Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Present Crisis

"Truth forever on the scaffold, lies forever on the throne" — JamesRussell Lowell
James Russell Lowell
December, 1845.

When a deed is done for Freedom, 

through the broad earth's aching breast
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, 
trembling on from east to west,
And the slave, where'er he cowers, 
feels the soul within him climb
To the awful verge of manhood, 
as the energy sublime
Of a century bursts full-blossomed 
on the thorny stem of Time.

Through the walls of hut and palace 

shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages 

wrings earth's systems to and fro;
At the birth of each new Era, 

with a recognizing start,
Nation wildly looks at nation, 

standing with mute lips apart,
And glad Truth's yet mightier man-child leaps 

beneath the Future's heart. 

So the Evil's triumph sendeth, 
with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, 

the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where'er he cowers, 

feels his sympathies with God
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, 

to be drunk up by the sod,
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, 

delving in the nobler clod. 

For mankind are one in spirit, 
and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth's electric circle, 

the swift flush of right or wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, 

yet Humanity's vast frame
Through its ocean-sundered fibres 

feels the gush of joy or shame;—
In the gain or loss of one race 

all the rest have equal claim. 

Once to every man and nation 
comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, 

for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, 

offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, 

and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever 

'twixt that darkness and that light. 

Hast thou chosen, O my people, 
on whose party thou shalt stand,
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals 

shakes the dust against our land?
Though the cause of Evil prosper, 

yet 'tis Truth alone is strong,
And, albeit she wander outcast now, 

I see around her throng
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, 

to enshield her from all wrong. 

Backward look across the ages 
and the beacon-moments see,
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, 

jut through Oblivion's sea;
Not an ear in court or market 

for the low foreboding cry
Of those Crises, God's stern winnowers, 

from whose feet earth's chaff must fly;
Never shows the choice momentous 

till the judgment hath passed by. 

Careless seems the great Avenger; 
history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 

'twixt old systems and the Word; Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the Future, and, 

behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, 

keeping watch above his own. 

We see dimly in the Present 
what is small and what is great,
Slow of faith, how weak an arm 

may turn the iron helm of fate,
But the soul is still oracular; 

amid the market's din,
List the ominous stern whisper 

from the Delphic cave within,—
"They enslave their children's children 

who make compromise with sin." 

Slavery, the earthborn Cyclops, 
fellest of the giant brood,
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, 

who have drenched the earth with blood,
Famished in his self-made desert, 

blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions 

for his miserable prey;—
Shall we guide his gory fingers 

where our helpless children play? 

Then to side with Truth is noble 
when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, 

and 'tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, 

while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject spirit, 

till his Lord is crucified,
And the multitude make virtue 

of the faith they had denied. 

Count me o'er earth's chosen heroes,
—they were souls that stood alone,
While the men they agonized 

for hurled the contumelious stone,
Stood serene, and down the future 

saw the golden beam incline
To the side of perfect justice, 

mastered by their faith divine,
By one man's plain truth to manhood 

and to God's supreme design.
By the light of burning heretics 

Christ's bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries 

ever with the cross that turns not back,
And these mounts of anguish number 

how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo 

which in prophet-hearts hath burned
Since the first man stood God-conquered 

with his face to heaven upturned. 

For Humanity sweeps onward: 
where to-day the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas 

with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready 

and the crackling fagots burn,
While the hooting mob of yesterday 

in silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes 

into History's golden urn. 

'Tis as easy to be heroes 
as to sit the idle slaves
Of a legendary virtue 

carved upon our fathers' graves,
Worshippers of light ancestral 

make the present light a crime;—
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, 

steered by men behind their time?
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, 

that make Plymouth rock sublime? 

They were men of present valor, 
stalwart old iconoclasts,
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet 

that all virtue was the Past's;
But we make their truth our falsehood, 

thinking that hath made us free,
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, 

while our tender spirits flee
The rude grasp of that great Impulse 

which drove them across the sea.
They have rights who dare maintain them; 

we are traitors to our sires,
Smothering in their holy ashes 

Freedom's new-lit altar-fires;
Shall we make their creed our jailer? 

Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets 

steal the funeral lamps away
To light up the martyr-fagots 

round the prophets of to-day? 

New occasions teach new duties; 
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, 

who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! 

we ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly 

through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future's portal 

with the Past's blood-rusted key.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Day of Purim

Jews throughout the world are celebrating Purim today. It is the story of Queen Esther who broke protocol and saved the Jewish people in Persia from a plot to annihilate them.

Purim is a festive Jewish holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the biblical Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which usually falls sometime in February or March. Purim is such a popular holiday that the ancient rabbis declared that it alone would continue to be celebrated after the Messiah comes. All other holidays will not be celebrated in the messianic days.

Purim is so-called because the villain of the story, Haman, cast the "pur" (the lot) against the Jews yet failed to destroy them. Reading Purim Story is a central part of the Purim celebration.

Facing an existential threat from modern day Persia (Iran), Israel's leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the U.S.Congress yesterday amid much consternation about protocol.
So long as God gives me breath, I promise to fight the ancient evil of anti-Semitism and to stand with Israel, the apple of God's eye.
The KJV Book of Esther

Monday, March 2, 2015

Six Boys and Thirteen Hands

Each year I am hired to go to Washington , DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II

Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, 'Where are you guys from?'

I told him that we were from Wisconsin . 'Hey, I'm a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story.'

(It was James Bradley who just happened to be in Washington , DC , to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington , DC , but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.)

When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his words that night.)

'My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin My dad is on that statue, and I wrote a book called 'Flags of Our Fathers' . It is the story of the six boys you see behind me.

'Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team.. They were off to play another type of game. A game called 'War.' But it didn't turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old - and it was so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about it.

(He pointed to the statue) 'You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New HampshireIf you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph.. .a photograph of his girlfriend Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won thebattle of Iwo Jima . Boys. Not old men.

'The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the 'old man' because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let' s go kill some Japanese' or 'Let' s die for our country' He knew he was talking to little boys.. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.'

'The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona . Ira Hayes was one of them who lived to walk off Iwo Jima . He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You' re a hero'.  He told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?'

So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a very shallow puddle, at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was taken).

'The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky . A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.' Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

'The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin , where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite' s producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad never fished or even went to Canada.  Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell 's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press.

'You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died on Iwo Jima , they writhed and screamed, without any medication or help with the pain.

'When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.'

'So that's the story about six nice young boys.. Three died on Iwo Jima , and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.'

Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.

One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is . . that if you look at the statue very closely and count the number of 'hands&# 39; raising the flag, there are 13. When the man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand was the hand of God.

Great story - worth your time - worth every American' s time.
Please pass it on.