Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be lifties.

I just wanted to touch on the two thoughts that were really running through my head this morning on the way to work. First, has any one of you read much of J.D. Salinger. I am in the midst of finishing up his story "Seymour, an Introduction" and could not be happier that--through all my procrastination and distraction by shiny objects--I have finally gotten around to this gem. Now, when I say "gem" I am not referring to it as one of those blockbuster, turn your life around, stories. Rather, it is exactly the kind of rambling, go nowhere, story that I can someday see myself actually writing.

Ostensibly, this is the opening chapter to a man's story about his deceased brother. However, in the offing there are so many tangents and digressions that the author is able to cover a great deal of literary ground. It is a story about family, brothers, child-stardom, intelligence, and a great many other things. Beyond that it is the scattered nature of the writing that makes it so endearing to me. If you are at all interested in reading books of any sort, I would highly recommend this one.

Also, this morning, I got stuck in the variety of construction traffic where there is person at the beginning of the work area with a sign on a stick. This is not at all a completely surprising occurrence. When one lives in a semi-rural community where two lane highways are the norm one gets used to such things. Actually being stuck was not the problem for me today. The problem centered around what to do with your eyes when you are the first car in line. As I was passing the people stopped and waiting to head in the other direction I noticed that the lead vehicle in the line was occupied by a gentleman reading a newspaper. I thought this to be an ingenious and convenient solution to staring at the flagger with the sign--which is where my eyes are invariably drawn. Honestly, you can only half-smile so many times at a person who is destined to solitude while spinning their little sign all day. After a while you just want to settle into that solid far-off stare that lets the time simply drift away when you are in such a situation. But that is just not possible when you are confronted by the eyes of the person in whose hands the rest of your day squarely rests. Who is to argue if they just never turn their sign around? What's to stop you from having to sit there all day? It's a thin line between fake-nice-through-the-windshield and sitting in your idling car for hours on end.

A secondary thought comes to me, as I type. What is up with the over-exagerated arm gestures these people give you once they do let you go? They wave their arm out and around themselves in an broad arc and point you to the lane you are supposed to be in. Is this for the people who, after having shut down their brains for the wait, might have forgotten that you are not supposed to drive over the person in the bright orange vest? Or, perhaps, it is for the individual who upon getting the little orange "slow" sign after having stared at the "stop" side for too long will floor it into the line of oncoming traffic waiting their turn. I don't know, maybe they are just worried about their cones. People could steal the cones! I would never do such a thing. You're going to have to trust me on that, because I have lost the keys to the trunk of my car.

-A.R. Leith

Quote: "The world needs ditch-diggers too, Danny." -Judge Smails

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Whelp, it's finally here.

Upon arriving to work today I was pleasantly surprised to find about three inches of fresh snow on the stairs leading up to my office. There is something about the light of morning when there is snow on the ground that is of a different quality than your average sunny day. The whole day has a sense of freshness about it and, even without looking out a window, you can tell that everything is a little bit more like winter somehow. It is one of my most favorite feelings at one of the best times of the year. Okay, I just wanted to share that little bit of info with everyone, wish you all a happy upcoming winter, and get my day started off right. I am sorry for waxing poetic, or nostalgic, or waxing at all really. I don't much like to get all waxy, but sometimes it happens. I hope to see everyone who is able on the pub crawl tomorrow night. Cheers.

-A.R. Leith

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What are you eating under there?

If you said “under where?” then, HA HA! If not, why not?

Okay, I am going to jump right into this one, because it is going to be a doozy. There have been some things floating around of late (And by ‘of late’ I mean ‘for the last several years’.) where people are continually sounding off on what they believe in, or don’t believe in, or don’t believe that other people should believe in. Anyway I would like to address some of these issues today, because, frankly, I read a post on this ‘mispace’—that’s the Spanish language version of myspace—that made me physically uncomfortable and sick to my stomach. It wasn’t that it was gross or in particularly poor taste, so much as it was mean and ignorant. And I know everyone out there knows what I am talking about when I say that I am the sensitive type who is easily upset.

Anyway, this post brought to my attention that there was a group on myspace that, well, it is called “Fuck the Troops” which unless it is meant in the strictest sense of raising morale by fornicating with those in uniform is probably in pretty bad taste. Personally, I am not against the troops as people. I definitely do not agree with some/many of the things that they do, but to each his own. After all, this is America, we can do whatever we want.

The post I received was a petition to have the group kicked out of the myspace community. Sort of a NIMBY for the internet. Now, I am all for speaking out against something if you don’t believe in it (especially since that is what I am about to do when I’m done rambling here) but there are tactful ways to go about it. The petition in question is, at times, tactful and touching while at other times it is gut wrenchingly blind and hateful. There are, the simple statements of, “I know/love/am family with someone in the military and wish them the best.” which are wonderful sentiments and cannot be argued against. Those make me feel nice. The signatures—and their attached notes—that I feel I must discuss in more detail are far less sentimental and more directly offensive. My plan is to run through some of the sillier ones and talk about what they made me feel. (Anyone afraid of talking about feelings should look away now…this means you br@nt.)

