Hisbits: A King, Otto, And Oldenburg

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History is filled with excitement. Too many can get bogged down by dates, and terms. However, there are so many interesting stories involved, for example.

He was the grandson of William The Conqueror. He fought his cousin the Empress for control of the kingdom. Lastly, he married a woman who would become a general to rescue him.  He was Stephen The First of England.

Otto fought the city of Worms. He backed an Emperor, securing his son’s release from a hostage situation. He also laid siege to Vienna. He was  Otto II of Bavaria.

Christian I Of Denmark, became King of Denmark at 22, King Of Norway at 24, and King of Sweden at 31, and Duke of Schleswig at 34.  He brokered a deal between Charles the Bold and Emperor Maximilian. Finally he established the House of Oldenburg, and his descendant, Harald V rules Norway today.  

History is filled with interesting characters, noble events, and moral lessons. If you have a problem with dates, learn the stories. They will teach you more than a number, they’ll impart wisdom, adventure, and inspire you to learn more.

They Made Them Laugh

Jack Benny, while Bob Hope received well deserved recognition for entertaining the troops, Jack was a close second. In fact, it’s my understanding that only Mr Hope had more performances than Jack’s for the troops, both reaching into the thousands. 

These men recognized the quality of laughter, and it’s need on the battlefield. I’ve heard people criticize the publicity received for these performances, but I don’t recall the critics doing so from the frontlines.  Which brings me to a quick point.

Neither man tried to make themselves appear as scholars, they were comedians. They didn’t mind getting laughed at, or criticized. I’m sure they didn’t like it, but they looked past it to the need. The need will always be greater than the criticism you face. An the voice of those you help, will always drown out those who complain about your efforts.

As Beautiful As A Flower

“As beautiful as a flower…” That’s what the city of Canton, China said of our flag in 1784. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams described it as having a new constellation. It flew monumentally above Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Jefferson, before they were ever committed to granite at Rushmore.  

It is a glowing, and growing light, flying ahead of great men and women, pointing towards a better future. That has always been the truth, from thirteen small colonies to fifty states, I love the history of our country.  When I think of it, I visualize a cold Valley Forge, a solemn Gettysburg, France’s Argonne Forest, and D Day.  

Heroes, some well known, others known only by their actions. My heart swells at the thoughts those American GI’s opening the doors of Auschwitz, making hope a reality.  I also think of a tea party in Boston, a harbor in Hawaii, and two towers in New York. 

Each generation would have challenges to answer, hardships to endure, and tragedies to overcome. Many of which, had not been faced by those before them. America, named for an Italian mapmaker, has always been a trailblazer. 

She strives to be as noble as the lady in her harbor. As brave, as those men at Iwo Jima. An as wise as the bearded gentleman from Kentucky, Illinois, or Indiana. 

Like Lincoln, all of America’s children, have little bits of each part of our country in us.  Each of us, can hear, in our mind’s ear, our favorite singer’s renditions of the Star Spangled Banner. All go to some lyric, person, or event that causes patriotism to swell in our hearts on this day.

I’m reminded of Cohan and Cagney, and those Yankee Doodle Boys. A red haired comedian, of great articulation, Mr Skelton, and his Pledge Of Allegiance. Or two other baggy pants comedians, Benny and Hope, who both entertained more troops than any other person.

I think of statesmen and soldiers first, but then those civilians who risked their lives, fortune, and future traveling to entertain those soldiers in far flung regions of the globe. Men and women, not in uniform, did what they could, to make other Americans’s lives a little better. 

They did so, because they recognized the greater sacrifices those they were serving were making. During sad days, they paired laughter with bravery. Our country, like all, has its valleys, but oh how beautiful our mountains. Flaws are only final, if we don’t rise above them.

We continue to climb, planting the seeds of freedom. Working to shine liberty’s torch into new areas, and keeping in our minds what this banner means.  For it is more than a symbol of what was, or a promise of what could be. It’s something that is always with each American.

It is a constant reassurance, that if they did it, we could grow into it also. It’s a consistent star charting us to new endeavors. An finally it’s a monument to the fact that God has blessed this land, and it’s our duty to seek His providence on it for many years to come.

July 3, 1775

On July 3, 1775, George Washington took command of the Continental Army.  We talk a lot about July 4th, but we don’t always appreciate July 3.  Leadership made tomorrow a reality, it laid the foundation of freedom, through sacrifice.

There was no guarantees when Washington accepted this post. He faced obstacles, people trying to take his position, impossible odds, and a massive foe.  Why did he accept, because since 1767, he had taken a stand against tyranny. 

