Books for Everyone!

11 September 2021

The Key to the Closet

Dwight David Eisenhower, nicknamed “Ike”, is probably not too well known by many Americans who were born after his Presidency. And that time was a long time ago. He was an old man by the Presidential election of 1960, when, so I am told — mature experience got cashiered out for untested youth and that elegance that Jacqueline Kennedy embodied and invented pretty much all her on her own.

I’m not sure that the television-ization of American politics fostered a lazy and irresponsible cadre of journalists, and the greedy grasping group of politicians who used those press dunces every way to Sunday. Journalists are a notoriously lazy lot. The exceptional scribblers have been the exceptions to the rule. That rule used to be double-source the news, then report it. Presently, it’s make it up.

Depending on the bombastic bias of the broadcaster, there have been a few mornings in America, many more evenings in America, and that ghoulishly threatened dark winter of 2020 that’s certainly coming the way of those hoaxers in December 2021. There have even been sweltering hot afternoons, all across the fruited plain, bogusly caused by the lucrative lunacy of the climate-change-cult.

Sundays in America, however, got hi-jacked during the TV-era by the secular elites known as The Media.

I, for one, persist in my definition of Sunday as the Lord’s Day, not the Sabbath Done the Sinful Way, through:

lying, stonewalling, waffling, weaseling, fibbing, flip-flopping, passing around the corporate bucks, the casting of stones by pundits who live in glass houses, the pompous shoveling of bilge by sordid politicos with glass jaws, the smirking plastic-surgeried shills bearing false witness for the really big bucks, and the hyper hyperventilation at the thought that there really are people “out there” — millions and millions of Americans who quote the Bible, or even read it, instead of tuning in to these pious, tuned-out, tone-deaf officeholders of our great land.

In this blessed land of the long ago, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was a man of abundant talents. Those talents, set within the Office of the Presidency, likely cramped his style and constrained his achievements. It can happen to the best of generals, at least the generals who are true patriots.

And to the best of presidents too.

When I promoted myself from colonel, working as a technical writer at the Sacramento District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to general, working as wife, mother, and commander of The Home, I was not aware that my countless experiences during my time at 650 Capitol Mall would help me to craft scenes and dialogue of a war novel. I’d been a very young single woman back then; and I was very much in need of consistently honorable guidance and a respectable command structure, both of which had been dismally lacking in my life since the death of my father when I was a child.

At “the Corps”, I became a highly lauded employee in this historic formation of the Army that dates back to the American Revolution. I was even commended, in writing, by the Commanding Colonel at that time for — “going above and beyond the call of duty” — in admirably carrying out to outstanding completion several assignments that I met, and exceeded, during those trying years of the early-mid 1980s. This colonel was a rare breed of Army officer. He departed the Sacramento District, just before I did.  He was more than justifiably promoted, in 1992 to Lieutenant General, commanding, in the Office of Chief of Engineers at Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Corps of Engineers is not what it was back then, and the U.S. Army is not what it was prior to the end of the Cold War. Critics of our armed forces castigate and carp and sling all sorts of names at the U.S. military in general, and, in particular, at the current top layer of woke generals, sporting fruit salads of diversity ribbons that weigh more than their courage and their consciences.

That top layer of putrid command icing has been smeared over the myriad layers of honorable commanders and enlisted men and women. Those cut-throat commandants of vanity, instead of virtue, have weaseled their way up the politicized chain of command, to the once mighty apex of the armed forces.

Those sell-outs to their own nation do not represent, or hold a candle to, the Americans who serve our nation with dignity and patriotic duty. Top brass without class, conscience, compunction, and a conqueror’s backbone, of the sort possessed by Old Blood and Guts Patton: those uniformed officers have occupied a baneful part of the military service of any nation, going all the way back to the American War of Independence, and much earlier, to the wars fought by the Ancients.

How many generals did Abraham Lincoln go through to win the Civil War?

The norm during war is for any Commander-in-Chief to go through a lot of generals. The Commanders-in-Chief of the War on Terror, which was never formally declared a war by the U.S. Congress, ought to have gone through the norm, not establish a new norm of bootlickers in command of a war that was prolonged for the profit of the bureaucrats and the bloody war machine tersely known as War. Inc.

While researching materials in preparation for writing THE DAWN, I watched, many times, the film series created by Frank Capra, as commissioned in 1941 by the Office of War Information of the U.S. The title of that masterwork is WHY WE FIGHT. Today, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and, maybe, the pussyfoot State Department would pay bookoo bucks for a documentary flick, directed by a losing candidate for the Senate, and hatched by Hollyweird, that’s grossly over-budget, and just plain gross. That future Academy-Award winner would be entitled:

Why Even Bother To Fight?

And yet . . .

How low a blow can any American give to any professional fighting force than to smear the sullied faux-achievements of the puffed-up political generals over the entire corps entrusted with the defense of America? It’s the surest way to destroy the supremely vital esprit de corps.

The motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is: Essayons. Let us try.

