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Am I An Unpatriotic Jerk?

[Caution: it's going to be a fairly long one today, folks, but if this isn't worth some time, then nothing is.]

I'm guessing that this entry may start a bit of a controversial discussion...perhaps not. If it does (and, believe it or not, I actually encourage it to be), all I ask is that you be civil to each other, no matter how solidly your opinion is held, or how strongly you choose to express your views. In my mind, that's how issues get resolved. You can't solve a jigsaw if you don't have all the pieces. You can't solve a disagreement if you don't listen...no, no, no....I mean LISTEN to the other point(s) of view. Otherwise, it's simply a bias, not worthy of the time for consideration. (Lecture over!)

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from an "internet buddy" that basically consisted of 10-15 horrid pictures taken of scenes from Iraq and what "our" soldiers are going through. With each picture, there was a qualifying comparison, such as "While you do yadda-yadda, they do yadda-yadda". Here's an example:

"You see only what the media wants you to see. He sees the broken bodies lying around him."

Anyone who doesn't agree that that picture, and countless thousands like it, are horrific, disturbing and disgusting is either incapable of being sensitive to the suffering of others or they are dead.

After a dozen or so of these mostly stomach-turning pictures, her e-mail then showed that we're "winning the hearts and minds of the people" with pictures like this one:

Her e-mail had several of these legitimate, just as honest pictures, what I call "warm-fuzzies", such as:

"Lest we forget...Let's keep the chain going".

Finally, she ended her note with: "Though we know this war is going on, it doesn't hurt to be reminded once in awhile just what these men & women go through for us."

Of course, on the surface at least, I think most people would readily justify the current warring actions, represented by these images, as legitimate. Not everyone, of course, but then eventually someone will come out with the line "They're fighting for your right for you to disagree, don't forget that." Following such a non sequitor, of course, all discussion ends at that point. That statement, however, implies at least that bombing, hatred, killing, torture, destruction, friendly fire, and all the other horrors of war which we're constantly bombarded with in the comfort of our living-rooms make up the only "answer" possible. Frankly, my friends, to that I say "bullshit!"

I responded to her e-mail, and asked her permission to include this topic as my blog today, quoting from her e-mail and sharing my response to her. She had no objection, and, in fact, responded once more to mine.

Here's my response to her note:

[First, please note that I'm speaking from a Canadian perspective, not an American one, and readily admit that I'm therefore probably ignorant of some of the emotional attachment that an American citizen would feel. In fairness, though, we have our own troops dying in Afghanistan in order to keep a mile of road open for visiting dignitaries, or whatever .

Secondly, I have taken a few small liberties in editing the note I sent, and have added an explanatory sentence here or there too. Guilty as charged.]

First of all, a very happy new year to you and your family. I hope and trust (knowing the little I do about you!) that you'll see to it that that's the case whether anybody likes it or not!

Now, I'm going to be a little bit controversial with my response to this note of yours about the Troops. I used to be a very strong supporter of our military when they used to be a peacekeeping force, and only a legitimate warring force (i.e. helping to destroy Hitler) when absolutely necessary....occasions very few and very far between. I don't mean this to be denigrating at all, just a response to say that I differ (and in this case, very strongly!) in my views compared with yours, but I trust you understand that I totally respect yours. That's intelligent dialogue. Of course, those pictures that you attached to your note are both touching but sickening and horrid at the same time. They would undoubtedly have a repulsive effect even on the most totally insensitive people. But they're like a "red herring". Emotions don't win or lose wars---start or end them. People do.

THAT is not what our troops should be doing. We would show much more leadership on the world stage if we simply said "Hell no, we won't go". Give us a disaster...hurricane, flood, ice storm. Give us a PEACEKEEPING role ----negotiator, facilitator, problem-solver, whatever, and we'll be there faster than a cat can say meow. The truth, if only people would face it and admit it, is that we have allowed our government to effectively make us the 51st state. The Prez (and not just the current one) says "Jump" and we say "Aye, Aye Sir. How High?" It was Trudeau who said back in the 60's or 70's (and I'm paraphrasing here because I don't remember the exact quote), ""When you sleep next to an elephant, you feel it when he rolls over."

