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Daughters, Sons, Patriots, and Me

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One Brick at a Time @ Responsibility

My apologies for not posting regularly these past several weeks, especially since I’d promised to attempt a minimal once a week update. I had considered blowing this whole enterprise off as a wasted or failed effort, but again, reconsidered. As I promised in my last post, I planned to give an account of my absence – I think this will go a bit further than that…

Why this extended absence? Illness, anger, and an unusual despondency are the straightforward explanations. Very nearly two weeks were consumed with a flu that kicked my old tired ass around the work place, home, and… “does it really make sense to disappear on your motorcycle when you have pneumonia?” While my wife is absolutely right to pose the question as though I were a teenager, it is also true that sometimes, that little teenage rebellion might be worthwhile. Little rides like this help me. As I mentioned to an online blogger buddy “I needed some time by myself to recharge, get my shit straight, and screw my head back on.”

While that explains part of my failure to provide regular posts, the other parts are at once more personal and more public. I received a few phone calls and several posts enquiring as to my well being – all much appreciated! So, on the other end of a little despondency, and in response to those initial communications I threw up the last post with every intention of getting right back to business. Here’s where the story gets a little squirrely.

With great thanks to a gift card to The MacStore from my daughter and son-in-law, I purchased a new Mac Book Pro. I’ve often found that the quickest and most direct route to learning something is “total immersion.” I resolved to avoid my desktop until I was reasonably proficient with my new laptop… I’ve answered many emails LATE because I failed to sit down at my desktop and check mail. Though I am getting the hang of my Mac 😀  Poor excuse, but it is the explanation of record. You have my sincerest apologies for not answering emails much sooner.

I ran across several [emails] that both entertained and admonished – which made me rethink continuing this blog. I received several versions of a very similar sentiment: “You said once a week,” “Hey, WTF? Once a month updates??” “Get your lazy ass back to work, and don’t make excuses, POST SOMETHING.” “You need to post something more often than once each month or so…” From a subject line: “I sure hope you are on vacation” Thanks to all of you that wrote or called – even being called a “lazy shit” made me feel special 😀

What does that have to do with the anger and despondency? Daughters and patriots? So here’s the post!

T.A. Barnhart, a contributor at Blue Oregon, wrote an article on July Fourth of last year entitled We are all patriots, not just arrogant generals with big mouths. In it, he castigates General Bednarek for the following statement:

“Honor. Duty. Patriotism,” Bednarek said. “Unfortunately, there’s way too many people in our country who have forgotten it, don’t understand it or never got it.” – Savannah (GA) Morning News

By the nature and tone of Barnhart’s reporting, I suspect he wasn’t there for the whole event. I suspect this because Barnhart doesn’t marshal any other real evidence of Bednarek’s supposed offence, and yet spends a tremendous amount of space attributing various vile character defects to the general for that one statement. He variously calls the general or his words a “fool,” “grotesque, shameful, and unprofessional,” “And stupid.” Read the article, you’ll pick up Barnhart’s “inappropriate, irresponsible and reprehensible” comments about the general.

In addition to the character attacks Barnhart launches without one whit of evidence, he also attributes beliefs to the general that are patently of Barnhart’s own invention.   According to Barnhart the general’s arrogance “is unbecoming of an officer, an American and, above all, a patriot.” First, the notion that the general was directing his comments at Barnhart is an absurdity. It’s common to many people. Imagine a manager, not wishing to call out a few employees, mentions that “everyone needs to do [enter chosen task here] better.” A fair share of employees will immediately take offense even though none was proffered. Second, to throw out a challenge that the general’s words were unbecoming an American and patriot reveal Barnhart to be a hypocrite. How is it that Barnhart is allowed to define patriotism and denies that same right to the general? Simple, Barnhart is a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, self-centered hypocrite.

I didn’t comment on that post, nor did I comment on his follow up a week later entitled, Fear, anger, and a son too far away that was loaded with more unreasonable vitriol. Except there he does precisely what he accuses but never demonstrates the general of doing. He claims his anger, then accuses the American people (hyperbole or not, this is BS):

I am angry at the American people whose self-centered, piss-ignorant fearfulness (where is our cherished trust in God?) let them approve with hearty cheers and huzzahs the tossing of their children into the maw of war. The steadfast refusal of too many Americans to learn a goddamn thing about the world and people who are neither bad nor wrong but merely “foreign” has resulted in this obscene war and occupation. The blood of all those who’ve died or been torn apart by this war is on the hands of an American populace with no desire to care about the rest of the world unless they can feel all warm and fuzzy via a tax-deductible charity.

