Say No To Incumbents

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Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 06-08-2011

Two things happened within the past two days that simply exacerbated a growing disgust I had been developing for Congress.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Thursday.  During the interview, he stated that there were members of the Senate that “like war, like waging war, like the notion of staying at war, like spending money on war.”

The second was having our nation’s credit rating downgraded from AAA to AA+.

These issues may seem unrelated, and some may consider it a stretch to connect them here.  Perhaps, but this is where I present my opinions.

Having been raised within the Department of Defense, spent eleven years in the military, and with friends still serving, I am very sensitive to the general treatment of our service members.  The United States Armed Forces is a collection of institutions that  in addition to securing our nation—a task they have performed extraordinarily well for over a century—also provides lower-income families an opportunity at a better life.  (If you don’t understand how this is so, I can explain, but not here.)

The decision to join our nation’s Armed Forces is not a light one.  Regardless of motivation, becoming a member of the military—a voluntary act—is accepting the risk that one may be asked to give up one’s life for the greater interest of national security.

At times, preserving our national security has had secondary effects beneficial to other countries, such as ending targeted persecution such as in World War II and more recently the Balkans, liberating countries from the clutches of oppression, fascist and communist, and even enabling the continued existence of smaller countries bullied by larger ones, such as in the first Gulf War.

I mention that these are secondary benefits because make no mistake in believing that those were not the primary objectives of our nation’s actions.  We were acting in the interest of preserving our national security.

In exchange for volunteering to potentially lose one’s life in the interest of national security, the men and women of our Armed Forces implicitly trust that our nation’s leadership will do their best to keep them out of harm’s way as best as possible.  Just because someone is willing to risk their life the greater interest doesn’t mean that such a life needs to be risked; only if absolutely necessary.

As such, a patriot’s duty to the courageous men and women who unselfishly fight our nation’s wars is simply to bring them home as soon as possible.

By no means does “bring them home” mean “keep them home.”  War is still, unfortunately, the last resort to preserve our national security, although only when diplomacy fails.  All avenues must be exhausted before war is even considered.  When war is inevitable, our nation’s volunteers—the best of us—will have to fight that war.  But, mindful of the trust that our soldiers have placed upon our leadership, such wars should last no longer than necessary to achieve primary objectives.  (Secondary benefits are nice, but not required.)

Wars cost money.  A lot of money.  Okay, I don’t have numbers, but I’m willing to bet that over time, they are much more expensive than diplomacy.  I like to believe that I’m not naïve enough to believe that our nation’s wars are the sole reason behind our economic problems—especially our debt—although I do believe they do significantly contribute to it.

Yesterday, our credit rating was downgraded from AAA to AA+.  Despite any “mathematical errors,” what I read in the New York Times this morning was that the decision to downgrade was a “judgment about the nation’s leaders, writing that the “the gulf between the political parties” had reduced its confidence in the government’s ability to manage its finances.”

Downgrading our credit rating may not mean that much.  I will admit that my ignorance on global economics is vast, and all that I can understand is that the direct result is that our nation’s future debt will cost more.  The implications of that is that—I think—it’ll take longer to pay our debt.  Again, my ignorant mind expects that this will inevitably trickle down to us in some form. We’ll see.  I am still disappointed in the shameful antics displayed by Congress that led us up to this.

However, when I hear that members of Congress, quoting Senator Dick Durbin, “like war, like waging war, like the notion of staying at war, like spending money on war,” I am simply disgusted.  Not because of the fiscal irresponsibility I believe they are demonstrating—that just makes them idiots in my mind—but by the dishonor they are openly demonstrating to our service members.  In addition to idiots, now I think they’re assholes.  Shame on you.

While I do believe that our nation’s legislative branch is mostly to blame, this does not excuse our executive branch, which chose to extend the wars of “dubious” objectives started by the previous administration.

I do believe in our system of government—the three branches providing the necessary checks and balances that preserve the freedom of our citizens from the oppression of government—is the best in the world, but I have lost faith in all of our elected officials currently in office, especially when they no longer support our troops.  Therefore, I call for patriots to use our democratic process and vote out the incumbents, regardless of political party affiliations, in an attempt to hopefully renew the government with people with the same sense of duty and responsibility to our nation as displayed by the very best of us, the courageous men and women of our Armed Forces.

…lest ye be judged.

