Digging into history: a visit to Jamestown

Right after Labor Day, my friend John and I traveled to Virginia’s Historic Triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. A paper for which I write had commissioned me to do some pieces on each place, and though I had visited there earlier in my life, that was long ago. 

Don’t know much about history: time for a change

In mid-August, I was sitting in the waiting room of my local auto repair shop typing away on my computer when a conversation from the adjoining room intruded on my concentration. There the two men who operate the service desk and two mechanics were lamenting their children’s ignorance about history. For several minutes, they traded stories of kids and grandkids who had little knowledge of the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the major events of the twentieth century.

Looking back at famous Americans

Every once in a while, I’ll read a book of history and want to throw a party: bottles of champagne, hors d’oeuvres, music, and even dancing, though I am as awkward on a dance floor as a Mississippi farm boy on ice skates for the first time. Encountering such a book leaves me giddy, “High as the flag on the Fourth of July,” as the song in the old musical “South Pacific” puts it.

Learning American history through songs

In February 2019, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation released the results of a nationwide poll of 41,000 Americans testing their knowledge of our country’s history. 

“The Foundation found that in the highest-performing state, only 53 percent of the people were able to earn a passing grade for U.S. history. People in every other state failed; in the lowest-performing state, only 27 percent were able to pass.” (Bold-print is from the Foundation.)

Books helps us understand our own history

“We need to know what kind of firm ground other men, belonging to generations before us, have found to stand on. In spite of changing conditions of life they were not very different from ourselves, their thoughts were the grandfathers of our thoughts, they managed to meet situations as difficult as those we have to face, to meet them sometimes lightheartedly, and in some measure to make their hopes prevail. We need to know how they did it.”

— John Dos Passos, cited in the epigraph for Wilfred M. McClay’s Land Of Hope

All American Made: A conversation with Margo Price

Catch her if you can.

In the last two or so years, the name “Margo Price” has overtaken brightly lit marquees across the country and late night television programs around the world.

Hand on heart or on bended knee — Americans all

This is what it means to be an American.

I’m talking about NFL players and coaches and owners uniting to protest during the national anthem because they disagree with our president after he called for team owners to fire every “son of bitch” kneeling during the anthem. I’m talking about black athletes at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968 raising fists in support of the Black Panther movement, of people who burn flags, even those who heckled Vietnam War veterans on their return home because they disagreed with the conflict.

It’s 2017, let’s talk about something else

Now that it’s 2017, I can’t bear the thought of continuing to fixate on politics and its atmosphere of pomposity and negativity that paints a picture of this country far different from what I encounter in my everyday life. It’s part of my job to cover this stuff, but our lives are about so much more than politics.

During the holiday season I was fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with a lot of young adults — my kids and their friends are all ages 18 to 24, and nephews and nieces were around who are as old as 28. And here’s what I heard from them: they aren’t buying into the vision of a country that is crumbling. Instead, I would argue that it’s the fresh optimism of the young — their belief that they can fix problems others have ignored or caused — that helps fuel this country’s ongoing prosperity.

The fight over what it means to be an American

I turned 18 three weeks too late to vote for Ronald Wilson Reagan for president of the United States, but if I had been eligible to vote, I would have voted for him. The world seemed too complicated and too dark to me. Every night on the evening news, there were reports of more violence in the Middle East, rising interest rates, out of control inflation, an economy in the toilet. President Carter — who nobody doubted was a good man with the best of intentions — just didn’t seem to be the kind of man to lead the country out of what he himself called a “crisis of the spirit.” He coined that phrase in what would later be remembered as the infamous “malaise speech.”

War-weary Americans don’t want to get involved in Syria

op frBy Doug Wingeier • Guest Columnist

It doesn’t seem to matter which political party a president belongs to: if he wants to go to war he’ll find a way, regardless of what the American people may want. We are tired of war — civilian and military deaths, billions drained away from domestic needs, lives disrupted, families separated, futures ruined. 

One president falsely claimed weapons of mass destruction. Now another wishes to rain death on Syrians in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. Fortunately, though, this time he has agreed to seek Congressional approval. So we must urge our representatives not to grant it. Here are some reasons we can use to persuade them to refrain from military action:

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