Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Those who refuse to support the state deserve no support from the state

Anyone who has read this should be able to tell by now how much of a spots fan I am. A huge one. And while I think baseball is the greatest of them, I have played/coached/officiated in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, and tennis. I'm a huge sports guy.

For those of you who might be reading this and haven't read many of my posts or my profile, I also spent 20 years in the Army, am retired, am a combat veteran of Desert Storm, and have done and seen shit that most people can't even begin to imagine.

My father is retired Air Force. My older brother spent some time in the Army. My sister tried to join the Air Force but was medically disqualified. My younger brother spent 4 years in the Air Force. My father had a uncle killed in World War I, and a cousin who jumped into St. Mere Eglise and was wounded. I have an uncle who spent a year as an Infantryman in Vietnam. And many other family members who have served.

I am proud of my service, but I don't put it in peoples faces. A lot of people I know (especially here) don't have any clue. I don't shy away from it, but I don't volunteer it either. I have immense respect for anyone who has ever served. And I have very strong opinions about the subject. So a lot of people won't like my opinion on this. I don't care.

I found this posting at Spolitical's site. And I have a problem with what I read.

Because it seems this guy is exempt, and doesn't need to do his duty because he has 'unique skills' that other soldiers don't have. How's that again, I missed something? Its funny that a flute player for the West Point band won't ever get released to play for the New York Philharmonic, but someone with 4.3 speed in the '40 gets out? A nuclear physics major at the Point won't ever get released from doing their duty to be able to take a job for the Department of Energy. But a sweet jumper from 15' gets you an exemption? A singer in the Academy chorus won't get released for a chance at American Idol. But a 12 - 6 curve ball gets you out of harms way?

What's more, this guy is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. A leader of solders? A future general? I don't think so. This guy went to a service academy to learn how to be a leader and he's running away while normal grunts are doing their 5th tour in Iraq or Afghanistan? I'm glad this guy won't actually be leading troops, because he doesn't deserve the privilege. Make him a supply guy, or let him run the mess hall. But he doesn't deserve to lead real soldiers.

I knew a lot of guys in the Army that had a lot of athletic ability. Guys, and some women, who were offered college scholarships to play basketball, or football, or the chance to box professionally. They were all allowed to do so. After they finished their current enlistment and were discharged from the Army. But 'officers' have 'unique skills' that other soldiers don't have?

Seriously, I'm missing something here. This isn't the British Army. Officers are supposed to set the example and lead from the front, not run away and hide. Considering the number of soldiers who are under Stop-Loss and can't get out, and this guy gets to play sports instead heading into a combat zone. Its ridiculous. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating he go into harm's way and be killed or injured. But I know a bunch of 19-year old soldiers (on food stamps) with 18-year old wives and 6-month old babies who would like the same opportunity.

This is wrong. And the fact that more people will support this 'right' to play football than will agree that he needs to do his duty is exactly why its wrong. And why its allowed to happen.

I don't know Caleb Campbell. I don't know if he's a good person or a bad person. It doesn't matter. I hope he has a great career and goes to the Hall of Fame. I also hope in his induction speech he remembers to mention those that fell so he could play a game.

Because when you get right down to it, it is still just a game.

Being a soldier isn't.

Pat Tillman understood that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not the Messiah

One of the great comedy troupes/shows of all time was Monty Python's Flying Circus. It was complete insanity and a brand of humor that hadn't really been witnessed before. I remember watching it on PBS on Sunday nights at 9 or 10. I was only about 9 or 10, and I didn't really understand a lot of it. It wasn't until years later that I began to appreciate it.

I'll be the first one to admit that 75% of what they did was complete crap. You could say the same thing about Saturday Night Live (with the Not Ready For Primetime Players). But the 25% that wasn't crap is some of the funniest stuff that's ever been seen anywhere. You could say the same thing about Saturday Night Live (with the Not Ready For Primetime Players). I mean, c'mon. The Ministry of Silly Walks. Absolutely brilliant.

And the two funniest things they ever did were Monty Python and the Holy Grail (oh, those knights who say Ni!) and the The Life of Brian. But it seems not every one appreciated the humor of Python, as the Life of Brian was banned in Aberystwyth, West Wales. No, I don't know how to pronounce it. Welsh is a strange language consisting of L's, W's, and Y's. Considering my family heritage is Welsh (amongst many others), is it any wonder that my writing isn't always up to snuff. Oddly, Wales looks much like the Ozark mountains, with the valley farms and coal mining. I''m not suggesting anything, but it is something that strikes me as familiar.

Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith Iscariot (check out her full frontal nudity, oh yeah), is now the Mayor of Aberystwyth, and is now trying to bring West Wales into the 21st century. I don't know if she'll be successful. Knowing how my grandpa's Cousin Earl, who was a "SOUTHERN BAPTIST PREACHERMAN" (oh yeah, you know what I mean), would have reacted to this movie playing back home when he was in 'charge', I don't see that she'll have a lot of luck. Because Cousin Earl is a lot like all the Welshmen I've met in my time.

