Archives For heroes

My Alter Ego

April 1, 2015

AlterEgoThis post is kind of like an April Fools joke on myself.

I think all of us have to one degree or another an alter ego.  That is a second self who is distinctively different from who we presently are day-to-day. Many of my personal journal posts are to my alter ego “Joe”.  He is my younger much more timid and less sure self. It took me many years to move out of that mode and to a degree I am still sometimes stuck there.

Before I go any further lets look at the “official” definition of alter ego.

Alter ego

An alter ego is a second self, which is believed to be distinct from a person’s normal or original personality. A person who has an alter ego is said to lead a double life. Cicero was the first to coin the term as part of his philosophical construct in 1st century Rome, but he described it as “a second self, a trusted friend”.

Joe grew up in a single parent household with a stoic father. Mirrors were not his favorite thing. He thought he had a weak chin and just didn’t like looking at himself. He would never look into a mirror and imagine who he might become. He was for the most part never encouraged to do anything. He was never shown much affection and therefore was very reluctant to show any himself. Joe was one of those guys who always slipped into the background of life too shy to admit that he had an opinion on things let alone actually tell anyone what he might be thinking.  Joe was always a dreamer but never had much ambition. He was always doubtful that he was as good as most of those around him. Joe never had a mentor who might have been able to drag him outside of himself. Even though he was the first in his extended family to go to college he, like his father, never had much faith in himself.

If you haven’t guessed by now the J in RJ is for Joe and yes he is my alter ego. It took years for RJ to final come to the surface and leave Joe behind in the shadows. In some ways many of my posts are to Joe as to try to encourage him understand that he is a contributor to the world around him. He is unique and matters in life.  I feel deeply for all those young kids around today who might be stuck in the “Joe” mode. I wish I could be there for each  and every one of them.

2014-10-27_07-45-26The Republican leaders really didn’t want Roosevelt as President. As a young Bull Moose Republican in politics, TR had angered top GOP honchos by refusing to appoint Republicans to bureaucratic positions. Party bosses Mark Hanna and Thomas Platt were able to “kick Roosevelt upstairs” as the vice presidential nominee in 1900 for the incumbent President, William McKinley. Roosevelt agreed because he was thinking of running for President in 1904. No one thought that Roosevelt would take over for McKinley later in 1901.

SOURCE: 10 little-known facts about President Theodore Roosevelt – Yahoo News.

I must admit up front that Teddy Roosevelt is my kind of Republican. He and Abe Lincoln, both Republicans, are two of my heroes. What happened to the GOP that they have moved so far right of their original founders? If someone like Teddy came along in the GOP today I would jump at the chance to vote for him but given the crop of 2016 likely candidates that seems very far from reality right now.

I am currently reading albeit slowly for some reason ( maybe I am just relishing each words of the author)  a book about Teddy by Doris Kearns Goodwin so the quote above did not surprise me too much. I am sure that if Teddy were around today the current GOP would tar and feather him if they got a chance, kind of like they did with Colin Powell. Teddy Roosevelt was plain and simple a progressive Republican.  I know that combination of words are total foreign to us a hundred years later. Teddy, even though he was part of the New York aristocracy always felt a kinship with the guy that struggled to take care of his family.

Teddy fought the then Republican establishment throughout his political career. None of them liked him too much because he was just too unpredictable when it came to making decisions between the rich and the poor. He simply sided with the poor much too often for them. Deja Vu all over again right? Almost from the beginning he was very popular with the masses of people. They loved his bravado and showmanship. One of the reasons that Teddy was so popular was that he made it almost his life’s purpose to make good friends among the reporters and media of his day. They simply loved him and therefore wrote many favorable things about him.

Like all my heroes Teddy had his dark side. He loved killing things and to some degree that also included people. He often said his most pleasant memories were of his war time on San Juan Hill in Cuba. It seems he simply got a huge rush from extinguishing life. But as usual we have to take some bad to get the good from our heroes.

About Our Heroes…

April 4, 2014

2014-04-03_13-47-55Early biographers, informed by Lincoln’s former Springfield law partner William Herndon, wrote first takes of the president that would be unrecognizable to the heroic image that Americans know today from books like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning performance.

And the public made Josiah Holland’s Life of Lincoln, which erroneously portrayed the president who was gunned down on Good Friday as “an eminently Christian president,” an instant best seller. Other early depictions portray Lincoln as bumbling and deeply flawed.

With his new dual biography, Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image, Joshua Zeitz explains how the two men who served as Lincoln’s secretaries shaped the perception Americans have of the 16th president.

SOURCE: Men behind Lincoln made the legend we know today.

Being a lifelong U.S. History reader I am very aware of how our heroes are portrayed.

I have read William Herndon’s Lincoln and it is indeed very different from many that came after. It painted Lincoln as a somewhat ordinary man with his own likes and jealousies. I look forward to reading this latest account in Lincoln’s Boys.

