Can a Bad Cold Stop a Dog’s Bark?

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The historian part of my brain is increasingly intrigued by moments in time when a dog did not bark. Of course, this is reference to a famous Sherlock Holmes story called, “Silver Blaze,” and how the fictional detective made a deduction based on the fact that a dog that should have barked at a stranger, did not. This told Holmes that the culprit was someone familiar to the dog.

So as a writer, I’ve wondered why certain people didn’t do the obvious thing. From there, my imagination takes charge. The book I’m currently working on—“The Churchill Plot”—is a great case in point. [READ MORE]

We Must Never Forget!

In 1916, the late poet Robert Frost penned the famous lines: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

His metaphor has endured as testament to the importance of making choices based on factors other than superficiality and popularity.

President Kennedy and Robert Frost
President Kennedy and Robert Frost

Shortly after Frost’s death in 1963, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where Frost had taught for many years, to deliver a eulogy about the famous wordsmith he had invited to participate in his inauguration. That day, Kennedy shared a line that, like the description of those fabled two roads, has since morphed into something beyond its original intent and focus. In my opinion, it was one of the best things Kennedy ever said:

A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.

Next to ingratitude, forgetfulness is the most serious indicator of cultural decline. The two are intertwined. Thankfulness and remembrance are flip sides of the same precious cultural coin. On this Memorial Day, 70 years after the end of the war in Europe, we must reject the defeatism and cynicism so characteristic of our times and look back at heroes proved, and up at Almighty God in gratitude for them.

If the idea of gratitude toward God is off-putting to anyone—or seems somehow inappropriate, I would simply note how a famously liberal Democratic President approached matters on national radio seventy years ago. Roosevelt became America’s pastor for a moment and prayed:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith…”

He added: “And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.”

And he ended with: “Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”

Elisha “Ray” Nance, who died a few years ago, was well known around Bedford, Virginia, a picturesque town located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Peaks of Otter, where for years he delivered the mail on nearby rural routes. But it was for what he did before becoming a letter carrier that he is best remembered.

Ray was one of “The Bedford Boys.”

X-_Bedford_Boys-5He was the last of his town’s contingent in Company A of the 29th Infantry Division’s 116th Infantry – a group that waded ashore seven decades ago on a beach nicknamed Omaha in a far away place called Normandy in France. And of the thirty soldiers from Bedford (population then, about 3,200), he was one of only eight from his hometown who lived to tell the story.

Ray lost twenty-two Bedford buddies that day, nineteen of them in the very first moments of the battle. By the time he made it to the beach in the last of his company’s landing crafts, he saw “a pall of dust and smoke.” He could barely see “the church steeple we were supposed to guide on.” He couldn’t see anyone in front, or behind him—only that he “was alone in France.”

Mr. Nance was a hero “proved through liberating strife.”

On the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan captured the attention of history and honored some of the other “Boys” who did so much for all of us on June 6, 1944. He called them “The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc,” and many of them were in his cliff-top audience in Normandy that day in 1984.

President Ronald Reagan salutes during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-day, the invasion of Europe.
President Ronald Reagan salutes during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-day, the invasion of Europe.

If you wanted to pick a more unlikely place for an important military attack, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a spot more uninviting than the imposing, rugged cliffs overlooking the English Channel four miles west of Omaha Beach. More than a decade ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Normandy region for a speaking engagement. I stood on the spot where the Great Communicator spoke and tried to wrap my mind around the quite-evident impossibility of what the United States Army Ranger Assault Group accomplished that fateful day. Mr. Reagan honored those men there:

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of canon. Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe Du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

The boys of Bedford are now all gone. And noble ranks of the boys of Pointe Du Hoc have been thinned out by the course of time as well. Other heroes have taken their place and are equally worthy of our gratitude and honor.

Kennedy was right—how we remember heroes of the past, and how we treat heroes in our day, reveals the heart and character of our nation.

Reagan was right, too: “Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”  Amen.

 

A Very True Spy Story

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, David Cornwell (better known by his nom de plume John Le Carré) told an interviewer that “espionage was not really something exclusive and clandestine. It was actually the currency of the Cold War. Spies were the poor bloody infantry of the Cold War.”

They still are, though these days we are in a different war and battling another pernicious ideology. I have read Cold War spy novels for years and even written a couple of my own. They make for entertaining reading, but the more we learn about the nuts and bolts of what actually went on back then, the better we come to understand that truth is, in many ways, even more dramatic than fiction.

kuklin-smConsider the case of Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski. He was a Polish patriot who may have saved his nation, the whole continent of Europe, and maybe even the world, from massive suffering at the hands of a Soviet war machine which was once poised to race from behind Warsaw Pact borders to the Atlantic Ocean.

A few years ago, I attended a symposium at Langley on the life and work of this remarkable, unsung hero who risked life, limb, and loved ones to pass along vital information at a crucial moment during the Cold War.  Under the watchful eye of then DCIA General Michael V. Hayden, and as part of a very real social contract with this country, voluminous declassified materials were being made available to researchers and the public at large. General Hayden was a history major back in college days and this passion clearly informed his directorate.

That particular historical symposium corresponded with the release of materials relating to Rsyzard Kuklinski and his work on our behalf, as well as that of his beloved Poland. In fact, Kuklinski (who died in 2004) did not see himself as working for “us” – rather he consciously recruited America, via the CIA, to work on behalf of Polish freedom during a dark and difficult time.

In August 1972, Kuklinski sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Bonn, West Germany, establishing contact with our intelligence operatives.  Signing it “P.V.” (Kuklinski later said this stood for “Polish Viking”), this singular act began a relationship that would bear the fruit in the form of thousands of vital documents and much crucial information helping us to understand Soviet doctrine and intent.

