Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Think I Found The Elephants In The Room

Photo by Sean M. Teaford

As soon as I walked into the Radnor Hotel and checked in at the desk to get my name tag I was immediately welcomed not simply as a member but as a friend. I had been looking forward to last night’s Commonwealth Club event for months as it was not only a chance to meet Governor Corbett but also to catch up with my fellow members that I only have the opportunity to see every once in a while. It is indeed a great group of people with whom I share many common interests and points of view. I was also struck with a great sense of irony that I was attending this event the week after visiting Gettysburg because, as you may recall, this is the Party of Lincoln.

For many, those viewpoints are not at all agreeable but, for me, they are in sync with my point of view both personally and politically. You see, these events are not about trying to find the elephant in the room because we are a room full of elephants. In case that wasn’t clear enough let me put it simply, this was a meeting of contributors to the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. While the financial contributions vary greatly among the attendees we are all proud supporters of our party.

As someone who spent many years affiliated with the Democratic Party, I can say from personal experience that, contrary to coverage that you may read in the media, this is the party of change. I have had greater accessibility, more level headed discussions, and seen more diversity in local candidates in this party than I did in my previous youthful years. This is the change that I had always been looking for.

In my experience, you can go to just about any political event around, regardless of party, and hear someone speak about their positions I have experienced a greater prevalence of one on one discussion in this party as I did with Governor Corbett last night. Everyone’s voice was heard regardless of positions held or the kind and level of support they have dedicated to the party. We may differ in some of our views, in what we think are high priorities and what are not, and sometimes what may be the best solution to a problem but, in the end, we are all have an equal voice in our party.   

Photo by Richard M. Trivane

While I will not discuss specifics on this blog as I do not speak for the Governor, the Commonwealth Club, or the Republican Party in general and I do not pretend to do so I will say that a large variety of topics were covered including (but not limited to) education (both students and teachers), pension reform, economic issues, natural gas, the job market, the state budget, and taxes. Finally, I will leave you with this final aspect about the event last night in that while numerous issues and topics were discussed and certain stances on current events were mentioned at no point was any person or politician attacked. Even in a room full of supporters both of the party and of the Governor, and during a time when he will soon begin his re-election campaign, no negative rhetoric was heard coming from the Governor.

This is the party of unity and change not of partisan segregation and recycled polities. This is the party of the future not of immediate gratification. This is the party of discussion not of accusation. This is the party of common sense and reasonable solutions not of over accommodation and knee jerk reactions. This is not the ‘grand old party’, this is my party.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

American Pie: Part II

Being the youngest of three growing up I was exposed to all different kinds of music. On any given day I would hear different artists and different genres either by way of records, cassette tapes actually, played by my brother and sister to radio stations that my parents had set in their cars. And while I remember my mom listening to stations that mixed songs from various decades what still stands out in my mind is getting in my dad’s car and listening to the oldies station.

Back then, the oldies station played songs from my dad’s youth, the 50’s and early to mid 60’s, mainly consisting of Motown and early Rock 'n' Roll classics. Even when I was younger, I was never one to pay much attention to the latest hits. Only on the rare occasion would I listen to new songs or new artists which made those car rides with my father even better because I liked that kind of music and I still do to this day.

The problem these days is that the oldies station is no longer the oldies station. When I turn the dial to the same station today, I can usually only hear a couple of those songs and only if I were to be listening the entire day. They are dominated by music from the late 60’s and 70’s (and now even the 80’s). Livin’ On A Prayer (Bon Jovi) is NOT an oldie but it was played on the local oldies station this morning.

What happened to Buddy Holly and Bill Haley? How can we expect this generation to appreciate some of the classics from the beginning of the Rock 'n' Roll era? Have you heard some of the stuff that is playing on the radio these days? This generation needs to hear more than just the occasional song by Elvis Presley or The Supremes song. They need to hear what I heard growing up. They need to have access to an oldies station not a retro remix.

I’m sure that someone will comment that you can find an oldies station on Serius. The issue I have with that is that I don’t want to have to pay in order to listen to the radio. I just want a simple oldies station to stay true to its title and play oldies.