Why didn’t I comment on the posts? The reason was simple. His son was in harm’s way and I had two daughters and two sons-in-law in the same sandbox. I understand being angry. In fact, I believe Barnhart is a patriot, just as I believe the general is a patriot. More to the point, I agree with the general, that there are too many today that have “forgotten… don’t understand… or never got…” honor, duty, and patriotism. Witness the past (ENRON et al) and current crop of corporate thieves (pick a bank that passed their risk on to his fellow citizens) who have raped our economy. Moreover, think about the various groups of American citizens saying things like “Goddam America,” etc.

Hmmm. Should I assume Barnhart was addressing me as one of those “self-centered, piss-ignorant” Americans? Perhaps. I didn’t, but perhaps he was referring to people like me. I disagree, strongly, with a great number of things Barnhart writes, but I rarely doubt his love of community, and by extension, his love of country.

I was passionately opposed to the war in Iraq, as was my wife and many of my friends. Many, on the other hand, supported the invasion of Iraq. So why was I angry? Because my president (yes, I say that, even though many on the left wouldn’t call Bush their president) still hasn’t got my kids out of Iraq, and more important, he [the president] just sent one back for another tour of duty. I am angry at my government for not delivering on one of the promises made during a campaign. Moreover, I am angry at writers like T. A. Barnhart who create a clamor out of imagined insults and contribute to the very divisiveness they claim to abhor.

At this point I think it’s worth defining patriot. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first listed meaning of the word is rare or obsolete as a compound “a fellow-countryman, compatriot.” However, the primary meaning with a caveat about usage before the late seventeenth century is:

2.a. One who disinterestedly or self-sacrificingly exerts himself to promote the wellbeing of his country; ‘one whose ruling passion is the love of his country’ (J.); one who maintains and defends his country’s freedom or rights.

In this use, at first, as in French (see Littré), with ‘good’, ‘true’, ‘worthy’, or other commendatory adjective: cf. ‘good citizen’. ‘Patriot’ for ‘good patriot’ is rare before 1680. At that time often applied to one who supported the rights of the country against the King and court.

Why mention the definition? Because of Barnhart’s title “We are all patriots…” This kind of political correctness is a chain and anchor to mediocrity. Let’s not indulge in this kind of nonsense. Here’s a wonderful bit of dialogue from one of my favorite Pixar flicks, The Incredibles that demonstrates the point:

Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Angry – and maybe a little despondent that I’m not sure I’ll change a thing. Do I take the long view or the short view? Do I stop this silly writing and activism, or keep on going? Like Barnhart’s challenge to the general, I’d match my patriotism against Barnhart’s any time – and probably for similar reasons. I’m an optimistic pessimist – I believe countries, communities, groups, and even individuals are capable of change… whether I believe in it or not.

I stole the above photo from Tom over at Responsibility – click it for a great post. I’m working on my next brick. I said thanks for the encouragement earlier, but it wasn’t specific enough – thanks to Tom, Jeff, Mr. Grim, Tony, Andy, Cindy, Moira, and Billy.

Cheers all!!

Let’s keep marching forward.

  1. May 13th, 2010 at 21:14 | #1

    I’ve been back and forth with my own father about the war in Iraq. I don’t like to argue about it too much because of my knowledge of why we went in. It’s useless knowledge since I can’t express it. With your background, Steve, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I am certain that the conflict in Iraq was inevitable and necessary. I am also certain the invasion was brilliantly planned. Unfortunately, what came after “major combat operations” was run like a state fair complete with town fools, sewing circle gossip mongers, and some idiot too drunk to stand. It’s shameful there was no pacification strategy, occupation strategy, or exit strategy and instead relied on Iraqis to throw up their arms and praise us in unison. In this, our leaders failed us. As soon as a leader makes a mistake, you can count on public support to flounder and, well, here we are. Despite the Duelfer report findings the whole world is programmed to say “there were no weapons of mass destruction.” That said, you’re right – you were promised that the war would end. I expect you would be very angry with that many loved ones over there and for a number of times. I expect it should anger you even more to learn the fed is looking at cutting military pay now to decrease the deficit.

    I truly missed your postings. Even angry postings from you are enlightening reading. I don’t generally care to read anyone’s personal blog posts, but I found myself reading even those. You have a talent to see layers into a political issue or family situation and then put it in words for us to digest.