I wish Mayor Jones-Davis luck, as I think it is important for an entire new generation of children to be exposed to the truth, I mean the humor, of Monty and the boys.

Because The Life of Brian features the second greatest line in the history of movies. (Adult content only)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 7

Seems like they are serious about campaign reform here in the UK. They're even arresting people.

Again, I'd like them to try something like this in the states. I just don't see it happening. And how much fun would we have during election season if we actually had to deal with issues and what someone can do for the country. And not what the other person hasn't accomplished.

Its a good thing John and Obama are playing nice, isn't it.

Differences between the US and the UK # 6

There's a call from the government here to ban happy hours. I have a hard time believing it will happen, but this is a strange country when it come to those types of situations.

I would like to see someone try something like that in the states. It might work in some of the cities, but I want the goverment to tell my family and friends they can't drink cheap beer after work. They tried something like that once, and it didn't go over well.

They can have my beer when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A taste of freedom

I wanted to expand a little on what I wrote about in the last post. About talking to people from other countries when you get a chance. I've led an extremely lucky life and have traveled to 40 countries and lived in 9 of them. I've been out and about with people in Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. As well as living on the both the Mexican and Canadian border.

As a result I've been around people from many different kinds of backgrounds. And political environments. And political philosophies. I've seen rich people and poor people, and rabble rousers and activists and people who just want to be left alone. I've met people who fought for their country against aggressors and people who collaborated with the enemy.

One of the main things I remember from my time in the Baltics (not the Balkans) and other countries was how much people reveled in their freedom. How the idea of freedom and liberty was something to be cherished and thankful for every day. And how, we as Americans, take those same things for granted.

I'm not being rude or disrespectful about that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that we truly are free is a great thing, and we don't have to think about it on a daily basis. But we do take it for granted. We're so busy telling other people what to do and how to think that we've forgotten that most people don't have the same rights that we abuse. We take our freedom so much for granted that constantly enact laws to take freedom away from ourselves.

Anti-smoking bans, whether or not an establishment can sell alcohol based on its location (school, church, etc) and not on the willingness of people to buy it, and the dumbest one of all is "hate" crime. How do you legislate thought? Maybe George Orwell wasn’t so far off. We claim to be the freest country in the world, but do everything we can to deny ourselves the right to freedom of choice. It’s gotten crazy.

And while things like this are happening in Europe, it is a result of Germany and France trying to run the EU. The reason the eastern European countries have joined the EU are easy to understand. Freedom of movement, more money in hand, and protection from (oh yeah, here it comes) Big Brother.

I love the way writing can flow without even making an effort at it.

But anyhow, most of Eastern Europe wouldn't be in the EU if it wasn't for those reasons. Because it has become as politically correct and stupid as anything we do.

But I can tell you, in the east, they do cherish their freedom. Every day. Anyone over the age of 20 can remember the Soviet occupation and domination. Anyone over 30 can remember the secret police, and massed deportations, and denial of their cultural existence. People in those countries don't look strangers in the eye, and won't talk to people they don't know. Try getting directions somewhere. The reason being, if they were seen talking to a westerner, the secret police would show up at their door and question them about who the person was and why they were speaking to them. They’re not unfriendly. They’re just overly cautious.

The mother of the woman who worked with me was a telephone operator. They were required to listen into conversations and report suspicious ones. Or to record them. In 2004 (2004, not 1974) during the presidential elections in Russia, the government was calling the superintendents of apartment buildings and telling them which residents hadn't voted yet, and to go knock on their doors and tell them to do their duty. What do you think would happen in the states if something like that happened.

You should go meet some of this people and talk to them. About living in slums worse than anything you could see in American cities. About a family of 4 living in a 12' x 9' room, and sharing a bathroom and kitchen with 3 other families. About not having enough to eat. One girl told me how she came home one day and her pet rabbit had disappeared. Her mother told her it ran away. She didn't put it together for years that they had meat for the first time in a month that night. Yeah, it’s funny. But not to her.

Or they people who had families split in two when the Russians chased the Germans back to Berlin. Those caught on the Russian side stayed. Those on the German side made it to refugee camps and emigrated out. Couples split. Siblings split. Parents and child on different sides of the line. National monuments torn down. Children forced to learn the language of a conquering country.

It’s like having a beautiful wife. You don't spend every day thinking about how beautiful she is, you just know. So you don't tell her every day. Or somehow make her understand that you know it. It probably isn't a big deal, and she probably won't ever leave you because of it. But you have taken it for granted and don't realize how lucky you are to really have such a beautiful life. (hope that's not too sexist, Sarah)

Do you know that right now there are over 200 countries, territories, and trusts as recognized by the United Nations. Some of the truly free ones are the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom (see the common connection in speaking the English language - I refuse to push button # 1), western Europe, the Baltics, Slovenia, and other assorted places. If you count them up, it’s less than 50.

