I was at Nationals Park on Saturday, enjoying a sunny, summer day; appreciating the Nat’s celebration of the anniversary of D-Day; and joining in the banter of friends – new and long-time – that can only come when you have 3+ hours to sit and chat between pitches. One of those friends opined that a bad day at the ballpark (the Nats lost) is still better than almost any other day. So count that as the first observation in a series of unrelated thoughts in this “June Weekend” edition of Observations From Home. As noted before, you can take them or leave them.
Remembering D-Day – Saturday was June 6th, and a series of WWII veterans – many who saw action at Normandy in June of 1944 – were honored at the ballpark and helped throw out the first pitch. I’ve written about these heroes before – including one who lives next door – but it is becoming very clear that we have only a few more years before this generation passes on to its reward. Every chance we get to celebrate the sacrifice they made, we should take it. It was an honor to stand and cheer for these veterans yesterday.
Take the bike ride – This afternoon, I was weighing a nap versus a bike ride. I took the bike ride – about 90 minutes along the Capital Crescent Trail (our unpaved, non-superhighway side from Silver Spring to Bethesda). It was beautiful, with a gentle breeze and – surprisingly – not too many users on the trail. I love our bike trails – the Capital Crescent and Sligo Creek trails being the two I ride most often. I know what is usually the right choice between a nap and a bike ride. Take the bike ride.
Thank God it is only June – I’ll circle back to the Nationals. After a couple of weeks of lackluster play against the Reds, Blue Jays, and Cubs, we all have to stop and remember that it is only June. (Perhaps some of the Nats should join the “Yoga in the Outfield” promotion that is taking place right about now following yet another Nats loss to the Cubs.) I hope that F.P. (one of the Nats’ television announcers) is right about the team only playing well when the weather warms up. This late-May, early-June coolness certainly cooled off the bats. As part of the banter among our section at the park yesterday, my friend Dolores – who is part of my season ticket group and who I’ll join for 2 or 3 games each year – was talking about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. She made the comment that she has “had it” with Strasburg and all his injuries and issues, and noted that “One is headstrong and the other’s a head case.” The headstrong one was fine by her (and me). I’m not ready to write Strasburg off, but it is tough…as Tom Boswell recently noted:
When I watch Strasburg pitch on his funk days, a dark cloud passes across my mind. I feel the same mean desire to say, “Million-dollar arm, ten-cent head” that swept over me when I watched the early years of other young underachievers: Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven and Randy Johnson. In moments of lucidity, I would realize that their “makeup” — in different ways — was blocking peak performance. Plenty of their early managers and teammates saw them as “head cases,” too. All got ripped for years. None were cut slack. (Now they’re all in the Hall of Fame.)
Okay, time to come back to the ballpark and do it again. It is a long season.
Did the American Civil War Ever End? – One of the best sustained remembrances of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has been the “Disunion” series in the New York Times. I hadn’t focused on the fact that the editor – Ted Widmer – was the assistant to the President of Brown University, or I might have looked him up when we were there for Andrew’s graduation a couple of weeks ago.
In any event, Widmer wrote a piece last week for the series that asked the question, “Did the American Civil War Ever End?” It is well worth a read. Here’s a sample, where Widmer speaks about the impact of a huge number of veterans and the unintended consequences of the huge number of guns:
Many veterans retained their sidearms, including Confederate officers, and weapons were easily available, thanks to an arms industry that had done great service to the Union cause. They could hardly be expected to voluntarily go out of business. With new products (like Winchester’s Model 1866 rifle), sophisticated distribution networks and a public eager to buy, the industry entered a highly profitable phase. Winchester’s repeating rifles needed hardly any time for reloading, and sold briskly in Europe, where American arms tipped the balance in local conflicts.
The Winchester was easily transported to the West, where new military campaigns were undertaken against Native Americans, and few could be blamed for wondering if the Civil War had in fact ended. Many of the same actors were present, and it could be argued that this was simply another phase of the crisis of Union, reconciling East and West, rather than North and South.
This tragic epilogue does not fit cleanly into the familiar narrative of the Civil War as a war of liberation. Peoples who had lived on ancestral lands for thousands of years were no match for a grimly experienced army, eager to occupy new lands, in part to reward the soldiers who had done the fighting.
Natives called the repeating rifles “spirit guns,” and had no answer for them. They fought courageously, but in the end had no choice but to accept relocation, often to reservations hundreds of miles away. Adolf Hitler would cite these removals as a precedent for the Nazi concentration camps.
Take the time to read this piece. It will make you think.
More to come…