By Dr. Edward Lorenz
The recent violence by a mob in Washington trying to overturn the election makes clear we have an urgent need in the country and in Gratiot County to consider institutional/educational changes to confront authoritarian, anti-democratic behaviors. Historically, we have not always made the right choices. We live in a county that had a strong Ku Klux Klan that targeted the Catholic population. The Klan focused on Catholics because here they had few of their other favorite targets - African-Americans and Jews. However, we live in a community with a long positive history to guide us.
We live in a community with people who led confrontation with racism and hate. In the Civil War, 258 Gratiot County residents died for the Union, while Alma founder Ralph Ely served as both a distinguished military commander and, after the war, led the Freedman’s Bureau in South Carolina helping protect the rights of former slaves.
With the current rise of domestic anti-democratic terrorism, we should remember another locally groomed model of leadership, Frank Knox and his wife, Annie Reid, both Alma College graduates. You may know those names simply because they gave millions of dollars to fund the College’s administration building and to support a professorship in history. While I happened to have been the Reid-Knox Professor for two decades, I initially knew little of the couple’s importance.
It was easy to find out that Frank Knox quit Alma a few weeks before commencement in 1898 to join Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders.’ His future wife Annie stayed to graduate with their class of 1898. Beyond that act, Knox showed up in the back of my history books in lists about presidential elections and presidential cabinets. He happened to have been the losing Republican nominee for Vice President in 1936 and then Secretary of the Navy during World War II. Some investigation also showed Knox was a journalist, first in Sault St. Marie, later in New Hampshire and finally owner of the Chicago Daily News. None of that background would make the couple more than the ‘footnote’ they usually get in our history.
In May 2009, I had a shocking revelation about Knox. I was with a class of Alma students visiting the Nazi Documentation Center in Nuremberg, Germany. Why were we there? Nuremberg had been a hotbed of Nazism, which is why after the war the German government established the Documentation Center there. The Center is not a ‘holocaust museum.’ Instead, it is a center for exploring how and why the people of Germany – which had the “best” education system in the world at the time - could "fall for Hitler." The Center runs training programs in understanding propaganda. Also, it has a set of exhibits on the rise of fascism.
As we looked at one of the displays that showed the two exceptional newspapers in the world to warn early-on of the dangers of Nazism, my students and I were amazed that one of the two was Knox's Chicago Daily News! A little investigation after we returned home revealed that in the 1930s Knox had built the Daily News into a foreign policy reporting rival to the New York Times and, as the Germans knew, one of the few papers to pay attention to the dangers of Nazism.
The Daily News employed as its German correspondent Edgar Mowrer, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1933 for his pioneering accounts of the dangers of Hitler. Knox fully supported Mowrer’s reporting, even when warned his correspondent’s life was in danger. Because Mowrer’s reporting so offended Hitler, he was one of the first correspondents ordered out of the country. The German official who escorted him to the train station in Berlin to assure he left, asked if Mowrer ever thought of returning. Mowrer answered, prophetically (and defiantly), "[W]hen I come back [it will be] with about two million of my countrymen."
Throughout the mid-1930s, while most Americans dreamt of isolation from growing fascist threats, Knox maintained his focus on fascism’s dangers. His commitment to this struggle became clear after he and Alf Landon lost in a landslide to Franklin Roosevelt. During the 1936 campaign, as has often been the role, VP candidate Knox was the ‘attack dog,’ especially criticizing Franklin Roosevelt for Social Security.
However, after the defeat, Knox resumed his focus on the dangers of fascism. This was not always popular. There was a large U.S. homegrown fascist movement. Until his assassination, Huey Long in Louisiana had been one of the leaders of that movement. Charles Coughlin of Royal Oak was another, personalizing a link of Christian-nationalism to fascism. There was a 20,000 strong German-American Bund that celebrated Hitler’s achievements. In 1937, to test support for confronting the fascist threat, President Roosevelt went to Chicago and delivered the ‘Quarantine Speech’ calling for the U.S. to confront fascist lawlessness. Virtually all of the nation’s press condemned the speech, except for Knox.
Then in 1940, a presidential election year, Hitler’s armies overran most of Europe. Roosevelt knew he had to do the highly unpopular step of instituting a peacetime draft. Knox agreed. In a bipartisan show of support, Knox agreed to come into the administration as Secretary of the Navy. He would die on the job in 1944 from overwork.
Everyone in Gratiot County should not only be proud of Frank Knox and Annie Reid but also learn from their bipartisan commitment to the country. As we saw on January 6, fascism is a danger here. Opposing it is not merely personally to reject fear and hate. It means being determined to find ways to work across partisan divisions to undermine it and its hyper-partisanship.
