I’m trying not to dwell on what might have been, though this kind of thing makes it hard.
I can actually look at it now without feeling an ache in my chest and a need to suppress tears.
I’m also able to hold my tongue now, when someone offers a completely idiotic opinion about Obama’s second term.
Actual quotes (I wish to heaven I was making these up) from colleagues at The Store Where I Work include:
“I voted for Obama because he’s into green energy. We’ll get further away from using oil with him as president. We need to get away from oil.”
Oh really? You walked to work, did you? That combination of stupidity and hypocrisy had me literally biting my tongue to refrain from responding.
And then there was the comment about Texas going for Romney:
“Why the hell would anyone even want to live in Texas? Bush lives there.”
There is no expiration date on Bush Derangement Syndrome. And it’s so profound the entire state of Texas is to be despised because of his presence within it.
And best of all, from someone way old enough to know better:
“With Obama as president, hopefully your son won’t be deployed because there won’t be any more wars.”
That’s so effing asinine on so many levels I couldn’t even begin to respond to it. Eldest Son is a career USAF pilot. He’s going to be a pilot long after Obama’s left Washington (assuming Obama doesn’t attempt a reprise of what happened in Germany on August 2, 1934). At some point Eldest Son will be deployed somewhere, because that’s the point of being a USAF pilot. And anyone who believes that ANY president can somehow bring about world peace is both ineffably naive and woefully ignorant of history, human nature, and current world events.
Yes, those were voting adults speaking, all well over 21 years of age, and all earnestly sincere.
Other than unleashing a scathing tirade on one hapless soul the day after the election (he made the mistake of asking “Are you happy with the election results?”), I’ve refused to engage in any political discussions at work. None of the above comments, all of which were directed specifically at me, drew so much as a word from me. I just won’t go there because if I did, it would not end well.
And there would be no point. You can’t fix stupid. And apparently you can’t even vote it out.
Last month, in a celebration full of meaning and pageantry, Eldest Son received his USAF pilot wings. He also received his “drop,” the assignment he hoped for: Flying C-130s. Even the base he has been assigned to–Little Rock, Arkansas–was his and his wife’s first choice (command actually has the pilots list their first five choices, and if possible they will be given one of those choices).
C-130s are a vital part of both war efforts and humanitarian missions, including stateside firefighting. His flying will include a range of activities, and it’s pretty certain he’ll be in the air a lot.
So, all is good in Eldest Son’s world, and I am very happy for him indeed.
Today, (which coincidentally is Eldest Son’s birthday) a relative who shall remain nameless sent me this email:
Thursday, July 5, 2012 12:22 AM
G——- mentioned this to me earlier today:
4 crewmen dead in C-130 air-tanker crash, military says
Jul. 3, 2012 12:05 PM
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Air Force C-130 tankers will resume firefighting flights Tuesday after the crash of another tanker plane over the weekend that left four crew members dead and two others seriously injured, the military said.
The crash of one of the specially equipped C-130s Sunday while fighting a wildfire in the Black Hills of South Dakota prompted officials to ground the seven remaining planes in the fleet.
The C-130 was from an Air National Guard wing based in Charlotte, N.C., and was carrying a crew of six…
The article goes on to give details of the C-130′s crew and the role of C-130s in firefighting. “G” who “mentioned this earlier” is a mutual friend who said nothing to me, probably because he has better sense than to talk about a C-130 crash with the mother of a C-130 pilot.
Exactly what is the sender trying to say in emailing me this news story? That what my son is doing is incredibly dangerous? I know that. I’ve known that since Eldest Son first said he wanted to join the military. The sender knows that I am well aware of the risks–we have had conversations about it. Is the sender implying that my son is going to be killed like these poor C-130 crewmen? I don’t get easily rattled, and the news story did not make me more fearful for Eldest Son, but it did depress the heck out of me. He’s about to begin SERE training, and the last thing I need to be thinking about is the inherent risks of his job. The email sender initially was not supportive of my son’s choice to be in the military at all. Is this some passive aggressive way to say “See, I told you it was a crappy career choice?”
I can’t get my head around the insensitivity of the email; at best it’s unthinkingly cruel, at worst it’s deliberately malicious. Perhaps it’s the former; maybe the sender is just too lacking in empathy to realize how brutal it is to rub a mother’s face in the fact that her son’s career involves life-threatening risks. Whatever the motive behind the email, reading it made me realize (not for the first time) that I can not trust the sender to be aware of nor concerned with my feelings.
