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.
Let’s keep marching forward.