I would also like to mention that, before embarking on this little rant, I tried to find the offending “fuck the troops” group on myspace and was unsuccessful, which leads me to believe that it actually has already been removed, or that many of the people who signed the petition were simply reacting to what they were told, rather than the group itself.

(Because this whole thing is a little long—not to mention high and mighty—I am going to break it down into a few sections. This should give you a chance to stretch, rub your eyes, decide that you don’t want to read any further, or get a nice snack. Like some Chicken ‘n a Biscuit, or a Yoohoo. But I do hope you keep reading…)

The Doozy (Pt. 2)

The first entry to be covered came at #37 on the petition from a Patrick Madrid, who wrote,
“(empty space is for anyone brave enough to sit inside a fox whole for two days and still have the nerve to talk some shit. our soldiers is the last thing sane we have left of our political bullshit gov. it's not our soldiers we should be mad at. it's the fuckin millionaires we vote in to run our government. we as soldiers just do our jobs. protecting some tree huggin pussy who'd much rather cry than to stand up for himself. if they still fill the same afterwards they can move to Bagdad and i'll pay for the flight--- fuckin cowards)”
Spelling errors aside, there are some problems with this statement. In my opinion one need not be “tree hugging” to be against military action in a foreign land. You may love trees and all, but they are two different animals. I also wonder if he would actually pay for my flight over there—if you could get one—should I be able to contact him. However, the biggest problem I see in his argument is that he seeks to separate the soldiers from the “fucking millionaires we vote in to run our government.” But to me it is all the same boat. They all work for the government…the only difference being that I don’t get to vote on who is in the military.

Jumping down the list to number 102 there comes another question in my mind. (I also can’t help but notice the open hostility in many of the notes attached to this petition. I’m not psychologist, but I have to think that there is some link between this and the type of person that joins/completely backs the military. But one must keep in mind that they have been affronted by a group that is themselves being offensive and aggressive.) So anyway, Dillon, at 102 writes,
“These people need to be eliminated, the men and women of our armed forces are the only reason why there is myspace right now!!! If it wasnt for our soldiers keeping us safe god only knows where we would be!!!”
I just feel that it bears mentioning that our soldiers haven’t really been keeping us all that safe of late. Going overseas and basically staging a coup on a foreign government that doesn’t seem to have had the inclination or capability to pose an actual threat to us I suppose keeps us kind of safe. Either that or it just enrages an entire region of the world at our intrusion. The last time that our government/military actually needed to keep us safe was almost five years ago, and the only heroes that came out of that were those that were brave after the fact, those that limited the loss of life as best they could, and we should thank them for their efforts. The military, however, did very little to protect the people from that attack. The last time that our troops actually kept us safe from an outside attack was before the second world war. Our troops, regardless of who’s orders it was on, have long since been too busy in the political game to be at home when needed, which is not a happy or comforting thought.

Within the petition there are glimmers of hope, like 119,
“Stephanie Curry ~ sister of an airman ~ don't hate the troops.. hate the president who sent them where they do not belong.. some military personel joined for reasons other than wanting to defend our country from terrorist we armed!”
It is [I hope] a well known fact that military recruiters target young and under-privliged people, with the promise of funds or a way out of their current situation. In fact, most of the people that I know who joined up did so because they needed money, or wanted to have their college paid for. However, there is a certain expectation and culpability that come with signing up for the military.

One noticeable thing amid all the name-calling and finger-pointing is the idea that somehow the troops currently fighting in the Middle East and elsewhere are protecting more than our country’s financial interests. There is a lot of, “God Bless all the men and women who are fighting to keep our country safe.”, “God bless all of you who are willing to put your lives on the line for our country.”, and so on, that give me the distinct impression that people think that our country is in actual danger—possibly a danger that is not the result of out involvement in foreign lands.

The Doozy (Pt. 3)

At long last, at number 309 someone has put forth the most confounding argument that also seems to be an underpinning of why this petition exists at all. And argument so insulting to the intelligence of readers that it hurts a little just to think about it. Zach Sepulveda wrote,
“they really should be removed since the only reason they are allowed to say that is because we provide them with the freedom and liberties they possess…If it wasn't for soldiers, we'd be part of England still, the French would be speaking German, along with the majority of European Nations, and slew of other "saved by soldiers, sailors and airmen" history lessons you might have heard of”
This one is going to take me a couple of paragraphs to unravel.

At the very beginning of his statement—within one sentence amazingly enough—Zach states that the people whose rights are protected by the fighting men and women should be taken away because they don’t deserve them. Apparently the rights and liberties protected by the military are reserved only for those who agree with everything said or done by the government/military. In essence, freedom of speech does not belong to all Americans, simply for being American, but only to those willing to kill for it.

The second part of the statement is more forgivable, although still fairly ignorant of global relations and world history. First statement, “If it wasn't for soldiers, we'd be part of England still…” Which is actually right on the money and I wouldn’t argue against it if I could. The only problem being that our current foreign policy seems to have no interest in letting people of other nations—let’s just say, Iraq, for a convenient example—create their own revolutions and prosperous futures. Instead we do all the ‘dirty work’ for them and then foist upon them a governmental system that they do not seem to want or enjoy. Plain and simple our government is using young American men and women to protect oil and other industrial interests in the middle east, which is fine if you can get behind it. All I ask is that you recognize your part in it. However, the whole ordeal robs the people of smaller countries the opportunity to create a system that is right for them in their own time, organically, and domestically. Basically it comes down to the adage, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will never go hungry.” We are giving away fish by the truckload, but not offering any help in others getting their own fish.

