CSotD: Rebuilding from the Past

Juxtaposition of the Date

(Andy Marlette – Creators)


(Walt Handelsman)

I remember taking angry phone calls in the newsroom on a December 7 in the early ’90s because we hadn’t acknowledged the date on Page One. It wasn’t my decision: I only got the calls because, as the business writer, I was there before noon, which left me little to say except “I understand. I’ll tell them.”

But Andy Marlette is correct. The WWII generation is nearly gone and with them the first-person memories not just of that day but of that war.

And it wasn’t just those who fought. I did a Sunday long-form story once about the home front and found people at the Senior Center eager to share memories, with me and with each other, about saving bacon grease to spread on toast and pooling sugar rations to make jam with local wild berries.

A neighbor, physically unable to serve, worked at the local tissue mill. One of his jobs was to jump on the boxes of toilet paper destined for the military, to flatten the cardboard tubes and make those packages more compact.

Which brings us to Handelsman’s view of a nation so selfish and divided that we wouldn’t rise to the occasion even in such a crisis.

I’m not sure of that. Certainly, in 1941, Congress rallied to respond to Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war, with poor Jeannette Rankin, a dedicated pacifist, casting the only vote in opposition, then racing from the chamber in tears.

There was no such unity in 2002 when, a year after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush asked Congress to support his invasion of Iraq. As shown in this 538 graph, his approval ratings had leapt upon September 11, but were down to about a still impressive 63% by the time he asked for that vote.


The measure was approved with a strong but hardly unanimous majority, largely along party lines.

Of course, it’s important to remember that Japan had attacked us and Iraq had not. A year earlier, the comparison had been more valid: Invasion of Afghanistan, source (if not author) of the attacks, was approved nearly unanimously, with only one vote in the House against the move.

I suppose the question for us on this 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is how big a disaster it would take to get Americans to pull together?

That’s a rhetorical question. I’m aware that 418,500 Americans died in World War II and 788,000 have died from the coronavirus.

So far.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Timing is everything, and Mother Goose and Grimm (KFS) kinda sorta references Myanmar just as the junta has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to prison.

But not really.

Crab Rangoon isn’t even made with crab. It’s made with fake crab and so I suppose should be called Surimi Yangon except that it also isn’t Burmese or Myanmarese or even Chinese.

And while the surimi that masquerades as crab in sushi has some grain and texture, Crab Rangoon is made with a paste of the stuff in, as Ralph complains, small enough proportions that you’re basically just eating deep-fried cream cheese.

Which makes me think that, if they made them the size of softballs, they could sell them at the county fair.


And while I’m agreeing with talking animals, I’ll salute Pooch Cafe (AMS) because Poncho makes a point that I’ve made in arguing with Grammar Nazis about the word “unique.”

The word, as they define it, is meaningless.

If they are correct and there can be no degrees of uniqueness, and that only absolutely singular things can be unique, then Poncho is right: At least on a subatomic level, everything in the universe is unique.

To which I would add that the idea that no two snowflakes are alike is completely theoretical and probably nonsense anyway.

Moreover, context matters. Even if individual snowflakes were unique, that uniqueness becomes even less than theoretically interesting when several million of them are piled up in my driveway.

Let it be noted that my opinion on the topic is only somewhat unique, since it is shared by a fictional dog.

And sensible people.

Which may still make it somewhat unique.


There’s no way to smoothly segue from “sensible people” to Maeve’s love life in Between Friends (KFS), but here we are anyway, with Simon once more upending the tiny bit of stability in her world, where, as the punchline indicates, maturity has little foothold.

The premise is a bit shaky. Most second weddings that involve first wives also involve shared children and, as indicated, people mature enough to put their differences behind them. I was at a table with First Wife at a second wedding at which their shared child, a teenager, had been Best Man, and we had a nice time.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure it wasn’t a fix-up.


A more serious story arc is unfolding over in Arlo and Janis (AMS), where Gene and Mary Lou, having shuttered their restaurant, are trying to figure out their next move.

As it happens, both my father and I did a complete reset in middle life and we both did very well, though we had to uproot kids who were in middle or high school, which can make you think twice.

But whether that’s a reason or an excuse is an open question.

Their daughter is young enough that it shouldn’t be an issue, and closing the restaurant wasn’t really a choice.

“Roots and wings” are the proper parental goal. The kids will be fine.


Speaking of getting on with the changes in your life, Deflocked (AMS) offers a chance for me to close with the most pathetic song in all of C&W, a genre that has always acknowledged the vulnerability of men in broken romances, or in bad jobs, or in other situations in which their lives are falling apart.

It’s a truly great song, because it invokes contrasting reactions.

That is, while I feel really bad for this guy, he’s an idiot. I want to whack him upside the head and tell him to get a freaking clue.

Maybe you have to have been there.


(That’s Floyd Cramer on piano. Chet Atkins producing.)

9 thoughts on “CSotD: Rebuilding from the Past

  1. If I may quote Lefty, of Raging Pencils: “If the Greatest Generation were all still with us and in their physical prime they’d be assaulting the Capitol in order to cold-cock the shit out of these fascist traitors calling themselves Republicans.”

  2. I woke up the other day and everything in my apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I couldn’t believe it. I called my friend in and said, “look at this tuff, it’s all an exact replica, what do you think?”. He said, “do I know you?”.

    Steven Wright

  3. Some years back there was a short news story (I THINK in one of the big Denver papers) about a bunch of people who had traveled from all over the US because some GI remains had finally been retrieved and there was a mass funeral for them at one of the military graveyards. Someone in a different venue said it made you wonder how many made the trip in Toyotas or VWs.

  4. Those ol’ boys were so direct. My dad often spoke of how we treated the Germans differently than the Japanese, but he didn’t use the term “racism.” He said “because they looked like us,” which cuts deeper because it’s more personal and less categorical, less analytical.

    I also remember being at a Rotary luncheon with a colleague. We began talking about our new cars, his a Nissan, mine a Toyota, and one of the old fellows at the table said, “I don’t buy Japanese cars. They used to shoot at my airplane.”


  5. Andrea – tip of the hat to Lefty (and you) . All those guys storming Omaha Beach were Antifas.

  6. Yes, there is the supreme irony: That antifascists (‘antifa’) are now “the bad guys”.

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