Whatever Happened to Sticks and Stones?

By Dee Armstrong

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never harm me. Only if I LET them!

Yes, words can hurt, but only if they come from someone I respect and love. Even then, I get over it. I don’t scar easily. And, as I matured, I found it easier to walk away from trouble.

Speaking words or putting them down on paper (or a computer screen) requires a certain level of vocabulary. Words put together in a clear, unambiguous narrative can inform, influence or motivate. Words written or spoken for any other reason are just blanks, with little to no power to do much of anything, unless we allow them.

Name-calling, as children, was frowned upon, but parents realized they couldn’t protect their children from every bad thing. So, we were taught the sticks-and-stones philosophy. Don’t let others hurt you with their hurtful words. That lesson encouraged self-confidence and taught us to walk away from most trouble. Pick your battles—and name-calling wasn’t worth the fight.

Several decades ago, I was watching the Johnny Carson Show one late night (remember him?). Johnny was conducting an audience search for the most unusual or funny name. I can’t recall what names popped up, but I said to myself, “If I was there in that audience, I would have won the prize.” My parents stuck me with the given name of Edith Muriel Kronbitter. Could it get any worse or any funnier?

I hated elementary school classmates calling me “Eat-It.” In middle school, I was so skinny and tall they called me Beanpole, and taunted, that, when I turned sideways, I disappeared. At high school graduation, you can imagine my horror when the principal called me to the stage to get my diploma: “Edith Krumbiter.” Would I ever live that down? I wanted to move away, far away.

As I grew into an adult, and started my family, I realized that names could actually help or hurt a child. I started thinking carefully about what to name my daughter. I was named Edith after the dear and generous English woman who took my abandoned mother into her home and cared for her, taught her, and loved my sister and me as if we were her real grandchildren. We called her Aunt Edith. Muriel was my mother’s name. Kronbitter? A German name from Kronenbiter—beggar of coins. Oh well, no way to talk myself into loving that one.  I often wonder if I got married just to change my last name. At the wedding reception, I’ll never forget my new mother-in-law’s greeting: “Welcome to the family, dear. Now I can finally remember your last name!”

I digress. Naming my daughter. I managed to convince my husband on the first name Meredith, which contained our dear Aunt Edith’s name.  Middle name would be Jeanne, my deceased sister’s name. I liked the melody of “Meredith Jeanne.”  Of course, with the nickname of “Merrie,” her classmates taunted her with “Merry Christmas.” Kids just do those things.

Now, in my winter years, I’m pleased I’m named after a wonderful and kind woman. That’s called “growing up” with some good core values, I’m proud to say.

So now I face the issue of PC—political correctness. We can think it (at lease, still), but before we speak, most of what we want to say we must re-run through our brain several times, checking for anything offensive to anyone. Not me. Implementation of my freedom of speech has lost me a few friends, but I figure they weren’t really friends anyway.

I believe we have the First Amendment right to speak—not spread lies or yell “Fire” in a theater—but to speak our minds and opinions.

If someone calls me a name I don’t like, I don’t have to listen. If someone writes something I don’t like, I can stop reading. If I see a TV show I find offensive (lots of them out there), I change the channel. I don’t file a complaint or hire a lawyer. If I do those things to someone else, they have choices too. Turn away, delete the email, take the book back to the library, change the channel.

No wonder our current state of affairs is in chaos. Everyone is picking on everyone else for some dumb reason or another. I believe our country is producing a whole fragile generation who has way too much time on its hands to scrutinize others’ speech. I feel like telling the politically correct police that life isn’t fair, and your opinion is yours to voice, but, according to the Constitution, I can voice mine too, whether you like it or not.

Here goes an eyebrow-raiser. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “hate” crime. To hate is NOT a crime. It sure isn’t constructive and can do the hater lots of damage, physically, emotionally, and certainly spiritually. However, hate is not illegal. It’s the action that is the crime, regardless of whether hate is involved or not. Someone who murders someone because they hate them–or love them–is still a murderer. At the trial, hate may be motive. The three elements to prove guilt are motive, means and opportunity. None of these three things is the crime. They just help convict. But murder committed for any reason is still murder. What about the mother who abandons or even kills her children because her new boyfriend doesn’t want kids? What about the out-of-control druggie who assaults or kills for money to buy drugs? What about the grandson who kills the grandparents for his inheritance? Lots of emotions—or lack of them—can motivate someone to commit a crime. It’s the action that is the crime—not the emotion or motivation.

I know first-hand about motive. The man who killed my sister stood in court, crying, and sincerely claiming he loved her so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of her dating someone else. Jealously was the motive, not the crime. Should he be punished any less because he didn’t hate her? Our judicial system must separate the motive from the crime. Motive is certainly one element of proving guilt, but taking a life is the CRIME.

