Children In Danger

In the 1950s, when I was a child in elementary school, we were taught to hide under our desks and shield our eyes in the event of an atomic bomb attack. The nuns in my school didn’t seem alarmed. Simply another thing we practiced at school, like fire drills, multiplication tables, and penmanship. It was called “duck and cover.”

Adults talked about the A-bomb.

We lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, a likely target of our enemy, the Russians, who lived far away.

My mother mused that we might evacuate to get away from a bomb. My father worked in downtown Washington, and we were in the suburbs, so if we decided to evacuate during the day, we should plan to meet up at some church about an hour’s drive west, near Frederick, MD. My father was more interested in reading the afternoon paper. A day off from school! That was my thought.

This atomic bomb thing, should it ever happen, would be a big explosion in the distance, and a main danger was that the bright light would hurt our eyes. Duck and cover was the thing to do.

No one, adults or children, had ever seen an atomic bomb explosion. We hadn’t heard of such a thing actually happening, certainly not at any school nearby. Or anyplace else in our state. Or anyplace, really. Adults recalled that airplanes had dropped two atomic bombs, but that was far away, long before we children were born.

The 1950s are more than a half-century in the past. The distant and naive past. Today’s schoolchildren and parents live with the fears of 2018. The more things change, the more they remain the same?


In elementary school, today’s dangers are different. 

Children now drill on how to survive an “active shooter.” A shooter inside their school. It’s not a distant, abstract danger. It has really happened in schools. Already happened! 

It’s happened over and over. It’s happened in schools in your own state. Everyone knows about it. No one denies it. The danger is in your neighborhood, possibly next door. Maybe in your very own house!

In my childhood, we saw guns in cowboy movies. For today’s children, guns are everywhere. Sometimes it seems as if nearly everyone is armed, at least here in Florida.

As the new school year begins, the state is belatedly (reluctantly?) spending some money in reaction to public opinion. It is, after all, an election year. Nothing to control guns, mind you. But they’re putting up fences around some schools. Rushing to hire and train more school security personnel. Dress them in more military-like uniforms. Putting on a show to placate fearful parents. In some cases, making schools look like prisons with correctional officers.

Meanwhile, inside the schools principals and teachers conduct active-shooter drills. Children are taught something new: “Run, Hide, Fight.” Sounds like basic training in the army. But it’s not the army. It’s elementary school and high school. It’s worth repeating: “Run, Hide, Fight.”


Children are now expected to fight a man shooting a gun in the classroom, the hallway, the cafeteria?

Oh, well. Only as a last resort. First, you should run or hide. Hope and pray (is prayer OK?) that the police arrive. Hope and pray that police arrive, like, RIGHT NOW.

And yes, you might have to fight a gunman with your bare hands, as a last resort. That’s what the schools are teaching. Is it possible that I’ve misunderstood? If that is incorrect, please, somebody correct me.

No, the danger children face at school is not the same.

Yes, the danger at school, and other places too, is WORSE. The danger is not abstract. It’s real. It’s immediate. It’s everywhere.

Are children traumatized by this fear? Or do they ignore it? What about parents? What about teachers? How do teachers cope with fear? Some suggest teachers should carry guns.

Full Stop. Those thoughts — danger in school, children and parents in fear, teachers, guns. More than enough for one day. A good place to stop writing. The only place to go from here is: Can a society live like this, and survive?

— John

Note: This post was prompted by a news story, “Parents block shooter video: Pinellas elementary school kids won’t have to see it as part of active shooting drills,” in The Tampa Bay Times, Aug. 21, 2018, page 1B.

End Of The Civil War


“Being on the wrong side of history carries consequences. V lives that truth every day. If you’ve done terrible things, lived a terrible way, profited from pain in the face of history’s power to judge, then guilt and loss accrue. Redemption becomes an abstract idea receding before you. Even if your sin — like dirt farmers in Sherman’s path — had been simply to live in the wrong place, you suffered. Didn’t matter whether you  owned slaves or which way you voted or how good your intentions had been. Or how bad. You might suffer as much as the family of a great plantation, which was maybe not completely just. But if you were the family with the great plantation, you had it coming. Those were times that required choosing a side — and then, sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?”

— Charles Frazier, writing in “VARINA”

End Of The Civil War


“A part of her believed this one moment — Carolina woods, a wagonload of children, lights of heaven blazing on a clear spring night — was sufficient. An eternity in itself. A perfect instant if you erased guilt of the past and dread of the future.”

— Charles Frazier writing in “VARINA”

State and Warfare

I don’t know if this perspective on the changing nature of war is 100 percent correct, or not. It certainly provides food for thought in this second decade of the 21st century.

