Monday, May 25, 2015

A classic cover from The New Yorker: March 26, 1966

A Memorial Day remembrance: Maj. Sullivan Ballou (1829-61)

Anyone who has seen Ken Burns’ moving film, The Civil War, will recall the hauntingly beautiful letter that Maj. Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry wrote to his wife Sarah on July 14, 1861, while his regiment was stationed in Washington, D.C. A week later, Ballou was killed at the first Battle of Bull Run. He was 32 years old.

Born in Smithfield, R.I., in 1829, Ballou was of Huguenot ancestry. A Republican lawyer, he served as speaker of the R.I. House of Representatives. He married Sarah Hart Shumway in 1855. A son, Edgar, was born in 1856, followed by a second son, William, in 1859. Ballou’s widow, who was 24 at the time of his death, never remarried. She died at age 80 in 1917. She and her husband are buried beside one another at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, R.I. 

Here, on this Memorial Day, when we honor those who died in battle, is an abridged version of Sullivan Ballou's letter to his beloved wife Sarah.
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

And now, a few words from . . . Anne Frank

I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that still remains.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Jack Ohman

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A classic cover from Boys' Life: July 1933

The most troublesome part of the 2016 presidential campaign

We all know, all too well, that the process of electing a president is badly flawed. But what's the worst aspect of this exercise in supposed democracy?

There are so many possible choices. Is it the obscene cost? The fact that candidates are beholden to all manner of special interests? The empty promises? The cynical misrepresentations and blatant lies? The manipulation of public opinion by egomaniacal consultants? How about the pathetic lineup of laughable candidates?

Wrong on all counts. It’s this: We need more time! The 2016 campaign is only a few months old, yet the election is right around the corner . . . less than 18 months away! Why do we rush these things? The campaign should have begun in earnest on New Year's Day 2014, or even a year earlier. That way, we would have had plenty of time to fully weigh our options, instead of being whisked along at breakneck speed.

And now, a few words from . . . Artemus Ward

Let us all be happy and live within our means, even if we have to borrow money to do it with.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Mike Luckovich

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A classic cover from Down East: January 1966

Stop the world, I want to get off!

And now, another unanswerable question (or two) from a very confused guy who's just trying to make sense of it all from his perch up in the cheap seats. 

Forget about Ebola and bird flu and plague and cholera and the like. Now that daytime temps are above freezing, the worst epidemic of them all is slithering along city sidewalks: shirtless men.

It's bad enough that these young turks (and plenty of oldsters whose 
studliness is long gone, if it ever existed) strut around sans shirt when it's nowhere near warm enough to become overheated. But this is what really confuses me. On a truly scorching day, when the sun is blazing and temps shoot into the upper 80s and beyond, these guys opt for a fashion statement that combines a bare torso with too-long jeans and heavy, clunky boots. So doesn't the bottom half of this outfit, which warms up the legs and feet in the already oppressive heat, negate whatever cooling effect is achieved with the no-shirt look?

And now, a few words from . . . George Carlin

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Jeff Danziger