Categories
Commentary

Heartless Killers….

Ever look at a headline and you think wow, someone found that interesting enough to write about? (Quit smirking. This one doesn’t count.)

Screenshot_13I knew these brats were up to no good. But who knew J. Crew was still a thing? Their crap never fit me and always cost too much, but the pictures were pretty. I looked at the web site and was surprised how “mall cheap” the stuff they’re trying to peddle looks. Back in my day J. Crew was all full of khaki and muted pastels, clothes that models wore on pretend sailing adventures and picnics by the river, soft cotton sweaters that looked like they’d feel really nice between one’s hand and a preppie pixie’s left breast.

And Millennials, soulless destroyers that they are, are strangling all that. Just out of spite, I’m sure. It’s the pent-up fury of a generation’s collectively denied sexual dysfunction. Probably.

Categories
Commentary

Is It Acceptable To Be An Angry White Guy…

1200

When what I’m angry about is all the other angry white guys who also happen to be stupid, gullible, rage-addled, entitled douchebags?

Honestly, I’d made a conscious vow to lay low over the summer and on into November, partly to continue work on the novel that won’t seem to end, partly to enjoy more time with my family and friends, but mostly to alleviate the caustic, cumulative effects of a long and bitter political season.

I couldn’t do it. I went to my doctor the other day and discovered exceedingly high–dangerously high–levels of bile in my system, as well as a large amount of detritus lodged in my craw. Both, I was warned, can be life-threatening if not addressed swiftly. Luckily for me, both conditions can be mitigated (there is no total cure, one can only address the symptoms) through incision and drainage, releasing pressure and toxins as one would lance a boil.

Consider much of what’s to come a direct result of that process. And be warned. I’ve sat quietly through months of Trump, and the resulting immune response has left me brimming with rancorous puss (what? the boil isn’t the metaphor you would have chosen to carry forward?) to drain onto the page.

So, I guess I’m back early. I know a few of you won’t be rejoicing, but tough. Read at your own peril.

Categories
Journal

What Is Up With The French?

rude-frenchI’m a situationally humble person, when it comes to myself and my country (but not my kids, who are awesome, and if you’d like I can spend a few hours telling you why…) and as such one of the stereotypes I’ve fallen for over the years has been the idea of “the Ugly American abroad”–you know, the loud, boorish guy in a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and Nikes grumping around Paris complaining about not getting ice in his Coke and that all the locals don’t have the courtesy to speak English. I’m not the only one.  There are web sites and entire chapters of travel books dedicated to teaching Americans how to tone it down, lay low, and fit in, enough in fact that an intelligent, sensitive individual can certainly be excused for adopting a preemptive inferiority complex verging dangerously close to shame.

No longer.  Not after this trip.

Now before I go further, a caveat: I have a dear friend who lives in Marseilles and who may just be the sweetest, kindest, and most considerate person I have ever met–and let’s be clear about what I’m saying: I met Mr. Rogers once, and my friend Agnès is right in that ballpark. For many years, I held her up as a representative of her nation, but lately I’ve begun to suspect she is an anomaly.  Why?

Because every French person I encountered on my 24 days at large in the Wild West was an asshole–and when I got together with my friends, one of them relayed to me a traumatizing story–of being bullied by, you guessed it, the French.

20120604_123154In Badlands National Park, descending a precipitous portion of trail called “the 140 Steps” which is pretty much a cable ladder secured into a slope too steep to scramble and too unstable to switchback, we were in line, taking turns–my wife was about halfway down, moving slowly because, while she’s extremely athletic she’s also a little nervous about heights.  Two children were on the rungs between her and the top–the kids being a primary concern, because the steps near the top are spread widest and are  the most difficult.  From behind us, a shrill voice breaks into our quiet patience.

“Excuse, excuse!” A middle aged couple pushes past me and the rest of my party in turn, “Make room, excuse!” and when the person up next doesn’t move, the woman says, “If you step aside we will go down much quickly and be out of your way,” then shoves herself onto the the ladder, edging past a 12 year old girl, and heads down.  The husband follows.  The others on the ladder make room, mostly in fear of getting knocked off, but my wife won’t budge.

“You might as well slow down because I’m a little afraid of heights and you’re not getting past me,” she says, with a hint of fake laughter to keep things light.  But the woman keeps coming.  My wife makes another attempt at friendly, but unyielding banter, but the French chick fires back snark.  At the bottom, she cracks something sharp and in French–I couldn’t hear what from my perch above, which is a damn shame because I can speak a little French, but the tone was clear enough.  We shook it off, though, appreciated having someone external to complain about, and moved on.

