Shadow Warriors - Pt 8
Thursday, June 9, 2005, 09:18 AM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination
The kid in the picture never knew his father. That's because his dad was an American serviceman killed during the Second World War. Bad luck, that.
Another bit of bad luck: he happened to be born a few years before Jonas Salk developed a vaccine against polio. As a result the kid developed the illness--fortunately a mild form of it--which left him with a slight stutter.
Final bit of bad luck: at age 14 the kid left his home in southside Chicago to visit an uncle in the spectacularly misnamed hamlet of Money, Mississippi, on the eastern fringe of the Yazoo Delta country. The uncle either didn't have time to explain the facts of life for black youths in 1955 Mississippi or the kid didn't believe it, because three days after arriving at his uncle's home he went into the local store to buy some bubble gum, maybe whistled at a leggy white woman he saw in the store or, more likely, did not avert his eyes to underscore the fact that he was not, repeat, not checking out the local eye candy. For that transgression, the kid went from being a handsome young adolescent to looking like the creature from the black lagoon, only a whole lot deader.
The kid of course was Emmett Till, whose murder became a touchstone for the modern Civil Rights movement. Killing black men in grisly ways was a common practice in the America of that day. In that respect the death of Emmett Till was nothing unusual. But timing is everything, and in 1955 the United States was begininng to realize that it could not prevail in a Cold War for influence over the bulk of the world's population, most of them persons of color, if the godless Commies could accurately point out that persons of color, even children of color, could get brutally slain over things like noticing a good-looking woman.
Well, maybe timing is not everything. Maybe it got a nudge from Emett's mom, who didn't hide her son's swollen, shapeless face in a closed casket but left the casket open and invited the world to come in, look, gawk, take pictures, and maybe just maybe reflect that there was something in the funereal freak show that couldn't be made to fit with the fine talk of the land of the free, the home of the brave, and justice for all.
Especially when the killers--one of the them, incidentally, a decorated combat veteran--got off scot-free.
The other evening I sat on my back patio and chatted with one of my neighbors. Like me, she's divorced. Like me, she's a pretty down to earth person. Unlike me, she's black, and--more to the point--she's raising a black son.
Jay (not his real name) is finishing up second grade and looking forward to third grade. He's a handsome little kid, which does not remind me of myself at his age; but he is slender and small and shy for his age, which does. He doesn't have many kids his age to play with and the ones who do play with him frequently take advantage of his size, so that--in a scenario I recall from own childhood--play easily melds into bullying.
Jay's mom doesn't know what to do. She's tried the usual strategies--talking to the parents of the other kids, stuff like that, but it doesn't really work, and anyway, she can't run interference for Jay forever. She could see to it that Jay learned how to fight, but she fears that. An eight year old scrapping with eight year olds looks like one thing. A young black man using his fists looks like something else, especially in a day and age when the other guy may pull a knife or gun. And always in the back of her mind--I know because she mentioned it--is the memory of Emmett Till.
So far it looks as if Jay's gonna have to work this one out for himself, same as I did.
Only I never found a solution except to suck it up. I discovered instead that bullies usually have you in a double bind. If you don't fight, they win. If you do fight, they beat you up enough to humiliate you. There's a beloved theory that if you stand up to a bully, the bully will back down.
That's true--but you have to have a winning strategy.
If military historians cannot devise a winning strategy for Jay, I submit that that is a serious query against the idea that military history has a place in the humanities. A place in think tanks and service schools, yes. Liberal arts universities, no.
Because what you learn in a liberal arts university ought to be transferable to real life. And in the case of military history, not just the real life of citizens who in theory have the last word concerning the size and missions of their armed forces. (I say in theory because I see no evidence of this. The power elite choose and we break into the obligatory chorus of Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be An American".) No: military historians should be able to work the problem metaphorically and come up with a solution set that gives Jay a chance for victory.
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10
The Four Classes of Co-Workers
Thursday, June 9, 2005, 04:52 AM - Combat as Metaphor
"I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!" -- General Kurt Hammerstein-Equord (1878-1943)
(Hat tip to Miscellaneous Military Anecdotes)
Moments That Make It Worthwhile
Wednesday, June 8, 2005, 05:29 PM - Building the Field
Celebrating the successful dissertation defense of "All for the King's Shilling," a reappraisal of the common soldier in Wellington's army during the Peninsular War of the Napoleonic conflict. Bottom line: Wellington's famous characterization of his troops as "the scum of the earth" does not withstand scrutiny.
From left to right: Ed Coss, the candidate (and soon to be Dr. Coss); Prof. John F. Guilmartin, Jr., the dissertation director; Prof. John A. Lynn of the University of Illinois (and also an adjunct professor in the Ohio State history department; and me, your humble blogger. (Click photo for a larger image.)
Wednesday, June 8, 2005, 08:06 AM - Douglass and Lee at War
Approximate site of Douglass's birthplace, Tuckahoe Creek, on the eastern shore of Maryland.
