Tagged: opinion

Stay Terrified

Transmitted through my helmet’s CEP’s, the phrase “tail’s hit” will forever be connected to the word “fear” for me.

Immediately I wondered whether my formation lead’s pilot meant that the tail of his helicopter was hit or that his tail gunner–the human–was hit.

And immediately I began to scan the monochromatic green terrain one hundred feet below for shooters.

And immediately I was overwhelmed with the reality that they could be anywhere and if they weren’t presently firing, I would likely not notice them.

And at the occurrence of that precise thought I became afraid.

I felt fear for the first time in my life.

Eventually, in a matter of seconds I mean, it was clear that the tail gunner was the victim of the “hit” and our direct action mission was aborted in favor of flying him to the nearest ‘cash.’ (Combat Support Hospital.) He lived.

But me? I was incapacitated for a little bit and I had an overwhelming desire to cry. Let me repeat that first part: I was incapacitated for a little bit. Luckily, I was the inexperienced co-pilot at the time.

Years later, I was the instructor pilot on a night sortie at the schoolhouse, and one of our other Huey’s had stopped checking in with HUB–or on any other radio or frequency we all tried. (That usually means the crew had crashed.) Soon after, my student was on the controls and hover taxiing to hot refuel at Andalusia. He was all over the sky, as they say. Too high, over-correcting to too low. So as my aircraft commander did for me in Iraq, I took the controls without comment. The student was clearly going through the realization that his friends might be dead–that we might later die on the job–and he didn’t need any more input. (They lived.)

Dr. Ford (et al): Stay terrified–it lets me know that you’re not a leader, that you’re not worth following.

Or you could apologize for lying. Or you could forgive.

But I can’t/won’t/don’t want to join you in your fear. I’d be trading in every ounce and moment and piece of hard-earned experience I have for nothing–no reason, no action, no sound, no light, no nothing–for darkness. In other words, I’d be exchanging it all for fear.

And I am not afraid.

Advertisements

Hey You Yellow-Bellied Weekend Marchers! It Was Silly of Me…

…to assume you had character to begin with.

Not a single one of you accepted my challenge. Not-a one. Your silence allowed my mind to wander. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t think through my challenge before I declared it. Of course you wouldn’t understand you had been attacked and defend yourself. You don’t have character. Character requires perseverance, and perseverance requires overcoming some sort of difficulty. No, not the difficulties you’re thinking you have overcome. Neither exasperatingly stuck-open selfie sticks, nor completely spelling out words live under this umbrella. I’m talking difficult. I’ll give you an example.

H-‘s Spring Break was last week. (To new readers, she’s my seven-year-old daughter.) The entire reason I moved to Denver was proximity to the mountains. I wanted to live near the ski-resorts and I wanted H- to grow up skiing. The opportunity finally arrived to take her skiing. In short, the ski-lessons turned out to be a bust. She didn’t know the other kids, and the instructors were very un-ski-instructory.

Whatever.

The proper bunny hill, however, was open for another hour after the lesson, so I took her to the line for the unthinkably slow-but-brief chair lift. Suddenly she had to go to the bathroom.

“Too bad,” I said.

See, I have a younger brother. Once, when we were about to ride the Power Tower at Cedar Point–last ride of the night–as we crept closer to the terrifically terrifying thrill ride and heard the screams, he suddenly had to go to the bathroom.

I also said, “Too bad,” to him back then.

I can only imagine the transition H- experienced as she went from fear of the unknown, to fear of heights, to fear of how to get off the lift. But I don’t have to imagine her relief as I firmly held onto her and we successfully dismounted without hiccup.

“Ready for this?” I queried, absolutely certain she wasn’t.

She soon fell.

I didn’t help her up and I felt like a jerk.

Luckily, ever since she was very young, upon her falling down, I’ve been asking her, “Why do we fall down, Bruce?” and she answers with, “To learn how to pick ourselves up.” (Thanks, Mr. Nolan.)

We maybe made three trips up and down the bunny hill before we called it quits. If she ever chose to fall because she got going too fast and decided to bail before things got ugly, I would help her up. If she fell because she was afraid, I ski’d to her and told her to get up. That was day one.

Day two, we started fresh. After more of the same, she began to fall less and eventually proposed an intriguing deal.

“Hey Daddy. I was thinking. If I can ski down this without falling, can I have a stuffy (her name for Beanie Boos)?”

“I’ll make that deal,” I confirmed, quickly adding, “But you can’t fall once. But you’ve got a deal. It doesn’t matter if it takes all day either. If by the end of today you have made it down one time without falling, you get the stuffy.”