Let us try to even try, where the esprit de corps is concerned in this country of soreheads and fault-finders. There’s more than enough to be sore about, and to find fault with — but let us try to use our heads to find solutions to the plethora of problems that have been decades in the making in a nation whose citizenry was systematically lied to by leaders who are not really leaders.

I find myself getting disgusted by those gratuitous swipes, made by civilians who know not, and care not to know, the immense rigors and pressures, dangers and drawbacks of the extraordinary demands of honorably serving the United States of America in a military capacity, or even in a civilian one.

The respect for the military in this nation has been ravaged for over fifty years by citizens who are ignorant of their own history; and by their disregard for the realities of the unique universe that constitutes our armed services. To some degree, that pernicious shallowness is due to the Baby Boomer culture that sought to destroy the world their parents had so nobly protected and defended from annihilation by: Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, and, then, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachov.

The United States armed forces form a rather large, and revered, part of that world. It’s no accident that the end of the Cold War ushered into the U.S. the first Baby Boomer President, a lecherous loafer who loathed the military almost as much as he loathes women. The world of America is now in the throes of fighting for her life, to survive all of the ills, perils, and illegalities brought to her, some through fancy engraved invitations, after Ike left the White House.

The world in which Dwight David Eisenhower was born was a young nation, trying to recover from an appalling civil war. This man would serve as the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe in World War II. He would then return from his victorious role in that war to a nation that was tremendously altered by six years of battle and bloodshed. Eisenhower was not out of touch with this America, a fairly young nation that had played enormous, even pivotal, parts in winning two world wars for democratic nations. He was, rather, a prudent man who foresaw the dangers of a still-young, and inexperienced, nation forging dynamic pathways around the globe.

That military-industrial complex, the warning he so prophetically granted to his beloved nation, that clubby symbiosis has developed into the military-technological complex. The pitfalls, and the downfalls, of that ginormous system of wealth-creation do not reside in that lucrative alliance between private enterprise and government bureaucracy. That domain will always be populated with powerful politicians and the often unscrupulously moneyed brokers of that political power.

Those pitfalls and downfalls lurk within the political system of a capitalist colossus that permits amoral financial titans to infest the halls of government, dominions of mortal man that must strive to be as sacrosanct as possible where the tax-money-lenders crawl, like corrupt cockroaches, all over that tarnished temple of the taxpayer: the U.S. Congress.

If a fat-cat is gonna get even fatter, feeding off of the well-padded flesh of a productive nation, he can at least profit in the best interests of that nation. Expecting fervent, teary-eyed patriotism might be too much to ask of a cold-blooded lizard with bank accounts far-flung around the globe, but that corporate pig ought to harbor some sense of gratitude to the men and women who died so that he can be free to amass even more millions from the war chests and commercial coffers of his nation.

That obscene status quo — of Big Business selling out its Home Base — exists in just about every money-making democracy on the face of the earth. It thrives most grotesquely, as the continuing crisis, in the greatest democracy on the face of the earth: The United States of America.

That continuing crisis has been caused by high-ranking rank politicians who would sell their own mothers, for a big enough price. Frankly, I’m not so sure that some of those rotten ringleaders haven’t already sold their mothers to the highest bidder.

A man named Ike didn’t put a price on the head of anyone, least of all, himself.

General Eisenhower, President Eisenhower, Ike — his names and missions were many during his tours of duty on this earth. He steadfastly remained the boy from Abilene who led his nation to victory overseas, and forged an unbreakable alliance with Le Général and his Free French Forces; even as his own Commander-in-Chief backstabbed this neophyte General Charles de Gaulle, and cut off at the knees any potential political rivals who posed a threat to this power-loving President. The baneful effects of those tawdry acts of pettiness, committed by a courageous U.S. President, live on to this very day., abroad, and at home.

The future of America depends on her prevailing over those legitimate suspicions of the past, and of the present. And triumphing over an illegitimate Commander-in-Chief.

The keys to that future of America are the keys that have always served her well: the courage of her people, and their unyielding demands that their elected leaders, most crucially the President and Commander-in-Chief, not only live up to the courage of the citizenry, but exceed such valor. For any person to lead another, not to mention an entire nation, he must possess nobility of character, generosity of spirit, and a heart that beats true for the red, white, and blue.

He must own the keys to his own conscience, which must be an impregnable vault beyond reproach. He must be the sterling emblem of all that is right within this nation, not the foul image of all that has gone wrong. Therein is the key to the shining future of a nation that has yearned for more than several decades to move forward to fulfill the magnificent destiny that was envisioned by those valiant men and women who died to make her free.

Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a memoir, of sorts, with the telling title: at ease - Stories I tell to friends. This book was first published in 1967, two years before the death of this heroic man. Chapter III is entitled The Key to the Closet. The first section is presented in text below, with my reading of the words that were, indeed, actually composed by this American commander, general, President and Commander-in-Chief.