The definitive account of the Polish spy’s fascinating story was written in a book by Benjamin Weiser, a reporter for the New York Times, titled, A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid to Save His Country.

SecretLifeWesier described Rsyzard Kuklinski at the time of his espionage work as “a small man with tousled hair, penetrating blue eyes and the gestures and mannerisms of a man within whom an unbounded supply of energy is bottled up.”  He focused that energy on doing everything he could to prevent his country from being sacrificed during the Cold War as it had been in so many ways during the Second World War.

Kuklinski was motivated by patriotic fear.

His role as a high-ranking staff officer made him privy to information about what a major Soviet offensive in Europe would look like.  Though always framed via lip service as defensive in nature, the Soviet and Warsaw Pact war plans, in fact, were entirely designed to be offensive operations.

The salient point, as far as Kuklinski was concerned, had to do with the so-called Second Strategic Echelon – a massive potential Soviet offensive involving roughly two million soldiers and at least a million armored vehicles.  Rsyzard, and others in a place to know about these plans, discerned accurately the only real response NATO’s forces would have to counter such a massive Soviet mobilization would be nuclear. And those bombs would not fall drop in Moscow or Western Europe; they would obliterate Poland, the perpetual twentieth century European pawn.

In fact, the materials passed to us by this highly effective Cold War spy enabled the United States and NATO to effectively plan for such a scenario.  And the other guys never knew we had the information. But even beyond the role he played for us strategically, Kuklinski also became our eyes and ears during those turbulent months in 1980 as the world watched Solidarity, a fledgling political movement led by Lech Walesa, begin to achieve political traction in Poland.  The world also wondered if and when the Soviets (with the complicity of their puppets regime in Warsaw) would intervene as they had in Budapest (1956) and Prague (1968).

It seemed like only a matter of time.

Rsyzard Kuklinski was uniquely positioned in those days to report what was happening, enabling America, in the waning days of the Carter presidency, to effectively warn the Soviets off.  At one point, he sent a sixteen-page letter to the CIA describing high-level meetings, during which the Polish government discussed the possibility off a Soviet invasion of their country.

It became clear in 1981 that the Polish government led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, was preparing to declare martial law in the land, Kuklinski kept us informed in great detail.  Kuklinski despised Jaruzelski, writing in one covert dispatch that the strongman was “unworthy of the name Pole.”

In a dramatic moment on November 2, 1981, Rsyzard Kuklinski was summoned to a meeting in the office of one of his bosses. Six men sat at a T-shaped table and learned that there was a “mole” among them – someone had been leaking information to the Americans.   Somehow managing to keep his composure, Kuklinski joined the chorus of voices in the room denouncing such an act of “treason.”

But he knew his days were numbered and soon found a way to communicate this message to his handlers: “I urgently request instructions for evacuating from the country myself and my family.  Please take into consideration that the state border is possibly already closed for me and my family.” For several days, CIA personnel in Warsaw tried to carry out a plan to evacuate Rsyzard, his wife, and their two sons.

Eventually they were spirited away for the long drive to Berlin.

At a reception following that symposium I was attending a few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak one on one with the driver of that car during a reception.

We stood just a few feet from the iconic CIA floor seal in Langley’s lobby.  He told me that they had managed to get through three checkpoints en route and that he still got chills when thinking about that perilous trip.

Life in America was no picnic for this Cold War hero and his family.  They had to live under an assumed identity and avoid outside relationships, particularly with Polish-Americans, for years.  The two Kuklinski sons met with untimely accidental deaths less than a year apart, breaking the hearts of Mom and Dad.

Questions were raised about the nature of the deaths – one in a boating accident (the body never found) and the other on a college campus, felled by a hit-and-run driver. But no evidence (beyond the circumstantial) was ever discovered pointing to anything conspiratorial or sinister.

Rsyzard Kuklinski was tried in absentia in 1984 in Poland, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death.  After the Cold War ended, his sentence was commuted to 25 years (which hurt Kuklinski deeply). In 1995, the chief justice of the Polish Supreme Court annulled his sentence. All charges against him were revoked in September of 1997, enabling him to return to Poland a free man.

In April-May 1998, Rsyzard Kuklinski made an eleven-day tour of several Polish cities. He was greeted by some as a hero on a level with Pope John Paul II.  Others, however, protested that he was—and would remain—a traitor.

Lech Walesa, for all his good work in the cause of freedom, never completely accepted Kuklinski’s account of things – even suggesting publicly that Rsyzard was a “double-agent” working for the Soviets as well as the Americans. No such evidence exists. In fact, as new information comes out, the argument that Kuklinski was a Polish patriot and one of the good guys gets stronger.  But Walesa’s remarks highlight the tension that occurs when “state” becomes synonymous with “country.”

Frankly, Rsyzard Kuklinski’s work – his willingness to risk it all for what he believed was right – left the world a better place.  The Soviet Union eventually fell apart and freedom broke out in his beloved Poland.  Neither would have happened had Warsaw Pact nations acted on clearly defined plans for continental – even global – hegemony.

When Kuklinski died in February 2004, then Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said: “This passionate and courageous man helped keep the Cold War from becoming hot, providing the CIA with precious information upon which so many critical national security decisions rested.  And he did so for the noblest of reasons – to advance the sacred causes of liberty and peace in his homeland and throughout the world.”

Long before that statement by Tenet, Rsyzard Kuklinski had reflected, “I am pleased that our long, hard struggle has brought peace, freedom, and democracy not only to my country but to many other people as well.”