Frederick's first home was a solitary cabin in the woods bordering a brook that separated the farther fields of two farms owned by the man who owned him. But the boy knew nothing of being owned as he sunk his toes in the clay bottoms of the shallow pools over which skater bugs glided.
-- William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass
The "solitary cabin" in question stood on the bank to the left. The site is on private property, but an organization affiliated with the Choptank River Heritage Center arranges an annual pilgrimage to the property via canoe or kayak. You'll find the details here.
Wednesday, June 8, 2005, 12:32 AM - Douglass and Lee at War
Stratford Hall Plantation, near the Potomac River
The White Man's Ballad - Pt 1
Monday, June 6, 2005, 07:47 AM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination
O'Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the air of a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.
'There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,' he said. 'Repeat it, if you please.'
'"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,"' repeated Winston obediently.
'"Who controls the present controls the past,"' said O'Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. 'Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?'
Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted towards the dial. He not only did not know whether 'yes' or 'no' was the answer that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he believed to be the true one.
O'Brien smiled faintly. 'You are no metaphysician, Winston,' he said. 'Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?'
'Then where does the past exist, if at all?'
'In records. It is written down.'
'In records. And --?'
'In the mind. In human memories.'
'In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'
'But how can you stop people remembering things?' cried Winston, again momentarily forgetting the dial. 'It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!'
O'Brien's manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.
'On the contrary,' he said, 'you have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.'
-- George Orwell, 1984, Book 3, chapter 2.
Part 1 - Part 2
A Very Serious Business
Monday, June 6, 2005, 01:15 AM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination
Photographer Robert Capa snapped this shot of the first wave going ashore at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. As he toiled through the surf, he endlessly repeated a phrase he had learned during his forays in the Spanish Civil War: "Es una cosa muy seria." ("This is a very serious business.")
He took 108 color photos, but all but eleven were ruined by a film developer's error. The rest came out in a grainy black-and-white. Even so, they were instant classics.
Robert Capa (1913-1954)
The Work of Photographer Robert Capa
The Magnificent Eleven: The D-Day Photos of Robert Capa
Ten of the eleven surviving frames:
Sunday, June 5, 2005, 05:02 PM - Douglass and Lee at War
Shadow Warriors - Pt 7
Sunday, June 5, 2005, 03:55 PM - Memory, Myth, and Imagination
Photo taken September 27, 1962, Oxford, Mississippi.
Left to right: Sheriff John Henry Spencer, Pittsboro. Sheriff James Ira Grimsley, Pascagoula. Sheriff Bob Waller, Hattiesburg. Sheriff Billy Ferrell, Natchez (holding club). Sheriff Jimmy Middleton, Port Gibson. Deputy Sheriff James Wesley Garrison, Oxford. Sheriff John Ed Cothran, Greenwood.
James Meredith, the first African American to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962, reflecting on this photo some four decades after it was taken: "It wasn't this element that truly terrified me when I integrated Ole Miss. It was the element below this element. It was the element that wanted to be this element. First of all, every one of these men is what you'd call a leading citizen in Missississippi, My knowledge of this is what enabled me to defeat Mississippi in 1962. I knew these people better than they knew themselves." (Qtd. Paul Hendrickson, Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy )
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10
Facing the Demon
Sunday, June 5, 2005, 11:42 AM - Combat as Metaphor
But besides the achievement of this functional and corporate aim, the rote-learning and repetitive form and the categorical, reductive quality of officer-training has an important and intended--if subordinate--psychological effect. Anti-militarists would call it de-personalizing and even de-humanizing. But given--even if they would not give--that battles are going to happen, it is powerfully beneficial. For by teaching the young officer to organize his intake of sensations, to reduce the events of combat to as few and as easily recognizable a set of elements as possible, to categorize under manageable headings the noise, blast, passage of missiles and confusion of human movement which will assail him on the battlefield, so that they can be described--to his men, to his superiors, to himself--as "incoming fire, "outgoing fire," "airstrike," "company-strength attack," one is helping him to avert the onset of fear or, worse, of panic and to perceive a face of battle which, if not familiar, need not, in the event, prove wholly petrifying.
-- John Keegan, The Face of Battle
Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depressive Episode
For a diagnosis of a major depressive episode, these are the signs and symptoms doctors are looking for:
A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
Note: Do not include symptoms that are clearly due to a general medical condition, or mood-incongruent delusions or hallucinations.
1. depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful) Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
2. markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others)
3. significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. Note: in children, consider failure to make expected weight gains.
4. insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
5. psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness of being slowed down)
6. fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
7. feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick)
8. diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others)
9. recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
B. The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode [i.e., a Mixed Bipolar Episode in which manic and depressive features are simultaneously present].
C. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hypothyroidism).
E. The symptoms are not better accounted for by Bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation.
Reference: These criteria are excerpts from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV, p. 327, © 1994, American Psychiatric Association.
Adapted from HealthyPlace.com
National Public Radio interview with Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (you'll need RealPlayer to access; it's worth it)