A GOOD AMERICAN

The following appeared last year on this date on SERENDIPITY. You will read about my Columbia-American “family” member below.

Civics 101 by Rich Paschall

Most of us are Americans because we were born here. We did not have to meet any special requirements. We did have to learn about our history and our government, however.  When I was in 8th grade we had to take a Civics class. Basically, it taught us how the government works, or how it is supposed to work anyway. We were told if we did not pass Civics and a test on the Constitution, we would not graduate from Elementary School. We studied hard. Never underestimate the power of a nun tapping a three-sided ruler on the palm of her hand to put the fear of God as well as the fear of not graduating in you. You certainly did not want to take 8th grade twice with Sister Angela Rosary. Yes, I went to Catholic school.

In recent years you might wonder if they still teach Civics. There are a lot of people with very little knowledge of our history or our government. Even some of our elected officials have demonstrated a remarkable lack of knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. What if they had to pass a test to be an elected official, or even to be a citizen? How many of them would fail the test?

Those who wish to emigrate to the United States to become citizens will learn that the process is long, hard, and expensive. In the end, you must demonstrate you are a good citizen and pass a Civics test. There are a hundred questions, but you will only get ten. You must get a passing grade to become an American. OK, class, get out your Number 2 pencils and get ready to take your test. These are actual questions asked by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). No, I did not steal them. Practice tests using the actual questions are on the website for applicants to study. Will you become a citizen today?

01. How many amendments does the Constitution have? a). 27  b). 10  c). 23  d). 21
02. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.  a). westward expansion b). slavery c). oil d). sugar
03. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?  a). 9  b). 10  c). 12  d). 11
04. Who did the United States fight in World War II?  a). Japan, Germany, Italy b). Japan, China, Vietnam c). the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy d). Austria-Hungary, Japan, Germany
05. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?  a). U.S. diplomat b). the youngest member of the Constitutional convention c). the third president of the United States d). inventor of the airplane

A flag over the Mumford.

06. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?  a). because the stripes represent the members of the Second Continental Congress b). because the stripes represent the original colonies c). because it was considered lucky to have 13 stripes on a flag d). because the stripes represent the number of signatures on the U.S. Constitution
07. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.  a). Korean War b). Mexican-American War c). World War I  d). World War II
08. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?  a). freed slaves in most Southern states b). gave the United States independence from Great Britain c). ended World War I  d). gave women the right to vote
09. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?  a). James Madison b). Abraham Lincoln c). George Washington d). Thomas Jefferson
10. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?  a). Civil War b). Spanish-American War c). Vietnam War d). World War II

Bonus Question:
Who is the current President?  a). Barack Obama b). Joe Biden c). Donald Trump d). Harry S. Truman

Put your pencils down and pass your tests forward to the angry-looking nun in the front of the room. Please note that if you picked an orange politician for the Bonus Question, you fail even if you got the 10 questions right.

Arriving at Chicago O’Hare

You may have met my friend John right here at the SERENDIPITY gathering place. He has been the subject of a few articles you may have read, although I may have just referred to him as “roomie” or roommate. He was also the inspiration for various characters that have appeared in my stories.  I also used pictures of John to illustrate some stories. Some of the pictures for a series of South American short stories were shot from the roof of John’s building in Medellin. He waited thirteen months for a visa to come to America. I collected him at Chicago O’Hare on the day he left his country for good.

He spent years learning English and assimilating into our culture. He had just one goal. He wished to become a US citizen.  It was a difficult journey.  After his application was accepted last November he studied the 100 questions while he waited for his interview and that Civics test. He was given an appointment in May for an interview and a test. By the time he went, he probably knew history and government better than some Americans. We discussed many of these events, institutions, and politicians as we waited.

One day the letter finally arrived. John had a date at the Everett Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. On June 17th he became an American. Would you have passed the test?

US Citizenship papers

Answer key: 1. a, 2. b, 3. a, 4. a, 5. a, 6. b, 7. b, 8. a. 9. d. 10. d.

