A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

November 11, 2008

Thank you Veterans

Another Veteran’s Day.

As a public employee I am off today.  This is one Federal Holiday I feel I have earned.  I am a veteran and am proud of my service to my country.  However, I realize that that sentiment should be replaced by another.  I am a veteran, and I am lucky to be one. 

I learned that sentiment from my son. 

My son is said something along these lines shorly before he left to serve you, his fellow citizens in the United States Army.  More on that later.

I am not a great family historian, but I do know that my family has served its fellow citizens by serving in our nation’s armed forces.  I could become at this moment altruistic, but I won’t.  They served for their own reasons.  I could also wax utopian and have the attitude that service in the military is not a good thing because war is evil.  Of course war is evil, and so service in the military is not a redeeming panacea that frames human character.   Serving in the military has as a goal ending the life of an enemy, so any military service is a necessity of evil.  The word necessity should be the word which catches our eyes.  In case any have unrealistic fantasies out there, it’s a rough world out there, filled with people who don’t like us – and I write this knowing that the “thems” in their own context are an “us”.

I will not at this time go too far afield and talk about patriotism.  Let me just give the short version and say that one of the most maddening phrases, songs, and attitudes I hear is the one “Proud to be an American”.  It’s not because I disagree with the policies of our country, overly lament the national errors our forebears have made, nor disagree with the concept that America on the whole has been a force of good.  I just think the statement is stupid.  One has no basis to be “proud” of something they had no control over.  I’m happy or lucky or even blessed to be an American would be a much more accurate and intellectually honest statement.  My son’s statement back this summer reminded me of that.

My relatives have served our nation from their arrival in the 1840’s.  From the Civil War, World War One and Two, Vietnam and today my family members have worn the uniform.  I am lucky that I have such people in my family who sacrificed so that our nation was torn in two was sustained.  I am lucky that today when there are many who still do not wish our nation well, my son in his words, “gets to stand up for his country”.

I also was lucky to serve, but my service pales when I consider that my Uncle Peter Smith served as a Doughboy in France in World War One.  I am shamed of my “pride” in my own service when I consider that my grandparents had four sons – my Uncles Jim, John, Frank and James – all serving in World War Two.  I can’t imagine the daily prayers, hopes put on hold, and fears that they experienced, until recently when I have begun to have maybe a concept of what they faced.  My Uncle Jim’s vessel was torpedoed three times in World War Two, my Uncle Frank was 17 years old when he was a casualty at Omaha Beach spending much of the rest of his life in pain reliving that horrible day from his adolescense, my Uncle James spent much of his 20’s island hopping while in the USMC, including involvment in Bloody Tarawa.  When faced with this level of service to their country, my “pride” is indeed pathetic, and I indeed was lucky to have served as a Paratrooper. 

My son enlisted this past summer.  In his words, he is lucky.  My son had many stumbles as an adolescent, and like many parents today, I was impotent to stop him on his own path to ruin.  Luckily for me when he was spiraling downward, he and my wife caught him.  God was also most kind to my son, and my son much to my joy recongizes the mercy that was given to him.  However, my son did not have a clear direction and needed one.  He had also done many things that while forgiven, only time could heal the wounds and the breaches of trust done to them.  This was a real family crisis.  There were little places he could turn.  At 19 he knew he didn’t want to go to college.  He also knew that he didn’t want a job working at a deli, Walmart, 7-11 etc.  He considered moving to the Midwest with his mother, but didn’t wish to do that either.  In the past he would have run from his responsibility.  I also knew I had to help him. 

I picked him up one morning and laid out the thin options he had before him.  I added one, that I don’t regret, but knew that doing so, was not without risk, and mentioned service in the armed forces.  I told him I would go with him to the recruiter and asked him to respectfully listen to what they said.  He shocked me when he said he would do so.   Even though I had been in the Army I mentioned the Coast Guard, Air Force and Navy.  I am sure that you all know why I would mention these first.  He said, No, but he would visit the Marines and Army recruiter.  I said that the Guard or Reserves would be a good option.  He was silent.

