Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Review: The Reconstruction of Warriors: Archibald McIndoe, the Royal Air Force and the Guinea Pig Club, by E. R. Mayhew


In the late 1960s I became impatient to see a new World War 2 movie, “Battle of Britain.” The attraction was seeing actual British and German fighter planes reenacting the “dogfights” of 1940 in the British skies. Finally it opened in a theater near me.

The dogfight scenes were all I had hoped. The fighters were fast and maneuverable. They laced the skies with vapor trails as they stalked each other across the skies over cities, towns and country.

But now it is not so much the flying scenes that stand out in my memory. Instead today I remember a scene where a young female officer of the Royal Air Force encounters a badly burned airman on the flight line of an airfield. His face is horribly disfigured. Wincing, she thinks of her lover who is a fighter pilot daily at risk for the same fate.

When I read Reconstruction of Warriors recently I learned that the burned flyer on the flight line was not an actor but an actual combatant in the British air war, Bill Foxley. His wounds were real – not the product of makeup artists.

How did the RAF manage to “reconstruct” horribly wounded flyers like Bill Foxley and return many of them to duty or normal civilian life? The book Reconstruction of Warriors tells the story.

Surgical teams of East Grinstead Cottage Hospital collaborated with the neighboring civilian community to restore both bodies and morale of burned and damaged flyers. The wounded flyers – who adopted the name “Guinea Pigs” due to the new surgical techniques applied to their wounds – participated in one anothers care and provided fellowship and mutual encouragement.

Chief surgeon Archibald McIndoe helped organize them into “The Guinea Pig Club,” a social group that survived and held annual meetings well into the 21st Century.

In short, the joint efforts of the injured flyers, medical staff, and neighboring civilian community made the flyers’ disfiguring injuries and surgical scars a badge of honor.

Therefore McIndoe’s airmen did not have to endure the shame encountered by disabled veterans of the First World War, whom the doctor had been seen begging, selling matches, or killing time on the streets of Britain. He was determined to avoid this for his men. He seems to have succeeded.

The book did my heart good.  It is hard to put down!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Abraham Lincoln: Self Taught Commander in Chief



I am tired of hearing glib arguments that people like Ben Carson and Marco Rubio aren't suitable candidates for president and - in particular - commander in chief. Those arguments would have disqualified Abraham Lincoln, and our Nation would be the poorer.

Lincoln was a country lawyer and legislator, and not - to my knowledge - a chief executive before he was president of the U.S. Yet he possessed a God-given energy and wisdom. Here's what historian James M. McPherson said about Lincoln as a self taught military commander:

"Lincoln faced a steep learning curve as Commander in Chief in the war…

[He had been a member of the Illinois militia in 1832 but had never seen combat.]

"He was also painfully aware that his adversary, Jefferson Davis, was much better prepared for that daunting task. A graduate of the US military Academy at West Point, Davis had fought courageously has a colonel of a Mississippi regiment in the Mexican war and is served as an excellent secretary of war from 1853 to 1857…

Lincoln possessed a keen analytical mind, however, and a fierce determination to master any subject to which he applied himself …

"As commander-in-chief Lincoln sought to master the intricacies of military strategy in the same way he had tried to penetrate the meaning of mysterious adult conversations when he was a boy. “He gave himself, night and day, to the study of the military situation,” Hay later wrote. ”He ran a large number of strategical works. He pored over the reports from the various departments and districts of the field of war. He held long conferences with eminent generals and admirals, and astonished them by the extent of his special knowledge and the keen intelligence of his questions.” Some of those generals, like Lincoln's courtroom adversaries, eventually found themselves on their backs in a ditch. By 1862 Lincoln’s grasp of military strategy and operations was firm enough almost to justify the assertion of the historian T. Harry Williams: “Lincoln stands out as a great war president, probably the greatest in our history, and a great natural strategist, a better one than any of his generals.”

[From Tried by War, Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, by James M. McPherson, New York, Penguin Books, 2009]

If God gifts surgeon Carson, or lawyer Rubio, as He gifted lawyer Lincoln, we will have an outstanding president of the United States.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mid-East Refugees - Exclude them or include them?


Heightened emotions make dealing with large numbers of refugees from Mid-East conflict very difficult. If our government would openly explain the planned vetting process it would help help.

I believe that trying to provide safe places for these refugees is something we must do. Surely we Christians must try to help.

                                            
At the outset we should acknowledge that no vetting process will be flawless. Some people may be kept out who are perfectly OK, and some people may be unintentionally admitted to the US who are dangerous. Still, I think careful consideration needs to be given to helping those we can.

Here are some brainstormed ideas I think might help meet the need of oppressed people for sanctuary while minimizing risk of infiltration by people hostile to the US. I am no no authority. My only arguably relevant  experience is a few years in government service. Here are some thoughts.

1. Admit first the refugees who are easy to vet, like people who have worked for the US government or allied governments and have records and references to refer to.

2. In cooperation with our allies, establish places of temporary sanctuary as near as possible to original homes for those being processed.

3. Provide security and supply for those places.

4. Assemble teams of experienced intelligence interrogators to interview refugees seeking admission to the US, both to acquire useful intelligence and assure that those admitted to the US pose no risk to Americans.

5. Refugees who satisfy the vetting process and desire to enter the US  would be admitted to the US at the expense of the federal government (or if able at their personal expense) and in cooperation with state and local authorities are resettled and given access to employment, school, etc., as appropriate.

6. Refugees who fail the vetting process continue residing in the places of temporary sanctuary until hostilities in their home countries resolve, until countries allied with the US agree to admit them, or until they personally decide to leave sanctuary.

Again, I offer these ideas without a claim of expertise but with a desire that Americans seriously consider what we can do without exposing our country to unreasonable risk. I offer them only because I consider thoughtful approaches better than political battles between those who would summarily  exclude everyone out (which is unmerciful) or thoughtless admission of everyone who asks to come and has a story that invokes sympathy (which is inviting disaster).We must use our heads and hearts.



Friday, June 26, 2015

Swimming hard through an incredible amount of legal flotsam and jetsam

If I imagined modern life as a swimming competition, I would say that principled Americans are having to swim hard through an incredible amount of legal flotsam and jetsam while holding course toward the objective of ordered freedom. The Supreme Court justices joining or concurring in the decision of Obergefell v. Hodges concerning same sex marriage seem to have joined the imaginative tradition of their historic peers in Dred Scott v. Sandford and Roe v. Wade.



Friday, June 19, 2015

It is wiser to confess, "If perpetuating slavery would have meant a comfortable life for me, I would have gone along with it."

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus Christ

It is long past time for the church of Jesus Christ to pursue complete reconciliation of its people, black and white. Otherwise the people of the troubled world outside the church will have good reason to doubt the authenticity of our faith and of the gospel that Jesus entrusts to us.

Reconciliation involves confession and repentance.

Looking at our American heritage from slavery, and the current reawakening of racial antagonism, I think it is necessary to put aside the defense "I never enslaved anyone." It is wiser to confess, "If perpetuating slavery would have meant a comfortable life for me, I would have gone along with it." We consume goods from other nations that enslave their people. This convinces me that acquiescence to slavery is not dead.

May God grant that in every transaction of my life I shall invest myself in valuing other people, and refrain from justifying walls of separation that devalue them. Then may the gospel of peace flow freely!



Thursday, June 4, 2015

Contestant or Onlooker?


Action photography was my hobby in high school. It earned me a place on the school newspaper and yearbook staffs. This entitled me to watch football and basketball games from the sidelines instead of the bleachers, to photograph the action. It felt almost like being involved in the game. But I wasn't in the game - only watching and making images of it.