Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

July 29, 2013

Is this the weirdest scandal yet or what?

Filed under: News commentary,Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:09 am

Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

The Anthony Weiner scandal has been called “the gift that keeps on giving” by commentators with a low taste for word play. But after we’ve wrung all the fun that can be had about a sexting politician with a hilariously appropriate name there is so much about this case that is just… weird.

Weiner, as you may remember, resigned in disgrace from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 after he was exposed as a serious weirdo.

He “sexts,” that is to say he sent cell phone photos of his naughty bits to various women. Worse, he pushed the wrong button and sent them out to a Twitter list. Worst he told stupid lies a child could see through.

Sooooo, after a cooling off period, during which Weiner made oodles of money as a “consultant” (i.e. influence peddler) he threw his hat into the ring for Mayor of New York, and weirdly enough polled at the top of the field.

Except he kept sexting. Then lied about it and said he’d never do it again. Then he did it again.

The weirdness just keeps piling up. Weiner is an intelligent guy, so he didn’t know these strangers he’s sexting with were going to go the press for their 15
minutes of fame?

Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is standing loyally by her man, calling him a great husband and father.

Getting weirder here. Weiner is, how shall I put it?

Butt ugly.

Sorry, he’s got an athletic build and obviously spends a lot of time in the gym, he even exercises there, but no one could look at that face and call him anything but homely.

Abedin on the other hand, is a babe. An exotic beauty with great fashion sense. You have to wonder how tightly wrapped a guy is who gets his jollies sexting when he can go home to that.

Abedin is also a powerful person in her own right. She’s worked for the State Department and as Deputy Chief of Staff under Hillary Clinton and is currently on Hillary’s transition team.

Bill Clinton himself officiated at the Weiner’s marriage, on which occasion Hillary said, “I only have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would be Huma.”

There are rumors about Hillary and Huma, but lets not go there. It’s weird enough already.

Where we should go is that Abedin was raised in Saudi Arabia and has close family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Her late father, mother and brother were all members. And during the time she worked for Hillary she also worked at a journal founded by a top al-Qaida financier, Abdullah Omar Naseef that allegedly promotes an Islamist ideology.

The Muslim Brotherhood is an organization founded in Egypt in 1928 as a Pan-Islamic movement with the credo, “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

In spite of running hospitals and charities, these are not nice people and the Brotherhood is banned in several Arab countries for good reason.

That alone would seem to make her, if not a security risk, then at least a legitimate subject of inquiry. Yet when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and four other House Republicans raised the issue, they were crucified.

Why? It’s a legitimate question and need not be asked in an offensive way. Many Americans with Eastern European ties went though the same during the Cold War.

But – and this is a big but, Abedin dresses in ways that would get her beaten by the muttawas (religious police) in Saudi Arabia, and married a Jew!

Among fundamentalist Muslims in Saudi Arabia or her mother’s native Pakistan, she would be murdered by her own family for this!

All of this is of course meat and drink to conspiracy theorists. But paranoia aside, what does it all mean?

I don’t know, but it sure is weird!

July 25, 2013

The Zimmerman case and our new canoe

Filed under: News commentary,Personal — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:17 am

As predicted, there have been riots in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. Nothing really big so far, but there’s been a fair amount of property damage and some serious but so far non-lethal assaults on whites and Hispanics.

I reacted differently. I bought a canoe.

Well I was going to anyway, but it was sort of waiting on paying off some bills, studying, getting some fairly serious dental work done etc etc.

But after something occurred to me, I went and put it on the credit card, something I try not to do for things which are strictly indulgences.

So what happened?

A few things had been preying on my mind. The first of which was, it’s been more and more evident from information that’s come to light that Trayvon Martin was not the innocent little 11-year-old cherub in the only pictures the media seems to have been able to dig up.

Trayvon Martin was a punk, well on his way to becoming a career criminal.

But he was that sweet 11-year-old in the picture – once.

What happened to him?

Obviously he fell into a toxic youth culture that glorifies drug use, violence and treating women like dirt.