I am really not looking forward to the emails I receive when Youngest Son pursues his career goal of becoming a policeman.
As part of my Summer of Reading (wherein I balance my mind numbing grocery store cashier job with reading as often as possible), today I finished this book:
Chris Kyle is a Navy SEAL who holds the record for the highest number of confirmed sniper kills, over 150 during the Iraq War. During four tours of duty in Iraq he experienced heavy fire in Bagdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, was shot twice and lost two of his closest friends. In American Sniper, Kyle tells of the Texas childhood that shaped him, and the military experience that honed him into a remarkably effective distance shooter.
Previously, I read Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor, (I thought I blogged about it, but darned if I can find the post; do read that book though if you have one iota of patriotism in your soul) and American Sniper serves well as a sort of companion piece. Unlike Luttrell though, Kyle returned intact from all of his deployments (save for damage to his knees which required surgery). After four tours of duty, marriage and fatherhood required that he choose between God, country, and then family, or God, family and then country. Kyle ultimately chose the latter, and has managed to craft a career and a solid marriage stateside, outside of the Marines. It was not an easy choice though, and Kyle pulls no punches in describing how much his career as a Navy SEAL meant to him.
Even after reading his first hand account, I have trouble imagining what it must be like to be in the middle of a war, to be surrounded by both the threat and the realization of death. Men died in Kyle’s company, and at his hands. Killing was his job, and he did it very, very well.
He also took it very seriously. The ROEs (Rules of Engagement) require that each kill be witnessed and recorded (a startling amount of paperwork is required). Snipers like Kyle face serious disciplinary action should they kill outside the ROEs. When you are fighting insurgents who have no such restrictions–who masquerade as shepherds and policemen, who send their own women and children into the streets with explosive devices–it makes following the ROEs life-threatening.
Of all that Kyle shared, one passage in particular bears repeating:
The worst thing that you could ever do for that war was having all these media people embedded in the units. Most Americans can’t take the reality of war, and the reports they sent back didn’t help us at all.
The leadership wanted to have the backing of the public for their war. But really, who cares?
The way I figure it, if you send us to do a job, let us do it. That’s why you have admirals and generals–let them supervise us, not some fat-ass congressman sitting in a leather chair smoking a cigar back in DC in an air-conditioned office, telling me when and where I can and cannot shoot someone.
How would they know? they’ve never even been in a combat situation.
And once you decide to send us, let me do my job. War is war.
Tell me: Do you want us to conquer our enemy? Annihilate them? Or are we heading over to serve them tea and cookies?
Tell the military the end result you want, and you’ll get it. but don’t try and tell us how to do it. All those rules about when and under what circumstances an enemy combatant could be killed didn’t just make our jobs harder, they put our lives in danger.
The ROEs got so convoluted and f—ed up because politicians were interfering in the process. The rules are drawn up by lawyers who are trying to protect the admirals and generals from the politicians; they’re not written by people who are worried about the guys on the ground getting shot.
For some reason, a lot of people back home–not all people–didn’t accept that we were at war. They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.
I’m not saying war crimes should be committed. I am saying that warriors need to be let loose to fight war without their hands tied behind their backs.
According to the ROEs I followed in Iraq, if someone came into my house, shot my wife, my kids, and then threw his gun down, I was supposed to NOT shoot him. I was supposed to gently take him into custody.
You can argue that my success proves the ROEs worked. But I feel that I would have been more effective, probably protected more people and helped bring the war to a quicker conclusion without them.
If you (as I) have ever wondered what it’s like to be a Navy SEAL, you can’t know, not really, not unless you are one. But American Sniper will give you some insight into a very difficult, deadly profession.
What I have been reading lately:
Laura Hillenbrand is not the most prolific author, but her work is truly outstanding. Her first book, Seabiscuit (from which came the Academy Award-nominated movie) brought to vivid life the true story of a legendary depression-era racehorse and the people whose lives he affected.
In Unbroken, Hillenbrand turns her formidable research abilities and narrative skills to create the biography of Louis Zamperini, a first generation Italian American. From his rapscallion childhood in 1920s Torrance, California to competing as a distance runner in the 1936 Olympics to his service as a World War II airman, Zamperini’s life is at the same time quintessentially American yet extraordinary. At the center of his story is his internment as a Japanese prisoner of war, a harrowing experience heartbreaking to read. Zamperini’s survival and resilience under unimaginable cruelty are a humbling reminder of what far too many men of the Greatest Generation endured.
