American Elephants


Paul Revere’s Ride by The Elephant's Child
April 18, 2015, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Boston, Concord, Longfellow, North Church, The Revolution | Tags: , , ,


[A little Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for the eighteenth of April]
Today is the 240th anniversary of the “Shot heard Round the World”

Listen, my children, and  you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend,”If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light—
One if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, a British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now gazed at the landscape far and near.
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth
And turned and tightened his saddle girth:
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides:
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.

And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest.  In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm—
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will awaken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the  midnight message of Paul Revere.

(The illustration is from a lovely edition of the poem illustrated by Ted Rand for children or any Longfellow lovers. Copies still available from Amazon at very reasonable  prices)



Comparisons by The Elephant's Child

Scott Brown: Let America Be America Again! by The Elephant's Child

From Iran: A Rant or A Warning? by The Elephant's Child
May 16, 2010, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

From the Associated Press, dated May 15, 2010.

TEHRAN, Iran —A radical cleric called Saturday for the creation of a “Greater Iran” that would rule over the entire Middle East and Central Asia, in an event that he said would herald the coming of Islam’s expected messiah.

Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi said the creation of what he calls an Islamic United States is a central aim of the political party he leads called Hezbollah, or Party of God, and that he hoped to make it a reality if they win the next presidential election.

Mr. Kharrazi’s comments reveal the thinking of a growing number of hard-liners in Iran, many of whom have become more radical during the post-election political crisis and the international standoff over the country’s nuclear program.  Mr. Kharrazi, however, isn’t highly influential in Iran’s clerical hierarchy and his views don’t represent those of the current government.

Mn hmm.  And U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder just cannot bring himself to say the words “Radical Islam.”  Just fills you with confidence.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano blames Americans (those violent tea party types) first, and calls 9/11 a “Man-Caused Disaster.” A disaster it was, but this kind of language — weak, pandering, politically correct, simply avoids not just clear thinking, but thought.  What it says to the rest of the world is”weak.” And that is not a good message to send.

We have an administration that cannot seem to grasp the reality of Islamic radicalism, pressing for month after month for talks with a government that has been leading their followers in shouts of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” steadily ever  since 1979.  Even fairly obvious clues just don’t register with some people.

Still, even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that he expects the government which follows his to be “ten times more revolutionary.”



Criticizing Chavez is a Crime, But He’s Not a Dictator. by American Elephant
March 31, 2010, 1:25 am
Filed under: Developing Nations, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Terrorism | Tags: ,

Progressive poster-boy Sean Penn has announced that Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez is no Dictator, but a lovely person, and anyone who calls him a Dictator should be put in prison. That statement alone should have you rolling on the floor with laughter.

Said kind and noble President-for-Life Hugo Chávez has been slowly tightening the screws his political grip on Venezuela since he came to power in 1999.  Last week he tightened a bit more.

On Thursday, Venezuelan military intelligence detained the president of Globovision, the country’s last remaining independent media outlet.  According to Attorney General Luisa Ortega, President Guillermo Zuloaga is being investigated for criticizing Mr. Chávez during an Inter-American Press Association meeting  earlier this month in Aruba, for closing down independent media outlets.  Mr Zuloaga said that press freedom had been lost.

Mr. Zuolaga is being investigated for spreading false information and making comments “offensive” to the president.  He cannot leave the country until the investigation is complete.  He faces from three to five years in prison if convicted of making  false statements.

Earlier, the former governor of the state of Zulia was arrested on charges of conspiracy and making false statements.  Mr. Paz had appeared on Globovision supporting the claim of a Spanish judge that the Chávez government is allied with Columbian rebels and Basque separatists, and that Venezuela is a major thoroughfare for South American drug trafficking.

Mr. Chávez (who sounds very much like a dictator)  has stripped Venezuelans of their property rights, their right to private schools, any right to hold dollars and the right to free association.  Now free speech is the victim.  But he is really a lovely person and no one should call him a dictator.



Furious Protests Continue In All Major Cities in Iran. by The Elephant's Child
December 28, 2009, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Freedom, History, Islam | Tags: , , ,

Michael Ledeen explains what is happening in Iran right now.  Krauthammer is right.  This is one of the hinges of history.

From Deutsche Wellle:

In a strong statement to the press on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the actions of Iran’s state security services “unacceptable.”

She called on them to “avoid any further escalation of the violence and to pursue political dialogue to peacefully settle internally disputed matters,” and also to respect their commitment to the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to peaceful protest.

