I asked a not-so-random teenager if she happened to know what December 7, 1941, signified. No, but she did know the magnitude of the bombing of Pearl Harbor as the entry of the United States into World War II.
I’m constantly reminded why some folks keep chanting, “Never forget.” And as the generations pass, people WILL forget. I mean, these may be events that are marked in the history books, but it just won’t have the same resonance to another generation. 1776 and 1861 and 1941 all signify ancient history.
Born a little over a decade after Pearl Harbor, I can still hear in my mind’s ear not only the words of FDR’s address to Congress on December 8 but his speaking pattern. But I was learning this a mere quarter-century after the consequential event, as opposed to 75 or 80 years later. December 7, 1941, for many, I surmise, will not always be “a date which will live in infamy.”
It is inevitable that elements of history fall through the cracks. But it troubles me that history can be so distorted. I’m thinking of the Holocaust both-sides-ing debacle, in Texas, unsurprisingly.
One can analyze the Why. For instance, the Germans could not accept they had been defeated in World War I. They needed convenient scapegoats. The Holocaust was partly a result of that.
Surely, one may analyze what other countries, such as the United States, could have done to avert some of the slaughter. But what IS the “other side” that suggests that the events did not take place at all?
This is not to say that ‘history” is inviolate. In my lifetime, I’ve learned a great deal, from the NASA women immortalized in the movie Hidden Figures to Tulsa 1921. These were not stories that were in my history books growing up. Invariably we will recontextualize what we learn.
But denial of facts troubles me greatly. I came across this article from 2012. “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion,” a philosophy professor wrote. “No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven. But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. And this… is a distinction that tends to get blurred.”
You may have heard about 25 recordings making it into the National Recording Registry. Some got more press than others.
Edison’s “St. Louis tinfoil” recording (1878). I can’t find it yet, but it should be available starting August 28, 2021, when the Missouri History Museum starts its St. Louis Sound exhibition. Nikolina – Hjalmar Peterson (1917) (single). This appears to be a 1929 version. Smyrneikos Balos – Marika Papagika (1928) (single). “An authentic Greek recording.” When the Saints Go Marching In – Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (1938) (single). He performed this song a lot, but this is among the finest versions. Christmas Eve Broadcast – Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (December 24, 1941), right after the US entered WWII. The Guiding Light – Nov. 22, 1945. I can’t find it, but now I know why it’s on the list. It aired “the first Thanksgiving after the conclusion of World War II… The Rev. Dr. Frank Tuttle gives a moving sermon to a packed church.”
The 1950s and 1960s
Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues – Odetta (1957) (album). My father LOVED her voice. Lord, Keep Me Day by Day – Albertina Walker and the Caravans (1959) (single) Roger Maris hits his 61st home run (October 1, 1961). I don’t know if it’s the one with Phil Rizzuto’s voice, or, more likely that of Red Barber. Aida – Leontyne Price, et.al. (1962) (album) Once A Day – Connie Smith (1964) (single) – EIGHT weeks at #1 on the country charts in 1964, though only #101 on the pop charts Born Under a Bad Sign – Albert King (1967) (album). I may still own this on vinyl.
Onto the ’70s and ’80s
Free to Be… You and Me – Marlo Thomas and Friends (1972) (album). I watched the TV special for sure. I might have even bought the album. The Harder They Come – Jimmy Cliff (1972) (album). There are YouTube versions with more than 12 songs, but the version I own has the dozen. Lady Marmalade – Labelle (1974) (single). Patti LaBelle didn’t know what this song was about? She didn’t understand French, evidently. Late for the Sky – Jackson Browne (1974) (album) Bright Size Life — Pat Metheny (1976) (album). Didn’t find it. The Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog (1979) (single)
Celebration — Kool and the Gang (1980) (single). On the 22 March 2021 JEOPARDY, R and B and SOUL HITS $800. 40 years later and partygoers still like to get on the dance floor and “celebrate good times” to a hit by this group. Triple Stumper, but I knew it instantly. I have the album on vinyl. Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs – Jessye Norman (1983) (album) Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 – Janet Jackson (1989) (album). I LOVE this album. She performed much of it when I saw her at SPAC in 2018.