After the war, battling what would eventually come to be known as post-traumatic stress disorder and struggling with alcoholism, when attending a 1949 Billy Graham crusade Zamperini found the faith that would save his sanity, his marriage, and enable him to spend the rest of his life mentoring and inspiring others.
I can not recommend this book highly enough, both as a vital piece of American history, and as a thoroughly engaging biographical account.
I have no idea if anyone plans to make a motion picture of it, but they should. It would far surpass any fictional tale of World War II.
I’ve had difficulty sitting down to blog lately.
Frustration at being unable to find a full time teaching position, and growing disgust with the teaching profession in general, has left me wondering whether I ought to permanently abandon the effort. It’s hard to see anything noble about a profession that protects criminals.
As I try not to stress out about the uncertainty of my professional future, I’m reading Andrew Breitbart’s Righteous Indignation (his untimely death motivated me to pick it up). At one point in the book he recounts how some worthless Hollywood actor (I can’t recall which one) in an effort to slam President George W. Bush, opined that a real man isn’t defined by masculine pursuits such as being able to ride a horse, handle a gun, or drive a pickup truck.
Whatever, Hollywood actor. You play make believe for a living, you are hardly the arbiter of genuine masculinity. I am weary of the sissification of men, of the denigration of manliness and the elevation of homosexuality.
I’ve become so disgusted at the liberal left entertainment industry that I rarely will shell out money for a movie (and few films interest me enough). Nevertheless, feeling far too jaded for my own or any one else’s good, tonight I dragged Husband and Youngest Son to the local cinema to see Act of Valor.
Talk about the cure for what ails us…
The theater was packed, and when the movie ended there was quite a bit of applause, as well as more than a few people wiping their eyes.
Everything that needs to be said about the brave souls who are America’s warriors was said in this movie. As we go about our comfortable daily lives, we don’t think about the men and women who keep us safe. About the soldiers keeping track of those who would attack us, and taking the steps–risking their own lives–to thwart those attacks.
This movie has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with patriotism. With loving your country enough to commit your very life to its safety. Such commitment ought to amaze and humble us all.
There still are real men on this planet. “Damn few,” as the movie says, but they do exist, and some of the finest are Navy Seals.
If you are like me, you’re curious as to how they pull off such an authentic movie. Real Seals, not actors. Real weapons, real aircraft, a real nuclear submarine. Here’s a behind the scenes peek:
This is a graphic, adult movie. Don’t take small children to it, please. If your child is old enough to discuss with you current issues such as Mexican drug cartels and jihad terrorists, then he or she is old enough for the movie. If not, the violence is likely to be too disturbing. Don’t let that put you off as an adult though; the humanity in this movie is too important to miss.
Eldest Son posted a comment on Facebook on 9/11
It really troubles me that, as a member of the Armed Forces, he’d see that Americans have lost sight of the importance of 9/11. Particularly on the 10th anniversary of that terrible day.
I’ve spent the last week watching excellent programs about the destruction and rebuilding of the World Trade Center, and reading all manner of articles. Here are several pieces worth a read as we move forward after the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
Looking at the Left has an absolutely wonderful retrospective and memorial piece, Remembering and Understanding 9/11.
All people who want to to know the truth about the American people, unsullied by ideological reporting, should read about those who perished on 9/11/2001. Their lives, their struggles, their loves, and their stories are revealed and together create a portrait of why America has long been the great beacon of hope to a world in despair.
Every year, when September 11 comes around, I read a million articles titled ‘Never Forget’. And this year, I’m beginning to think that for our nation it’s getting easier and easier to forget; not the incident itself of course, but how the United States came together after the incident. It’s like our country is being divided by partisanship, rather than staying together, united, and celebrating the joys of being in the best country in the world, the United States of America. I only can hope we can stay united as a country, look past differences, and continue to strive to be the best, most opportunistic country in the world.
And Casey Fiano reminds us that We Are Parenting the Post 9-11 Generation.
It’s a completely different world now, and my son was born into it. He’ll never know what the before was like, he won’t know what it was like to think of war as an idea and not a reality. …For him, September 11th will be a day he reads about in history books. It will be an event as foreign to him as Pearl Harbor was for us. He’ll know about it, he’ll read about it. But will it lose its meaning to our future generations? Thinking of that makes my heart break a little.
And this really is worth hearing again (though he got all kinds of crap from the leftists for singing it in the first place):
Michelle Malkin asks, are your kids learning the right lessons about 9/11?