We went to one recruiter.  My son, despite his lack of belief in himself qualified for every MOS offered by the Army.  Many of these had lucrative bonuses and sounded as if they were made for my boy.  My boy who would drive me wild with his shouts of joy and anger as he played Gears of War and Ghost Recon – becoming one of the best in the gaming world at them.  He listened, respectfully and said “No”.  I broached the Reserves and the Guard, he was faster than the recruiter when he said, “No”.  In six months I’ll be in the same boat as I am today.  Even the recruiter was silent for a moment at that one.

When he asked what he wanted to do he looked at the recruiter and me and said, I want to do what m dad did.  I want to jump out of planes and be a real soldier.  I have never felt such pride and fear in my life at a statement.  You see, although I belatedly realized that I am lucky to have served in the Army, and yes as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, I believe that my son was proud of me.  I asked him if he was sure.  I mentioned all the things that he could do with his ability scores.  My son who is as stubborn as I am replied, “If doing that was good enough for you, it’s good enough for me”.  I will admit that tears filled my eyes upon hearing that.  Tears of fears and of gratitude, that my son was indeed proud of me.

One day shortly before he departed for basic training, AIT and Jump School we spoke.  I told my son how proud I was of him for his decision to serve his country in a tough time.  He didn’t say much and then looked at me.  “Dad”, he said, “I’m lucky”.  I’ve screwed up my life a lot, but now I get to serve my country.”.  Even as I reflect upon this months later I am moved by his thoughts. 

I will echo them.

I am lucky that I was given the opportunity to serve my country in some small way.  I have been repaid richly for the minor investment I made.

I am lucky that I was born into a family who like thousands of other families in our nation demonstrated courage and a willingness to serve their country.

I am lucky that I have a son who also serves his country.  I will also be proud of him and his choices. 

Those who may come upon this post, please also reflect upon how lucky you are. 

I also ask you to join me in a daily ritual that I have as I ride to work, I pray for my son, and for thousands of other sons and daughters.  I pray that those who have wives and children will be kept emotionally close to them as they serve me.  I pray that God will be merciful to my son and the other sons and daughters who are indeed volunteering to be in harm’s way – for my safety.  I pray for my wife and my son’s mother (that one is not always an easy prayer) that they will be at peace with their child’s choice.  Then  I offer a prayer of gratitude that I amso lucky to have such people as our fellow citizens, our neighbors, our parents and grandparents, and our sons and daughters that watch over me.

Proud – not really.  Lucky – most definitely.

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Quote of the Day

Filed under: Conservatives,Culture,History,Inspirational,Philosophy,Politics,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 11:21 am

It is well that war is so terrible – lest we grow too fond of it.

Robert E. Lee

November 9, 2008

Quote of the Day

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell

November 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

 Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for yourself.

Viewed on a bumper sticker.

November 6, 2008

Quote of the Day

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
-Aristotle

I enjoy reflecting about these random thoughts. I am constantly trying to give this type of sentiment to those I work with, the student I interact with and of course to myself. I have demanded of myself anew, a commitment to excellence in my work, in my interactions, and in my areas of personal life. Join me.

Quote of the Day

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
– Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862

Dedicated to my 57,000,000 fellow citizens. Along with best wishes (sincere ones) to our new President-Elect Obama. (Read yesterday’s post), who is now my President.

May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell The Moral Majority and Me

A short report about the death of Rev. Falwell.

One short comment, I am sickened by the vitriole that some of the left wing blogs are showing.  I mean you can disagree with a man, but the moment of their death isn’t the time to do so.  What should I expect though from pigs, but grunts.

I started college in 1979 and became interested in GOP politics shortly thereafter. My family had a split political history. My mother was a staunch pro-labor, Irish/Catholic Democrat. My grandfather had been one of the founders of the NYC Electrical Workers Union, and was called “The Great White Father” for pushing for minorities to be allowed into the union in the 1920’s. I am very proud of his work on the behalf of working people. My father was a staunch Republican and was Protestant. However, he had become a minister when I was about thirteen, and my mother had left the Roman Church beforehand. In 1976, they both backed Jimmy Carter, and it was odd not to hear the political debates, as they thought they had found a candidate they could agree upon. Boy, did they get hoodwinked on that one.

