Tagged: war

On Ethiopian Civil War

If I was you, faithful reader, I’d probably be thinking, “Pete, why don’t you stop pontificating as a pretend-amateur-auteur-political-motivational philosophy professor guru and instead give us some insight into something you truly do have unique access to, as surely your wife knows something about what is happening in her home country and you could translate for us?”

Okay. Will do.

Here’s my best translation.

For a typical citizen of Ethiopia, everyone you don’t know (and many people you do know) are spies for the enemy. Cab drivers, people at the bus stop. The person next to you at the market. If you hear people in the the apartment above and below, or any adjoining wall, assume they too are spies.

Add to this that, instead of, or in addition to markets, there are food banks.

How does an approaching army pass through a town? It doesn’t take much to imagine that only a few deaths (+ these spies) would powerfully dissuade other resistance efforts.

How does the army feed itself? They send some men with guns to the food-bank and load up—maybe killing a few non-combatants in the process, which again acts as a tremendously powerful deterrent.

There is also the typical scene from Hollywood, where the “bad guys” steal the “foreign aid” and then “give it” to those in need to show their generosity and confuse the matter of who is good and who is bad.

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Back to pontificator role: the lying/deception involved in the “spying” is the only area available for change. Until some large group of individuals experiences an event which leads them to fear Jesus’ eternal judgment more than their this-worldly death, the situation will never meaningfully change.

Stop—Unless You’re Calling For War

I love reading. I love opinions. I couldn’t stop perusing the pundits even if I wanted to. But I am certain that the conservatives are only embarrassing themselves. If I read the word tyranny one more time, or dictator, I think I’m going to throw up. The problem we, the conservatives, face is not hard to understand.

The problem—THE PROBLEM—is that smack dab in between me and my political wishes sits the fact that I don’t want to fight a war. Nobody, no one, has yet been able to provoke me to war. I (one flag waving, freedom loving, song singing American conservative) think war in America is likely. I definitely know it’s possible. But I don’t want to do it. I wanted to do it when I was young, and I did do it. So I can speak truthfully and announce the fairly obvious, though often unsaid, observation with certitude that I don’t fight in a war now because I don’t want to. Nevertheless, I believe that war is the only political voice that the left will hear. My private inclination changes nothing.

One reason that I don’t want war is that I’m not yet able to imagine what war will look like. Will the stores still be open? And what will determine which kinds? Restaurants? What about gas stations? Why will the power company employees still show up to work but not the waitstaff? How soon will I regret the decision? These and more nag at me.

But I feel closer to the picture now than I ever have been in the past. (And I’ve even seen first world vs. Old Testament world combat.) It’s like I can begin to make out some early broad strokes. There are blurry scenes in which masked mobs will firebomb residences of their enemies, in the middle of the night. Are those lights iPhone screens? Hard to imagine people holding a camera and weapon, but maybe. It’s like I know I’m in an art gallery, but I can’t see any paintings yet. So I keep walking.

Anyhow, I’m not there yet. This is no call for war. But this is a call for them to stop. I’m talking about the conservative press, the replacement media, heck, even some articles on the Babylon Bee. Stop pretending that there is an argument to be won. Stop. It’s been two uninteresting decades of reading your veiled, dire, and dark words, forecasting a veiled, dire, and dark— but avoidable—future, written as if you really believe that your words just might save us, as if you really believe that there is a peaceful restoration of rule of law and, as importantly, use of reason.

The reason I know I’m right is, as you know, after all these years I finally read John Locke. I’m telling you that man didn’t just make sense, he didn’t just use reason, he incited war.

What have you all incited? An echo chamber? Getting 70 million people to warn each other of the dangers of tyranny in the 21st century is not exactly a formidable accomplishment. The reason I write is not to be repeated, but because no one else is telling you the truth. You’re words are not powerful. They’re not. So stop. Or do better.

How to stop? Admit when your words are empty.

Action. That’s the only path towards the goal. Admit it. Who’s gonna do it? Which one of you is going to infuse their words with power? Who’s going to incite the war? Limbaugh? Prager? Shapiro? Fast rising Candace? Na. I don’t see any guts. Plenty of ambition, brainpower, recall, and in touch lexical choices, but no guts. Address the problem.