For the last three years, there has been a movement in the region to join together in Reid-Knox Forums to promote dialogue on important community issues. The forums have largely been supported by the Gratiot Democrats. While we appreciate that support, the forums should not be an event for only one party. We need Republicans locally to adopt the model of Frank Knox, Annie Reid, and Ralph Ely. We urgently need to model for our state and nation, coming together in dialogue to resolve the issues we confront - regardless of party.
Campaigns for elections are the time for partisanship. After we elect people to fill positions in government, we need to come together as humans who live in a community and discuss openly and without threats our thoughts on what are our problems and how can we resolve them. If we disagree with the reception our ideas receive from the people we elected, there always is another election when we can try to replace the current elected officials. We have a common community to serve. Knox knew that. He never became a Democrat. He served with a Democrat as a patriot.
By Helen Soderberg, Resolutions Chairperson
Cong. Moolenaar was one of four Michigan Congressman who signed onto the Texas AG’s Supreme Court lawsuit claiming election results in Michigan and other battleground states were unconstitutional. However, he did not vote to support challenges to the Electoral College vote in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t vote for impeachment. Michigan Republican Congressmen Fred Upton and freshman Peter Meijer (Justin Amash’s old seat) did. The latter, in interviews on MSNBC and CBC, said he acted as the President failed to take any responsibility for the attack.
The Michigan Legislature opened their 2021 Legislative Session on January 13th. Rep. Pat Outman, 70th, is serving his first term. He is the son of Rick Outman, our State Senator. He says his emphasis is going to be on infrastructure, including rural broadband, and skilled trades. He and his father run an excavating business. He is calling for the Governor not to extend the indoor dining ban past January 15th and proposes a ‘Dine In Day’ on the 16th to support restaurants.
Graham Filler, 93th, is starting his second term in office. He blames Gov. Whitmer for the poor rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the state. He’s scheduled a tele-town hall on Thursday, January 21st, to discuss vaccine distribution. The event begins at 7pm. Participants can dial in at 877-820-7831 and hit #298738 when prompted.
On Monday evening Jan. 25 at 7:00 p.m. we will have the next Reid-Knox Forum focused on the lessons of the last 50 years growing from the PBB Accident in 1973. We will briefly review the history of the accident and then give time to discussing the on-going human health studies and efforts to deal with concerns of people exposed and their descendants. While parts of this story are old, it is as recent as a story on January 3, 2021 describing the new state website that facilitates getting current health information and joining or re-joining the PBB study. We’ll also highlight other ways you can participate by serving on one of the advisory committees for PBB.
Dr. Brittney Fremion a history professor at Central Michigan University will be co-presenting. Brittany runs the PBB Oral History Project. She not only is good at summarizing the oral histories they already have gathered, but invites others who may want to record their experiences with PBB to participate. Brittany and I have done a co-presentation for the state legislature and (a few weeks before COVID restrictions, did a symposium at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. We both serve on the PBB Advisory Board of Emory University which runs the whole PBB health follow-up.
Please note, this forum is being conducted jointly statewide through the Northville Public Library. To secure information on how to join the Zoom meeting and to assure you get a reminder three days before the forum, please register by going to:
Some context for our next installment of the Reid-Knox Forum
I wanted to give everyone a little background on how the Veterans Day Forum has evolved and welcome comments before we go further. As background I should point out I am a member of only one veterans’ organization, Veterans for Peace. We are not a simple organization of wartime buddies getting together at our local clubhouse, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) – which has an Alma building on Wright near the Masonic Pathways. I don’t say we’re different to be critical of the VFW, only to make clear we are not the same. We had our origins in something once called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, only to evolve with wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. in our current name.
When some of you suggested we do something for Veterans Day, I turned to a local Vietnam Vet, who is not in Veterans for Peace, Tim Caldwell, who taught music for many years at CMU ad who worked with me on the Confederate flag forum in August. Tim wrote a very moving book on his service in Vietnam and has agreed to do a reading from one of his essays at the start of the Veterans Day forum. But, we wanted to get a younger veteran and I already had gotten emails from Veterans for Peace promoting Veterans Day ideas. So I called and they said Leah Bolger was free and would be glad to speak via zoom from her home in Oregon.
Leah retired in 2000 from the U.S. Navy at the rank of Commander after twenty years of active duty service. She became extremely critical of Bush’s foreign policy and eventually became the first women to head Veterans for Peace. She would prefer to speak on our foreign and military policy, especially spending on ‘defense.’
She, suggested, after Tim does his reading, I describe briefly the Restoring Armistice Day issue and then she would speak followed with open discussion. But, I must emphasize you would be hearing three veterans who are critics. This would not be a ‘rah rah’ war event. But it is very much in keeping with the current movement to restore Armistice Day. So I want to explain what that movement is about.
