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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

Civil War Soldier DageurrotypeMemorial Day weekend. I’m no historical anthropologist so I can’t be completely certain when I say that I don’t believe there is any one group of people on this planet who have not been touched by war in some significant way. The history of this world has been written in the bloody ink of war.

A few years back, when I began doing genealogy for the families of my wife and myself, I was surprised at the many, many generations in each line who had taken part in the wars of their times, putting their lives aside to give so much of themselves– in some cases, their very lives– for causes that often might have been mere abstractions to them.

In fact, we have both have ancestors who have fought and died in every war and conflict waged on and by this nation since the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. I have a 7th great grandfather from the 1600’s, Benjamin Church, considered the founder of the Army Rangers, who led his Ranger unit in King Phillip’s War  and other early wars. There are ancestors who fought on both sides of the conflict during the American Revolution. There are ancestors who were prisoners of war at Andersonville and a number of others who are buried throughout the American south, from Louisiana to Georgia to Virginia, as a result of the Civil War.

Part of me is proud that these people have answered the call to be a small part in something bigger. But another part of me is simply sad to think that they were called on to give so much in order to satisfy or deny the baser motives of those in power. War has usually been about greed and acquisition, nationalistic pride or ethnic and religious hatred– in each instance proposed with the greatest conviction and certainty by the leaders of each side of the cause.

And on Memorial Day, we remember the people who actually fulfilled the pleas of these leaders, be they right or wrong. These citizens did what they were asked and what they felt was necessary in their time and place. And I have nothing but respect for that.

For today’s image, I chose the daguerreotype of the Civil War soldier at the top because there was something in him that seemed to show the sacrifice of war. Maybe it’s the steely stare of his eyes. Or maybe it was his belt that is cinched in to what looks to be a ridiculously tiny diameter, showing how emaciated he appears to be. I’m not exactly sure but there is something in him that seems contemporary, less dated.

And for today’s Sunday musical selection, I have chosen the song Ben McCulloch from Steve Earle.  It tells the story of two brothers who enlist in the Confederate Army in the Civil War and discover the hard realities of war as they serve under General McCulloch, who was a real person who died in battle in 1862. The chorus probably echos the sentiments of many soldiers through time for their commanding officers who foolhardily place them in situations where they face overwhelming odds.

So have a great Sunday and a Memorial Day filled with some appreciation of what the day really encompasses.

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This post originally ran several years back but its message is the same as I would convey today.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_0h1StPJBM

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Another Memorial Day weekend has come. Not going to ramble on much this morning about the meaning of the holiday. Just going to show a photo and play a song, Fortunate Son, that is about the injustice of wars where the young and the poor pay the price by fighting and dying in wars waged by rich old men who shelter their own children from having to pay that same price.

The photo above, from the National Library of Medicine, feature five Civil War veterans who lost limbs in combat. I guess in their own way, they are fortunate in their own way by simply being able to come out of the war only missing limbs. That was probably small comfort to them.

Here’s the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song, Fortunate Son, performed by John Fogerty along with Dave Grohl and the Sound City Players. It’s a very good version and a message that still resonates after 50 years.

Have a good day.

 

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Wasn’t going to write anything today as I have a full schedule in prepping work for delivery of my June Principle Gallery show combined with my visit to see my dad at the local nursing facility where has lived with his dementia for most of the last three years. But I began listening to some music and when Heroes from David Bowie came on, it made me scroll back through some older posts and I came across the one below.

Heroism is a term that has been warped a bit by our fascination with comic book heroism. On a Memorial day weekend, we should be reminded that many of the people who we memorialize for their service and sacrifice didn’t have superhero qualities. They were no different than anyone else when faced with adversity and danger– scared, confused and wishing it was all over. But heroism comes in fighting through these emotions and simply doing the task that is required of them. To simply do the right thing and take responsibility for those things before them that they can control. To unselfishly serve in the moment.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Doing one’s duty without giving thought to how the outcome might affect you is a rare thing. I guess that is why we celebrate holidays devoted to service and heroism.  And it’s especially rare in these perilous times where a single, simple act of heroism from a small handful people in congress could completely change the direction in which this country is headed.

That might be too much to ask of them. Heroism is not for everyone, I suppose. But for the rest of us, let us put aside our selfish concerns and serve someone and something greater than ourselves. Just do what is right. Then we can all be heroes.

Here’s the post from several years back:

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Arthur Ashe HeroismKeeping up the theme that was the subject of an earlier post this week, I decided that for this Sunday morning’s musical selection I would play a lovely version of Heroes from David Bowie. It’s an acoustic version (with Gail Ann Dorsey accompanying him on vocals and bass) from a 1996 performance at the Bridge School Benefit, an annual concert began by Neil Young to benefit the Bay Area school that helps kids with severe speech and physical impairments. In that context, the song takes on additional layers of meaning as you see the many parents in the audience with their children, many cradling them.

Heroism.

