Smedley Darlington Butler: What a True American Hero Looks Like

by W.D. Ehrhart I went through Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, in the summer of 1966. We learned all sorts of things that summer, but one thing we learned was the names of the two Marines who had each won not one, but two Medals of Honor: Dan Daly and Smedley Butler. Butler would have received three Medals of Honor if the award had been available to officers during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 China. Every enlisted man on a patrol he led as a teenaged lieutenant received one, but he was instead awarded the Marine Corps Brevet Medal, the highest …

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Who was Smedley Darlington Butler, and why is he important?

Many Americans can’t believe that political coups are part of our country’s history—but consider from the Wall Street Putsch of 1933. Never heard of it? It was a corporate conspiracy to oust Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had just been elected president. With the Great Depression raging and millions of families financially devastated, FDR had launched several economic recovery programs to help people get back on their feet. To pay for this crucial effort, he had the audacity to raise taxes on the wealthy, and this enraged a group of Wall Street multimillionaires. Wailing that their “liberty” to grab as much wealth as possible was being …

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Ominous Clouds Are Gathering

No more excuses! Forced into isolation by the pandemic, we now have the time and space to “to think what we are doing,” as Hannah Arendt long ago urged. Arendt, perhaps the foremost political philosopher of the 20th century, observed that in the past we didn’t have to think: “tradition, religion, and authority told us how to behave and defined our moral options of right and wrong, the mass of humanity did not need to think for themselves…” However, nowadays, she wrote, its a free-for-all, with no guard rails on how we should act. “Adrift in a world in which everything and anything is possible, …

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As American as Apple Pie

For much of my adult life, I have taught high school English and history, most recently including eighteen years at the Haverford School for Boys in suburban Philadelphia, retiring in June 2019 at the age of 70. In my U.S. History course, I always teach a unit I call “Race in America,” which begins with the first shipload of Africans arriving in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, and goes right up to Rosa Parks and the modern Civil Rights Movement. I sugarcoat nothing. We cover slave life on the plantation with its whippings and brandings and castrations and amputations, the almost infinitely repeated rape of female …

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Echoes of 1942

Somewhere in my house is an envelope containing my grandfather’s World War II certificate for a Class C gas-rationing sticker. I last saw it a quarter of a century ago, before my father tucked it away again, probably in one of the trunks in the upstairs closets. Gasoline was one of the first commodities rationed by the Office of Price Administration after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They called it “mileage” rationing, and gasoline was not the item they were saving. What we were lacking was rubber, since the Japanese had taken early control of the rubber plantations of Southeast Asia. Metal soon became scarce, …

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Beware a of a Trump Coup!

These mass protests against systemic racism are driving Donald Trump plumb crazy! Of course, that’s a pretty short drive for him. He would be hilarious if his buffoonery was not so dangerous and destructive. For example, he had peaceful protesters gassed, clubbed, and shoved out of the public square across from the White House so he could walk out and pose stone-faced with a Bible, as some sort of political stunt. Especially dangerous, though, is the craven willingness of our top military officials to play along with his infantile attempts to appear manly. When Trump strutted out to do his little Bible photo-op, guess who …

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