Our Founding Debate

July 2, 2020

I hope you’re having a great 4th of July week, but between the celebratory fireworks on one hand and the anti-American political fireworks on the other, let’s take just a moment to reflect on what Independence Day really means and how it led to the freedoms and blessings that far too many Americans fail to appreciate these days.

Most historians (not New York Times writers, but real historians) mark the beginning of America as the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. But in truth, there was still a long road to travel before America as we know it came to be. First, of course, there was the matter of fighting a bloody revolution against Great Britain, one where victory was an overwhelming longshot, and win or lose, the leaders risked their lives and fortunes. Victory was followed by more heated battles over what kind of government we would have.

Our Forefathers finally agreed to a blueprint, the Constitution, that wasn’t even introduced until 1789 – over 13 years later. Today, many Americans take those hard-won freedoms very lightly and seem eager to trade them away for false promises of security. Some can’t even name the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Maybe they’d cherish them more if they knew how close they came to not having them at all.

Did you know that the Constitution very nearly got passed without the Bill of Rights? Even some of the wisest of our forefathers thought a Bill of Rights was a dangerous idea. Alexander Hamilton argued that it was risky to list the rights the government couldn’t take away because then, politicians might try to grab any and every power that wasn’t specifically prohibited to them (apparently, the ability to rap wasn’t the only way Hamilton predicted the 21st century). He and many others also felt that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary: since nobody was surrendering their God-given rights by agreeing to the Constitution, there was no need to list them, right? Hamilton wrote, “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”

It’s ironic that Hamilton made that argument. Later on, as the first Treasury Secretary, he cited powers that the Constitution merely implied that the government had in order to take on debt, create a federal bank and impose unpopular taxes. Over a century later, when the federal income tax was passed, some lawmakers wanted to include a 10% limit, but they were voted down. Opponents scoffed that it was absurd to think the government would ever steal as much as 10% of an American’s hard-earned wages. Flash forward just 30 years, and they were happily taxing away 94%. So just imagine how few freedoms we’d have today if they’d listened to Hamilton and decided it wasn’t necessary to put specific limits on government power.

Luckily for us all, Thomas Jefferson won the argument, and the Bill of Rights was added. They even included the 9th amendment, which I’ll bet most people can’t even describe. Here’s what it says:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

It means that just because some God-given rights aren’t specifically listed, that doesn’t mean the people cede them to the government. Maybe because so many of the framers were also farmers, they understood that like weeds, government tends to grow and grow, choking out the productive crops -- and like a bull, it will trample you if you don’t corral it.

So if we want to preserve our freedoms, and keep government limited, maybe we should send more farmers to Washington -- and fewer lawyers.

Happy Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

Happy Juneteenth, and if you don’t know what that means, you probably will soon. Juneteenth (for “June 19th”) has been a popular holiday throughout the South for well over a century, but the current racial tensions have politicians and corporations around the nation suddenly jumping on the bandwagon to declare it a national or state holiday or paid leave day, only about 150 years late. Here’s what it’s about:

On June 19, 1865, Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3  to the slaves in Galveston, Texas, which informed them that they were free and now had “an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves.” This was 2-1/2 years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth was a Texas celebration for many years, starting in 1866, but ramping up in 1872, when former slaves bought 10 acres of land in Houston to create Emancipation Park, the city's only park and swimming pool open to African-Americans, and the site of a big annual Juneteeth celebration. It gradually spread throughout the South, but most people outside the South knew very little about it until very recently.

Ironically, Juneteenth has finally entered the national consciousness during a summer when the coronavirus has killed mass public gatherings, so the usual barbecues and concerts will mostly be restricted to virtual events, backyards and close family this year.

I know some people will be cynical and call the sudden push for Juneteenth pandering or politics, but as someone who grew up in the South, I can assure you you’re lucky to finally discover Juneteenth. It’s a great holiday that celebrates freedom just as much as the Fourth of July does, and while it’s considered an African-American holiday, it’s something that every American should celebrate. Anything that can get us all back into public parks, celebrating together with music, fireworks, and barbecues, and remind us that people of all races are free and equal in America, is more than welcome now. It's necessary.

