26 October 2010

Life: That thing which happens when making plans

Well, I thought I was finished with this blog. I grew weary of the outright hatred some idiots spewed in the comments section; deleting the comments was doing nothing for me. I was still angry at these morons, especially the "Christian" moron who said I needed to die and burn in hell because I am pro-choice and I support the rights of homosexuals to get married. The result of those comments was me vowing to stop writing this blog and I'm sure there are many other bloggers out there who have felt the same way from time to time. I love the internet, folks, I truly do. The net is a wonderful tool for doing research to get past the talking heads in the media. The caveat I see, though, is that the anonymity of the internet has emboldened some who would otherwise be called cowards. You know these people, they are the ones who would never confront someone in real-life because they are afraid, but give them a keyboard and an internet connection and PRESTO, they become the big badass!

But I digress. So, as I was saying, I had vowed to not write this blog ever again. Then I tried to enroll at Hinds County Comm College and grew so frustrated with their lunacy that I walked away. Then Tulane University opened a campus in Madison, Mississippi, about 30 minutes from my home. So, I wrote about it but then again vowed to not write anymore. Then, yesterday, my writing professor mentioned she had read my blog and thought it was very good. She also told me after class that I should not let the idiots get to me; if I stop writing, they win. That was a complete kick in the head because it made perfect sense! I have never backed down from a challenge and this challenge has galvanized me. I am going to start writing regularly again.

That said, I am going to share a couple of my writing assignments with you. When class first began, we were instructed to write an essay on something we felt strongly about. Mine was a testimonial to military service. Those friends who have served will understand the essay and no explanation will be necessary, some of you may not understand and I welcome your questions about the subject. So, without further ado, here is one of my better essays for your reading pleasure.