“Not once. Got it. Can I have one for every time I don’t fall?”

“No. But,” I continued, eyeing the larger mountain to our left, “If you go with me on that chair lift, all the way to the top, and ski down the green with me, then no matter how many times you fall, I will get you a second one.”

“So two total?”

“Yes, H-. If you don’t fall on this short one, and you simply go with me on the long one, you will get two stuffies.”

She agreed and we eventually boarded the longer lift. She seemed in awe of how much longer it was. I’m sure she was not looking forward to skiing down the mountain.

This green run took me about thirty seconds to make it down if I didn’t stop.

My mother, H-, and I took one and a half hours. Well, that’s not true. After about an hour, my mother just left us, unable to believe my treatment of H-.

H- cried most of the way. She fell about every ten feet. Only rarely did I help her up. At one point some stranger lady began giving H- tips, I didn’t acknowledge her existence. Probably five minutes went by before hah-sah-tahn concluded it was best to leave.

Are you getting the picture? I was aware that I was coming off as literally employing every horrible parenting tool out of the tool-bag. To these people, I was the tool. But they were mistaken.

See, they thought I was trying to teach H- how to ski. Far from it. It’s possible H- may never really take to skiing like I want her to. Instead, I was teaching her to have character. (Something I’m especially glad I did, considering I have since learned that none of you have it.)

Again, an hour an a half later, the last thirty minutes of which my dad and mom spent actively debating my sanity, H- and I finally made it to the point where she could see the bottom. Naturally she fell at that point.

“Get up,” I said.

Then, totally surprising me (for what reason, I do not know–this was the skill I was teaching) I hear her say to herself, “Okay. There’s the bottom. You can do this.”

I had to look away lest she see my joy; better for her to harbor whatever kind of ill will little girls can have for their fathers at this moment.

During the late lunch she further surprised me by suggesting that she probably shouldn’t get the stuffy because it took so long.

“A deal’s a deal, H-.”

Then she asked if after we go together a few more times on the bunny hill if she could try going by herself–after we ride up together.

Overall, H- did not take to skiing like my younger brother did at her age. She doesn’t turn much.

But she has something you don’t. And she will not forget it.

****

PS – The conversation with my friend didn’t go well, or develop at all really. We met. I barely and playfully broached the topic, and he said, “I’ve already replied.” It reminded me that he definitely carries the fire. But it also made me sad. Because I love conversation.

Hey Weekend Marchers! I Hereby Challenge Your Character…

…by asking you to have the courage to be wrong. Wrong about what? Wrong about my beliefs. I challenge you to state what I believe to be the issue. That is, state what someone who does not think that your foolish-if-fashionable footsteps are moving forward anything or anyone but your own body believes to be the issue.

Think you have the character to do this? I don’t think you do.

I think you’re chicken, the whole lot of you.

But I’m giving you the opportunity to prove me wrong. What have you got to lose? Certainly not any more tear-stained poster-board. So give it a shot and comment below. I dare ya. (Or write your own post and give me the link.)

****

I spent most of yesterday in an abundantly enjoyable conversation with one of your hopeful souls (his name is also Pete), and yet at the end, he still could only express confusion at what I believe to be the issue. (See the entire conversation here.)

I ably described the issue raised by school shootings as I see it, and I ably described the issue raised by school shootings as he saw it. By the end, he confirmed that I “sort of” saw his side. But he never demonstrated that he understood mine–nor did he really indicate that he cared to. Trouble is, I knew that I knew his side before the whole conversation started. (I knew ’cause I have been listening to you!)

But it gets worse. He is not the only one of you stomping spirits who do not seem to be able to simply state what I (and my pals) believe to be the issue.

Remember, all I want is to be assured that you possess some level of discernment. Here’s your chance to prove to me that you understand where we disagree. For assistance, links to recent posts which vary in length, breadth, and depth and whose contents contain writing which my pals generally agree I am clearly making a case in opposition to you are here, here, here, here, and here.

Clues (or beliefs which I do not hold): I do not believe the issue to be gun violence. I do not believe the issue to be bump stocks or AR-15s. I do not believe the issue to be the interpretation of the meaning of the second amendment or any of its words. I do not believe the issue will be solved by more guns. I do not believe the issue will be solved by less guns. And unlike you I do not believe the issue will be solved by stricter gun laws.

But I do believe the school shootings raise an important issue.

Can you state, in your own words, what I believe to be the issue that they raise? Remember! If you bravely accept my challenge to defend your character, YOU MAY BE WRONG–about me. Scary.

