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First Hundred Days

31 May

I’ll be honest; I’ve never been a fan of the phrase, “First 100 days.”  It is mostly used for the presidency but congressional Democrats in 2007 also used the phrase first 100 hours to describe the legislation they wanted to get done in their first week after taking control of congress.  The phrase, “First 100 days” was first used to describe FDR’s first 100 days of his presidency.  FDR also had the advantage of having large majorities in both houses of congress.

When FDR first took office he inherited a worse mess than when Obama took office.  The economy was in a constant downward spiral, banks were failing left and right, and he had a looming international crisis not too far off.  FDR and congress knew they had to act fast if they wanted the country to survive the Great Depression.  In the first 100 days FDR signed into law The New Deal legislation which helped alleviate poverty, and got people back to work.  It created confidence among the American people that things would get better.

Since FDR left office many presidents have tried not to live up to the 100 day standard.  Our current president did when he was running for office.  He said that he would get so much done in his first 100 days.  I think President Trump thought that running a business would be the same as running the country.  I agree with what Trump said now that the first 100 days are a ridiculous standard.  Having said that Trump consistently said during the campaign that he would get all of this stuff done in his first 100 days and that it would be so easy.  What President Trump now realizes is that running a country and running a business are not the same thing.

President Trump is now in the same position many politicians have put themselves in.  He has to deliver on some of his promises.  The midterm elections are next year.  I heard an interview with Trump supporters earlier this year.  One of them was asked, “How long will you give Trump to deliver on these promises?”  They replied, “2 years.”  I wonder how many of Trump’s supporters will be with him next year when they go to the ballot box, especially if nothing gets done between now and then.

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Resistance

28 Feb

Last year I saw two movies with similar stories, one based on a true story and one not.  Anthropoid is a story about resistance during WWII in occupied Czechoslovakia.  Rogue One is a sort of prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope.  In Rogue One the main character is reluctant to join the Rebellion.  When someone joins a rebellion or resistance movement they are doing so knowing that they are risking their lives with no guarantee of success.  (Spoiler Alert.  If you haven’t seen either movie or don’t know about Reinhardt Heydrich then I would stop reading past this paragraph.)

In Anthropoid, two Czech resistance fighters parachute into their occupied homeland.  Early in the war the allies gave the Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia) to Nazi Germany.  There is some debate over whether or not this was a delaying tactic or done to stop war.  The Czech government in exile ordered the two resistance fighters to assassinate Reinhardt Heydrich, then 3rd in the Nazi hierarchy.  Heydrich was also sent to Prague to crush the resistance movement there.  He mostly succeeded.

The two Czech resistance fighters Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik meet with what is left of the resistance movement in Prague.  They debate but ultimately decide to go ahead with the dangerous mission.  They know that even if they succeed in assassinating Reinhardt Heydrich they will put their families and even occupied Czechoslovakia in danger.  Kubis and Gabcik also know that they may not make it out of Czechoslovakia alive.  The assassination succeeds, but it turns out to be a pyrrhic victory.  Thousands of Czechs are rounded up and shot.  Two villages are burnt to the ground with most of the population being sent to concentration camps or are shot.

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik manage to escape after the assassination but they both are forced into hiding.  They eventually seek refuge in a church.  Before they can escape they are betrayed by one of their own.  The resistance fighters and the family who tried to hide them didn’t much outlive Reinhardt Heydrich.  The question most people ask about this is was it worth it?  Its tough for me to say because I was not in that situation.  I think it was because of how horrible a person Heydrich was.

In Rogue One Jyn Erso is separated from her family at a young age when her mother is killed and her father is forced to develop the Death Star.  Jyn Erso eventually decides to accept the risky mission of retrieving the Death Star plans.  Her and several other Rebels succeed in delivering the plans but sacrifice their lives doing so.

In both of the movies the main characters are resisting a brutal regime with a constant risk of death.  The characters both make their sacrifices for the greater good.  I am not comparing the situation the country is in now to Nazi Germany, far from it.  People resist in dire times at great risk.  We have the right to protest in this country.  We can speak out at any time without fear of prosecution or imprisonment.  There is no excuse for any of us to resist or speak out against something that is wrong especially considering people in worse situations have done so at greater peril.