The Sheepdog
A long time ago, when I was little more than a cocky 19 year old sailor, I heard an analogy from a crusty, combat-hardened Chief Petty Officer; that analogy would stay with me for my entire military career and the rest of my life. In 1987, when I joined the Navy, the overall attitude toward military personnel seemed to be one of disgust, distrust, and disrespect. In 1988, in Norfolk, Virginia, I could not help but see signs that read, “Dogs and Sailors Keep Off the Grass”. Back then, it was hard to keep a positive attitude about being in the military, especially when every business in the area seemed to be on the look-out for young military men they could rip-off.
It was on my first ship, USS Newport (LST-1179), that I heard this analogy during a mid-night watch. “Son”, he said to me, “the majority of civilians in this country are like sheep.” I asked him what he meant; he replied, “Civilians are like sheep; easily led and easily fooled.” I stifled a laugh as the Chief continued, “We, active-duty military, police, and fire-fighters, are the protectors of the civilian populace; much like the sheepdog that guards and protects the sheep.” He continued this analogy, “The sheepdog keeps the peace and protects the sheep and the sheep fear the sheepdog; they look at the sheepdog and see that he is not far removed from the wolves, weasels, and poachers that threaten them. They fear the sheepdog because they do not want to see the real threats to their lives. They do not want to see the wolves, weasels, and poachers stalking them, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting sheep.”
Initially, I scoffed at this analogy. I told the Chief I thought he was nuts and there was no way civilians could be that dumb. Unphased, he continued his story, “You see, after a while, the sheep become complacent and comfortable; sure in their security and, like a spoiled child, they challenge the authority of the sheepdog. They start to question the need for the sheepdog; they reason the sheepdog is no longer needed because their world is safe. The sheep want the sheepdog to go away so they do not have to be afraid of him anymore.” Slowly, I started to understand what he was talking about. The message hit home when he finished his analogy. He said, “And so it goes that the sheep start chipping away at the sheepdog’s resources and authority until he can do almost nothing to protect the sheep. It is at this moment of weakness when the wolves, weasels and poachers attack; they see the newly vulnerable sheep and the toothless sheepdog and pounce, secure in the knowledge the sheepdog is sufficiently weakened and unable to fight back decisively. The sheepdog still fights gallantly and mightily to turn the predators back. Unfortunately, the sheepdog cannot prevent the loss of sheep to the predators. Ultimately, after a long and arduous fight, the sheepdog turns the tide. It is at this moment the sheep will start asking the sheepdog ‘Why oh why did you not protect us?’ They turn on the sheepdog and blame him for the lax security that left them vulnerable.”
“So,” I asked, “the sheep then vote to what, rearm the sheepdog with the necessary resources to defeat the predators?” “Yep, you got it.” was the Chief’s reply, “do you know what comes next?” I told him I did not know, so he continued with the story, “The sheep vote to rearm the sheepdog. They send the sheepdog off to foreign lands to defeat the predators. Unfortunately, after a while, some sheep will start questioning the need to fight the predators. These sheep will start raising protests against the sheepdog’s fight and blame the sheepdog for starting the fight. These sheep will continue to protest until action is taken to once again cut-off the sheepdog’s resources. The result of this action causes the sheepdog to withdraw in disgrace because the sheep he has fought so hard to protect and defend are now more worried about what the predators will think of them rather than the sheepdog eliminating the predators.”
That analogy amazed and dismayed me. I could not understand why the protected sheep would turn on their protector. I also had no idea that I would be at front-row center to witness this analogy in action. Prior to July 1990, I had seen scorn and hostility toward me and my fellow sailors from the civilian populace. Then, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait and started the occupation of Kuwait. Stories came across the airwaves of Iraqi soldiers raiding Kuwaiti hospitals, ripping premature Kuwaiti infants from their incubators and bringing the incubators to Iraq for Iraqi premature infants. Reports flew from Kuwait that Iraqi soldiers were raping Kuwaiti girls as young as 6, making their parents watch until they would beat the family to death to save ammunition.
Predictably, the American military was kicked into high gear to liberate Kuwait; the sheer number of troops, planes and ships that deployed was staggering. In March of 1991, after successfully defeating the Iraqis and driving them out of Kuwait, we returned home. We returned home to heroes’ welcomes; yellow ribbons and American flags were flying everywhere and scores of banners around town exclaimed, “Thank You! We Love Our Troops!” The patriotic fervor was intoxicating! Almost instantly, we were celebrities! We were greeted with keys to the city and kisses from beauty pageant queens! I myself felt the pang of embarrassment; sure in the knowledge that I did not deserve such fan-fare. Still, I was amazed at the outpouring of gratitude from the civilian community.
Had I known ahead of time what really caused this change in attitude, I probably would have looked at it with a jaundiced eye. What happened was, after the mass deployment, all these “Military Towns” became ghost towns. Area businesses saw their income drop like a stone. With their husbands/wives/sons/daughters halfway around the world in harm’s way, the military dependents stayed home to watch the news and checked their mailboxes sometimes two and three times a day. E-mail wasn’t around yet, so our only communication was through the Post Office; and it really sucked on the ship when the helo would drop the mail bags on the flight deck and one would fall over the side. So, basically, nobody went out to town; spouses and children went to the family support group on base. Cell phones were not around yet, so families stayed by the phone, hoping upon hope they would get a call and at the same time praying they wouldn’t. The long and short of it was revenue streams dried up and a lot of businesses almost folded. THIS was the phenomenon that shook the area and made them realize the economic impact the military had on the area. The good-will that was in the air lasted for a while but, predictably, the sheep began to talk about how the sheepdog needed to be disarmed. Military bases were put on chopping blocks, force draw-downs were the order of the day. The defense budget was slashed and, again, predictably, the sheepdog was being disarmed and castrated by the sheep. There was a new wind blowing across the country; we needed to be friends with everyone in the world. We needed to apologize to the world for our callous behavior in driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait; we needed to beat our guns into plowshares and bring peace to the world!
The blood-letting of draw-downs and base closures continued unabated for what seemed like forever.
Then, on September 11, 2001, the most devastating attack ever on American soil happened. Two jet-liners flew into the World Trade Center and killed close to 3,000 innocent civilians. Once again, the sheep bleated and moaned about how the sheepdog didn’t protect them. The re-arming again ramped up as troops deployed to Afghanistan and the pro-sheepdog attitude was back.
Now, however, even though the sheepdog is still fighting valiantly on behalf of the sheep, the sheep are starting to turn on the sheepdog again. Attention whores like Cindy Sheehan get more airtime than the troops in the fight. On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died; and so did 13 troops in Afghanistan. These brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country barely got a mention in the press; the press fawned over the Jackson family for weeks. These troops came home in flag-draped coffins; their shattered families mourned and, in some cases, the Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas protested the funerals, yelling slogans like, “Hooray for dead soldiers!” and “God hates fags!” So, not only did some of these families not get any attention from the media, they were also subject to ridicule by the whacko crazies from Kansas.
As those families heard “Taps” played and their tears fell like a summer thunderstorm, the rest of the country was wailing about poor Michael Jackson’s death. Those families went home after the funerals to grieve and try to rebuild their shattered lives; the media was announcing over and over how Jackson’s death had such an impact on the country. For weeks the media cried and moaned about the Jacksons; the city of Los Angeles put on a memorial service (that they later had to pay for out of their already strapped coffers because the Jackson family certainly wasn’t going to foot that bill) and the entire nation grieved over the death of the “King of Pop”. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, 13 families were still grieving and dealing with the slap in the face the media dealt them by not saying a word.
Troops are coming home, their bodies mutilated by road-side bombs and suicide bombers. They are coming home to a country that cares more about an entertainer that had been suspected of molesting children than the wounded sheepdog coming home because his body is too damaged to allow him to fight on. Wounded military men and women languish in hospitals that are rife with moldy walls, rats, and God knows what; Lindsey Lohan is in the news for weeks concerning her continued alcohol and drug abuse, rehab, and jail time. A soldier wounded in action comes home to an Army that denies he is wounded and withholds desperately needed care. The Veterans Administration withholds a disability rating, so that soldier quietly dies, waiting for a “grateful nation” to show their gratitude; Washington crows about increasing welfare and food stamps for a section of the population whose majority has never contributed anything productive to society.
The sheepdog is tired and wounded but the sheep don’t care. They will just continue kicking him until he can’t fight anymore; the “grateful nation” is in the middle of a countdown to self-destruction.
Maybe once the sheepdog is dead, the celebrities and professional athletes will rise to the occasion and take up the fight. No they won’t.

Let me know what you think.

2 comments:

  1. Well said, sir. From one old Sheepdog to another, we ain't dead yet, brother!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sally - PelahatchieNovember 5, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    I wish you would run for a government position. We need your kind of man in local and national politics. JMHO

    ReplyDelete