The America I Love

June 11, 2020

Right now, the media are dominated by voices claiming that America is a land of racism and hatred, built on oppression and slavery and white supremacy. Well, pardon my language, but they are full of bull flop. There are a handful of bad apples, but it’s a very big barrel, and if we really were to do as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed and judge each other by the content of our characters rather than the color of our skin, I bet we’d mostly find a lot of good, caring people of every shade. If you don’t believe me, turn off all the hyperventilating hate merchants for a moment and look at this story:

Last Thursday, there was a car crash in Indianapolis, and a woman was trapped under an overturned van. Nearby resident Laurie Collins reported on Facebook that she heard the crash and ran to the scene. She said that suddenly, many people “came out of nowhere” to help. Some comforted and reassured the woman and tried to assess her condition while the others determined to lift the van off her somehow. They gathered around, called out, “1...2…3!” But they couldn’t move it. So more guys joined in, and the second time, they did the seemingly impossible: they lifted the van and pushed it off of her.

As you can tell from the photo, and from Collins’ description, there were “all kinds of different people and they were all trying to help together.” Please note that the people who rushed to help were men and women, and all different races. I’m sure many of them didn’t know the race of the victim, and couldn’t care less. When they heard someone was in need, and rushed in, joined together, and all lifted in the same direction to help.

That is the America I love and the American people I know. No matter how many buildings are set on fire or statues are vandalized or phony history books are forced onto students, you will never convince me otherwise.

Feel-good story

June 9, 2020

We need a feel-good story right now, and here’s a great one. In Buffalo, New York, 18-year-old Antonio Gwynn Jr. was so upset by the trashing of his neighborhood by protesters that he grabbed a broom and some trash bags and went to work at 2 a.m., cleaning it up. He worked for 10 straight hours. By the time volunteers arrived to clean up, they found that Antonio had just about finished the job all by himself.

When word spread of what Antonio had done, local businessman Matt Block was so impressed, he saw that Antonio was looking for car-buying advice on his Facebook page, so Block gave him his prized 2004 red Mustang convertible. He didn’t realize how it would affect Antonio, who was stunned into silence because his late mother used to drive a red Mustang.

As word spread, another local businessman kicked in a year of free auto insurance, saying, “I just felt compelled to help him out. We just need to get together our whole city and show people how there’s so many good people here." And Medaille College in Buffalo offered Antonio a scholarship to study business.

Finally, I guess I should mention this: Antonio is black, and Matt is white. But that really should be the least important part of this story.

76 years later: D-Day

June 9, 2020

Saturday, June 6, was the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the mass invasion of France that spelled the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign of terror in Europe in World War II. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft joined in support against entrenched Nazi positions on the coastal cliffs. More than 160,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy. 9,000 were killed or wounded that day, but their courage and sacrifice enabled over 100,000 more troops to start the long, bloody pushback of the Nazis and liberate Europe. It was the biggest military operation in history, and amazingly, it was all pulled together in secret without anyone leaking the plans and warning the enemy, something it’s virtually impossible to imagine these days.

As the architect of D-Day, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, said, "I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!" And that they achieved, no matter the cost.

I held off writing about D-Day until today because I wanted to see whether the commemorations would be able to go forward, with France ravaged and shut down by the pandemic and so few surviving elderly veterans able to leave their homes. I’m glad to be able to say that while there couldn’t be the huge memorials that marked last year’s 75th anniversary, the grateful people of France made it clear that they have not forgotten that sacrifice for their freedom.

95-year-old US Army veteran Charles Shay, who stormed Omaha Beach as a 19-year-old medic, now lives near the beach and was the only veteran able to be standing there at dawn. But he wasn’t alone. A few dozen locals and tourists, some in period attire, gathered to honor and remember those heroes. The theme from “Saving Private Ryan” was played. Later in the day, French fighter jets staged a flyover. And even before dawn, local fisherman Ivan Thierry was standing on the beach, holding up an American flag.