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Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-08-2010

As one of the dumbest men on our orb, I try to simplify ideas as much as I can so I can understand them.  Simple concepts are easier to grasp and follow, and makes decision-making easier.  If B always follows A, I know what to expect when I see an A.

However, just as in everything, there is a balance that must be achieved.  Oversimplification is perhaps as dangerous as the deep complexity many of us seem to strive for.

I am by no means a religious scholar, nor do I claim to be a follower of any specific religion.  I do believe in God, but consider each and every one of us equal in his (or her!) eyes.  As a follower of Buddhist principles, I continuously struggle to maintain an open mind on all subjects, which is sometimes quite difficult for someone as biased as I can be.

I know very little about Judaism.  I do know that Judaism predates Christianity by at least a thousand years, and that Abraham is considered a prophet of Judaism.  What I have observed about Judaism is that it is not a unified religion; there appear to be a large number of schisms ranging from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal.  There are three main schisms within Judaism:  Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism.  The difference between the schisms is basically their interpretation of Jewish law.

Christianity is nearly 2000 years old, and it is not immune to the ideological fractures that Judaism has experienced.  Not only was I raised Catholic, but I was raised Catholic in Spain, during a period in which the church permeated society in just about all aspects.  (It appears that in my 20-year absence, the Catholic Church has considerably lost their influence on Spanish culture.)  It turns out that the Roman Catholic Church is only one of four major divisions within Christianity, the others being the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and Protestantism.  Even within Protestantism, there are several denominations which differ in dogmatic interpretation.  Haitian Voodoo could be argued to be Christian.  The Ku Klux Klan professes Christianity.  The Mormon Church definitely believes in Jesus.  On a side note, it is interesting to note that the same Abraham that is a prophet within Judaism is a prophet of Christianity.

Islam is one of the “youngest” religions, dating back roughly 1300 years.  (Interestingly, within Islam, not only is Abraham a prophet, but Jesus as well.)  As young as Islam is, it is also not immune to the ideological schisms that have permeated other major religions.  Not only is there Sunni Islam and Shi’a Islam, there is also Sufism and Ahmadiyya.  There are a significant number of patriotic American Muslims living in our cities already.

Even Buddhism—as a religion—traces its origins to Hinduism.  Hinduism itself can be traced back over 3000 years and also has a number of formalized ideological schisms.

At a microscopic level, every church appears to be a cohesive entity.  At a high-level, however, there isn’t a major religion that isn’t heavily fragmented by ideological and dogmatic interpretations.

The plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan have come under heavy criticism, garnering national attention.  Ironically, the location where the mosque is planned to be built has already been in use for Muslim worship for some time.  The most vocal criticism is the insensitivity of building a house of Islamic worship so close to the former World Trade Center, where the atrocities of 9/11 took place.  The proclaimed insensitivity stems from the fact that the terrorists—or what I prefer to call them, those “God–mned motherfu–ers,” we Muslim.  The Republican establishment seems to have firmly attached themselves to this idea.

Should we blame the horrors of Columbine on the Vatican?  How about the persecution of aliens by the Ku Klux Clan?  Does the onus fall on Christianity?  (Sorry, Roman Catholic Church…but the Spanish Inquisition is all on you…)  I do not wish to oversimplify religion to the point that all members within one religion are alike.

Why do we blame the actions of a few (morons) on the whole?  A heavily-fragmented whole that can’t agree on anything except that they all believe in God?

As a veteran, I took an oath to defend the Constitution of this great nation of ours, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Regardless of my enlistment expiry, I do not recall my oath to the U.S. Constitution to have an expiration date.  One of the major tenets of our Constitution that separates us from most other nations is the Bill of Rights, in which freedom of religion is explicitly granted to U.S. citizens.

Well, that explicit freedom of religion extends to our Muslim neighbors as well.  If you are a legal citizen of our great nation, you have the freedom to congregate and worship as you wish, provided it brings no harm to others.  It says so in the U.S. Constitution.

It is concerning when I read or hear comments such as one of our politician’s demand that Saudi Arabia should allow building of Christian churches in Mecca prior to New York City allowing the proposed mosque being built.  In the words of a notable Republican—within the past decade—this is not about whom they are or what they do, it is about who WE are.

