Month: September 2017

The North Korean Crisis

(Note: Last week I was unable to post an article due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The recent crisis with North Korea has led me to research and reflect on the outcome of the Korean War of the early 1950’s. More specifically, could this international tension have been averted 67 years ago?

First I need to give a short recap of the war based on my research: On June 25, 1950, 75,000 soldiers from the pro-Soviet Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north crossed the 38th parallel, which is the boundary between North and South Korea. The invasion surprised the United States, for South Korea was and still is a pro-Western nation. This invasion is considered the first military action of the Cold War. President Harry S. Truman sent American troops under UN auspices to the Korean peninsula in August 1950. He appointed World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur to lead the forces to protect South Korea. General MacArthur and his troops pushed the North Koreans back and landed at the Battle of Inchon toward the Yalu River, which is the border between North Korea and China. Alarmed, the communist Chinese sent troops to warn the Americans to stay away from the Yalu River unless they were prepared to go to war.

MacArthur’s plan was to go ahead and attack China’s supply bases near the Yalu River, but Truman feared this would provoke World War III. When MacArthur’s plan was leaked to the press, Truman fired him. From then on, the fighting continued for two more years as both sides attempted to reach an armistice. When it was finally achieved and signed on July 27, 1953, both sides agreed to draw a new boundary at the 38th parallel. As a result of the war, 5 million people died: more than half were civilians. 40,000 American troops lost their lives and 100,000 were injured.

Although the fighting ended, both North and South Korea are still in a state of war. No peace treaty was ever signed and each side considers themselves the only legitimate government of Korea. In the years following the Korean War, North Korea has committed numerous human rights violations, including using its resources to develop nuclear weapons rather than feeding its people. Free speech is nonexistent in North Korea and there are occasional skirmishes with South Korea along the border. The imprisonment and tragic death of Otto Warmbier, a US student who visited the country, only highlights the nefarious intentions of North Korea. The testy threats between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un has only increased the already tense atmosphere. It appears something has to give.

Did Truman make the right decision at the time? General MacArthur’s plan was no doubt reckless and dangerous, and Truman, of course, wanted to prevent World War III. To think there may have been a possibility that this conflict could have been resolved somehow 67 years ago may be wishful thinking on my part. If only there was some way to undo all the damage over the years.

Information for this blog comes from history.com and Wikipedia.

Idelle Kursman is the author of the thriller True Mercy. Read more of her posts on www.luckcanchange.com.

Why are Scandinavians the Happiest People on the Planet?

I was working hard on an article for this week’s blog post but was unsure if it would be appropriate for the website. My writer friends advised it goes too far off the beaten path.

So at the last minute I made a switcheroo.

It’s an article I wrote for a publication a few months ago. Thinking about the struggles of high taxes, the cost of healthcare, and earning enough to cover all expenses that the typical American must contend with, I often wonder if there is a system for an easier life. It is debatable whether the Scandinavian government system would work in the United States, or if the system is as smooth as they claim, but I wanted to explore life in the Scandinavian countries. So here is the article. I hope readers enjoy it. It’s certainly food for thought and discussion.

Year after year the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network comes to the conclusion in their World Happiness Report that the Scandinavian countries rank number one in the category of happiest people on earth.

How come? you’re probably asking. Scandinavian countries must endure long winters, months of darkness, and short summers. What’s more, Scandinavian novelists depict their societies as glum and austere (ever read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?). Nevertheless, they are ranked number one in the world in terms of happiness.

Why?

The UN World Happiness Index uses specific variables to measure a nation’s happiness, including Gross Domestic Product, healthy life span, and citizens’ overall feelings of trust, freedom, and generosity. After extensive study, researchers have concluded the following factors contribute to the Nordic world’s happiness and contentment:

1.) Freebies—free education and healthcare. In addition, the government provides ample unemployment insurance and child support.

2.) Work/Life Balance—Ah, what we all strive for in the US! Many businesses close at 5 PM and no one works over the weekend. Plus, there is great emphasis on families eating and spending quality time together.

3.) The Great Outdoors—Despite the cold, Scandinavians don’t stay in during the long, dark, and frigid winters. They do cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, and during the summer months, it’s hiking, cycling, sailing, and swimming.

4.) Travel—Scandinavians travel more than any other people in the world. They enjoy the most vacation days and make good use of this time by visiting countries with warmer climates.

5.) Northern Lights—Known as the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights is one of nature’s most dazzling spectacles in the sky. Scandinavians have front-row seats to this phenomenon because of their northern latitude location.

(Taken from “Discover 7 Reasons Why Scandinavians are the Happiest,” www.hoppa.com/en/discover/7-reasons-why-scandnavians-are-the-happiest)

Interested in learning more? I highly recommend The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth.