Washington certainly did not accept for the position, it was more a target than an honor. He said yes because America needed him. He said yes, because he believed he could make a difference. He said yes, because he believed in what he was fighting for.

General Washington began the hard work of training and preparation.  If you read the accounts of the war, it was anything but easy.  It was truly a miracle that thirteen colonies stood fast against an empire, to form a republic.

Our country was founded by men called to liberty, beginning the journey of freedom, which we continue. Tomorrow we will listen to anthems penned as promises. Patriots,  propelled to better the lives of those around them. Providing America the possibility of not just a better future, but a future at all.

This week we celebrate freedom, today let us celebrate the leadership and sacrifice of those who chose to make it possible. They said we will fight today, so tomorrow we could say it’s Independence Day!

Memorial Day 2018

After the Revolution fought to win our freedom, they remembered those who marched against tyranny, but marched to a higher home before General Washington became President Washington.  These who fulfilled the pledge, of life, liberty, and sacred honor so completely.  Hearts remembered their sacrifice, and built thereon.

After the dark days of conflict in the Civil War, how many sacrifices were made. So much so, it even claimed the voice that gave us the Gettysburg Address. We heard his words, their deaths, his death, was not in vain.

From the great emancipator, we walked into France in World War 1, liberating it.  Some stayed behind, on French soil, giving all, so that more than America could be free.  This would be a pointer, to an even greater fight.

There is s noble war. One fought for the rescue of people hunted, and hated. One fought against a mad man who wished to annihilate, not just a race of people, but the treasure they had brought into the world. We stood with the world against Hitler, and paid a great price, to destroy the nightmares of Auschwitz and Dachau.

Other mad men have risen, and our soldiers have stood to stop them.  This Memorial Day, we don’t evaluate the battle, or the decisions behind it, we honor the soldiers. Men and women, who in every generation, made it possible, for us to live freely.  

We honor, salute, and embrace the heart, love, and hope their sacrifice purchased for us. May God bless their souls, their memory, and their legacy. May God bless the United States Of America!

Sketch Violins Of Hope

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This is a sketch about the “Violins Of Hope”, a true story of the Holocaust. These instruments, literally helped saved lives in the worst places during World War II.

Born In 76


Born in 76, 1776 to be exact. The proud parents were the future first Chief Justice John Jay and his wife. The boy’s name was Peter Augustus Jay. You might say this child was one of two children born in 76, the other was a girl.

The boy did fine, followed in the footsteps of his father, serving the public good, and the legal profession. The girl did fantastic, and Jay, one of her founding fathers, did all he could to support her.

It was Jay who helped, along with Hamilton and Franklin, to negotiate the treaty of Paris, that ended the Revolutionary War. England at first, did not want to recognize in the treaty, our independence. Jay stopped negotiations until this was agreed upon. Jay, one of the writers of The Federalist Papers, and the other signers of the treaty, knew how vital this recognition was to our new country.

Yesterday I was reading some of the everyday acts of Liberty’s founders. They raised the money needed during the war. Others like Jay in Spain, were ambassadors, striving to gain young Liberty a place at the table. Much like a Dad, who quietly, consistently works to give his child every advantage, these men did.

Like Peter Augustus Jay, she followed in their footsteps. Seeing her children, generations of Americans through hardships. War that tore at her heart, but resulted in freedom of an entire race in 1865.  

Young men and women of every race, ethnicity, and background have marched beside her as she stood against everything from nazism to communism. From the cannon smoke of Yorktown, to the sandstorms of Kabul, she learned her fathers’ lessons well.

Now today, this generation of her children remember the sacrifices and consistent duties of men like Jay, Washington, and Franklin. What we must also realize is that, we are truly related to both Liberty, and her parents. For it is now become our duty to hold dear those truths they saw as self evident.

One of which was how they viewed themselves, and their child. They saw themselves, even in disagreement, as citizens of one new country. Men of different viewpoints, forged together by the love of an idea, given birth to through blood, sweat, and tears. An how they saw her, the fledgling child they produced.

As one that should be given the chance to change the world, with the full support of her family. Today, we don’t just barbecue and talk of something that happened long ago. We join together for a meal, as a family, and recall the sacrifices that made us, our parents, and generations of this 1776 family.  

Let us, while celebrating, feel the weight of the mantle passed to us. Knowing that our individual opinions are far less important, than the integral heritage that unites us. We are sons and daughters of liberty, descendants of the founders, and Americans by The Grace Of God!