Restoring the day to its original purpose – to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans – especially remembering those who died in service arises from the late 20th Century conversion into a ‘support the troops’ and our foreign policy. You may recall the most extreme version of this was Trump’s proposal for a big military parade in Washington (after he saw a French military parade).
Armistice Day began as a celebration of peace. The date was picked because Nov. 11, 1918 was the day the fighting in World War I ended – at 11:00 a.m. Since that day, 102 years ago, the day has been observed in all the countries that fought in that war. In countries like Canada it was and is called Remembrance Day. With that name, after the 1940s with all the World War II vets, places like Canada didn’t need to change the name of the holiday. Because the U.S. had chosen the name Armistice Day, named for the Nov. 11, 1918 event – the Armistice, in the 1950s Congress renamed the day Veterans Day. But, for a time it continued as a day to recall service, sacrifice and peace. But, slowly, our foreign and military policy makers have pushed it into being a celebration of military might.
One of the great critics of this change was Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse Five, a novel based on his experiences as a soldier and POW during World War II. Vonnegut wrote:
November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred?
Rory Fanning, a veteran of the Iraq War, explained his preference for Armistice Day in this way, “Armistice Day was a hallowed anniversary because it was supposed to protect future life from future wars. Veterans Day, instead, celebrates ‘heroes’ and encourages others to dream of playing the hero themselves, covering themselves in valor.”
Sorry this has been so long, but this leads to the question: Do we want to be the sponsor of this type forum? Is it too critical a topic for us? A few members of the Clinton County Democratic Party who know of Leah are enthused - but maybe they are not typical.
To the Editor:
I would like to submit the following article as a “Guest View” on the topic of veteran’s PTSD and the rising incidence of veteran suicide. As you read the article you will realize how personal the issue is for our family, yet we feel that others might be helped by this sharing. We as community and we as government must do more for our veterans. Thank you for your consideration.
Karen Garvey, Democratic candidate for State Representative, District 70
On November 11, 2020, we will observe Veterans Day. Citizens will pay tribute to veterans living and deceased who have served our country with honor. I write to ask that we do more this year as the numbers of veterans with PTSD and those who commit suicide continues to rise. We need to work together as communities and with government services to reverse this awful trend. It is personal to me.
In October, 2019, my son-in-law, Joe, lost his battle with PTSD by committing suicide. As painful as our loss remains, we recognize that his pain, his struggle, was far worse as he never would have wanted to leave his beautiful wife and two young sons on their own.
Joe entered the Marines ready to serve and he did so honorably. Joe was ecstatic over the birth of his first son, singing and lifting him up to a bright future, a “Lion King” gesture. Four years later, for the birth of his second son, that jubilant Joe was replaced by a happy, but subdued, quieter civilian Joe. We didn’t realize the depth of his trauma or realize how difficult his struggle with PTSD really was until after he ended his life.
Once out of service, Joe struggled with civilian life. He found that his military training and skills didn’t translate well in finding a good-paying job. Through friends, he was able to interview with Consumers Energy, an employer willing to take a chance to hire this “unskilled” (non-degree) veteran. Joe felt better knowing that he was making a wage that could support his family. Yet his quiet suffering continued, controlled somewhat with pills, but unresolved. He tried to minimize it, saying, “Marines don’t whine, there are others worse off than me.” So, in addition to his suffering, he also felt guilt about feeling or showing that pain.
While this tragedy is personal to our family, we are just one of MANY stories of military loss. Joe had veteran friends who were also coping with PTSD and depression, some also taking their own lives. Veterans shouldn’t have to carry their fight home. I’ve talked with veterans and vet families who are struggling. As they settle into civilian life, many vets don’t feel heard, supported or valued. This isn’t about medals or salutes or gracious words—it starts with listening and caring and providing a broader base of community support.
More can be done to transition troops from active duty to civilian life. Once in a civilian setting, families and vets need continued education and help to learn about and watch for the signs of depression and PTSD. Veterans need more local access to medical and psychological services, as transportation can also be a problem. There are things we can do. We as citizens need to ask more of our legislators, more of the military and more of ourselves to support our veterans.
Montcalm County has a veteran population of 4,329. Before the millage passed in June, there were no veteran support groups offered by the county, no assistance for emergency dental services and only one vehicle to transport veterans to VA appointments. Beyond passing the millage, we can work in other ways to help our veterans locally and state-wide. We need to be in contact with legislators to promote legislation that supports veterans. We can contact the Montcalm County Department of Veterans Affairs to see how to directly support area veterans. Let’s use this Veteran’s Day as a call to action and then work together to amplify the voices of our veterans, especially in memory of those who no longer have a voice.