Tuesday

Nov. 15, 2005

Putting in a Window

by John Brantingham

TUESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER, 2005
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Poem:"Putting in a Window" by John Brantingham from Putting in a Window © Finishing Line Press. Georgetown, Kentucky. Reprinted with permission.

Putting in a Window

Carpentry has a rhythm that should never
be violated. You need to move slowly,
methodically, never trying to finish early,
never even hoping that you'd be done sooner.
It's best if you work without thought of the
end. If hurried, you end up with crooked
door joints and drafty rooms. Do not work
after you are annoyed just so the job
will be done more quickly. Stop when you
begin to curse at the wood. Putting in
a window should be a joy. You should love
the new header and the sound of
your electric screwdriver as it secures
the new beams. The only good carpenter
is the one who knows that he's not good.
He's afraid that he'll ruin the whole house,
and he works slowly. It's the same as
cooking or driving. The good cook
knows humility, and his soufflé never falls
because he is terrified that it will fall
the whole time he's cooking. The good driver
knows that he might plow into a mother
walking her three-year old, and so watches
for them carefully. The good carpenter
knows that his beams might be weak, and a misstep
might ruin the place he loves. In the end,
you find your own pace, and you loose time.
When you started, the sun was high and now
that you're finished, it's dark. Tomorrow, you
might put in a door. The next day,
you'll start on your new deck.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1940 that 75,000 men were called to Armed Forces duty under the first peacetime conscription in American history.

There had been a long history of resistance to mandatory military service in this country. During World War I, an estimated 3 million young men refused to register, and 12 percent of those called up didn't report for duty or deserted.

Franklin Roosevelt's decision to impose a draft in the summer of 1940 was especially controversial because the country wasn't even at war. But Americans had all seen newspaper and newsreel coverage of the German Army rolling over Poland in a few weeks, and doing the same in France in a few months. By June of that year, Germans controlled most of the European continent, and the United States had a poorly trained standing army of only about 200,000 soldiers.

So even though he worried it might hurt his chances of reelection that November, Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the first peacetime draft in American history. That October, 16 million young men appeared at precinct election boards across the country to register with the Selective Service. The first lottery was held in Washington, D.C., and it was designed to be as patriotic a ceremony as possible. Secretary of War Henry Stimson was blindfolded with cloth taken from a chair that had been used at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the ladle he used to scoop out numbers had been made from the wood of one of the rafters of Independence Hall.

After the selection process, the first 75,000 draftees were called up to service on this day in 1940. During World War II alone, the draft selected 19 million men and inducted ten million. The draft lapsed briefly after World War II, but the Red Scare persuaded Truman to start it up again, and it continued until 1973.

Most Americans were happy about the end of the draft, but in 1999 the historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, "Today, Cajuns from the Gulf Coast have never met a black person from Chicago. Kids from the ghetto don't know a middle-class white. Mexican-Americans have no contact with Jews. Muslim Americans have few Christian acquaintances... But during World War II and the Cold War, American [men] from every group got together in the service, having a common goal—to defend their country... They learned together, pledged allegiance together, sweated together, hated their drill sergeants together, got drunk together, went overseas together. What they had in common—patriotism, a language, a past they could emphasize and venerate—mattered far more than what divided them."


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