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Open thread 5/29/23

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  • ghostsniper May 29, 2023, 8:08 AM

    In Flanders Fields

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  • ghostsniper May 29, 2023, 8:10 AM

    From over at Kim’s place.

    Charles Loxton was a small man, no taller than 5’6”, and was born in 1899. This means that when he fought in the muddy trenches of France during the First World War, he was no older than 17 years old — Delville Wood, where he was wounded, took place in July 1916.

    Seventeen years old. That means he would have been a little over sixteen when he enlisted. In other words, Charles must have lied about his age to join the army — many did, in those days, and recruiting officers winked at the lies. After all, the meat grinder of the Western Front needed constant replenishment, and whether you died at 17, 18 or 19 made little difference.

    Why did he do it? At the time, propaganda told of how the evil Kaiser Wilhelm was trying to conquer the world, and how evil Huns had raped Belgian nurses after executing whole villages. Where Charles lived as a young boy, however, the Kaiser was no danger to him, and no German Uhlans were going to set fire to his house, ever.

    But Charles lied about his age and joined up because he felt that he was doing the right thing. That if good men did nothing, evil would most certainly win.

    It’s not as though he didn’t know what was coming: every day, the newspapers would print whole pages of casualty lists, the black borders telling the world that France meant almost certain death. The verification could be found in all the houses’ windows which had black-crepe-lined photos of young men, killed on the Somme, in Flanders, in Ypres, and at Mons.

    He would have seen with his own eyes the men who returned from France, with their missing limbs, shattered faces and shaky voices. He would have heard stories from other boys about their relatives coming back from France to other towns — either in spirit having died, or else with wounds so terrible that the imagination quailed at their description.

    He would have seen the mothers of his friends weeping at the loss of a beloved husband. Perhaps it had been this man and not his father who had taught him how to fish, or how to shoot, or how to cut (from the branches of a peach tree) a “mik” (the “Y”) for his catapult.

    But Charles, a 16-year-old boy, walked out of his home one day and went down to the recruiting center of the small mining town, and joined the Army.

    When years later I asked him why he’d done it, he would just shrug, get a faraway look in his blue eyes, and change the subject. Words like duty, honor, country, I suspect, just embarrassed him. But that didn’t mean he was unaware of them.

    So Charles joined the Army, was trained to fight, and went off to France. He was there for only four months before he was wounded. During the attack on the German trenches at Delville Wood, he was shot in the shoulder, and as he lay there in the mud, a German soldier speared him in the knee with his bayonet, before himself being shot and killed by another man in Charles’ squad. At least, I think that’s what happened — I only managed to get the story in bits and pieces over several years. But the scars on his body were eloquent witnesses to the horror: the ugly cicatrix on his leg, two actually (where the bayonet went in above the knee and out below it), and the star-shaped indentation in his shoulder.

    The wounds were serious enough to require over a year’s worth of extensive rehabilitation, and they never really healed properly. But Charles was eventually passed as fit enough to fight, and back to the trenches he went. By now it was early 1918 — the Americans were in the war, and tiny, limping Private Charles Loxton was given the job as an officer’s batman: the man who polished the captain’s boots, cleaned his uniform, and heated up the water for his morning shave every day. It was a menial, and in today’s terms, demeaning job, and Charles fought against it with all his might. Eventually, the officer relented and released him for further line service, and back to the line he went.

    Two months later came the Armistice, and Charles left France for home, by now a grizzled veteran of 19. Because he had been cleared for trench duty, he was no longer considered to be disabled, and so he did not qualify for a disabled veteran’s pension.

    When he got back home, there were no jobs except for one, so he took it. Charles became, unbelievably, a miner. His crippled knee still troubled him, but he went to work every day, because he had to earn money to support his mother, by now widowed, and his younger brother John. The work was dangerous, and every month there’d be some disaster, some catastrophe which would claim the lives of miners. But Charles and his friends shrugged off the danger, because after the slaughter of the trenches, where life expectancy was measured in days or even hours, a whole month between deaths was a relief.

    But he had done his duty, for God, King and country, and he never regretted it. Not once did he ever say things like “If I’d known what I was getting into, I’d never have done it.” As far as he was concerned, he’d had no choice — and that instinct to do good, to do the right thing, governed his entire life.

    At age 32, Charles married a local beauty half his age. Elizabeth, or “Betty” as everyone called her, was his pride and joy, and he worshipped her his whole life. They had five children.

    Every morning before going to work, Charles would get up before dawn and make a cup of coffee for Betty and each of the children, putting the coffee on the tables next to their beds. Then he’d kiss them, and leave for the rock face. Betty would die from multiple sclerosis, at age 43.

    As a young boy, I first remembered Charles as an elderly man, although he was then in his late fifties, by today’s standards only middle-aged. His war wounds had made him old, and he had difficulty climbing stairs his whole life. But he was always immaculately dressed, always wore a tie and a hat, and his shoes were polished with such a gloss that you could tell the time in them if you held your watch close.