Several days later, in Yellowstone, at a Pay Shower concession, there were about a dozen stalls, all occupied, and six guys standing in line.  This guy comes in just as there’s an opening and heads right for it.  “Yo!” Someone says. The potential shower poacher flinches–he heard it–but keeps resolutely going for the shower.  “Yo, man!” The guy at the front of the line is a biker on his way to Sturgis–and he doesn’t look like one of those guys who bikes two weeks a year when he’s not Vice President of Marketing back in Sandusky, Ohio.  The guy looks up, we’re all glaring at him, and he slouches to the end of the line.  Isolated incident?  I’d think so, but TWO MORE GUYS come in the next six or seven minutes, all  of them ignoring the line, and in no time at all they’re shamed to their rightful place, where they all start jabbering in French–some of it fairly unpleasant.

I briefly turned to face them, “Avez-vous des lignes en France? Je pensais que nous étions les “barbarians”?

That showed ’em–but damn, what were the odds I’d remember the word for “lines?”

So, we go on to meet up with my friends in Jackson Hole, and Karen has a story to tell that beats ours all to hell–though when she starts, we’ve no idea it fits in with our theme of the boorish French.

Karen towed a camper trailer behind her husbands truck up from Colorado to meet up with a bunch of us.  It’s a big-ass truck and she hadn’t much experience with the trailer.  When she gets to the first campground it is full, and they send her on to the next one that is further out and a bit more rugged.  She parks to register and discovers she’s scored the last site–hooray, right!  While she fills out the paper work, the campground host suggests she send one of her children to go sit in the site so if anyone else comes they won’t get all excited about finding an open site.  Her 12-year old girl is dispatched to sit on the picnic table, while Karen accidentally backs her camper into a ditch–not a bad ditch, but enough to require some extrication using a jack, with the assistance of the campground host.

About this time, the daughter comes back, a little shaken, reporting that a couple pulled into the campsite, ignored her when she said her family already registered, and proceeded to unpack everything in their car and pile in on the picnic table and around the site–presumably to claim ownership, but who knows.  When my friend finally frees her rig and goes to the site for some serious WTFing, the stubborn squatters want nothing to do with her or her receipt–they ignore her, they pooh pooh her and argue in–you guessed in–heavy French accents.  Ultimately, the campground host must be summoned to intervene and evict the bastards, and even then they leave reluctantly. Later in the evening, they repeatedly drive and walk by Karen’s campsite, glaring and staring.

A pattern emerges.

c25-ext-1-300Utah was lousy with French–in the campground in Arches we were surrounded by French families in rented RVs.  Companies like CruiseAmerica must advertise like crazy in France, because everywhere we went the ubiquitous 30″ behemoths were spitting our hordes of loud, angry-looking French families who, while slamming doors and stomping around a lot, otherwise remained happily inside their hermetically sealed vehicles except for a lot of trips to the restrooms–where they could be found washing dishes in the sinks, even though NPS French traffic circlehas added some very convenient dishwashing stations to many campground facilities.  And lest I be too subtle with my warnings, consider who is driving when you’re navigating all those western switchbacks, and that they’ve spent all of their lives steering Peugeots and Citroens into virtual anarchy.

I tried being nice, even threw in  some “mercis” and “saluts” when I was navigating the more crowded trails in Arches, but mostly I got grunts in response.  When we were shadowed one day by a tour bus–“Le Bus” painted on the side–I reached my fill.  At three different 2014_LeBus_793.x446trailheads we ran into “Le Bus,” as it disgorged its herd of unruly French, elbowing each other as badly as they pushed their way through and past everyone else.  They must really not have lines in France, I realized–it has to be a cultural thing–this almost Darwinist “me first” behavior.  At one point, I stood with a group of Japanese–no strangers to emerging from tour buses like a rising tide–and noted their wide-eyed horror at the toddler-like ego-driven comportment of the French. “It’s entitlement,” my wife growled.  “That has to be it.  Cultural narcissism.”

