Trump and his Pentagon are shutting down the independent military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes. One hundred sixty years old, working on a fifteen million dollar budget, it’s a bitter end to a venerable institution.
I was in the U.S. Air Force for over twenty years. Overseas, we looked to the Stars and Stripes for laughs, information, distractions, sports scores, and a touch of home. You could usually walk into an office and find a copy of the latest daily sitting on a table or desk, pick it up, and check it out. Sometimes the Jumble word puzzles were done, or the NYTimes crossword puzzle was half-finished, or the Sudoku was begun. In Europe, it was the source for finding out what events were planned, such as festivals and volksmarches. Everywhere, it told us what was happening at other theater bases, and when college registration and terms were beginning. It also carried the AFRTS television and radio schedules and highlights, and the show times for the movie theaters.
This all helped keep us connected and grounded. That was (pause to absorb shock) over thirty years ago for me. (Another pause to absorb shock.) Satellite entertainment was just becoming available, and we were watching tape-delay productions of ‘live’ shows. The Internet and web were just beginning to stretch and flex. Phones were still tethered to walls and desks by long cords.
So, yeah, as Zimmerman sang, the times they are a-changing. I usually look forward to change, hoping that we’re advancing our technology in ways to improve our lives and conditions, or defeat diseases and advance cures. I’m in favor of change that levels the field and delivers justice, equality, freedom, and opportunity for all. Perhaps the time has come for the Stars and Stripes to cease, because its purpose has been overtaken by advances. In memory, though, I’ll recall it fondly, and think of its passing with a sigh.
But then, that’s what happens with so much of our things, isn’t it? We outgrow them, and they fade away.