So are we.

[Check out David’s spy novel, CAMELOT’S COUSIN: The Spy Who Betrayed Kennedy — now in development as a major motion picture starring BLAIR UNDERWOOD]

BLAIR UNDERWOOD to Star in Film Version of CAMELOT’S COUSIN

[From THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER]

Blair Underwood is heading to Camelot.

buheadshot2010_a_pThe actor’s production company, Intrepid Pictures, has acquired the rights to David R. Stokes‘ spy novel Camelot’s Cousin: The Spy Who Betrayed Kennedy. Intrepid will partner with Little Studio Films to adapt the thriller into a film with Underwood in the lead role.

Set amid the Cuban Missile Crisis, Camelot’s Cousin centers on the discovery of a long-lost journal that indicates one of President John F. Kennedy‘s closest friends was a Soviet spy. In the present day, scholar and media personality Templeton Davis (Underwood) decides to investigate the journal’s contents, which draw him into a decades-old international conspiracy…

[read FULL ARTICLE at THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER]

Glimpses From Churchill’s Final Hours & Death

As Winston Churchill lingered for several days between life and death 50 years ago this month, the crowd near his home located at 28 Hyde Park Gate in Kensington, seldom dipped below 250 people, even in the middle of the night, and no matter what kind of weather London in January had to offer. Beyond that, newspapers around the world had the story of Winston Churchill’s life-threatening illness on page-one.

BLOG+CHurchill+Dead+JJPresident Lyndon Johnson sent a message: “We are all very sorry for your illness and we are praying for a rapid and complete recovery. All of us continue to look to you for wise counsel and judgment.”

Meanwhile, the other Churchill news coming out of Washington, D.C. was an announcement, by the English-Speaking Union, that the proposed statue of Churchill that was to stand astride the dividing line between the British Embassy and American soil would indeed include a cigar. There had been strong opposition to this from some members of the society—but ultimately 80 per cent of them voted in favor of the familiar Winstonian appendage.

Former President Eisenhower sent word from his Gettysburg, Pennsylvania farm, “Mrs. Eisenhower and I are deeply distressed to learn that our old friend has been stricken with another illness.” Charles De Gaulle’s message described his own “feeling of shock” at Churchill’s decline. And world leaders began to instruct their aides to begin making travel and logistical plans in the event of a funeral to come.

While the headlines each day tried to communicate the same news in different ways—“Sir Winston Losing Ground,” “Condition of Sir Winston Worsens,” “Churchill Clinging to Life,” it seemed as if the world stopped, or at least slowed down spinning on its axis.

Likely Churchill never knew that he had stopped a strike from his sickbed, but such was the case. School teachers in Great Britain had been prepared to walk off the job that day over a pay dispute, but cited the great man’s illness as the key to their decision to stage the protest “at a more suitable time.” Certainly, this move by labor would have amused the long time Tory leader.

The expressions coming out of the Soviet Union were predictably colder. Radio reports in Moscow tended to be terse and limited. For its part, the official newspaper for Soviet defense, Krasnaya Zvezda, included language calling Churchill, “the godfather of the Cold War,” and indicating that the Briton had not been forgiven for his 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri, and the reference to an “Iron Curtain.”

By Thursday, January 21st, Dr. Moran was reporting that his famous patient was at a low point. Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, told many that the great man was approaching death. By this time, however, the crowds were gone, due not to diminishing concern, but because Lady Churchill had requested it. Fresh fallen snow marked the area recently clogged by people on the narrow dead end street.

Even the press had been moved back a block or so, something Mrs. Churchill deeply appreciated. Anthony Montague Brown, one of Churchill’s secretaries and who had been the bearer of Lady Churchill’s request that everyone move away from the area around the house, walked over to where the reporters were now gathered and read an appreciative message: “I would like to thank you for the speed with which you complied with Lady Churchill’s request. She was very touched, She has been feeling the strain.” The journalists nodded affirmatively, almost bowing in respect.

The Friday news was more of the same, though there was a stir of sorts when the home directly behind 28 Hyde Park Gate caught fire. However, even the three fire engines responding to the blaze did their part to respect the need for quiet—they arrived at the scene without sounding sirens or bells.

Later that Friday, Lady Churchill was summoned to the telephone for a call from her grandson, Winston. Her face broke into a broad smile—the first for her in a long time—as she learned of the birth of their third great-grandchild, a boy born at Westminster Hospital. The child was premature but doing quite well, the proud father reported, adding that his wife, Minnie, was fine, as well. Clementine shared the joyous news with everyone and then went into her husband’s room and whispered it in his ear. But the great man, though breathing, was likely never aware of the blessed event. And soon Clementine’s smile was again absent from her face.

The next day was Saturday and someone noted that the next day would be the anniversary of the death of Winston’s father. The comment that he had made a dozen years earlier—about how he would die on the same date—was also recalled and rehearsed. Could it be, they wondered, that the great man was mustering all the courage and fortitude he had left to make it until the page of the calendar and hands of the clock moved to the point of his personal prophecy?

Long after the household went to bed that night, Clementine visited Winston’s room around 1:00 AM. She held his hand and sat silent next to him for a bit before heading back to bed. By the time she returned to his room about six hours later, it was clear than there had been a change for the worse. The family was summoned. Less than 30 minutes later, Randolph arrived with his son, Winston, joining Mary, Sarah, and Clementine in the drawing room. A few minutes later Lord’s Moran and Brain came in.

One of the nurses put out a tray of coffee. Everyone stood by in somber silence.