But he didn’t come from that culture, his parents seem to be good and decent folks. His mother has acted with restraint and class. I think she’s wrong about some things and I don’t think she’s quite ready to face the truth about her son, and I think I’d react in exactly the same way.

His father… I don’t know. He was divorced and living with his girlfriend, but he was living in a good neighborhood and no reports have surfaced that any of his neighbors had complaints about him. And he did take his son in when he got into trouble in his home town.

I like many others, heaped well-deserved scorn on President Obama when he said, “If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin” during an ongoing legal case.

I had a great deal of fun with Obama’s statement that he could have been Martin 35 years ago.

Then I realized there was a point buried in that ill-timed expression of opinion.

Obama was the product of a broken home, as was Trayvon Martin, as are my children.

Obama’s father left him at an early age and saw him precisely once in his life thereafter. He has had to live with the pain of loss and abandonment all his life.

Trayvon Martin’s father and mother divorced when he was a child. I have no idea what the particulars are, but evidently his father married again, divorced again, and was living with his newest girlfriend in another city. I’m sure he loved his son, but obviously didn’t see him as much as a father who lived with him would have.

My son is acutely aware that though his mother loves him, she has other priorities that take precedence over him at this time in her life. My children live with me in a city fairly far from their mother.

Some years back there was an argument between child-rearing experts as to who had the most influence on a child’s development. The majority opinion argued parents have. A vocal minority argued that a child’s peer group has greater influence.

What I remembered than was that at the time I thought both sides were missing the point entirely. The greatest influence on a child is going to be those who he or she spends the most time with, whoever they are.

That’s when I decided not to wait and bought the canoe.

Two in a canoe are alone together and have to communicate. They are cooperating closely to accomplish something substantial, propelling the canoe through the water without capsizing. There’s an element of risk involved that requires care and forethought to keep safe. There is a ladder of accomplishment one can ascend, from learning the basics in calm water to negotiating swift-flowing rivers.

And there’s no TV, no computers, no videogames, and you’ve got your hands too full to text constantly.

Life passes all too swiftly for all of us, but it’s passing at breakneck speed for a child. If you keep meaning to do something with your kids, you may find the time to do it has passed while your were otherwise occupied.

I am afraid of the effects of a toxic culture on my children. That’s why I mean to be the most significant influence in their lives while they are growing up.

Because the child of a broken home might grow up to be the president of the United States, but then again he might grow up to die at 17 after assaulting a man with a gun.

July 24, 2013

Review: Pacific Rim

Filed under: Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:43 pm

Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

“Pacific Rim” is director Guillermo del Toro’s take on the Japanese genre of Kaiju and mecha films, with he says a dash of inspiration from Francisco de Goya’s painting “The Colossus.”

“Kaiju” means “strange creature” in Japanese and is used to describe big monsters who destroy Tokyo regular as clockwork. The original kaiju is of course, Godzilla.

“Mecha” describes a gigantic humanoid armored fighting vehicle. Not exactly a robot, it’s controlled by human pilots in the head. Mechas came into Western entertainment media via the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

“The Colossus,” (“El Coloso”) also known as “El gigante” (“The Giant”), “El pánico” (“The Panic”) and “La tormenta” (“The Storm”) portrays a giant striding through a landscape with terrified people and animals fleeing in all directions.

So out of a combination of trashy Japanese pop culture and inspiration from a painter called “the soul of Spain” you get…?

Something not as terrible as it sounds actually.

Del Toro is known for fantasy and horror films. As a film maker he leads kind of a double life. His English-language films are often adapted from comic books, such as “Blade II” and “Hellboy.” His Spanish films “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” are critically acclaimed works about life in Spain under the dictatorship of Franco.

But del Toro sees them as part of the same movie, the one movie a director makes all his life.

“Hellboy is as personal to me as Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro told Twitch Film, the website devoted to independent and cult films, in January, 2013.

“Pacific Rim” is set in the near future after Earth is invaded by monsters who come through a dimensional rift in the ocean floor and rise up from the sea to attack coastal cities.

