ Marines. He is a friend of all Marines, and he works hard every day on patrol and for the security of [the outpost]. He’s been knocked down a few times, but continues on with the mission just like any Marine would be expected to do.”

Sunday, July 3, 2011

4th of July Weekend

I went to church today.  That, in and of itself wasn't so unusual; I go to church just about every Sunday.  But today was something pretty special.  First of all, it was the first Sunday of the month, which meant it was the Sunday reserved for members of the congregation to bear their testimonies.  The members of my church congregation are pretty eloquent when publicly expressing their love for their Savior.  Fast and Testimony meeting at our Ward is always filled with the Lord's Spirit, as the members of the congregation publicly express their gratitude for blessings and their belief in the Gospel. 

What made this Sunday a bit different was the number of people who attended today's services.  I live in a very small town, in a very rural county.  My church's congregation draws its membership from two very small towns, one with a population of 191, and the other with a population of  171.  Today, we had just over 500 people join our services.  Most of the people were visitors to the area, who had come to enjoy our natural resources (we may not have a lot a people, but we have a National Park and two National Forests within a 10 mile radius) or who were visiting family for the 4th of July weekend.  Some of these visitors also were moved to publicly declare their testimonies, as were some of the "locals."  It was extremely special to hear heartfelt thanks and declarations of belief.  It was interesting that so many of the visitors talked about how special this place is.  How they felt "renewed" by coming here.  How they came back year after year.  How they felt closer to our Heavenly Father here. 

It was interesting, because that's exactly how I feel.  I am so lucky to live here.  There is such natural beauty in the land around this place.  It reminds me, every day, of the greatness of our Creator.  Of course, the people here are part of what makes this place so special.  They are "real" here.  They know what is important:  family, friends, freedom, the land, and the Gospel. 

It was also pretty special to hear the voices of that many people raised in song.  Because it is the 4th of July weekend, our chorister chose "The Star Spangled Banner" as the opening hymn.  (Yes, it's in our official hymn book.)  For a long time now, I tend to tear up when our National Anthem is sung.  I don't know why, it just happens.  It was a real problem when I was on active duty, wearing a uniform, and was rendering a salute during the Anthem.  Trying to wipe a tear away while at attention is not easy.  Anyway, I still tear up.  Today was no different.  As the extended congregation of 500-plus voices sang this wonderful song, I cried.  I cried for those families who have lost loved ones, who gave their lives for our Nation.  I cried for those families who are not able to have BBQ, go to the lake, or go camping this weekend, because their loved one is serving overseas.  I cried for the beauty of the song and the love I hold for this Nation.  I especially cried during the third verse of the hymn: 

Oh thus be it ever, where free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and war's desolation
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Promise the pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I wish that everyone could have the chance to sing all the verses of our National Anthem on this 4th of July weekend.  Perhaps we'd all remember....and shed at least one tear. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Second-Class Citizens.....????

There's an article on American Thinker website today that caused me a bit of concern.  The article's author, Bob Weir, asks "Are Mormons Second-Class Citizens?"  To answer this rather provocative question, Mr Weir discusses the results of a recent Gallup poll that found that "22% of Americans would not be willing to vote for a Mormon for president."  Somehow I don't find that very surprising, and it's painful that I don't. 

I served in the Air Force for 23 years.  Granted I served as a staff officer, an attorney, a Judge Advocate; but I served.  Maybe it was my "professional" status, but not once in my 23-year career did I feel that I was not taken seriously solely because I was a woman.  I worked for good Staff Judge Advocates and for great Commanders.  I enjoyed the men and women I served with.  Although I also worked for some not-so-good Commanders and one absolutely terrible Staff Judge Advocate, I never believed that anyone was biased against me because of my gender. 

Having said that, there was one time that I know I was not given a national-level award because of my religion.  I am a Mormon, and the award package contained information about community service I performed as a part of my religion.  One of the members who sat on the awards board talked to me after the award had been given to another (very deserving) person.  The board member told me to make sure my boss submitted me for the award the following year; but to leave out any mention that I was Mormon.  He told me that some of the other awards board members believed that Mormons should not get national-level awards.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I couldn't believe it....that members of a highly professional organization like the Air Force would be so overtly discriminatory. 

So I find it interesting that 22% of the people responding to the Gallup poll would not vote for a Mormon, solely because of religion.  It seems like our society hasn't really progressed as far as we'd like it to.  People have misconceptions about Mormons and Mormonism, and are unwilling to have an open mind about the religion or those who practice it.  Fortunately, we've progressed from the days where a state Governor can issue an order to expel Mormons from the state, or exterminate Mormons if they don't leave.  But I wonder who far we've really progressed.....

