Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Let's Play Nice Mr. Chocolate!

I spend all summer with bears – although I almost never see them. Each night before I retire to my room of heavy logs, three stories above the forest floor, I kick the crew out of the lodge and send them out to their tents and tepees. Then I make my daring dash to the generator shed. It’s at that time that I think most about bears. I know they are out there just beyond the circle of light, with slobbering jaws, big empty stomachs and long, long claws. I flip the breaker, and wait a couple of minuets for the oil to settle out of the engine. I pull the door shut – just in case. Then I switch off the generator and make a mad dash back to the safety of the kitchen door; the giant grizzly of my imagination lumbering behind me.

Now let’s talk about Timothy Treadwell. For thirteen years this “fellow” spent his summers sitting a few feet from some Alaskan grizzly bears. He claimed to be protecting them from poachers – though the park authorities who had charge of them say they were never in danger. And for five years he filmed the entire idiocy; a kind of Crocodile Hunter of the tundra. I have not seen the movie so I must quote from Louis Witting of the National Review Online’s article “Grizzly Love” Aug 24, 2005:

“He [Treadwell] crouches in the bushes as two behemoths tear each other apart, then creeps up on the loser, within easy range of a paw swat, and gives it his post-fight analysis. He crawls within whispering distance of the bears, calls them by their names – Mr. Chocolate, Aunt Melissa, Sergeant Brown – and tells them how much he loves them . . . At the end of his 13th summer among the bears, federal park rangers found the majority of Treadwell, and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, in the gastrointestinal track of a male grizzly.”

Mr. Chocolate I believe – who had to be executed to retrieve the four garbage bags full of body parts.

I have four bears of my own, all dead. I love them – they make great decorations. Two are skulls; one at home the other on one of my classroom book shelves, and two are hides for hanging on the Lodge wall at camp. I also have a bear scalp, I souldn't forget that! I have eagerly contributed to the capture of two bears at Camp over the years. I enjoyed very much seeing them hauled off in traps made of chunks of culvert to parts of the forest where hunters would soon turn them into pot-roasts and wall hangings.

I spend a good deal of each summer keeping the bear attractants of 250 campers locked up in big steal boxes, and tamping bags of ash and rot into the bear resistant dumpsters a mile up the hill from my nice safe bed.

My point in all this – any eleven year old Boy Scout knows that bears are deadly dangerous – not cuddly friends for pet names and petting. Those who are dumb enough to make touchy-feely with grizzly bears will end up in garbage bags.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Three Missiles That Missed

The radio reporter’s voice was tense with excitement. “Today,” he gushed, “the US Navy faced its most serious attack since the onset of hostilities. Three missiles were fired at American Navel vessels anchored in the Gulf of Aqaba.” Then in a recognizably disappointed undertone, “All missed!” He then went on to explain the gravity of this attack and described the horrific damage done to the empty warehouse and deserted street where the misguided missiles landed.

The inept, bumbling murders with which our military is now engaged are hardly worthy to be called enemy combatants. Their miserable attempt at war – while painful to those precious heroes who suffer - pale in comparison to the damage done to our countrymen by drunk drivers, slips down stairwells, or falls from kitchen stools. I don’t dismiss the danger of drunk drivers and celebrate the nationwide efforts to crack down on them this Labor Day holiday, but they hardly seem capable of bringing Western Civilization to its knees.

Consider these statistics from some wars in which we faced truly powerful opponents. At the battle of Verdun; the defense of the city lasted from February 21 – July of 1916. French casualties totaled about 315,000, while the Germans lost 280,000, killed or wounded. The city was all but destroyed. At the Battle of the Somme, between July and November of the same year; over 600,000 Germans, 400,000 Brits and 200,000 French became casualties. Total Casualties in WWI.

