Lesser-known flag-flying date: October 6, to honor fallen firefighters

October 5, 2019

Flag Raising 2019
Honor guard of firefighters raising flags at the National Memorial to Fallen Firefighters in Emmitsburg, Maryland, on October 4, 2019.

Note from the American Flagpole and Flag Company: Congress added another date to fly U.S. flags. From the e-mail:

Fly the United States Flag at Half-Staff on Sunday, October 6, 2019 in Honor of National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service

The United States Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to lead a nationwide effort to remember America’s fallen firefighters. Since 1992, the tax-exempt, nonprofit Foundation has developed and expanded programs to honor our fallen fire heroes and assist their families and coworkers. The 38th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service will be held Sunday, October 6, 2019, to honor 92 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2018 and 27 firefighters who died in the line of duty in previous years.    

In accordance to Public Law 107-51, the American flag should be lowered to half-staff on Sunday, October 6, 2019 from sunrise to sunset in observance of National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. 

The date was added in October 2001, just over a month after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. President George Bush signed the law. Maybe oddly, the resolution does not specify a fixed or floating date, but instead refers to a National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service.

That service has been held annually since 2001 in Emmitsburg, Maryland, by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.


Gold Star Mothers Day 2019 – fly your flag on Sunday, September 29

September 29, 2019

Gold Star Mothers Day, honoring mothers and widows of soldiers killed in service, is the last Sunday of September — September 29 in 2019.

It’s a date designated by law to fly your U.S. flag at home.

President Trump issued a proclamation on flying the flag in 2019:

Every life lost in service to our country is precious and irreplaceable.  Our deepest sympathy, utmost respect, unwavering support, and profound gratitude go to the families who must endure the ongoing pain of such loss.  On Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, we solemnly honor these families and pray for their continued strength and courage.

Since the founding of our Republic, our liberty has been defended by our men and women in uniform.  Their love of country and devotion to duty represent the very best of America.  Our Nation’s military families share in the demands and pressures of this noble calling.  The cost is exceedingly high — with multiple deployments, relocations, and separations — but the sobering price of their sacrifice is most clearly seen in the families who have faced the life-altering loss of a father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother who died fighting for our freedom.

Because of tragedies that forever change the course of their lives, these families receive the designation of the Gold Star.  Each story is unique; each death is profoundly personal.  The fallen leave behind families who must learn to carve out a new future while coping with their loved one’s absence on holidays, at celebrations, and during everyday activities.  Their pain permeates every facet of life, never fully fading.

Yet, in spite of their challenges and heartbreak, Gold Star families exemplify amazing grace and resilience.  From the depths of grief, they emerge to find hope, purpose, and joy, serving as an example and a source of inspiration for others.  These patriots know the true cost of freedom, and it is the responsibility of all Americans to stand alongside them and share in shouldering this profound burden.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1895 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 29, 2019, as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.  I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this special day.  I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation’s gratitude and respect for our Gold Star Mothers and Families.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-seventh day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

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Typewriter of the moment: Where John Irving birthed Garp

September 19, 2019

IBM Selectric typewriter upon which John Irving wrote The World According to Garp. Photo courtesy of David Armstrong.

Photo from typewriter repairman and aficionado David Armstrong, from a Facebook group dedicated to IBM typewriters.

Armstrong said his client tells the provenance: The typewriter upon which John Irving wrote The World According to Garp. “It was completely worn out but after a complete rebuild my customer couldn’t be happier.”

This year marks 40 years since Garp was published — difficult to believe the time gone by. This may be the last novel I devoured in a day or so.

Irving marks the 40th anniversary at his website, with some somber notes.

This year I’m celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of my novel, The World According to Garp. I remember thinking the title of my fourth novel would change; The World According to Garp was always just a working title until something better came along. I was still looking for “something better” when I delivered the manuscript to Henry Robbins, my editor. Henry, and everyone else at Dutton who read Garp in manuscript form, declared that the title had to be The World According to Garp. I was stuck with it.


More importantly, it is a bittersweet feeling to have only recently written a teleplay of Garp, a miniseries in five episodes, because I always imagined — more than forty years ago — that the sexual hatred in the novel might become dated soon after it was published. Sadly, sexual hatred is still with us — it hasn’t gone away. The suspicion of sexual differences, the discrimination against sexual minorities — including flat-out bigotry and violence — haven’t become the extinct dinosaurs I thought these things would (and should) become.


In part, The World According to Garp depicts the struggles of the writing process — the false starts, the blocks, the disappointments. Yet Garp never loses conviction in his purpose as a writer, “because he knew what every artist should know: as Garp put it, ‘You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.’ Even if these so-called endings and beginnings are illusions.”

There are days I sorely miss my old Selectric.


September 16, 2018, is Mexico’s Independence Day

September 16, 2019

It’s almost painful how much residents of the U.S. don’t know about our neighbor to the south, Mexico.

No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16.

Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.

Dolores Hidalgo Church at night.

Dolores Hidalgo Church at night. Wikipedia image

But just to confuse things more, Mexico did not get independence on September 16.

September 16 is the usual date given for the most famous speech in Mexico’s history — a speech for which no transcript survives, and so, a speech which no one can really describe accurately.  A Catholic priest who was involved in schemes to create an armed revolution to throw out Spanish rule (then under Napoleon), thought his plot had been discovered, and moved up the call for the peasants to revolt.  At midnight, September 15, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declaimed the need for Mexicans to rise in revolution, from his church in the town of Dolores, near Guanajuato.  The cry for freedom is known in Spanish as the Grito de Dolores.

