Visiting Arlington Makes One Remember

Arlington National Cemetery is a solemn and sobering place. There are many picturesque sites, and I spent the morning yesterday wandering around on a terrifically sunny and blue-sky-day to enjoy the scenery. Enjoy, perhaps, isn’t the correct word. One can enjoy a walk in the sun, but how does one enjoy a walk through a cemetery like Arlington. So many thoughts, both past and present. So much gravitas.

Think about the number of prayers represented by the thousands of graves neatly aligned throughout the rolling hillside. How many women stood with their aprons on, washing dishing, looking out their kitchen windows, trying to get a mental glimpse of husbands and sons, neighbors and cousins, who were fighting over there. How many sleepless nights, how many wiped tears, how many mental breakdowns are represented by each of those white stone markers? The fortitude needed to carry-on on the homefront is represented well here. The amount is tremendous.

Most of the gravesites in Arlington are the same. This is a terrible injustice, not the commemoration, though, that is done well. It’s only an injustice because there simply was no tangible way to make the young men and women who sacrificed their lives or gave their time a monument to show their differences. You cannot clad a personality on a gravestone. Not in Arlington. And so in death, they rest peacefully in uniformity, and that is perhaps how they would most like it, buried with their comrades, shoulder to shoulder, bound together with a common purpose, a mutual goal, an understanding of what must take place to preserve the country back home they hold so dear.

Your sacrifices are not forgotten. This cemetery stands as a national remembrance of what it is that we collectively stand for. Each white-washed stone adds to the chorus of the past which pleads with us today to not forget the battles fought, the lessons learned, the courage expended, the freedom preserved. Each one beseeches the powers that be and the people on main street to look past what divides us and remember the heart of Arlington which unites us all. The commonality must be stronger than the division or we as a nation will waft in whatever prevailing political wind happens to be in town across the Potomac. We’ll be left adrift without a moral compass to guide us and not a soul to pity us.

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Two Book Giveaways for USA & Malaysia

I have simultaneous book giveaways which just kicked off in the USA and Malaysia on Goodreads.

First, if you live in the USA, you can get yourself a paperback copy of my new release, “A Love Story for a Nation.”  Head on over to Goodreads at this LINK to enter.

ALoveStoryforaNation Cover LARGE

Second, if you live in Malaysia, you can enter to win a copy of my debut novel in paperback, “Beauty Rising.” And you might have a good chance to win. Only three have entered so far, so the odds are in your favor. Here’s the link: Beauty Rising

Beauty Rising Mark W Sasse

Our Culture in a Headline: “Beyoncé convinced Jay Z is hiding things from her”

I saw this headline on a news site the other day. I simply have one question: do people really care? I’m serious. Are there people out there who will gladly click on that link to find the latest gossip?

I know the answer to that. I’ve come across Justin Beiber groupies and Miley Cyrus fans who certainly wouldn’t know who the vice president is. We really are entertaining ourselves to death, aren’t we?

I have nothing against entertainment. I’m a writer, after all, and I hope to entertain people with my stories. But when entertainment becomes elevated into the realm of obsession – to the detriment of having well-rounded citizens, then I start to fear for the future of the USA (as my home country) or any other country which follows suite.

The amount of entertainment that we consume is staggering. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons that the quality of the mainstream news has steadily declined – they have to compete with so much superfluous culture. They have to grab attention from a myriad of consumers who have their brains loosely connected to a thousand things at once. Therefore, stories become sensationalized and, perhaps, even embellished. (Brian Williams anyone?)

The frightening part about all of this for me is that there are many who really don’t care what’s going on in the world. They really don’t care about ISIS, or politics, or healthcare, or race issues, or Ukrainian conflicts. Many people are so consumed about their own business that many of us have lost touch with the outside world.

I’ve been recently re-watching Ken Burns’ “The War” and what strikes me the most about the Greatest Generation who watched the war from the home-front is how engaged everyone was in the process of war. It was an entire society that was completely committed, completely enthralled, completely wanting to know every detail. That didn’t make it a homogeneous society – far from it. America was then and is today extremely diverse, but there was a sense of unity, a sense of understanding, a sense of duty, a sense of collectiveness that is lacking in today’s society. There many be many reasons for this – one simply being our pluralistic society (which if you go back a few days and look at my post about pluralism you’ll understand how necessary it is), but one of the main reasons that many in our country don’t care what is going on is because they are wrapped up in the lives of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I hope we can wake up  before it’s too late.

Get America Working Again

I loved seeing this during the past week as I went back and forth on the Tappan Zee Bridge:

2014-06-22 08.27.36 2014-06-22 08.28.03 2014-06-22 08.28.16 2014-06-22 08.28.30Construction cranes! About 20 or more of them spanning the length of the bridge, pounding pylons into the riverbed as the opening phase of building a bridge to replace the iconic Tappan Zee Bridge.

Why is it so wonderful to see?

I live in Asia, and construction crane is as common as street-side noodle vendors. They are ubiquitous. Not so much in America.

Granted, some of that speaks to the level of development that the USA has already achieved. It’s firmly a stage 5 economy while many of the southeast Asian economies that I witness daily are playing catch up.

But I firmly believe that America needs to move forward and think big. We have been plateaued for far too long. Too many people flipping burgers and flipping hedge funds and far too few people dreaming, innovating, and constructing large projects.

Let’s take advantage of our talented and skilled workforce. Let’s take advantage of the boon in gas reserves. Do we really want to be dependent on Middle Eastern oil? Really? Haven’t we learned the nature of the fragile ties of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc …

It’s time to put America back to work, so I am all for replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. Let’s keep it going.