A little before 8:00 AM, Roy Howell appeared and cleared his voice while repeating, “I think you had all better come in.” They formed a line and one by one went to his bed, some knelt immediately, some whispered to him. Eventually all those in the room knelt prayerfully.

And just as a clock down the hallway finished pealing eight times marking the morning hour on Sunday, January 24, 1965, the Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill drew his last breath and, as the ancient scriptures often said, was “gathered unto his fathers.”

[I am currently working on a novel set against the backdrop of Churchill’s death and funeral. It’s titled, “THE CHURCHILL FUNERAL PLOT.” Coming soon — stay tuned! – DRS]

Operation Hope Not

When Winston Churchill was winding down his second tenure as British Prime Minster in 1951, he was shaving one cold January morning. While he worked the razor, the image of his private secretary, Jock Colville, came into view in the mirror. Winston put the instrument down for a moment and turned to Colville and remarked: “Today is the twenty-fourth of January. It is the day my father died. It is the day I shall die, too.”

That is exactly what happened 50 years ago this weekend—January 24, 1965.

Churchills-Funeral-1965Years earlier, Queen Elizabeth II began the discreet discussion of what should happen in the event of the death of Sir Winston. She gave word to her staff that in the event of Churchill’s death during her absence from England, “he should be given a public funeral of a scale befitting his position in history.”

A full state funeral would require a request from the Queen to House of Commons after Churchill’s death and an affirmative vote, but Elizabeth was clearly indicating early on that such a grand farewell would be her recommendation.

So the wheels were set in motion for Winston’s send off a dozen years before his death. The Queen’s initial directive was soon enhanced and over time it was formalized into a working plan. Over the years, ideas were discussed, mostly out of Churchill’s view, and by the late 1950s a detailed blueprint was in place.

It was called, appropriately, Operation Hope Not.

Fourteen months before Churchill died, America and the world had paid respects to a fallen president—John F. Kennedy. There were no plans in place for such an event because it was unexpected and unimaginable. Sometime on the evening of November 22, 1963, the President’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, with her sense of history and ever-present grace, garnered her thoughts and asked for a quick, but thorough, review of the funeral of Abraham Lincoln that took place nearly 100 years earlier. She wanted to use it as a reference for the farewell to her murdered husband.

In somewhat the same way—though with years of preparation—the model for much of what would transpire during the last week of January in 1965, was yet another famous funeral. That one was back in in 1898, when Great Britain said goodbye to William Ewart Gladstone.

That was also first time a funeral became a global media event.

The parallels between Gladstone and Churchill resembled those often drawn between Kennedy and Lincoln, including the way they were laid to final rest. But there was one notable distinction. Queen Victoria detested Mr. Gladstone, who was known around the royal court as, “the man the Queen most loves to hate.” Victoria ignored Gladstone in death as much as she despised him in life. She was silent on the matter of a State Funeral for him and only agreed when it was clear that Parliament overwhelming approved. Her son, the Prince of Wales, who would become King Edward VII upon his mother’s passing in January of 1901, was embarrassed by his mother’s behavior, and personally apologized to Gladstone’s widow as she was leaving the service at Westminster Abbey.

Of course, things were completely different when Winston Churchill died. Queen Elizabeth II had great affection for him, and her recommendation for a full State Funeral made its way to the House of Commons on Monday, January 25th, at two-thirty PM. Such an expression was the ultimate sign of respect and honor. It was quickly approved and the House postponed all other business until after Churchill was buried.

He would be the first “commoner” to be so honored since Mr. Gladstone.

[I am currently finishing a novel set against the backdrop of “Operation Hope Not.” It’s titled, “THE CHURCHILL FUNERAL PLOT” — coming soon! – DRS]

Race, Roe, & Dr. King

[The following appeared in the Washington Post six years ago this month, in January of 2009. I discussed the annual calendar convergence of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday with the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday — DRS]
OnFaithPromo
This week’s sermon is by the Rev. David R. Stokes, senior pastor of Fair Oaks Church in Fairfax, marking Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on Jan. 18. President Ronald Reagan established a National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in 1984, to be held the Sunday in January that falls closest to the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

The recent passing of theologian Richard John Neuhaus brings to mind a passage from the book of Genesis: “There were giants in the earth in those days.”

As Michael Gerson mentioned in his recent tribute to Neuhaus in The Washington Post, there was a time when “the footsteps of theologians shook the land.” These days, he laments that the great thinkers who “provided the intellectual and moral ballast for a rough national crossing through the Cold War and civil rights movement are gone and the nation’s hungry sheep now look up to the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra for spiritual nourishment.

Neuhaus was, according to Gerson, “first a man of the left, then a man of the right — yet entirely consistent on the things that matter most.” He walked with King for civil rights, and later “found the natural extension of those ideals in the pro-life movement.”

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave the address for which he is best known. Long remembered as the “I Have a Dream” speech, he said things like, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ ”

Slightly less than five years later, the Dreamer was assassinated on April 4, 1968. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision, hastening our societal slide toward a culture far too comfortable and familiar with violence and death. The legacy of Dr. King and the fallout from that 1973 legal bombshell sail very close to each other again.

Some see this as an awkward convergence. But it really isn’t. Back in the ’60s, while black preachers were mobilizing masses in the pursuit of civil rights, conservative evangelicals stayed largely on the sidelines. They weren’t all that interested in changing anything. In fact, it was not uncommon to hear white fundamentalist-evangelical preachers of the day, with voices animated by indignation, decrying the very idea that preachers should be activists in the streets, mocking them to get back to their pulpits where they belonged.