I’m uncertain about the term “consumerist warfare.” This would seem to imply that the warfare is designed to protect a consumer-driven economy.  I need to think about this some more.

As we view the final season of “Downton Abbey,” it’s as if many in America and the U.K. and Canada are caught up in an extended meditation on the old order slipping away and a new and unknown order going forward. Ready or not! The many posts pondering the end (or at least evolution) of the western nation-state over at Clarissa’s Blog also cause us to think about changing times writ large.

Clarissa's Blog

The manner of waging war transforms with every transformation of the state model (Many people say that it’s the other way round: the state form follows the changes in the ways of waging war. Ultimately, the warfare methods are indissolubly linked to the state model, no matter what “comes first.”)

As we discussed before, the nation-state model arose, to a significant degree, in response to a need to find a less costly way than any that had existed before to wage war on an unprecedented scale. This goal was achieved in full, as we all know from the example of the two world wars. Without the nation-state, this kind of warfare would not be possible.

As the nation-state withers away and a new state form comes to replace it, warfare changes as well. Today we are seeing a gradual consolidation of what I call “consumerist warfare.” (This is just my own…

View original post 383 more words

Bernie Sanders For President

Bernie SandersSen. Bernie Sanders announced today that he will run for president of the U.S. in 2016.

Sanders, the Independent U.S. senator from Vermont, will run as a Democrat. He calls himself a democratic socialist. Remember those two words:  democratic socialist.

I could support Bernie Sanders for president. Let me think about it.

For video of the Sanders announcement, see Politico.

I’ve been a participant-observer in Democratic Party politics for a long time. Usually, I think long and hard when two or more Democrats are competing for the same office.

Thinking back to 1968, I was a Democratic college student during the Vietnam War. Like many students, I supported Sen. Eugene McCarthy, the peace candidate, for president, My memory is unreliable, but after Bobbie Kennedy entered the battle for the Democratic nomination, I was torn between McCarthy and Kennedy. It was a tough decision, and I don’t remember which way I came down. I also respected Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the more traditional candidate that year. Bobbie Kennedy, of course, was assassinated after the Democratic primary in California. Humphrey won the nomination in Chicago, while the Chicago Police Department ran riot amidst protesters on the streets. Humphrey lost to Republican Richard Nixon in November.

OK, I’ve thought about it. I believe I’ll support Sen. Bernie Sanders for president of the U.S. in 2016. Things can change. I might change my mind. But I doubt it.

The times were right for Gene McCarthy or Bobbie Kennedy in 1968. The times are right for Bernie Sanders in 2016. In 1968, the issues were war and peace and civil rights.  In 2016, the issues are economic equality and civil rights. Not since 1968 has the line been so clearly drawn between the elites and the people.

I believe Bernie Sanders could win a Democratic primary election in my state, Maryland. A U.S. Senator named Barack Obama upset the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, here in 2008. It has happened before; it could happen again.

A quote for Democrats to think about from The Washington Post blog, The Fix:

“Sanders will be the beating heart of the party while Clinton will, always, be its head.”

May you live in interesting times. More later. Anyone else ready and willing to commit to a candidate?

— John Hayden

Rumors Of War And Economic War, Russia And Ukraine

After the most horrible, bloody century of war in history — 1914 to 2014 — wouldn’t you hope that humankind has learned something about war and peace?

After all these years, we are still attracted to war like mindless, flying insects to a lightbulb on a dark night. In recent decades, we’ve certainly not hesitated to invade, shoot and bomb, using ever more-effective killing and maiming technology. But we’ve also perfected the art of economic war. Politely known as “Economic Sanctions.” At this very moment, the U.S. and Great Britain are threatening to unleash the equivalent of unlimited economic war on Russia.

The economic sanctions are intended to defend the “sovereignty” of Ukraine and Crimea, whatever “sovereignty” means in that part of the world, with it’s emotional history and artificial national boundaries. In the course of such defense, economic sanctions and/or military intervention might just as well destroy Ukraine and Crimea. Sort of like the U.S. destroyed Vietnamese villages to save them, and invaded Iraq to save it, instead ransacking and wrecking Iraq for ten years before abandoning it.

Embed from Getty Images

As the Ukraine reached the boiling  point in recent days, I’ve engaged in discussion with Clarissa, a blogger who knows much more about Russia and Ukraine than I do. She’s posting daily about the developing situation. You can scroll through her many posts and interesting discussion threads at her blog.

I’ve been learning a lot, but also arguing a lot. I used to think I understood this kind of stuff. But as old age sets in, I find I no longer understand anything about the human obsession with war, both military and economic.


Below I express my puzzlement in comments I’ve written for Clarissa’s blog.

