Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Tough News Cycle

Woke to some tough news this morning.  For a switch, it made me glad that my father is no longer alive.

My dad spent his 27-year Marine Corps career planning the defense of Northern Europe against Russian invasion.  He spent months overseas as a field grade officer, meticulously plotting Marine actions in Norway to check an advance that attempted to bypass the main NATO positions in Germany's Fulda Gap.  I've read in reports of post-Soviet collapse war plans that this would, indeed, have been a critical battlefield, that the Russians weren't at all sold on trying to take NATO at its point of strength.

Who would be?  Of course they were looking to bypass the main defense.

I'm glad that none of this was ever tested, and so was my father.  Still, today's news is a reminder that history is never over.  In the long view, points of contention get renegotiated time and again until the side with more patience, leverage, and determination eventually achieves its aims.

 Perhaps this news is also related:

And yet, even I can admit that the case for the opposition essentially amounts to little more than #NeverTrump.

Chris Christie's speech was distinctly partisan, one-sided, and often skewed in its portrayal of the facts, but there is no doubting that the man made a few good points.  It was an excellent speech for a political convention--topical, entertaining, basically factual, and more than capable of whipping the crowd into a frenzy.  Christie has been Trump's best surrogate for a while now, and why Trump himself declined to give the man the VP's slot is a mystery to me.  Especially since he went with such a vanilla presence in Mike Pence instead.  As much as anything, the VP pick shows something in Trump that people don't like, whether it's that he's afraid to be upstaged by a better man or simply unwilling to let anyone with personal charisma share his podium.  The fact that Trump's wife so obviously admires Michelle Obama, the wife of a man Trump himself has vilified in the basest terms, only serves to make the whole thing more vile and unsettling.

My dad lost his faith towards the end of his life.  Not his faith in God, his faith in America.  In the American people.  This was hard to watch, and it left my father adrift in a world he no longer understood.

He got hired as a City Administrator for the small Tennessee town of Manchester, where he found a bit of small-time corruption.  Whether this was active misdirection of assets or simple stupidity and negligence, I don't know.  But my father could no more stand by and watch corruption go unchallenged than he could breathe underwater or shoot fire out his ass.  He was utterly incapable of watching men in authority abuse their positions.

Dad confronted the City Council, and words were exchanged.  Knowing my dad, these words may well have included such delicate political phraseology as, "I'm gonna kick your fucking ass you Communist piece of shit!  I'll rip your fucking lips off!"

My dad.  Not one to mince words.

Regardless, not all bullies are cowards, especially where their money is concerned.  My dad's words and undoubted threats of physical violence--he reportedly threw a chair at a particularly unreasonable city councilman--went unheeded.  What happened instead is that the council organized itself to get my dad out, that despite being a non-partisan civic appointee who was trying in good faith to balance the city's budget, Dad wound up having to essentially campaign for the political opposition.

They lost with voter turnout in town well below 20%.  Most people didn't even notice what had happened.

My dad said, "I dedicated my life to defending these people, and they don't even care.  I can't believe it.  They don't deserve it.  I can't believe that this is what I did with my life."

After that, Dad crawled into a bottle.  He died a few short years later.


  1. I have a friend named Marcus who fought two tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He's back home and still in the Army, a captain now I think. He's main thing he does now is organizing support for the mental health of war veterans. The fight is real... on the ground and then, again, back home. When Isaiah says he wants to be in the Army/Navy, whatever.... well, I have to say that it terrifies me. I mean, first the fear of losing him at all.. but also the fear of him losing himself.
    Here's a great podcast to listen to:

    1. This is one of the most pernicious ideas in our culture, that folks can't serve in the military, even in a war zone, and come back from it safely. Yes, the struggle is real. Our society is so fractured that many veterans, my father included, really struggle to put their service into perspective once it's over. Also: war can be terrifying, and people react to stress differently, especially when it's random & unpredictable. Finally, the physical effects of blasts and concussions are not yet well understood, but they certainly aren't good. The fact that society doesn't work, that soldiers often struggle to feel valued, though, that's not the fault of the soldiers. That's the fault of a society that makes heroes out of people ought to be in prison for extortion, corruption, and fraud. People rise to the occasion. Our problem now is that we ask nothing of anyone & then go bananas when someone actually does something in the public good.

      Are these people heroes? No. They're regular people who haven't given in to the banality of their society at large. The problem is the rest of us. What are WE doing to make the world work? Not nationally but in the communities where we actually live.

      My father didn't die because we was a Marine. He died because got a disease for which he refused to seek treatment despite repeated attempts by me and others to be contrary. If a diabetic refuses insulin, we don't blame the Marine Corps. Similarly, my father's issues aren't the fault of the Marines. They were his own issues, & he couldn't come to terms with them. Because he had a life that he LOVED in the Marines. However, like a lot of veterans, he struggled to reconcile that life with what he saw around him once it was over.

      The Marines were why was GOOD in my dad's life. It was everything else that gave him problems.

      So I say this: if your son wants to serve, don't take that away from him. He may very well come to believe that this is his finest hour, & do you know what? It might actually be. The answer is not to hide away, it's to give him something meaningful to come home to.