Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, My Friend

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Jan. 01, 2002) -- A U.S. Marine with Battalion Landing Team 3/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), helps conduct a Cordon and Search Raid at a suspected Al Qaeda hideout in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

North Star Liberty dedicates this poem to all active duty, Reserve, and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard who stand upon a wall and say, "Nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch." God bless you all this Christmas season, and always.

by Marine Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt (1986)

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

Monday, December 17, 2012

History: who's story?

"The philosophy of the schoolhouse today is the philosophy of the government tomorrow." —Abraham Lincoln (attributed)

Minnesota's academic standards in social studies, created in 2004, are nearing the end of their year-long review cycle, and will likely be adopted pending a hearing before an administrative law judge on Thursday, December 20.

As a member of the Academic Standards Committee that created the 2004 standards, I recognize some improvements to the process and structure of the standards, but I am troubled by how the U.S. history standards were rewritten to tell a story of European oppression of native and minority peoples, while suppressing or deemphasizing American values of liberty, inalienable rights, and the best that America has to offer.

For example, here are some of the standards that will be considered at the December 20 hearing.
Standard 16 Rivalries among European nations and their search for new opportunities fueled expanding global trade networks and, in North America, colonization and settlement and the exploitation of indigenous peoples and lands; colonial development evoked varied responses by indigenous nations, and produced regional societies and economies that included imported slave labor and distinct forms of local government. (Colonization and Settlement: 1585-1763)

Standard 18 Economic expansion and the conquest of indigenous and Mexican territory spurred the agricultural and industrial growth of the United States; led to increasing regional, economic and ethnic divisions; and inspired multiple reform movements. (Expansion and Reform: 1792-1861)

Standard 19 Regional tensions around economic development, slavery, territorial expansion, and governance resulted in a civil war and a period of Reconstruction that led to the abolition of slavery, a more powerful federal government, a renewed push into indigenous nations’ territory and continuing conflict over racial relations. (Civil War and Reconstruction: 1850-1877)

Standard 20 As the United States shifted from its agrarian roots into an industrial and global power, the rise of big business, urbanization and immigration led to institutionalized racism, ethnic and class conflict, and new efforts at reform. (Development of an industrial United States: 1870-1920)
Yes, our country's mistakes must be acknowledged, or we are doomed to repeat them. Still these new standards raise the question: what is the story that our public education system will inculcate into the next generation? Is the United States an oppressive and racist society where most people are victims of economic injustice with a future of despair? Will American exceptionalism be replaced by "leading from behind" and "apology tours?"

Or is the United States like the city upon a hill, looked to by the rest of the world as a land of opportunity? When the torch is passed to the next generation, will our public schools prepare them to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty?"

Here is the official notice of the hearing.

See Education Liberty Watch and this blog for updates on the new social studies standards, and the Minnesota Department of Education for detailed information on the standards.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Republican Party is dead. Long live the Republican Party.

The defeat of Mitt Romney for President and the reelection of Barack Obama, on the heels of the 2008 defeat of John McCain, preceded by the popular vote defeat of George W. Bush in 2004, has finally convinced me that the Grand Old Party is not so grand anymore.

The Republican Party is in need of some creative destruction. Minnesota Republicans are leading the way in this evolutionary process, even in the face of powerful opposition from their own party. In 2008, supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX14) elbowed their way into the Minnesota precinct caucuses like a couple of Obama party crashers, much to the chagrin of longtime activists.

In 2012, Minnesota Paul supporters turned from party crashers into the party planners.

Led by Marianne Stebbins, the Minnesota delegation to the Republican National Convention voted 33 of its 40 votes for Ron Paul. "I don’t think Mitt Romney is a strong candidate," said Stebbins in the Eagan Patch. "He represents old ideas and what the party has stood for over the last couple of decades, which is not necessarily what the voters want."

It's not just a small group of Ron Paul gadflies who are working for change. Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Taxes, is also home to the Minnesota Liberty Caucus. numerous TEA Party groups, bloggers, Atlas Shrugged book and movie groups, and even small groups of BPOU activists meeting at social events publicized on Facebook.

They are disillusioned at big business joining the Democrats and labor unions in lobbying for ever more government spending. Some Republicans declined to campaign for the Marriage Amendment and either voted No or abstained (which are both counted as "No" votes). Local (now syndicated) radio commentator Jason Lewis was one of the first so-called conservatives to publicly question our country's long and expensive military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The labels of Republican and Democrat, or even conservative/no-new-taxes and liberal/progressive/tax-the-rich, are largely meaningless in this brave new political world. The real line in the sand separates libertarians and statists, those who promote liberty and equal opportunity versus those who believe in elite, bureaucratic government control and equal outcomes. These are issues that can challenge traditional party loyalties.

As Kurt Bills pointed out in his statesmanlike concession speech, Republicans must espouse its messages to voters that it has traditionally conceded to the Democrats. "If we don't become the party of addition and multiplication, we will become the party of subtraction and division."

To quote Thomas Paine, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Republicans have a lot of work and soul-searching to do if they want to avoid becoming a permanent minority party.