    Charles taught me how to fish, how to cut a good “mik” for my catapult, and watched approvingly as I showed him what a good shot I was with my pellet gun. No matter how busy he was, he would drop whatever he was doing to help me — he was, without question, the kindest man I’ve ever known.

    In 1964, Charles Loxton, my grandfather, died of phthisis, the “miner’s disease” caused by years of accumulated dust in the lungs. Even on his deathbed in the hospital, I never heard him complain — in fact, I never once heard him complain about anything, ever. From his hospital bed, all he wanted to hear about was what I had done that day, or how I was doing at school.

    When he died, late one night, there was no fuss, no emergency, no noise; he just took one breath, and then no more. He died as he had lived, quietly and without complaint.

    From him, I developed the saying, “The mark of a decent man is not how much he thinks about himself, but how much time he spends thinking about others.”

    Charles Loxton thought only about other people his entire life.

    In Memoriam


  • Joe Krill May 29, 2023, 9:41 AM

    ghostsniper, Thank you.

  • ghostsniper May 29, 2023, 9:46 AM

    Howard’s take:

    An anxious silence falls over the land this Memorial Day as we discern increasingly that those we put in charge of this shape-shifting thing called the public interest are running out of trips to lay on the people. Something grotesque is revealing itself: a bankruptcy not just of money but of national purpose, meaning, and legitimacy. You realize this day, with a breaking heart, that your country has been stolen by psychopaths.

    Brace for impact. We’re already off the road and now it’s only a matter of how this vehicle comes to a stop in the ditch. Then, it’s a question of how each of us emerges from the smoldering wreckage. The main thing, though, is clear to everyone: What we were riding in is no more. We’re out there stumbling around in the dark, in shock, trying desperately to assess our whereabouts and what has happened to us.

    Read the rest here:

  • Nori May 29, 2023, 2:13 PM

    Superb choices. The comments at Kim’s are worth a read as well.
    Remember when VFW used to hand out little red poppies on Armistice Day? They were made of fabric at first,then switched to red crepe paper,which faded quickly. Like memories of that War to End All Wars,I guess.
    Every new essay of Mr Kunstler’s somehow trumps his previous one. “Pathocracy” and “Pathocrats”,what fitting descriptions of our new world order. Ideas for humanity’s enslavement so new and awesome,the ancient Greeks had it pegged eons ago.

    These posts encapsulate where we were,what we were,and where we are now. Very well done,thank you Ghost.

    • John the River May 30, 2023, 6:36 PM

      Funny thing happened. On Saturday I went to the market for fresh ground sirloin and rolls for the Memorial Day cookout coming up.
      As I parked the car my eye caught a movement inside the car to the right. Last years poppy fell from the rear view mirror where I had wound it. I looked at it on the floor, looked up though the windshield and saw the gentleman from the VFW at his little table near the doors to the store.
      I got out of the car, walked up to his table and put five bucks into his jar and accepted the new poppy he handed me. And thanked him.
      Smart little poppy I thought.

  • ghostsniper May 29, 2023, 2:16 PM

    The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    Ann is a teacher.
    Go read her words.


  • azlibertarian May 29, 2023, 3:27 PM

    We had dinner last week at the home of some friends. She had a very serious health matter almost a year ago…so serious that Mrs. azlib and I spent weeks believing that she’d never get out of the hospital and we’d never get to say goodbye…and the dinner was her “Thank You” to all of us who had helped or prayed for her.

    Anyway, her husband is kinda a blow-hard, and I don’t really like him much. I can take him in small doses, but many in our circle of friends don’t want to have anything to do with him. And at the dinner, he had to tell us that he’d been researching his genealogy and he’d found that some distant relative had participated in the American Revolution. He found what unit this relative had been part of and the bridge that they took from the British (or prevented the British from taking….I forget) and it was all very important to him, but somewhat dull to me. This guy….this distant relative….had been a some part of some scrappy guys basically out doing mischief….and while it happened to have turned out well, there were a couple’o jillion other events–some of them big, but most, like this one, very small–that occurred between then and now to make this country what it is.

    And this morning, I thought of my dad. With one exception, he had a completely unremarkable military career. Dad started out in the Air Force through a program that doesn’t exist any longer. Aviation Cadets was set up as a way to quickly get officers into the Air Force. The program lasted about a year, but at the end of that year, Dad received both his Commission and his Navigator wings on the same day. And from there, the Air Force became his (first) career.

