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How To Acknowlege Native Americans this Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving, you might vaguely remember from elementary school, celebrates a feast shared by the Wampanoag tribe and European settlers the tribe had saved from starvation. It turned out, of course, that the presence of Europeans was tragic for the Native Americans who had welcomed them.
With such a troubled history, how can we talk with our kids about Thanksgiving in a way that recognizes both sides of the tradition? Here are some tips from Dr. Randy Woodley, a Keetoowah Cherokee descendent, Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at George Fox University, and author of Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision.
For young kids, “It’s important to understand that the ‘first Thanksgiving’ was not really the first,” Woodley says. “Native Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving feasts for thousands of years prior to the European arrival. And those celebrations took place many times throughout the year.”
Middle school aged kids can understand their role in the occasion a bit more clearly. “Native Americans were the hosts of Thanksgiving,” says Woodley. “It’s part of our values, to welcome people.” Thanksgiving is still a celebration of hospitality. But Woodley also believes it’s a good time to think about what kind of guests we want to be, either at a feast, or as visitors to a new country.
By high school, the lens can be widened. “Feasts, and the hospitality of the Native Americans, can serve as a lesson for inter-cultural hospitality in America,” says Woodley. To him, it’s a natural time “to encourage reconciliation between your family and those who share a different history.” What does it mean to be a host, to extend yourself? This also might be the time to talk about how many Native Americans do not celebrate the holiday because of the painful history that followed. “Eventually the story did not end well for the Native Americans,” Woodley says. “We are still waiting for justice and reconciliation to take place. Perhaps over another feast in the future.”

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TIME Culture

Celebrating Thanksgiving With America’s First Rock Star

Massachusetts. Sign At Plymouth Rock
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Plymouth Rock has been the subject of history lessons, songs, and speeches for 400 years. Why do we love it?

“Plymouth Rock is a glacial erratic at rest in exotic terrane.” So begins John McPhee’s classic 1990 New Yorker article, the best short piece ever written about the great American relic, pointing out how geological forces carried this rock far from its original home — Africa. It is an iconic mass of granite geologically formed by fire, but it certainly also qualifies as a sedimentary and metamorphic chunk of American political culture. Plymouth Rock has long been a symbol of America’s beginnings, the country’s bedrock, its very foundation. And in the Rock’s surprising travels, during its original journey to Plymouth Harbor and its subsequent wanderings and memorialization, it has embodied authentic Americanism, on the move.

As a historian of early America, I’ve long been fascinated by how the people, places, and things of the colonial era have been remembered in American popular culture — that is, in the sort of history that “we carry around in our heads,” not the history that history professors profess. And the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock do feature prominently in our collective heads, particularly as November arrives each year and we turn our attention to Thanksgiving. Why make such a big deal of a small band of Puritan separatists who were not the first European colonists of America, and not even the most prominent Puritan colonists of Massachusetts? And did they actually ever step on Plymouth Rock, or treat it as anything other than an erratic? All this seems not to matter; I long ago resolved that history is and should be much more than mere debunking.

In the early 1990s, while on a ferry in New York Harbor, I overheard a conversation that demonstrated the ongoing significance of those Plymouth “forefathers.” Anticipating their visit to the historic Ellis Island and eyeing the Statue of Liberty in the distance, one passenger said to another, “These immigrants were just doing what the very first Americans, the Pilgrims, were doing.” Her companion nodded toward the island and agreed: “That was their Plymouth Rock.” Fractured history, yet rock-solid nonetheless.

McPhee reconstructed the Rock’s migration, via the mechanisms of plate tectonics, as part of a large slice of the earth’s crust called Atlantica, which joined North America some 580 million years ago from a distant locale — Africa, mostly likely. Then, approximately 20,000 years ago, the boulder was scooped up by moving ice and ultimately deposited at Plymouth Harbor when glaciers retreated at the end of the Ice Age. After the Pilgrims showed up in 1620, the Rock’s migrations only accelerated, as people circulated its shards as relics, just as believers disseminated the bones of saints and pieces of the true cross in medieval Europe to help sanctify a holy narrative. In this case, they were shoring up a New World narrative about the glorious rise of the American republic.

Until late in the 18th century, the Puritan Separatists who founded Plymouth colony in 1620 were but one marginal group of predecessors, not yet Capital-P “Pilgrims,” not yet the nation’s forefathers. Plymouth Rock belatedly received its first public recognition as the Pilgrims’ alleged landing place when church elder Thomas Faunce assembled his children and grandchildren on the spot and recited the tale in 1742, a legend later fossilized in print by Dr. James Thacher, who provided no corroborating evidence. The Separatists’ narrative and their Rock acquired symbolic power during the American Revolution, as the new United States sought independence.

By the late 1700s, Thanksgiving had become a well-established regional festival in New England, tracing its roots to a feast in the autumn of 1621. Plymouth Rock, however, was at first more directly tied to a different occasion: Forefathers’ Day, or Landing Day, on December 22, commemorating the debarkation of the Mayflower passengers in 1620. Popular among fraternal ancestor organizations, Landing Day was a civic event that expressed exclusivity, expansionism, and stubborn mission, while Thanksgiving was a domestic and community fete celebrating bounty, charity, and inclusion, And while both holidays spread beyond New England, carried by migrating Yankees who shared the Rock as a touchstone, only Thanksgiving’s spirit overtook the hearts and festive calendars of Americans.