I guess I’m being blindsided. I read every story about Ukraine and Crimea in this morning’s Washington Post, including an analysis of the emotions and history involved by a former colleague of mine at the Baltimore Sun. I don’t give any credence to cable news speculation.

Forgive me, but I have read no credible evidence that this is anything but a civil war of WORDS involving Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. In fact, if it is a civil war, I’d put the emphasis on the word “civil.” There’s much hand-wringing about a Russian “invasion” of Crimea. Really? Has a single shot been fired? The Russian and Ukraine soldiers in fact seem quite chummy.

The main issues seem to be emotional grievances regarding the official language in Ukraine (reminds me of Quebec’s grievances against English-speaking Canada), “sovereignty,” and which paper money to use. I suspect the “crisis” might blow over if the U.S. would butt out and Ukraine simply decided to recognize both Russian and Ukrainian as official languages.

I do not understand what makes the U.S. and European countries so self-righteous that they must declare economic war on Russia. Yes, I see one blog report that one person has been tortured and killed. There are anecdotes about “volatile protests,” outside agitators and thugs beating up people. As a journalist, know the difficulty of confirming such anecdotes.

In the U.S. most of this would be called street crime, police brutality, or “the right to gather in public and express grievances,” protected under the Bill or Rights. How many confirmed casualties in Ukraine or Crimea? I’m serious. There are 500 murders a year in Chicago. Multiple murders every weekend in Washington and Baltimore. Is it more dangerous right this moment to be in Kiev or in Chicago?

The U.S. government “said the vote was rigged and discounted it as illegal.” (The Washington Post)  I ask: How does the U.S. know that?

I’ve studied politics my whole life, and I have no trouble at all believing that a large majority of people in Crimea would vote allegiance to Russia, and did so on Sunday. Where is the evidence to the contrary? (Yes, 97% seems an obvious exaggeration. So what?) I cannot even verify the election results in my own state, Maryland, where we use a computerized voting system with no way to audit the results. If the computers have not already been hacked, they will be some day soon.

It seems to me that the U.S. and Great Britain foment wars and economic hardship by meddling in internal affairs of other countries.

Sorry, I know I sound naive, and maybe I am. I have a healthy skepticism about what is true or false or propaganda or posturing. — John


Clarissa responds to my comment:

“The main issues seem to be emotional grievances regarding the official language in Ukraine (reminds me of Quebec’s grievances against English-speaking Canada), “sovereignty,” and which paper money to use.”

– These are definitely not the central issues for anybody in Ukraine or Russia. Honestly, this is the first time I hear about paper money in this context at all. I get my news from Russian and Ukrainian media and people I know who live in these countries.

“In the U.S. most of this would be called street crime, police brutality, or “the right to gather in public and express grievances,” protected under the Bill or Rights.”

– If the Russian troops crossed the US border, would this still be called street crime and police brutality?

“I suspect the “crisis” might blow over if the U.S. would butt out and Ukraine simply decided to recognize both Russian and Ukrainian as official languages.”

– In 1994, Ukraine, Russia and the US signed the Budapest accords in which the US promised not to butt out in case Russia violates the territorial wholeness of Ukraine in its 1994 borders. Out of these 3 countries, Ukraine is the only one that fulfilled its part of the agreement by handing over its entire nuclear arsenal to Russia, the country that has invaded right now. If the US didn’t want to have anything to do with what is happening in that area, it shouldn’t have signed the agreements. Wouldn’t you agree that you can’t enter into a contract, get everything you wanted from the other party, and then refuse to fulfill your part of the obligations you freely undertook?

” Is it more dangerous right this moment to be in Kiev or in Chicago?”

– If you look at the map, you will see that Kiev lies pretty far from the Russian border, there are no Russian troops there. Yet. The invasion is taking place in the Lugansk, Kharkov, Mariupol’, Kherson and the Crimea areas. Tragically, these are, indeed, highly criminalized areas. 😦 However, now on top of the street crime and the mafia, there are foreign troops there.

“It seems to me that the U.S. and Great Britain foment wars and economic hardship by meddling in internal affairs of other countries.”

– Russia has been invading Ukraine long before the US even existed. This is not about the US and definitely not about the UK, which has been selling itself to the bandits from Russia for years.

“Sorry, I know I sound naive, and maybe I am.”

– I’m very grateful to you for trying to understand.

end of Clarissa’s reply


My further response:

“- If the Russian troops crossed the US border, would this still be called street crime and police brutality?”


“- Russia has been invading Ukraine long before the US even existed. This is not about the U.S. and definitely not about the UK.”