The kaiju can be killed by lots of tanks and planes but with great losses. So the nations of the Earth unite to form the Pan Pacific Defense Corps, and build giant mechas called “jaegers,” German for “hunter.”

Jaegers are controlled by two pilots whose nervous systems are linked in something called the “drift,” which meshes their minds and memories.

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is a beached jaeger pilot, traumatized by the death of his brother and co-pilot while linked in the drift.

Becket is brought back into service by his old commander Stacker Pentecost (Idries Elba) because the short-sighted powers that be are winding down the jaeger program in favor of big coastal walls.

But nerd scientist Dr. Newton Geizler (Charlie Day) has used drift technology to link with kaiju brains and discovered their plans for Earth. Plans which don’t include us. The remaining jaegers have to push back before the Earth becomes the kaiju buffet table.

Of course, Becket needs a new partner and it so happens Pentecost has a lovely adopted daughter he rescued from the ruins of Tokyo, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who has performed way off the charts in jaeger simulators and is itching for revenge.

Mori obviously wants to team with Becket, but pairing pilots in the drift is psychologically exacting, and they’re both damaged people.

What follows is a courtship that starts with a match fought with quarterstaffs, after which Raleigh will have no other for a partner. Pentecost says no way.

What follows is cliche. They try it as a team, blow it and are taken offline. Then circumstances make it necessary for Pentecost to put them back into action. You’ve seen this a bunch of times before.

But Del Toro puts an interesting spin on it. It’s a love story with a difference.

Jaeger pilots are all tightly knit teams. There’s an Australian father-and-son pair, a Russian couple, and a set of Chinese triplets. Becket and Mori have to open up to each other on the fly and forge a relationship closer than has ever been possible before drift technology.

Del Toro shows close intimacy developing between the couple by skillful indirection, culminating in a brief forehead touch at the end – which conveys more raw emotion than a porno.

There are some interesting supporting characters with their own story arcs, such as a black market dealer in kaiju parts Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman).

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of time amid all the action to develop what could have been some interesting character development.

There was evidently a lot taken out of the final cut to make the movie manageably long.

But word is that co-writer Travis Beacham and Del Toro are writing a sequel so maybe we’ll be seeing more of the characters.

July 18, 2013

Review: World War Z

Filed under: Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:59 am

Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

The Zombie Apocalypse is coming and we’ve got to be ready!

In 2003 Max Brooks published “The Zombie Survival Guide” describing in detail how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, based on historical zombie outbreaks going back to ancient Egypt and the Lost Colony of Roanoake. Brooks followed this up in 2006 with “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” upon which “World War Z” is loosely based.

A 2009 epidemiological analysis conducted at Carleton University and University of Ottawa, concluded an outbreak of zombies “is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly.”

In 2012 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” as a graphic novel.

Tax law specialist Adam Chodorow of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, recommended enacting special tax laws for the undead which treat zombies like people suffering from Alzheimer’s or in a persistent vegetative state.

Neuroscientists Bradley Voytek and Timothy Verstynen have created detailed descriptions of the zombie brain, paving the way for possible countermeasures.

In 2012 the Kershaw knife company introduced the Camp 18, a 24 inch machete with an 18 inch carbon steel blade.

According to the Kershaw website, “Whether you’re whacking zombies or underbrush, the Camp 18 is the tool of choice.”

Zombies appear to have mutated from a horror movie plot to a long-running practical joke – sometimes with a point.

The CDC publication was in fact a humorous primer on disaster preparedness. That whimsical Kershaw ad is a delicate way of pointing out their camp tool is a formidable hand weapon as well. And lately “Zombie Walks” have emerged as a form of social protest/street theater.

The word “zombie” came into English in 1929 from Haitian creole via the book “The Magic Island” by William Seabrook, a journalist and disciple of occultist Aleister Crowley. It was popularized by the Bela Lugosi film “White Zombie” (1932.)

The modern zombie revival started with George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) and numerous sequels.

Well 45 years later things have gotten a lot worse.

Former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and daughters are stuck in a traffic jam when mayhem breaks loose down the street. Gerry witnesses a zombie jump on and bite a man, and cooly counts the seconds it takes the bitten to turn.

