Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Boy From The South Or I'm Not Going Back

When I was a child the county courthouse and the surrounding blocks of shops were the centers of our community. The courthouse was a huge structure of marble and granite and it was surrounded by giant live oak trees. To gaze on the courthouse and the surrounding grounds was to gaze on a cool and serene scene. To this day I still think of that courthouse as one of the two most beautiful structures our community possessed. The post office, one block over, being the other. They are gone now. Replaced by faceless modern structures, that in my estimate, display no architectural beauty what so ever. As I reflect on this building and the pastoral square that surrounded it there is a great and painful sadness in my soul. The source of that sadness lies in two stark facts. The first is that on the lawn of that majestic structure was a monument to the Confederate South. The second was the two, somewhat inconspicuous, water fountains on the lawn. Inconspicuous with the exception being that one was marked "Colored" and the other marked "White".

As I reflect on the frequent warm summer afternoons walking around the town square and holding my mother's hand, it is amazing to me the innocence and naivete with which I saw these things. I realize now that it was sadly, so very "normal". It was "normal" that the town was divided by a highway. It was "normal" that the people of color lived west of the highway and the "white" people lived to the east. It was "normal" that there was a "colored" shopping area and a "white" shopping area. It was normal that there were "colored" toilets and "white" toilets. It was "normal" that the children of "color" went to the schools west of the highway and the "white" children went to the schools east of the highway. And, it was "normal" that over half of my community was living in abject poverty, unseen in plain sight.

I suppose that it is only natural that I, like many others, often reflect on my childhood with more than a touch of nostalgia. I believe that that is quite normal but, I also believe that we do something else that is quite normal, but not normal. We don't all remember those subtle and not so subtle signs. We don't all remember those signs that said, "Colored Only" and "White Only".  Those signs of deep-seated disrespect, viral hatred, and venomous resentment toward a group of fellow Americans that happened to be of a different skin color.

At the age of 18, I did something that so many members of my family had done since the Revolutionary War. I joined the United States Army. This became one of the defining moments in my life.  I entered an Army where, because of the draft, every ethnic and socioeconomic class living in our country was represented. I must mention here that even with the draft, some of our citizens with means and or influence did avoid the draft.

It is not possible for me to describe the following 28 years in this single blog entry so I will simply attempt to express some of the profound effects it had on my life. My entire worldview was about to change.

On the day that I joined the Army, I began an experience of profound consequence.  An experience where the color of mine and my comrade's skin was the least relevant thing in my life. The military taught every soldier that you take care of your "buddy". Your "buddy" was the most important person in your life. Your life depended on your "buddy" and your "buddies" life depended on you. This relationship, this bond, was forged in the fires of war, and for me, it could never be broken. My comrades and I lived and ate and slept together every hour of every day. We held each other in the cold, we pulled each other from the mud and we check every inch of each others body for leeches and bugs. But most importantly we made sure our buddy lived to go home and we did it in any way we had to regardless of the consequences to our own well-being.

During my career, I served in every condition known to man in both peace and war. I served in blistering deserts and frigid tundras. I served with every variation of humanity that occupies this earth and they all had one thing in common. They were, to a person, human beings just like me. Throughout my life and career, I have met people I liked and people I didn't like and people I "really" didn't like. I met people I loved and people I fell in love with, but I never met a single person where I experienced one of those emotions because of the color of their skin or their religion or their sexual orientation or any other human trait.

I don't want my readers to misunderstand. The military was not a cultural utopia. It was, in fact, a part of the great bureaucratic machine. It was a microcosm of American society at large with all of its many troubles. The difference was that all of these cultures and ethnicities, these people, were forced into a single unit and required to conform and blend for a single purpose. The military implemented surprisingly effective programs to promote equality and equal opportunity and understanding. Soldiers had to become one single unit for the sake of the mission and their own survival. The positive side effect of this merging was tolerance and shared values. An environment where all humans could come together with mutual respect and understanding. It promulgated a multicultural society. 

Since November the 9th I have felt profound sadness and anger. My emotions are raw but not as a result of any political discourse. They are a result of the language and attitude of one individual and the group of people who are following him. It is a result of who we are about to put into the office of the President of the United States and those whom he is choosing to fill positions within his administration. They are a result of what these people represent and the lack of core human values they appear to not possess.