If you’re not doing that, then you’re wasting your time. Worse—you’re lying. Because the conservative aims are bought with blood. To suggest otherwise is simply lying. There’s no way around it.

If you’re not going to make me feel, if you’re not going to make me war, then stop. You’re embarrassing yourselves.

Vixens, Protectors, Iran, Bell Curves, and More–All Mixed Up by One Airborne Provocateur

I’ve mentioned before that I’m reading this delightful fantasy novel Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. Oddly enough, Sunday has recently established itself as my day of reading fantasy, that is, my day of reading rest–given the amount of Bible reading I accomplish the other six days.

This afternoon, I couldn’t stop smiling as I read from this angelic gem. One particularly pause-causing line was the lead female’s (an adept/spy-who-specializes-in-serving-Naamah-by-satisfying-wealthy-and-powerful-patrons’-S&M-bedroom-proclivities) announcing, “By this time, I was suffering a tedium so deadly I would have gladly scrubbed the Marquise Belfours’ chamber pot, for the distraction of a scathing punishment at the end of it.” (Move over, Christian and Anastasia…)

At this juncture in the tale, the vixen is being protected by a smooth, sapient equivalent of the water held back by what we call the Hoover dam. His enemies pray the levee doesn’t break. And, if that doesn’t do it for ya, ladies, let’s just say that he knows his place.

And at that moment, the thought hit me: This is the perfect fantasy. In this fable, we have a woman being free to be completely enslaved to her wiles, as she is being protected by a man who is bound to exercise no restraint in the defense of the weak.

But today’s post is not merely marketing material. Today I want to begin to capture my thoughts on the blossoming peace in the Middle East. Today I want to finally write down how I am so happy that I will be able to tell my children what it was like to wake up after a night of waiting for a war that never began.

I had such mixed feelings that night. Iran–not elusively-defined terrorists but a real country–had attacked America. Every bone in my body was opposing itself as I read the news. Half of me wanted nothing but peace. “President Trump: Please just do whatever you need to make peace.” The other half wanted nothing but the end of the uncertainty inherent to this clash of civilizations that began long ago, but has been officially boiling over since 9/11. “President Trump: Put. Them. In. The. Ground. Sheol. The grave. Deep. Permanent. End it. Win. Please!”

Then the airliner was shot down. Huh? Could this be it? No way was that us. Plenty of chance it was Iranian incompetence. 

Finally, sleep.

Then morning came and with it a group of men declaring for the children-grown-older-in-power-positions-in-Iran that Iran, led by these incompetent imbeciles, was standing down.

What must that have felt like for the Iranians? And, unlike Canada’s inclusion of a turban-wearing man in their optic a few days later, we went with the truth. It was old, white men, though white-hat-less men, who, not just announced the fight was over, but, in the manner of the announcement itself, clarified that one backwards civilization in specific needs to just, “Stop before you hurt yourself!”

Who could have imagined it? In response to the pinpoint–and I mean precision on a level that is hard to imagine ever being produced with anything other than a scalpel held by a hand that was trained in its use for a decade–in response to the pinpoint killing of a small handful of men bent on orchestrating evil, in response to the pinpoint killing of a small handful of men by remote control aircraft half-way across the accurately mapped globe, in response to this, an Iranian version of a tween on the ground was so afraid (afraid of what? afraid of his own government’s response to him if he’s doesn’t shoot? afraid of America?) that he shoots a fire-and-forget 11 foot missile, itself built by another civilization, at an airliner! What?!

Peace. That’s what.

And manifested by who? The noisy and wily Squad? No. By the unapologetically fair-skinned President of the United States of America. Cowboy as all hell, but hat’s off.

Because We Were The Nazis

This one is long overdue–not for the reading, but for the writing of it.

I have a step-son now. He was not born in America. He does not know much about the West.

A few days ago he asked me, “Why does everyone talk about World War Two so much?”

I said, “Huh?”

“You just said, ‘World War Two.’ The other day at school my teacher said, ‘World War Two.’ Why is everyone saying ‘World War Two’ so much?”

Yesterday we were in the car for long enough that I finally took the time to answer him.

