07 September 2014

Bile

Bile

 

 


Shifting Perspective


For me, last weekend was one of those that each of us needs every once in a while.  I watched Legends of the Fall with Daniel before he went to bed, and then found Flags of our Fathers on HBO in-progress.  I caught the last hour.  I realized while watching those two movies that I had turned some corner.  I don’t remember when this happened.  There was no accompanying fanfare, as I might have expected as a younger man.  It even took me the better part of an hour to accurately identify exactly what had just come about. 

Context: My mother, Jean, was an exceptional woman.  I spent forty years and twenty some-odd days learning from her.  She taught me living, loving, accepting, raising children, cooking, crisis response, and civility in the face of fear, panic, meanness, and anger; the lessons were endless and her example remains with me every moment.  She left her mark on each person who loved her, and each of us would chew our leg off rather than feel unable to live up to our own expectations in light of the example that she set for us. 

Jean passed away in October of 2010.  She had a massive heart-attack, and I rushed back to Texas from Twentynine Palms as quickly as I possibly could.  She had been resuscitated in the Emergency Room, but it had taken them a very long time to affect that, longer than her brain could go without oxygen.  Thus, she was alive but not present by the time I arrived.  Her body took a few days to pass, and I accepted the deathwatch at her bedside each night.  It was somehow fitting, I reckon, that it became my lot to be with her in the small hours.  She loved peace and quiet when she was among us, and there is nothing so peaceful, nor so quiet, as a hospital room at 0300.  As was her wont, my mother held on for a number of days and nights.  I don’t remember how many, as those days have become a single, jagged wound.  The night that her body finally gave in to the pressures placed upon it, I was beside her, reading.  I did not notice that she had left for some time.  There was no fanfare, as I did expect, unreasonably, as a younger man.  I kissed her forehead.  I said goodbye.  I told her that I loved her.  I then made the walk down to the nurses’ station to inform the staff that my mother was dead.

I say these things, partly out of the empathic need to finally describe that night, but mostly because I realize something now, almost four years later, which is vitally important.  We each go through life preparing ourselves for something.  The training that we conduct, the education that we receive, the preparations that we make all generally carry with them some expectation that we will be tested at some point.  That we will use this training and education.  That these preparations we have made will be called upon.  Those of us who made careers out of being Marines naturally assume that this trial will take place in war, or something very much like it.  In that assumption, I was only partially correct. 

I came home from Iraq in 2006 with the satisfaction that I had acquitted myself well.  That the training and preparations were appropriate to what was expected of me by my boss, myself, and the Marines under my charge.  I see now that Iraq was ALSO preparation for what would come.  It prepared me emotionally for the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  All of that training, education, preparation, and experience was necessary for me to see my mother off into the next world, and to deliver her eulogy.

So it might seem a trivial way for me to realize something that had been staring me in the face for quite some time.  I’ve watched Legends of the Fall probably forty or-so times, but I’ve always identified most closely with “Tristan”, the character who refused to bend his identity to match the conventions of his time.  This time, I inexplicably found myself identifying very closely with the patron of the family “Col. Ludlow”.  (This might have been aided by my son’s regular comparisons between the Col. and myself.)  Then, as I watched Flags of our Fathers, I found myself identifying with the aged Corpsman, John Bradley rather than his son, who sought to understand his father.  In either case, this represented a change in my perception.  Both of the elder characters had reached their allotted four-score and ten years and their time of trial had become the mentorship of their adult children.  Their wars were over.  It was all prologue to their last years spent as the patrons of their respective families.  This was a nuance to human existence that I had never really considered.

Maybe this is part of a trap of my own making.  I’ve always wondered why I made it through Iraq twice.  Since then, I’ve wondered what would pass for a death for me.  A senile old man?  Wandering through a home in a robe with a walker grafted onto my fists?  I had kind of surrendered to the idea that all of this time after my war was just a long epilogue.  I’ll just keep doing my bit to train the next generation of Marines to go and fight (and HOPEFULLY help them to combine arms in a meaningful way), die in harness, have them dump my ashes over Trench 1 at 410A, and call it good.   Carry on. 

I don’t know, maybe a lot of veterans think that way.     

But after watching the end of Flags of our Fathers, as I was washing up before bed, I heard Ma asking me from somewhere deep in my consciousness, “what are Joel, Sarah, and Daniel going to say about you someday, when it’s their turn to do for you what you did for me?  What have you earned, in that respect?  You used to write, what have you written for them to have, after you’re gone? ”

Then I heard, “the legacy you leave will be determined by the effort you give every day.  It is yours.  Own it.”

I bought a new laptop to replace my balky tablet the next day.    

It’s all training.  All of it is preparation.  Every word, every lesson.  It’s preparation for WHATEVER comes next.  The test comes every day.  There is no epilogue because apparently God is not interested in the literary aesthetic.  I have a feeling that his symmetry is on a much, much larger scale. 

Earn it.

Unclean

14 May 2014

Allow Me to Sing You the Song of My People

This is the Song of My People...

Real quick and in under 500 words...

-My people distrust their government, any government. Because government means someone who knows less than we do about the challenges we face daily will tell us how they can solve our problems, will try to do so ineffectively, and then will charge us for their failure to do so.

