January 16, 2012
It is a wonderful coincidence that Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday comes the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While the two essentially ran in different circles, as it were, both were amazing parts of a time that saw America change dramatically for the better.
While yesterday saw Americans look to King’s words and actions, all would be remiss to overlook what Ali did to change social and cultural norms in the United States.
In some ways, Ali was a direct link to Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion. Johnson was proud to be a Black man long before such an attitude would be accepted in the United States. And for that, he would pay a high price. For more than a half-century after Johnson rose to the top of the boxing world, Black fighters learned an important lesson – if you want to last in boxing, it is best to let your fists do the talking.
Ali, however, was not to be quieted. Not at all. But herein lies the difference between Johnson and Ali. While Johnson was loud and proud, his actions tended to be for the benefit of himself. Ali burst into the public consciousness in the turbulent 1960s and – with great humor and personality – was a man of his times. He was thoughtful and intelligent, and evolved into a man who understood and thrived on his place in changing times.
Much has been written of Ali’s journey and it is not necessary to recap his life and actions here. He was, without a doubt, a controversial figure during controversial times and he was an imperfect man. But he brought a pride to the African-American community like no other athlete before or since. He changed how many Americans – both Black and White – felt about themselves, their communities and their country. And as his career progressed, he became a man beloved and respected by nearly all.
Ali’s pride, strength and determination were the only things that spoke louder than himself. And his effect on the American psyche is still being felt today.
Happy 70th birthday, champ.
January 12, 2010
Note: This is the first effort in what I will be calling the “Chronicles” which will be essays that will hopefully create a running theme over time. There is no order for these and I have a lot of different subjects to write about, and will be delving more into myself personally, as well. This series will continue, once or twice per week, here at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles.
Chronicles: The Kindness of German Strangers
My Father and I arrived in Germany 85 years after my grandfather had left. Stuck in a depressed, post-WWI Germany, my great-grandfather had left for the United State three years earlier and brought them over in 1924. After years of dallying with a related amount of dillying, my Father and I finally made the trip to see Naila, Germany, the small town (less than 9,000 residents) where my grandfather played and lived as a child. They call Naila and the surrounding area the “Bavarian Siberia,” and it didn’t disappoint. Snow to your knees, a chill in the air. Sausages lining the streets. Yes, this was Germany. We had made it back to our ancestoral homelands, and we were going to meet some long-lost family members.
Prior to our trip, we had been in contact with Hans Wolfrum, a teacher and amateur genealogist, who confirmed that many in the area were related to us one way or another. This was of particular interest to me, because in my 42 years, I’ve met very few relatives from the Wolfrum side of the family. And now here I was in Naila, the city my wife called the “Wolfrum Mecca.” Just walking down the street in Naila, I’d see Wolfrum Autohaus and Wolfrum Granite. After years of being the only Wolfrum around, I was finally surrounded by them.
January 3, 2010
Quite often, I sit around the house reflecting on my own genius. These are times of focused contemplation. They are also times that usually take, say, 42 seconds or so.
Because all I need to do is look toward my family to see true genius. Take for instance my Mother-in-Law Raquel Arantes and my cousin Simone Bischoff.
Raquel is an extraordinarily gifted artist, and has developed a unique tool that is making the wine world swoon. Her Wine Aerator manages to be a breakthrough in a business as old as time itself.
November 20, 2008
Finally, the controversy over the exact number of testicles belonging to Adolf Hitler can be put to rest. Hitler was monorchic. We have a witness:
AN extraordinary account from a German army medic has finally confirmed what the world long suspected: Hitler only had one ball.
War veteran Johan Jambor made the revelation to a priest in the 1960s, who wrote it down.
The priest’s document has now come to light – 23 years after Johan’s death.
Until now there has never been complete proof Hitler was monorchic – the medical term for having one testicle.
But the document tells how Johan saw the proof with his own eyes. In the account, he relives the horror of serving as an army medic in World War I.
“Today in America we are witnessing a repeat performance of the tragedy of 1933 when an entire nation let itself be led like a lamb to the Socialist slaughterhouse. This time, the end of freedom is inevitable unless America rises to her mission and destiny.”
August 12, 2008
2008: Not Racist
Racist? Are you kidding me?? How could this be construed as racist? Stop being so politically correct! You’re the racist for noticing. Have a sense of humor. Hot chicks dig Obama. Nothing racist to see here. And don’t even get started on the imaginary “sexism” you think you’re seeing. Just move along, you silly liberals. Honestly, where do you get this stuff?
July 18, 2008
The most heinous act of terrorism was committed 1,944 years, today. It was July 18, 64. Little Romans were comfortably sleeping as their parents chatted amiably about current events. But everything was about to change.
Nero told all around him that history would judge him fondly.
And no, Nero did not fiddle while Rome burned. Such an instrument wasn’t even available and Nero wasn’t in Rome. But he rushed to the damaged areas, consoling those heroic Romans who had been wounded and vowing revenge on the Christianists who had tried to destroy the city and Roman will.
