Today is, well, not exactly the Fourth of July. Obviously. But it is part of a long holiday weekend in celebration of U.S. Independence Day.
Making it feel like a holiday post is in order, especially since the actual holiday was on a Sunday this year, and there’s a meme or two for Sundays. Honestly, if I didn’t do the Sunday Post/Virtual Nightstand I’d be a bit lost for the entire week. Instead, today will be a bit of a lost day as there isn’t anything that particularly HAS to be done today.
Today will be an excellent day to read. But then, aren’t they all?
In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, observed on the third Monday of January each year – that’s today although his actual birthday is tomorrow, January 19 – Caffeinated Reviewer and Mocha Girls Read have created this giveaway hop of books celebrating Black authors. As book reviewers and book bloggers, we are celebrating diverse reading and drawing attention, we hope, to the richness of a more diverse reading experience.
To that end, this week I’ll be reviewing books by Black authors, no matter what their genre. And we’re all giving away books that express that diversity and/or gift cards so that our winners can read what’s available for themselves.
“So this is Christmas”, as the John Lennon song goes, whether one celebrates it or not. If you do, then Merry Christmas to you. If you don’t, then Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings or even just have a nice day off or long weekend if you are lucky enough to get one of those for the holidays. I’m happy for the long weekend, sorry to not be able to visit friends and family, but looking forward to a hopefully better new year.
Galen here, once again sneaking onto Marlene’s blog to do a Thanksgiving reading list post.
As was the case in 2018, we are thankful for yet another kitty in our lives. George is one of the offspring of a neighborhood cat. He’s turned into quite the social glue of our clowder, demanding and getting affection from Freddie, Lucifer, and Hecate in various ways.
Again, as with 2018, I am hopeful that the results of the election will get our country back towards the path of justice. Of course, this is a difficult time: the pandemic is on fire everywhere in this country, and I fear that all of the travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving will cause so many needless deaths.
Marlene and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving together with the cats, and no one else is invited. Maybe next year will be different, but for as many of us to get to next year as possible, patience is required today. On the one hand, that’s easy enough for me and Marlene to say; we’re introverts. I won’t pretend that staying home hasn’t been hard for us, but I know it is a lot more difficult many others, including folks who have no choice but to go out into the world in order to keep body and soul together. But please: if you can, stay home for the holidays, share your Thanksgiving meal only with your pod (or at least stay outdoors as much as possible), wear your masks, and wash your hands.
Thanksgiving in World War II by Sarah Sundin. Did you know that there was a period where there were competing dates for “Democrat Thanksgiving” and “Republican Thanksgiving”?
It was not a given that U.S. soldiers in the field would be able to vote or would be supported in exercising the franchise. Many obstacles were whittled away over the years, including a fear of standing armies being allowed to vote in the first place, logistical difficulties delivering the ballots, poll taxes, a multitude of state regulations, and so forth. Even now in the era of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, much work remains to be done to assure that every U.S. citizen-soldier abroad who wants to can vote.
Many of the obstacles that prevented soldiers from voting were the same obstacles that prevented others from voting. It was never just a matter of getting the ballots out to the field and back.
Voting is and was a right that many soldiers took seriously — including POWs, who in some cases held straw votes even in the face of no expectation that their vote could be counted.
In honor of Veterans Day and the ongoing struggle to truly support U.S. military personnel, here is some reading.
General Grant to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, 27 September 1864:
The exercise of the right of suffrage by the officers and soldiers of armies in the field is a novel thing. It has, I believe, generally been considered dangerous to constitutional liberty and subversive of military discipline. But our circumstances are novel and exceptional. A very large proportion of legal voters of the United States are now either under arms in the field, or in hospitals, or otherwise engaged in the military service of the United States. Most of these men are not regular soldiers in the strict sense of that term; still less are they mercenaries who give their services to the Government simply for its pay, having little understanding of political questions or feeling little or no interest in them. On the contrary, they are American citizens, having still their homes and social and political ties binding them to the States and districts from which they come, and to which they expect to return. They have left their homes temporarily to sustain the cause of their country in the hour of its trial. In performing this sacred duty they should not be deprived of a most precious privilege. They have as much right to demand that their votes shall be counted in the choice of their rulers as those citizens who remain at home. Nay, more, for they have sacrificed more for their country. I state these reasons in full, for the unusual thing of allowing armies in the field to vote, that I may urge on the other hand that nothing more than the fullest exercise of this right should be allowed, for anything not absolutely necessary to this exercise cannot but be dangerous to the liberties of the country. The officers and soldiers have every means of understanding the questions before the country. The newspapers are freely circulated, and so, I believe, are the documents prepared by both parties to set forth the merits and claims of their candidates…
Lt. Harold Norris, stationed in Britain, in a letter to Yank Magazine appearing in its 17 March 1944 issue:
Yours is a young, lusty publication that doesn’t pull its punches, and I think the soldier vote is an issue that needs some of your punching. The denial by Congress of the right to vote is an outright contradiction of the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter, our Constitution or any name our war aims go by. Look, Yank, why don’t you say something on this? Secretary Stimson has said that 48 state laws make soldier voting impossible. So if we don’t have the Federal Government or the Army to administrate the voting, we’ll have vote prohibition this war.
