I Feel Like Writing
Two columnists I came across this last week (6/26) on the same news aggregate site ended their pieces with the exact same George Orwell quote. Additionally, a few weeks ago my very best friend had texted me the same quote. Apparently, I need to get out more.
Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.
What on God’s green earth am I supposed to do with this thing? Life is not some exercise in matching up novels with reality. George Orwell’s position in history, his position in literature is in no way affected by this repetition or attempt at application. Again, what, precisely, am I supposed to do with this thing?
Is BLM the “Party”? Has ANTIFA destroyed every record and rewritten every book? I hardly think so.
And these three fellas are some of the folks I generally trust. But the uncertain times have not only affected them. All those who would pick up a pen are affected. I haven’t come across anyone, not one doggone writer, who has anything to say.
Laboriously, then, I–your Captain–will pick up the slack and write. And in so doing I hope to encourage similar thinking and behavior.
There are many, many places to start, but the one that’s on my mind is the claim, “White Silence is Violence.”
The response to this claim comes from George Washington.
Now, you don’t have to announce that you’re quoting him to use his advice. But I wanted you to know, because it is true and it does matter.
Anyhow, I recently came across the following at the end of the brief entry on his life found in Vol. 13 of the obscure, but incredible, Library of Southern Literature under the heading, “Selected Maxims of Washington”, then sub-heading, “The Best Answer to Calumny.”
The approved response to, “White Silence is Violence,” from Washington (again, you are in no way obligated to announce that detail, perhaps trivial, if you feel like it would stop up your listener’s ears) is:
To persevere in one’s duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.
(Dictionary.com has ‘calumny’ as “a false and malicious statement designed to injure the reputation of someone or something.”)
What do you know?
Do you listen-in on conversations? Do you hear the same things I do? Do you hear yourself talk? If, like me, you answered “yes” to these three questions, do you ever continue down the rabbit role and analyze the conversations?
42 words and a few minutes ago I intended to write, essentially, a sermon about how all that each of us do is talk ourselves up, a sermon about how all we really say is, “I know better than (fill in the blank).” That seems silly now. Instead, I’d like to simply share.
By now, most of you have guessed correctly that I am an American thirty-two year old white male. A constant criticism I have received most of my life is that I am a know it all. While I was a hot-shot special operations Air Force pilot, I happily let my profession answer the accusation.
I’ve been without my proof-is-in-the-pudding profession for a year and a half.
How do I answer the criticism now? Yesterday I took the “integrity test” at a Labor Ready storefront in hopes of being able to work for pay soon. The fella next to me asked the receptionist if he could use his “dee-ooh-see card” as his second form of identification. Unfamiliar with whatever he just said, I looked towards him. He was presenting his wallet for her to see. In his wallet behind the protective plastic, he had a Department of Corrections ID card. The picture was of him in the orange jumpsuit that America loves to see on TV.
Until yesterday I would laugh really hard each time a friend wittily observed that too many people are “educated beyond their intelligence.”
Yesterday, beginning with the alternating tobacco/marijuana smell that infused the air as I waited with others for the receptionist to return from a break and ending with the sight of the orange jumpsuit, I confirmed what I’ve secretly suspected all along: I don’t know shit.
I do like to write though.
“Chopper down,” the radio sputtered. This was a first. In the worst way. After all, this was supposed to be an ordinary mission. There was no added danger this night. There certainly was no reason to have expected this.
“We have to go get them! I’ll start running the ‘Before Takeoff Checklist,” the flight engineer suggested excitedly. This was difficult to stomach. There are some guys who just want to get into the ‘action’. He was one of those guys. I, on the other hand, was not. I remember my uncle, who was in the Navy, describing how once a helicopter caught fire as it landed on the ship. He recounted how so many guys ran towards the fire. A Sunday stroll was the pace he chose. That always stuck with me.
“Sir, do you want me to let them know the helicopter needs to be destroyed once everyone is clear?” asked the aircraft commander. The unit commander was on board this particular mission. He sometimes sat in the back of the helicopter to make sure he didn’t lose touch with what’s really going on as he only watches the missions on a screen most other days. Again, I was shocked. Wow. This is getting real, really fast.
The flight engineer pushed again for achieving ‘hero status’ in one mission, so finally I addressed him. “Look, we don’t even know what happened. If they were shot down, it probably isn’t the smartest thing to go fly into range of that weapon, is it?”
Confusion like this was relatively rare. But as pilots have a knack for analyzing past mistakes to avoid making them again, we knew what to do. We called it the ‘conservative response rule.’ This was a helpful tool to use in cases of disagreement among the crew. Basically, past aircraft mishaps revealed that when there is disagreement, the more conservative option voiced should be followed until more data can be gathered.
In the above example, one crew-member wanted to fly, the other wanted to wait. The more conservative idea was to wait, therefore we waited. Waited only until more information was available.
That’s the key to this rule. Even the name ‘conservative response rule’, brings to mind always doing the conservative thing, but that’s a severe misunderstanding which can hamstring entire missions. There are times during flights that being aggressive and daring is the right decision. The point of this rule is to make sure everyone is in agreement that selfless bravery is called for. If there is not agreement, stick to the conservative course of action until more information is available.
What’s the practical application to grounded life? Outdoor activities come to mind. How many times have we been with friends and disagreement shows up about what to do next? Say, climbing a mountain as a storm is brewing. Some want to continue, because they say the storm will surely pass. Others suggest turning back. Friendships have been lost over such situations.
As for me, I say stick with the pilots. Turn back or at least wait a while to see how the storm develops. Dead aircrew are longing for you to learn from their mistakes.
Unlike other ‘lessons learned’, this one has a specific audience. Within each of our friend groups, there are those who are natural leaders. If this is you, next time there is disagreement, put this rule to good use. Besides enhancing your status (rightfully so), it just might keep people and relationships intact.