Toasting the Pilgrims at a New England Society fete near the end of the 19th century, Frederic Taylor of New York proclaimed:

It is our habit to think of Plymouth Rock always as being at Plymouth, and nowhere else. Well it was there once [but] when the Pilgrims’ feet pressed that boulder at Plymouth it became instinct with life and began to broaden at its base; and its base has ever since been spreading out, till now Plymouth Rock underlies the continent.

Using the Rock as potent metaphor, Taylor imagined it as a stepping-stone and foundation for Union generals Grant and Sherman, as ballast for the Monitor as it defeated the Merrimac, and as Abraham Lincoln’s hammer of freedom.

Given the seismic tumult of American history, it’s perhaps no surprise that the gravitas surrounding the Pilgrims would be shaken. The 19th-century New York lawyer and politico Chauncey Depew, a frequent after-dinner speaker at New England Society banquets, once tweaked his patrician audience with this cheeky comment: “What a pity instead of the Pilgrim Fathers landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock had not landed on the Pilgrim Fathers,” which set off a chain of similar jokes over the years, including in the opening lines of the Cole Porter standard “Anything Goes.”

Few relished deflating the puffery of Pilgrim celebrations as much as Mark Twain. He once facetiously urged attendees at a New England Society dinner to sell their chief asset: “Opulent New England [is] overflowing with rocks,” and “this one isn’t worth at the outside, more than 35 cents.” As Twain knew, this was no ordinary rock, not even merely a brand name, but a priceless relic, providing a more visceral link to the past, what one scholar has called a “zero-hand” account. Relics — including Plymouth Rock —are “things that speak.”

But the Rock could sometimes speak in controversial and unpredictable ways. In the bicentenary celebration at Plymouth in 1820, for example, the orator Daniel Webster linked it (somewhat creatively) not only to religious freedom but also to the anti-slavery cause. (Many Southerners initially resisted the celebration of Thanksgiving itself because it seemed to carry the taint of abolitionism.) One fragment later helped raise money for the Union effort in the Civil War at a Boston Sanitary Fair in 1863.

Disturbingly for some descendants of “First Comers,” the Rock could sometimes be claimed by other latter-day “pilgrims” — from Ireland or Italy, Poland or Puerto Rico. Its message has been pluralism as well as nationalism and chauvinism. And if the Rock powerfully symbolizes the United States as a nation of immigrants, ironically this granite boulder from Africa might better represent those immigrants who came against their will, in chains, in the largest forced migration in history. For non-immigrants — Native Americans — it sometimes served as a potent prop in their struggle for recognition and rights.

Sometimes relics fall mute. In the 1920s, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society (and later the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History) acquired a large piece that had been cut from the doorstep of a house in Plymouth. A fragment of another rock at the Smithsonian — a craggy nugget chipped from the Mother Rock by Lewis Bradford in 1830, inscribed with the precise details of its collection and transformation into a circulating talisman — sat silently for years among a collection that had been donated in 1911. It only regained a “speaking part” in the museum’s displays and publications in the late 20th century.

Plymouth Rock is an emblem defined by its solidity. And yet it’s been anything but solid, in form or meaning. It’s been split, carted about, fragmented, broken and rejoined, reinstalled at the Plymouth waterfront, canopied, repaired. It has endured the changing forces of nature and American political culture. Its precious pieces have spread far and wide, across the Atlantic and to the shores of the Pacific, and they’ve been further disseminated through print and pixels, extending the Mother Rock’s power and reach. It’s clear that Plymouth Rock and its mobile relics still speak to us, in a voice that is both constant and changing.

Matthew Dennis is professor of history and environmental studies at the University of Oregon. He is the author or editor of five books, including Red, White, and Blue Letter Days: An American Calendar, and is currently at work on American Relics and the Politics of Public Memory. He wrote this article for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

The Long American Tradition of Not Feeling Particularly Thankful for Thanksgiving

Clay model of Pilgrim figure with turkey and axe on a white background
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If you’re someone who feels a sense of angst, foreboding, or misery about this time of year, take heart: American history is on your side

Do you have complicated feelings about Thanksgiving? Maybe your ancestors were among this continent’s indigenous peoples, and you have good reason to be rankled by thoughts of newly arrived English colonists feasting on Wamapanoag-procured venison, roasted wild turkey, and stores of indigenous corn. Or maybe Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a holiday season that brings with it the intricate emotional challenges of memory, home, and family.

If you’re someone who feels a sense of angst, foreboding, or misery about this time of year, take heart: American history is on your side.

The truth of our history is that only a small minority of the early English emigrants to this country would have been celebrating as the New England Puritans did at the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621.

A thousand miles south, in Virginia and the Carolinas, the mood and the menu would have been drastically different — had there ever been a Thanksgiving there. Richard Frethorne, an indentured servant in the Virginia colony during the 1620s, wrote in a letter: “Since I came out of the ship, I never ate anything but peas, and loblollie (that is, water gruel).”

And don’t imagine for a second that those peas Frethorne was gobbling down were of the lovely, tender green garden variety dotted with butter. No, in the 1620s, Frethorne and his friends would have subsisted on a grey field pea resembling a lentil.

“As for deer or venison,” Frethorne wrote , “I never saw any since I came into this land. There is indeed some fowl, but we are not allowed to go and get it, but must work hard both early and late for a mess of water gruel and a mouthful of bread and beef.”

Frethorne’s letter is a rare surviving document reflecting the circumstances of the majority of English colonists who came to North America in the 17th century. The New England Puritans, after all, comprised only 15 to 20 percent of early English colonial migration.