Of course, there will always be some truth to that. But it should be under "former" conditions (or at least similar, even perhaps improved), where we were neighbours with each other, not bullies. Times where I didn't require a passport to visit my brother in Pennsylvania. Now, I'll only get to see him when he and his family come north, which is seldom. Their daughter, my niece, is getting married in March in Chicago, and I was looking forward to being there to share her happiness and potential future. Now I can't (won't) go, because I refuse to spend $80+ bucks on a passport which I don't need just because Uncle Georgie says I need it now to get into his country. Yeah! Yeah! I know...the terrorist threat didn't exist then, and we're the big staging point now for all of them to hit the States imminently, and maybe simultaneously. As long as you keep the people "scared" (I wonder just how many American citizens know what they're supposed to do if the "Warning Alert" goes to "orange"), you can get away with "temporarily" bending some laws (which generally tend to become permanent after the fact). No one will mind, will they?. And the proof for that scare tactic to keep us all in line is....????? Another red herring.

Anyone who believes that adding a few hundred more underpaid and undertrained people to look at dirty underwear in a suitcase going through security all day at an airport will somehow eliminate a terrorist threat to national security is dreaming in technicolor. Any president who legitimizes unauthorized wire-tapping on his own citizens "just in case" is a frightening threat to the basic fundamental of right to free speech, so much so that internet sites are closing down by the thousands, just as a precaution that they might be in breach of these "rules". Everyone is suspicious of "the file" that various government agencies might have on them (McCarthyism, anyone?). This response that I'm giving you right now may find its way into a security file somewhere. Who knows, eh? More importantly, who cares? I sure don't. I've done nothing wrong.

In a few short years, the States has turned from a fairly positive world leader to become a threat to their own people as well as others. Of course, it was the World Trade Tower incident that immediately re-set the U.S. agenda. A handful of kids from a culture where it is a great honour to die as a martyr for your country, along with a few highly trained trainers, and look at what they've accomplished (and we can't even begin to wrap our heads around actually looking forward to dying for your country.. It was the same as with Kamikaze pilots from Japan during WWII.

Here in the west, we value life more than anything, to the point that we will spend millions and millions and take months out of all sorts of peoples lives just to give a hog-farmer who is clearly, obviously, and has all but admitted to being a serial murderer of prostitutes (more of our "throwaways" in most cases) his "day in court". That is simply because we still believe, and with conviction and integrity, even though admittedly we screw up sometimes (anyone remember O.J.?)...that that merely says our system needs tweaking because it's not perfect "enough"... that you are innocent until shown to be guilty in a court of law. No exceptions. No "price" can be put on the value of one person over another, regardless of their actions. We MUST separate the "person" from their "actions", and we don't. And BTW, after 6 years or so, just where is Bin Laden? Do all these "elite" strike forces that the States apparently has and that make such great fiction actually exist? My skepticism says he'll show up just a month or two before the election this fall. No basis for that statement, just political skepticism!

Greed and Power are the two concepts those folks who "lead us" are incapable of seeing past. "You elected them, and you got what you asked for" you might say. Be careful of what you ask for, first. Also sadly today, however, is that it takes money (millions and millions to buy that power). Any president/government who systematically tortures prisoners-of-war, laughing directly in the face of the Geneva Convention that was so carefully crafted following WWII so this kind of thing would never happen again, is not only a cheat but a liar to their own people when they deny these things are happening in their very country too. Now a president/government who so carefully screens and controls and edits what the press might report (remember the "embedded press corps" concept when they first moved into Iraq?) is yet another slow but certain disintegration of those freedoms that we have for centuries held so dear. That, sadly, is what those troops are fighting for now. Not the right that you allude to in your comments with the pics.

As I see it, we have 3 choices.