“Well, what do you know about how many people are in our town?” I began. I quickly and subsequently learned that the boy is not quite a census expert. So I remedied this as best I could. Then I let Siri do the persuading.

“Hey Siri!” I began, to his delight. “How many people died in World War II?”

“Do you see now?” I asked the boy.

He says he does, but he probably doesn’t. That’s the way these things go.

But there’s something I haven’t taught this young man. Well, it’s more accurate to say that there’s something that I haven’t spoken aloud to this young man. In truth, I’ve been teaching him this thing, and nothing but this thing, since he moved in. I breathe this thing. I eat and drink this thing.

This thing: there’s a deeper, more hidden reason everyone talks about World War II. The reason is because we were the Nazis. Humans were the Nazis. Not corporations. Not aliens. Not AI. Not the poor. Not the rich. Not those with guns. Not those without guns. Not the Muslims. Not the Christians. Not the Blacks. Not the Whites. Not the immigrants. Not the healthy. Not the sick. Not Trump. Not Obama. Not the LGBTQ+. Not the Non-Binary. Not Antifa. Not #IMWITHKAP. Not Greta. Not Climate Deniers. Humans were the Nazis.

The reason everyone talks about World War II is because we were the Nazis. And we cannot forgive ourselves.

But worse, we believe that if we teach what happened, if we just talk about what happened, then we believe it will not happen again.

That, of course, is simply not true. To be crystal clear here, George Santayana’s eloquent sounding sentiment, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is dead wrong. He was perniciously wrong.

So I’m raising my step-son (and H-) with this in mind–constantly. I do nearly everything with one singular goal in mind: teach him to be a man. That is, I teach him to think for himself.

We were the Nazis. But I was not a Nazi. And LORD help me, I will never be a Nazi. Instead, I am a man.

Moreover, I will not let the voices of doubt win when it comes to raising a boy to become a man.

I’m talking now to all of you who think it is cruel to make a child work on handwriting. Cruel to make a child read aloud until they get it right. Cruel to punish a child for disobedience. Cruel to create a standard and hold a child to it. Cruel to keep a child from TV and YouTube. Cruel to teach a child that children do not boss adults. Cruel to have a bedtime schedule. Cruel to make them eat the same meal everyone else at the table is eating. Cruel to make them finish their food entirely–and their milk. Cruel to make them do chores. Cruel to say “no” to a child–every single time they ask for something stupid like more dessert, more time, or any and everything they ever see at the store.

I’m raising a man. I’m not trying to have a friend. And I’m not trying to please you and your gay sensibilities. We were the Nazis! Do you get it? “We” were the Nazis. The only thing that can defeat “We” is “Me.” I won’t join you. And I promise you that my adult children will surely feel a shame second only to the one which comes from awareness of having sinned against their maker, if they find themselves joining the “we” on some distant day.

Enough about me. What about you? What about your sons and daughters? Are they going to come after my children some day?

Review of Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan

It’s not a movie. Sure, in the technical sense it is a motion picture, but just now, while at Soopers when I saw the bluray for sale, it hit me. Dunkirk is not a movie. These type of missteps are expected, of course, from the truly creative human, of which Nolan is surely one. But he stepped out of his lane and tried to fool us, rather than just release it at Art House Cinemas or Fine Art Cinemas, the place where it belongs. And that move should cause him to feel some slight twinge of shame. We’re not mindless suckers, Mr. Nolan. We just like stories and are illiterate.

Whew, glad I got that one figured out.

Excerpt from Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans

I couldn’t help but perk up when I heard my pastor mention “London” as he led us in prayer this morning. My folks are in London vacationing. I just figured he misspoke, but then he also mentioned Manchester. Having not checked the news since early yesterday, I inquired of my pew-mate. Then I cried. My parents are fine. But this scene from Cooper’s classic came to mind.

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So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude remained motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that was friendly to the Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it became tossed and agitated by fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his elevated stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the colors of her dress were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he descended, and, moving silently through the throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had so recently issued. A few of the graver and more attentive warriors, who caught the gleams of anger that shot from the eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the place he had selected for his meditations. After which, Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children were ordered to disperse. During the momentous hour that succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of troubled bees, who only awaited the appearance and example of their leader to take some distant and momentous flight. 