Both good points! And you can see the absurdity when you place the above two statements side-by-side in historical and geopolitical context. I’m not an expert on any of this, so I hesitate to make the following analogy, and I welcome more knowledgeable observers to correct me:

Doesn’t it seem that Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea have a long history of  marriage of convenience and breakups? Tumultuous relationships, to be sure, trial separations and divorce, friendly or otherwise. But they are geographically intertwined; they HAVE to live near each other over the long run, and so they do. As you point out, this love-hate affair has been going on since LONG BEFORE the U.S. existed. I agree, it’s NOT about the U.S. or the UK, so what gives the U.S. and UK the right to declare economic world war?

Regarding the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the U.S., Britain, and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, and Ukraine agreed to return its nuclear weapons to Russia. Well.

The salient point here is the nuclear weapons. You could keep an international courtroom full of lawyers busy for a century, arguing what the wording of the Budapest Memorandum (contract?) means.

Would the world be a better place if Ukraine had those nuclear weapons at this moment?

A few Ukrainian NATIONALISTS would say “Yes,” but they would be crazy. Everyone else, especially Russia, Crimea, U.S. and UK, understands, in retrospect, the wisdom of the nuclear weapons accord made at Budapest. After the past century of European and Russian history, can’t we all agree that emotional NATIONALISM is not sufficient reason to start a shooting war?

And thank God the U.S. and UK commitment to the territorial “sovereignty” of Ukraine is definitely not a “mutual defense treaty” requiring the U.S. and UK to defend militarily the sanctity of the region’s artificial boundary lines.

What exactly does the word “sovereignty” imply in this case? Can anyone untangle the history and mythology behind these lines on a map? Let Russian, Ukraine, and Crimea work this out in divorce court.  — John


Let me repeat that I respect Clarissa and her knowledge of Russia and Ukraine. I appreciate her willingness to engage in informative discussions with me and others on her blog. I recommend her blog for anyone following developments in the Ukraine.


Is there any conclusion? Is history ever over? When will we ever learn?

— John Hayden

Christmas Cards, A Vanishing Tradition

American card, circa 1940

American Christmas card, circa 1940 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I regret to report that 2013 will be remembered as the year the Christmas card tradition died.

Based on anecdotal evidence, 2013 is the end of an era. People I know report neither sending nor receiving more than a card or two this year. I wouldn’t mind being wrong about this, but . . .

Continue reading

The Navy Peacoat Is Fashionable?!

The peacoat is back in style, after all these years. I feel suddenly youthful.

Navy peacoats — and all manner of surplus military clothing — were trendy in the immediate post-hippie era of the early 1970s. I found mine at — where else — an Army-Navy surplus store. It was the cool place to shop.

Double-breasted pea coat I took this photo and...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My peacoat was dark blue-black and had authentic Navy anchor buttons. It was solid wool and it wore like iron. Continue reading

Shutdown Foreshadows Political Collapse In America

Lëtzebuergesch: *Sujet:Boston Tea Party Source...

“Boston Tea Party.” Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My working title for this post was “Non-Shooting Civil War In America.”  I thought that might be over the top, if only by a little.

I don’t see immediate danger of violent civil war in America, but I think today’s U.S. government shutdown is collapse by premeditated sabotage by political failure. In other words, our regular political process for resolving differences has failed. Moreover, the failure is not accidental; it’s intentional. Congress, especially, has failed big time.

Continue reading

A Brief History of the Boomer Generation

(Note: This essay was written in 2009 as a WordPress “page.” It’s become buried and hard to find, so I thought it time to republish it properly as a “post,” complete with categories and tags.)

MY PARENTS were born in 1920, which seems now to be in a different historical era. They were children in the Roaring ’20s, teenagers through the Great Depression, young adults at the beginning of World War II.

They are the Greatest Generation. They put off everything to fight the war. Then the boys came home — the ones who survived — and started making up for lost time. They attended college in greater numbers than ever before, under the GI Bill, married and bought brand new ticky-tacky houses with VA loans. And they had children. Did they ever.

The Greatest Generation shared hardship, service, accomplishment, victory. Then they settled down and didn’t look back much. As they had devoted themselves to country in the 1940s, they devoted themselves to work and family in the 1950s and 1960s. They created my generation.

We’re the Baby Boomer generation. We are NOT the greatest, not even close, as Garrison Keeler wryly observed.



We have shared history from the 1950s — polio shots and “duck and cover.”  The children of the 50s and 60s grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, with an awareness of unseen nuclear danger in the world, as well as a gradual awakening to inequality in America.

Though others see us as a monolithic cohort, the Boomer generation was divided in the 1960s and early 1970s by different, even opposite experiences. Many of us went to college, and many did not. We went to Vietnam, or we opposed the war (some did both).

The country cracked apart, during the 1960s, along social and economic lines. First the Civil Rights Movement, then the Vietnam War and the Peace Movement. The divide deepened and hardened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Make love not war. Don’t trust anyone over 30.   Continue reading