Hisbits: World War 1

Whether the first bullet hit him or his wife, I’m not sure. Either way, the blood soon covered the hole exposed in both the bodies and the fabric which the assassin’s weapon caused.  

A very real, and very deadly secret society, known as the Black Hand, personally selected six men to ensure the success of the plot. Princip was the name of the man who ended the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. 

The two, one victim and the other murderer, were loyal to their countries. Archduke Ferdinand to Austria, being the heir to the throne. Princip, to both Serbia, and a Slavic section of Austria that longed to be free from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Like the echoes that were to come, Sophie was the first innocent casualty, many more would follow. 

The Slavs and Serbia shared a common genetic history, one that enhanced the desire to join together into one greater unit. The name of that goal was to be a nation known as Yugoslavia. Itself, now a ghost of history past. 

It may well have stayed a story on the other side of the world, had it not been for the demands of the territories involved, and their friends. Austria demanded justice, issuing an ultimatum to the Kingdom Of Serbia.

No less than the head of the Serbian Military Intelligence, Dragutin was behind the plot. Perhaps this was the reason that Serbia only partially complied with the demands. Austria, along with their ally Germany invaded Serbia.  

Russia, an ally of Serbia, prepared for war. Germany’s two leaders, Kaiser Wilhelm, and his Prime Minister Von Bismark, saw the opportunity to invade Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.  

Russia attacked both Austria, and attempted to invade Germany. Unsuccessful, they were violently repelled by the German war machine. While only a small part of Northern France was occupied by Germany, the costs of the war on it would be deadly.

At war’s climax, 1.4 million French soldiers would give their lives, in a short time, 4% of the entire population of France was gone. 27% to 30% of their entire military would be killed in a war that began with one bullet.  

Great Britain, an ally of France, declared war on Germany. Before the War, Great Britain was in trouble itself. Political problems divided the country. As horrible as the bloodbath known as the Great War, before it’s sequel was, it unified Britain.  

They not only had an ally to save, they had an enemy to despise. 850,000 lives would be sacrificed by the United Kingdom of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland to save France. A man named Winston Churchill helped to develop the military vehicle known as the tank.

The power of Britain’s military wasn’t enough. No matter how proudly the Union Jack flew over British vessels, they needed another ally. That’s where the Dough Boys came in.

This was the term used to describe the American Army and Marine soldiers that, as the popular song said, went “Over There” to fight for France’s liberation. The phrase was taken from a fried dumpling soldiers would consume which became what we now call the doughnut.

The reason our soldiers joined the fight sounds like a scene out of a summer movie. A German U-Boat, what you and I would call a submarine, sank the British cruise ship Lusitania, with 128 American passengers onboard.

America, who had been neutral, had enough. Even the peace loving President Woodrow Wilson, was now ready for war. To wearied soldiers on the battlefield of France, 10,000 Americans a day arrived to take up their rifles. The Yanks, as they were also called, against the soldiers of the combined forces of Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.

It could have been billed like an Ultimate Fighting Championship, Black Jack versus the Black Hand. General Black Jack Pershing, the only American General ever to go on to share the same rank with General Washington, lead the conflict.

As bombs burst around them, from the foxholes of the French and Belgian countrysides, heroes were forged, and villains began their dark journey. Among the heroes was a young corporal named Harry S Truman. Among the villains, another corporal, by the name of Adolph Hitler.

Before Hitler would attempt his annihilation of the Jews, and Truman would fight to champion both their cause, and their homeland, they were soldiers. Men, joined in a conflict, which began between two men, and an innocent spouse who gave her life by her loved one.

The war that only lasted four years resulted in over 17 million giving their lives. Of that number, only 11 million were military, the rest were civilians. We lost 744,000 of our countrymen to the conflict that ignited between two kingdoms, half a world away. Not all that were hurt died, the estimated list of dead and wounded combined was at least 38 million people.

This Great War, this horrible conflict, did more than result in reorganizing borders, propelling future leaders, and altering an entire globe. The horrible black cloud that was World War 1, would position men and women which would fight, an even greater conflict.
Had World War 1 not occurred, we may not have had a Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson to answer Pearl Harbor, or stand beside of Churchill.  

There may not have been a Harry Truman who risked his entire reputation to stop Japan, controlled not by it’s Emperor, or it’s people, but by warlords. The same Truman would sign the paper recognizing Israel as a free nation for the first time since the Roman Empire.  