I agree with Martin Luther King that "men (and women) should be judge on the content of their character."  We should evaluate people, and political candidates, based on who they are, who they surround themselves with, and the actions they take.  That a person has religious values, and applies those values in his life, is more important than what his religion is.  A person's religion is a matter of personal belief (or lack of belief).  What matters is that the person's actions are driving by the person's values....and the person is not a hypocrite. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Counting Blessings

I just had a wonderful week with my daughter and her two kids.  We camped, we played, we rode horses, and we just "hung out."  Although it was a busy week, I enjoyed every minute of it.  All of my kids live a good distance away, so I don't get to see them very often.  I admit that moving away was my choice, and it was a choice that hurt a lot of people, but one of the things I really regret is that I live so far away from them and my grandkids.  Family really is everything. 

I have a wonderful family.  I am married to a great man, who loves me.  I'm fortunate to still have my parents.  I live in a place where I have an extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins that I enjoy.   My siblings are my friends.  As I said, I have great kids who are married to wonderful people, and who have given me super grandkids.  My family isn't perfect, who's family is.....but I love them all.  The thing is:  they're mine in all their imperfections.  Family really is everything. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


You know what I love about Summer?  I love the sunshine.  I love flowers and green grass.  I love the longer days and BBQ.  And, I love hot fudge sundaes.  Yum!  I know, you can have hot fudge sundaes during the other three seasons, too.....but they're never as good as the hot fudge sundaes you get during the Summer. 

In the Summer, we drive to the local Flyover Country hamburger joint to get the best hot fudge sundaes.  It's better when you can stay outside and order your sundae through the walk-up window.  I guess there's something about the warm sunshine on your face and the cool breeze blowing through your hair that just makes the hot fudge taste better.   The cold ice cream meshes so well with the smooth whipped cream, and the nuts just add a hint of crunch to tease your taste buds.  Yummy! 

So this evening, my guy and I decided to take a short drive to the hamburger joint for sundaes.  The sun was still warm, but there was a nice breeze to make everything very pleasant.  The girl at the window is a friend, as was the cook and just about all the other customers at the burger joint....ah, the joys of small town we visited while our order was made and caught up with Flyover Country news.  Then we got our sundaes.  Mine was a chocolate explosion.  When we ordered, my guy teased me about my absolute devotion to chocolate (it goes much further than mere love...), so my friend at the burger joint made me a chocolate and hot fudge sundae to beat all sundaes.  Rocky road ice cream with hot fudge, brownie bits, and chocolate chips, topped off with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry.  Absolutely delicious! 

But, now I'm full....and chocolate overloaded.  I guess there is such concept as "too much of a good thing."  Well...maybe not.....

Friday, June 10, 2011

Something to Ponder

I was listening to the Glen Beck show on satellite radio on the way to Salt Lake City on Wednesday.  Glen was interviewing David Mamet, a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  Mr Mamet made a statement that has had me thinking for several days.  In addressing our political leaders (to use the term "leaders" loosely), Mr Mamet said,

"We need to stop expecting our leaders to be perfect and start expecting them to be responsible."

I totally agree!!!   We are never going to have the "perfect" person to lead this Nation. (At least not until the second coming of Christ, and that's assuming he wants to lead this Nation.)  There will always be something that someone doesn't like about a particular leader.  No leader will always be perfect, everyone has faults.  But, a true leader will be responsible.  He or she will "own" their fault, and try to rectify it (if possible).  A true leader will do everything they can to avoid a mistake or misstep, but if they can't a true leader will acknowledge that it was their mistake or misstep. 

All I will say about Representative Wiener's debacle is that by this criteria, Representative Wiener is not a leader, in any sense of the word. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Presidential Politics--The Cain Train

I'm not sure that I'm ready for 2012 Presidential politics already; after all, it's only June in 2011. will be interesting to follow the GOP Presidential hopefuls through the primary process.   I do have to admit that I'm intrigued by a couple of the hopefuls.  Romney is one.  Herman Cain is another.  I'm not ready to say who I'll vote for, I don't even know.  But one thing is for certain, it will be interesting....

For example, here's Herman Cain's new campaign video:
Get on the Cain-Train....well it's catchy.....let's see if he has the substance to go with the style....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Idol & 2012 Politics

Along with a lot of other folks, I watched this season of American Idol.  I don't know why I was caught up in watching this year, but I was.  I'll also admit to rooting for Scotty McCreery, the eventual winner, for most of the year....I started rooting for him when, in the preliminary rounds, he told the judges he messed up in not standing up for an overweight contestant who was kicked out of the a group of singers.  He said then that he didn't live up to his values and regretted it....and this was from a teenager.  I liked him for admitting the mistake, and I always loved his voice.  I like the hardrocking James Durbin, too, but I wanted Scotty to win and was glad for him when he did. 