Many, if not most — some notably — would later change their minds. What was the catalyst bringing change to how conservative, white clergymen viewed and lived out their roles? What issue convinced these dogmatic men of the cloth to be willing to scramble out of the pulpit-pocket and into a measure of political involvement after decades of silent separation? Well, the winds of change began to blow in the aftermath of that landmark 1973 decision.

So, here we are again in another January, decades after a killing and a ruling, still marching about Roe v. Wade and honoring Dr. King — but seldom in the same room. The two constituencies, both fierce about the importance of faith, seldom find — much less look for — ways to reach out to the other choir. On Sunday, Jan. 18, some churches highlighted the Sanctity of Human Life issue. Others talked a lot about Dr. King and his dream to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was celebrated Jan. 20. Usually it was one or the other. Some of us, however, tried to do both, because there ought to be an affinity between the two.

When Martin Luther King talked about a dream he had for his four little children and how he longed for them to grow up in a nation “where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” beyond the amen and applause of the crowd around the Lincoln Memorial, far too many Americans ignored what he had to say. Or worse, some mobilized to polarize and oppose.

Those opponents were wrong. No matter how much they went to church, read their Bibles or professed the religion of Jesus, they were wrong. It was wrong for good, God-fearing Americans not to see how important it was, from a faith-based point of view, that this nation truly walk the walk it had long talked about.

And it is wrong for some people of faith today not to see the pro-life cause as very much a civil and human-rights issue.

We should have a dream that welcomes all to the table. And we should have a dream that welcomes all to life itself.

The calendar gives us a near-miss each year as these issues come close to collision. But social justice and embracing life itself as profoundly precious should not be either/or issues. They are very much both/and. And until we find a way to bring them together, it is not likely that anyone can really bring us together.

At this transitional moment in our country’s history, there are great and grave issues before us. Some wrongs have been righted. One great wrong — one that has been a hurtful wound for generations, since even before our nation’s founding — is being righted by an inauguration. Other wrongs are yet to be righted. We should celebrate the victory of wrong over right when it happens. And we should mourn when wrongs left untouched cry out for justice and mercy.

The ultimate way for us to see wrongs righted is for us to look back 2,000 years ago, to a great and grievous wrong inflicted on Christ himself. And it is through that wrong, the great finished work on the cross, that we can know what it is to be made right and whole. When our brokenness is taken to His brokenness, healing happens. And that healing transforms us into agents of light — to work for righteousness in a world of woe.

Man with Fedora Hat in the Ring

Saturday, July 8, 1967 is a date etched in my memory. My father took my two brothers and me to Selfridge Air Base just outside of Detroit to see the famous Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron perform.

But Dad also had another agenda.

Before the aerial show, we sat in the stands listening to a few speakers. Boring stuff, actually. Dad wanted us to see someone. After what seemed to be an eternity waiting for the jets to roar, he said, “There he is, right down there.” I looked and saw a group of men walking. They were in military uniforms.

tumblr_l9tubqMet41qdblneAll except for one man.

This one older man wore a dark suit and what I later learned was a fedora hat. Dad said that the man always wore a fedora hat.

The occasion for the air show at Selfridge turned out to be the 50th anniversary of what was called “The Hat in the Ring Squadron,” a band of pioneer American aerial warriors who complicated things for the Kaiser in The Great War.

And their leader was that man in the fedora hat-Eddie Rickenbacker.

This story came to my mind recently with the release of the powerful film, ‘UNBROKEN,’ based on the story of Louis Zamperini, who died last Summer at the age of 97. In the film, Rickenbacker’s name is referenced a couple of times.

He was a race car driver before World War I and made a lot of money at it. When America mobilized to go “over there,” Rickenbacker pitched the idea of training drivers like him to fly airplanes in combat, but was rebuffed. So he just drove bigwigs around.

Then one day he had the chance to chauffer an officer named Billy Mitchell, and Rickenbacker’s idea found fertile soil.

Eddie was America’s top ace, shooting down 26 enemy aircraft during this nation’s comparatively brief participation in the European war. He then went into business and became one of the country’s top boosters of commercial aviation.

A few months before Pearl Harbor, he was in a fiery airline crash. He broke several bones and nearly died. But by late 1942, he had sufficiently healed so that President Roosevelt recruited him to carry a secret message to Douglas MacArthur, who by then was in Australia beginning to scrounge and plan for an eventual return to the Philippines.

The message from FDR was verbal. No record of it exists, which indicates its important and the confidence the President had in Rickenbacker.

1-25-43But en route to Australia, his plane went off course and they had to ditch in the South Pacific. He and a few others were adrift for 24 days.

He was wearing a suit and that fedora hat.

They ran out of food on the third day.

A natural leader of men, Rickenbacker made sure he and the men prayed and had scripture reading each day. On the eighth day, one of the men read from the Gospel of Matthew about how the Lord watches over the lilies of the field and the birds in the air. Following the reading that day, Eddie pulled his fedora down over his face to catch a nap.

About twenty minutes later, he was awakened by something on his head. He looked at the men and saw that they were looking at what was on his head. Rickenbacker slowly reached up with his hand and grabbed a big bird, which became Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter rolled up into one.

They then used the “insides” of the heaven-sent bird as bait to catch fish for days to come, ensuring that they would have sufficient nourishment for the duration.

The man in the fedora hat was convinced ever after than an angel had sent that bird. – DRS

Has the Case of “Jack the Ripper” Been Finally Solved?

