George Sarant

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Archive for July 2014

FUTILE MONUMENTS

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In Brooklyn’s Prospect Park there stands a monument to those who died in World War 1. The names of locals who perished are displayed on three great bronze tablets, one of which has fallen off, leaving that set of names to oblivion. The edifice is generally in disrepair and no one seems to care. Very few people stop even for a moment to look at it, and obviously no one is maintaining it. For no one remembers anyone on the list now, so there is a total absence of anyone feeling a direct connection and a need to keep up the monument. They might as well have died at the battle of Marathon as far as contemporaries are concerned, and so they are consigned to the distant past and barely a century later. There are probably similar examples in other places in the same condition as in Brooklyn where the demographics have changed so much that relatives and descendants have virtually disappeared.

When this memorial was constructed the war monuments were largely local, commemorating the sacrifice of people from the area. Communities everywhere felt the loss at the time, for even though the USA did not enter the war until near the end, over 112,000 died in a few months, tipping the balance towards victory. That war changed everything. Without it people would not have suffered under the communism of the Soviet Union, there would have been no World War II in Europe, and the US would not have been entangled in subsequent wars in Korea and Viet Nam. The map of Europe would be very different, and the existing regimes might have continued forward instead of collapsing. There would have been no Hitler and Stalin, and millions upon millions of lives might have been spared.

The Great War is remembered more in Europe, especially in the U.K., where commemorations continue to this day, due to the magnitude of their losses. There were 16 million deaths and 20 million casualties in the war. The British Empire lost 908,371, France 1,357,800, Russia 1,700,000, Italy 650,000, Romania 335,706, as well as losses in several smaller countries, including Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and Montenegro. On the other side Germany lost 1,773,700, Austria-Hungary 1,200,000, Turkey 325,000, and Bulgaria 87,500.

Many if not most of these deaths resulted from commanders treating troops as cannon fodder by sending them into battle with the certain expectation of heavy losses in lines close to the enemy in a futile attempt to gain some ground. The hopeless slaughter of men dug in in trenches went on four years. Due to the horrendous waste of lives, no one today could send large masses of troops to knowingly be slaughtered. Today every death is felt, and commanders are more apt to avoid casualties to the extent possible, keeping losses low.

The Great War originated what is now Veterans Day. An armistice commenced on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ending the conflict. As a result, a national holiday called Armistice Day was declared, to be celebrated on November 11 of every year. However, since the “war to end all wars” failed and subsequent conflicts arose, it was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

There is no excuse for allowing such monuments to deteriorate, considering that others once put their lives, hearts, and souls into them. There is no excuse for being so oblivious to the past that much of the public is completely ignorant as to what happened during those years. As the philosopher George Santayana wrote “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” For a country without a past does not have a future. A country which cannot honor its past does not deserve a future. Let not that be the case in America.

Written by georgesarant

July 31, 2014 at 5:22 PM

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A DIMINISHING ADMINISTRATION

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It seems increasingly apparent, even to the most sympathetic observers, that Barack Obama has lost interest in his presidency. He’d rather play golf and continue campaigning at fundraisers with celebrities than deal with several simmering issues, some of which are serious enough to threaten the integrity of the United States. This sort of post-presidential attitude while still an incumbent is unprecedented in the modern history of the office. Meanwhile so many scandals and crises are simmering, their number is numbing to the point where the seriousness with which each one ought to be considered is degraded.

The president, at the very least, sets the tone, so we find subordinates as well in an obfuscatory haze, when they are not simply inept. In this atmosphere administration officials are not taken seriously, most disturbing when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world, particularly in the case of the pompous Secretary of State John Kerry. The US has been so diminished that if someone deliberately set out to ruin the country they could not have done much worse.

That anything is functioning is more a tribute to a semi-permanent bureaucracy composed of officials of former administrations. There is a limited pool of qualified people an administration can call upon, so swaths of this government are Clinton era retreads, just as Republican administrations have drawn upon personnel from earlier administrations. As a result some departments continue to function, notwithstanding the incompetence at the Veterans Administration, among others.

However, the people in the White House, closest to the president, are more like Obama; inexperienced, committed to being “transitional” and true believers in his cause. But a community organizer who has never run anything, and who is a believer in Rules for Radicals, proves yet again that radicals are incapable of running a government. They can agitate, campaign and advocate causes, but they are totally inept in attempting to implement anything. Thus we have witnessed failure after failure across a staggering array of issues, including the health care rollout, the VA, the IRS, Benghazi, spying on reporters, the invasion of our borders by “children” from Central America, the dubious release of Guantanamo prisoners, the Russian “reset,” Iraq, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, etc., etc. They have been amazingly consistent in being wrong about virtually everything.

Then there are the might-have-beens. The economy continues to sputter along, in large measure due to the policies of this administration, where it could have been growing briskly at this point under a different regime. All the elements for an economic boom are in place except for the government. With a different set of policies America and the rest of the world could be experiencing rapid growth. The only upside to all of this is that hopefully more damage can be avoided, given how rudderless the government is currently. Not just the public, but the administration seems to have lost confidence in itself as well. The best we can hope for at this point is to get through the next two years without a truly major disaster, given the colossal ineptitude of this administration in managing just about everything. It simply proves once again that radicals cannot govern.

Written by georgesarant

July 29, 2014 at 10:50 PM

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