The Finest Bagels Staff
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” -President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
To put it simply, 2016 sucked for us. Tom was rejected by a Navy selection board, John was laid off, and Winston has spent enough time on the phone with the Office of Personnel Management to drive a lesser man crazy. Yet, as horrible as this past year has been for your (hopefully) favorite team of bloggers, our problems pale in comparison to heartache and struggles felt by our country and around the world. This year, our nation has been torn by a bitterly divisive election, our citizens have begun to lose faith in public institutions, and it seems impossible to believe that the little guy can still “make it.” Internationally, we have seen the rise of bigotry disguised as populism, war crimes committed against innocent civilians, and the continued emboldenment of the bare-chested want-to-be Czar. We’ve reached a tough moment in our history, and it would be easy to give in to the idea that our best days are behind us, that the good guys have failed, and that even worse days lie ahead. To this, we say NUTS!
Seventy-two years ago, in the winter of 1944, sitting at the intersection of seven tactically important roads in the Belgian town of Bastogne, the men of the 101st Army Airborne were feeling a similar sense of hopelessness. After the Allies’ initial success with the Invasion of Normandy, and subsequent advance through the French countryside, the Allied forces were practically knocking at Hitler’s door, and there was even open talk of the war ending before Christmas. Hoping to stave off defeat, the Germans launched a concentrated offensive against the Allied lines in the Ardennes forests, forcing sections of the Army to retreat and creating a “bulge” where the Nazis were on the verge of breaking through the Allied front. The next seven weeks, known to the world as the Battle of the Bulge, would become the bloodiest battle of the entire war for the United States.
At the center of this battle was the siege of Bastogne. Due to its strategic location, failure to keep the city in Allied control would result in the Nazi’s cutting off communication between the American and British armies and the loss of the important port city of Antwerp, which would cut off easy resupply and reinforcement for the Allied armies in the region. Needless to say there was a lot on the line. In the town, the American soldiers were running low on provisions. They were outnumbered almost 5-1 and lacked sufficient cold-weather gear, ammunition, food, medical supplies, and senior officers were elsewhere. Due to the worst winter weather in memory, the surrounded U.S. forces could not be resupplied by air nor was tactical air support available due to cloudy weather. To add to their misery, the Germans had managed to surrounded the city; forcing the defenders to form an all-round defense and shift artillery fire and move their limited resources to meet each successive assault. In short, they were cut off and surrounded, seemingly without sufficient supplies to hold out, and without any hope of support, reinforcement, or resupply.
In the early hours of December 21st, the Germans sent a white flag delegation to the entrapped American soldiers in Bastogne. The delegation presented the following message:
“To the U.S. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S. Troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.”
The American commander, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, had every reason to consider surrender. Knowing the lives of his men and the future of the war were in his hands, General McAuliffe issued the following reply:
“To the German Commander.
The American Commander”
It was not easy, but the American troops trapped in the besieged town would hold out against the enemy, and go on to fight for another month, pushing back the Germans lines. Five months later, Hitler’s Germany would see its last sunrise.
Pulling out a war story in an attempt to convey that all is not lost probably seems cliche and worn out. However, the underlying message stands. 2016 was a pretty bad year, and the challenges we faced are not going to magically disappear when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. While these challenges may not be as black and white as battling the Third Reich and the Axis Powers, they still require the need to dismiss the natural urge to ignore the problems we face or to do what is easy over what is right. While we, just like General McAuliffe, have the option to give in, to stick our heads in the sand and say “not my problem” we are not going to do that. Tom will do more push-ups, John will submit more applications, and Winston…well we got him a bottle of Four Roses for Christmas so he’ll be ok.
The point is that while it would be easy to shrink back into isolationism, both as individuals and as a nation, that’s not what America does. We won’t ignore the growing neo-nazi movement in our political system, we won’t turn a blind eye to the threat of climate change, we will not submit blindly to a tragically under qualified administration, nor will we give into the seemingly unending maze of other challenges laid before us. We, the staff of the Finest Bagels Blog, say “nuts” to those who would rather not try than to risk failure. We say nuts to the idea that our best days are behind us. We say nuts to the idea that only dark days lie ahead.
From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Thank you for sticking with us for the last six months, and we look forward to bringing you new and continually informative content after the holiday season. We will return to posting regularly the first week of the new year.
Tom, John, and Winston