Not only did the majority of English colonial migrants eat worse than the Puritans, but also their prayers (had they said any) would have sounded decidedly less thankful.

“People cry out day and night,” Frethorne wrote, “Oh! That they were in England without their limbs — and would not care to lose any limb to be in England again, yea though they beg from door to door.”

English migrants in Virginia had good reason not to feel grateful. Most came unfree, pushed out of England by big economic forces that privatized shared pastures and farmlands and pushed up the prices of basic necessities. By the 17th century, more than half of the English peasantry was landless. The price of food shot up 600 percent, and firewood by 1,500 percent.

Many peasants who were pushed off their homelands built makeshift settlements in the forests, earning reputations as criminals and thieves. Others moved to the cities, and when the cities proved no kinder, they signed contracts promising seven years of hard labor in exchange for the price of passage to the Americas, and were boarded onto boats.

A trip to Virginia cost Frethorne and others like him six months salary and took about 10 weeks. One quarter to one half of new arrivals to Virginia and the Carolinas died within one year due to diseases like dysentery, typhoid, and malaria. Others succumbed to the strain of hard labor in a new climate and a strange place — an adjustment process the English described as “seasoning.” Only 7% of indentures claimed the land that they had been promised.

Most of these common English migrants did not read or write, so vivid and revealing letters like Frethorne’s are rare. But in the research for my book Why We Left: Songs and Stories from America’s First Immigrants, I learned how English migrants viewed their situation through the songs they sang about the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Those songs survived hundreds of years by word of mouth before they were written down in the twentieth century.

These were not songs of thankfulness — not by a long shot. They were ballads full of ghastly scenes of the rejection, betrayal, cruelty, murder, and environmental ruin that had driven them out of England — and of the seductive but false promises that drew them to America. These 17th century songs planted the seeds for a new American genre of murder and hard luck ballads that was later picked up and advanced by singers like Johnny Cash, whose ancestors, like mine, were among those early hard luck migrants from England to America.

So if you find yourself a little blue this holiday season, take your marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes with a liberal dose of the Man In Black, and reassure yourself that you are a part of a long, long American tradition.

Joanna Brooks is Associate Dean of Graduate and Research Affairs at San Diego State University and author of Why We Left: Untold Stories and Songs of America’s First Immigrants (Minnesota, 2013). She wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

The Reason Every One of Us Should Be Thankful

Thanksgiving Preparations
Illustration of preparing the Thanksgiving meal circa 1882. Kean Collection / Getty Images

As Thanksgiving approaches, a little bit of historical context goes a long way

Astronomy is a historical science because the distance scales involved are so immense that to look out into space is to look back into time. Even at the almost unfathomable speed of light — 300,000 kilometers per second — the sun is eight light minutes away, the nearest star is 4.3 light years away, the nearest galaxy, Andromeda, is about 2.5 million light years away and the farthest object ever observed is about 13.8 billion light years away. Astronomers call this way of describing such distances “lookback time.”

The concept is not limited to astronomy: current events also have their own lookback times, accounting for what gave rise to them. Just as looking at a star now actually involves seeing light from the past, looking at the world today actually involves looking at the reverberations of history. We have to think about the past in order to put current events into proper context, because that’s only way to track human progress.

Consider the longing many people have for the peaceful past, filled with bucolic scenes of pastoral bliss, that existed before overpopulation and pollution, mass hunger and starvation, world wars and civil wars, riots and revolutions, genocides and ethnic cleansing, rape and murder, disease and plagues, and the existential angst that comes from mass consumerism and empty materialism. Given so much bad news, surely things were better then than they are now, yes?

No.

Overall, there has never been a better time to be alive than today. As I document in my 2008 book The Mind of the Market and in my forthcoming book The Moral Arc, if you lived 10,000 years ago you would have been a hunter-gatherer who earned the equivalent of about $100 a year — extreme poverty is defined by the United Nations as less than $1.25 a day, or $456 a year — and the material belongings of your tiny band would have consisted of about 300 different items, such as stone tools, woven baskets and articles of clothing made from animal hides. Today, the average annual income in the Western world — the U.S. and Canada, the countries of the European Union, and other developed industrial nations — is about $40,000 per person per year, and the number of available products is over 10 billion, with the universal product code (barcode) system having surpassed that number in 2008.

Poverty itself may be going extinct, and not just in the West. According to UN data, in 1820 85-95% of the world’s people lived in poverty; by the 1980s that figure was below 50%, and today it is under 20%. Yes, 1 in 5 people living in poverty is too many, but if the trends continue by 2100, and possibly even by 2050, no one in the world will be poor, including in Africa.

Jesus said that one cannot live on bread alone, but our medieval ancestors did nearly that. Over 80% of their daily calories came from the nine loaves a typical family of five consumed each day. Also devoured was the 60 to 80% of a family’s income that went to food alone, leaving next to nothing for discretionary spending or retirement after housing and clothing expenses. Most prosperity has happened over the two centuries since the Industrial Revolution, and even more dramatic gains have been enjoyed over the last half-century. From 1950 to 2000, for example, the per capita real Gross Domestic Product of the United States went from $11,087 (adjusted for inflation and computed in 1996 dollars) to $34,365, a 300% increase in comparable dollars! This has allowed more people to own their own homes, and for those homes to double in size even as family size declined.