[NOTE – SEPTEMBER 7, 2014: There have been many reports in recent days about DNA evidence pointing to the identity of the infamous serial killer known as “Jack the Ripper.” The case has gone unsolved for more than 125 years. Now, reports such as this one at the Huffington Post identify a man named AARON KOMINSKI as the murderer of several women during a span of several weeks in the White Chapel section of London, England’s east end in the fall of 1888. Interestingly, I wrote an article more than a year ago about SIR ROBERT ANDERSON, the lead detective on the case at the time for Scotland Yard. He was also a prolific Bible teacher and writer in Victorian England. In the article, which I’ve republished tonight, I highlight in bold the section dealing with Anderson’s theory about Aaron Kominski. In fact, Anderson — the man I call “God’s Detective”–was convinced of Kominski’s guilt in the case in the immediate aftermath of the investigation. And his theory about the case was published in the Washington Post in 1910, as I mention below. – DRS]

GOD’S DETECTIVE

By David R. Stokes

By the late 1880s, the British Empire was at its zenith — culturally, politically, and economically. Its capital, London, was, in effect, the capital of the world. Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887, marking 50 years on the throne. She was called the grandmother of Europe in many quarters. The nickname was justified. Her children had married into many of Europe’s royal families.

largeWilliam Gladstone and Robert Cecil (Lord Salisbury) were the strong political rivals of the day, Benjamin Disraeli having died in 1881. Arthur Conan Doyle’s new stories about a detective named Sherlock Holmes were becoming quite popular. H. G. Wells published his first short story in an obscure journal in 1888. A play called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was drawing capacity crowds to the Lyceum Theater in Westminster. George Bernard Shaw was trying to make a career as a literary critic. Fourteen-year-old Winston Churchill lived in London then — as did an eighteen-year-old young man from India named Gandhi.

Possibly they were among the readers of The Star — the largest evening circulation newspaper in London on Friday, August 31, 1888. If so, they might have noticed this item on the front page:

Mr. Robert Anderson, who succeeds Assistant Commissioner J Munro at Scotland Yard, is the third son of Matthew Anderson, of Dublin, formerly Crown solicitor for the city and county of Dublin. He is forty-seven years of age, and married in 1873 to Agnes Alexandrina, sister of Ponson by W. Moore, cousin and heir presumptive of the Marquis of Drogheda. Mr. Anderson was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he holds the honorary degree LL.D, and entered a student of the Middle Temple in 1860, and was called to the Bar 1870, having previously been called to the Dublin Bar in 1863.

 

Described as “London’s foremost detective,” Robert Anderson was a tall man of “precise habits and quiet demeanor, and whose face is that of a deep student.” Absent from the announcement in The Star was any reference to Mr. Anderson’s other life and work. He was a devout Christian and the prolific author of several books about the Bible, one of which unlocked a code found in one of the Old Testament’s most cryptic visions.

The timing of the notice in the newspaper that August evening was interesting, for just across the same page was a story headlined, “A Revolting Murder.” It described the horrific discovery of the body of a woman in the Whitechapel area of London’s East End. Her name was Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols. She was the first victim of the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Quite a day to begin a new job as “London’s foremost detective.”

Though of Scottish descent, Robert Anderson was born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 29, 1841. His family was active in the Irish Presbyterian Church, and his father, Matthew Anderson, was an important official in the city. He was a Crown Solicitor. It was his job to prepare cases for criminal prosecution. There can be little doubt that the dual themes of Robert’s life were developed early on through his father’s life and influence — theology and criminal law.

coming_princeRobert was very young when an infamous blight turned Ireland’s potato crop — the staple of the nation’s diet — into black, fungus-laden, mush. Due to his father’s secure position and salary, the Andersons were somewhat removed from what was going on in rural areas. As he grew through his teen years, two cultural dynamics influenced Robert’s life and career. First, there was the emergence of the Irish nationalist movement. Britain had done very little to help the suffering people in Ireland during the potato famine, and many were passionate about Ireland becoming an independent nation. The issue became an international concern because more than a million Irish citizens left home to seek better lives in the United States. Irish- Americans who supported Irish independence were known as Fenians — a nomenclature that eventually described all wings of the nationalist movement.

The second cultural matter formative for Robert Anderson was the Great Irish Revival of 1859. This spiritual awakening was driven by prayer meetings and the powerful preaching of men such as Henry Grattan Guinness, grandson of the famous brewer of Irish stout ale. Robert attended several local services at the invitation of his sister. His analytical mind prompted him to listen to the preaching with the ear of a critic, but soon he proclaimed, “In God’s name, I will accept Christ!”

A stellar student, Robert graduated from Trinity College in Dublin in 1862 with a B.A. (eventually receiving the L.L.D. from Trinity in 1875). He studied briefly in France (Boulogne and Paris), before being admitted to the Irish Bar in 1863. But before plunging completely into a career, Anderson joined a team of missionaries and evangelists who traveled from town to town in Ireland preaching the gospel and seeking converts. His work as a lay-preacher fueled his desire to know the Scriptures. He immersed himself in the pages of the Bible and read it with a devoted heart and keen mind. The spadework for the books he eventually wrote about biblical themes was done during this time.

According to his diary, Robert preached not only in churches, but “in schoolrooms, court-houses or jury rooms, in private houses, cottages or barns, once at least in a ballroom, at times in open-air.” He wrote to his sister, “We are living in the pilgrim fashion,” and he recounted stories of God’s work, such as one about a man who “said that a week ago he was the vilest wretch in the country, but now saved.”

The fulltime ministry was not, however, to be Robert Anderson’s permanent path. He would remain passionate about his faith for the rest of his life, but he would do so as a layman. Imitating the biblical character Daniel — a man he wrote much about — Anderson would be a civil servant, involved in matters that were anything but the stuff of gospel meetings.

