b-blog

Lessons from the 1940s – Liberty and Justice for All?

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant Second Class Doris “Dorie” Miller (pictured in the poster) was collecting laundry on board the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked. The alarm for general quarters sounded, and Miller reported to his battle station, an antiaircraft battery amidships. It had already been destroyed. A heavyweight boxer, Miller carried wounded sailors to safety, aided the mortally wounded captain, and manned a .50 caliber machine gun – a weapon he’d never been trained to use – and was credited with downing a Japanese fighter plane. For his bravery, he received the Navy Cross on May 27, 1942. Sadly, he perished when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine on November 24, 1943. (Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq57-4.htm)

Dorie Miller was the first African-American hero of World War II, and not the last. There would have been even more if the US armed forces hadn’t been segregated, with black troops in separate units under white officers, usually assigned to the mess or to manual labor behind the front. The reasoning was that black men weren’t capable and that integrated services would “offend the sensibilities” of white Southerners. Both justifications are appalling.

Racial tension came to a boil during World War II due to unprecedented mobilization that introduced northerners – black and white – to conditions in the south, and exposed the cancer of racism in American society. Race riots erupted in Detroit, Philadelphia, Birmingham, and many other cities. Black troops fumed when German and Italian prisoners of war received better treatment than they did, and they wondered why they should fight for freedoms abroad that they didn’t enjoy at home.

On July 17, 1944, an explosion blew apart two munitions ships at the Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, killing 320 men, most of whom were black. The black sailors had been loading ammunition under unsafe conditions and indifferent white leadership. Fifty of the survivors refused to load ammunition again. Instead of being convicted of insubordination, all fifty men were convicted – after eighty minutes deliberation – of mutiny, a capital offense. The convicted included two men who had medical excuses for why they refused to work.

The unexpected benefit of the Port Chicago Explosion, the largest US Home Front disaster of the war, was that it opened the eyes of the general public. Outrage grew to such an extent that the US Navy, the most segregated of the services, became the first to become truly integrated. Injustice had been exposed, and seeds were planted that would lead to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and the end of legal segregation.

While World War II showcased the best in the American character, it also highlighted the worst. The war trumpeted our national ideals, and showed where we fell short. We still fall short today. Segregation is gone, blatant discrimination is illegal, but subtle racism exists – often subconscious – in attitudes and thoughts. And in all races. Looking to our past shows us how far we’ve come – and where we have room to grow. I have faith that the US can someday become a land where a person’s race leads to neither discrimination nor special privileges, and where all people can achieve if they have the character, ability, and drive to do so.

Happy V-E Day Anniversary!

Sixty-five years ago today, the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe. People went to church and prayed. Bells rang. Parades rejoiced through small towns and cities.

The cost of victory was high. Tens of millions were killed in battle. More tens of millions were murdered and starved in concentration camps. And more millions perished as civilian casualties of bombing. Many of Europe’s great cities lay in heaps of rubble. The infrastructure of factories, railways, bridges, and roads lay in tangled ruins.

But the cost of defeat would have been even higher. The fascist dictators had conquered most of Europe and ruled with totalitarian brutality. They trampled the freedoms of the occupied lands, freedoms we take for granted – to speak our mind, to worship as we please, to associate with the people of our choice, to keep the fruits of our labor, and even to listen to the radio. They ruled through fear, and it was legitimate fear. Entire villages were emptied and massacred. Dissenters were tortured and executed. Anyone who didn’t fit in the fascist regime due to ethnicity, religion, or mental or physical incapacity, was eliminated with horrid efficiency.

We reap the benefits of that victory today. Despite today’s economic woes and terrorist threats, we live in relative prosperity and peace – and we have freedom. We must never forget what a blessing freedom is – or how much it costs. Use it wisely. Use it well.

Thank you to all those veterans who set aside their individual rights to ensure freedom for the future. God bless you.

Lessons from the 1940s Mother – Work and Play

Today’s parenting magazines trumpet the necessity of playing with your children, and mommy blogs gush about the joys of floor time and entering the child’s world.

If a 1940s’ mom time-traveled to 2010, she would be confused by this. She had work to do. Play was for children. Not that she ignored her children, but instead of becoming a part of the child’s world, the mother drew the child into her world – teaching, shaping, and establishing her authority. In this poster, the mother is showing her daughter how to buy war bonds.