Since the election, I have read many articles and opinion pieces that espouse that we must work with those who will soon be taking the reins of power. Writers across the spectrum are saying that those individuals who voted for the President-Elect have simply expressed their grave concerns for our country. That these people have used their vote to express their concerns about losing their jobs and their culture. And, that we must accept the results of the election and move forward.

I agree with much of this. We have been losing jobs overseas and our culture is changing. It is true that we haven't done enough to reform our immigration policies and to stem the tide of incoming undocumented immigrants. It is true that we haven't done enough to craft trade agreements that are fair and that keep good jobs in this country. I understand all of these things and there are many, many more issues I most probably agree with. I want to tell all the people who have supported the President-Elect, I understand. I really do! I want those same things but, I also want an accepting and just society.

In the beginning of this post, I described for you the community that I grew up in and then I told you of my profound experiences upon leaving that community and entering a world that opened my eyes. Now, I tell you that I am profoundly grateful that I left that community. And this is why.

The community that I left, like many communities across the nation, was not really the nice place we all thought and believe that it was. It was a place that we really don't remember accurately and that we remember with false images. We don't look deeply  at our memories.  We no longer see the signs "Colored" and "White Only". In reality, it was a place of segregation and inequality. A place of happiness on one side and deplorable inexplicable pain on the other. I do not want to go back there in reality or spirit.

My disagreement and the disagreement that I believe millions of Americans have with the incoming administration is this. They appear to be blatantly and admittedly misogynistic, racist, homophobic and demonstrably unqualified to be in the positions they are being placed in. I simply cannot accept such people being in charge of my government. I cannot accept going back. I want to move forward to a nation that is inclusive in every way possible. I won't share my country with hate and the President-Elect and his staff is the personification of that.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.













Monday, November 14, 2016

The Story Of Two Men Or Why I Don't Hate

Note: I would just like to let anyone who happens on this post to know that it is very painful for me to write about this. It's painful in bad ways and in good ways.

When I was a very small child, I believe it was when I was about five or six years old, we lived in a small house in town. My father was still living with my family and would be around for about three more years. The day of this first event was an unusual day in that my mom was away and my father had remained home with me. This was something that I don't remember having ever occurred before or ever occurring again after that day. At any rate, we were home and my father was in the house while I was outside playing. At the time we had a big collie named Rex and like most collies, Rex was very protective of our home and in particularly we children. It was early morning and I heard the garbage truck approaching and, like most children would, I went to the side of the house where the truck stopped to pick up our trash. In those days the men working on the trucks had to dismount and pick up and carry the cans to the back of the truck to empty them. As the worker approached the yard, as usual Rex ran to the edge of the property and began barking. I ran and grabbed Rex by his collar and told the man, "It's okay mister you can come in, he won't bite".

After the garbage truck drove away my father called me to the back porch. When I came up to him, without a word, he grabbed me by the arm and whipped me. As my father whipped me he said, "Don't you ever call a ni**er, mister again"! (Please excuse my use of that very painful and insulting word, but I feel it is needed here to emphasize exactly what happened to me that day.)

Fast forward fifteen years. After my parents were separated, my mother, my sisters, and I moved next door to my grandparent's which is where this next scene occurs.  I am in the Army and I have just returned from my first tour in Vietnam and after a month of leave, I will be heading back for my second tour.

I had been home just a few days and had met someone whom I, of course, had asked out. Since I didn't have a car and my mother's car was in use I had to borrow my grandfather's car. Long story short we got a little carried away and I didn't arrive back home until around 5:00 am. As I arrived I had planned to quietly roll into the driveway, park the car, sneak the keys back in the house and go to bed pretending nothing had happened. As they say, "plans of mice and men". As I exited the car my grandfather was standing by the front door. I can, with all honesty, say I had never seen, nor ever saw again, my grandfather so angry. I cannot express that strongly enough. I don't remember much of that conversation which I'm sure included a lot of, don't you know how to be responsible etc but there are some words and an expression I will never, ever forget. My grandfather, who wasn't prone to profanity, said, "son, I don't give a tinker's damn about that car, I was worried sick that something had happened to you". His expression was like a blow to my gut. I felt, so very ashamed and irresponsible at that moment and every time I have thought of that moment since. As ridiculous as it seemed to me in that moment I could not believe how much my grandfather loved me and he worried about me all the time. Here I was between two combat tours as an infantryman and a crew chief/gunner in Vietnam and my grandfather worried that I would have an accident and be hurt.