Hidalgo himself was hunted down, captured and executed.  Mexico didn’t achieve independence from Spain for another 11 years, on September 28, 1821.

To commemorate Father Hidalgo’s cry for independence, usually the President of Mexico repeats the speech at midnight, in Mexico City, or in Dolores.  If the President does not journey to Dolores, some other official gives the speech there.  Despite no one’s knowing what was said, there is a script from tradition used by the President:

Mexicans!
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Galena and the Bravos!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!

Political history of Mexico is not easy to explain at all.

Hidalgo’s life was short after the speech, but the Spanish still feared the power of his ideas and names.  In Hidalgo’s honor, a town in the Texas territory of Mexico was named after him, but to avoid provoking authorities, the name was turned into an anagram:  Goliad.

In one of those twists that can only occur in real history, and not in fiction, Goliad was the site of a Mexican slaughter of a surrendered Tejian army during the fight for Texas independence.  This slaughter so enraged Texans that when they got the drop on Mexican President and Gen. Santa Ana’s army a few days later at San Jacinto, they offered little quarter to the Mexican soldiers, though Santa Ana’s life was spared.

Have a great Grito de Dolores Day, remembering North American history that we all ought to know.

Check out my earlier posts on the Grito, for a longer and more detailed explanation of events, and more sources for teachers and students.

Father Hidalgo: Antonio Fabres, Miguel Hidalgo, oil on canvas, image taken from: Eduardo Baez, military painting in the nineteenth century Mexico, Mexico, National Defense Secretariat, 1992, p.23. Wikipedia image

Father Hidalgo: Antonio Fabres, Miguel Hidalgo, oil on canvas, image taken from: Eduardo Baez, military painting in the nineteenth century Mexico, Mexico, National Defense Secretariat, 1992, p.23. Wikipedia image

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This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

Colorado statehood day, August 1, 2018

July 31, 2019

From the Walking Tourists, a photograph of a U.S. flag near Colorado Springs, with Pikes Peak in the background. A view from the top of Pikes Peak inspired Kathryn Lee Bates to write a poem, “America the Beautiful.”

Colorado officially joined the Union on August 1, 1876.

Coloradans should fly U.S. flags today in honor of statehood. Colorado was the 38th state admitted to the union.


August 2019: Unfurl Old Glory on these days

July 31, 2019

Maybe a more appropriate flag picture for July? One of my favorites from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. – Neil Alden Armstrong  / By Louis S. Glanzman / Acrylic and casein on Masonite, 1969 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

August in the U.S. is a lazy, often hot, summer month. It’s a month for vacation, picnicking, local baseball games, camping, cookouts and beach vacations. It’s not a big month for events to fly the U.S. flag.

Except, perhaps, in Olympics years, when the U.S. flag is often flown a lot, in distant locations. About 50 percent of photographs of the U.S. flag flying in August features an American Olympic athlete. 2019 is not an Olympics year.

Only one event calls for nation-wide flag-flying in August, National Aviation Day on August 19. This event is not specified in the Flag Code, but in a separate provision in the same chapter U.S. Code. Will the president issue a proclamation to fly the flag for National Aviation Day?

Three states celebrate statehood, Colorado, Hawaii and Missouri.

Put these dates on your calendar to fly the flag in August:

  • August 1, Colorado statehood (1876, 38th state)
  • August 10, Missouri statehood (1821, 24th state)
  • August 19, National Aviation Day, 36 USC 1 § 118
  • August 21, Hawaii statehood (1959, 50th state)

If Texans want to fly their flags for the children’s returning to school on August 18, no one will complain. The Flag Code says all public schools should be flying the U.S. flag every school day — check to be sure your child’s schools do that.

You may fly your U.S. flag any day. These are just the days suggested in law.

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Nate White’s stunning answer to the question: Why do many British people not like Donald Trump?

June 24, 2019

It was a question asked on Quora last February 12: Why do many British people not like Donald Trump?

Nate White is a London-based copy writer — that is, advertising guy. His Quora profile says, “Drinks coffee. Writes copy.” Nate took a swing at answering the question, and knocked that ball into orbit.

The 90 year-old Queen is forced to go around our idiot President,
who doesn’t even know how to walk properly.” (The Wow Report)

Sadly, for some reason the thread has been deleted from Quora (threats from Trump’s side?) Several people were inspired to preserve it on blogs and in other forms. Ronald Lebow (@RonaldLebow) posted the piece in a series of Tweets, a thread, recently, and I finally found the entire piece from which I had seen only parts quoted before.

Here is Nate White’s answer to the question, “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump.” It’s written so well, so strongly, that I wonder whether an intelligent rebuttal could ever be done.

A few things spring to mind…

Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.

So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll.

And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.

Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think

‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’

is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form;

He is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit.

His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.

In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:

‘My God… what… have… I… created?’

If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

Nate White, answering a question on Quora
Brits fly a Trump Baby balloon over London which makes the POTUS “feel unwelcome.”
(Photo, YouTube; T/Y Michaelam via The Wow Report)

Quora offers no explanation for why the question was taken down from its forums. I’ve found nothing to suggest Mr. White had pangs of remorse. If you have more details, please let us know, in comments.


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