Looking for an image to illustrate this post, I did an image search by punching in the word hero. It was all superheroes and warriors which saddened me because I know that heroism is something far more than that. It’s about doing those things that need to be done, about taking responsibility in order to serve a purpose beyond your own needs. We think of it as a rare thing but it is evident every day in the actions of those people who give so much of themselves to others.

For me, an example of this came to me in a very personal way. When my mother was struggling in the last months of her battle with cancer, I visited her for  last time. Her and my father had been together for about 46 years at that point, years which could be described as turbulent at best. For such a long married couple, they had an odd love/hate relationship which had them always on the edge of huge screaming  battles that were fraught with violence. They were terrible things to see and even as a child I often wondered why they remained together. But they did and as she neared the end of her life, Dad became her cook, her maid, her nurse, and her driver to the many treatments that made up the last months of her life. Her everything.

When I made my last visit, I noticed a photo on her bedside table. It was photo of the two of them together from several years before, standing at some Florida site drenched in sun. On the cheap little frame, underneath my father was a word formed in simple block letters, those kind of press-on letters that you rub on from a sheet.

It was the word Hero.

Now, at that point in my life I didn’t see my father in heroic terms. Far from it. No, he was and is a very flawed human being with many traits that are far from any definition of heroism. But in this case, he took on the form of a hero for my mother and in that moment, looking at that photo, for myself as well. I realized that the word was not about great accomplishment but rather about following that need to serve another and just doing the right thing in a moment of need.

So it can be for everyone, as the song says :

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

I finally came across the  quote at the top from the late Arthur Ashe that seemed to best fit the thought .

Have a great Sunday. Be a hero to someone today.

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I am replaying a post today that I ran for Memorial Day back in 2010 that featured the living photographs of Arthur Mole. I have added a few more images to the original post. Enjoy and have a good Memorial Day.

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Arthur Mole Photo- Marine Corps Insignia

On this Memorial Day, I thought I would show some patriotic images photographed in the first part of the 20th century by Arthur Mole. Mole made a name for himself at the time by assembling large groups of people in formations and photographing them from a specially constructed 80-foot tower. He started at church conventions and later did the same for a number of universities but was probably best known for his symbols of the US and its military.

Needing large groups for his intricate compositions, military bases seemed like the perfect place to find massed groups of people to use as the paints on his palette. For instance, the Marine Corps insignia shown here was shot at Paris Island and took 100 officers and 5000 troops in order to fill out all the details in the composition.

Athur Mole Photo- Shield of the United States

It took quite a few more people to fill out the upper details in his compositions in order to maintain perspective from the perch where he shot as these areas were considerably larger in size than the than those nearer the camera. Take this US Shield shot in Battle Creek, Michigan as an example. It took 30,000 troops to complete this but the bulk of these troops were used in the area above the first row of stars.

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The varying shades were achieved by having the troops wear different clothes, obviously. For the light areas, they simply wore t-shirts and for the dark areas they wore their uniforms. In the shield photo, those in the dark areas also wore their hats to make the tone more uniform on film. No shining faces breaking up the dark shades.

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Arthur Mole Living Photograph- Liberty Bell

These are pretty amazing photos when you consider that they were taken in world long before Photoshop or any type of computer generation. It must have taken a tremendous amount of planning and effort to pull off these shoots, from the building of the tower to the precise placement of each soldier. For that alone they deserve a tip of the hat.

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And on this Memorial Day, the sight of troops who sacrificed in some way for our country standing side-by-side to create the symbols that embody our nation is a  fine way to remember them outside of the battles they fought and the great sacrifices they made.

Arthur Mole Living Photograph – Star Detail

Arthur Mole Living Photograph American Flag

Arthur Mole Living Photograph- Statue of Liberty

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I thought for this Memorial Day a replay of the post from this day last year was appropriate and says exactly what I wanted to express this morning. We are living in strange times with a leader with little if any impulse control and a need to achieve his desired outcome regardless of the means needed to do so. I am of the opinion that if push comes to shove ( and with his knack for alienating and shoving, it’s a real possibility) he would not hesitate to spend the lives of  many of our soldiers to protect his interests. And there is a building doubt as to whether his interests are our interests.

I think that is why this Memorial Day takes on special significance. We must remember the horror of war that brought about this holiday and not gloss it over. It was not meant for glorification of war. It was a day of grieving and remembrance of souls taken much too early. Give it a thought today.

Memorial Day weekend.  It’s become the symbolic starting point for summer, a time of barbecues and partying.  Fireworks. In those rare instances when we do take the time to consider the day, many of us tend to think of it in terms of patriotism and nationalism.

But it was created from the loss and sorrow of a civil war that ripped this country and many families apart.  It was meant to alleviate the grief of the many families who suffered the ultimate loss, to let them know that the nation shared their sorrow in the memory of fallen family members.

In the nearby Woodlawn National Cemetery, where my mother, along with both my grandfathers and several uncles, is buried, there is a section that contains the nearly 3000 graves of Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War in the Elmira, NY prison camp.  Whenever I look at those stones and think of those men of the south, I always think about their families who may not have even known that their sons were suffering in a cold Northern prison.  They were mothers, wives or children who would never see or hug their sons and husbands and fathers again. People whose loss forever left a hole in their lives.

