Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Pisser

For many people, memorial day is a day to honor and remember the people they've known who have died, be it family or friends or whomever.  That's cool.  I do it myself.  But I have a serious problem with how our government uses the occasion for propaganda.

First of all, lets give credit where credit is really due.   We do not enjoy the wealth and prosperity and supposed freedoms of our country because of those who died in battle, but because of those who killed.  It's the killing part, the dominating others, the victory, that allows us to make such claims.   Death in war is just a sad consequence of battle poorly executed. You don't win a war by dying.  It is the winners of wars who get to write the history books.

I understand the necessary evil of the military and of war, but that's how it should be perceived. The glorification of military service bothers me. So does the hero worship of soldiers, and so does the mythification (I know that's not a real word) of our country's righteousness in military matters. Especially now when we know that the Iraq invasion was committed, not for our "safety" but for oil, and that corporations have been financially benefiting from our wars to obscene proportions.

In my couple years in the military, and the hundreds of other service members I met, I don't recall one of them ever stating that they were there out of a duty to country. They were there because of economic hardships, lack of available jobs elsewhere, getting away from home, wanting to see more of the world, being lied to by recruiters for various reasons, escaping legal issues, seeking family and friends "approval", earning American citizenship etc. I dare say, these are the things our soldiers are dying for.

It is disturbing to me, now that we have a democrat for president that so many people who were against these current wars are now supporting them, especially since Barak is not reducing our involvement in these wars as he promised on the campaign trail.  Why are people so easily persuaded?

If someone in your life has died in war, wouldn't be better to remember him or her for the good times the two of you spent together, and not the fact that they went off to some foreign land to kill people they didn't know?

Here is Mark Twain's "War Prayer"

Below these videos is the full text. If you're not a reader please at least watch the videos.

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved fire sides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

[After a pause. ] "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Tennessean And Tent City

An article came out today in the Tennessean about the residents of tent city and what happened to them after the flood.   This is what I wrote in that paper's comment section.    I didn't list everything that was wrong with that article, although I probably should have.

- Oh, you poor Tennessean, and you Tennessean readers. This was a sloppily written article, though not really the fault of the writer. Newspapers just don't pay for the time it takes to investigate and write stories properly. So the author had to throw together this piece way too fast, and because of that we get a skewed perspective of the homeless, and what happened to them when tent city flooded.

Let me clarify a couple things. First off, Rachel Hester runs Room In The Inn, and as far as I know, Room In The Inn has no outreach program. All their funding is used for in-house programs, so she would have no experience with the residents and events that took place at tent city. It doesn't make any sense that she be quoted for this article. Also, I have known of homeless encampments scattered all over the greater Nashville area for as long as I've been in Nashville, some 30 years now. A big deal is made about "tent city" only because of its proximity to downtown. When people complain about homelessness, the Mayor and chief of police make a "show of force" on tent city because it's the most politically expedient thing to do. One last point, being homeless is the most awful, painful, degrading way to live, and people get caught up in homelessness only because they don't have the means to get out of it by their own volition. And, it does require help from an outside source for them to break the cycle of homelessness.

Read the article -

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Family Fall Guy

Ok, I've been working on understanding my life, how I got to be the way I am, and what I can do to overcome my issues. The following is part of an ongoing practice of letter writing, writing letters to people in the family, giving myself the chance, the right, to say everything to my mother father and brother, that I may never actually say in person. Some will say this is TMI, "To Much Information." I understand this, so if you'd rather, then feel free to not read the rest of this post. Some of what I write here I've known for some time, some of it is fairly new revelations. It is all as accurate as I can make it. I am not looking for excuses, I am not looking for pity. I'm just getting this stuff off my chest.

How I became the bad guy.

Our family was dysfunctional, although I'm not quite sure what is a "functional" family. We lived together because we were family but the relationships between the family members were not healthy. That is because the people in my family were not healthy, emotionally or otherwise.

The problems with our family dynamics were taking its toll as I attempted to develop from child to adult. Not only was I having difficulties with being depressed and socially isolated, I was also having a difficult time reacting to these issues in a positive way. Like they say, abnormal behavior in an abnormal situation is completely normal. But my family, especially my mother, did not see it that way. Instead, she labeled my odd behavior, like attempting suicide, as a threat to her and the family. On returning home from the Grand Canyon where I failed at committing suicide, she asked, "Why are you doing this to us?" "Us" meaning her and my father. I didn't say anything. I didn't have an answer because her assumption that my suicide attempts were directed at them was erroneous.  I was looking for a way to end my emotional pain.   But really, I didn't have an answer to that question because I did not have the language necessary to describe what was really going on in my head. Even if I knew exactly why I was behaving this way, my vocabulary lacked the words to properly express it. Conversations about how people really felt never took place in our family. Actually, there was an unspoken rule that such things were never to be discussed.  This was mothers rule.  It is an incredible understatement to say that my mother had emotional baggage.

One of the things my mother has never been able to discuss is her unhappiness with her marriage to my father. Though she never talked about it, all the signs were there. This all became clear to me when I went to stay with my parents for a couple weeks after my wife and I decided to divorce. My mother asked me, 'what is it like to get divorced?" It wasn't just the words, but also the way she asked the question, I could tell that she had spent a good deal of time considering it for herself.

Mom didn't have a job after marrying dad, his one income paid for everything the family needed. It really was a different economy back then. Besides, working outside the home really wasn't anything a married woman did. Mom carried with her many of the common social taboos of the times. But I also think my mother liked being a "kept woman," so to speak. She scoffed at women's liberation. She was a status quo kinda girl. So, it didn't take long for her to become dependent on my father for everything.

As mom grew in her unhappiness with dad, I was having my own problems. Since mom couldn't bring herself to admit her unhappiness with dad, I became her whipping boy/scapegoat. As mom had problems with dad, and yet could not bring herself to deal with dad, she took her frustrations out on me. This method was all the more convenient for her because my problems were an easy, believable target to project onto.

There was something else at play here in the family dynamic that I learned about when I was sent to a shrink for a year after I had an emotional breakdown in high school. I really didn't get much out of those sessions, except mom had a competition issue. She really needed to be the center of attention in all things. Whenever something of importance happened in the family, she felt the need to draw the attention to herself, even when it really had nothing to do with her. She always found a way to be the one to announce things, and to receive the attention. Regardless of who in the family had done something, she made sure she was the one telling other people, and that other people were responding to her for it. Even things like my attempting suicide, she saw as competition for attention.

For her self centeredness and inability to properly deal with her own unhappiness, someone needed to be her fall guy, and I was it.