I tell these two stories together because they taught me two very important lessons. My first lesson was from my father, and that lesson was that fathers don't always love their sons and don't always teach them about love and respect. The second lesson was from my grandfather and that was that men do love and do know how to teach other men about love and respect.

Of course, it was not that one incident with my father or my grandfather that made me who I am today. My grandfather and my grandmother and my mother, and even my father in his backward way taught me about what was right and wrong and how to respect everyone regardless of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation or any other differences. They taught me how to be a decent human being with their day to day actions and language and simply by the way they lived their lives.

And of course, just like most of my posts, this has a political point. My grandfather, grandmother, and mother worked very hard at teaching me and my sisters how to be a decent, respectful, honorable human being and citizen. My family is made up of immigrant men and women trying to make a good life for themselves. Some came to this country earlier and some later, my wife being the latest to arrive.  Members of my family, both men, and women, including my grandmother (in WWII) and my daughter (in the war on terror), has fought in every war this country has fought. They shed their blood for both the North and the South but they always shed their blood and sweat for America and Americans. So please, Mr. President-Elect, don't tell me to turn my back on my fellow Americans. Don't tell me to turn my back on immigrants. Don't tell me to turn my back on anyone because of where they come from or the color of their skin or their gender, or sexual orientation. In other words, don't tell me to turn my back on any human being. That is not who we Americans are.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Impeachment For Our Daughters Sake

I have not posted to my blog for many years. It is not that I have not had something to say but, that I have simply been complacent. With this last election, that is all changing and I once again take up my "pen" to reflect on what is happening and about to happen in our great country.

To say that the election of Donald Trump was a shock to me is an understatement of exponential magnitude. Let me explain this by way of a short story.

When I was about 9 years old my father left our family. He did not look back and he did not, ever again, come forth with any assistance to our family. Of my two older brothers, the eldest joined the military and the next oldest was disabled and, on the advice of our family physician, was sent away to a "home". Yes, it was a time that was that barbaric. So the result of my father and two older brothers departure was that I and my mother, and my four younger sisters were alone. My mother found herself alone with five children and the nearly insurmountable task of providing food, clothing, and shelter for us all. What I think makes this a little more poignant, if not totally depressing, is that my father left while my mother was in the hospital delivering the youngest of my four sisters.

There are a few more details that, I believe, are important in order for one to fully understand the sheer desperation that my mother must have felt. This was all occurring at a time in the late 1950's that was before President Lyndon B. Johnson ushered in of the "Great Society" and the passage of legislation upholding civil rightspublic broadcastingMedicareMedicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services, and his "War on Poverty". At that time there were simply no programs to help an abandoned woman in my mother's position to survive. When I think back on these times, from and adult perspective, I realize just how difficult women's lives were. If we believe that they are not receiving equal treatment today, during that time we must realize that they were little more than a servant class. This becomes quite evident when we look at the types of jobs that were available to women at this time. Not only did they not receive equal pay but the "good" jobs simply were not available to them for the simple fact that they were women.

So my mother started out with a job making just thirty-two cents an hour as a waitress and eventually working up to being a bartender. I must admit that it was thirty-two cents plus tips. Even today, at 67 years old, when I think back to those times my heart hurts. To compound this difficulty my mother had to work these difficult, menial jobs in the evenings from 4:00 pm to 12:00 pm because those were the hours that a waitress or bartender could make the most money and she needed every penny. That left me, a 9-year-old boy, home alone with four little sisters to watch and feed and bathe and put to bed.

I tell this story today because I think it is important to understand what life was like before the "Great Society" and all the programs that, had they existed, could have made my mother's life more bearable. Could have ensured that the food we had was a little more nutritious. Could have ensured we had a little more medical attention. Could have ensured that there would have been daycare for myself and my sisters. All of those things could have made us a little safer and healthier.

My mother was, and at 92 years old, still is my all-time hero. She worked her fingers to the bone to put food on our table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads and I think she did a good job considering the almost insurmountable obstacles in her way. She lived with misogynists barring her way at every turn. She lived with men making unwanted advances and blocking her way up the promotional chain and denying the good jobs at every turn. But she persevered. She took care of her children and she taught me to respect every human being.

This experience had a profound effect on me. As I grew older and embarked on my career my life experiences left me with a certain perspective that helped me realize that women and minorities and the disabled and those who are a little different had it far, far more difficult navigating life and succeeding than a straight white male in our "American" society. It made me think more carefully and be more sensitive to their plight and it made me want to change myself and help change the dynamic in our society that causes us to be so blind to these things.

