Heroism takes many forms, but the most raw and inspiring comes in war. In all of American history no moment has crystallized more clearly than the invasion of Normandy, exemplified most clearly on Omaha beach. The stories are horrifying and inspiring, but ultimately they are lessons – examples of heroism which inspire the value of leadership deep in head and heart both.
What is less commonly understood about Omaha Beach is how much it all went wrong. Nearly everything about this landing went as horribly off plan as possible, with thousands dying needlessly. The beach was almost abandoned as the loss of life mounted. What made the difference that day was leadership – courage boiled down into conviction to get the job done. It was shown at every level from every man who took part in the mission and rose above the problems.
Omaha Beach is a lesson for all of us as to what raw leadership can do in times of trial.
The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground. The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.
This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.
“Machines should work, people should think.”
The “IBM Polyanna Principle”
This slogan seems to come from an IBM ad from the 1960s, but it may be much older. It’s based on a vision of the future where robots do the heavy lifting and humans have time to dream up new ideas. In many ways, it describes the world we live in today. In other ways, it’s as much of a cartoon as “The Jetsons”.
The problem with automation is that it doesn’t stop just at physical work. Today’s machines do the thinking for us – or at least make it easier for a small cadre of professionals to view the “big picture”. Are humans becoming redundant? Is there a place for people and work in a world already heavily tilted towards capital and the machines it can buy?
Angry crowds are boiling over. Revolution is at hand, something has to change. But change to what and where is it going? It doesn’t matter to many people. Smash what’s there and take control – we’ll figure the rest out later.
Many terms bubble out as we struggle to describe this moment. “Socialist” and “Fascist” have been easily pushed out to describe the followers of Sanders and Trump, some of whom move more fluidly through Sanders / Trump / Paul than our typical left to right, Democrat to Republican divide tells us is possible. What language do we have to even describe this?
That is, in the end, the problem. We have a rise of “Populism”, a largely apolitical beast whose character reflects is leadership – which can come from anywhere in the spectrum. At the radical heart of it all is “Revenge Populism” which lacks any vision of the future and little sense of past, living entirely in the hot here and now.
Much has already been made of the dust-up at the Nevada state Democratic convention. Was Bernie robbed by corruption? Was an unruly mob turned back? Opinions run hot through both social media and legacy media as the fight for the nomination heats up into a rather physical confrontation. But one point has rarely been made in all the noise:
What was actually at stake were two national delegates of the 4,765 total, or 0.04%.
For all the fuss you’d naturally assume that there was more to it than this, but there wasn’t. And the noise becomes much more than a juicy news story or a call to arms for a disgruntled group who believe they were robbed. It comes down to a question of strategy or how actual change is made, whether by a democratic process, a revolution, or some combination of the two.
By that standard what happened was completely shameful for a number of reasons.