The question is not was War necessary, but what the result of it was. America began a journey that freed not just France, but inspired countries across time zones and continents to follow the example of Washington, and Lincoln. This conflict, this Great War, this horrible conflict, need never be forgotten, but viewed as the forging of an even greater purpose. One that would be only begin to be revealed some twenty years later in it’s second installment.

HisBits Escape Route

If you grew up in the heart of the Cold War, you would hardly think of 1940’s Siberia, as a path to freedom. However, that was exactly what it was to some 2,100 Polish Jews. Thanks to a Dutch Consul and a Japanese Diplomat, thousands escaped to freedom via Siberia’s railroad.

After the invasion of Poland in 1939, many of the Jewish population found temporary safety in Lithuania. On June 22, 1941 Hitler’s forces invaded the Soviet Union. They would ultimately fail, and be repelled, but not before a million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi death squads.

It was during this period that Polish Jews sought safe haven in Lithuania. It was there they were blessed with two unlikely heroes. Men who partnered together, working feverishly to spare as many they could. Their names were Jan Zwartendijk, and Chiune Sugihara.

Before the War, Zwartendijk, worked for the Phillips company, a maker of radios and light bulbs. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands and the Soviet’s occupied Lithuania, he became acting Dutch consul in Kovno, Lithuania. Sugihara was the first Japanese diplomat posted in Lithuania. He communicated with the Polish underground to spare as many lives as possible. While Zwartendijk issued visas to the Dutch colony of Curaçao, Sugihara facilitated their path to Tokyo.

In one of the most dangerous times in history, with little or no provision, families boarded rail cars in hope of safety. They traveled via the Trans Siberia rail line to Japan, and from there, made their way to San Francisco. Against the backdrop of Nazi executions, an oppressive Soviet regime, and a hostile Japanese government, these men defied the odds.

Their valor granted thousands the opportunity to make, not only a better future, but any future at all. During the time of the Holocaust, an era of tremendous pain and heartbreak for the Jewish people, these men made a difference. They were normal people in abnormal times, but they answered the call.

A call to do what they could, so others could do what seemed impossible. In signing their name on slips of paper, they too defeated Hitler. They essentially told him, that his plan for annihilation would not win, with every life they spared.

Often, the call to act isn’t a super human feat, but a very simple one. If we will look for it, opportunities are around every corner. On a personal level, who is standing in our path today, that needs our help? It maybe as easy as listening, or sharing a cup of coffee and a smile. A simple act of kindness may enable them to make the journey from fear to personal freedom.

HisBits: Harpo

  He was a comedian, husband, father, and pre-cold war spy. His name was Arthur Marx, but you may know him as Harpo. He played the silent, but vibrant, one of the four brothers.  

Forgetting your lines could be a deadly weakness for a comedian, but in Harpo’s case, it made his career. This was how he became the pantomiming one of the brothers. It was a deficiency that secured his place in Hollywood history.

Leaving school at eight years old, when not able to pass second grade, he joined the work force. He sold newspapers, worked in a butcher shop, and was an office errand boy, all while adding to the family income. In 1910, Arthur would help start the family business.

He, along with brothers, Julius and Milton created the group, the Three Nightingales. All the names would later change. They became the first version of the Marx Brothers, Groucho, Gummo, and Harpo.
The army would call on Gummo to leave the group. So the oldest and youngest brothers, Leonard and Herbert, would step in as Chico and Zeppo. Eventually Zeppo would join Gummo in offscreen theatrical management. 

Of all Harpo’s adventures, the most exciting was an unscripted one. In 1933, he spent six weeks on a goodwill tour. During that time, he would transport secret messages to and from the US embassy in Moscow, at the Ambassador’s request. Harpo had to carry them on him for up to ten days at a time. They were taped to the inside of his leg under his clothing.  

Three years later, he would marry his bride of twenty eight years, Susan Fleming. She encouraged his love of painting, making elaborate frames for his art.  The two of them loved children, adopting four. He said once that he wanted to fill every window of his home with a child waving goodbye. To them, kids were never an after thought, they were their reason to come home.

Harpo valued listening and learning. Even though his unconventional way of playing the harp was part of his success, he spent a lot of money learning the proper technique. One of the few times he spoke on stage, was his last performance. He talked for several minutes as he announced his retirement, and how much he would miss performing.

It proved one thing, Harpo wasn’t a man without something to say, but one who knew when to speak. Words used properly have value. Talk isn’t cheap, as long as you consider beforehand what you’re about to say.  

He was the quiet clown in a troupe of them. Yet his kindness resonated throughout the family. Arthur was a gentleman who loved performing, and loved his family even more.