Second statement, “the French would be speaking German, along with the majority of European Nations…” This one may be true, barring, of course, that anything in the above paragraph didn’t happen between then and now. However, on a much broader scale one could argue that the only thing accomplished in stopping the German conquering of Europe is that the U.S. and its allies recognized that two wrongs do not make a right. Because the same sentence, with a few changes makes the same amount of sense, “If it weren’t for soldiers…the Navajo would still be speaking Navajo [on their native soil], along with the majority of Native American Nations.” The fact on this one is that Hitler’s rhetoric at the beginning of World War II was frighteningly similar to the idea of “Manifest Destiny” here in America that was used to control, coerce, and all but eliminate the native people of this land. I am not, by any means, defending either practice, just pointing out that sometimes things are done that seem alright at the time, but later turn out to have been a horrible bit of gaffery.

The final statement, “history lessons you might have heard of.” Yeah, I think I’ve heard something about them, here and there. All in all, however it is kind of hypocritical to ask others to support you in the taking away of other’s rights that you have ostensibly been fighting to protect. Is it not?

The Doozy (Pt. 4)

Number 340 brings us to the top of the Bass Ackwards category in the entries. Written by someone named Andi (no relation) it says,
“I appreciate all that the military does for us b/c I could never do that kind of a job. I am a wuss! Not everyone will agree as to why our troops are in Iraq but that doesn't matter. The point is, they are there! Support what they do anyway! They didn't volunteer to go over there!”
Ummmm, yah, they actually did volunteer to go over there. While there may still be a draft board, there is not, as far as I know, a draft anymore. Therefore, anyone who is in the military had to sign up for the job or ‘volunteer’, to be there.

As far as the rest of her statement is concerned it is all a little baffling. The fact that you would never do that kind of job because you are “a wuss” pretty much means that you do not believe in what is going on enough to actually fight for it, making you a conscientious objector. (Maybe not by the military’s definition of it, but still…) However, asking me to “support them anyway” just doesn’t make sense at all, because I do not support them in what they are doing, because I don’t agree with it. That’s like saying, I don’t agree with people killing baby seals, but they are doing it, so they deserve our support. It is counterproductive. It DOES matter whether or not we agree with why our troops are in Iraq. Not only does it matter whether or not we agree, but it matters that, by there presence and participation, the soldiers also agree, either explicitly or implicitly with what they are doing there. For them to say otherwise is a bullshit cop-out.

The fact is that it is voluntary. Being in the military is a job that you have to sign up for. Whether you agree with what goes on or not, you chose to be there. I have friends in the military, but I hope that they knew what they were getting into when they signed up. For anyone who doesn’t then they are truly ‘just doing their job’ much like a much maligned military of the past who just followed orders—probably after having responded to an ad offering to “show them the real Europe”—but whatever. The point here is that the military is a job. You sign up for it, you perform duties, they pay you for it. And like any other job, you know what you are getting into. You have to ask yourself, do I really want to do that in exchange for money? For example, if someone says to you, “Hey I have a little shop on the edge of town where we make soap out of human fat that we render after killing bad people.” you have some options at that point. You can say either A: “No, that is gross and illegal, I am calling the cops.” B: “I’ll have to think about it.” or C: “How much does it pay?”

All in all you have options. Going into the military is much the same deal. You have to know going in that you may be asked to kill someone. You have to know that you may be killed yourself. You have to know about collateral damage. All of that goes into your decision to do what you do. The way the military stays staffed is that everyone has their price. You are either in it for the money, or you truly believe in the ideals. Either way there can be no separation between the government and the soldiers. Because, by signing up for military service, you are agreeing to do whatever they send you to do, be it fighting in Iraq, Iran, or wherever the next hot zone happens to be.

I am concerned about people who say they support the troops but not Bush, or the government, or whatever, because it seems to me they are just trying to place the blame anywhere but on themselves, their friends, or their family. Those in the military, i.e. the troops, have entered into an agreement to do—for better or for worse—what Bush and the government decide they want them to do. If they truly disagreed with what they were doing, or where they had to do it, they wouldn’t sign up in the first place, would they?

I know that all of this seems cranky and long-winded, and for that I am sorry. All I really want is for people to examine the world around them more closely, think before they act and speak, and most of all, take responsibility for your actions. But above all I want everyone to remember that all of this—everything I have said, everything I have quoted, and everything said by anybody in the group that dislikes the troops—is only a collection of words. Something to be pondered, considered, rejected, or accepted. And for those of you who have made it this far, I thank you for considering what I have had to say. Take what you like from it, dismiss the rest, but above all form your own opinion. Think for yourself. Follow what you truly believe in your head and your heart and you will never be wrong. Because in the end, we’re—every one of us--just different, that’s all.