A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew in the crevices of the rocky terrace, he tore the bark from its body, and then turned whence he came without speaking. He was soon followed by another, who stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked and blazed trunk. A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red paint; all which indications of a hostile design in the leaders of the nation were received by the men without in a gloomy and ominous silence. Finally, the Mohican himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his girdle and leggings, and with one–half of his fine features hid under a cloud of threatening black.

A tree which has been partially or entirely stripped of its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be “blazed.” The term is strictly English, for a horse is said to be blazed when it has a white mark.

Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he immediately commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an ancient dance, raising his voice, at the same time, in the wild and irregular chant of his war song. The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive, even rivaling the melody of birds––and then, by sudden and startling transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by their depth and energy. The words were few and often repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort of invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior’s object, and terminating as they commenced with an acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit. If it were possible to translate the comprehensive and melodious language in which he spoke, the ode might read something like the following: “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! Thou art great, thou art good, thou art wise: Manitou! Manitou! Thou art just. “In the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see Many spots––many dark, many red: In the heavens, oh, I see Many clouds. “In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear The whoop, the long yell, and the cry: In the woods, oh, I hear The loud whoop! “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! I am weak––thou art strong; I am slow; Manitou! Manitou! Give me aid.”

At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by raising a note louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly suited to the sentiment just expressed. The first close was solemn, and intended to convey the idea of veneration; the second descriptive, bordering on the alarming; and the third was the well–known and terrific war– whoop, which burst from the lips of the young warrior, like a combination of all the frightful sounds of battle. The last was like the first, humble and imploring. Three times did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the post in his dance.

At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the Lenape followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music of a similar character. Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all of any renown and authority were numbered in its mazes. The spectacle now became wildly terrific; the fierce–looking and menacing visages of the chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling strains in which they mingled their guttural tones. Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into the post, and raised his voice in a shout, which might be termed his own battle cry.

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And these scriptures.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Pray for mercy. Preach Christ.

Being Dogmatic Is Not Giving Up

Receiving WordPress’s latest auto-reminder email that suggested I need to renew this blog made me feel like WP was growing impatient and about to put another persuasive turn into the vice. That said, I gave in, spilled the beans, forked over the cash–however you want to think of it–I succumbed to the belief that my words might matter. Here is an overdue post to mark the occasion.

My Evangelical, protestant, Christian seminary might just embody the most defeatist attitude I have ever seen.

As some of you know, I began to notice this after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando (which occurred after 9/11, which occurred after the first attempt to knock out the Twin Towers in 1993).

As well-read academics, the professors and most of the students are aware of the English language’s five letter word “dogma.” But I am convinced they do not know what it means. Do you?

All I would like to suggest here is that dogma has nothing to do with giving up. Here at school, dogma is treated as the thing at the end of the argument. The fail-safe. When all else–when all logic, when all argumentation–fails, the Christian simply declares, “dogma.” Come to think of it, it’s almost used like saying “uncle” when wrestling around with older siblings or cousins. (Or Uncle Bob).

This approach, dogma as the fail-safe, is a grave, grave mistake. Ohio State was another data point.

The Christian knows we have the victory in Christ. That’s primary and ever will be. Start there and end there. Never stray from there.

The tangible way to do this is with Christian love. With the only real love. With the love that is rooted in the Cross.

The conversational way to do this is asking questions until you demonstrated that you actually are listening and curious to discover what he or she thinks. Don’t stop when he repeats Wolf Blitzer or Obama or Trump or Clinton or Megyn Kelly (why is she in the headlines so much?) or John Stewart or Trevor Noah or John Oliver or whoever. I don’t even watch TV and I can’t help but hear what these people think. And I don’t care what they think. I don’t know them. Neither does the person you’re talking to. Keep questioning. Become an expert in listening.

It is our Christian duty to restore dignity to people. It is our Christian duty to announce the available redemption. This starts with Christ, not fails with Christ.

Being dogmatic does not mean giving up. It means honesty. It means integrity. It means that from the ‘get go,’ you proclaim, “I know my assumptions. Do you know yours?”

One final way I can offer to help re-frame ‘dogma’ in your mind is by comparing it to confidence. Think of any person you would call confident. Then ask yourself, “Would anything meaningfully different be communicated if I called them dogmatic?”