For centuries human life expectancy bounced around between 30 and 40 years, until the average went from 41 in 1900 to the high 70s and low 80s in the Western world in 2000. Today, no country has a lower life expectancy than the country with the highest life expectancy did 200 years ago. Looking back a little further, around the time of the Black Death in the 14th century, even if you escaped one of the countless diseases and plagues that were wont to strike people down, young men were 500 times more likely to die violently than they are today.

Despite the news stories about murder in cities like Ferguson and rape on college campuses, crime is down. Way down. After the crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s, homicides plummeted between 50 and 75% in such major cities as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Baltimore and San Diego. Teen criminal acts fell by over 66%. Domestic violence against women dropped 21%. According to the U.S. Department of Justice the overall rate of rape has declined 58% between 1995 and 2010, from 5.0 per 1,000 women age 12 or older to 2.1. And on Nov. 10, 2014, the FBI reported that in 2013, across more than 18,400 city, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that report crime data to the FBI, every crime category saw declines.

What about the amount of work we have today compared with that of our ancestors? Didn’t they have more free and family time than we do? Don’t we spend endless hours commuting to work and toiling in the office until late into the neon-lit night? Actually, the total hours of life spent working has been steadily declining over the decades. In 1850, for example, the average person invested 50% of his or her waking hours in the year working, compared to only 20% today. Fewer working hours means more time for doing other things, including doing nothing. In 1880, the average American enjoyed just 11 hours per week in leisure time, compared to today’s 40 hours per week.

That leisure time can be spent in cleaner environments. In my own city of Los Angeles, for example, in the 1980s I had to put up with an average of 150 “health advisory” days per year and 50 “stage one” ozone alerts caused by all the fine particulate matter in the air—dirt, dust, pollens, molds, ashes, soot, aerosols, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides—AKA smog. Today, thanks to the Clean Air Act and improved engine and fuel technologies, in 2013 there was only one health advisory day, and 0 stage-one ozone alerts. Across the country, even with the doubling of the number of automobiles and an increase of 150% in the number of vehicle-miles driven, smog has diminished by a third, acid rain by two-thirds, airborne lead by 97%, and CFCs are a thing of the past.

Today’s world has its problems — many of them serious ones — but, while we work to fix them, it’s important to see them with astronomers’ lookback-time eyes. With their historical context, even our worst problems show that we have made progress.

Rewind the tape to the Middle Ages, the Early Modern Period or the Industrial Revolution and play it back to see what life was really like in a world lit only by fire. Only the tiniest fraction of the population lived in comfort, while the vast majority toiled in squalor, lived in poverty and expected half their children would die before adulthood. Very few people ever traveled beyond the horizon of their landscape, and if they did it was either on horseback or, more likely, on foot. No Egyptian pharaoh, Greek king, Roman ruler, Chinese emperor or Ottoman sultan had anything like the most quotidian technologies and public-health benefits that ordinary people take for granted today. Advances in dentistry alone should encourage us all to stay away from time machines.

As it turns out, these are the good old days, and we should all be thankful for that.

Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. He is the author of a dozen books, including Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain. His next book, to be published in January, is entitled The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.

TIME Civil Rights

FBI Letter to Martin Luther King Jr Reveals Ugly Truths From Hoover’s Era

MARTIN LUTHER KING A PARIS 1965
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964
"First person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence"
Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

MLK is depicted as evil and a fraud in the letter that urges the civil rights icon to commit suicide

A scathing letter sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Civil Rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been uncovered, pulling back the curtain on J. Edgar Hoover’s efforts to discredit the leader as his popularity grew.

In the anonymous letter, published for the first time in the New York Times Wednesday, the author refers to the Nobel Peace Prize recipient as “evil,” a “fraud,” and a “dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.” The author threatens to expose King as an adulterer and in the end flat-out suggests that the leader commit suicide.

One passage reads: “No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself. Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find yourself in all your dirt, filth, evil, and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time. I repeat—no person can argue successfully against facts. You are finished.”

The FBI under Hoover devoted a great deal of attention to Dr. King, whom Hoover considered a threat to national security, Vox reports. The letter reportedly came to be after Hoover failed to prove King was a Communist, which he could have used to disgrace him. Yale professor of American History Beverly Gage wrote in the New York Times, the letter is “the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok.”

Read the full letter at the New York Times.

TIME Veterans Day

Sen. John McCain Remembers the Female Vets of the Gulf War

McCain is a U.S. Senator and the author, with Mark Salter, of Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War.

Among the subjects profiled in Thirteen Soldiers: an army reservist whose life was forever changed by an Iraqi Scud missile attack in the 1990–91 Gulf War

Military service was a tradition in the families who joined the Army Reserve’s 14th Quartermaster Detachment. They came from communities and circumstances that yield more volun­teers for the military than do other parts of our society. They lived in a part of Pennsylvania where so many young people were in the military that “whenever a disaster happens anywhere in the world,” a local re­porter observed, “people around here hold their breath.” They were likely to know some of the casualties in the February 25, 1991, Scud missle attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 28 reservists.

Specialist Beverly Sue Clark, 23, was from Indiana County, Pennsylvania. She had joined the Reserves out of high school. She worked as a security guard and as a secretary at a local window and door manufac­turer. She wanted to be a teacher. She was popular and athletic and loved to ski. Her best friend in the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, headquartered in Greensburg, Pennsylva­nia, was Mary Rhoads, a meter maid in California Borough, Pennsylva­nia. Mary joined the Army Reserve in 1974, during the summer between her junior and senior years at Canon-McMillan Senior High, south of Pittsburgh. She didn’t have clear plans for her life after graduation, and she thought a part-time job in the army would let her follow in the family tradition and bring home much needed extra income.