Now, in this post and at every other opportunity, I am asking that we all reflect on just what is happening in our country today. We, and by we I mean all Americans, through our actions and lack of actions, have elected a person to be the president of the United States who, by his own admissions, actions, and statements, is a misogynist and racist who has committed sexual assault. And we have also elected a congress whose stated intentions are to roll back or eliminate every program that has moved us toward correcting the injustices of the past and made it possible for those who are most in need to receive the help they need to get ahead and succeed in life. 

I, unequivocally reject Donald Trump's right to occupy the office of the president and I intend to exercise my constitutional right to not accept a person entering the office of the president of the United States who has admittedly committed sexual assault.  I believe that it is congresses responsibility to investigate the actions of the president-elect and move to impeach him if found guilty.

Those are the Sergeant Major's Thoughts on That.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Consider This Or It Takes A Little Time

As I always like to say, I am just an old retired Sergeant Major who spent 27 years servicing my country in the United States Army and by the grace of God I also happen to be a proud citizen of these great United States. So I ask that you take a moment and just consider an old Sergeant Majors' thoughts and reflections.

I believe it is important to first, remind folks that it was not President Obama nor his administration that took us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The plain truth is that it was President George W. Bush and his administration that took us to war in Afghanistan and it was President George W. Bush and his administration who initiated an unprovoked, and in my mind an unjust war in Iraq. Let us also not forget that it was also the Bush administration who inherited a country with a fiscal surplus and vibrant economy and it was the Bush administration that was at the helm of the ship of state and allowed it to run rudderless into the iceberg that has been the worst recession since the great depression. I therefore submit that it was the Bush administration and their actions that bled our nation dry of our national treasure, both human and monetary, and that has left us with untold human scars and economic misery.

So those are my thoughts on how we got where we were when President Obama was sworn into office this past January. Now I would like to reflect a little on where we are today and where we might go from here. Our President has been in office for not quite nine (9) months and during that time I believe that he has accomplished far more than the media and many others have given him credit for. It is as though the media and the critics must take each and every event and look at this administration through a prism of ebony. It seems as though they report and comment as though it would be a mortal sin to report and acknowledge the real progress that has and is being made. During these past nine months the President has brought this nation back from the brink of an economic Armageddon. He has also arguably taken back much of the moral high ground that was lost in the previous eight years as a result of the Bush administrations misguided foreign policies. And this young President has begun to repair our nations international reputation that was so recklessly squandered by the previous administration.

It is my thought that he has accomplished all of these things while moving on every front at once. I believe he's moved forward on all these fronts simultaneously because he understands that it is all important and must all be done now. I know it is hard to believe after eight years of the previous administration but, as our President has said before, you really can do more than one thing at a time. And he's demonstrating that every day.

In just nine months this President has:

  • passed an economic stimulus plan which has brought us back from the economic brink and he has done it without the support of the right.
  • He has begun the draw down in Iraq and the process of returning that country to the control of its elected government and has shifted troops to Afghanistan where they were and are so desperately needed, and he has done this without the support of the right.
  • He has begun the process of removing a catastrophic and embarrassing blot on the reputation of this nation by beginning the process of closing Guantanamo Bay, and he's doing it without the support of the right.
  • He has initiated a historic reform of the wasteful and ineffective health care system of this country and he is doing it without the support of the right.
  • He has begun the difficult task of joining with the other nations of the world in reducing green house gases and improving the environment and he's doing it without the the support of the right.
  • He has dealt with, and is dealing, with nuclear crisis's in North Korea and Iran and has brought the nations of the world into the process of trying to remove and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. He has even been able to bring Russia, and to some extent China, into this process and he is doing it without the support of the right.
  • And in between all of this he's found time to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the United States. Though unsuccessful in this attempt to get the Olympics to Chicago he was able to multitask on that trip also by meeting with his Commanding General in Afghanistan. Imagine that, multitasking. It's a wonder in the world. And he did it while the right rejoiced at "our" not succeeding in bringing the Olympics to the United States.