Largely through the influence of his father, Robert was drawn into Secret Service work. In 1865, Matthew Anderson was prosecuting a number of Fenian members charged with treason. He turned to his sons Samuel and Robert for help with the research side of things. He trusted them with confidential reports and other secret information that crossed his desk.

Nepotism may have been his gateway to the world of secrets, but Robert Anderson quickly demonstrated that he was a natural. One historian wrote of him that he was “able to work with the quiet patience and efficiency of a spider.” The same mind that found the Bible so fascinating — particularly various cryptic prophecies — also found intelligence gathering to be very interesting.

Irish nationalists referred to people like the Anderson family — Irish, but not in sympathy with the Fenians — as “castle rats,” a reference to the iconic Dublin Castle, the seat and emblem of British power in Dublin. But soon Robert became the resident expert on all things Fenian, and he wrote a detailed history of the movement for the authorities. This opened many doors for the young lawyer. His work on the project was known in the highest circles, and eventually Anderson was called to London to join a taskforce of sorts dealing with the Irish threat and political crime in general.

Along the way, Robert Anderson — while working on his writing about biblical themes in his spare time — became involved with the interrogation of Fenian prisoners. From there, it was a small step into the murky world of infiltration and espionage. Soon the man who had preached the gospel in the open air became a spymaster.

Thomas Beach, a.k.a. Henri Le Caron, has been called “the champion spy of the century.” That would be the 19th century. He infiltrated the Fenian movement in America for 21 years. And he reported directly to his handler in the British Secret Service — Robert Anderson.

A good number of Irish-Americans fought in the American Civil War — on both sides. By the end of the conflict in 1865, many of those same soldiers drifted into the Fenian cause. The more aggressive and extreme of the lot conceived a plan to attack British strongholds in Canada. The idea was to hold Canada hostage. This would be accomplished by seizing key cities and centers. If successful, the Fenians would then try to negotiate a trade with the reviled British — swap Canada for Ireland’s independence. Toward this end, there were four Fenian “raids” conducted between 1866 and 1871.

The raids were doomed from the start, not only because the whole scheme was incredibly far-fetched, but also because of the work of spy Henri Le Caron and his handler, Robert Anderson. They made sure the best-laid Fenian plans were betrayed long before implementation.

In 1873, Robert Anderson married Agnes Alexandrina Moore — together they would have five children. Shortly thereafter he began writing books, many of which are still widely read by Bible students today. It was quite remarkable that Anderson could think through and produce so many detailed studies of scriptural issues while immersed in a demanding and intense career. An old college friend wrote to him in 1876, “How on earth have you had time to dive into theology?” But he found the time and spent it well.

The Gospel and its Ministry was published in 1875, dealing with the great themes of grace, faith, repentance, reconciliation, and justification. A bit later he wrote what was likely the most widely read of his books — The Coming Prince. In it he dealt in-depth with prophecies found in the Book of Daniel about an end-time ruler. Probably the most famous — and controversial — part of the book is Anderson’s calculation and solution regarding Daniel’s vision of “seventy-weeks.”

With the help of the Royal Astronomer, Sir George Airy, he fixed the date of the decree by Cyrus for the Jews to “restore and build Jerusalem” at March 14, 445 BC. Anderson calculated 173,880 days — accounting for 69 weeks of years on the lunar calendar — and arrived at April 6, 32 AD as the date Jesus entered Jerusalem, shortly before his crucifixion. The final “week” would be later in history and feature the ungodly work of the Antichrist, “who by the sheer force of transcendent genius will gain a place of undisputed pre-eminence.”

A few years later Anderson wrote Human Destiny, an examination of life after death from a biblical perspective. It thoroughly examined theories such as “universalism” and “conditional mortality.” One contemporary preacher, none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon, considered this Anderson book to be “the most valuable contribution on the subject.” Later he wrote The Silence of God (which comforted many in Britain during The Great War) and The Bible and Modern Criticism.

In all, he wrote 17 volumes based on biblical issues, as well as three books about his work for the government. His circle of friends included Lord Salisbury (Robert Cecil), William Gladstone, Henry Drummond, James M. Gray, C. I. Scofield, A.C. Dixon, C.H. Spurgeon, E. W. Bullinger, John Nelson Darby, and many others.

Anderson’s work as a spymaster eventually led to an appointment as Irish Agent at the Home Office in London. He moved in influential circles, often in the company of the rich and powerful. He was invited into the “Gossett’s Room” — an elite club usually reserved for members of Parliament. Over the next several years, Robert Anderson, in addition to his work with the Home Office, served as secretary of the Royal Commission on Loss of Life at Sea, secretary of the Prison Commission, and on the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh Commission.

Anderson thought of leaving government service in the early 1880s, possibly to pursue his writing full time. But the rise of Fenian violence in London — including several bombings — kept him connected to secret work. He was involved in the creation of a new intelligence organization called the Special Irish Branch. This role put him in the perfect position at Scotland Yard to step into what would become the most sensational and controversial murder investigation in history.

Robert Anderson’s official title was Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). And he was the man in charge of the big case as fear gripped East London.

Eventually, five women were savagely murdered — the victims of Jack the Ripper (there are many who think there could have been as many as 18). The spree ran from the 31st of August in 1888 through the following November 9th, ending abruptly and mysteriously with the killing of Mary Jane Kelly.

The crimes have never been solved and opinions abound. The list of suspects involves more than 30 names, including a member of the Royal family, author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), and at least one woman.