Three Reasons the Bible Is Not Pro-Gun Control

By most accounts, I am not even “old,” and yet I feel old enough to say it is time to take the gloves off. I want to maintain what grammarians might call a syntax of gentleness, but truth is important too. This might be more true than gentle. We’ll see.

First: You’re a sucker, or what Jesus called a sheep, if you think the Bible has anything to say one way or the other about gun control. Just sayin.’ It is not pro-gun anymore than it is anti-gun. In fact, in all my reading of the Bible, in the words of three different languages and many more different dialects of English, I have never come across the word gun. Let this first point, then, be a lesson from a friend: don’t play the fool.

Second: The Bible is most certainly pro-death and it is most certainly anti-death. We die. All of us. If any written words have ever been indubitably aware of this fact, they are found in the Bible. This is a good thing. Only upon understanding this situation can we begin to see the invisible, to see the spiritual.

Third: One way– *one*–that I, the-looking-through-the-dim-mirror-sheep-that-I-am, view the school shootings is through the story in the end of the book of Judges wherein some Israelite’s concubine was raped and abused through the night by men from another tribe of Israelites with whom they were staying, presumably for safety. She ends up dead, lying at the threshold of the man’s door in the morning. He then chops her up into twelve pieces and sends a piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel and the recipients say, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!” At this, civil war was the determination. The LORD did not spare his own people.

The reason that comes to mind is because of the emphasis it has on that the atrocity was committed by their own people–their own family, as it were. While our culture isn’t as segmented by bloodlines as those ancient cultures, I am comfortable with saying that when some current or former student murders his own classmates, in his own town etc. that it is similar enough to be meaningfully the same.

A lot of you like to say, “History repeats itself.” Or, “Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” Bullocks, I say. History does not repeat itself, nor are any two situations ever the same. But the LORD is righteous and he will not tolerate sin for forever. Accordingly, from today forward we can give future historians the data they need to record how these shootings turned out to be the preamble to civil war (or the less extreme, more simple crumbling of Western civilization), or we can give future historians the data they need to record how these shootings turned out to be the warnings we heeded to return to the LORD. The future has never been done before. I say let’s return to the LORD. (The Bible does talk about this being welcomed by him–every time.)

Mr. Williams

By Request

I took a course in college called “Mass Media and Communications”. I can’t remember the reason. But what I will never forget is one of the lessons. This was back in the early 2000s, so HDTV (1080p etc) wasn’t prevalent yet. The professor taught us how a television worked. I had no idea before then. He explained that a device inside the box quickly draws a very thin line–two hundred forty evenly spaced lines actually–across the screen. Then on its return trip, this device fills in the blanks just left with another set of lines. That’s where 480i (NTSC) comes from. Old televisions in America had 480 “interlaced” lines. Now we all watch in some level of progressively scanning lines, meaning the picture is fully refreshed each trip across the screen and the image is high definition. Now you know.

What all this techno-mumbo-jumbo means to us mortals is that the images on the television screen are an illusion. They’re not really there. Different than a painting, sculpture, or the words and images in a tangible book/magazine/newspaper, which we can really see and feel and touch, the images on the television screen are an optical illusion. Our brain is able to put together all these rapidly moving lines and we think we see a man or woman or if you’re four and a half years old, it seems that all you see is an Octonaut.

But the truth is there is nothing there. There is only an illusion. Mr. Williams is not in our living room. Only a powerful illusion that our brain wants to believe is a trustworthy man named Brian Williams is there. But even that is not true. This illusion isn’t on or in the television, the illusion is in our minds.

The question then becomes, “Can an illusion lie?” I say no. I say there is no non-fiction television to begin with. How could there be?

If there is anything to be learned from current events, it is that we’ve allowed ourselves, yet again, to be fooled. The new question, the only question I see remaining at the end of this is, “How many more times will we let it happen before we turn off the TV?”

What Would President Obama Think About Me Not Liking Him?

I don’t like President Obama.  Can I still admit that even though in doing so I might offend a “sizable group of people?

Here in the purple state of Colorado, expressing this opinion–my opinion–gives me pause.  It can be difficult to tell if I am speaking to someone who agrees or vehemently disagrees.  Discovering the answer is always an adventure.

Here’s why I don’t like the president:  The president pretends to not know his own influence.

From the moment he took office, it was made known that he would be a very accessible president.  “Ask him anything and he’ll tell you,” they said.  The unthinking American loved his openness.  His openness surely attracted positive popular sentiment.  But make no mistake, it is a very calculated move on the president’s part.  Think about it.  What would happen if your boss started voicing that he or she really liked a particular camera…right around Christmas time?  What would happen if your boss started describing how much he or she disliked the color blue?  In my experience, in the first situation the boss would likely be given that camera as a gift at the company party; in the second, the color blue would be avoided in the office where possible.