Now the President is going through the extremely important task of taking a deeper look at the way forward in Afghanistan. I say "the way forward" purposely because this President seems to always be looking at the way forward and not looking backward. As the he continues to look forward and make progress on so many fronts what do we hear from much of the media and the right? It is certainly not reporting or a reasonable and critical analysis of what is or is not being done or even a reasonable analysis of the way forward. What we are seeing and hearing is simplistic doom and gloom and make or break and of course it's all being boiled down to do we or don't we increase troop strength in Afghanistan. The media broadcast to the American people as though they think we are a bunch of illiterates not capable of rational thought while the conservative shock jocks strive for even more ludicrous charges and accusations to sling at and belittle the President. And they simply fill the airways with vitriol.

We all know that the President has tough decisions to make but unlike his immediate predecessor it appears to me that he is going about that decision making process in a careful, intelligent, and methodical way and it seems to me that he is getting input from all the right places.

I for one take, and will continue to take, what I hear from the talking heads, shock jocks, and shock jokes that call themselves news reporters, commentators, radio host, and political analyst, with much more than a grain of salt and with even greater skepticism. These people are in it for the money and not for the good of our nation. Tears or no tears.

I want to close with just these few thoughts. I for one believe that the President has been and will continue to uphold his oath of office and continue to do the right thing for America. I think the Presidents first nine months in office have made a pretty good dent in the problems created by 8 YEARS of abuse and neglect. I think I'll let him have a little more than nine months to finish up the job.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Morality - Or To Have And Have Not

As a small child my Grandmother often said to me, "remember, for every good you do in this world you receive a good back and for every bad you do you receive a bad back". These certainly were not the words of a great philosopher or even of a country preacher but they were the words of a Grandmother explaining to a small child that you should do good in the world and not bad. The interesting thing is that even as a small child of 4, 5, or 6 I fully and completely understood what these words meant. It wasn't Christian, it wasn't Muslim, it wasn't Hindu or Jewish and it wasn't Agnostic. It was just Grandma guiding a small child down the right path. It was simple morality. It was simple right and wrong. Do good. Don't do bad.

Many years later when I joined the United States Army my Drill Sergeant (Not to be confused with my Grandmother.) gave me something called the "Code of the U.S. Fighting Force" as well as a "Geneva Conventions Card". The first was a guide to how a soldier should conduct himself or herself if a Prisoner of War. The second was a card outlining the Geneva Conventions on how a soldier should treat a Prisoner of War and how a soldier should expect to be treated as a Prisoner of War. To me, now a young man, these documents made perfect sense. They said do good don't do bad.

Today I am an old soldier having enjoyed a long military career. When I look back on that career and all of the wonderful, good, and great soldiers I served for and with I am a proud but not prideful man. We served in peace and we served in war. We served in the hell holes of the world and the paradises of the world but we, to a soldier, always struggled to do good and not do bad. I am proud to say that every one of those soldiers struggled to always do the right thing because that was who we were and what we had been taught. We knew what our Grandma and Drill Sergeant had said. It was what our parents and grandparents and teachers and ministers and yes even drill sergeants taught us. In other words, we, to a soldier, fulfilled our oath to the constitution of the United States of America.

Today as I listen to the rhetoric and reporting on "torture memo's" I find myself heart sick, embarrassed and ashamed beyond words. I am astounded that the products of the greatest generation have descended to these depths of depravity. That we have elected officials and officers sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of this nation who could instigate such atrocities on other human beings.

As a soldier this gives me great pause to think and to also question. For what did we serve and fight and die. Was it so that a group of people, though duly elected and appointed, could take the constitution for which they took and oath to support and defend and use it for toilet paper. Did we fight and die so that they could take the laws of this nation and twist and torture them into something that we the citizens can hardly recognize.

I hear it so often said that we are a "Christian" nation and that we are a nation of laws and of high morals and that we are the "leader of the free world". I must now ask myself how can any of that be? Where in any bible does it say that you should go forth and torture? Where in any law is it written that it is legal to commit "Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"? Since when does this nation lower itself to the level of committing the self same acts as those committed on us by common terrorist? At what point do we move from "outrages upon personal dignity" to beheading on television.

As a soldier and a citizen I demand that those who instigated and perpetuated the torture of any person be held accountable and that they be held accountable regardless of what job or position they held or are holding. As a soldier and a citizen I demand that my elected representatives take the necessary steps to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for these acts. We are indeed a nation of laws and a nation which aspires to set the example and as such we must go to whatever lengths necessary to insure that justice is done. How far is the distance from detainee to citizen? It's not about politics. It's about the Constitution. It's about justice. It's about America. It's about Morality.