Less than 50 countries that are truly free and have civil liberty for its citizen. Even all of those countries practice some form of banning books, denying sex education to teenagers to prevent (OMG) teenage pregnancy, and other archaic laws (US - drive legally as young as 14 in some places, drink at 21 or Europe - drink at 16 and drive at 18). We are still the exception and not the rule.

You might agree with me. You might disagree with me. It doesn't matter. What does is that the people in those countries that have recently become free regard it every day as a gift from the heavens. They haven't become immune to the pleasures of it yet. They still celebrate it every day. We don't. We take it for granted.

And actually, I like that we can take our freedom for granted.

And I like that they still recognize it as a gift.

Maybe as they move closer to us, we can move closer to them. And meet somewhere in the middle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A dinner at home

I live in a shared house, and it truly is an international setting. There are 3 Bulgarian couples, and the son of one of the couples. There is a South African with his Hungarian girlfriend. There is an Englishman that I haven't met yet. And of course, there is me.

On Saturday night, one of the Bulgarian girls was having a birthday party at the house. I didn't care. I mean, its a shared house and you have to learn to let people have some fun. I had just finished moving in, and wasn't really up for much. But she insisted that I come down for a drink and meet everyone.

So around 9 PM, I went down to say hello, and was going to head out to the local (that's what people call the neighborhood pub they frequent), have a beer or two, and then come back home. After all, its only 187 steps from the bar to the door of my room. Yes, I counted. I'm a guy, that's what we do.

I was going to say hello, have a quick drink, and get on out and let them have their party. Before I could say "Bob's your uncle", I was pushed down in a chair, given a beer, and a plate of food that could feed Ethiopia. Good food, too. All Bulgarian delicacies. I had been in Bulgaria in 2004, and was somewhat familiar with the food, but they just kept piling food higher and higher.

I wasn't trying to intrude, but they did make me feel very welcome. Almost all of them spoke English, at least to some degree, to include the best looking woman there, who kept serving me food and beer. Unfortunately, her boyfriend arrived later, so no joy on that. I ended up staying for almost 3 hours, and had a great time.

I've done things like that before in other countries I've lived in. Been the only foreigner in a group of people and having a great time. Regardless of what the media says, most people do not actually dislike Americans. They might not like our government or our policies, but they do like us.

Sidenote --- I actually heard a Brit today telling me he thought we were doing the right thing in Guantanamo, and we should continue doing it. This isn't too start a political discussion about the right or wrong of it, just curious to hear a Brit support it.

Its amazing the amount of people in the states who are afraid to travel, and would go pale at the thought of being the only American among a group of people who don't speak English as a first language. I'm lucky. It doesn't faze me at all, and I enjoy it. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend it. You'll have more fun than you'll ever know. And learn things about your country that you never realized. (There will be more on that theme in an upcoming post).

I've been lucky in my life, and have been places and done things that most people can't imagine, let alone consider doing. Of course, there is a down side to everything also. It was called Desert Storm. And Kansas. Man, I really hated living in Kansas. And Los Angeles. But Angola was kind of cool.

Anyhow, now that I'm done rambling, my point is this. If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are the only American in a group of people, don't be afraid. Embrace it. Go have fun. You'll be surprised in finding out what other cultures are like.

And more importantly, I think you'll be surprised at finding out what you're really like.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 5

One of the girls that works with me rides the same bus in every morning. So we usually walk to work together. Gossip about the company and the employers (I'm a listener, not a talker) and just general things going on.

Friday morning, on the way to work, she decided to stop and get something to eat. She said she had gotten up late and hadn't had breakfast yet. That didn't sound like a bad idea, so I went along. Its the last time I will do that.

She ordered what I can only term as the most horrendous concoction ever known to mankind. A coleslaw and cheese sandwich. Now I'm a live and let live kind of guy. You do your thing, I'll do my thing, and we don't agree, we just avoid the subject.

But I was thoroughly disgusted by this. How can anyone eat something like that. I've been in Asia, where seafood consists of anything that comes from the sea, and its not always a Red Lobster platter. I've lived in Africa, where I've told people "don't tell me what it is, I'll eat it anyhow. If you tell me what it is, I won't eat for a week". During Desert Storm, I ate 5 MRE's a day (and unless you've done it, you can't imagine the horror of it).

In other words, the things I've put into my body, to include beer from around 60 different countries, Tequila, Ouzo (Greek), Racki (Turkish), SoJu (Korean), Saki (Japanese), Balzams (Latvian) and good ole' American moonshine, mean to me that I'm not a particular person. I've put a lot of disgusting looking and tasting things into my body. But the sight of a coleslaw and cheese sandwiches just turned my stomach.

And when I mentioned that I felt it was a disgusting combination to put between two slices of bread, she immediately began to criticise the fact that Americans eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Houston, we might have a problem.