You’re pretty sharp, Yank — can’t you see that this representatives of the poll tax and state’s rights are using that prop wash to deny the soldiers the right to vote in the same way they have denied the vote to others? A lot of us look upon this issue as one test of the sincerity of democratic intentions in the war and in the peace. And we would much rather have our right to vote than the mustering-out pay of $300, which we all may pay for through the nose through inflation anyhow. The soldier-voting issue is a morale one. Our morale is high, but there is no limit. Punch a little bit for us on this issue and our moral will hit an even higher ceiling.
Those who seek to restrict the vote are the enemies of democracy.
By the way, are you a servicemember or U.S. citizen abroad who is eligible to vote in Senate runoff in Georgia on 5 January 2020? Check out the FVAP page for Georgia on how to register and request an absentee ballot.
Very likely it has never been considered a particularly glamorous job for an enlisted solider, sailor, or airman, but the public health and preventive medical corps have had their part to play from the very beginning. In fact, one of George Washington’s first actions after his appointment as command-in-chief of the revolutionary army was to write Congress asking them to establish a “Hospital” for the army (by which he meant a military medical service). In particular, communicable disease was very much on his mind:
I have been particularly attentive to the least Symptoms of the small Pox and hitherto we have been so fortunate, as to have every Person removed so soon, as not only to prevent any Communication, but any Alarm or Apprehension it might give in the Camp. We shall continue the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous Enemy.
Washington was writing this about 20 years before Jenner came up with his smallpox vaccine, but well before Jenner an inoculation technique called variolation had been used. The idea was to take a scab from a recent smallpox victim, rub into into scratches on the person to be inoculated, and hope that the resulting case would be mild. Often it was, but there was also a big risk when applying variolation to an army: triggering an epidemic. Nonetheless, in 1777 Washington took a gamble and inoculated all of his troops while camped in Morristown. It worked.
We have better tools nowadays, of course, but the specter of disease killing more soldiers than bullets remains with us always.
Some of the techniques for avoiding disease are simple yet effective. A medical degree may get you an instant commission as an officer, but we should never forget the enlisted medical staff working in public health and sanitation. A sawbones can put you back together, but the humble hospital corpsman ensuring cleanliness may well save more lives.
COVID-19 is not a war, but we nonetheless should listen to what the medical corpsmen and corpswomen are no doubt saying every day: Wash your hands. Wear your mask.
Happy Holidays is the rightest greeting for today. Not because there’s a war on Xmas, but because two of the 20+ seasonal holidays are being celebrated today.
It is Christmas Day. It is also the third day of Hanukkah. Kwanzaa starts tomorrow, on Boxing Day. I could keep going. The point is that everyone has something to celebrate this time of year, religious or otherwise.
You do you. Celebrate or commiserate – don’t forget Festivus – but have yourself a happy holiday, whatever it might be. Or just enjoy the day off if you’re lucky enough to get one of those today.
Alternatively, Happy Turkey Coma Day. Or even Happy Parade Day.
Possibly even Happy semi-official start of the Xmas Season.
Last year, Galen posted a reading list along with a picture of tiny, bitey Miss Hecate, who was thankful for her timely rescue the month before. So I’ll leave you this year with a picture of the full-grown Miss Hecate, still grateful for that timely rescue, just as we are grateful for her playful advent into our lives. And as you can see from her picture below, she’s expecting someone to be grateful that she brought him a mousie.
Today is Labor Day in the U.S., making this a three-day holiday weekend for those of us who either get paid for the holiday or receive time off to be taken later in exchange for working the holiday, or who get time-and-a-half or overtime pay for working the holiday. And for any of the above, thank the Labor Unions that this holiday was originally created to celebrate.
But when I looked back at my previous Labor Day posts, I noticed a second theme that I hadn’t expected, but is in full force – literally – this weekend as well.
Labor Day, in addition to marking the unofficial end of summer, seems to be Prime Time for Atlantic hurricanes. Hence the picture at the top of this post, Hurricane Dorian, which now looks like it’s going to head up the Atlantic coast. It could change course again, but it’s definitely going to do some folks a whole lot of damage along its way.
If you’re in the path of the Hurricane, take care and take shelter as needed. If you’re not, while you’re celebrating the holiday, spare a thought and a prayer or two for those who are spending this weekend battening down the hatches.
Today is probably a good day to re-watch the movie 1776 – or listen to the original cast recording of Hamilton. More likely both. Both are stories about the beginning of what was sometimes called the “American Experiment” – as in the experiment of democracy. It was kind of a new thing in the late 1700s.
If you are wondering whether that experiment may have run its course this Independence Day, you’re not alone.
Once upon a time, it was glorious. Flawed, often extremely so, but glorious all the same. I think we’re all going to miss it if it’s gone.