Key to the Closet v2

The Key to the Closet

My first reading love was ancient history. At an early age, I developed an interest in the human record and I became particularly fond of Greek and Roman accounts. Those subjects were so engrossing that I frequently was guilty of neglecting all others. My mother’s annoyance at this indifference to the mundane life of chores and assigned homework grew until, despite her reverence for books, she took my volumes of history away and locked them in a closet.

This had the desired effect for a while. I suppose I gave a little more attention to arithmetic, spelling, and geography. But one day I found the key to that closet. Whenever Mother went to town to shop or was out working in her flower garden, I would sneak out the books.

Out of that closet and out of those books has come an odd result. Even to this day, there are many unrelated bits of information about Greece and Rome that stick in my memory. Some are dates. I have a sort of fixation that causes me to interrupt a conversation when the speaker is one year off, or a hundred, in dating an event like Arbela; and often I put aside a book, until then interesting enough, when the author is less than scrupulous with chronology.

In any case, the battles of Marathon, Zama, Salamis, and Cannae become as familiar to me as the games (and battles) I enjoyed with my brothers and friends in the school yard. In later years, the movies taught children that the bad guy was the one in the black hat. Such people as Hannibal, Caesar, Pericles, Socrates, Themistocles, Miltiades, and Leonidas were my white hats, my heroes. Xerxes, Darius, Alcibiades, Brutus, and Nero were black ones. White or black, their names and those battles were fresh news as far as I was concerned for I could never seem to get it into my head that all these things had happened two thousand years earlier — or that possibly I would be better advised to pay at least a little attention to current, rather than ancient, affairs. Among all the figures of antiquity, Hannibal was my favorite.

This bias came about because I read one day that no account of Carthaginian history was ever written by a friendly hand. Everything we knew about Carthage, about Hamilcar and his lion’s brood — of which Hannibal was one — was written by an enemy. For a great man to come down through history with his only biographers in the opposite camp is a considerable achievement. Moreover, Hannibal always seemed to be an underdog, neglected by his own government, and fighting during most of his active years in the territory of his deadly and powerful enemy. Though I later came to recognize that unless Rome had survived the Punic Wars, Western civilization might easily have disappeared from the earth, my initial championship of Hannibal continued throughout my youth.

In this I was, undoubtedly, much like the young people of all times. Lost causes arouse their sympathy more intensely than overwhelming success begets their admiration. Because they are soon the chief customers in the literary market, and sometimes the chief contributors to it, this youthful attitude, always for the underdog, may very well affect the writing of history both in quantity and in tone.

In the literature of our own Civil War, Lee, for example, bulks larger in the sympathy and even veneration accorded him than Grant, the ultimate victor. Jeb Stuart, who died in battle, outshines Phil Sheridan, who, just as daring, suffered no serious wound. And Lincoln, struck down when his hardest challenge was still before him, has always excited more study and more books than Washington, who could validly claim that all his public responsibilities had been met and fully discharged.

Since those early years, history of all kinds, and certainly political and military, has always intrigued me mightily. When a historical novel is well written and documented, I am apt to spend the whole evening in its reading. The campaigns of the more modern leaders — Frederick, Napoleon, Gustavus Adolphus, and all of our prominent American soldiers and statesmen — I found absorbing.

When I got around to the Americans, Washington was my hero. I never tired of reading about his exploits at Princeton, at Trenton, and particularly in Valley Forge. I conceived almost a violent hatred of Conway and his cabal and could not imagine anyone so stupid and so unpatriotic as to have wanted to remove Washington from command of the American Army. The qualities that excited my admiration were Washington’s stamina and patience in adversity, first, and then his indomitable courage, daring, and capacity for self-sacrifice.

The beauty of his character always impressed me. While the cherry tree story may be pure legend, his Farewell Address, his counsels to his countrymen, on the occasions such as his speech at Newburgh to the rebellious officers of the Army, exemplified the human qualities I frankly idolized.

If, in Abilene, I never became as involved in the Civil War, this was because it was relatively recent. After all, when Abilene’s men and women, and boys for that matter, talked about “the war,” they meant the struggle between North and South, that had ended only twenty-five years before I was born. There were hundreds in the town who remembered the war’s beginning; its major campaigns and crises and figures; the ebb and flow of battle that had reached from the Atlantic into our state; the downfall of the Confederacy; the assassination of Lincoln. For them, these events were not yet history. In Abilene, as in other American towns of that time, scores of men still in their fifties and early sixties who ran local businesses, worked nearby farms, or practiced the professions, were veterans of the war. Closeness to it in time made that war appear commonplace to me; in any event, romance, adventure, and chivalry seemed characteristic of the conflicts of earlier centuries.

Looking back, I realize that in reading about Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, and, later, about the British and French, I was dealing largely with conquerors, battles, and dramatic events. Of course, I could read also about scholars and philosophers, but they seldom loomed so large in my mind as warriors and monarchs. Yet history is not made merely of the big names or by startling actions, but also by the slow progress of millions and millions of people. They contribute to the creation of reputations and to the moments of history itself.