He said, “There is not nobody here. Even if we are only a dozen, we are here to commemorate.”

But even if the elderly heroes of D-Day couldn’t make it back to France, they were not forgotten at home. Around America, they were honored by their neighbors. For instance, in Niles, Michigan, the local VFW presented them with certificates of honor and Michigan challenge coins, and the Western Michigan Gold Star Mothers gave them American flag quilts.

And in Billerica, Massachusetts, the family of John DiClemente, a veteran of both D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, told him they were taking him to a veterans’ event. It was actually a vehicle parade in his honor by local police and firefighters.

There were many such commemorations around the nation, small but heartfelt. Whether we hold giant commemorations or just local observances, the important thing is that we never lose our gratitude for the sacrifice of these true American heroes, and that as that Greatest Generation passes into history, that we teach future generations what they did and to be thankful for them. We’re currently getting a very harsh lesson in what happens when we entrust that important job to people who hate and blame America for all the world’s ills, and who refuse to teach its real history. It’s time for parents to take that job back.

Sadly, this D-Day anniversary weekend was also marred by continuing violent protests, including protesters who scrawled profane graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in England and on the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the Lincoln Memorial (a strange way to protest racism, to desecrate the memorial to the man who led a war to free the slaves.)

I wonder how many of these protesters who hide behind the First Amendment to justify their vandalism and disrespect for these heroes realize that if it weren’t for them and their comrades, they would have no First Amendment rights? I wonder if the protesters in England think they’d be better off today if there had been no Winston Churchill to rally the nation and help plan D-Day and destroy Nazism? Do they even understand what fascism is?

I seriously doubt it. Possibly the most disrespectful desecration, far beyond that of any spray paint can, came from Bernie Sanders’ “foreign policy adviser” Matt Duss, who declared D-Day to be the “largest Antifa operation in history.”

No, it was the largest genuine anti-fascist operation in history. The soldiers of D-Day were real warriors facing heavy, deadly fire; not make-believe “social justice warriors” who expect to be allowed to attack anyone they please with no consequences. The soldiers of D-Day were fighting real fascism, not using fascist tactics to terrorize anyone who disagrees with them (Antifa's definition of “fascists.”) The soldiers of D-Day were greeted with cheers because they were there to bring freedom and liberation, and drive out the people who burned, threatened and looted the neighborhoods. They weren't there to burn, threaten and loot them.

And the soldiers of D-Day, as John DiClemente recalled, were greeted by “good people” in “France, Belgium, Germany and Russia. They didn’t want to fight us. Every time we went into a city, they fed us wine, (gave us) flowers, hugs, kisses and what have you. They were glad to see us.”

Is anyone glad when Antifa shows up? I think many of us will be glad when they finally start showing up in federal prisons.

There are a few celebrities in the news these days for making profane, threatening tweets against the President. I usually ignore these stories because I have enough kids and grandkids to know that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it; and these spoiled children are desperately seeking attention. The worst punishment you can mete out to them isn’t criticism, it’s ignoring them. So instead of rewarding them with undeserved attention, I thought I’d shine a spotlight on a few celebrities who are using their fame to make a positive difference.

First, how about a hand for Matthew McConaughey? He’s the spokesman for Lincoln Motors, and he convinced them to donate 110,000 face masks to rural hospitals and first responders in his home state of Texas. Then he loaded up his pickup, and he and his wife Camilla Alves hit the road to deliver them personally. Allright, allright, allright!...

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is part of an effort to provide free meals for front line health care workers and first responders at Santa Clara, California, hospitals. One day, he not only helped make and hand out 1200 boxed lunches, he put a personal thank-you note inside each one.

Last month, country superstar Brad Paisley opened a grocery store in Nashville for people struggling to feed their families. It’s just like a regular grocery, except the food is free. It even delivers to the elderly. Brad has also launched an online song series with music stars performing to thank health care workers, and he recently recorded a personal thank-you for the nurses of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Finally, a big Huck’s Hero salute to a celebrity who does more for veterans than just about anyone I know, Gary Sinese. His foundation is donating 20,000 meals to health care workers at VA medical centers around the nation.

