I’ve always had a decent interest in history and have often wondered how those who have come before us have shaped where we are today. What’s also thought-provoking to me, is trying to understand how each of us is a wealth of experiences – good and bad – that make us who we are in >this< moment, and then that moment is added to the past that continues to defines us. There’s this wisp of our past, following us through all our days.
WISCONSIN AT WAR was a good read for me because it kept reminding me of that idea – we are all made up of our past experiences – and to a degree, we get to determine how heavily those experiences decide who we are. WISCONSIN AT WAR is a compilation of interviews/anecdotes from various WI veterans, from various wars, in various arms of service.
What makes these stories so “real” for me is that each story ends with a brief follow-up on what that veteran went on to do. It was a good reminder of how much we may not really know about the people we encounter on a day-to-day basis. For instance, in the story of Willard and Wilber Diefenthaler “identical twins from Kiel…”, who both served in WWII, ending up at prisoners of war, a situation that ended up with Wilber dying…
After I returned home, I arranged to move his body to the American cemetery in France. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see him, even after 50 years. Thinking about him makes me cry some more.
Willard took an electronics course after the war, worked in TV repair, and ended up owning a machine shop in Kiel until he retired.
Anyone who hasn’t served, will find an even greater appreciation for our veterans from reading this book, and people who have served may find stories and feelings they recognize, and experiences they can relate to. I’m really glad I got to read this book.
I like to picture
the Earth’s curve, as morning light
arcs over the edge
Though I’ve know the name “Dr. James Cameron” for nearly 20 years, it’s only just recently that I finished reading his memoir, “A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story.” Dr. Cameron was the founder of Milwaukee’s America’s Black Holocaust Museum, a facility devoted to helping Americans understand just how deeply racism has affected American culture, on the general and personal levels. Dr. Cameron’s life was a testament to how strongly he held onto hope and love for all, even for “decent and freedom-loving white people.”
I am certain that the majority of people, at the time they begin to have self-awareness, can never truly imagine the line that their life might draw across History. Could Dr. Cameron, raised by a single mom with two sisters, have imagined one day he’d be the father of five children, a husband of 68 years? Could the young boy shining shoes imagine that his life’s vocation would be to educate people on the ills of systemic and personal racism? Could a 16-year old conceive of a night that would begin with a car ride with friends, could end with him being the sole survivor of a lynching mob that killed two others, and leave him the only known survivor of an American lynching?
A Time of Terror tells that story in Dr. Cameron’s own words. It impressed on me how far my country still has to go, to fulfill the “American Ideal.” The book mainly deals with Dr. Cameron’s early life, through the lynching attack, and then his time in jail after that, up to his freedom from jail. A chapter devoted to his adult life is written by Reggie Jackson, current head griot at the ABHM.
This book offers an important window into American history, in an era that our country still hasn’t determined how to own up to.
(I have a small note to make, of something I’m rather proud of. The chapter on Dr. Cameron’s adult life features a photo of mine, of Dr. Cameron at a KKK protest from the late 1990s)