    I’m glad you chose to post. I was supposed to be in bed an hour ago in order to get at least 6 hours sleep, but I figured an hour of sleep was well worth reading and responding to a Finsterbrick.

    Lastly, I have a fairly quirky spiritual view so I won’t go so far as to say I’ll be praying for your loved ones, but I will be doing my reasonable facsimile with all accompanying intentions. I’ll probably go back and re-read this comment tomorrow and wish I hadn’t posted so tired (2 blood pressure meds and 1 cholesterol pill at the end of the day leave me woozy).
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..In Medias Res =-.

  2. May 13th, 2010 at 21:46 | #2

    Glad you are back, Steven. Missed your posts and your uncanny ability to communicate. Though I have never met you, through your posts I feel I know you better than many of my ‘friends.’
    Am glad your health has returned. Hope to read more of your great prose whether weekly or monthly is your call. You owe us nothing and we appreciate what we get. You have a talent and it enriches those fortunate enough to find it.
    Tom
    .-= tom Vail´s last blog ..Responses to Comments – May 12, 2010 =-.

  3. Mr. Grim
    May 14th, 2010 at 09:54 | #3

    See Jeff? I told you he was probably sick. =)

    Glad to see you are finally back at the keys you old curmudgeon!

    A Mac? Really?

  4. May 15th, 2010 at 08:55 | #4

    @Jeff

    Glad you stayed up for the read Jeff. I’ve been round & round about the war in Iraq with a few folks, and I suppose I’m in the same spot – not really keen on arguing about it anymore. I’ve been appropriately admonished by my daughters and their hubbies about wanting them home… “after all, you served, you understand daddy.” Umm, yeah – I didn’t realize that it might be pretty hard on those left behind. I’d rather go myself than have my children there. Period. Thanks so much for your version of “thoughts and prayers,” it really is the thought that counts. Get some sleep bud (I also understand that combination of meds *sigh*).

    @tom Vail

    Glad to be back! It’s been a weird hiatus… having the urge to write, but not the willingness to put “pen to paper.” Thanks for the kind words, and I’ll definitely aim at my once a week goal 😀

    @Mr. Grim

    Yeah, yeah, you cranky almost old fart… I am glad to be back to writing again. I think as soon as I have the parts for my Harley I’ll give you buzz for a lunch at that nice little Chinese place in McMinnville – sound like a winner?

  5. jazzy
    May 16th, 2010 at 22:36 | #5

    Hey, dad love the post 🙂 and yeah I understand goin round and round with people about the war 🙂 I always learn something when i read your posts, makes it fun and educational. I especially liked the reference to “The Incredibles” course I’m also a movie goober. Can’t wait til I get back, we should go up to the mountains and have a good breather 🙂

  6. May 16th, 2010 at 22:43 | #6

    @jazzy Absolutely girlie! We’ll pack up a couple Hennessey Hamocks and disappear into the Jefferson Wilderness 🙂 Love you big time kiddo!

  7. karla
    May 17th, 2010 at 18:28 | #7

    Hey Papa-san,

    I’ll skip the Mamma-esque chiding about health and self-care as I’m sure Mom hit all the high points. As I often dig your posts this one is definitely a favorite as it is a subject so close to my own heart. The topic of community has been bouncing around my head for about 5 years and it only becomes more entrenched with time. It’s like this foggy nebulous of understanding…and at the same time fits with the steps of behavior changing. (of course I’m still at the “recognize” the behavior without the “changing” part…lol) But I greatly appreciate this post and the convo regarding the General’s statement and the tool’s reaction. It’s funny (sad) to be able to see the middle of the issue and understand where each is standing.

    Much loves…take care of you. Hug my Mom!

    And bonus for bringing a cerebral idea home with an animated movie! Art, imitates life, imitates art….

  8. May 19th, 2010 at 00:01 | #8

    @karla I love hugging your Mom 😀 Done! I seem to have a family of “movie goobers” as your sister called it – I’ve not really met that many people that can practically carry on a conversation with movie and TV quotes! It’s a skill I tell ya – and now, I’ve noticed numerous young officers doing it at work… mmm, curmudgeon… Perhaps Mr. Grim has something there…

    I’m glad you appreciated this post, it’s been a bit of a burr under my saddle – it even bothered me on my scooter ride, and I can’t be having that! I wanted a way to both point out “the tool’s” absurdity and to say, unlike him, I am so very proud of you girls even when I disagree… sometimes BECAUSE I disagree and you guys are firm in your own belief system.

    love you muchly,
    dad

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