The credible boss, the boss with high character understands the economics of his or her language.  He or she understands that there are only so many hours in a day and many things have to be attended to.  The boss knows, therefore, that he or she cannot afford to communicate for forever.  They have to offer their guiding leadership eloquently, and rely on an able-bodied workforce to carry out the plan.  This happens every day.  Even the most micro-managing boss has limited time–thankfully–to communicate all that he or she wants to.

Likewise, when a president offers his opinion on something, it starts a chain reaction.  Decisions are made based on the opinion.  Take this together with the way our country’s political sphere has unfolded–the president being viewed as newsworthy celebrity rather than public servant–and there is a problem.

Bob Costas attempted to use his power to persuade the Washington Redskins owner to act.  So far, it has been ineffective.  Bob Costas is a virtual nobody.  He is a talking head.  Generally a pleasant to listen to talking head, but he is as effectually powerless over another man’s actions as the next man.  The same is not true for the president.  No matter what he’d like us to believe, it is not just “his opinion.”  And he knows it.  But he pretends not to.  He pretends like he really is one of us.  He isn’t.  It’s categorically impossible.  The us he is attempting to fit in with know their place.

For example, I know that this blog will have no appreciable effect beyond providing momentary pleasure for no more than 10 people.  It’ll receive 1-2 ‘likes’, if that.  More likely, it will irritate some people and be a stumbling block to my professional possibilities as I’m publishing it on LinkedIn.

Don’t buy this argument?  Just wait.  History will prove my point.  Like the boss receiving a camera for Christmas, the Redskins will change their name.  When they do, to deny the president’s influence will strain even American credulity.

In the end, I really don’t wonder what President Obama thinks about me.  I just want him to stop pretending that his opinions are inconsequential.  I want him to stop using his limited time to weigh-in on ridiculously un-presidential matters.  I want “more work, less talk.”  Is that too much to ask for?

A Letter to the Editor

The NSA conducts surveillance.  The New York Times commits treason.  Which is worse?

In publishing what can only be described as a paid advertisement–Leonard H. Schrank and Juan C. Zarate’s, “Data Mining, Without Big Brother,”–the Times dragged itself through the gutter just to sell papers.

In their July 2, 2013 editorial, Schrank and Zarate abused the responsibility the national spotlight demands.  Their piece informed us that they worked on a program—Swift—that has no practical correlation to the NSA’s surveillance program beyond the quite obvious fact that they both work with big data.  To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  The Times should be ashamed for printing this.

Schrank and Zarate conclude, “Ultimately, the Obama administration needs to demonstrate that the programs are not only valuable and legal, but also that the government’s use of that data can be constrained and verified.”  In other words, they conclude that the Obama administration must prove a negative.  With all their schooling, professional accomplishment, and first-hand experience deterring terrorism, their big conclusion is a logical fallacy?  Not even President Obama’s rhetorical abilities can overcome their logical error and prove someone is not doing something.

Let’s switch gears for a moment.  What is the problem in this whole Snowden story?  The problem is that an NSA employee couldn’t keep a secret.  Are we or are we not a country who understands the value of secrecy when it comes to security?  If Americans want to keep “winning”, we need to be sure our enemies do not know our capabilities.  Thanks to Edward Snowden, they just became more aware.  We should be asking, “What was he thinking?”

The elementary lesson Snowden somehow missed, the truth that the New York Times allowed itself to be distracted from, is that for secrets to work they must be kept secret.  A secret’s power is derived from the requirement that it remains secret.

The Times, in running this editorial, demonstrated either that it never took an undergraduate course in logic, or that like Snowden, it too has committed an act of treason.

When Jeffrey Wigand revealed that Brown and Williamson knowingly included carcinogenic additives to boost the nicotine in cigarettes, it was a clear case of acting in good faith to better inform the public about a commercial product.  On the other hand, revealing one method an agency charged with national security uses to accomplish its mission is a clear case of treachery.  Since not everyone is able to immediately discern the distinction, an established publication such as The New York Times decidedly has the responsibility to publish writers who can.

Rather than publish a distracting paid advertisement for Swift, the Times should publish a case study on Edward Snowden.  Publish the study because in every failure there is a lesson.  We need to learn the events of his life which led him to the conclusion that revealing national security secrets is somehow in the best interest of national security.  Our freedom depends on it.