Twelve seconds.

That’s bad, very bad. The first part of the movie is the Lane family escaping to a high-rise rooftop where they are evacuated by Gerry’s old boss to a Navy ship, picking up another kid on the way.

Gerry is pretty much blackmailed to lead a world wide search for Patient Zero.

“Hey, we’ve only got so much room on this ship and your family are dead weight…”

First stop, Korea. It was China in the book but these days the movie industry tip-toes around anything Chinese. That’s a potential billion tickets after all.

Second stop Israel, where the Israelis have fortified themselves behind a high wall. This has caused some controversy among those who see it as justification for the so-called “apartheid wall” the Israelis built to keep murder-bombers out. That and the Israelis are shown saving Palestinians as well as their own. Gasp! The horror!

Here Gerry picks up a companion, a female soldier Segen (Daniella Kertesz) and confirms if you amputate a zombie-bitten limb fast enough you can save the rest of them.

It’s in Israel the film introduces one genuinely interesting and thought-provoking idea among all the gory fun. Watch for “the tenth man” scenario.

From Israel Gerry and Segen escape to Wales and a research laboratory which just might hold the key to a biological counter-zombie measure.

As an action movie “World War Z” is kind of dumb fun. They had sense enough not to make the action non-stop, instead interspersing it with periods of relative calm and nail-biting tension.

There isn’t a lot of character development. The extra kid is picked up after his parents are killed, but nothing is done with him. The relationship between Gerry and the brave and beautiful Segen could have been interesting, but she’s mostly just along for the ride.

The movie ends as the tide turns in humanity’s favor and leaves room for a sequel. If it happens I’ll see it. If not that’s fine too.

Like I said, dumb fun.

July 15, 2013

The verdict is in – on the media

Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:18 am

Note: This is my weekly syndicated column and I have also cross-posted it on my professional blog. I usually delay posting my columns, but I think this is important. I take being a journalist seriously and I am deeply and personally offended by this kind of media misconduct.

Well the the Zimmerman trial is over, and the war has begun.

People are lining up on opposite sides of the question of whether a murderer got away, or Zimmerman never should have been charged to begin with.

I have my own opinion but nobody’s going to change their minds and I’m not even going to try.

I’d just like to point out that whatever your opinion is, the conduct of the national media throughout this whole tragic affair has been disgraceful.

Whether you think there was a miscarriage of justice in the verdict or it was legal oppression to even bring the charges, there’s lots of blame to go around.

President Obama weighed in on a strictly local issue with his statement that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin.

Did the president, an attorney with a degree from Harvard Law, stop for one minute to consider he was doing what’s called “peeing in the jury pool”?

After the president of the United States has given an opinion on a trial that has not even gotten underway I’d think the defense would have grounds for a change of venue to Outer Mongolia!

Worse, it’s been revealed Eric Holder’s Justice Department sent people down to Florida to assist in organizing demonstrations and force the resignation of Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee.

The Reverend Al Sharpton was of course on hand throughout. Sharpton is a prominent media figure with his own radio talk show, “Keepin’ It Real,” and a regular on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

He has also incited two riots in his career. In one a Jewish Yeshiva student was stabbed to death by a mob shouting “Kill the Jews,” (Crown Heights, 1991). In another seven people died of smoke inhalation after a protester set fire to a shopping mall (Freddies Fashion Mart, 1995). Class act networks.

ABC rushed to judgment after examining a police surveillance video and concluded “Trayvon Martin Video Shows No Blood or Bruises on George Zimmerman.”

In fact Zimmerman had two black eyes, a broken nose, and a cut right across the back of his head consistent with it being slammed against a curb. ABC says the video was blurry. Or maybe it was blurred.

CNN examined the audio of the 911 call and announced Zimmerman had used a racial epithet.

Wrong. Turned out no such thing and CNN had to grudgingly retract.

NBC went one better and creatively edited the transcript of the tape to make it look like Zimmerman was a racist.