In 1979 she transferred from the engineering company to the 1004th General Supply Company, also based at the Army Reserve Cen­ter in Greensburg. Mary and Beverly became friends when Beverly joined the 1004th in 1985. They hit it off right away. Mary, ten years in the Reserves by then, took the younger woman under her wing. When Mary trans­ferred to the 14th Quartermaster Detachment at Greensburg in 1988, Bev followed her. They were close, and thought they always would be. They would watch each other’s kids grow up. Mary’s daughter, Samantha, called Beverly “Aunt Bev” and always pes­tered Mary to pass the phone to Beverly when she called home.

Predictions varied about how many dead and wounded the United States would suffer in the war. Most were wildly off the mark. The U.S. Armed Forces were im­measurably better war fighters, better armed and equipped, and better led than the armed forces of the Republic of Iraq. None of the prognosticators realized just how much of a war you could fight from the air over a desert battleground where the enemy parked his tanks and ar­tillery in the glaring sun and sheltered his soldiers in sand berms. Nor did they appreciate just how determined Desert Storm’s commander, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., was to use the immense force he assembled to keep casualties low.

Given the nature of the war—a long air campaign followed by a short ground war and Iraq’s quick capitulation—casualties were far fewer than the most optimistic analyst had expected. But there were ca­sualties: 149 killed in action, a comparable number of noncombat deaths, and eight hundred or so wounded. Three hundred graves over which three hundred families wept and prayed. Many thousands of survivors wept too and bore their own wounds, seen and unseen. It helps none of them to know it could have been worse.

***

In January President Bush authorized the call-up of one million re­servists and national guardsmen for up to two years. The sixty-nine sol­diers of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment had started hearing scuttlebutt back in November that they would eventually deploy to the Gulf. Their order to mobilize came on January 15, 1991, the day before Desert Storm commenced. They left for Saudi Arabia on February 18 and arrived at the air base the next day. They were quartered temporarily in a large corrugated metal warehouse in Al Khobar, a suburb several miles from Dhahran.

Of course, they wouldn’t be on the front lines, although to do their jobs they would have to be closer than two hundred miles behind the front in Al Khobar. Some soldiers had premonitions, as soldiers off to war often do. Beverly Clark told her friend Mary Rhoads she had a bad feeling about the whole thing. She also mentioned her apprehension in the journal she kept. Soldiers’ families have premonitions too, especially the mothers. Just before she passed away from pancreatic cancer in November, Rhoads’s mother had told her that something terrible would happen but that Rhoads would be okay. Whatever fears disturbed them, none of the reservists resented their call-up.

Eleven of the reservists in the 14th who deployed to Saudi Arabia were women. The Persian Gulf War occasioned the largest single deploy­ment of women to a combat zone in American military history. Forty-one thousand officers and enlisted—one out of every five women in uni­form—deployed. They were pilots, aircrew, doctors, dentists, nurses, military police, truck drivers, communications technicians, intelligence analysts, security experts, administrative clerks, and water purification specialists deployed to a society built on tribalism, Islamic fundamental­ism, and primitive notions of gender inequality. Thirteen of them would be killed, four from enemy fire. Twenty-one were wounded in action and two taken prisoner. They did just about everything the men did, includ­ing flying missions and accepting other assignments that blurred the lines separating women from combat roles. But this was a war where lines were readily blurred. Even the idea of a front line seemed an anachronism in a war where so much of the fighting was in the air and where missiles were fired at targets located far to the rear, even at a country that wasn’t a bel­ligerent. The metaphor “a line in the sand” has come to mean a state­ment of resolve, but it originally indicated something impermanent, something that disappears in the first breeze. That is an apt metaphor for the Persian Gulf War, where the front was, literally and figuratively, a line in the sand. Even two hundred miles in the rear, the front could sud­denly encompass you.

For people of an active disposition, the Gulf War, irrespective of its high-tech thrills, its stunning successes and surprising brevity, could have been stultifying to soldiers who weren’t involved in the fighting. Mary Rhoads was bored to tears sitting in that big warehouse, and she hated being bored. She had spent seventeen years in the Army Reserve, half her life. She looked at the kids in the unit as her kids, saw herself as the mother hen. She picked up stuff they liked to eat, things to read, games to play, any­thing that might shorten the days until they were sent forward to do the job they had come to do. She had purchased a Trivial Pursuit game, among other diversions, and it was instantly a favorite entertainment in the barracks. She still felt closest to Clark. They both brought teddy bears with them to war; Clark’s was white and Rhoads’s brown. One night they were both on guard duty on the warehouse roof when Bev noticed a mist forming in the desert. “Look,” she pointed, “the angel of death.” Rhoads would remember that through all the years that followed, wondering if her friend had had another premonition.

***

The Iraqis fired four Scuds the night of February 25. Three of them appeared to break up in the atmosphere. The missile fired at 8:32 p.m. was detected by satellite and its position relayed to Patriot crews in Saudi Arabia. Three batteries tracked it on their radarscopes but didn’t launch their missiles because the Scud was outside their respective sectors. Two batteries, Alpha and Bravo, protected the air base at Dhahran. Bravo was shut down for maintenance that night. Alpha’s crew had been alerted to the Scud traveling in their direction, but their screen was blank. They checked to make sure their equipment was operating properly and were satisfied that it was. Still they saw nothing. They didn’t know their range gate had miscalculated the missile’s whereabouts. No one knew a Scud was plunging to earth at five times the speed of sound above the big metal warehouse where 127 reservists were living.