Michael Jordan = confident or dogmatic? Trump = confident or dogmatic? Obama = confident or dogmatic? Your pastor = confident or dogmatic? Your military members = confident or dogmatic? Joel Osteen = confident or dogmatic? Moses = confident or dogmatic? Muhammad = confident or dogmatic? Paul = confident or dogmatic? Martin Luther = confident or dogmatic? Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, any A-List Actor or Actress etc.

Confident living is not silent. Dogmatic living is not giving up.

Being dogmatic is not giving up. Christians, don’t give up.

Constructive Criticisms Of My Evangelical Seminary

A friend at work asked me what an “Evangelical” is. He asked because the group “Evangelicals” keeps getting referenced during the election. I told him that to the best of my knowledge it is more about what it is not, than what it is. Evangelicals are not Catholics or Orthodox or Quakers or Amish. I still have to ask someone from school what distinguishes Evangelicals from Protestants. I think the main difference is that a person uses “Evangelicals” when they intend to be pejorative, but would say “Protestants” if they didn’t. However, since I am an adult man, calling me names really falls on deaf ears so I can’t be sure. The reason this friend asked me is because I am currently a student at an Evangelical Christian seminary. Why am I an a student at an Evangelical Seminary? Because I was raised a Protestant. I don’t believe in papal supremacy, so I can’t see myself converting to Catholicism, and I don’t have much ability to interact with Orthodoxy, so I don’t see that in my future either. However, I can’t deny that the tradition and history of those two cultures of Christianity have appeal. Given that my personality always trends toward extremes I don’t mind admitting that I wish my Evangelical school was more rigorous and disciplined than it is. Here are a couple of constructive criticisms that I need to vent about.

Does everyone know what the Jewish Mishnah is? At the risk of being over-simplistic, it is essentially the written interpretation of the Torah. Unfortunately, when Evangelicals discuss the Mishnah, it is often presented as a silly, if not altogether unnecessary document and concept. “The Scripture is clear,” the Evangelicals say. Well, that’s not really what you (Evangelicals) believe. Have you seen the library on campus? What do you call that if not a Mishnah?

That leads me to Christian books. Want to publish a Christian book that will appeal to Evangelicals? Open with, “One area of Christianity that is often neglected is…” Seriously? I beg to differ. Everything has been covered endlessly. 2000 years worth of coverage. What you meant to say is, “Because I lacked wisdom and discernment (but not confidence), in other words, because I was a teenager when I converted, for a long time I believed Christianity was simply what one man told me it was. Then I switched churches after I (choose one of the following or insert your own) got divorced, committed a crime, got fired, had a kid, or experienced life in some way that wasn’t according to this man’s conception and realized the error of my ways. Perhaps my story can help you and make me a buck in the process.” My criticism is that while autobiographical accounts might have worked up until the advent of the internet, they don’t anymore. Now it’s time to interact with people. Evangelicals: Please don’t succumb to the temptation that your story can save people. Only Christ’s atoning death and resurrection possesses that sort of power. No Christian doctrine calls for believers to compete with the world on the world’s terms.

Here’s another chance for me to discuss coercion. Coercion has no place in Christianity. It doesn’t. If you believe it does then you believe in what early church fathers called a heresy. Evangelical pastors that preach war are consequently heretics. But that’s okay. Comparatively, this is an easy problem to fix. Just stop. There is no rule that says you have to preach war or believe in war and violence and there most certainly is a rule which says you can transform your teaching.

For all the Christians that served, fought, and maybe even killed people: no big thing. Sound biblically based theology says you’re forgiven. Easy enough.

For currently serving Christians, get out when you can. Maybe see if you can switch to a non-combatant when you feel convicted to do so.

Military Chaplains: you have a big job.

Parents, church-goers, youth pastors: stop. Stop encouraging teenagers to serve in combatant roles.

This brings me to Star Wars. Evangelicals love the force. In a tremendous act of projection, they consistently see the force as a redeeming metaphor of the Holy Spirit. What they miss is that Star Wars is ultimately still about violence solving problems. Christianity and the Holy Spirit are not.