And this sacrifice was for what?  An idea, the preservation of an ideology that probably didn’t affect their day to day lives in the first place? The financial interests of the planters and plantation owners, the wealthy ruling class?

Why are we so easily stirred to war, so willing to sacrifice our own kin and their futures?

There are no easy answers.  Maybe that’s why the holiday has transformed into what it is today– it’s too terrible an image to bear when we look in that mirror and ask those questions.

So for this Sunday’s music on a Memorial Day weekend, I thought I’d play a song that asks for peace on earth with the hope that fewer families in the future will have to see this earth absorb the blood of their sons and daughters.  I know that sounds like a pipedream, a world without war.  But I have to ask  myself: Why not peace?

Here’s U2 and Peace on Earth.  Have a great Sunday and a great holiday.

NOTE: The image here on the left is a new painting, The Kinship, that is part of my show that opens this coming Friday, June 2, at the Principle Gallery.  There is a sense of remembrance in this piece for me that jibes with the real spirit of this day.

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Well, the work for the Truth and Belief show is delivered to the Principle Gallery and I can try to let out a big sigh of relief. I say try because I still have to endure the week until the show opens this coming Friday.

I’ve documented these feelings before on this blog from past shows, about how any confidence that may have grown as I was finishing the work for the show suddenly disappears once it is delivered.

It’s no different this for this year’s show. I walked in the studio early this morning and, without the reassurance from the show’s paintings that were now out of my sight, felt absolutely lousy. The big ball of anxiety was sitting directly on my gut.

I began to wonder if it was too late to become a backhoe operator. Or when the next person asks what I do and I tell them I’m a painter and they ask how much it would cost to get their bedrooms painted, I should give them a price.

But I know the routine, know it’s just part of the pattern. I’ve been experienced these same thoughts many times before and there is something in me that recognizes that I have put in the effort and been true to myself with this work.  It is a real thing.

It will work out in the long run.

Besides, I can’t really do anything else. Don’t want to do anything else. Actually, I don’t even look at what I do anymore as having been a choice. It’s just what I am now and there’s no changing that.

And that thought will carry me through the week. Oh, I’ll still feel like crap and lose every ounce of confidence I have ever known. But that’s okay because I know I will soon be back to work, being who I am meant to be.

Okay, enough of that and on to this week’s Sunday morning music. I hear that it’s Memorial Day weekend and I wanted to feature a combination of image and song that kind of fit the spirit of the holiday.  Not picnics and fireworks but the remembering part.  So many brave people have given their lives with the belief that they were defending our common values.  In these fractured times I think it’s important that we use the memory of their sacrifice as an opportunity to examine what those true values might be and how we can find common ground within them.

The painting above is from the show and is a 9″ by 12″ canvas titled So Well Remembered. The music is a short piece from trumpeter Richard Boulger titled For Souls Past. It’s a stark and lovely tune. Both have the feeling of memory that the day requires.

Have a great day…

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Civil War Soldier DageurrotypeMemorial Day weekend.  I’m no historical anthropologist so I can’t be completely certain when I say that I don’t believe there is any one group of people on this planet who have not been touched by war in some significant way. The history of this world has been written in the bloody ink of war.

A few years back, when I began doing genealogy for the families of my wife and myself, I was surprised at the many, many generations in each line who had taken part in the wars of their times, putting their lives aside to give so much of themselves– in some cases, their very lives– for causes that often might have been mere abstractions to them.

Part of me is proud that these people have answered the call to be a small part in something bigger.  But another part of me is simply sad to think that they were called on to give so much in  order to satisfy or deny the baser motives of those in power.  War has usually been about greed and acquisition, nationalistic pride or ethnic and religious hatred– in each instance proposed with the greatest conviction and certainty by the leaders of each side of the cause.

And on Memorial Day, we remember the people who actually fulfilled the pleas of these leaders, be they right or wrong.  These citizens did what they were asked and what they felt was necessary in their time and place.  And I have nothing but respect for that.

For today’s image, I chose the daguerreotype of the Civil War soldier at the top because there was something in him that seemed to show the sacrifice of war.  Maybe it’s the steely stare of his eyes.  Or maybe it was his belt that is cinched in to what looks to be a ridiculously tiny diameter, showing how emaciated he appears to be.  I’m not exactly sure but there is something in him that seems contemporary, less dated.

And for today’s Sunday musical selection, I have chosen the song Ben McCulloch from Steve Earle.  It tells the story of two brothers who enlist in the Confederate Army in the Civil War and discover the hard realities of war as they serve under General McCulloch, who was a real person who died in battle in 1862.  The chorus probably echos the sentiments of many soldiers through time for their commanding officers as they face overwhelming odds.

So have a great Sunday and a Memorial Day filled with some appreciation of what the day really encompasses.

 

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