-My people took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.  If you've taken that same oath, yet are actively engaged in the subversion of that document,  then consider yourself perilously close to the category of "domestic enemy". Watch your ass.

-My people were raised by persons familiar with civility and a code of honor. Making vice out of virtue and virtue out of vice is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it. Nor will our children.

-My people are not politically correct. We do not understand, nor will we tolerate prior restraint. We call it as we see it. If you don't agree, make an argument or leave the room. We did not give up our right of free expression because some actor or professor disagreed with us.

-My people do not want to be taken care of, by anybody, if we can help it. We understand that any assistance we receive will be immediately followed by some bureaucrat dictating to us what freedoms or choices we have given up as a result. We will do for ourselves, accept the inherent risk, and will bask in the glow of our own free will, thank you very much. Take your safe, well regulated serfdom and stick it up your ass.

Regards,
Unclean
Homo Indomitus est

06 May 2014

Cinco de Mayo Bile

Fuck it.

Due to the modern miracle of facebook, I've been subjected to, and have argued with a huge number of people who just. don't. get it.

It's almost like the people of these United States have forgotten not only the tradition of a limited government guaranteed by the Constitution, but have completely become unreconciled with the premises of manhood, individualism, honor, accountability, and/or personal responsibility.

These principles are things that I have argued in favor of for my adult life.  Here, though, I finally admit defeat.  My notions of old and outdated principles have blinded me.  These self-evident duties that are assumed in a polite society are outdated, in fact they are obsolete.  Nevermind the bondage that awaits a people who shed such a burden.  There are people just like us, who are no smarter than we, and no more trained in the aspects of such responsibility, but who will take care of us.  These geniuses will contrive a better way for each and everyone of us to live, strive, and survive that will be better than anything that we have ever imagined.  Better than any of our forefathers could have contrived in their ancient, by-gone era, guaranteed by their obsolete documents. 

Despite the fact that not one of these worthies are better qualified than any of us who is reading this to make a single decision as to the disposition of our life, liberty, and property.  Somehow THEY know better than any of us who wake up each morning with nothing in mind but the continued survival of the tribe for whom we are responsible.  At each turn, we find ourselves outmatched, outmaneuvered, and out-motivated by the group of people who feel themselves to have been trained, educated, and motivated to make better decisions about what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. 

One of my literary heroes is H. L. Mencken.  He applied Occam's razor to more craziness than I ever have, and has often done so in fewer than 100 words.  I offer his effective and terse summation of the above few paragraphs:

The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.

People, these folks who wish to tell you how to live your life, what you should eat, drink, wear, tell your kids; these people are no more qualified to do so than my dog.  They have the same degrees that you and I have, yet those who are currently running this show have less experience in leading people, managing projects, and holding people accountable than you or I.  We've been places, done things, taken risks, all under the specter of the fear of failure.  If we failed, we would be shamed, dishonored, kicked to the curb.  We would have failed at something that we believed in vehemently and felt lacking.

This is not the crucible that tempers those in power now.  They have thrived and acceded to vaunted places by being able to cause the majority of our people to believe that they deserve the very sweat of our brow.  They exist because they have effectively fooled a majority of the voting public that they give a shit, and can run things better than they have been run.  Better than you could run them.  Better than I could.  They're fucking wrong.  

You are smarter.  You are stronger.  You have accomplished more than they.  You do so on a steady basis.

Yet, (and this is the saddest thing), despite all of the above: They Have Won.  I'll let them flip their bat and waddle around the bases. They can spike the ball and dance in the end zone as long as they want.  Those of us who understand Locke, and Adam Smith, and Rothbard are not on the rise.  We're not winning, nor can we be, for the foreseeable future.  Because our lot is hard, it calls on sacrifice for our responsibilities, it demands accountability...all the things that no one wants to accept in these days of instant gratification and victimhood.


Nixon called those who remembered the old ways the "Silent Majority", and hoped that those plain folks would ignore his narcissism.  It was a pipe-dream, and the day he became the face of the opposition over Goldwater was the end of it all, my friends.  The day that people, who thought that lyrics to Beatles' tunes were acceptable substitutes for legitimate domestic and foreign policy, were allowed to decide how to run the country was the day that our ideal ended.

I have no doubt that I will be one day soon (like 4 May 2014) viewed as "an anacronsym" or a "right wing conspiracist".  But the thing is; I've been so weird for so long that I'm comfortable with any or all of that.  I've never been bashful in saying what I perceived needed to be said. 

I'll keep saying it.

But for the first time in twenty years, I've despaired that it will make one damn bit of difference in the end.  I have no hope that we can get out of this spiral of madness, control, and despotism.  Yet, in the dark hours, with these conclusions weighing on me like so many regrets, so many mistakes, like lead wrapped 'round my neck...

Fuck it.


Immundus saecula saeculorum,

Unclean


05 May 2014

Breaking the Stereotype


Mattis is the one guy to be in a position to call this like it is. In a country where less than 1% of the total population served during the longest war in our country's history, and less than 1% of them actually went outside the wire on a regular basis, this story is a bit over-reported, I think.

If not, then the stereotype of the emotionally frail veteran is definitely spread or sprinkled over all of us very liberally.

Here's to Gen. Mattis for saying what many of us have been thinking; and here's to "post traumatic growth", by God...