Dallas 1963

The tributes will be many this weekend, but as usual the Kennedy family will not publicly participate. They understand the need and desire of many to honor the fallen president, but they prefer the memory of JFK be focused on the day of his birth, May 29th, rather than the day of death.

It may take a long time, for there are so many of us alive today who remember that day 45 years ago tomorrow.

I was home in my apartment in Syracuse, New York getting ready to go to work at a local television station. I heard the news from my Uncle who was working in a downstairs residence. It was a shock and I immediately turned on the television. Walter Cronkite was on CBS. Huntley – Brinkley on NBC and on ABC it is was Murphy Martin. Television coverage of live events at that time was primitive, but surprisingly successful.

When the generation is gone to whom the torch was passed by Kennedy during his inauguration speech, then the memory of JFK may move from his death to his birth.

We honor Lincoln on his birthday and not the day he died, April 15th.

Very few remember that assassinated President James Garfield died on September 19th.

William McKinley’s assassination date is now generally forgotten. He died on a September 14th.

It takes time to bury pain and change an ache to honor. It takes time to have a tragic memory stand without sorrow. The Kennedy family has learned, through many tears, that once you acknowledge the death, you must let it go and remember the life.

Nuremberg Trials

On this day Nov. 20, 1945, 24 Nazi leaders went on trial before an international war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany.

Some thoughts on remembering Nuremberg.

Sixty three years ago the victorious powers of World War Two created the Nuremberg trials in order to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. It was the first time that an aggressive power had to face trial and judgment for their crimes against humanity.

Three years ago the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law held a conference to recall and reaffirm the lessons – the legacy – of Nuremberg. Current and former jurists, judges, prosecutors, and law professors from all over the world spoke eloquently on the state and struggle for human rights today.

I was privileged to participate in a documentary on the Nuremberg Trials produced by the Cardozo School of Law. You can see some of the filmed stand-ups by going to my website at the right side of this blog and then clicking on the “on-air” link.

The impact of Nazi Germany and the adjudication of Nuremberg has been forgotten by some, but with each new genocide, each new extermination by tyrants in power it is remembered. The stench of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and in Darfur, Sudan and now in the Congo bring new tribunals, but the same old lesson. Crimes against humanity result from silence and indifference.

Do we really need to learn it over and over again?

Uncle Jack

I read that Google was going to archive 10-millions Life Magazine photos from the 1860’s to the present. I clicked on the link and found an astounding number of photos already in a categorized collection.

I sifted through some from the Civil War and into the 1880’s, but then the 1910 category caught my attention and I remembered that my Uncle Jack fought in World War One with a Canadian infantry regiment.

I don’t know much about him accept he was a stepbrother of my Father. He was ten years older and certainly a great influence on my Father. I never met Jack; I just heard stories about him.

The picture above was taken in April 1917 and is a photo of Canadian troops climbing out of their trenches and “going over the top” during World War One.

Notice the artillery shells bursting in air over the trench. The soldiers are carrying British Lee-Enfield rifles, which were issued to virtually all British Commonwealth soldiers on the Western Front. The Lee-Enfield, with its ten-cartridge magazine, was well suited to rapid fire; a soldier could expect to fire twelve shots a minute.

It is possible my Uncle Jack is in this picture. I don’t know, but I can imagine he had similar experiences. Jack survived the war, but like too many of our returning combat veterans from the Gulf and Afghanistan Wars, he could not survive coming home. He committed suicide sometime after the war ended.

War does things to those who are asked to fight it. Perhaps it’s because it is an unnatural condition in which to live. Some make it through OK and go on to lead productive lives. Others like my Uncle Jack could not let go of the pain, the fog, and the psychological wounds of battle with images of dead buddies and slain bodies and no bandages to heal for the future.

I am going back to look at the picture again and wonder about the Uncle I never met, and I’ll also wonder why we haven’t learned very much in nearly a hundred years.


Some thoughts on the Joachimsthalern.

Yep! The Joachimsthalern.

If things had been a little different we might be saying bet your bottom joachimsthalern or shopping at the Joachimsthalern Store. Believe it or not we get the English word “dollar” from Joachimsthalern.

Back in the 16th century a little valley in Czechoslovakia called Joachimsthal established a mint and made silver and gold coins. They were widely distributed and eventually the Joachimsthal truncated to the “Thaler.”

Over time other European countries patterned their currency units after the “Thaler” and the name evolved to “Taler” and eventually “Daler” in the Nordic cultures.

When we declared our independence from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson was against tying American currency to the British pound so he wrote that our currency should be patterned after European currency, not the British Pound and the unit would be called the dollar.

Now you know.