NO LONGER WILL THEY COME

The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

AMERICAN SOIL IN A FOREIGN LAND – RICH PASCHALL

 A few years ago on V.E. Day, Armistice Day for the end of World War II in Europe, I visited the American cemetery at St. Avold. It is the final home for many of America’s Greatest Generation. It was quiet then. This year, it was even quieter, not just because of a global pandemic, but because they are gone now. No parents, no spouses, no siblings, or army mates will attend any remembrance day.

How a field in France became the resting place for thousands of Americans

In September of 1944, the Third US Army resumed its push across eastern France to drive opposing forces out of France and back across the border. The Seventh US Army, after landing in southern France, was joined by First French Army and drove northward.  The US Air Force provided key tactical support.  On September 21st the Third and Seventh armies joined forces providing a solid line through France to the Swiss border.  On Monday, November 27th St. Avold, France was liberated by the US 80th Infantry Division. This becomes important to our story today.

By December the eastern front was being pushed toward Germany. On December 19th, the Third Army moved northward to counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. The many months of fighting throughout this region brought thousands of US casualties. A temporary US military cemetery was set up at St. Avold on March 16, 1945.  The struggles to hold territory and move forward were paid for in the lives of much of the Third and Seventh Armies.  By the end of the war, the rolling fields of the Lorraine region of France at St. Avold held the remains of over 16 thousand US soldiers.

st avold cemetary france
St. Avold cemetery, France

The burial grounds of the US soldiers at St. Avold as well as four other places across France were given to the United States in perpetuity as military cemeteries. Today the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial is the largest World War II cemetery in Europe. It is bigger than the more honored and remembered memorial at Normandy. Ten thousand four hundred eighty-seven of America’s finest generation lie across this 113.5 acres of land.

There are Medal of Honor winners, ace pilots, 30 sets of brothers, and 151 unknown soldiers.  In addition, 444 names are inscribed on a wall to honor those who lie in unknown graves across this region of Europe. Their bodies were lost and never returned home or to one of the hallowed grounds in France, England, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, or Luxembourg.

When you include those in the Philippines and North Africa (Tunisia), 93,236 American soldiers found their final resting place in World War II on foreign soil that became American soil over time. The ground we visited in France was handed over without charge or taxation by a grateful nation that did not forget the sacrifice of American soldiers who fought a bitter war to win freedom for others and keep the aggression away from our shores.

72-Lorraine-StAvold-ADJ-B

On Armistice Day in France, or what we call VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), May 8th, we walked the hallowed grounds of St. Avold and paid our respects to the greatest American generation. The rows of crosses and Stars of David fill the landscape and remind the few who remain that freedom came at a high price in 1944 and 1945. Americans were willing to stand beside people of another land to win freedom, and now many lie there in eternal rest.

I signed the guest book at one in the afternoon. I noticed I was the only American who had signed in. There were signatures of a Romanian, a German who added “in honor and respect” in German, and two French. One wrote, “We will never forget the sacrifice of their lives.” I asked myself if the sacrifice will indeed be remembered or forgotten in time? Will this become, over the years, just another historical curiosity? A footnote? Ancient history forgotten by many if not most people?

Taps at St. Avold cemetary, France
Taps at St. Avold cemetery, France

It is easy to understand why no Americans kneel and pray in the tall chapel, no relatives to decorate the graves, or loved ones to shed tears. Many at St. Avold were too young to have children when they answered the call from Uncle Sam. They were barely more than children themselves.

Many had no remaining families. If they had siblings after the war, most have passed by now. Anyone who remains alive to honor them is likely at home, in America. Sad that the national holiday in France saw the honored dead receiving about as much attention as our honored dead will receive here at home on this coming Memorial Day. What are your holiday plans?

BREAD AND GINGERBREAD

A Photo Gallery

On a recent trip to France, I stopped at two unique museums in Alsace. Both had to do with the history and the making of bread and gingerbread. I recount the trip on SERENDIPITY today. Here are additional photos for you to enjoy.