Name calling can hurt and damage us, if we let it. As humans, we have the ability to heal, even though we might need help from family, friends or community. We must take a look at how we raise our children. I believe in the sticks-and-stones approach, because, as my dear mom would say from experience, where there’s life, there’s hope. We have choices, at least so far. Society must recognize the priceless value of our First Amendment or we, collectively and individually, will certainly crumble and fail.

Be safe, stay informed, and thanks for reading!

© 2019 Dee Armstrong All Rights Reserved

Where will our blindness to ugly history lead?

By J. D. Pendry

My last article was a brief history of the Selective Service System, a discussion of the draft, Vietnam era draft resistors, and whether recent Department of Defense policy changes and court decisions could change the status of women and Selective Service Registration.  I may have touched a nerve or two about an unpopular subject.  But when you write about things many Americans lived through, the painted picture is not always a pretty one.

As a people, we’ve managed to overcome national atrocities of slavery and civil rights.  It’s ugly history, but it is our history and must not be buried or forgotten.  Our early treatment of Native Americans is too an atrocity.  It’s another ugly piece of our history getting little modern-day attention.  The Civil War was an ugly part of our nation’s history.  We tend to glorify the willingness of Americans killing Americans when we should acknowledge and learn from it.  It is estimated that 2.5 percent of the US population of the time died in our war.  Calculated by today’s population that’s more than 8 million.  Media and politicians continue to divide our country in a manner not seen since the pre-civil war days.  Will their unharnessed quests for control and power push us into another?  And sadly, the good history of our country, our founding, the revolution, the creation of a free republic of a kind never before seen in human history is now billed as an abomination created by old white slave owners.

The Vietnam War fought by young men who were told they were saving a people desiring freedom from the onslaught of communism is ugly history.  In Vietnam and here at home, it was a political war.  It dragged on for 20 years driven by political rather than military decisions.  Even with tremendous loss of life and treasure, today’s Vietnam is communist.  And on the ugly underside is the military industrial complex first mentioned by President Eisenhower when he warned of the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”    It is a wealth building circle.  The defense industry sells the latest and greatest weaponry to the Pentagon.  The lobbyists and Generals convince Congress of the need for the latest and greatest.  Money flows in a neat little circle from the treasury to the defense industry to political coffers. For everyone except Soldiers, war is a wealth builder.  It must always be the absolute last choice for a people – a truly great nation.  Our country’s poor treatment of Vietnam Veterans is a bleeding wound the guilty are still trying to cauterize.  Are we doing it again?

We don’t learn from our ugly history.  In 2012, I wrote Just Another Vietnam?  Looking back, it’s prophetic.  Now we have another generation of young men and women with repeated combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq who are committing suicide at an unheard of rate.  We are not embracing them, giving them needed counseling and decompression time before we drop them back into their communities as if they’ve been on a vacation.  It is sad to me to that I would even entertain such thoughts but there is great wealth in the military industrial complex and nation building.  But at what cost to generations of our young who bear the burden of fighting our nation’s wars.  At what cost do we continue to fight seemingly unending interventionist wars in such a manner?

What do we do with our ugly history?  Instead of learning, healing and moving on, we use it as a divisive bludgeon.  We ignore it while many Americans remain destitute on reservations.  We try to destroy any reminders of it as if that will remove it.  Our military is fighting and dying in a foreign land but just like Vietnam, America isn’t.  Our politicians do not seem concerned, the media certainly isn’t, and because of that the average American isn’t either.  Every time we hear the suicide rate our hearts ache for a minute, then we head for the mall.

Not only will ignorance of our history result in our own destruction, ignorance of the world will as well.  College kids, media and even politicians nowadays do not hesitate to call someone a NAZI or fascist.  What they cannot do is tell you how National Socialism came to power in Germany behind utopian promises from a charismatic monster.  They cannot define fascism, which is what they practice each time they riot on campus to shut down voices of those holding different views or ignore facts and real news.  They cannot tell you about the failures of Socialism across the world and the millions of deaths left in its wake.  They can tell you about an amazing society where everything is beautiful, everyone is equal, college is free, medical care is free, and life is blissful.  They do not understand that socialism by its very nature is a failed theory.  It’s a hard lesson even the Pilgrims learned.  If there is no incentive to produce, no possibility of improving one’s stature in life then no one produces and the collective dies.  Many Americans are wide-eyed, voting aged and worldly ignorant.  It’s not only the kids, and that should scare everyone.  What they do not understand is that there will always be the wealthy who can afford the good things and pay for the best private medical care.  Ironically as living people are the advocates for abortion, the wealthy who can escape it are the biggest advocates of socialism.  While they enjoy the good life, the rest of us in the egalitarian utopia are equally destitute, equally miserable and equally unable to raise our stature.

There will always be wild-eyed, charismatic, and angry Pied Piper politicians ready to capitalize on manufactured ignorance of history and the world to sell us a society from which the only escape is death.  History suggests we may blindly follow.

© 2019 J. D. Pendry J. D. Pendry’s American Journal