Category Archives: History

Hitler’s familiar game

In the run-up to Germany’s annexation of Austria, the removal of Czechoslovakia from the European map, and the blitzkrieg against Poland, Adolf Hitler went back to a familiar playbook over and over again to ratchet up support in his home country and give international cover to his aggressions.

The ploy was a propaganda campaign that poor, defenseless Germans in the Sudetenland, in parts of Czechoslovakia, and in Poland were being oppressed, harassed, brutalized, attacked, raped, and murdered, requiring Hitler to come in and save them.

Always, Hitler’s aggressions were someone else’s fault. When the European powers at last found a backbone and went to war because of his attack on Poland, he again blamed England and France because, as Hitler complained, he kept trying to find a peaceful settlement after his invented tales of the oppression of Germans.

It was never Hitler’s fault. Germany was never to blame. Near the end of the European conflict, Hitler tried to shift the narrative again to one where he was the lone hero trying to defeat Communism.

The Austrians made him do it. The Czechs made him do it. The Poles made him do it. England and France made him do it. Communists made him do it. Or so he complained, until the day he put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

MLK

Dr Martin Luther King Jr:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

September 11, 2001: “She must be watching a movie…”

September 11, 2001, Glendale California. Shortly before 6 a.m. A ringing phone wakes me up. I hear my girlfriend groggily answer it, and I can hear, all the way over on my side, the voice of her mother, upset about something. Lots of “What? What? What?” coming from that side of the bed.

“What’s she on about?” I manage to mumble.

“My mom says a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.”

wtc fireIt takes a minute for that very unlikely sentence to sink into my sleepy brain, but the answer was plain as day to me. “She’s must be watching a movie or something,” I said.

“She says to turn on the TV!” There’s an urgency in her voice, and annoyed at what I think is her mom being confused and upset over nothing, I find the remote and turn on CNN.

There it is. A gaping hole. Smoke billowing out. We can see flames.

Now I’m awake.

It must have been some massive failure of the air traffic control system, some huge computer foul-up. I tell her that somehow, some pilot wasn’t looking out his window, was looking at some instruments that were obviously completely screwed up, and flew right into the building.

But then I start thinking about how many systems would have to break down for that to happen. And what would a plane be doing flying that low anyway?

Still believing it was some small commuter plane, the CNN anchor breaks in and says they’re getting reports it was a jet. An airliner.

And as confirmations come in that it was a jet that hit the WTC, that’s when we see the second plane. Not sure of what we just saw, the news network (I can’t remember if we stayed with CNN or if we started flipping around) helpfully replayed the footage.

hijacked-united-airlines-flight-175-l-flies-toward-the-world-trade-cen

Our mouths are hanging open. I start to say, “How the hell can a computer mix up explain a f—ing SECOND plane—” but as we both look at each other we have the same sudden, sickening thought forming in our heads, and the news anchor says at the same time, crystallizing the realization and finishing the thought for us, “This can’t be an accident. This is a terrorist attack.”

Cecil the cat jumped into bed with us, wondering why we were awake so damn early and decided to capitalize on the opportunity and meowed for food.

I don’t think our eyes left the television the whole day.

History

That moment when you realize history doesn’t make any damn sense is when you stop trying to figure out how we got here from there, and instead just try to imagine how it must have been to be alive back then.

Aside from technology, was an average day for an average person in the Rome of 195 CE any different than it is for you? What did the air smell like? Did you have neighbors who were pains in the ass? Did an itch on the inside of your nose bug the hell out of you? Did you have trouble falling asleep?

Humanity may have come a long way, at least, when it comes to electricity, computers and coffee makers. Human beings, not so much.

WATCH: How far back in time could you go and still understand English?

You might struggle a bit in the 1600’s. It would be next to impossible to get around in the 1300’s. Good luck if your time machine drops you back to 1000 CE.

Small steps

When you study history and come to Nazi Germany, you probably wonder how someone like Hitler could convince a modern, industrialized nation to blindly follow along in the systematic murder of millions.

Some followed willingly. Some followed out of fear. A few resisted but were quickly disposed of. Not many wanted to stand in the way of recognizing that a once-mighty nation was weak and had to be made great again, no matter the cost.

The thing to realize is that it only took small steps to get there. All Hitler had to do was capitalize on pre-existing bigotry against a particular group of people. Next, he had to convince people that this group was somehow a danger to the nation, and had to be stopped. Paranoia could then metastasize and take over from there. The small candles of hate could be combined, fanned and fueled into a wildfire.

Eventually, “by whatever means necessary” got added to “had to be stopped.”

From there, all else followed.

Small steps. Like saying that all members of a certain group need to be put under surveillance, or put on a registry, or barred from entering the country.

How fortunate we are to live in a country where this can’t happen.

The story of the super-secret spy space station

Once upon a time, there was a plan to put a sophisticated, super-secret spy space station in orbit to keep an eye on the USSR.

Huge and packed with the latest technology, the MOL was a diplomatic nightmare that officials feared might cause a Soviet backlash. And it was expensive. President Nixon finally cancelled the MOL in 1969, but by then it had already consumed more than $1.5 billion—$10 billion in today’s dollars—and was on track to take up 17 percent of the Air Force’s annual research budget for years.

The Soviet Union put a man in space in April 1961. The U.S. sent astronauts into orbit a few weeks later. The MOL program got underway just two years after that. The Pentagon wanted it in orbit by 1967.

But it was not to be. By the end of the program, the schedule had slipped more than 2 years, with the first launch planned for 1970. And by the time, unmanned satellite technology had advanced to the point where an expensive, manned spy station was unnecessary.

Too bad. I could totally see our own James Bond up there back in the suave sixties, drinking space martinis and dating space babes. That, and stinking to high heaven after spending two months in a tin can without a shower.

Read more: The Real Story of The Secret Space Station