Click on any picture to go through the larger size photos.

THE DISHONEST JURY – RICH PASCHALL

Exactly one year ago, I posted this article. Does it sound familiar? It concerns juries and justice but also refers to the first impeachment trial. The second proceeded in much the same manner. Now you have to ask yourself, “Where is the outrage?” Be sure to click on “View original post” to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

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Shock and Dismay, by Rich Paschall 

Imagine, if you will, that you have been summoned for jury duty. You know as a good citizen that it is an honor to serve the justice system. It is an important part of your life as a law-abiding citizen of the country.  You show up on time and ready to be an impartial juror. After you are seated on the jury, you learn to your shock and utter disgust that another member of the jury has already made up his mind. Worse than that, he is engaged in convincing other members of the jury to vote for acquittal. The trial has not yet started.

As you are preparing for the trial you learn that this ring leader of injustice has also been coordinating efforts with the defendant! He is working to keep the trial short by not allowing witnesses on either side. For…

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STONEWALL UPRISING – Rich Paschall

There will be no Pride Parades this year, but for 50 years gays had taken to the streets, first in rebellion, then in celebration. Last year on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall we looked at the story of the Uprising. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

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Fifty Years On, by Rich Paschall

It was much different then. 1969. There was a “counter culture” that opposed many of society’s norms. There were “love-ins” and music festivals.  Hippies made the scene wearing different clothes. Many wore flowers in their hair. Tie-dyed shirts and bell bottoms jeans were the fashion.

It was the summer of Woodstock. It was also the year the Beatles played their last live concert from a rooftop in London.

Woodstock

In the United States, Richard Nixon became president. NASA sent a man to the moon. PBS was established and Sesame Street made its debut. The US Air Force stopped investigating UFOs, having found none since Project Blue Book started in 1952.

It was a time of social unrest. Civil Rights protests. Protests for women’s equality. Students and others protested many political issues. The largest and most frequent were about the “police action” otherwise known as…

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WHAT WE ALWAYS HAVE BEEN – RICH PASCHALL

With the recent unrest in the country, we have discovered that it is long past time to look at what we always have been. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the article.

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From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

With the continual unrest across the country and the prospects that in some places it will not end soon, many may be asking themselves, “How did things get to be like this? When did our country become so racist, so divided?”  I have an unfortunate answer for those who would be asking. It has always been this way.

The division of authority and power between black and white Americans goes back to the beginnings of the colonies.  In 1565 the Spanish explorer who founded St. Augustine Florida brought African slaves with him. African slaves were brought to the British colonies by 1619. Massachusetts legalized slavery in 1641. Companies were set up to deal with the slave trade as if the people brought here were just commodities.

Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-war, 1619. In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have…

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EXTRA TOPICAL

What About Obama?  Huh? ** by Rich Paschall

You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858.  Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.

Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day.  Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote.  Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.

We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.

Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A . Douglas

Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition.  They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.

“Solvency” is not an issue.  A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, it just should be better for society.  Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.

One of the suggested topics for this past year was Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.  There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be.  Historical examples would provide support.  Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.

These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one.  The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal.  Total speaking times end up the same.  The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.

Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose.  Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.

So-called debate

Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution.  Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly.  The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point.  Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined.  Then each speaks in rebuttal.  In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.

You’d better come prepared!

A topic for last season’s two-man debate was Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States

The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.

Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate.  In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con.  There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence.  General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support.  Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.

Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently.  Bombast and supposition will not do.  Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.

A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic.  With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.”  There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent.  It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.

Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media.  In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates.  Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance.  The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.

The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic.  One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president.  The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.

On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points.  One friend often posts news articles on current social issues.  A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.

If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up!  For him, that is the only topic which really matters.

Another friend likes to engage me in a debate.  I try not to fall for it anymore.  If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”

The response is likely to be “What about Obama?  Huh?  You never said anything against him when he was president.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”

There is no staying on topic sometimes.  It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.