I’m not ready to adopt that extreme position, but I was almost pushed to my limit at our last destination, in Mesa Verde park, where our neighbors were a French family with 5 seemingly feral kids who, when the father wasn’t berating them aggressively, ran roughshod through everyone else’s sites–the oldest two, boys of about 7 and 8–were running about, dualing with tree branch swords, and at one point ran out into the lane yelling “Dragon! Dragon! Tuez le dragon!” and proceeded to thwap the passing vehicle multiple times with their tree screaming-baby1limbs, while Mama and Papa stared blandly–all the while ignoring the shrieking, screaming 2 year old, who they were still bottle feeding formula (I watched Papa mix and shake), and who would continue to wail like a banshee for the three days straight.  I recalled a really patronizing article I once read in the New York Times, about how French children are taught their place–to be seen and not heard–while Americans let their kids run roughshod until they become demanding self-absorbed assholes who think they are the center of the universe. Well, this kid was certainly heard by everyone within a 4 mile radius–she sounded so dire that vultures were circling–and I instructed my kids, “when a baby cries for hours, it’s my experience that they’re usually sitting in a pile of shit or under some other sort of discomfort. You ignore a 4 year old who has tantrums–when it’s a baby, you pay attention.”

bt500bFinally, and perhaps most horribly, were the signs in the showers at Mesa Verde, which read “Please do not use shower drains for solid waste. They cannot handle it. Please use toilets in the restrooms next door.”  I mean: what the fuck is that?  I don’t really want to know, I think, but all I can come up with is it’s some kind of sick-ass French bidet thing….*

Because, really. Who’s ugly now?

 

*okay, I’ll admit it–bidets are awesome, but they freak out most of my fellow Americans, and no way to I pass up a chance at a cheap laugh.

Categories
Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words (late) Ray Bradbury: If Only We Had Taller Been

I posted an NPR video a few days ago that featured this poem, and the video below, because it is SO DAMNED AWESOME, and because I’ve been reminded lately of how America, distracted by fear, anger, hate, suspicion, partisan caterwauling and self-serving rhetoric, has surrendered our collective zeal for greatness, settling for loudmouthed mediocrity.  I intend to address this in the near future, when I’ve collected my thoughts, but in the meantime I’m posting this video again because the accomplishment is mind-boggling.

ray_bradbury_writing“Nine year old boys are always finding me out.  A ten year old boy ran up to me a few years ago and said, ‘Mister Bradbury,’ and I said yes, he said “that book of yours, The Martian Chronicles?’ and I said, Yes. He said, ‘On page ninety-two?’ and I said, yeh, He said, ‘you know you have the moons of Mars rising in the east?’ and I said, Yes. He said, ‘No.’  So I hit him. I wasn’t about to be bullied by a small boy…..Seriously, I’ve been hoping…as we got closer to Mars, and the dust cleared, that we’d see a lot of Martians standing around with huge signs that read, BRADBURY WAS RIGHT.”
–Ray Bradbury, on the eve of the Mariner 9 probe entering Mars orbit, November 12,1971

“If Only We Had Taller Been”

The fence we walked between the years
Did bounce us serene.
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We’d reach our hands to touch and almost touch the sky,
If we could reach and touch, we said,
‘Twould teach us, not to ,never to, be dead.

We ached and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God’s cuff, His hem,
We would not have to  go with them
Who’ve gone before,
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching, tall, that they might keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistene Ceiling,
And God’s hand come down the other way
To measure man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.

Short man, Large dream, I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Good is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!

Categories
sheer awesomeness Tunesday Uncategorized

Tunesday: Jill Sobule Wants “Our America Back”

Jill Sobule always brings the goods.  She’s funny, she’s cute, and she’s crazy cool.  She says a bad word in this song, too–fair warning.  She does THE BEST concerts, too.

Categories
video

X: 4th of July

Another one of my very favorite bands, the legendary “X”

Categories
Commentary

“When In The Course of Human Events….”

1280px-Signing_of_Declaration_of_Independence_by_Armand-Dumaresq,_c1873
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
________________________________________
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton
Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton
Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean
Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark
Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Categories
Funny and/or Strange

Happy Scare The Shit Out of Your Dog Day

10527601_10154378816465078_4785437202459364629_n

Categories
Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words of Wisdom: W.E.B. Du Bois

m-3187One of the great writers and thinkers in the American legacy, the powerful and wonderfully controversial, W.E.B. Du Bois stands tall, his work growing in stature and significance as time passes, in the way certain monoliths seem not to dwindle in the the distance but rather to assert themselves by virtue of scale and prominence in comparison to the lesser things around them.

“I sit with Shakespeare, and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out of the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed Earth and the tracery of stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?”
—W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Categories
Commentary

What Did You Do on Memorial Day?