Alt-facts

31 Jan

Donald Trump has only been in office a week and he hasn’t changed a bit from what he was during the campaign.  Congress has only approved a small handful of his appointments.  He has issued a series of executive orders.  His worst executive order is his one to ban people from coming to the U.S. from 7 Muslim-majority countries.  This is Un-American plain and simple.  It has already been halted by a Federal judge.  It has been said over and over again that we are a nation of immigrants.  Donald Trump’s grandfather was an immigrant.  We are repeating the mistakes of the past.

Unfortunately the U.S. has an ugly history when it comes to welcoming immigrants or people who are different than us.  African-Americans have and continue to face discrimination.  In the 1800’s we weren’t exactly welcoming towards Irish immigrants or Chinese Immigrants.  During WWII Jews faced Antisemitism.  We should have known better considering where our ancestors came from.  Americans escaped England to avoid religious persecution.  Many of the refugees coming from war-torn countries are doing the same thing.

There will always be people who want to deny what our existence as a country was founded on.  Our founding fathers were not deeply religious as some have suggested.  We are not a Christian nation.  We are a nation of many religions.  If people can’t accept that then they should leave.  My great-grandmother escaped Russian territory before WWI ended to escape anti-Semitic pogroms.

There are many more stories like my great-grandmothers.  If we wish to continue as a country we should be welcoming refugees with open arms.  Most people’s security concerns about refugees aren’t based on facts.  We already have very strong refugee screening program in our country.  President Trump’s executive order has put U.S. citizens in danger across the world.  If we continue on this path we won’t be the only ones restricting access to our country.  Other countries will respond with bans on U.S. citizens.  That doesn’t further anyone’s goal or make us safer.

50 Years Ago Today

22 Nov

50 years ago today, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  What happened that day is still felt 50 years later.  Many historians see it is a turning point in American History.  Our country has felt such tragedy, but also many triumphs.  President Kennedy was the first Catholic president of the United States.  His election felt as a triumph by many, that barriers can be broken and that we can move forward as a nation.  I still think there is much that can be learned by his presidency. 

There was a certain aura around John F. Kennedy.  He was a war hero, who struggled with many problems in his life.  He didn’t let his problems hold him back from doing what he wanted.  President Kennedy overcame many challenges just to get the nomination from his party.  He was an anti-communist crusader while in the Senate, but as president he negotiated an end to a nuclear disaster with the Soviet Union.  He made his mistakes early on the Cuban Missile Crisis, but he learned from them and negotiated a volatile situation.

We won’t know exactly what would have happened had he lived the remainder of his term, but we do have some hints.  In 1963, President Kennedy was attempting to pass a Civil Rights bill.  That bill was being held up in congress by Dixiecrats, which made passage extremely difficult.  It is unclear whether the bill would have been able to pass during his presidency.  A war in Vietnam would be a question mark if he survived and got re-elected.  He sent military advisers to Vietnam, but didn’t escalate it to full-scale war while he was president.  There is a possibility that he would have gotten us into war with Vietnam, but we will never know for sure.

President Kennedy’s main legacies were his triumph in solving the Cuban Missile Crisis, and his attempt to get the Civil Rights Bill passed.  Lyndon Johnson was able to pass the Civil Rights bill because of his legislative skills, but also because it was part of Kennedy’s legacy. 

John F. Kennedy was a visionary, who saw great things for this country but sadly didn’’t live to fulfill what he wanted to accomplish.  Even 50 years later, he still stands as a symbol of what this country can be.     

It seems every generation has had at least one event that everyone remembers.  For my grandmother it was Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination and 9/11.  My parents lived through the war in Vietnam, John and Bobby Kennedy’s assassination as well as Martin Luther King being shot and killed, and later the horror of 9-11.  I honestly can’t say exactly what September 11th was like compared to Kennedy’s assassination or Pearl Harbor.  What I can say is that each of these tragedies changed our country.  When something bad happens, we grieve but we also try to rationalize why it happened.  Unfortunately we don’t always know why something happens.  We may not always be able to understand why a tragic event happened, but we must be willing to learn from it, and what to do after it.