Monday, November 12, 2018

Macron is right about nationalism

French President Emmanuel Macron

When I was in high school, I was taught that the four main causes of World War I were nationalism, militarism, imperialism and the alliance system.  A century after the end of that deadly war, the concept of nationalism is being vigorously debated, because an avowed nationalist, Donald Trump, is President of the United States.

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, also known as the Great War or "the war to end all wars."  It was not "great," nor did end all wars.  World War I was one the most tragic and bloody conflicts that that humanity has ever known.  The war was sparked on July 28, 1914 when a  South Slav nationalist assassinated Franz Ferdinard, the heir to the Austro- Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie.  The assassination took place in the city of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzogovina, then occupied by Austria-Hungary.  The assassin, Gavrilo Princiip, a young Bosnian Serb, was strongly opposed to Austro-Hungarian dominance.

 Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible for the assassination and immediately declared war.  On August 3rd, Germany then declared war on France.  On August 4th, Germany invaded Belgium, causing Britain to declare war on Germany.  The United States, however, did not enter the war until 1917.

In the summer of 1914, young men from Britain and its then-colonies, including Canada and Australia, eagerly signed up for war.  Many lied about their age.  They wanted to serve "king and country" and they sought adventure.  They also believed that it would all be over by Christmas.  That didn't happen.  The war dragged on for over four years and many would never see their homes or families again.  Others returned, but they were wounded either physically or psychologically. or both.  The survivors were never the same.

The reparations against Germany set out in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles (he most important of the treaties that ended World War I) were very harsh.  They punished the Germans severely and destroyed the German economy.  Sadly, this led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Flash forward to November 11, 2018.  At a rain-soaked Armistice ceremony at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned Trump and other leaders about the perils of nationalism.  He denounced nationalism as a "betrayal of patriotism." and he warned against "old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death."  Macron forcefully defended a global order based on liberal values.  He stated that the millions of soldiers who perished to World War I "fought to defend the "universal values of France" and to reject "the selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests."  Patriotism, he declared. is "exactly the opposite of nationalism."

Macron is concerned that a new wave of nationalism threatens to engulf the world.  He expressed fear that "old demons are coming to the surface"  and that dangerous ethnic and religious hatred will be unleashed.  It is those "demons," he warned, that lead to global warfare.

President Macron's words were a stern rebuke to U.S. President Trump and his "America First" movement, as well as to Russian President Vladimir Putin and others.  He is concerned about their go-it-alone attitude and their unwillingness work together for the sake of all nations, not just their own.

Was Macron right about nationalism?  First of all let us establish that nationalism and patriotism are not the same thing.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nationalism as "devotion to the interests of a certain country and a belief that it is better and more important than other countries."  It defines patriotism as simply "love or devotion to one's country."

While patriotism is devotion and allegiance to one's country, nationalism is much stronger.  Extreme nationalism leads to jingoism and warmongering.  A true patriot does not proclaim "my country, right or wrong."  That is the mentality of an Archie Bunker..  A true patriot is willing to criticize one's country and recognize its wrongdoings and weaknesses.  A true patriot seeks improvement of one's country and tries to protect its interests.  Nevertheless, a true patriot will not put those interests ahead of the interests of humanity.


- Joanne

Monday, November 5, 2018

Midterm Elections: Test of America's character


Tomorrow's U.S. midterm elections will truly be watershed vote.  These historic midterms will be a test of the character and decency of the American people.  Will Americans be governed by fear, anger and hatred, or will they rise above it?  I want to believe that Americans are better than that.  I want to believe that their  exceptional natures will prevail.  Donald's Trump's America is closed to the world.  It is isolated from the rest of humanity.  It is an America where armed guards are placed in schools and places of worship.  It is an America of great inequality, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  It is an America where billionaires get tax breaks.

I could go on and on about why I abhor Donald Trump's polices.  I could go on and on about the spineless Republicans who will not put their country above partisan politics, but the issue in this election is not partisan.  It is one of basic decency and civility.  Donald Trump's vile policies must be stopped at the ballot box.  He is encouraging racism and anti-immigrant sentiments.  His attitude toward women is absolutely reprehensible (This is a man who bragged about groping women).  He also refuses to take seriously the threat of climate change.  However, the main reason Trump should be reigned in tomorrow is that he is encouraging and abetting far-right authoritarianism around the world.

If Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, then Donald Trump is the Great Divider.  He is most at home at his rallies, where he can let loose with his true feelings.  That is the real Trump, not the Trump who pays lip service to unity, decency and civility in his scripted speeches.  No, the real Trump is not the one who reads nice words from a teleprompter.  It is the one who turns around and calls the media the "enemy of the people" and encourages chants such as "lock her up."  It is the one who indulges in juvenile name-calling.

It is almost impossible to change the mind of a hard line Trump supporters.  The man himself once bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and "not lose any voters."  The Trump fans who attend his rallies, with their red caps, seem to be in a cult-like trance.  It's very disconcerting to watch them.  That is why the voters who make the difference will have to be moderate Republicans and independents.  They will have to be economic conservatives who reject Trumps's hateful immigration policies and what he has done to the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.  They will have to be women of all political persuasions who are appalled by Trump's misogyny and racism, not to mention his dubious business dealings and his relationship with the wealthy, powerful Russians who interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

All I can say is that I hope that most American voters will not fall for Trump's lies or his fear mongering.  So many people in the United States are without health care.  Some many are hampered by pre-existing conditions.  Shouldn't Americans be debating that topic?  Instead Trump has been trying to instill fear in the American people.  He wants them to be afraid of his caravans of "illegal aliens" from Central America.  That's Central America, not another planet.  The last time I checked, Central America was located on Earth and its people were human beings.  They are fleeing the violence in their own countries.

Since I am a Canadian, so I do not have a vote in these misterms.  However, the result will affect the people of my country and around the world.  That's why I'm so concerned.  I hope and pray that tomorrow Americans will reject Trumpism and that this will be the beginning of the end of one of the darkest periods in the history of the United States.  Tomorrow's midterms are indeed a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.  America, the world anxiously awaits your verdict.


- Joanne

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jean Kennedy Smith at 90: The last of a generation

Jean circa 1953

Jean Kennedy Smith is the last surviving child of Rose and Joe Kennedy.  Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy married on October 7, 1914.  Jean is the eighth of their nine children and is known for her diplomatic career and her philanthropy on behalf of the disabled.


Joe and Rose on their wedding day in 1914

JEAN KENNEDY SMITH'S SIBLINGS

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., born July 25, 1915, was the eldest of the Kennedy children.  Joe Jr. died at the on August 12, 1944, while serving as a World War II land-based patrol bomber pilot.  He was killed when his plane exploded over the English Channel during a top secret bombing mission. His body was never found.  He was 29 at the time of his death.



John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, the second eldest, was born on May 29, 1917.  He became the 35th  President of the United States in 1961 and was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  At the time of his assassination, he was 46 years old.



Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy, born September 13, 1918, was the third child and eldest daughter.  She had mental disabilities and behavioural problems.  When she was 23, Rosemary's father arranged for her to have a frontal lobotomy.  It left her incapacitated and she spent the rest of her life in an institution.  She died on January 7, 2005 at the age of 86.



Kathleen Agnes "Kick" Kennedy, born February 20, 1920, was the fourth child and second daughter.  While her father was U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., Kathleen met English politician William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (known informally as Billy Harting).  They married on May 6, 1944.  Hartington died in combat in Belgium on September 9, 1944..  Kathleen was killed in a plane crash while flying to the French Riviera on May 13, 1948.  She was 28.



Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, born July 10, 1921, was the fifth child. In 1953, she married Sargent Shriver, the U.S. Ambassador to France during the administration of Lyndon Johnson.  Eunice was a pioneer for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. In 1962, she founded Camp Shriver on her farm in Maryland.  It evolved into the Special Olympics in 1968.  She died on August 11, 2009 at the age of 88, just two weeks before Ted's passing.



Patricia Helen  "Pat" Kennedy, born May 6, 1924, was the sixth child and fourth daughter.  Pat was an advocate for the literary arts. In 1954, she married English actor Peter Lawford with whom she had four children (They divorced in 1966).  Pat died on September 17, 2006 at the age of 82.



Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, the seventh child, was born on November 20, 1925.  In June of 1968, Senator Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles after winning the Democratic primary there.  He was 42 at the time of his death.



Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, born February 22, 1932, was the youngest of the fabled family.  Senator Kennedy died of a brain tumour on August 25, 2009   He was 77 years old.




JEAN KENNEDY SMITH

Jean is the only one of the nine Kennedy siblings to have reached the age of 90.  She was born Jean Ann Kennedy in Boston, Massachusetts on February 20, 1928 (She shares the same birthday with her elder sister Katleen, although they were born eight years apart).  Jean was educated at Manhattanville College (then a Sacred Heart school) in Purchase, New York.  It was there that she became friends with Ethel Skakel, who married her brother Bobby.in 1950, and Joan Bennett, who married Ted in 1958.

Jean became heavily involved in her brother Jack's political career.  She worked tirelessly in JFK's 1948 Congressional campaign, his 1952 Senate campaign and his 1960 presidential campaign.  She also supported Bobby's career.  In 1968, she was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when he was assassinated.

On May 19, 1956, Jean married Stephen Edward Smith.  The marriage took place in a small chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  In a 2017 interview with Dotson Rader for Parade magazine, Jean stated that she met her husband in New York City.  He was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but he had a home in Brooklyn.  When asked if it was love at first sight, Jean replied, "It was on my part.  It was maybe slower on his.  He was very attractive and fun.  He got along with my brothers, so we had a great time."

The couple had two biological sons.  Stephen Edward Smith Jr. was born on June 28, 1957.  Their second son, William Kennedy Smith, was born on September 4, 1960.  They also adopted two daughters: Amanda Mary Smith (born April 30, 1967) and Kym Maria Smith (born November 29, 1972).  Stephen Smith Jr. is an attorney and William Kennedy Smith is a physician whose work involves the rehabilitation of landmine victims.

Wedding photo of Jean Kennedy and Stephen Smith

In 1960, Stephen Smith became the political strategist and finance chairman for the successful presidential campaign of his brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy.  He was also Robert Kennedy's campaign manager during his 1968 presidential run.

Stephen Smith in 1963

In 1974, Jean founded Very Special Arts (now known as VISA), an international organization on arts and disabilities.  VISA is a non-profit organization with the purpose of advocating for the participation for the disabled in the arts.  It is affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.  Jean has travel worldwide in support of VISA.

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Jean as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.  She held that post during the historic process in Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement.  In 1994, Jean advocated for granting of a United States visa to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.  She was criticized for this, although the Kennedy family claimed this influenced the IRA's decision to declare a ceasefire.  Ted Kennedy wrote in this memoir, True Compass, that "Jean was convinced that Adams no longer believed that continuing the armed struggle was the way to achieve the IRA's objective of a united Ireland."

In September of 1998, seven months after the Good Friday Agreement, Jean retired as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.


END NOTES

* The patriarch of the family, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., suffered a stroke in December of 1961.  He died at home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts on November 18, 1969 at the age of 81.  His wife, Rose, passed away on January 22, 1995, also at Hyannis Port.  Rose lived until the age of 104.

* In 1991, Jean's son, William Kennedy Smith, became the defendant in a well-publicized rape trial.  He was charged with sexual assault and his accuser was Patricia Bowman, a woman he met while at a bar in Palm Beach, Florida with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy and his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy.  Smith was acquitted of all charges.


Dr. William Kennedy Smith

* In 1998, Irish President Mary McAleese conferred honorary citizenship to Jean in recognition for her service to the Republic of Ireland.

* Jean's husband, Stephen Smith, died of lung cancer on August 19, 1990.  He passed away at home in Manhattan at the age of 63.

* On February 15, 2011, Jean received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour, from President Barack Obama.for her work with VISA and the disabled.

*  In October of 2016, Jean Kennedy Smith published a memoir about her life as a member of the Kennedy family.  It is titled The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy



* Jean Kennedy Smith lives in a stylish duplex on Manhattan's East Side.

Jean Kennedy Smith


-  Joanne