Ten years after Osama bin Laden’s henchmen murdered thousands of innocents on American soil, too many children have been spoon-fed the thin gruel of progressive political correctness over the stiff antidote of truth…too many teachers refuse to show and tell who the perpetrators of 9/11 were and who their heirs are today. My own daughter was one year old when the Twin Towers collapsed, the Pentagon went up in flames and Shanksville, Pa., became hallowed ground for the brave passengers of United Flight 93. In second grade, her teachers read touchy-feely stories about peace and diversity to honor the 9/11 dead. They whitewashed Osama bin Laden, militant Islam and centuries-old jihad out of the curriculum. Apparently, the youngsters weren’t ready to learn even the most basic information about the evil masterminds of Islamic terrorism.
Yesterday I had my first substitute teaching assignment of the school year, at my favorite local middle school. It’s my favorite because its classrooms all have windows, and it’s a five minute drive from my house. In all other respects, it’s a school like any other SoCal public school, just with more natural light.
Yesterday being the last school day before 9/11, the school made an effort to recognize the anniversary of 9/11. Small American flags lined the curb. The morning announcements included a moment of silence in memory of those who died that day. And shortly after lunch, the principal read a memorial poem.
It included lines like “People helped each other to safety. And we became one color.” “People everywhere prayed. And we became one religion.” “People gave their lives to save others. And we became one gender.”
I have no idea who wrote it; perhaps a middle school student or even the principal himself. As poems go it was a trite, unimaginative and supremely politically correct effort, the verse equivalent of the COEXIST bumper sticker.
Which, not ironically, was present in the room where I was teaching. It’s an English classroom; conspicuously absent though were the famous literary quotes and posters outlining the parts of speech that the classrooms of my own youth contained. Lining the walls of this room instead were literally dozens of motivational, affirmative phrases that made me feel as though I were trapped in a one-line version of “Chicken Soup for the Student’s Soul.”
The concept that 9/11 erased any difference in gender between men and women, and somehow made Catholics, Jews and Islamic people all “one religion” was so unfathomable to me that anything the principal said after the poem was lost on me. Hoping my face did not have a “What the hell” expression, I focused on what I was going to have the class do once the principal was done talking.
After the class got down to work on a writing assignment, I spent a few minutes musing on what I’d just heard, and how it fit into the overall approach of this school. This is a school whose motto (found in every classroom) is “Work Hard, Make Friends, Have Fun.” So we’re not talking the height of academic focus here. And this is SoCal, where diversity is divine, and multiculturalism is more important than reading, writing and arithmetic combined.
As the students worked on their assignment and I walked slowly around the classroom (my substitute teaching rule #1 is Never Sit Down; staying on my feet keeps the kids on their toes), I noticed that many of the kids had spiral daily planners provided by the school. On the cover of these planners were the words “BE YOURSELF” bracketing a list of a dozen or so adverbs, including “compassionate,” creative,” “healthy,” and last of all the phrase “kind to the earth.”
The icing on the cake of indoctrination was the student-drawn poster that also appeared in every classroom’s window. It read (and I swear I am not making this up), “Whatever you are, be a good one!”
It’s a wonder that they let me onto the school property at all, with my car that bears an NRA logo and a “My Son is in the U.S. Air Force” sticker on it. I’ve been toying with the idea of adding this one:
But I suspect that would be pushing the limits of their tolerance.
Meanwhile, as the students I taught on Friday were hearing drivel about being one gender and one religion, across town Youngest Son was attending his school, where they had a different sort of memorial. At his school, the entire student body heard from an airline pilot who lost four close friends, pilots on two of the doomed airliners, a widow whose husband was killed at work in his office in the World Trade Center, leaving her with a baby who would never know his father, and a LAFD fireman who assisted in the retrieval efforts at ground zero. These three guest speakers told the kids of personal heroism and grief in a way that made a profound impact upon Youngest Son (“I really respected them and the fact that they could share that stuff with us without bursting into tears. It was really hard to hear it.”)
Yet another reason I am willing to sacrifice in order to put my last child through private school. I suppose the public school could have done a similar activity, perhaps during time they waste every day on “S.U.R.E.” I am sure that S.U.R.E. stands for something, I have no idea what though. It is a half hour each day immediately after the lunch period wherein all the students go to their assigned classrooms to read to themselves or seek “peer tutoring.” In reality, the time is spent by the kids chatting and doodling and in general accomplishing absolutely nothing. Your tax dollars at work in a school system that is perpetually demanding more funding.
Points given though for the curbside American flags. They don’t begin to balance out the tolerance drivel that surrounds the kids, but at least someone had the guts to put out flags.