I woke up, did some chores, went to the home improvement store to buy some gardening supplies, visited a friend to drop off a box of onion starts I’d grown from seed, ran by the grocery store, went to the feed & supply store to buy some tomato seedlings to replace the few that got frosted the other night, went to my in-laws’ house for burgers and corn on the grill, came home and planted tomatoes with my wife, then chased her around the house a few laps when the kids went off with their friends, then sat down at the computer and thought about Memorial Day a little bit.  Invariably, my pondering turned to what might very well be the most memorable and definitive photographic image to emerge from our ongoing, unending 24-year-old middle east war.

arlington

If you haven’t seen this picture before, and you live in the USA, then I’m wondering where the heck you’ve been?  It certainly haunts me–now more than ever, as the very forces we originally sought to defeat have reared their heads once more in the form of the baathist, Saddamite front known as ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever the hell it is called today, claws at all that the most optimistic among us hoped to build. It begs the question: how fucked up is this war?

We should never have gone. We should never have left.

civil-war-garWhen I visit the cemeteries of my ancestors around Westsylvania, I am invariably proud beyond all reason of the “G.A.R.” starts on the graves of men of a certain generation. Likewise the veterans of the war to end all wars,” and the ensuing “war to end all wars.” Both my grandfathers from the verdant Appalachian hills of Bedford and Somerset counties to the seeming wastelands of Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya–one as a heavy maintenance mechanic whose service from 1942 through 1946 would take him from northern Africa to Italy, France, Belgium, and ultimately to Berlin. The other was crewman on a B-25 bomber beginning in the second battle El Alamein through the invasion of Italy. Before the war, he was a farm kid who had never been near an airplane–but within months after volunteering for service he was flying over Egypt dropping bombs on Nazis. How strange is that?

My father and uncles went to Viet Nam–three tours for dad, a navy man who for the rest of his life didn’t like to sit with his back to Asian people in restaurants.  He voted republican against the long, pro-union legacy of his family until the infamous “swift boating” of former Presidential candidate John Kerry.  It was the only time I ever saw him worked up about politics–“Those boys in the Swifts,” he seethed to me one night, “riding plywood in the rivers and deltas, they were sitting ducks. I knew a lot of ’em, and most didn’t make it home.”

I felt no compulsion to join the volunteer army of the mid-1980s, at a time when the only wars we were fighting were with small pond bullies and narco-despots who, after imageswe put them in power, refused to be our puppets.  Despite what you’ll hear from Reaganites, the 80’s weren’t a great time for patriotism–the only other bully on the block was the Soviet Union, and we all knew if we got into it with them it would be “please place your tray in the locked, upright position, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.”  We watched movies like “The Day After,” and took strange comfort in the encompassing fatalism of the time. If you’re going to go, go big. Right?

It was about that time that I ask my grandfather, a fiercely republican businessman, if it bothered him that I had no plans to serve, and he told me that under no circumstances was I to even consider volunteering. His exact words, if I recall correctly, were “Unless something bad enough to need fighting comes along you stay the heck away from that monkey actors’s dog and pony show. (an unusual rhetoric flourish I recall with great emotion, as it reflects my own mature writing style with eerie accuracy).  I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting a real evil to have my grandson used as cannon fodder in a bunch of penny ante conflicts our idiot-in-chief  is using to distract the voters from the worst economic policies since Herbert Hoover.”

My grandfathers’ generation was deified, and rightly so, and my father’s was largely ignored (he said neither he nor any veteran he knew every experienced anger or derogatory treatment from civilians, contrary to the stereotypes of so many Viet Nam Era-themed movies, and he considered himself lucky to be unrecognized–he didn’t want a parade or medals, just to get on with his life–a process that would require roughly 30 years and a lot of unhappiness for all of us).

Today, we do a better job of treating our returning soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with the respect and recognition they deserve, but I fear that we let that respect for the men bleed over into the politicians from both parties who have misused these brave and determined young men and women and shortchanged so many of them.

There is a lot for our leaders to answer for–and I’d start with the sneaky policy of drawing down the regular military under the guise of tax reductions, then shunting our endless war onto the shoulders of the men and women of the National Guard.  Add to that the despicably low compensation our military receives, and the porous post-service health and wellness care that leaves so many of them broken and lost.

Even as I say this, I know that there are some who would call me unpatriotic, especially on this of all days, but I stand by that–especially on this day.  We can think what we want about wars–from the craziest right wing ‘burn down the world” proponent of expressing American Exceptionalism through carpet bombing to the hippiest dippiest sandal-soled anti-war bunny-hugger–but we need to get on the same page, the SPARE NO EXPENSE page, when it comes to taking care of these kids and young people (the use of the National Guard as a sustained combat force has led to a much higher than ideal number of older veterans serving for longer periods and leaving larger  families behind) who have left parts of their bodies or, in the case of our epidemic of PTSD casualities, parts of their souls, in the sand and on mountainsides on the other side of the world.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863