Early on I was not overly impressed with President Carter, and the Iran crisis sealed the deal. I had actually always been a bit more Conservative on military and foreign policy issues than my politically divided house, and I think Carter was the straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to supporting Democrats.

So when I received a newspaper from this organization called “The Moral Majority” I didn’t know what to think. I read the paper and found out that I agreed with many of the their positions. I was in favor of supporting Israel’s right to exist along with the concept that I trusted those guys more than Muslims and Arabs. I was concerned about the lack of respect that many in the country had towards our nation. I was a troubled about some of the content of the political process. I was – and still am – in favor of limiting abortion. I was fearful about some of the language in the ERA movement and mostly I was ticked about Iran and the hostages. I joined the organization at 17 in 1979. My wife rolled her eyes when I told her that one and had one word, pathetic, as a rejoinder. At 17 in my first year of college I should have been partying, getting drunk and laid, and not lining up with social conservatives. I guess you can tell she and I are a bit different in our political outlook – but she did wave a “W” placard and campaigned for President Bush in ’04. Her family still doesn’t talk to her!

I think what Rev. Falwell meant to me, at that age, was that there were people who were concerned not just about politics as usual, but who were concerned with cultural climate and its rapid change. Maybe they saw a connection between the dots – and that social outlook was related to economic policy and even a world view towards foreign policy.

I know that my views were a bit different from the Moral Majority, but there was enough agreement for me to join and to send my fees in cash – talk about naieve – in $10 increments, as I was indeed a struggling student in my first year of college. From that launching point, I became involved first in George Bush (41) campaign for the nomination, and later switched to Reagan when he won the nod. I guess that choosing of Bush over Reagan showed that I was a bit more centrist than dyed in the wool with the “MM”, but I knew that I was more comfortable with that crowd than the “rabble” I saw endorsing – and the rabble has gotten worse – Democrat candidates.

I with my still soft positions upon some social issues, such as abortion and rights for homosexuals (I support civil unions as policy), put me at odds with many of the antecedents of the Moral Majority, but I am understanding of their views, and I view our slight differences as a friendly disagreement within the family. I still feel that they are my people. So, for that, I am thankful for Rev. Falwell’s life. He profoundly shaped my growth as a person in the political realm, and though I still politely disagree with some of the social agenda of him and others of the harder Evangelical Right, and I do profess my own Evangelical foundation as a view of life, I recognize their value as a part of my family. Most importantly, I know that Rev. Falwell, despite some of our differences held a strong view upon the value of loving God. He also understood that the love of God requires action. Although in many ways I take that interpretation to promote egalitarianism, something that many of the Moral Majority/Christian Coalition/Focus on the Family crowd typically endorse, I find that we are using the same source, and in the end probably have similar intentions. This is how a person who is still, a good deal more Centrist – and still thinks that while Reagan was Great, and he was, that I like Bush 41 more for his intellect.

Let this be my final thought towards Rev. Falwell; May you wake to find you are resting on quiet shores.

May 10, 2007

What do you Value?

As I’ve been mulling over resumes, and the course of my life, interspersed with reading about how an American icon, IBM, is on the fast track to screwing over their workers, most of whom happen to be my fellow citizens, I realize that my values may be out of sync with the rest of society.

I value my family.  I take great joy and a small sense of pride in knowing that my children are decent kids.  Yeah, they have problems, but they are overall doing well.  My eldest daughter is a tremendous source of pride.  She has taken a position as a Social Studies teacher, just like her Dad.  I can’t tell you the joy that brings me, that perhaps she saw maybe something in me, that maybe nudged her towards that.

That brings on another thing I value, community.  To me it was shown when I volunteered and enlisted in the 82nd Airborne, a decision I think was one of the best I have ever made.  In that action, I feel I made a slight downpayment in the debt that I owe those members of my family, and those who served, and often sacrificed more than I was called to do, in order that I may live in a world which they may only have dreamed of.  I am a lucky man indeed to have the knowledge that I was fortunate enough to serve my country.