Robert Anderson actually believed that the crime had been solved, and over the years he left hints as to the identity of the killer. For example, this item was in the March 21, 1910, edition of the Washington Post:

 

Sir Robert Anderson, for more than 30 years chief of the criminal investigation department of the British government, and head of the detective bureau at Scotland Yard, has at length raised the veil of mystery which for nearly two decades has enveloped the identity of the perpetrator of those atrocious crimes known as the Whitechapel murders.

Sir Robert establishes the fact that the infamous “Jack the Ripper,” as the unknown slayer had been dubbed by the public, and at whose hands no less than fourteen women of the unfortunate class lost their lives within a circumscribed area of the east end of London, was an alien of the lower, though educated class, hailing from Poland, and a maniac of the most virulent and homicidal type — of a type recorded, by reason of its rarity, in medical treatises, but one with which the world at large is not familiar.

But the most important point of all made by Sir Robert is the fact that once the criminal investigation department was sure that it had in its hands the real perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders it procured from the secretary of state for the home department a warrant committing the man for detention “during the Kings’ pleasure” to the great asylum for the criminally insane at Broadmoor five or six years ago.

The man’s name was Aaron Kozminski. In 2011, “Ripperologist” Robert House wrote a book called Jack the Ripper and the Case for Scotland Yard’s Prime Suspect. In it, he makes the case that Robert Anderson was right, and that Kozminski was indeed the notorious serial killer.

9867612Anderson retired from public life in 1901 and was knighted. He would be known ever after as Sir Robert Anderson. He spent his remaining days preaching and writing, advancing the cause of Christ and paying special attention to biblical prophecy and the second coming of Christ. He remained a keen student of current events and international affairs, always viewing them through the prism of God’s Word.

Interestingly, Anderson himself seemed to wax prophetic when he wrote these words in the 1890s: “History repeats itself, and if there be any element of periodicity in the political diseases by which nations are afflicted, Europe will pass through another crisis and it is impossible to foretell how far kingdoms may become consolidated and boundaries changed.”

He lived to see that great crisis — The Great War — but not long enough to witness the full measure of consolidated kingdoms and shifted boundaries. A few days after the armistice, Robert Anderson, as did millions of others around that time, succumbed to Spanish Influenza. He died on November 15, 1918.

 

David R. Stokes is an author, broadcaster, columnist, and Senior Pastor of Fair Oaks Church in Fairfax, VA. His personal website is http://www.davidrstokes.com.

THE DAY NIXON TOLD THE TRUTH

During his farewell remarks in the White House East Room on August 9, 1974, President Richard Milhous Nixon told the truth.

Nixon_FarewellNixon remains a controversial and tarnished historical figure. But his impact on America was significant. Only Franklin Roosevelt’s name appeared on as many national ballots (five). His presidency, though now remembered by many for the way it ended, was actually filled with great achievement and success in many ways. Nixon was a brilliant visionary.

But he also had a weakness.

It was a failure to tell the truth that became Nixon’s undoing. The highly publicized tapes of what he thought would remain private conversations revealed that shortcoming. Nixon really did have enemies, but he later acknowledged that he was the one who gave them the sword to use with relish.

Forty years ago this weekend, I was a few days away from beginning my first year of college and was finishing up a summer job at a Taylor, Michigan menswear store. I asked my boss if I could leave a bit early on August 8th, and he asked me why. I told him that I wanted to watch the President’s speech. I made it home just as the living room clock chimed nine times. The image of President Nixon came on the screen, and he began: “Good evening. This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office.”

My mother was crying. Mom and Dad were Nixon people since voting for him when he was Vice President under Eisenhower. I was an “Alex P. Keaton” type of kid who often defended Nixon to my high school teachers. Fortunately for me, the summer of 1974 began and school was out by the time I finally realized that Watergate indeed involved Nixon, saving me from a litany of condescending voices saying, “I told you so.”

However my interest in Nixon, his work and legacy, did not end when he waved, flashed a victory sign, and got into Marine One on the White House lawn. I wrote about him in graduate school, and years later had the privilege of writing some for his library in Yorba Linda, as well as doing some of the voice-over work that continues to be used in a few exhibits there.

As we note the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, I think it’s what the man said to his staff and other assembled guests that continues to resonate with me. It was an unusual address for someone who was a master at extemporaneous speaking.

Among the gifts and passions possessed by the 37th President of the United States was a love for the English language. He was a wordsmith and actually quite good at it, in spite of the fact that his White House staff included a stable of excellent speechwriters. Not since Woodrow Wilson had a president been so involved in writing his own speeches. And Nixon never used a teleprompter.

When Nixon spoke that Friday morning, just after signing his resignation letter for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, there were about 300 people in the East Room. I watched it on television, along with millions of others.

His remarks were at times rambling and mawkish. His tone wasn’t defiant like when speaking in 1962 after losing the race for Governor in California, when he talked about not having him to “kick around” anymore. But it was somewhat painful to watch.

After talking about mountains, valleys, young people, his “Old Man,” and his saintly mother, Mr. Nixon shared words that are worth remembering no matter what our lot in life. They were likely among the most self-aware words Nixon ever uttered in public:

Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” [Emphasis added]

In a very real sense, Richard Nixon explained Watergate in that moment. He was a man with the capacity for greatness, one of the smartest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office. But he wrestled with a very common problem: Unresolved anger.

I could be wrong, but I wonder if that day, as Nixon was talking about his Quaker mother, he wasn’t remembering something she had most certainly taught her gifted son. It was what Jesus said:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” [Matthew 5:44]