What is Their Secret?

In another article, Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Professor John Helliwell, both affiliated with the World Happiness Report, sponsored by the UN, were interviewed why Northern Europeans were so content. They came up with these conclusions:

  • Neighborly support
  • Job security
  • Workplace satisfaction
  • State support programs for those in need, including child support
  • Community spirit
  • Support services for immigrants
  • Concern for strangers

(Taken from “Norway is the Happiest Country in the World. What’s the secret?” By Zamira Rahim.)

Note: Thanks to my writer friends for their advice. You ladies helped me make the right decision!

 

What is Their Secret?

, were interviewed why Northern European

A Life Well-Lived Despite Serious Flaws

Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of learning more about a person who was exceedingly blessed with both intellectual and athletic gifts, born into one of America’s wealthiest families, and yet used his talents and opportunities for the betterment of all Americans.

I traveled to Sagamore Hill in Long Island, New York and spent two days gathering more information about Theodore Roosevelt.

Granted he was in a unique and privileged position to never have to worry about struggling to make a living in order to survive, which is the predicament of the great majority of us. But he did not squander his life drinking and partying—he used his time on Earth to help improve people’s lives.

The following are just a few contributions he made that I learned about at Sagamore Hill:

  • In his 1912 presidential bid, Theodore Roosevelt was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage.
  • He negotiated the deal to end the Russian-Japanese War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He actually was the first American to win a Nobel Prize.
  • He championed workers’ rights, reforming child labor laws and instituting the eight-hour workday.
  • When he was governor, Roosevelt was instrumental in reforming the corruption that ran rampart in the New York City Police Department.
  • He advocated food regulations and was instrumental in creating the Food and Drug Administration.
  • He was one of the leaders of the Rough Riders, a group of men who fought in Cuba to protect Americans during the Spanish-American War.
  • He was a scholar and wrote 35 books.
  • Roosevelt was a hunter and taxidermist. He would study the insides of animals he would kill to learn more about them.

On top of that he was devoted to family. Roosevelt set aside 4PM everyday to play with his children. It didn’t matter who he was meeting with, whether a dignitary or a cabinet member. He kept the 4PM appointment faithfully for his family. (It would certainly be wonderful if we were all in a position to do that.)

Roosevelt stood every time a woman entered the room. (Men, take note.) In fact, he was critical of Winston Churchill because when they met at Sagamore Hill, Churchill failed to stand when a woman entered.

To demonstrate his concern for others, there appeared an article in The New York Times in 1908 in which one of his secret service men manhandled a local dry goods merchant. Someone incorrectly informed the secret service man that the merchant came to Sagamore Hill drunk and unruly so he threw him out. When Roosevelt found out about the mistake, he apologized to this man. How do I know this? This merchant was Charles Kursman, my husband’s great uncle.

Of course, Theodore Roosevelt did have his faults. I did not find out about them from visiting Sagamore Hill, but from reading William J. Mann’s The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America’s Greatest Political Family (Harper, 2016). In it Mann wrote: “For all his desire to be a force for good and for change in the world, the iconic dichotomy of Theodore Roosevelt would be his often brutal control of his family and his inability to countenance different worldviews.”

One of his serious transgressions was putting his younger brother Elliot (Eleanor Roosevelt’s father) in an asylum because he was an alcoholic and may have suffered from mental illness. Separating him from his family destroyed him and devastated Eleanor, who adored her father. Of course, in those days people did not understand these afflictions, but Theodore was more concerned Elliot would embarrass the family and derail his political ambitions than he was about his brother’s life.

The other was that Elliot fathered a son with his mistress named Katy Mann, who was a servant to his wife Anna. Of course, this was a potentially embarrassing situation, but Theodore (and Eleanor) never acknowledged the son’s existence or left him an inheritance. Katy Mann was desperately poor and sought out Theodore’s help but nothing was ever done.

Fortunately, the son Elliot Roosevelt Mann led an upstanding life despite his unfortunate beginnings . He grew up to be a bank clerk and auditor and was a family man who would have made the Roosevelt clan proud. (He tried to reach out to his half-sister Eleanor but she never responded.)

Why am I bringing up these two incidents? Even though Roosevelt accomplished much and used his talents and wealth to good use, I don’t want to portray him as a completely unselfish saint. I want to applaud his accomplishments and a life well-lived but by the same token, I want to give a balanced accounting of the man.

In other words, extoll the virtues but include the human being, warts in all.

Idelle Kursman is the author of the novel True Mercy. Please read and review her book on Amazon. Comments are always welcome.

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