I’m happy to give these celebrities some recognition because what they did was meant to help others, not to get themselves publicity. Social media might be a lot more civil if all media outlets would simply adopt the same policy of not giving attention to people who only do things to get attention.

Story of the day

April 28, 2020

A big Huck’s Hero salute to New Jersey newspaper deliveryman Greg Daily. When an elderly customer asked if he could throw the paper closer to the garage, it made him think that if she couldn’t walk that 20 feet, how could she go out for groceries during the lockdown?

So he put a note inside every newspaper, offering his services to shop for and deliver groceries free of charge to his elderly customers. He’s now busy helping nearly 100 people, some of them not even on his paper route. One grateful 85-year-old widow called him “one of the finest people in the world.” Daily said the seniors appreciate the help so much, he’s decided to keep doing it even after the lockdown ends. He said, “There’s something about being able to do something really nice for people.”

There sure is! Our thanks to Greg Daily for reminding us all that “social distancing” doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to the people around you who really need your help.

And on that subject, here’s another story that could have gone a very different way, if it weren’t for the kindness and compassion of a grocery store owner in Ontario.

RIP Troy Sneed

April 28, 2020

I am saddened to report that the coronavirus has taken another talented musician from us. Grammy-nominated gospel singer Troy Sneed died Monday in Jacksonville, Florida, of complications from the virus. He was only 52.

Sneed started his career with the Georgia Mass Choir, which appeared in the film “The Preacher’s Wife” with Whitney Houston. He then formed Youth For Christ before launching a gospel record label with his wife Emily and releasing seven solo albums. His hits include “Work It Out” and “My Heart Says Yes.” Our deepest condolences and prayers for his wife and family. Here are some samples of the inspiring musical legacy he left us here and here.

Bergen-Belsen Anniversary

April 16, 2020

Wednesday, Germany observed a national moment of silence in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus shutdown, the memorial was closed, survivors who had planned to attend were forced to stay home, and events to mark the date had to be postponed to 2021.

Bergen-Belsen was one of the first camps to be liberated by the Allies. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 people died there. British troops found it riddled with disease and more than 13,000 unburied corpses. They freed about 60,000 prisoners who were in shockingly bad condition, sick and starving and in desperate need of medical care. The victims included Anne Frank and her sister Margot, who are now believed to have died of typhus about two months before the Allied troops arrived.

Even though current circumstances have forced the official commemoration to be postponed, you can learn more about this horrific chapter in history online at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum site. Once you read the story of Bergen-Belson, and the other concentration camps, you’ll understand why we must pass it on to future generations so that it is never forgotten and never allowed to happen again.

Huck's Hero Kurt Kruczek

March 22, 2020

I wrote recently that I seem to live in a very different America from the dog-eat-dog Zombie Apocalypse described by the media. In the America where I live, people are dealing with the current pandemic scare by trying their best to stay calm, keep on keeping on, and helping each other as much as possible.

One great example of a Huck’s Hero in this situation is Kurt Kruczek, owner of Naples Pizza in West Hartford, Connecticut. His business is down 50%, he had to close one location, and he’s struggling to keep paying all his workers. But when he saw the doctors at the local hospital on TV in their “space suits,” working so hard to deal with the coronavirus, he knew he had to help. So he called and asked if they’d like some free pizzas. The gift was greatly appreciated by the overworked staffers and worried patient family members. So he’s now making a weekly delivery of free pizzas to the hospital, one during the daytime and another at night, for the night shift people who tend to be forgotten.

Kruczek appeared Wednesday on “Fox & Friends,” where he urged people to please support their local restaurants that are struggling to survive by ordering good to go or to be delivered. And here’s a great idea: he said if you can afford it, consider buying gift cards and either using them when the pandemic is over, or else donate them as thank-you gifts to your local hospital, police or firefighters.

There’s even a website now that can help you find a restaurant near you that’s offering gift cards, to help your local businesses survive. To learn more, go to www.RallyForRestaurants.com.