They’ve just apologized, called it “a mistake” and promised cross their heart they’ll never do it again.

And of course there is that newly coined term “white Hispanic” they came up with after they found out Zimmerman wasn’t white after all.

Has anyone considered that the media coverage pretty much guaranteed grounds for appeal if Zimmerman had been convicted?

Has anyone who thinks Zimmerman is guilty of a lesser charge such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, wondered if the media circus motivated the prosecution (now facing possible misconduct charges) to go for murder two rather than something they might actually have gotten a conviction on?

Has anyone begun to suspect the networks are practically salivating over the prospects of some nice juicy riots to cover?

Those of us who toil at local papers sometimes have our noses rubbed in the fact that local journalism is often done very well while national journalism is often done very poorly.

Yeah, that could be sour grapes, but the fact is we live here. Our communities are small enough for us to get to know in depth. This gives us an advantage over national media, whose experience with the issues they cover is often superficial.

And because we live here we know we and our children would suffer the consequences if we ginned up hatred and divisions among our community just to sell papers. The talking heads of big media suffer no such consequences, they go home to their gated communities and security protected high-rises and look for the next big score.

July 12, 2013

Never understimate the good effect of a bad example

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:47 am

A little while ago my son and I were talking late one night and the subject of Jack, an old acquaintance of mine came up. Apropos of what I can’t recall.

I told my son this guy was a bombastic braggart with no solid accomplishments to his name. Though highly intelligent and quite well-read he couldn’t, or wouldn’t hold down a job.

He sponged off friends and was a fine example of what I call the “third time deadbeat.” Meaning he’d borrow a small amount of money from you and scrupulously pay it back – twice. The third time he’d borrow a significant amount which you’d never see again.

He also liked to borrow things, and if you let him he’d take it as permission to borrow them any time thereafter without asking.

If you held on to your stuff, he’d sneer at you for your materialism. (He fancied himself a spiritual guru, which made up part of his disdain for work.)

There were all kinds of things he was going to do, eventually. At one time he was going to start a computer shop, and explained to anyone who’d listen how easy it was going to be to talk a bank into lending him the money. With no collateral. Or a business plan. Or a co-signer.

I have no idea if he actually tried it, though it wouldn’t surprise me.

He had an ex-wife who’d wised up to him too late, after having two beautiful daughters he never even attempted to support. He later had another child with a woman who supported him for years before she finally kicked him out.

Last I heard of him he’d died in his sleep in a rented room somewhere, alone at the end.

Stated baldly this sounds really damning, but in fact he was a charming fellow and good enough company to spend the price of a sandwich and a beer on. If he insisted on ego strokes about the wonderfulness of himself, he was just as willing to stroke your ego with praise of how wonderful you were.

Though as I put it, “We are all of us a little poorer for having known Jack,” he didn’t leave a trail of broken souls in his wake, nor did he sponge more than anyone could afford as the price of the lesson.

A mutual friend, a research psychologist, and I believed we had identified in him and a few others like him a hitherto-undiagnosed personality disorder we called “Bandar-loggia,” after Rudyard Kipling’s Bandar-log, the monkey people of “The Jungle Book.”

“Here we sit in a branchy row,

Thinking of beautiful things we know:

Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,

All complete in a minute or two-“

Right about this time my son, who is young but wasn’t born yesterday, said, “What a creep!” or words to that effect.

“I will always be grateful to him,” I replied.

“??????” my son said.

What I told him was that that could have been me. Jack was a very intelligent guy. Well so am I, and so is my son.

Jack very well might have been told as a boy how smart he was, and how he would accomplish great things someday.

But he didn’t. He became in the words of a friend, “Not a ne’er do well, but a ne’er do at all.”

And in the end he served me very well indeed, as an example of what I did not want to be.

“Accomplishments? I don’t gotta show you no steenking acomplishments. I’m really smart!”

Calvin Coolidge, possibly our most underrated president put it, “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

So thanks Jack, wherever you may be, from me and my son.

July 10, 2013

I have a new pair of shoes!

Filed under: Personal — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:35 am

Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Ordinarily I don’t get excited about shoes, as long as they cover my feet and are comfortable.

