Why do we go to war? Part 2 Freedom

Tomorrow has come and I am recalling my trip to Panama when I was 8 years old. I don’t know what possessed me to be the “ugly American” while I was there, but I’m disgusted with myself now as I look back on my behavior.

It was the summer of 1963, I made a poster out of a large piece of white paper my grandmother gave me, probably thinking I was going to do a little bit of drawing. Instead, I wrote in English, with a bold colored crayon, “I AM AN AMERICAN!” Then I held it draped over the second floor balcony of my grandparent’s house in the poor small city of Colon for all to see who walked on the sidewalk below or in the park across the street. I didn’t speak Spanish, but I read the smiles on their faces that whispered, “isn’t that cute.”

My motive may have been a declaration of my superiority, or I thought being an American in a foreign country made me a celebrity. I really don’t recall, but I do remember the later embarrassment I felt as an adult. Where that feeling of superiority came from I don’t know. Was it propaganda from the media, the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? I always believed that the United States was the greatest nation in the world and that everyone wanted to come here, after all, it seemed like everyone was coming here.

In first grade, we had to practice duck and cover drills in case of a communist attack from the Soviet Union. We were told by the Sisters of the Presentation that if the enemy arrived we were to stay silent and pray to Mother Mary to protect us. We practiced by exiting the classroom and kneeling down in the dark hallway with our hands clasped and heads bowed.

So why do we go to war? The more I research US history the more I realize that the times and the leadership of the time dictate the reasons for war. Even the sentiments of the public at the time influenced and still influences decisions made on Capital Hill. There is never just one reason, nor always the same reason. I use to think the reason was “to protect the freedom of the American people”. That’s pretty simple until you ask yourself WHAT freedom? What does THAT¬†mean? And how is my freedom in jeopardy? ¬†9/11FDNY

Posted in War.

Why do we go to war? Part 1

I am a little older now than I was during the war in Vietnam and I did not understand why we were at war nor did I think to ask.

I teach U.S. history to high school students which has given me the opportunity to absorb more information about America’s past than I would have otherwise. I have read primary source documents, analyzed photographs, and facilitated interesting discussions with my students. My history classes four decades ago were conducted by my teacher simply and directly. We moved our desks into a tight circle, opened our state adopted textbook, read the chapter assigned for that day, and answered the accompanied questions at the end of the unit. Tests consisted of acknowledging names, dates, and places through memorization.

I was bored with history, but I think not because history is boring, rather because so many schools and teachers never get past the same pedagogy that I was exposed to in school.

Truth is always more exciting than fiction, yet the need to create patriotic citizens…

people who follow their government’s leaders
without questioning
the direction these leaders are taking them
because there is nothing to question
since you have been taught that
the USA is the greatest country in the world,

….is the ultimate goal.

Education is the number one catalyst for moving the masses. Knowledge is the brain trying to make sense of the world around it. The brain demands answers to complex questions in order to make meaning out of confusion. And those who find they have a passion for knowledge can never return to a place of complacent existence.

I think this is why NOT educating our young people is the first key to creating a totalitarian society. Young people who can read, write, and think critically tend to ask questions and expect answers. We have evidence of this at UC Berkeley in the 1960’s, Kent State University, in Ohio in 1970, the two founders of the Black Panther Party were Merritt College students, in Oakland, the Tiananmen Square protests in China in the 1980’s where university students joined workers in protesting over their political leaders.

Other countries have experienced the same discontent among educated youth. Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia was an advocate of higher education and founded the University College of Addis Adaba in 1955. The emperor tried to keep control over the school through censorship, and either because of this or in spite of it, the students created a movement in the 1960’s that grew and continued through the 1970’s to include economic inequality and poverty.

But still, why do we go to war? So my point is, the more I study the more I want to know, the more I know the deeper I want to reach into the pools of information, both credible and not, about a plethora of topics and issues. And why we go to war became a revelation as I studied my craft to be the best history teacher I could be and trying not to show my bias to my students at the same time. That’s a hard one.

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I am fortunate enough to still have my mother with me, but for those who no longer have their mother with them, for whatever reason I feel sadness.

Let’s not forget about those who spend at least 1 day a year not celebrating Mother’s Day with a visit or brunch at her favorite restaurant.

I don’t know what it is like to lose a mother even though someday I will have to face that too.

But maybe we can think about mothers all over the world who do their best to raise their children despite the challenges they may face, like war, poverty, crime, and violence; or mothers whose children never visit, and those mothers who spend lonely days in senior facilities.

Our world is big, yet in many ways so small.

Take time to reflect and to pray for those whose Mothers’ Day may not be filled with flowers and joy.


Why is it that when you are young you are enjoying each moment and never thinking about the future nor the past? Then when you get older you become consumed with regret after regret.

I feel as if I am on the downside of life. There is so little time to make a change; at least a major change. I can’t do my life over again. This is why the saying, ” youth is wasted on the young” is so true. Oh if I only knew then what I know now.

It’s too late to be choosy about who you marry. It’s too late to wait for that one person who knows how to be a good spouse, and parent. It’s too late to make better choices and see your future become more like a romantic film than a horrible tragedy. It’s too late to be with that special person who knows how to be a perfect partner and parent and watch their happy children grow up to be emotionally whole.

It’s too late to then watch those children grow up to be happy and successful people who find magnificent partners who raise amazingly wonderful and happy children who come to visit their fabulous grandparents who spoil them immensely.

It’s too late…..But it’s even harder remembering 50 years ago as if it were yesterday and wishing you could have told yourself to wait…..you’re so young… you have so much more time than you think you have for learning and maturing and waiting for something unexpectedly special to happen. And when it does, you will know without a doubt that the time is right.

So how do you now live with…It’s too late.

I saw a small sign somewhere in my travels that read, ” Old age only occurs when regrets take the place of dreams.” I don’t know who said it. It sounds poetic and uplifting, however, I wonder what is there to dream about?