    In many respects, Dad did not make a name for himself in the AF. The problem he faced was that he went to Aviation Cadets without a college degree, and once in the Air Force, he never put in the time to get one on his own. I remember him trying at certain parts of his career to take a night-school class every now and then, but he never got that degree. And because of that, the Air Force wouldn’t promote him beyond Major, and when he hit his 20-year point, they required him to retire. [For a brief period right after his retirement, this was a good thing. He was getting his retirement pay {which isn’t enough to live on, not even close}, and he was then taking a couple of college courses on the GI Bill, and because he’d been forced out of the AF, he got unemployment too. He was making more money out of the AF than he was while he was in. But, I digress.]

    Dad was a KC-135 Tanker Navigator, and he spent many years in Stan/Board. These are the guys who give checkrides to other Navigators and make sure that procedures and standards are being adhered to. I think he took his role seriously, as he understood that someone in the Strategic Air Command at the height of the Cold War had better know what he was doing, or some serious damage might occur in one of our cities. But during the Cold War, people serving in SAC never went anywhere where you might get shot at. This applied to Tanker guys even when refueling fighters in a hot war.

    But Dad also had this one-year tour during the VietNam war that on later reflection, made him a badass in my eyes. He was assigned to fly in the back seat of an OV-10 in a then-new program called “PAVE NAIL”. The AF had developed the first of what we now call “smart bombs” and Dad was in the back seat of the OV-10 designating the targets with the laser as the fighters came in and dropped the bombs.

    This may be enough to have made him a badass, but what really did it for me was when in my 40’s, I finally understood that it was where he was based that really did it. He was based at Nakhon Phanom (NKP, in the usual parlance), which is in the north-eastern most corner of Thailand. NKP is about 80 miles from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In airplane terms, 80 miles is just a stone’s throw away from the enemy.

    Because of this proximity, during the war the airbase at NKP was heavily de-foliated with Agent Orange.

    Dad died in 2010 of complications from Multiple Myeloma….a blood cancer. He never spoke of it, but I’m fairly sure that he was aware of the connection between Multiple Myeloma and Agent Orange. Maybe I’m trying to make my Dad into more of a hero than he really was, but I believe that he thought of his cancer as a service-related injury.

    So today as I think of my own Dad, and what he did for this country, I’m also re-thinking my views of the blow-hard and his distant relative who served in that unit during the Revolutionary War. Yeah, maybe his great-great-great-great-uncle was just a private at that time, and maybe all he did was to cook up the morning gruel for the troops. But maybe he had a brief moment–no more than a split-second–where his contributions were meaningful. I can’t know either way.

    What I do know is that service, no matter how menial, is honorable, and they all get my salute.

  • Mike Seyle May 29, 2023, 4:04 PM

    Azlibertarian, thank you for that. Until now, I’ve tended to hide the fact that I was 71f20. All the support people are in one sense “support,” but in another, “essential.” The guy who got your dad’s corrected procedure might have lived because of it; the guy who got his last letter from his girl before getting shot up might have had her love run before him before he died.

    Ben Britt. Blown up three before Christmas, 2005. Iraq. For nothing in one sense. For everything in another. Pray for Eli Benjamin Britt, struggling at about 1.5 pounds in memory of his uncle.

  • ghostsniper May 29, 2023, 6:05 PM

    It’s the idea of stepping forward to do what needs to be done that makes the difference.
    Not everybody can do that.
    Not everybody should do that.
    It’s in one’s core value.

  • Rob De Witt May 29, 2023, 8:03 PM

    Pvt. Robert D. DeWitt, KIA 27 November 1944.

    Thanks, Dad

  • Joe Krill May 30, 2023, 9:19 AM

    July 4, 1821: Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on Foreign Policy by John Quincy Adams

    AND NOW, FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind?

    Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.

    She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.

    She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

    She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.

    She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right.

    Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

    But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

    She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

    She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

    The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….

    She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

    [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

  • Bob Clark May 30, 2023, 4:09 PM

    Thank you ghostsniper for publishing the article about Charles Loxton. It was well-timed and good reading.

  • Anne May 30, 2023, 4:50 PM

    My thanks and congratulations to all who have posted here–for both the good reads and the important ideas!

  • Casey Klahn May 31, 2023, 6:17 AM

    My wife & I went to two cemeteries on Monday; one where her father rests, and the other is a local national cemetery. There was a ceremony and it was good for my soul to reflect on the meaning of the day.

    I never go to anti-war when I remember our war dead. It feels dirty; doesn’t honor their sacrifice. OTOH you wouldn’t glorify their task, but for God’s sake let them rest appreciated because you never got close to their measure of duty.

    I met a navy LT and chatted with him awhile about his war service (Gulf War). I told him we both wore railroad tracks, but I was smart enough to avoid wartime service. While I was interested in his shipboard service, he seemed most proud of his time on the ground with army grunts. Go figure. I told him about seeing the Pacific commander’s jet go low over my house, with three 5G fast-movers in escort. He commiserated with me that that was some shit, and mentioned that his friends in the 7th Fleet are having an interesting time these days.

    War clouds gather. I don’t like it.

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