Those Are The Sergeant Major's Thoughts On That.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Question Of Moral Courage - Or I Want Truth And Not Spin

Each day I read through my newspaper and online news sites and one thing seems to always stick out in my mind and that is that the shrillest voices are those on the extreme right followed at a somewhat distant second by those on the extreme left. I use the term shrillest because those seem to be the voices that grab the headlines day in and day out and take up the most space. The following are some of my thoughts on these shrill voices and sometimes not so shrill voices.

Growing up as a young boy when radio was still in it's heyday and television was beginning to make its serge into the American living room I remember sitting around a radio and later the television and listening and watching with my parents and grand parents. It was always a family time that I very much enjoyed. After the programs ended we would often have lengthy conversations about what we'd heard or seen. As a child I not only listened to the radio shows that I loved like The Shadow and The Lone Ranger and later watched like the Life of Riley and Ozzie and Harriet but I also listened to and watched news programs. Yes even back then I liked to listen to and watch the news. You remember the broadcasters like Walter Winchell, Edmund R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite or maybe Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. But my point is that we would listen and watch as a family and then talk about what was reported to us.

When comparing the news programs I listened to and watched back then with today's "shows" I immediately recognize that back then we didn't get nearly as much news but we got what I think was "real" news. Looking back on those programs it seems to be that they were filled with much more real and factual information and much less "opinion" or "slant" or "take" or the infamous "spin". Sure there were smut sheets and rag news papers and yes some of the reporters would sometimes try very hard to put color in their language but then I think it was because with the radio you couldn't see it and with the early television it was black and white and they didn't "tape" the news so the reporters put more effort into describing the events and describing them accurately. It just seems to me that back in the day you knew much more readily the difference between the smut and the news. Today this is no longer true. Even the "big" three networks no longer stick to just reporting the news. It has become apparent that they have become more interested in sensationalizing and creating entertainment to gain eyeballs than in "reporting" the news. The big networks and cable outfits are successfully blurring the line to the point where the average citizen can hardly tell the reporting from the opinion. It seems it is no longer about presenting news facts to the reader, listener, or watcher but more about sensationalizing, entertaining, and converting or changing the mind of the individual.

It's my thought that the citizens of this country are no longer allowed to read, hear, or watch the news and come to their own conclusions but must be proselytized. They are no longer left to make their own decisions but are told if they don't believe this or don't think that then they must be unpatriotic, weak, soft, or they don't believe in God, or are not so intelligent as everyone else.

I believe it is apparent that during the buildup and invasion of Iraq the media went after the sensational story and failed miserably to dig and report facts. The results have been painfully and disastrously evident every since. Today the media is once again embarking on that same path. They cannot simply dig for the facts and report on the rescue of the Captain of a pirated ship but they have to make it a test of a new President. It can't be simply reporting on the facts of the G20 summit it's got to be sensationalized and made to look like the Presidential debut and a test of the President as a diplomat and the President is pandering to the French or kowtowing to a communist dictator or accepting gifts from enemies of the country. These failures to conduct proper investigation and reporting on the part of "news organizations" and "news and cable networks" is in my mind unconscionable and shows an absolute lack of moral courage. Have the courage to tell us why the President went there and not conjure up mystical reasons. What were his stated goals and how did he do in achieving those goals? Was his purpose to open up a line of dialogue or to sign a treaty? There's a big difference.

I think most Americans are quite capable of listening to and watching real news programs and coming to appropriate conclusions. For instance, I might say that no, the action at sea was not a test of the President. It was a piracy incident that was taken care of appropriately by the United States government (paid for by your welcomed tax dollars). Yes the President had to make some decisions which he did and yes some military personnel had to do their jobs and they did and yes thank God the Captain and his crew were brought home safe but, it was not a test. It was real life and everyone involved did their jobs. That's all it was. Will there be more piracy incidents, yes. Will the President have to make decisions and the military carry them out, yes. That's all there is to it. Will it, over time, develop into a pattern and then we will see the whole picture that is the foreign policy of this President and this nation, yes but let's just report the facts and then let the American people make up their own minds.

You might ask why the title of this post is "A Question Of Moral Courage"? That is because I believe that if you have News in your name it is a question of moral courage, or lack there of, on the part of the news media to report the just the facts. To dig and know all of the facts and present them to the citizens of this nation as simple facts for them to draw their own conclusions. Show us pictures, tell us what happened and who said what. That's why we're watching.

