On a bitterly cold day in mid-January, 1842, British soldiers manning the garrison at Jalalabad on the Afghan frontier saw a strange sight. Out of the snowy wasteland rode a single man, badly wounded, on a dying horse. His name, he told the soldiers, was William Brydon.
In May 1970, news was made at Ohio's Kent State University when campus police and the National Guard attempted to wrest control from out-of-control students. The collective temper-tantrum ignited a full-blown coup that had been some 30 years in the making.
In the country of Mt. Ararat, where the Bible says Noah’s Ark rested when the Great Flood subsided, there now is news of the discovery of the world’s oldest leather shoe. First announced on the plosone.org scientific website, the moccasin-looking shoe is made of cowhide, cut into two layers, and tanned with plant or vegetable oil. A leather cord is used to lace the shoe along front and back seams through leather eyelets.
The proud Roman general stood with his commanders and retinue as the wild hillsmen, dressed in the ragged but still-flamboyant clothes of corsairs, fell before him in turn, begging for clemency. It was about 75 B.C. in the rugged hills near Coracesium in Cilicia, an untamed region along the coast of southwestern Asia Minor, and the Cilician pirates, possibly the most successful race of brigands the world has ever seen, were surrendering to the Roman general Pompey.
Amtrak and its lobbyists at the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) recently invited us to commemorate the third annual National Train Day on May 8. Supposedly celebrating “America’s love for trains,” the day could not boast a more ironic host than the railroad nobody rides. Worse, Amtrak’s sponsorship was as shameless as Dracula’s funding a fashion show concentrating on décolletage: The government that owns Amtrak has sabotaged, subsidized, and sucked the life from American railroads since the industry’s inception.
Since the days when Mark Antony’s grandfather patrolled the coasts of the Mediterranean searching for the distinctive gilded-stemmed masts of their lightweight vessels, pirates from Cilicia (modern-day Cukorova, Turkey) had vexed Roman shipping lanes.
Studs Terkel called World War II the “good war.” If any war could be called good, then the Second World War is at least a candidate. However, it should be remembered that until the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, 70-80 percent or more of Americans in poll after poll said they wanted nothing to do with the war that was raging in the Far East or with the one that had erupted in Europe — and for good reason. By the 1930s it seemed that the death of tens of thousands of American boys during the Great War had been for naught. We were determined not to become entangled in yet another war overseas serving the interests of other nations.
Item: The New York Times for March 22 reported: “Now that landmark legislation overhauling the health insurance system is about to become law, addressing Social Security’s solvency could well become the next big thing for President Obama and Congressional Democrats.” Social Security, said Jackie Calmes of the Times, “now stands as the likeliest source of the large savings needed to bring projected annual deficits to sustainable levels, many budget analysts agree.”
Who was the “brilliant child of the wind and waves” who fired the inaugural volley at the Royal Navy’s pride by being the first to engage and capture an armed British warship, the Edward, during our War for Independence? Not sure? Here are a few hints: It was the same captain who fought the last naval skirmish of that long and bitter struggle for freedom, who held the record for the fastest American warship during the Revolution, and who was instrumental in the establishment of a permanent, separate American Navy.
One of the 19th century’s most famous poets, Lord Byron, compressed into two lines of immortal verse an essential truth about how self-respecting men and women need to live: “Know yet not? / Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” José Rizal, hero of Filipino independence, made the same point still more graphically: “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.” Similar sentiments can be found in the literature of other lands. A Romanian proverb runs: “Whether one dies young or old, death is always the same. But it is not at all the same whether one dies like a lion or dies like a dog.”