Of course, maybe it is simply a sign of getting older when the oldies are no longer oldies and the songs of your youth begin filtering through the airwaves. To heck with that! Not everything needs to be changed. Bring back the oldies station and come up with something else to fill in the middle.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Thunder Roared Like Artillery Fire

My wife and I arrived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania late Friday afternoon looking forward to exploring the town and the battlefield. We had originally planned on visiting earlier this month but given the crowds for the 150th anniversary we decided to hold off a few weeks. It had been some time since I had visited the site and, to her recollection, it was my wife’s first trip to the Civil War landmark. After checking in at the Gettysburg Hotel we meandered up and down the streets, in and out of shops, and enjoyed the time away as dusk devoured the remaining day light. 

It was a short evening for us as much of our time was spent browsing the book stores, taking a break for a casual dinner, and watching as cars continued to pour in from every direction... 

...converging on the roundabout.

It seemed like in every corner of the square there was something different from the others. What caught my attention was the Masonic building just across the street from our hotel.

By about 8:30 our energy was gone and it was time to head off to bed so that we could get an early start to our morning. We walked back to our room with the mix of century sounds in the background as the slow clopping of horse hooves accompanied the low grumble of engines and the hum of tires on the asphalt.

The next morning we arose to overcast skies and a forecast for late afternoon rain. Our trip was now on a deadline as we made one more quick stroll through town to grab a quick brunch and pick up a few small souvenirs. 

Back in the car, we turned onto the square where I glanced in the corner at a statue of President Lincoln who seemed to be bidding us farewell as we left the center of town. 

After a quick stop at Lee’s headquarters where pictures were allowed but not easily achieved in the small four room structure, we made our way down Seminary Ridge where we stopped at the old Lutheran Seminary to look around a little before heading off to the maze of battlefield roads.

From Seminary Ridge we continued straight onto Confederate Avenue where we drove across the Southern Line where you can see rows…

…upon rows…

…upon rows of cannons.

Along both lines, north and south, monuments to all the different states that fought in the conflict are staggered to reflect their positions during the conflict. One of the grandest on the southern side is that of Virginia which is topped by a statue of General Lee on his horse surveying the landscape.

If you take a closer look at the cannons throughout the national park you can get a sense not only of the open space between the lines but the power that each one of those pieces of artillery had on the lives of those on the other end. This is evident when you look down the barrel and see a monument at the other end such as the Pennsylvania monument off the muzzle of this Virginia cannon. You can also see one of the fence lines that crisscross the fields which played a role in the conflict in their own right.  

Weaving up and down some of the winding roads we made our way to what began the battle as a scouting position for the Union and was later the sight of some of the fiercest fighting during the battle, Little Round Top.

Behind the memorial to the 91st Pennsylvania Infantry on this peak you can see a location which was a place of human devastation, The Devil’s Den.

Walking down the stairs you can feel the sense of loss and dread build within you.

Throughout the pile of rocks there are little passageways and both offered cover for those taking fire and concealment for those charged with taking lives.

In the middle is the spot which gave this formation its name. It was here that lives were taken by the sharpshooters who occupied this position.

The boulders on top of this strategic piece of topography allow you to understand and appreciate the importance that the cover here provided. You can almost see the imprints made by soldiers perched on these rocks for hours at a time.

By this time, the sky began to darken and rolls of thunder began shaking the earth under our feet giving an altered sense of reality as we scanned the rows of cannons on both sides of the field.

Soon after, the rain came down in sheets and tourists scattered in all directions in search of their cars or other forms of shelter. At this point we knew that our day was nearly over so we made our way to the cemetery in the hope that we might catch a break in the storm. To our surprise, that is exactly what happened.

In the middle of the cemetery is a tribute of particular significance to me. It is known as the “Friend to Friend Memorial”.

As is described on the plaque, this sculpture is one of the best illustrations of the bonds of the Masonic brotherhood.  

All around this tremendous tribute are the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers alike with the only difference between them being the words chiseled in the stone.

Of course, men of all ranks are represented and for some generals, memorials have been erected by the soldiers who served under them such as this remembrance of Major General John Fulton Reynolds who died at Gettysburg within a day ride of his home town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

As we left the cemetery I turned around and could see almost black clouds rolling across the sky overtaking the white blanket that had enveloped us all day.

And when I turned to head back toward the car the last vestiges of opaque light made a silhouette that summed up the haunting spirit of these memory laden fields just beyond the town of Gettysburg.