Traditionally, mothers needed all the help they could to run their homes. Children were expected to do their share, which gave them a sense of purpose and taught them skills and responsibility. Play was the reward for a job well done – or a convenient way to keep kids occupied when they couldn’t help. Children played alone or with other children, developing their creativity and imagination. If a mother had time to play, it was a rare and precious thing.

For many moms today, play is a job. If a mom doesn’t spend a certain number of hours playing with the children, she feels guilty. However, I would argue that too much time in play skews the parent-child relationship. The mother becomes a playmate rather than an authority figure. In all playmate relationships, someone takes the lead. If the mother guides the play, the child doesn’t get to use his imagination or figure out on his own how the toy works. And if the child takes the leadership role, he bosses the mother around. Also by making play a high priority, a child may learn that her desire for attention and entertainment is greater than her mother’s needs.

In the 1940s, when a child said he was bored, it was an invitation to do chores. Today, a bored child means the mother has failed in her duty to entertain.

Am I saying a mom shouldn’t play with her children? Of course not. But do so cautiously. Maintain your authority. Make sure your kids know that your need to get work done is more important than their wish to play. Consider drawing them into your work – yes, I know it takes longer, but it’s worth it in the long run. And remember that boredom is a fertile breeding ground for creativity.

How do you handle playtime with your children?

Netflix and Nostalgia Contest – We Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Netflix and Nostalgia Contest – and to everyone who spread the word.

Out of 810 entrants, our random number generator selected one grand prize winner….
Ambar Robinson! Ambar, I’ve sent you an e-mail so I can get your prize mailed to you as soon as possible.
Thanks also to LitFuse Publicity for putting this together!

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – “Grown-Up Culture”

The more I look at this poster, the more I see how our culture has changed. In the 1940s, mother-daughter outfits were popular – the daughter wanted to dress just like her mother. Nowadays, middle-aged mothers dress like their teenaged daughters.

Something has flipped in recent generations. In traditional cultures, children couldn’t wait to grow up and have adult responsibilities, and people hoped to live long enough to have gray hair and the wisdom that came with it. But now we have a culture obsessed with youth.

Youth are held up as the ultimate example in how to dress, how to use technology, and what music to listen to. Youth believe their primary job is “to have fun” – I’ve even heard this from my own children. So why grow up? Where’s the motivation to move into adulthood, where they’ll be obsolete, uncool, and unable to play video games?

But our world needs old-fashioned adults to function. Twitter, texting, and Wii won’t build homes, put food on the table, or heal the sick.

As one person, I can’t change American culture, but I can watch my own attitude. Do I communicate to my children the joys of adulthood? Do I tell them of the satisfaction I get from a job well done? Do I pretend to be a teenager, or am I comfortable in my age? Do I make my children’s lives unpleasant enough that they long for adulthood?

Celebrate your adulthood! Listen to the music you like! Wear your mom-jeans with pride! Know enough technology to get by and don’t apologize about it! Perhaps some day your children will say, “I want to grow up to be just like you.”

Okay, then, so I’m a dreamer. That’s why I write fiction.

How about you? Do you see yourself buying into youth culture? How can you celebrate the wonderful age you’ve earned?

Memorials

A glance around my living room reveals many mementoes. All right, knick-knacks. But each one has meaning—family heirlooms, travel souvenirs, and gifts from friends. We display them to remind us of where we come from, where we’ve been, and the people we love.

Our memories are flimsy, fickle things, remembering useless trivia and painful occurrences—but able to let the good slip into oblivion. We know that. We fear that. So to trigger our memories, we display objects or build monuments, like Scotland’s monument to William Wallace in the photo.
God knows the weakness of our memories too. When He led Joshua and the nation of Israel across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, He knew time would pass, generations would pass, and the people would forget. They would think Joshua alone led them. They would think the people found their way all by themselves. They would think that they had always lived in Israel and had never been delivered from Egypt.
So He commanded them to build a memorial—twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, built into a memorial at Gilgal to remind them of what the Lord had done.
Isn’t that the best kind of memorial—to remind us of what the Lord has done in our lives? I’d rather forget a trip to Europe, my best friend, and even my own grandparents than forget the wonderful works of God.
“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them…” (Joshua 4: 6, italics mine).
Do you have anything in your home to remind you what God has done?

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – Woman’s Work Is Good Work

She’s canning. In a frilly apron. And she’s smiling.