Ten minutes later, driving down the highway toward Dhahran, Rhoads heard the siren. They pulled off the road and watched as the Scud slammed into the barracks and detonated, creating a red and orange inferno that engulfed twisted beams, flying shrapnel, the modest posses­sions and mementos of the dead, and their charred bodies. Twenty-eight people were killed and ninety-nine wounded, grievously wounded in many cases. Among the dead were thirteen reservists in the 14th Quar­termaster Detachment, including Clark. Forty-three of the reservists wounded in the attack were from the 14th, which meant the detachment had suffered in a single attack a casualty rate higher than 80 percent, about as high a rate as any recorded. They had been in Saudi Arabia only six days.

Rhoads and her companions raced back to the base. They had to climb a fence to get into the compound, where all was bedlam. Fire trucks and ambulances had raced to the scene, sirens wailing. Blackhawks de­scended from the dark heavens to airlift the most seriously wounded. Rhoads tried to enter the burning building, but one of the rescuers stopped her. “My friends are in there,” she repeated over and over again. “You don’t want to go in there,” he warned her. When the ambulances pulled away, she ran to the other side and entered the building there. The smell of burned flesh, of death, filled her nostrils. She thought they were all dead. A moment later she tripped over a girder, wrenching her knee. A soldier in a transportation unit pulled her back outside and told her to stay there. That was where she saw the bodies. The Vietnam veterans in the unit who survived the attack had retrieved them and lined them up side by side. She recognized Clark right away. She limped over to her friend, embraced her lifeless form, and shrieked at the treacherous night, while a news camera recorded her agony.

Everyone who wasn’t badly hurt was quartered that night in a large, convention center–like meeting space, where television sets replayed the disaster on what seemed a continuous loop. Rhoads called her husband to let him know she was alive and reported to a sergeant back at the Re­serve center in Greensburg. Then she and a few others, impatient and wanting to help, commandeered a van and drove first to the warehouse, then to different hospitals to locate the wounded, and then to the morgue to identify the dead. Rhoads identified the bodies of Tony Madison, Frank Keough, and Beverly Clark.

***

Rhoads eventually returned to her job with her leg in a big white brace. She was eager to get going; she wanted her life back. Something was wrong, though. She had frequent nightmares; she lost her temper. She used to shrug off the kids who hassled her and called her names for giving them a parking ticket; now she got into it with them, right in their faces, daring them. She wasn’t herself. She froze once while directing traffic when she heard an emergency vehicle’s siren. Then she started getting really sick.

Chronic vaginal bleeding resulted in a hysterectomy. She had her gall bladder removed and her appendix. Stomach ailments, headaches, sinus troubles, and serious difficulty breathing brought her to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, then the hospital in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, then back to Walter Reed and again to Pittsburgh. Doctors discovered precancerous cells in her esophagus. She developed liver disease.

These and other ailments were attributed to the mysterious malady that afflicted many Desert Storm veterans, called Persian Gulf War syn­drome. None of the doctors Rhoads saw in Bethesda or Pittsburgh could figure out what was making her so sick. She was becoming almost com­pletely incapacitated. Scott Beveridge and another local reporter, Connie Gore, took a genuine interest in her case and wrote about her often. Her local congressman, Frank Mascara, and his aide, Pam Snyder, got involved and pushed the VA to recognize that whatever its cause, Gulf War syndrome was real, and it was destroying the lives of people who had risked everything to serve their country and who deserved their government’s attention to their service-related illness. Their persistent appeals on her behalf re­sulted in a full disability pension, one of the first awarded to a sufferer of Gulf War syndrome. She gave testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in 1991 and traveled to Washington in 1995, while very ill, to testify to President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Gulf War Illnesses. Congressman Mascara began his statement in a hearing at the House Veterans Committee by invoking her as the poster child for Gulf War syndrome.

When word got around about his successful intervention on Rhoads’s behalf, Mascara’s office was swarmed with calls from veterans around the country, who like Rhoads were plagued by numerous illnesses since com­ing home from the Gulf. No one has yet to establish a cause or causes of the disorder that appears to weaken the immune system, making its vic­tims susceptible to multiple illnesses. There are many theories—fumes from the oil well fires, reactions to inoculations, Iraq’s undetected use of chemical weapons, Scud warheads carrying biological agents, combat stress—but none have been proven. Whatever its cause, thousands of Gulf War veterans suffer chronic and multiple illnesses attributed to it.

After her testimony to President Clinton’s advisory commission, Rhoads dropped out of public view. Beveridge wrote that he had received “anonymous hate mail” attacking Rhoads for publicizing her suffering and condemning the deployment of women to war theaters. It appears she heard some of the same criticism. She might have been estranged, for a brief time anyway, from a few others in her unit. When asked, she said the 14th was like a family, and like all families, they have their squabbles and then make up. “We love each other,” she maintains.

THIRTEEN SOLIDERS

Senator John McCain is a United States Senator and an author, with Mark Salter, of Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War, out today. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 until 1981.

Mark Salter is the author, with John McCain, of several books, including Faith of My Fathers. He served on Sen. McCain’s staff for 18 years.

From Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War, by John McCain and Mark Salter. Copyright © 2014 by John McCain and Mark Salter. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME White House

Reagan Apologized to Thatcher for Grenada Invasion

Margaret Thatcher Meets With Ronald Reagan In London In 1978
Margaret Thatcher the Head Of The British Conservative Party meets with President Ronald Reagan at The Chamber Of Communes In London on Nov. 28, 1978. Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

According to a newly published phone conversation between the leaders

Ronald Reagan apologized to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for invading Grenada in 1983 without consulting her, according to a newly published conversation between the world leaders.

“I’m sorry for any embarrassment that we caused you,” the former President said, “but please understand that it was just our fear of our own weakness over here with regard to secrecy.” In October 1983, Reagan ordered U.S. troops to invade Grenada, a Caribbean island nation, after he determined that its turbulent Marxist government posed a threat to the almost 1,000 Americans on the island (many of whom were students at a medical school). Grenada had been troubling the Reagan administration ever since its Constitution was suspended after a coup in 1979, and the new government began to cozy up to Communist Cuba.

The American invasion of Grenada was very unpopular in Britain, as Grenada was a Commonwealth nation.

“If I were there Margaret, I’d throw my hat in the door before I came in,” Reagan said, which the BBC recalled was an old tradition that allowed an unwelcome guest to announce their arrival before they entered a room. The full transcript of the phone conversation is available on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation’s website.

While Thatcher wasn’t exactly forgiving, she did say she understood where Reagan was coming from. “I know about sensitivity, because of the Falklands. That’s why I would not speak for very long even on the secret telephone to you. Because even that can be broken. I’m very much aware of sensitivities,” she said. “The action is underway now and we just hope it will be successful.”

The conversation ended on good terms, though, with Thatcher getting off the phone to go to a “tricky” Parliament debate, and Reagan encouraging her to “Go get ’em. Eat ’em alive.”

The tapes, released to the public in October at the Reagan Library in Los Angeles, prove that Reagan continued the long Presidential tradition of recording phone conversations in the White House situation room, even after the debacle with former President Richard Nixon years earlier. It’s also a classic example of an age-old trick: ask forgiveness, not permission.

TIME History

After the Fall: The Day the Captain Didn’t Shoot My Father

Lev Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka.

25 years ago, a confrontation at the Czechoslovakian border drove home the reality to me and my family that the Berlin Wall had fallen

In the early hours of December 24, 1989, I was standing perfectly still inside an examination chamber at a border post on the very edge of the Soviet Union. I barely noticed the broken plates strewn across the floor, or the four soldiers with AK-47s in the corners, or the rest of my family huddled around me. My entire existence had shrunk to the only thing that mattered: my father and the captain of the border guards, screaming at each other in the middle of the room.

I couldn’t process the scene; 25 years later I can still remember my brain playing the image over and over like a GIF, reminding itself that yes, this was my father, and yes, he was screaming at a guard. We had been a few steps away from the exit door to Czechoslovakia, and freedom, when the captain accused Dad of hiding documents and threatened to detain us in the USSR. Dad began to argue. My jaw was squeezed so tight it felt like my cheekbones were about to shatter. My forearms ached with a dull pain spreading out from my clenched fists. I kept waiting for the captain to do the inevitable, to bark orders to the soldiers, beat Dad, shoot Dad, handcuff him. But the captain… the captain just shouted back.

Even as a nine-year-old child, I knew that what I was witnessing was incomprehensibly, fundamentally wrong. Complaint forms, lawsuits, civil disobedience didn’t exist in my world, not even as concepts. The police decided, arrested, and killed. They weren’t argued with, or screamed at. Waterfalls flowed down, not up. The sun rose in the east. The police were obeyed.

Six weeks before the standoff between my father and the border captain, another rumor, just as baffling, shook the USSR to the core. The Berlin Wall had fallen. The news snuck into our Ukrainian apartment late at night, borne aloft forbidden airwaves beamed into the country by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. The Berlin Wall had fallen. A group of East German citizens armed with sledgehammers had scampered atop and demolished the dreaded symbol of Communist power, and the guards on the Wall were ordered to back off and make way for the cameras. The Soviet Union had taken away the soldiers’ ability to destroy lives…but it did not take away their guns. What happens when people accustomed to wielding absolute power, people whose only answer, only training, only reason for existence can be summed up by the word “fire,” are suddenly told to stand down? No one knew, and – just as with my family at the Soviet border – the world stood perfectly still.

The silence didn’t last. For forty years, Eastern Europe existed as a bloated cultural Frankenstein, with dozens of ethnicities, religions, and nationalities lashed together by Communist dictatorships. Forty years of grudges and dreams, yearnings and hatreds simmered inside unwieldy entities like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and suddenly the Wall had collapsed. Families reunited with families; neighbors slaughtered neighbors. East Germany merged with West Germany. Czechoslovakia peacefully split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Romania had a revolution. Yugoslavia burned.

Whether by fate, or a hiccup, or pure chance, the Soviet border captain had relented, angrily waving my family across to Czechoslovakia and then Austria, to seek a better life in the West. Two months later, we were stationed at a refugee safe house on the outskirts of Vienna. Most of the inhabitants were ex-Soviet Jews, like us, but one night, a family of Bosnian Muslims showed up at the shelter. We didn’t have many belongings – a change of clothes, spare blankets, bits of cookware which had survived that awful night at the Soviet border – but compared to the Bosnians we were barons. The Bosnians didn’t speak to us and mostly kept to their room, only venturing out to use the communal bathroom, and even then, they moved as in a trance. Rumor had it they fled to Vienna because of the Orthodox Serbian death squads operating with impunity in the new post-Communist world, settling scores and launching a campaign of ethnic cleansing that would rage across southeast Europe for years.