The Allies: Dead- Wounded

Belgium: 14,000 - 44,700
British Empire: 908,400 - 2,090,200
France: 1,384,000 - 4,266,000
Greece: 5,000 - 21,000
Italy: 650,000 - 947,000
Portugal: 7,200 - 13,800
Romania: 335,700 - 120,000
Russian: 1,700,000 - 4,950,000
Serbia and Montenegro: 48,000 - 143,000
United States: 116,516 - 234,428

The Central Powers

Austria-Hungary: 1,200,000 - 3,620,000
Bulgaria: 87,000 - 152,400
Germany: 1,773,000 - 4,216,000
Ottoman Empire: 325,000 - 400,000

Total Casualties in WWII

The Allies: Dead - Wounded

Australia: 23,365 - 39,803
Belgium: 7,760 - 14,500
Canada: 37,476 - 53,174
China: 2,200,000 - 1,762,000
France: 210,671 - 390,000
Great Britain: 329,208 - 348,403
Poland: 320,000 - 530,000
Soviet Union: 7,500,000 - 5,000,000
United States: 405,399 - 671,278

The Axis

Austria: 380,000 - 350,117
Bulgaria: 10,000 - 21,878
Finland: 82,000 - 50,000
Germany: 3,500,000 - 7,250,000
Hungary: 140,000 - 89,313
Italy: 77,494 - 120,000
Japan: 1,219,000 - 295,247
Romania: 300,000 - ?

These figures are all military casualties and are from The World Book Encyclopedia 1994. The encyclopedia also sites the following on Civilian casualties: “No one knows how many civilians died as a direct result of World War II. Bombing raids destroyed many of the records needed to estimate those deaths. In addition, millions of people died in fires, of diseases, and of other causes after such essential services as fire fighting and health care broke down in war-torn areas. The Soviet Union and China suffered the highest toll of civilian deaths during World War II. About 19 million Soviet civilians and as many as 10 million Chinese civilians died.”

On the first two days of the Normandy invasion there were 10,360 allied casualties, that’s 216 per hour. Of the 15, 500 American Airborne troopers whose sacrifice made the success of D-day possible 6,000 – that’s more than one in three – were killed or seriously wounded. On February 19th 1945, 250,000 American troops on 900 ships attacked the 23,000 Japanese defenders of Iwo Jima By the end of March 5,391 American Marines were dead and 17,400 were wounded. Only 216 of the Japanese survived the battle. In the battle for the tiny island of Okinawa, between April 1st and June 21st, 1945, kamikaze suicide bombers sank 30 ships and seriously damaged 350 others. By the end of the battle for Okinawa, 12,520 American troops had been killed 37,000 wounded and 110,000 Japanese were dead.

The World Book goes on to say that, “aerial bombing during WW II rained destruction on civilian as well as military targets. Many cities lay in ruins by the end of the war, especially in Germany and Japan. Bombs wrecked houses, factories, and transportation and communication systems. Land battles also spread destruction over vast areas. After the war, millions of starving and homeless people wandered among the ruins of Europe and Asia.” In other words, entire continents were laid waste by the monsters we fought and beat in WWII.

[I could point out that all this destruction was repaired by the generosity of the American People, but that should go without saying!]

My point - The barbarians we are now combating are in no way comparable to the giants we have met and matched in the past. This “war on terror”, while tragic, does not compare to the earth shaking conflicts of our father’s. Bin Laden’s band is a miserable little spider, poisonous perhaps – but no Shelob. The only significance they have has been given them by America’s enemies within; media types seeking bygone “glory” and politicians trying to derail America’s rediscovery of values so they can regain their control over the electorate. The terrorists can’t hit their targets – their missiles go astray and it’s up to the NPR to give them virulence. Without the constant scream of the press these Al-quida insects would remain less significant than so many rickety stepping stools.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thank You Justin

If you have not seen the stars in Lake of the Woods it will be hard for you to imagine how incredibly beautiful it is to be at the campfire bowl at my camp on a clear and moonless night. No wind, the lake turns from gold to black glass. Three weeks ago I was there. Beyond the glowing embers of the fading fires, two skies appeared; one above and one below, with Milky Way and friendly summer constellations, and all the stars I know. As the summer of 2005 wound down, I sat on the rocks and thought. My friends sang softly as the last scouts walked down the honor trail toward their tents in the pitch black forest, under hill. I had just watched a flag retired; listened as a perfect Boy Scout recited “The Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash. Then I listened as my sweet friend, so young to be so wise, talked about the rights and privileges, the obligations and responsibilities of being an American. We had sung the national anthem “one last time to that ragged old flag”; the big guns had boomed and echoed. Softly, Taps came back to the bugler across the lower sky. In the tower of flame the scouts had blinked back tears.

