Tag Archives: patriotism

Finally Figured It Out: Some Truths Are Total Lies

Old Pennsylvania Dutch quote: Ve gets too soon old und too late schmart. It took me most of my nearly 91 years to understand that my brainwashing as a child and young adult was designed by school, religion and government to make me an obedient patsy.

My young father died when I was four, so indoctrination started with eleven years in an orphanage from age six to 17. It was followed by more brainwashing during three wartime years in the Navy from age 18 through 20.

Consider the too-often-untruths ceaselessly pounded into my naive young brain:

Religion: At the super-devout Christian-themed orphanage, we were required to attend chapel daily and twice on Sundays. The Bible and all of its teachings were absolute truths. Believe totally, little boy, or get your butt whooped.

Military boot camp: We patriotic teen enlistee and draftees were trained to obey wihout question all orders of our superiors. Then, well-motivated, we could expertly kill those evil, also brainwashed enemy teens over on the other side of the world.

Serve your nation: The word originated in royal times when serfs served wealthy landowners. Not much has changed since. Hey, teen, if you obey all orders and fight gloriously for God and nation in battle, you’ll get lots of medals. And maybe statues of you in the park. Uh, sorry, posthumously.

People get promoted strictly on merit: In the military, politics and business, those in charge insist they earn every million bucks they grab. Of course, once promoted to general, admiral, executive and political office holder, they don’t ever again actually need to do any meaningful work. Their only task then is to strut around, look important, read inspiring words written by speechwriters and issue stern orders to lowly subordinates.

Politics: We’re told that the most qualified and honest candidates are elected by free citizen voters. Of course, don’t open the Oz curtain and reveal all those hidden rich guys handing out bags of money from under the table to greedy politicians.

Colleges are for learning: We’re told rich kids must study as diligently as poor students, especially when billionaire parents donate millions to the college. If drinks and drugs are considered learning tools, those rich kids are well-educated. Of course, the same applies to future pro basketball and football stars, who wouldn’t know a college classroom from a restroom.

Of course, I survived more than 90 years so far by playing along with the rules. Would I recommend it to all you young people about to step up to the plate today? Of course, but do it with the knowledge that you only get one shot at life. Therefore, make the most of it every hour of every day, and as Sinatra once sang: do it your way.

Always know you’re just as important as people in charge, those with more stripes on their sleeves who consider you inferior. And don’t be blindly committed to live and/or die for them nor ancient guys who dressed in bed sheets and spouted all that thee and thou stuff thousands of years ago. You only live once, and if you do it on your own terms, that should be enough.

Memorial Day 1942: Recalling A Long-Ago Experience


As a high school senior at that year’s holiday, it was my honor to recite a patriotic poem at the school’s Civil War memorial statue ceremony. It was at Girard College, a residential school for fatherless boys in Philadelphia, founded in the 1830s.

When the Civil War began in 1861, many Girard students, ages 14 to 17, ran away to join. Most fought for the Union, while some made their way south to the Confederacy. As history reports, casualties on both sides were horribly heavy, including many of the Girard teen volunteers.

The poem I recited, written by Francis Miles Finch just after the Civil War, is The Blue and the Gray. It equally mourns and honors the dead of both sides of the conflict, and ends with:

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.