Partners – Flaco Jiménez (1992) (album). I was not familiar with this artist, but he performs with Stephen Stills, Linda Ronstadt, John Hiatt, and Los Lobos on songs they wrote or co-wrote, plus Dwight Yoakam, Oscar Tellez, and Ry Cooder Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) (single). I may have gotten a little teary-eyed when this played on the TV show E.R. just before Dr. Greene’s departure. Maybe not. Possibly. Illmatic – Nas (1994) (album) This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money (May 9, 2008). “A special program about the housing crisis produced in a special collaboration with NPR News. We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall Street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s?”
How do you explain to your daughter how to vet sources?
It must be from an example. Just recently, my daughter said, of a tabloid cover in the supermarket, “Cher isn’t really dying, is she?” We watch a couple of news networks, plus Comedy Central, not every day, but often enough, so she can clearly see that shows often offer different emphases.
In your opinion, is Wikipedia a reliable source?
Depends on the topic, and the compiler. There’s an old cliche about a newspaper providing perfect information for topics I know nothing about, but less so for things with which I am familiar. I recently linked to the Wikipedia for the band Blotto, and I noticed that it NEVER mentioned the band members’ actual names. This was a failing.
Some posts are frozen in amber, perfectly accurate as of November 2013, e.g., but not so much today. Whereas other posts are updated regularly to reflect new music released or films made. Deaths are often, but not always, caught.
I specifically remember that back in 2004 or 2005, I corrected a mention that the next Presidential election would be in 2007, when, of course, it was 2008.
Still, when I’m doing research for a topic about which I know nothing, Wikipedia can be very useful, ESPECIALLY the links to the various footnotes.
What’s one area of scientific research that you think we should be funding more (other than medicine and climate change)?
Well, climate change is huge and would include the potential for everything from island nations flooding to the future loss of the maple syrup industry from the continental United States. Once you’ve eliminated climate change and medicine, what I think you have left is space exploration. It has very often answered many questions for answers here on earth, including those two topics. What’s been the most surprising world change in your lifetime?
Communication, for good and for ill. You make friends on Facebook with people around the world, you have fights with total strangers on Facebook, often about really stupid stuff. You text your friends, while you ignore those physically around you.
I’ve been the guy reading the newspaper, maybe only a dozen years ago, and someone, as often as not, would comment on a story, or maybe just quietly read over my shoulder. Or I’d read over someone else’s shoulder. Those electronic devices don’t seem to open one up to one’s immediate environment, even as one can learn about the most recent terrorism in Turkey.
The Internet allows for more information, but also misinformation, disinformation, satire, lies. We can see Arab Spring or police misconduct, but also LOL cats and Stare-down Sammy, which got 34 million views on Facebook, and was shown on the CBS morning news; I thought it was a waste of air time.
There have been conspiracy theories for a long time, but they can propagate far more freely these days. Even objective facts will be disputed, and as a person dealing with, ideally, objective information, this can be both frustrating and exhausting. (See also my answer about Google.)
I’ve actually had this conversation about an article someone read. (I’m a librarian; a variation of this happens a LOT.)
Her: Is it true? Me: Where did the information come from? Her: Facebook! Me: But what was the ORIGINAL SOURCE of the information? Her: I TOLD you, Facebook!
Who is your favorite president and why?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was rich and rather pompous and arrogant. His ailment thought to be polio at the time, but now believed to be Guillain-Barre syndrome, humbled him, and made him a champion for those less well off. And he had a great partner in Eleanor, with whom he seemed to have achieved an understanding regarding his infidelity.
He was imperfect, the Japanese internment being chief among his failures. But he initiated a lot of useful programs, some of which are around today, such as Social Security and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
I do, though, have affection for Chester A. Arthur, a product of the spoils system who became a reformer for civil service.
Tom the Mayor queried:
What is your Favorite Beatles song?
The last time I made a list, it was 3. Help 2 Got To Get You Into My Life 1 Tomorrow Never Knows. Re: TNK, I recently saw Paul, Ringo, and Georges Harrison and Martin discuss its intricacies. But Help! is something I can sing with my daughter.
After FDR died in 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed by President Truman to be a delegate to the group that would create the United Nations.