If you're not a real news organization then label yourself what you really are "entertainment" just like Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert. It's my thought that the difference between Stewart and Colbert and the Fox "News" organization and its ilk is that when Colbert and Stewart tell their rare comedic lie they tell you they are lying and that's at least honest. They don't pretend to be real news organizations.

So my bottom line is this. If you are just a 7 day a week hard copy print blog or a 24/7 broadcast TV blog then have the moral courage to admit it and then those who are interested in being converted can read or tune you in. Otherwise take the News out of your name because your not.

Those Are The Sergeant Major's Thoughts on That.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Civil Discourse, Real Civil Discourse

Let me say at the outset that I begrudge no citizen their constitutional right to protest. After all, the documents that our founding fathers drafted when establishing this great nation guarantee every American citizen that right but I also have a right to a few observations and the following few paragraphs are those observations on the sad mockery that was yesterdays protests.

I consider myself to be an average American. I grew up in the south in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's and I would add, in a fairly poor family. The first few houses we lived in were situated on dirt roads which received the occasional spray of tar to keep down the dust as well as the occasional pest control truck passing to fog for disease bearing insects. The tar got tracked all over everything and it's a wonder all of our children weren't born with some defect as a result of us breathing in the fumes. When living within the city we even had city water and sewage provided at a fairly reasonable price and we were always lucky enough to have electricity even though it came in on an overhead wire. I knew many rural residents and neighbors who didn't have electricity and still used oil lamps and out houses. Anyone remember the TVA and the other projects to bring electricity to rural America. When we traveled a long distance it was on very narrow two lane roads that were sometimes paved and sometimes not. There were no interstate highways. A trip from Ocala to Moultrie could take nearly a whole day. I think what was most frightening was that we had no such thing as medical insurance so the vast majority of Americans simply didn't go to the doctor because they couldn't afford to and all dreaded a serious illness because it meant probable bankruptcy. I tell you this because today, I and indeed most of the collective we in this country, live a very different life from that of 60 or 50 or even 40 years ago.

Today I would venture to say that most Americans can't imagine living on a dirt road and though in the south they still spray for disease bearing insects I seldom if ever hear or notice because it's just a normal fact of life. How many other things have become just a normal fact of life. It's become a normal fact of life that we have a standing Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to fight our wars and protect our international interest. It's become a normal fact of life that we have competent well equipped police forces. It's become a normal fact of life that we have Fire Departments and Paramedics to respond to our home fires and accidents and medical emergencies. It's become a normal fact of life that we have health departments to protect the public health. It's become a normal fact of life that we have Homeland Security along with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol. It's become a fact of life that we have an incredible network of roads and highways and interstate highways that take us where we want to go in minutes if not hours and certainly not days. And we virtually all have access to electricity, water, communications and sewage treatment. I think I need not go on with this nearly endless list of services that our city, county, state, and federal government provides for our taxes but there are one or two other services I do not want to pass. Those are Social Security and Medicare. My great grand parents, like most Americans of their time didn't have either of those and because of that they mostly died prematurely and often in abject poverty or living with their children if they were lucky and the children could house and feed them. If not they went to a poor house.

It is my thought that the reason these things and many others don't stand out in our minds is because they have become part of the American landscape and we have grown accustom to them and the many, many other services that our "government" provides to the citizens of this great nation in return for our taxes. This brings me to a few final thoughts on the protest of yesterday.

First I believe the Tea Party idea was grossly misguided for one simple reason. The Boston Tea Party was about taxation without representation. Today in the United States of America that is simply not an issue. Every citizen of this great nation has a vote and a representative in city, county, state, and federal government. Second, as far as higher taxes are concerned I can only say that after President Obama came into office and just a few weeks ago my paycheck went up because he and the Democratic Congress passed a law reducing 95% of all Americans taxes.

My third point is this. I believe it is past time for real civil discourse in this country. It seems to me that the far right knows only how to shout down people using catch phrases that grab simplistic headlines. It's time for that shouting and the sound bites to stop. It's time to talk about the real issues facing this nation and all their complexities and look for real solutions that benefit the nation as a whole. I served and defended my country for 27 years in every hell hole on the planet. I didn't serve part of my country I served all of my country, white, black, red, and yellow, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Independent, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Agnostic and Hindu, straight and gay, naturalized and native born and everyone in between. I did this without question because I swore and oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States. Our political leaders took that very same oath and I think it's time they started living up to it.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.