At least eight people were killed in street clashes in Tehran when police and Basij militia members confronted protest marchers who were attempting to gather at a number of central squares. Sunday’s protests took place on Ashura, a Shiite Islamic holy day devoted to honoring martyrs, often through street marches.

Violent response

According to opposition sources, security forces used tear gas and live ammunition to try to get the marchers to disperse.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle criticized Iran’s tactics as “brutal,” and said that the international community “would be watching, not looking away.”

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry, Bernard Valero, said his country again expressed “deep concern,” and “condemns the arbitrary arrests and violence carried out against ordinary protesters.”

He added that intensification of repression “would lead nowhere.”

The Italian foreign ministry, meanwhile, warned the Islamic republic that “safeguarding human lives is a fundamental value which must be defended everywhere and in every circumstance.”

National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer made a statement on violence in Iran:

We strongly condemn the violent and unjust suppression of civilians in Iran seeking to exercise their universal rights. Hope and history are on the side of those who peacefully seek their universal rights, and so is the United States. Governing through fear and violence is never just, and, as President Obama said in Oslo, it is telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

An article by Nile Gardner, Washington-based foreign affairs analyst for the U.K. Telegraph, was headlined “Iranian protesters are dying for freedom — where is Barack Obama?

Here is a video from Iran. It’s hard to watch, but it has a happy ending. The death toll has risen to 15 18.


(h/t: Ace of Spades)



A Speech Before the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. by The Elephant's Child
December 2, 2009, 3:30 am
Filed under: Islam, Military, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

President Obama’s speech announcing his strategy on Afghanistan at The United States Military Academy at West Point was an odd speech.  He announced a surge of 30,000 troops, partly in the hope that NATO would make up the rest of the 40,000 that General Stanley McChrystal requested.  His strong words about the necessity for success were belied by his defensiveness about doing so.

To be fair, the President is stuck between a rock and a hard place.  He clearly doesn’t want to be involved in Afghanistan, and is much more comfortable with his hard left base who oppose all war on general principles.  He made sure to mention that he “opposed the War in Iraq which left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort.”

Obama seems unable to recognize that his constant attempts to blame everything on Bush, denigrate everything that the Bush administration did, is not only classless, but exactly what has created a “highly polarized and partisan background.”  When politics permeates everything, it doesn’t stop at the water’s edge, as our tradition demands.

The Left opposed the War in Iraq by claiming that the “right war” was instead in Afghanistan — going after al Qaeda.  That allowed the Left to avoid being characterized as anti-war;  but now, faced with Afghanistan, they have no excuses and are united in opposition.  And they really don’t want to spend any money on the war.  The money is needed for their dream of socialized medicine, and that is going to be very expensive indeed.  Spending the rest of the stimulus money on the war or scaling back health care is, of course, not an option.  They’ll tax “the rich” some more.

Obama is trying to have it both ways.  He doesn’t like the war, and wants “to end the era of war and suffering,” but it had better be cost-effective and cost-effective within 18 months.

The Left got onto this “exit strategy” thing with Iraq, demanding to know what Bush’s “exit strategy” was.  Those a little more familiar with war find the question foolish.  The exit strategy is when you win, when you accomplish your objective, but not a date which the enemy can just wait for.

We want President Obama and his strategy to succeed in Afghanistan.  We want success on the battlefield.  There is a lot of talk about “nation building”, but our aim is to protect the citizens and to train the Afghan army to protect the citizens.  The people fear the Taliban, and will not help unless and until they feel secure.

My sense of this is that President Obama is completely uncomfortable with war.  He has little knowledge of combat or battle, and little understanding of the military or how it works.  “Victory” was never mentioned.  He said “As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.  And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces.  I don’t have the luxury of committing to just one.”

I suspect that he never watches war movies, nor has read accounts of battles.  It’s just unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory.  Which is why he thinks an exit strategy is important, and a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons is plausible. And why he dithered for three months about simply making a choice.

And why he brags about his small efforts to recognize the military like “signing a letter of condolence to each family, reading letters from parents and spouses, and traveling to Dover to meet flag-draped coffins.” The commitment and pride with which Americans volunteer to serve in the military must be near incomprehensible.

“Ive spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships,” he said.  “And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” Soaring words, but with little relation to the real world. An odd speech, very odd.

I will support the effort in Afghanistan unreservedly.  I hope the President does as well. The men and women who serve deserve our full support.




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