Nero wasted little time, torturing confessions out of them, crucifying them, feeding them to dogs and using them as candles. The Christians were savages who hated freedom and demanded that all worship their God. They only understood force, and that’s what Nero showed them. The Christianists had been destroyed.
And all was well again in Rome and patriotic Romans danced and sang for the next couple of hundred years, until the Christians eventually took over and the whole Roman Empire collapsed.
June 18, 64. Never Forget.
August 29, 2007
Today is two years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. President George W. Bush has made his way to the still fall-from-recovered region, so he can get his picture taken a few times and head back to Washington to work on more war plans. “War presidents” aren’t concerned about things like destroyed U.S. cities, as the past two years have shown us.
Over at Blogging New Orleans, however, Kelly Leahy, Mike Schleifstein and others are engaging in a 24-hour blogathon, sharing their thoughts on a wide range of subjects from John Edwards introducing the “Brownie’s Law” which will force federal jobs to be given only to those with the proper experience and abilities, to a special national crisis hotline for those who still struggle with the memories of the devastation.
Make it a point to head over to Blogging New Orleans, and/or leave other sites or posts commemorating New Orleans in comments. You can also find an entire list of blogs from and about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast by clicking here. And over at AmericaBlog, Pam Spaulding highlights a couple more, Voices from the Gulf and Colorofchange.org.
The federal government wants you to forget about New Orleans and other locations destroyed by Katrina. Thanks to bloggers like these and others, we’ll always remember.
August 3, 2007
When Tom Tancredo stood up in a coffee shop in Iowa and told the two dozen or so collected diners that he believed the U.S. should respond to an attack by Islamic extremists by bombing Mecca, it wasn’t just the surrealistic ramblings of a politician with no concern of human life. It was also a perfect example of just how far America has fallen from the path laid out by the Founding Fathers.
It was but a few months more than 230 years ago that Gen. George Washington made a decision at Drakes Farm in New Jersey that would help shape the ideal to so many that the United States was the greatest nation on Earth.
During the American Revolution, there was a battle of American against British and Hessian soldiers. The Americans were forced to retreat, and left seven wounded soldiers on the field of battle. One of them, Lt. William Kelly offered to surrender to the British. His offer was refused.
When the British took over the field after the battle, they brutally murdered each of the wounded American soldiers.
When word of this reached Gen. Washington, he stood firm and made it clear to his men – we will not do this to them. “We are fighting for a cause. And our cause demands we behave with honor.”
As the war continued and the tide turned, Americans took more and more German and British prisoners of war. And they were all treated respectfully and humanely. Gen. Washington’s words were heeded, and Americans were honorable in their treatment of POWs.
The nation was in peril, the ink on the Declaration of Independence was not yet dry, and Americans fought for their very survival against the most fierce armies on the planet. And America won. And did so with honor.
In the end, nearly 25 percent of the Germans who fell in to American hands on the field of battle chose to stay in the new nation. This story is well retold at NPR’s podcast “Krulwich on Science” with Robert Krulwich and historian David Hackett Fisher.
Click here to head over to NPR to download the podcast, and listen for yourself about the America that Washington and his fellow founders fought for more than two centuries ago. And compare it to the blood-thirsty, torturing, paranoid and fearful nation the U.S. is today.
“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience,” Washington has been quoted as saying.
It is time we look back and remember we were once an honorable nation.
July 26, 2007
It’s been long known that Prescott Bush – the President’s grandfather – was an extremely dishonorable man. That he was a fascist who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government and have the U.S. join forces with Hitler and Mussolini, just show the depth of the despicableness of the Bush patriarch.
From Boing Boing:
The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.
Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.
Click here to go to the BBC site and listen to the report.
July 26, 2007
It is easy to allow history to to repeat itself when they stop teaching history.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
April 16, 2007
Millions of Israelis stood in silence today, as 10 a.m. marked Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day. In Poland, thousands of Jews commemorated the day by touring Auschwitz. In the U.S., it is Holocaust Days of Remembrance from April 15-22.
About half the world’s 500,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel, and they are dying at a rate of 2,000 a month. In the not so distant future, we will be living in a world without witnesses to one of man’s greatest atrocities.
But we will likely be stuck with those willing to compare themselves to the victims.
Comparing ones own travails to the plight of Holocaust victims has continued to be in vogue, especially amongst some prominent Americans whose lives couldn’t be any more different than those who were brutally enslaved, tortured and murdered for merely existing.
Tom DeLay is adamant that he believes his treatment – for breaking campaign finance laws – equates him with Holocaust victims:
I am so outraged by this whole criminalization of politics. It’s not good enough to defeat somebody politically. It’s not even good enough to vilify somebody publicly. They have to carpet bomb you with lies and made up scandals and false charges and indicting you on laws that don’t exist. … It’s the same thing as I say in my book, that the Nazis used. When you use the big lie in order to gain and maintain power, it is immoral and it is outrageous…
It’s the same process. It’s the same criminalization of politics. it’s the same oppression of people. It’s the same destroy people in order to gain power. It may be six million Jews. it may be indicting somebody on laws that don’t exist. But, it’s the same philosophy and it’s the same world view.
