when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for May 2010

Memorial Day

Posted on: May 31, 2010

I’m reading Rich Relations:  The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945 by David Reynolds.  (Random House, New York 1995; ISBN 0-679-42161-0).  Besides being a great read (my dad flew with the 8th Air Force based from Bassingbourn, which piqued my interest in the book) it is a wonderful study in the social difficulties that a warrior encounters.  Bullets and bombs are bad enough, but our military officers and enlisted men who are assigned to a foreign field of action are also faced with the strangeness of their surroundings and issues of homesickness.

David Reynolds makes this clear when he describes the difficulties that American GI’s had in dealing with the British and British community — even though they shared a common language with the Britishers.

While Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have served for the country, we often do not think of the social difficulties — the new and foreign culture, missing family holiday celebrations, the fond longings for their home town, and the fact that while they are there for a long period of time, it’s just not home.

Veterans, I appreciate your valor, your courage, and I despair of the social difficulties that you have experienced in order to serve.

If you know a WWII veteran who was stationed in England during the European Campaign, buy him or her the book!

Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine spoke to the National Conference of the Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1949.  I was reading her words and thought many of them are so relevant 60 years later.

“Where is the proper place of a woman?…A woman’s place is everywhere.  Individually, it’s where the particular woman is happiest and best fitted….The traditional belligerency of most nations is in inverse ratio to the degree of freedom and recognition that the particular nation grants to women.  In other words, wherever you find the woman’s voice granted even an approach to parity with that of man’s, you will find a more peaceful nation….If there is one proper role for women today it is that of alert and responsible citizens in the fullest sence of the word.  Citizenship is without sex.  It makes no distinction between rights and responsibilities of men and women in America.”

Food for thought, even thoughts articulated 60 years ago.

When I was younger and thought of women involved in the Civil Rights Movement, I always thought of Rosa Parks.  It was as a result of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, that the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.  But as Ms. Parks willingly admitted — she wasn’t intent on starting any sort of movement; she was tired and wanted to sit down.

Now when I think of women involved in the Civil Rights Movement, I think of Dr. Dorothy J. Height.  Dr. Height died last month and her death is a loss to women and people of color everywhere.  But her life was such a contribution!

Dr. Height, the Chair and President Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, was also a hands on laborer in the trenches of civil rights and women’s rights.  And her work with both of these issues brought her in direct conflict with Mississippi and Mississippians.  Dr. Height developed a program in the mid ’60s that she called “Wednesday in Mississippi”, consisting of weekly trips to Mississippi by interracial groups of women to assist at Freedom Schools and voter registration.  Later in the ’70s, she helped to organize a development project for rural Mississippians known as the “pig bank” — giving pigs to poor, hungry families and asking them to raise them and commit two pigs from subsequent liters to another family.

The Washington Post called Dr. Height “arguably the most influential woman at the top levels of civil rights leadership, but she never drew the major media attention that conferred celebrity and instant recognition on some of the other civil rights leaders of her time.”  This is probably because Dr. Height urged co-workers to “stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing….We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly.”

She published her memoirs in 2003, Open Wide the Freedom Gates.


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