Thursday, October 27, 2005

Don't Waste Me

I received this comment in response to a post I wrote about the continued attrition of money for veteran’s benefits over at Bring It On! I believe what he has to say will resonate with many. Our country needs to accept the responsibility of the lives who wield our weapons. Citizens need to protect our warriors from a political moral abyss that spends their lives or discards their bodies. It's the least we can do. His service means a great deal to me, and all the Bring It On writers, some of who are veterans themselves. Thank you, Liberal Jarhead, for being there for us.
Your nephew and friends are in my prayers. I hope they come home healthy in body and mind.

I'm a retired Marine, and my two brothers (also Marines) and I are all disabled vets. Although there are a lot of wonderful people working for the VA, experience convinces me that the bureaucracy doesn't give a damn about veterans.

I had some epiphanies about the military during my 20 years in, starting when I was 18, and I quickly learned to trust the people to my right and left, and often my immediate leaders, but not the system. We were ready to die doing our jobs if we had to, but we wanted to be valued - you could sum it up as, "I'm trusting you with my life - spend me if you have to, but for God's sake do it for something worth it. Don't waste me."

Now I see the same pattern between this administration and the people in the military, and the people of America.

Most people are pretty decent and solid, but this government doesn't care about ordinary people. They've spent the lives of 2000 young patriots now - for what? Halliburton. Similarly, starting with Nixon and Reagan, they've enacted policies that have directly and indirectly led to the suffering and deaths of many more thousands of Americans through cuts in needed services. While Reagan was in office, a homeless veteran froze to death in the park across the street from the White House. They knew he was there; they just didn't care. If the so-called Great Communicator had had a trace of compassion that could never have happened. I work with the mentally ill, and the way our government treats them (or doesn't) is a disgrace.

We the people are willing to sacrifice for our country, our society - look at the stats showing that Americans keep giving more time and money to help others every year; the kids in high school now are doing more volunteer work than any generation in history. Most of us are willing to pay taxes to help protect our people and help each other - we just ask, "Don't waste our sacrifices."

These people are basically corporate raiders who've pulled off a hostile takeover and are gutting the organization they've hijacked for the benefit of themselves and their friends. Once they've sucked it dry, they'll throw it away and move on. Except for the ones who want to impose a pseudo-Christian theocracy (for anyone who wants a look at what that would be like, read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.) The only way we can stop this process is to get active. Don't just forward e-mails! Write letters to legislators and newspapers. Organize discussion groups. Find candidates you can believe in and volunteer to help their campaigns.

These are sacrifices of time and energy, but they're worth it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

We Don't Want Your Kind 'Round Here

Tell me again why Republicans are considered to be more supportive of troops?

Capt James Yee’s book will turn your stomach. Yee was accused and thrown into Guantanemo. Here are his words:

“It was my turn to be humiliated every time I was taken to have a shower. Naked, I had to run my hands through my hair to show that I was not concealing a weapon in it. Then mouth open, tongue up, down, nothing inside. Right arm up, nothing in my armpit. Left arm up. Lift the right testicle, nothing hidden. Lift the left. Turn around, bend over, spread your buttocks, knowing a camera was displaying my naked image as male and female guards watched.

“It didn’t matter that I was an army captain, a graduate of West Point, the elite US
military academy. It didn’t matter that my religious beliefs prohibited me from being fully naked in front of strangers. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been charged with a crime. It didn’t matter that my wife and daughter had no idea where I was. And it certainly didn’t matter that I was a loyal American citizen and, above all, innocent.”