But these are really comfortable. I went up to the Mall of America and thought maybe I’d just pick up some shoes when I got there. There was a big shoe store having a sale, and I’m terribly sorry I’ve forgotten the name or I’d give them a plug too.

What I was looking for was a pair of street hikers. A long time ago I had a pair I loved with that name, though an Internet search seems to indicate it’s not a brand but a kind of shoe. I need a shoe that’s comfortable for walking on pavement, with off-road capability.

And they’ve got to look if not dressy then at least acceptable enough to walk into an office in.

That describes my dress requirements in general. I’m not like the late Robert Novak who always wore top-dollar suits to work because he might be called into a TV studio at any time. As a journalist in a rural agricultural area I have dress well enough to walk into someone’s office for an interview – but practical enough to go walking across someone’s field on a soggy day.

And of course when dressing for a Minnesota winter, warm trumps everything.

What I found was CAT – as in the Caterpillar tractor company. They’re advertised as work boots/shoes but I found a pair of brown leather low tops that aren’t out of place in an office casual environment.

Better still, they’ve got shoe laces that actually stay tied.

How did these durn nylon laces become standard? You know, the kind you have to tie in a bow, then double-knot and they still come untied?

These appear to be some kind of synthetic, but woven in such a way they actually keep a knot in them.

It’s a lot easier to face the day wearing comfortable shoes whose laces stay tied.

July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Filed under: Eleagic mode,Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:16 am

July 4th is upon us again. This year it falls on a Thursday, and as usual we’ll celebrate with fireworks.

I have a guest from Poland staying with me who I will take to the celebrations at our town’s biggest park to see the display.

Poland is a country connected to ours through much history from the very beginnings of our country.

A Pole Kasimirz Pulaski helped found the U.S. Cavalry and died leading a charge at the Siege of Savannah in our Revolution. The U.S. Army cavalry ensign is, coincidentally or not, the red and white banner of Poland.

Pulaski came to America as an exile from Poland under sentence of death for leading an uprising against Russian domination of his country.

When word of his death reached Poland, his enemy King Stanislaw August remarked, “Pulaski died as he lived, a hero – but an enemy of kings.”

Another Pole Taddeusz Kosciusko brought his skills as a combat engineer to the cause of American independence, and designed the fortifications at West Point.

Kosciusko later led an uprising in 1794 against Russia and Prussia in a vain attempt to prevent the dismemberment of his country by Russia, Prussia and Austria. He failed, and Poland was wiped off the map of Europe for more than 130 years. Sentenced to death, he was saved from execution by personal appeals from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Other foreigners served in the army of George Washington, bringing much-needed military skills to an army of amateurs led by a commander whose only military experience had been 18 years earlier and who had never commanded more than 1,000 men.

Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben, a phony baron but a real soldier, taught military drill to the raw American recruits.

Von Steuben once remarked in exasperation, “It’s not enough to give an American an order, you have to tell him why!”

Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb, first came to America in 1768 on a covert mission for France, to determine the level of discontent among colonists. He was impressed by the “spirit of independence” among the Americans he met, and in 1777 he returned with his friend the Marquis de Layette to fight for that independence.

De Kalb was mortally wounded at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780.

While de Kalb’s wounds were being tended by a British surgeon he said, “I thank you sir for your generous sympathy, but I die the death I always prayed for: the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man.”

Lafayette returned to France after the Revolution, He became a tireless supporter of the cause of the liberation of Poland, and was very nearly sent to the guillotine when the French Revolution went seriously wrong.

What brought these men here, to face and sometimes meet death in what must have seemed an uncertain cause at best.

Perhaps it was this:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

We forget today how these words terrified the ancient autocracies of the Old World. How they denied the right of any government not based on the protection of human right to exist, and asserted the right of the people “to alter or abolish it.”

And we forget how men of many nations saw our cause as their own.

One Englishman transplanted to America, Tom Paine, wrote in 1776, “Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive and prepare in time an asylum for all mankind.”

Happy Fourth of July.

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