A guy named Stuart Schwartz has an interesting take on Scotty McCreery's win in an article titled, Everything I Need to Know About 2012 I Learned on American Idol.  In it, Schwartz says,
Country won. Honesty won. Decency won. And good ol' American values won. They beat hypocrisy and hyperbole, snark and snicker, and the jaw-dropping arrogance of the experts and elites. No, I'm not talking about the Republican sweep of the House last year. Rather, I'm talking about last week's American Idol, where viewers disregarded the exhortations of entertainment and media elites and chose instead down-home over Hollywood, and country over anything and everything our cultural elites pushed at them.
Interesting analysis.  According to Schwartz, even though the judges, the music industry, and the "in-the-know" elite routinely "dissed" Scotty McCreery, he won because the "American People" voted for him.  Schwartz explains,
Although the judges comment after each performance, it is left to the viewers to choose the winners. In past seasons, voters have regularly ignored the preferences of judges and assorted other entertainment and media experts, who largely view the tens of millions in the audience as lacking sophistication and knowledge of "the true art form of music." And again this past week, viewers let the experts know: We're different, we make different choices. 
I say, "Wonderful!"  I'm glad that American's voted for McCreery.  They chose him because they like his voice, and because he has character.  They chose him because he's a cute teenager.  The other contestants just didn't measure up. 

Although I didn't necessarily see Scotty McCreery's Idol win as a political statement, Schwartz's analysis is interesting.  He sees two lessons from this season's Idol that will be applicable to the 2012 elections.  First, "everything changes when the audience watches or lives the performance."  In other words, according to Schwartz, the music experts may have made pronouncements about who should win, "but American Idol viewers voted on the actual singing."  Schwartz believes that if Idol results can be applied to the political arena, then "if 2008 was the year of Obama and cool comes to the White House, then 2012 will best be characterized by the Who hit, "Won't Get Fooled Again."  The second lesson is that "we now know not to trust talking heads and consensus experts, either left or right."  All those "experts" tried to tell us that down-home, honest, likable-country was just not "cool" or "edgy."  But we don't follow the lemmings anymore.  We voted for the country-kid with the great singing voice. 

I think I agree with Schwartz that we need to apply these two Idol lessons to the political realities of 2012.  As Schwartz argues, we have to do what Scott McCreery did when Lady Gaga (who was wearing $4,500 shoes shaped like penises) told McCreery to "act evil." "Lord," he  said, "it's not my doing."  McCreery ignored Gaga's advice and just kept on singing country, "wearing his cross and thanking God and family and friends for the many blessing of this time and place."
I agree with Schwartz, it's time "to tell the mainstream press, insider Washington, and the academic and cultural elites to strap on their $4,500 "penis shoes" and take a hike...because we're gonna be singing country."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

About Time!

A couple of years ago....from 1998-99....I worked in the Pentagon.  Part of my responsibilities included working cyber law issues.  It was a challenging, but a lot of fun.  The issues were all fairly new, so there wasn't a lot of "hard & fast" legal precedent on which to base a legal opinion.  The whole time I worked cyber law questions, I advocated for a standard that set a virtual "red line" around critical computer systems or databases, such that if anyone not authorized to access that system or database did so, it constituted an act of war.  It's an act of war for a nation-state or terrorist organization to penetrate our borders and cause havoc; the act of penetrating a critical computer system or database should be categorized the same way.   Of course, there were practical problems that needed to be identified and worked out; but the main idea was that there are certain systems or databases that are so essential to the functioning of our goverment, our defense, or our society that any interference with those systems would cause a major disruption equivalent to an attack on the homeland and those systems needed protection.

At the time, during the Clinton Administration, there were certain elements within the Department of Justice that heavily resisted calling any computer intrusion an act of war.  They wanted to categorize any intrusion into a computer system or database, critical or not, as a criminal act.  The problem with this approach was that criminal acts need to be investigated; applying all the "standard" investigatory rules, such as the requirement for probable cause prior to issuing a search warrant. 

I've been out of the cyber law arena for some time, but it looks like someone with some sense finally saw the light.  According to FoxNews, the Pentagon has finally concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country could be considered an act of war.  All I can say is, "about time." 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day

A memorial is a thing that helps us remember.  Memorial Day should be a day that we take time to remember, to recall, and to honor.  We "celebrate" Memorial Day as the official start of Summer and all the joys that Summer brings; but we should also take the time to remember those who have passed on....particularly those who have passed on too soon while serving and protecting our great Country and the ideals she represents.  Don't let the "memorial" part of Memorial Day pass without taking some time to remember.....our fallen heroes deserve it.  May the Lord bless and keep them close and may He comfort their families on this day of remembrance. 