And former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has no problem equating those against his push for a theocratic United States with Nazis:
As America and other nations try to “set themselves” against the laws of God, we increase the risk of repeating the lessons of history. When our thoughts turn toward the horrors of the Holocaust this weekend, let us not forget that the Nazis at Nuremberg were held accountable because of the higher law of God to which all nations, at all times, are subject.
Those like DeLay and Moore who are quick to accuse others of Nazi-like atrocities and try to paint themselves into the narrative of Holocaust survivor are not only showing a basic ignorance and narcissism for comparing their plight to the slaughter of millions, but also making a firm stand to deny what Holocaust Days of Remembrance is about.
As Manfred Gerstenfeld wrote in yesterday’s Jerusalem Post (Courtesy Yid with Lid):
Yet another category is the trivialization of Holocaust memory in recent years. This manifests itself in applications of language relating the industrialized murder of the Jews to other matters – transgressions of international law, environmental problems, abortion and animal slaughter – which bear no similarity to this genocide.
If a day to remember the Holocaust is anything, it’s a chance to remember the actors in that insidious play. The story has been told many times, including in such books as Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” In such works you can find the true stories of what those in the Holocaust suffered.
To insert oneself into the Holocaust narrative is narcissistic to the point of being inhuman. But while the DeLays, Moores and other footnotes of modern politics will always try and insinuate their insignificant acts into the Holocaust, we are still a world that has actual survivors of those horrifying times.
So while we still can, the best way to remember the Holocaust is by listening to the stories of those who lived through it. And to ignore and disparage those wishing to compare their plight to a genocide.
Crossposted at Shakesville
December 18, 2006
Last night, CBS’ 60 Minutes had a terrific segemnet on Bad Arolsen – a city in Germany that warehoused more than 50 million Holocaust-related documents. They have found everything from the actual List of Schindler, to paperwork charting Anne Frank’s actual demise. It is a brilliant segment that you can watch here, at CBS’s Web site.
It is an awesome collection, highlighting the evil of the Nazis. Those that attended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference last week would surely find reason to desperately cast doubt on the findings, but the truth is simple – as their mouths closed, they and their supporters have yet again been shown to be simpleminded racist, hatemongers.
Here is what some bloggers are saying about the long-fought-for release of this astounding collection of documents:
The Moderate Voice: Ahmadinejad Should Visit Bad Arolsen
Tracing the Tribe: “60 Minutes” and the long-secret Bad Arolsen records
EOGN’s Other News: Anne Frank: In vast Holocaust archive, one name stands out
Democracy Frontline: Revisiting the horrors of that event that never happened
September 25, 2006
Hello everyone, and welcome to “Great Moments in Bringing Democracy to the World” the blog that asks the question: “Hey, why do you morons hate us, anyway?”
In today’s episode, we look back on “Turkey’s war on the Kurds.” Here, we look back to the year 1999. Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” had everyone wishing they were Latin, while the U.S. helped bring Democracy to Turkey, one dead and/or homeless Kurd at a time.
Since 1980 the United States has sold or given Turkey–a NATO ally–$15 billion worth of weapons. In the last decade the Turkish army has leveled, burned, or forcibly evacuated more than 3,000 Kurdish villages. That is roughly three-quarters the number of Kurdish settlements destroyed in Iraq in the 1980s during Saddam Hussein’s infamous “Anfal” campaign, when the West was arming Iraq and turning a blind eye to widespread human rights violations.
The administration conceded that the Turkish policy had forced more than two million Kurds from their homes. Some of the villages were evacuated and burned, bombed, or shelled by government forces to deprive the PKK of a “logistical base of operations,” according to the State Department report, while others were targeted because their inhabitants refused to join the “village guards,” a brutal military tactic–patterned on the Vietnam-era “model villages” program–that requires civilian Kurds to fight Kurdish guerrillas.
Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog group, said the State Department had issued only “half conclusions” in its report, so as to avoid offending the Turkish government. Human Rights Watch, which has also criticized the PKK rebels for serious rights violations, said the U.S.-supplied Turkish army was “responsible for the majority of forced evacuation and destruction of villages.”
In a 1998 interview, John Shattuck, the assistant secretary of state for human rights, defended U.S. arms deliveries to Turkey. Shattuck, a one-time professor at Harvard and a former member of the advisory board at Amnesty International, said that although abuses against Kurds were “a matter of grave concern” to the United States, Turkey’s human rights record was improving. And in any case, he added, “I don’t think the United States is responsible for Turkey’s internal policies.”
Join us next week on “Great Moments in Bringing Democracy to the World” as we head to Nicaragua to enjoy some Oxtail stew, served from the skulls of dead, Democratically-enhanced Nicaraguans.