Let’s zoom out to movies in general. Evangelicals love movies. But nearly all popular (blockbuster) movies believe that violence solves problems. Given that Christians don’t seem to have the upper hand in the film industry, that the industry endlessly promotes violence as a problem solver should come as no surprise. What would a Christian movie look like? That’s difficult to say. It wouldn’t look like Star Wars or even Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. The fact is Christians are called to glorify God. Entertainment is hardly suited for that task. Building schools, however, and hospitals, and homeless shelters–that’s on the mark.

Lastly, this brings me to my minor area of expertise: strip clubs. Keep in mind that while I believe Christians must be pacifists, I served and on at least two missions humans were killed directly because of my service. And while I believe Christians should avoid patronizing strip clubs if at all possible (if you’re hopeless and feel compelled, please patronize away; just don’t stop going to church), I managed one. This is because I couldn’t ever see myself offering counsel on these things based on second-hand knowledge. In any case, Evangelicals need to get over sex and eroticism. We must. The biblical (Almighty God’s) standard has never been in doubt. One man, one woman, forever. Yet Evangelical leaders persist in communicating a tremendous insecurity about the matter. For example (the following is meant to be convincing in its overwhelming-ness), one professor last semester mentioned he was a virgin until marriage in his 30s at least every other class session. Another also regularly mentioned he was single very late into life. Another mentioned that a former student was involved in ministry to adult film stars and that he (the prof) wasn’t sure if that was possible. Then this semester during the opening session of a course a professor randomly mentioned strip clubs and how as he drove by them he would pray that the people would be “saved”, but the building/business be destroyed.

Seriously folks. Christianity is about more than sex. You’re afraid of strip clubs? Strip clubs are the very, very end result of a long series of events in which only fully grown adults partake. Would it be nice if all adults could be happily married in heterosexual, monogamous relationships? Sure. But if we’re going to talk about active contributors to purposelessness and godlessness, parents and the home is number one. Since we’re never going to pray for the destruction of the home, the next institution in terms of negative influence on humanity that Evangelicals should be praying for God’s intervention and destruction of is public schools. Or maybe we shouldn’t be praying for destruction.

Instead, I recommend praying for wisdom and insight regarding the tremendous amount of wealth and power Evangelicals have at their disposal. Something like, O Lord, we give thee thanks for blessing us with more power to carry out thy will than all other previous cultures. Lead us not into the resultant temptations, but guide us so that we may best glorify your most holy name. Amen.

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?”

A Letter To Combat

Dear Combat,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you recently.  While I’d love to report that my memory of you grows fonder as the years pass, quite the opposite is true.  To begin, I want you to know I feel like you took something from me.  I think you took something I didn’t even know I had it until it went missing.  I’m talking about care.  And concern.  Care and concern for things.  Take work for example.  How am I supposed to believe anything that is not life and death is worth spending energy on?  Of course I’m capable, and of course I’m qualified.  But the drive to ‘fight the good fight’, when it isn’t a fight, is gone.  I think you took it.

I also feel like I’m not sure how people expect to be treated.  While we were together, everyone was equal.  It was beautiful.  During missions the mission was all that mattered.  Everyone checked their feelings at the door.  Now, people’s feelings are the mission.  Every experience since being with you has included not only completing the mission, but making the person feel like the mission was completed.  Instead of results, people want to purchase experiences.  I just don’t understand it.  I know you don’t either.

Lastly, for now, because of what you taught me about what’s important and what’s not important when lives are on the line, taken together with the depth of the learning experience, I can’t shake the appearance of having a large ego.  It’s like I’m expected to just forget all the lessons you taught simply because not very many people ever learn them.  The trouble is, as you know, I couldn’t forget your instruction even if I wanted to.  With you, there wasn’t endless debating.  There was action.  There was doing.  Indecision was an enemy.  Now, decisiveness is a detractor.  It doesn’t make sense.

You know I love you, right?  Don’t you?  At the same time, I just can’t help wanting to blame you either.

In the end, I guess I really just wanted to say “Thanks” and “No Thanks”.

Your Son,

Pete

PS – This is just a little thing, and I don’t know if it’s you or just flying that is responsible, but I’m not loving how I can’t pass up a bathroom without feeling like “Might as well.  Who knows when the next time I’ll have a chance to go will be.”