WE are AMERICANS.  Our nation—defined by our Constitution—is the envy of the world.  The fact that there is even a national debate regarding the proposed mosque is a credit to us; most countries would have abruptly terminated the discussions long ago.  Even so-called progressive governments, such as the French—which prohibited the use of facial veils—and the Swiss—which prohibited the building of minarets—have interfered in their nation’s religious “freedoms.”

I refuse to be defined by others.  I refuse to be compared to the citizens of other nations.  WE, as Americans, set the standards of citizenship for other nations.

The right to build a mosque—or any other center of religious worship—within our borders is granted by the U.S. Constitution.  That includes lower Manhattan.

Let’s not remember our fallen by becoming the closed-minded citizens of freedom-inhibited nations.

I choose to remember our fallen by shouting out at the world “YES!  You can build your mosque wherever you like, because I am an American, and America is about FREEDOM.”

Absurdities and humor

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Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 05-02-2010

In a relatively recent conversation, I was told that “contrary to popular belief, achieving true spirituality is not to remove oneself from the world, but is instead to become part of it.”  Such a resonating epiphany has triggered several thoughts, and once I work them all out and develop a perspective that I feel I can share, I will post it.  (Hopefully, I can intersect my perspective with yours, and better zero in on the subject.)

One of the thoughts on the subject I’m willing to share is how good-natured humor is a key aspect of spirituality.

Life is full of absurdity.  You know it is.  Being able to deal with such absurdities in a positive manner is essential to a joyous life.  (More on this soon!)

Although intellectually I understand the need for military action, I also believe that protracted war is the pinnacle of absurdity.  However, it is not incongruous to be anti-war and yet fully support the brave men and women sent to them.  Since our national leadership has deemed it necessary to deploy our troops—exceptional spirits who have volunteered to protect us, even at the highest possible personal cost to them—it is also their responsibility to bring them home as soon as possible.  (There is no implicit political affiliation with supporting our troops.)

As a tribute to our brave men and women, I want to share with you some photos I recently received via email that depict the good-natured humor that our troops display while dealing with the absurdities of war.

Support our troops by thanking them when you get a chance.

Disclaimer:  These are not my pictures.  I am assuming that since I received them in a mass-distribution email that they are now in the public domain.  I will gladly remove any or all of them if my posting them causes any issue.


Thank you!

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Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-11-2009

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day.

It’s been nearly 13 years since I separated from the military, a fact that I had nearly forgotten.  Yesterday, however—for the first Veteran’s Day that I can remember—I was thanked for my service to my country.  (This year—again for the first time ever—I was also thanked on Memorial Day.)

It felt good!  Every single time I was thanked yesterday incurred a wave of emotion within me that made me proud of what I once was, and I appreciate the gratitude.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day.

Today, I thank the soldier.  Today, I want to thank the airman.  Today, I want to thank the sailor—Navy or Coast Guard.  Today, I want to thank the marine.  Today, I want to thank all the brave men and women who are serving or have served in our country’s armed forces.  Ever.

Today, I thank those who are serving or have served in Afghanistan.  In Iraq…either time.  In Somalia.  In Panama.  In Grenada.  In Vietnam.  In Korea.  In Germany.  In Italy.  In France.  In Cuba.  In our own country.

Today, I to thank the volunteers that enter our ranks, who willingly sign on the dotted line that they will give their life if deemed necessary for a greater good.

Today, I thank those who were drafted for not running away.

Today, I thank the Air Force and Navy fighter pilots in the air after 9/11—without weapons—but with orders to fly into any plane that posed a threat to our country.

ChiefsToday, I thank cooks in the “dining facility” for ensuring I was nourished enough for my mission, as inane as it felt at the time.

Today, I thank the SP who guarded that plane in 5-degree weather.

Today, I thank the sailors who intercept torpedoes meant for the “big ships.”

Today, I thank the specialist who loaded the printer paper at the computing facility.

Today, I thank the submariners, the operators, the pilots, the tankers, the grunts, the swabbies, the zoomies…the staffers, the privates, the sergeants, the captains, the colonels, the generals…

Today, I thank every single member of the armed forces—regardless of their duty—because each and every one of you contribute—or have contributed—to the mission; every job is integral in its success.

Today, I thank every single member of the armed forces for preserving the freedoms granted to me by our Constitution—including the freedom to berate you.

Today, I thank our allied uniformed members, for their blood spilled next to ours.

Thank you!

Today!

Because today is Thursday.