I can see similarities between this constant revision of our heroes even in our bibles. It is kind of like the Gospel accounts of Jesus. The first account was Mark and he didn’t mention much about Jesus’ miracles or had any insight into his early life. He just stayed on what he knew or was told to him (whoever Mark was). When the other gospels came out years later they were flooded with miracles and such. The authors seemed to want to make sure that everyone would know that Jesus was the Messiah so they added, factually or not, a myriad of miracles and new quotes.

People tend to remake their idols into what they want to believe about them. I greatly admired the person of George Washington. He was exactly what was needed as our first president. We all know of the story of chopping down the cherry tree which is now widely acknowledged at a total myth. We do this sort of thing to all our heroes. We invent things to highlight their best sides and tend to bury as deeply as possible their darker sides.

Of course we all now know that most if not all our heroes have a darker side, but don’t we all?

Henry Ford, who basically created the middle class in the U.S. was one of the most important men of the 20th century. He was also an avowed anti-Semite and to some degree a racist.

Thomas Jefferson created our most valuable national document. He was a slave owner and frequently bedded his  slaves while at the same time declared all men equal.

Mark Twain was considered America’s first great author and humorist. He also became an extreme pessimist in his later years. He could see not good or humor in life. Many of his words from that period were very spiteful, depressing and uncivil.

Everyone has skeletons in their closets, even our heroes. As long as we recognize that fact there is nothing wrong with looking up to and even trying to emulate some of the qualities our personal heroes. But, don’t be totally disappointed with you find a skeleton along the way.

You Never Know….

April 16, 2013
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“This is a great country. You never know where our heroes will come from.” – Will Rogers, 7 June 1933

One of the great things about this country is that anyone who is fortunately enough to have just the right circumstances come about can be a hero for future generations.  Many have sports heroes who they admire for their ability to do a particular thing like putting a ball into a hole, hitting it with a stick, throwing it to a teammate. I can’t say that any of those qualities make someone a hero to me. But to each his own when it comes to heroes.

My heroes are more of the intellectual or humanitarian nature. Obviously, to anyone who has read much of this post knows that Will Rogers, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, John Steinbeck, and Gandhi are among my heroes. This group range across the spectrum as far as wealth and influence go. Some came from poverty, some from privileged  classes. Most just went about their daily business with other people’s welfare in mind. Those are my kind of heroes.

I, like many others, have become a big fan of the british TV series entitled “Downton Abbey”. It is a story about an early twentieth century aristocratic family and all the “commoners” who served them. The intertwining of all their lives is what makes the show endearing.  I must admit that I am an antagonist when it comes to a privileged classes especially inherited wealth.  So, it somewhat surprised me to be attracted to this show.

Even up until recently many of the countries in Europe were very class oriented. That is if you were born into a particular class that is where you stayed for your life.  Moving outside of your class was just unheard of in those days. I’m sure this continues to some extent even today but I think it is quickly disappearing; at least I hope it is.

The United States is a country that has always been about opportunity for all. Anyone can go as far as their drive, ambition, and intellect allow them. That is what makes this country great.  I am troubled by the current trends toward aristocracy in this country that is taking place due to inherited wealth. The top one-percent of the population control a very large percentage of the wealth of the country.  This troubles me greatly some times.

About Thomas Jefferson….

December 17, 2012

JeffersonI am a lifelong U.S. history nut so of course Thomas Jefferson is one of my heroes. I have read quite extensively about him over the years and have accumulated quite a library of quotes. I will admit that when it comes to slavery he has a dark side but don’t we all to one degree or another.  I treat my heroes as human and not gods in that regard.  They have wisdom to offer the ages but they are not pure in every respect. One of the reasons that Jefferson is my hero is because he was a free-thinker in his days. He said things that others where not courageous enough to say. I think I am kind of like him in that regard. Maybe recklessly so.

Although I have already done so to a limited degree I will be presenting even more quotes from Jefferson on this blog. We need lessons from as many wise men as we can during these trying times. One of the purposes of these posts will be to dispel some of the myths that has grown around the man. One of those myths is that Jefferson wanted our young country to be a Christian nation.  If you know me at all you know I disagree adamantly with that belief. Jefferson was spiritual but not a Christian, as least as we know it today. He definitely would not be welcomed in many of the 39,000 different versions of Christianity around today. When he wrote about separation of church and state he did more so to protect our young nation from the influences of religious organizations than the other way around. I will be producing many quotes around this fact and many other generally unknown aspects of the man in the coming months.

In that regard I have set up a special category for Jefferson. It is located in the Quotes header at the top of this blog. I hope you enjoy or are at least informed by my decision to add Jefferson to my repertoire here.

I am putting aside my usual Sunday post about things that inspire me in order to tell you about two milestones that are happening today in my life.

The first milestone is that today is my 66th birthday so I have officially survived my first full year of single-payer system health insurance. I have to tell you that it was great. Continue Reading…