What is truly awful is what happened to Yee after his charges were found baseless and dismissed. The pentagon has developed a nasty habit of character assassination of people who speak against it. The favored ploy is accusing them of sexual misconduct. This is not an accusation of abusive or non-consensual sex as a layperson would interpret the term, but rather this:

But the favored technique clearly lies in bringing charges of improper sexual conduct, invariably involving consensual sexual relations. These charges are easily brought. The number of eunuchs and sexual abstainers among the uniformed military is low and sociological research has long shown that the vast majority of the population has sexual relations outside of wedlock at some point. That means that these charges can be brought against virtually anyone. If the rules were enforced uniformly and aggressively, we would not be able to maintain a volunteer army. But the current highly selective application may achieve the same result. Two important bar organizations have already looked at the situation and concluded that the application of sexual misconduct rules by the uniformed services suggests highly uneven application. Both urged reforms. The Pentagon refuses to budge. The tool is too powerful, and too readily abused. Therein lies its attraction. – Balkinization

Here’s some stuff to chew on:

Maj Gen Thomas J Fiscus, Judge Advocate General of the Air Force – known to have criticized rules on treatment of detainees – accused of sexual misconduct

Lt Gen John Riggs – questioned the level of troop commitments to the Iraq campaign – accused of sexual misconduct and technical contract infractions

Gen Kevin Byrnes – responsible for incorporating changes in doctrine on interrogation and treatment of detainees, rumored to have had reservations about changes hammered through by Rumsfeld – accused of sexual misconduct

This is not about dedication to United States of America. This is about silencing dedicated soldiers who understand that the putrid smell of greed is despoiling the country they’ve sworn to protect. America sent these people out, ill-equiped and under manned, and when they tell the American people the truth, America repays them with by defaming their characters and destroying their careers.

Anybody who believes this is acceptable sucks.

Hat tip to Balkinization for opening my eyes so thoroughly.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Everyday People

We're raising three children. There's nothing like hearing yourself parroted back by a three year old; it gives you an absolute time definition of when you morphed into your oh so tragically un-hip parents. Holding children's constant, absorbing gaze forces you to set up a filter for your imperfections. Screen out the cussing and bawdy entendres, and there you are, stuck inside your parents, wondering just what in the hell happened.

One of the benefits (why, half full, funny you should ask) of this self imposed screen is that it provides a ready made opportunity for self improvement. Instead of muttering "Murphy doesn't know shit", you can regale yourself with "Murphy exhibited his usual infantile cognitive powers of assessment on this one." See, your vocabulary is improving already.

We use this internal screen because we love our children. Most of us hated the "do as I say, not as I do" style of parenting, having rebelled so successfully against it in the 60's and 70's. I know I am determined that I not be a pushover, but that I will be honest and accessible to my children. I want them to have the best base possible to build on. Their lives and choices are theirs. It's my hope that they will land farther and stronger from me than I landed from my parents.

Part of the reason this is so important to me is because of race. Growing up, I lived with a parent who was a card carrying member of the NAACP in the early 1960's, in the SOUTH, and a parent who basically thought that was a load of crap. The interesting thing was, though, that seeing the world through the eyes of the civil rights activist gave me the opportunity to understand seeing it through the eyes of racist. It's hollow, you know. What's interesting is how deliberately they play it. Bennett's remarks last week are a perfect example.

This country has a long history of defining abilities by race. We love our stereotypes. We invoke everything from brains to penis size in our idiotic endeavor to quantify the abilities of the human mind by the packaging that surrounds it. We persist in "normalizing" these labels in an effort to bind cohesiveness through hate. If each decision is defended by assumptions that "everybody" understands, perhaps it's the sense of inclusion, of being more than you really are, that appeals.

I won't be joining the club.

When we abandon our filters, the necessary mechanism we create as adults to force us to better ourselves, the potential for improvement wanes. Until we strive, unified in the belief each life and mind is valuable, our country can NEVER reach it's potential.

Accepting the value of each life gives us the opportunity, for the first time in the history of this country, to cease to divide ourselves. If we choose not to impede the progress of some in order to grease the wheels for a few, we stand uniquely posed to capitalize of the massive gains America made in the 20th century.

Katrina is our wake up call. If we embrace what we want our individual selves to become, the better person we filter to, then this is the moment to right racial wrongs and set the course for the best damn country in the world.

Renounce assumptions. Hold hypocrisy to the light. Don't be the first to blink.

We're all grown up now. The time for division is over.