The Wall had collapsed and echoes still ring across Chechnya, and Central Asia, through eastern Ukraine, and the Balkans. The Wall had collapsed and my family ran toward freedom; the Bosnians across the hall from us ran for their lives.

Lev Golinkin is the author of the memoir A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, out this week.

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Barack Obama

Obama Says He Will ‘Never Forget’ Berlin Wall Fall

While commending the reunification of Germany, the President criticized Russia's actions in Ukraine for unsettling Europe

As people around the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Barack Obama said in a tweet that he will “never forget” the scenes of people reuniting with their families and entering “the free world.”

“It was a reminder that walls of concrete and barbed wire are ultimately no match for the will of ordinary men and women who are determined to live free,” he said in the statement.

He also used the occasion to take a jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said has held back progress in Europe: “But as Russia’s actions against Ukraine remind us, we have more work to do to fully realize our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.”

MONEY investing strategy

5 Mental Habits That Make Investors Rich

141106_INV_DreamInvestor
PeopleImages.com—Getty Images

Don't take yourself so seriously.

If I could build a dream investor from scratch, his name would be Paul.

Paul is an optimistic a-political sociopathic history buff with lots of hobbies who takes others’ opinions more seriously than his own.

Let me tell you why he is going to kick your butt at investing.

The sociopath

Psychologist Essi Vidling once interviewed a serial killer. Vidling showed the killer pictures of different facial expressions, and asked him to describe what the people were feeling. The murderer got most right, except pictures of people making fearful faces. “I don’t know what that expression is called, but it’s what people look like right before I stab them,” he said.

Paul couldn’t harm a fly. But a key trait of sociopaths is the ability to remain calm when others are terrified, so much that they don’t even understand why other people get scared. It’s also a necessity to becoming a good investor. In her book Confessions of a Sociopath, M.E Thomas writes:

The thing with sociopaths is that we are largely unaffected by fear … I am also blessed with a complete lack of sentiment … My lack of empathy means I don’t get caught up in other people’s panic.

Paul is like this, too. He doesn’t understand why people investing for 10 years get fearful when stocks have a bad 10 days. Recessions don’t bother him. Pullbacks entertain him. He thought the flash crash was kind of funny. He doesn’t care when his companies miss earnings by a penny. He’s immune to that stuff, which is a big advantage over most investors.

The a-political investor

Paul has political beliefs — who doesn’t?

But he knows that millions of equally smart people have opposite beliefs they are just as sure in. Since markets reflect the combined beliefs of millions of people, Paul knows that there is no reason to expect markets to converge on his personal beliefs, even if he is dead sure it is the truth. So he never lets his politics guide his investment decisions.

Paul knows that political moralizing is one of the most dangerous poisons your brain can come across, causing countless smart people to make dumb decisions. Even when he is bothered by political events, Paul repeats to himself in the mirror: “The market doesn’t care what I think. The market doesn’t care what I think.”

The history buff

Paul loves history. He loves it for a specific reason: It teaches him that anything is possible at any time, no matter how farfetched it sounds. “One damned thing after another,” a historian once described his field.

Paul knows that some people read history for clues on what might happen next, but history’s biggest lesson is that nobody has any idea, ever.

When people say oil prices can only go up, or have to fall, Paul knows history isn’t on their side — either could occur. He knows that when people say China owns the next century, or that America’s best days are behind it, history says either could be wrong.

History makes Paul humble, and prevents him from taking forecasts too seriously.

The hobbyist

Paul likes golf. He enjoys cooking. He reads on the beach. He has a day job that takes up most of his time.

Paul loves investing, but he doesn’t have time to worry about whether Apple is going to miss earnings, or if fourth-quarter GDP will come in lower than expected. He’s too busy for that stuff.

And he likes it that way. He knows investing is mostly a waiting game, and he has plenty of hobbies to keep him busy while he waits. His ignorance of trivial stuff has saved him thousands of dollars and countless time.

The open-minded thinker

Paul knows he’s just one of seven billion people in the world, and that his own life experiences are a tiny fraction of what’s to be learned out there.

He knows that everyone wants to think they are right, and that people will jump through hoops to defend their beliefs. He also knows this is dangerous, because it prevents people from learning. Paul knows that everyone has at least one firm, diehard belief that is totally wrong, and this scares him.

Paul is insanely curious about what other people think. He’s more interested in what other people think than he is in sharing his own views. He doesn’t take everyone seriously — he knows the world is full of idiots — but he knows the only way he can improve is if he questions what he knows and opens his mind to what others think.

The realistic optimist

Paul knows there’s a lot of bad stuff in this world. Crime. War. Hunger. Poverty. Injustice. Disease. Politicians.

All of these things bother Paul. But only to a point. Because he knows that despite the wrongs of the world, more people wake up every morning wanting to do good than try to do harm. And he knows that despite a constant barrage of problems, the good group will eventually win out in the long run. That’s why things tend to get better for almost everyone.

Paul doesn’t get caught up in doom loops, refusing to invest today because he’s worried about future budget deficits, or future inflation, or how his grandkids will pay for Social Security. Optimists get heckled as oblivious goofs from time to time, but Paul knows the odds are overwhelmingly in their favor of the long haul.

I’m trying to be more like Paul.

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Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel’s columns.

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