I watched the excellent The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, Ken Burns’s seven-part series on PBS this past fall and became even more impressed with Eleanor Roosevelt than I had been before. She was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the daughter of his brother Elliot.
She married her fifth cousin Franklin Roosevelt on St. Patrick’s Day 1905 in New York City, “given away” by her uncle Teddy, who was by then President.
In spite of Franklin’s marital betrayal, which wounded Eleanor greatly, they were a dynamic political couple. She could sometimes say or do things that he, a more pragmatic state legislator, governor and eventually President, could not.
In the summer of 2013, my family visited Val-Kill, her place on the Hudson River not far from the home in Hyde Park that was her mother-in-law’s and where she seldom felt comfortable and welcomed. There is a kiosk there where one could read her My Day columns, which she wrote from 1936 to 1962, the year that she passed away.
After FDR died in 1945, she was appointed by President Truman to be a delegate to the group that would create the United Nations. She became a primary author of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.
At the FDR library, I saw a poster chastising “the Jews” for taking the jobs of “white Christian men”; some things never change.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t sleeping well two weeks ago. When I booked our hotel for our trip to the Mid-Hudson for the first weekend in August, in my fatigued fog, I totally forgot that my wife had told me to secure a place for TWO nights and that she had even arranged for a cat sitter. I was just so happy that I finally remembered to book it at all. We had made this sojourn 1.5 hours south a few times, and it had always been one night. This time, though, we had added a couple of elements, so the extra time would have been helpful.
Instead, we headed out Saturday and went to Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home. There will be much more on this.
Then to Hyde Park to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. It was all but closed for repairs last year when we visited the mansion – though not TOTALLY closed, as the attendant at the locale properly noted – so the tickets we got last year for the site were still valid. I needed more time in the museum than The Daughter had to give; I got through the Depression era, but I really didn’t see the World War II stuff. Still, a great exhibit. I’ll go back some time, and it’s inspired me to want to see the other Presidential libraries, most of which are in the center of the country.
One thing that struck me at FDR’s library was a newspaper editorial cartoon of FDR and Congress rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on the nation’s problems together; THOSE were the days. Another was a poster chastising “the Jews” for taking the jobs of “white Christian men”; then again, some things never change.
We went to an annual party and The Daughter got to swim. Had a GREAT conversation with a minister and his social worker wife; we seemed to be on the same page in terms of social justice and the church’s role in same. But I was disappointed that my oldest friend from college was not present.
Finally, we went to our hotel. By this point, it was dark, and it was difficult to see, so we overshot it. FINALLY to bed, but one or more of the people in my room was snoring, and I got less than optimal rest.
Sunday morning, we went down to see what the hotel offered for breakfast. It was paltry: some fruit, hot chocolate, and instant coffee, and packets of oatmeal, which wasn’t so bad except there was no MILK and we would have had to use Coffeemate, a non-dairy creamer. We went out for breakfast, then checked out of the hotel and went to see Maria.
Maria Vezina is the sister of the late FantaCo cartoonist Raoul Vezina, who had died in November 1983, at the age of 35 of an asthma attack. I hadn’t seen her in nearly three decades. While she lives and works in New York City, she was up in the Mid-Hudson with TONS of boxes of Raoul’s stuff. I sorted out certain items for a possible project. She thought it would have taken me three hours, but I did it in 50 minutes; I knew what I was looking for. More details if this pans out.
Then we departed for the home of Fred Hembeck and his wife Lynn Moss. I met Fred back in February 1980 when FantaCo published his second collection of comic book-related strips. We made the sojourn to visit them for three or four years, then not for three years because of conflicts, then for the past two or three years. Fred and I have this shorthand way of talking that occasionally confounds my wife. Fortunately, she could go out with The Daughter to the pool. They made us a nice dinner, then we left for home.
I never realized how large one upstate county could be!
We stopped in New Paltz, my college town, to catch the Thruway, but, northbound, it was a parking lot, due to, as it turns out, an overturned tractor-trailer. So we took back roads to Saugerties, didn’t get to Albany until 9 p.m., and were exhausted.
After all that, I figured we’d follow that up with a nice quiet weekend. But the Daughter had a certificate for a FREE day at Great Escape, the Six Flags park about an hour north of here, and the coupon expired on August 11, so guess what WE did on Saturday, the 10th…