** Originally posted on SERENDIPITY

 

A Reason to Celebrate

Celebrate the true meaning of the day

Once again it is time to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Do you know the origin of the day, or has it become just another holiday?  A video I saw recently showed a young You Tuber asking people about the historical origin of the day.  Can you imagine there are many Americans who can not give a good answer?  Some just see it as a day to have a giant party.

Here in the Midwest, some towns began the party last night with fireworks while others are going for the more traditional 4th of July celebration.  I am all in favor of the traditional celebrations.  To me, moving the special events around is a signal that it is all about the party and I don’t think that should be it.

Assembly Room

Independence Hall, Photo credit: Antoine Taveneaux, taken with Pentax K-5

The day is actually about an event that was a long time in the making.  The final draft of the action of the Second Continental Congress was finished on July 2nd 1776 and passed on July 4th.  The famous signing of the document did not take place for a month while waiting for all participants to be assembled.  It did not lead to fireworks although the Revolutionary War had already begun.  The Liberty Bell probably was not rung on the 4th according to historians.  In fact, there likely was no party at all, as the matter was serious business for the delegates of the 13 colonies.

The group had already been meeting for over a year when the Declaration was made.  During the previous July they had adopted The Olive Branch Petition in an attempt to avoid all out war with Great Britain.  The very next day the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms was issued.  The Continental Army was formed and strategies were adopted.  The bitter struggle that followed led the colonies to declare independence.

Three committees were formed in June 1776.  One drafted a Model Treaty to establish a way to deal with foreign powers.  Another was to write the Articles of Confederation to put together the model for governance of the colonies.  A third committee of 5 members wrote the Declaration of Independence although it is largely considered the work of Thomas Jefferson.  Some of his language was likely the source of lively debate.  The result proves that difficult work can be done quickly and compromises can be reached across the many members.

When I put out my flag this morning, I noticed only a few others flying on the block.  It made me wonder how many appreciated the events that went into the making of this holiday.  How many really know the history of the Second Continental Congress that forged the nation we have today?  How many think it is just some sort of day we set aside for picnics and fireworks?  Has the meaning of the most important day in our nation’s history been lost?

It’s your party.  That’s for sure.  As a matter of fact, it is the party for everyone who calls these United States of America home.  When you see the red, white and blue, let them have meaning for you today.  If there was no particular meaning to the colors at the time they were adopted, let them be a symbol today.  They stand for the freedom that allows us to live in a country where we can celebrate our freedoms openly.  The people of many other countries can not throw such a party.

Source: National Archives

THE SUMMER OF ’69 – Rich Paschall

The big events of 1969, 50 years on. Read and share. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the article, more pics and music.

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The Golden Anniversary, by Rich Paschall

There is no doubt in my cluttered mind that 1969 was the most memorable year of my life. None. Of all of the events that have happened through the years, I can not say that any other years stands out like this one.

When you are a Senior in high school and people tell you to enjoy it because these late high school, early college (if you go to college) years are the best years of your life, it is hard for you to believe.

Surely better times will come along, you think. You cling to that belief for many years. Then you realize something.

The years around your high school graduation may, in fact, have been the best years of your life. They are the touchstone. They are the yardstick by which all future events are measured. They contain the moments you treasure…

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WORDS OF A WELL-KNOWN AMERICAN

He has faded from the news despite the big splash he made at one time. Last year they even made a movie about him. Do you remember the story? What do you think of him now?

SERENDIPITY: SEEKING INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH

Next month a movie about this American will be released.  Is he a patriot or a traitor?  A villain or a hero?  Do you feel the same way about him now as you did two years ago?

How do your opinions compare?

We all have opinions about our country. While some of us are Democrats and others are Republicans, and while some are Libertarians and others are right of the Tea Party, we can generally all agree on certain aspects of the American government and our basic freedoms. Nobody wants our rights taken away and we all want to be good patriots, but what is a good patriot?

constitution_1_of_4_630

“Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen…” and nothing would seem more certain than this. That is what one well-known American had to say recently, but not all are in…

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