Blogs as History......

Greyhawk, a blogger writing on the Mudville Gazette, has re-posted a great post from November 2010 on the impact of blogs (particularly military blogs) and how the writings in these blogs should be preserved as a part of our history.  Check out the blog post here.  It's a great idea!  These blogs, whether written by those serving in a war zone or those of us at home, are wonderful primary sources for thoughts, ideas, reactions and issues of the time.  They need to be preserved!!!!   If the government can spend money studying shrimp on a treadmill or jello wrestling in Antartica; there should be funds available to preserve important writings on important topics.  The biggest practical problem would be deciding which blogs and which posts should be preserved.  Editorial questions are always the hardest.....aren't they?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Graduation Day & Friends

So it's Graduation Day here in Flyover Country.  We went to a Middle School Graduation this morning, and will attend the High School Graduation this afternoon.  Living in an "ultra-small town" like we do, we've come to know most of the kids who are graduating, so helping them mark a "life achievement" is pretty cool; especially the middle school class. 

Made me think, though.  There are 36 kids in this class.  The majority of them have been together since kindergarten, or before; and most of them will graduate from High School together in 2015.  It's something that my little military-brat-heart doesn't really comprehend.  Between First grade and High School Graduation, I went to seven different schools, most of them in different states.  I had to make new friends and find new activities at each new school.  Moving into a new school was both exciting and scary.  You could be whomever and whatever you wanted to be in a new school.  It's different for these kids.  These kids know each other.  They know who wet their pants in kindergarten and cried for their moms in First grade.  They know who got in trouble shooting the spitballs at the teacher in Fourth grade.  They know who kissed whom first.    Having someone who knows me (and the history of my foibles) that well would terrify me.   Maybe that's why I have some difficulties letting people get close to me.

My kids are also military-brats.  They've each had to move at critical stages in their lives.  I tried, as much as I could, to minimize the impact that moving could cause; but you can't eliminate it.  It's just not possible.  But I look at my kids and their ability to bond with friends and I'm envious.  My eldest collects friends.  She has a very eclectic collection of good friends from all over the world.  I admire her for that ability at the same time that I wonder how she does it.  My middle child and my son have firm-fast-friends from High School; and have newer, but still close, friends that they've made as a young adults.  Although I'm still in touch with some friends from High School, as well as friends from my active-duty days, it's mainly the at-arm's-length-social-media-contacts that seem to happen these days.  

I don't know.  Maybe my kids have the ability to keep friends close because, unlike my generation, they can  send emails and text messages. They're able to stay in touch, no matter how far away they move.   But then again, maybe it's just the difference in our experiences and our personalities.  What I do know, is that here in Flyover Country, I'm making friends I intend to let into my life and keep matter who wet their pants in Kindergarten or who put fake dog poop in the teacher's chair.  I've discovered that good friends are worth the risk. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

OK...So I've Been Bad About Blogging

I've been a big, bad, blogger.  Despite good intentions, I haven't blogged at all since New Year's day.  I've got all kinds of excuses....studying for a bar exam, taking a bar exam 27 years after I took my first bar exam, starting a new non-profit know, doing the stuff that life is made of....I'm sorry.  Life intrudes.  I'll try to do better. 

I started this blog to join in the 'blog-o-sphere conversation."  I had started to follow a number of blogs, primarily military-blogs, and found myself wanting to make longer comments on the topics covered in the blogs.  So I started this blog to put my thoughts and ideas "out there."  I guess I needed an outlet of some type.   I still have the thoughts and ideas, I just haven't been good about sharing them here.  I'm not sure why, other than a lack of time; and that's not a great reason.  I don't know, maybe there's a "deeper" reason, maybe not.  I do know that once you are cautious about sharing your thoughts, it's hard to start up again. 

Anyway, life moves on....and I want to use this post to highlight another blog.  Link on over to Chronicles of the Fabulous.  They have some fantastic stuff to gander through!  Love to both those girls and their Fabulousness!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!!

New Year's Day.  When I was a kid, it was a day to watch parades on television.  I loved watching the floats and bands.  As I grew older, it was a day for watching the Bowl Games (back when Bowl Games meant something).  Now, it just might be a day for reflecting on the past year and planning the new year.  I'm not one for New Year's resolutions....but, it might be a good idea to set an overall goal for this next year.  I might just try it this year.  Now I'm not talking about renaming a "resolution" as a "goal,"  I'm talking about a making an overall goal for life in the upcoming year; something like "making a conscious decision to look on the bright side" or "being more assertive" or "trying to be more spiritual."  What about you?  Do you have an overarching goal for the New Year?  I may want to borrow