To the 2010 woman, this image looks hokey. Doesn’t she know that kind of work is drudgery? A waste of her potential? Beneath her?
While the women’s movement opened up traditional men’s work to women, somehow in the process, traditional women’s work was demeaned. Child care, cleaning, laundry, and routine cooking are now seen by most women as drudge work. When I gave up a promising full-time career in pharmacy to stay home with my children, I was told I was wasting my education and intellect, and I’d be bored out of my skull.
In the 1940s, women saw all work as good work. They knew raising children was an honor and privilege. They knew their labor in the home benefitted the family and society. Because they saw the inherent value of their work, most women found it fulfilling. For further fulfillment, women volunteered with civic and church organizations, or engaged in arts and hobbies.
Women can now work outside the home in traditional men’s jobs. That is a good thing. Single women don’t need to marry in order to eat, and married couples have options, especially welcome in a tough economy.
But why must we demean housework to gain that option? Why is traditional women’s work of less value than traditional men’s work? Isn’t that attitude, in its essence….sexist?
I’m as guilty of that attitude as most people in my generation. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that all work has an element of drudgery to it, whether it’s scrubbing toilets or passing paperwork from the inbox to the outbox. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that all work has value and benefits the family and society as a whole. If we cling to this, maybe we can find joy and fulfillment in our labor, whether paid or not.
I’m off to fold laundry. With a smile. But I’m not doing the frilly apron.

Better Than Sheep?

Sheep, sheep, sheep. What can I say about sheep?

1) Sheep need water to survive, but they can’t tell clean water from dirty water.
2) Sheep need food, but can’t tell good grass from poisonous plants.
3) Sheep will graze the same land over and over until it becomes eroded.
4) When sheep are attacked, they often freeze instead of running or crying out.
5) Conversely, sheep can panic at sudden noise and run straight into danger.
6) Sheep can drown in swift water when their wool becomes waterlogged.
7) When sheep fall over onto their backs, they can’t get up!

In short, sheep need help. They need a shepherd.

We think we’re so much better than sheep. We build tall buildings. We read and write and speak. We have thumbs.

But how many times have you:

1) Chosen something dirty over something clean?
2) Chosen something poisonous over something nourishing?
3) Repeated the same action over and over without benefit?
4) Frozen when you should have fled?
5) Fled when you should have frozen?
6) Felt drowned by all life’s troubles weighing you down?
7) Fallen and couldn’t get up?

In short, we need a shepherd too. And Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who guides us along the right paths to what is good and beneficial, protects us from danger, and helps us up when we fall.

“’I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’” John 10:11.

How have you benefitted from Jesus’ shepherding?

Taste and See!

Flour. Water. Yeast. Salt.

Bread is simple stuff, but tasty and nourishing. When bread is digested, the complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, which provide the energy we need to survive and perform the day’s activities.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. His body was broken and crushed for us. Through Him we can have eternal life and the power to accomplish His purposes.

What more could we ask?

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – Support Your Man!

Here’s a poster that would never be printed today. To the eye of the 2010 woman, this girl looks a bit…daft. The doting little woman fawning over her man’s accomplishments. Doesn’t she have a life of her own?

Maybe she’s not as stupid as we think.

Though our culture has undergone a gigantic shift, the basic nature of a man has not. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect (Thomas Nelson, 2004), while the primary need of a woman is to be loved, the primary need of a man is to be respected. Eggerichs conducted a poll of four hundred men, asking, “If they were forced to choose one of the following, which would they prefer to endure? (a) to be left alone and unloved in the world (b) to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. Seventy-four percent of these men said…they would prefer being alone and unloved” (p. 49).

Whoa.

In 2010, male bashing is hip. Homer Simpson is considered the typical male, dumb and useless without his smart, long-suffering wife. College enrollment for young men is actually decreasing. And recently, my teenage son was told he isn’t supposed to be smart because he’s a white boy! It appears that society is trying to force men into the same second-class citizen role women fought to escape.

Now that women have earned respect, isn’t it time we gave some back? Men are more successful when they know their wives support them and take pride in them. Men who feel respected respond in a loving manner (just look at that sailor’s face in the poster!), so ironically, when we deprive our men of respect, we end up depriving ourselves of the love we most crave.

Modern marriages would benefit from some old-fashioned doting and fawning, and our entire society would benefit if both men and women lived up to full potential.

OK, ladies – bragging time! What do you admire about your man? And be sure to share this with him! I’ll start…my husband is a steady rock for me. He makes sound and prayerful decisions, he’s a man of integrity, and he has a generous heart. Your turn!