I had been thinking about the wonder of being an American, of belonging to a nation so wise and wonderful that it set aside vast tracts of wilderness to be the playgrounds of generations yet unborn. I was in wonder of its citizens, men and women I knew, who with incredible goodness “give up a week of vacation away from their families” to teach boys to love God’s creations as He made them. I thought of the friendship that makes camp worth attending, life worth living. I considered all my great staff members, this year, and years gone past, stretching back to when I was a little boy, and there was a different war. I was filled with gratitude for the parents that wait at home with clean beds and good food and great dreams for their sons. This night I was thinking of the friends that would be leaving the next day. CIT’s back home after weeks of service, a great friend from your youth, now a BYU professor, who had selflessly served for weeks on end as a Camp Commissioner; parking cars and fixing KYBOs and planning great adventures of little boys. That night we had with us the parents of a past staff member. They had spent all the hours of their week’s visit rebuilding our broken fire place and shoring up the lodge’s battered rails against the winter snow. I tried to craft words to thank these people; something to say as we stood arm in arm between the fires and underneath the lights of heaven. Then I remembered Justin. It was Justin’s parents who had built the fireplace and rail. For five years Justin had been one of my guys. He had led scouts across that desert island and through forest cathedrals decorated beyond the dreams of Michelangelo. And then I recollected that in a month Justin would be in Iraq, a US Marine at war!

How do you thank people for service done with love and joy? What do you say to a mother who sends her son to war? There, surrounded by my friends and precious family, there safe and free in a world of beauty beyond the dreams of kings; beauty that belongs to you and me, I could only think to say this: “To you dear parents of my dear friend, to my dear friend, who for a year has learned to carry his SAW rifle and his 120 lbs of battle gear, THANK YOU!” To my new friends, realize that all this beauty, this friendship, this joy of service, the chance to teach the young and support the old, this beautiful wilderness we revere, this beautiful camp we love; would be absolutely nothing if we did not have our freedom. Jesus has said, “Greater love has no man than this - that he lays down his life for his friend.” But what everlasting charity must motivate the heart of a Hero that he would risk, even give his life, for those he does not know. 1800+ American Heroes and many more Iraqi ones have died so that we, who love the woods and mountains, the forest and the sea, and each other, can share in their wonder and be free.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mother Inferior

"How about that woman in Texas?" my colleague demanded Tuesday morning. I have just returned from over two months in the wilderness were I had barely heard a rumor of the attacks by terrorists murderers on our British Allies and nothing of the bitter squabbles of political showmanship and fame grabbing grandstanding by those who exploit tragedy for power.
"I don't know anything about a woman in Texas," I replied.
"Well, she's sure embarrassing YOUR President!" he mocked.

Now I have heard something of the "woman from Texas". Her exploitation of her own son's death made me think of Meda's reply to Jason when he asked for the bodies of his murdered sons. "No," she says, "you would trade even their broken bodies for power, buy advantage with their little corpses."

I suppose it was inevitable that, as precious lives are spent in defense of our nation and the world, there would come a "Merchant in bones" to sell out the cause for which our heroes paid the ultimate price in order to buy the adulation of the mob.

How the ghouls that exploit the dead must delight to be joined in their repast by this made for media monster mother. How those who murdered her son must triumph in their victory over her spirit and the circus-like frenzy of the media coverage her betrayal of his sacrifice provides their propaganda machine.

It is a bitter irony that the same politicians that define and defend a "mothers right to kill" her own children, seek to promote and exploit this woman's misguided bitterness over her child's death. Isn't it amazing that the same people that will celebrate the deaths of the million children to be butchered in the abortion factories of America this year as an immutable right of a woman's free choice, mock the choice of a hero to die in defense of freedom?