I think that my desire to teach and be a leader in a public school is also a part of that value of community.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel I am underpaid, and I don’t mind that either.  I also know that I put a great deal of effort into my students, and that I take a particular joy in seeing the progress they made.  Today, when I was reading their essays about how our government used ancient Rome as a model, I took a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that my love of history, and probably a deep love – although I guess it is true that “Love Hurts” – for my country has been shared with them.  I value their learning, and I value what they teach me daily.  I learn more from them than they would ever guess.  I am lucky for that.

I value community, and I think that extends from the home to the schools and churches that so many of us enjoy.  I value the happiness of my community, and hope that my neighbors feel the same way.  I value the aspect that God plays in my life. I am not so sure as what I believe as when I was a younger man, but I think that my understanding that I need for the grace that is offered to man, as a part of my life.  I like that, and admit that I am happy to say that most times, I truly understand that God calls me friend.  I value that.

I understand money, and of course it has a value.  I guess what I don’t get are those entities that value a buck more than the people that labored to make that dollar for the company.   I know things are hard, and a business has a right and the responsibility to make profits for the shareholders.  I guess it’s not in my values however, when that company still makes money, but outsource jobs from my neighbors, and yours, and sends them over to nations which are our economic rivals, who would never give something towards us to help out our economy.

I have a feeling that most who regularly read this blog would say that they value the same things.  If that’s the case, why aren’t things different?  After all there are more of them than there are of those other bastards.  I am thinking about Governor Al Smith, of the fifth ward, a son of immigrants, who rallied the day laborer and the common person of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and forged a movement that was founded on that idea, that there are more little people than big people.  Maybe we just have to remember that.

I guess its a question about what we value.

May 6, 2007

In the Course of a Lifetime, A Family Does Matter

Filed under: Adoption,blogging,children,Culture,Family,General,Inspirational — avoiceofreason @ 7:43 pm

As you know my wife was adopted, and I have posted about the trials and trevails that this has brought to her and at times to myself as she has dealt with the confusing, but oh so real emotions that an adopted child has about their place in the world any everything.

My wife knew nothing about her biological family and had been searching for information off and on for the past 25 years.  In some ways, in a very minimal way, I hope she has felt that although she is alone in this, that she has felt some support.

Recently, the drive and need to know had been growing within her.  For the past few years I’d been telling her to hire a detective agency and see if that would yield any information.  She would resist, citing money problems, which are often real, but really I believe showing a fear that maybe they wouldn’t be found, or what to do if they were found.  Last week, I guess she had reached a point and told me she had been saving money for this end.  I told her the hell with saving money, just do it, hire the agency.  She balked at the cost, and I asked her, in the course of a lifetime what does the money mean as compared to knowing.  She contacted an agency, and within 48 hours, she had a family, a name, a past, a mother – who does not yet know she is found, a sister and brother, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles.

The next step is establishing contact.  This is not as easy as it sounds, and this is nerve wracking for her – as there is always a very real possibility of rejection.  There is also a flurry of information that she has – a past – complete with the knowledge of the job that her biological great grandmother did – she worked  in a poultry store, the county in Ireland where her great grandfather emigrated from in 1914.  She has even found on the internet photos of her family.

My role in this is minimal.   I occassionally post about adoptees, and it is because of my own thin connection with my own wife that I  am made more aware of how it touches my own family’s life.  However, this is not about me, nor my family, nor is it wholly about my wife.  Though I am happy for her, I know there are many who are in the same shoes she was in out there, and maybe some few happen across my blog when I post.  All I can share is that, I am happy for her, and I hope that you are successful if you are an adopted child, or a mother who surrendered a child, and now yearns for contact.  While it may take great effort, and it may even cost three to four thousand dollars, ask yourself what I asked my wife, “In the course of a lifetime, what does it matter”.

In the course of a lifetime there are probably few things that matter.  I think finding out that you have a famliy is one of them.

If you have exhausted all means, please leave a comment and my wife or I would be able to give you a list of resources to use in finding your birth family.

April 25, 2007

Quote of the Day

Filed under: blogging,Culture,Inspirational,Philosophy,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 3:52 am
“People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.”
– Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
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