1) Laissez-faire (leave things alone and continue to rot), no doubt with increasing speed as it continues to get a good and irreversible foothold on our lives,

2) Update the terms of the laws that govern this sort of thing (I've always felt it's a mockery and a "Bugs Bunny"-like comic strip notion and rather silly that there are "rules" to war, anyway. The point of having a war in the first place, after all, is to kill, maim and destroy anyone from the "other side" in order to bring down a government you don''t like, or take over their land because they have oil and you don't. Just watch how the Yankees go after our water supplies in the next decade or so, and just so their elite can still have "lawns" in the middle of a desert area like Vegas. As evidence, all you need to do is look at how they have essentially destroyed our cattle industry and our sofwood industry in the last few years, primarily for political pork-barrelling reasons, in spite of every Court of Appeal ruling in our favour.

And remember too, for the large part, the "terrorist" side is also made up of 18 and 19 year old scared kids, just like ours, who have wives, kids and families at home too. . ...and who gives a shit about those kids anyway ...kids are dispensable and disposable. We can always make more....be that as it may. Wars used to be fought soldier-to-soldier. Now, they're fought with high-tech, precision-guided WMD's. Even that term makes me shudder still. It implies "we don't care what the damage is, or who innocently gets killed, as long as we get our target. Anything else....well, too bad, so sad. Hmmmmm.....let's just call them 'collateral damage' and no one will think twice about it".

3) "Fight for something better and different". Give a damn about the thousands of babies who will die of Aids today , Jan 9, 2008,in southern Africa because the large pharmaceuticul companies, although having enough stock, won''t send it because there's not a big enough profit margin in it for them, and yet the military will spend over a billion dollars on a single jet or submarine. Then the big cheese of these companies somehow manage to go home each night with a clear conscience. I doubt they give even a brief, passing thought (unless it's perhaps an ethnic, denigrating joke at a black-tie reception or something) to these folks. They are likely not even aware of the severity of the droughts, starvation, diseases, and overcrowding, and shanty towns. We have absolutely no idea of the other, legitimate horrors out there. I acknowledge fully that my idea of ethics and conscience may differ radically from the vast majority. Even if true, I doubt I'll ever change it. In my mind, those are the very few concepts upon which a person....EVERY person (not a nation, not an organization, not a neighbourhood block party, but an individual) are built and must draw their own personal lines. It just occured to me that I suppose that's why I'm taking the time to write you this fairly lengthy response! These are the fundamental guides you don't yield on (some people throw religion into their pile of guiding sticks too, one which is also guaranteed). Otherwise, we end up in a personal mess like we're seeing on the global stage today. We compromised.

Granted, I acknowledge that having a weak and indecisive leader at the time didn't help the States much either, but that's a personal bias and not a rational argument....those goddammned turban-wearers, greasebacks, and niggers aren't worth anything anyway. They're just a drain on our social welfare systems, taking our jobs away from us and shouldn't be allowed in our country, let alone bring their culture with them. Hmmmm....why does the phrase "supreme white Aryan Race" jump into my mind at this moment. I think I'll get my head shaved, buy some Doc Marten's and bleacher jeans, get a tattoo or two, and head out into the world as a new man. (Sarcasm, just in case you didn't pick up on it! ). I often wonder if we could somehow find a way to return to some form of the old "work ethic" of taking pride in a job well done, and not work to just get by till it's Friday so you can go out drinking with your buds. Please don't mis-read me there, there's nothing wrong with that. This isn't an exlusive "A or B but not both" type of situation, but I wonder if that would make any difference at all. It has always struck me as somewhat ironic and peculiar that when you buy almost anything today, esp. electronics, fridges, furnaces and so on, they come with an optional extended warranty. Isn't that the same as saying "We think our product is so badly manufactured that it will break down on you within the first 2 years. Wanna buy some insurance at a riduculously high price..just in case?)" . Oh yeah, while I'm on this ethnic-bashing streak, the Pakis shouldn't be allowed to have the RCMP uniform altered slightly to accomodate their beliefs (it's a piece of cloth, for God's sake!). As an aside, I wonder how many trillions of dollars are spent by westerners each year holidaying in these exotic places, and being fascinated by the cultural differences they find..Such a mind-blowing irony!

So, yes, I have the deepest empathy for those soldiers over there today. They will be scarred for life, just like the Viet Nam vets are today, with a lot of them homeless, limbless, begging in the streets for their next meal and nobody gives a damn because that was 50 years ago. Many others are institutionalized for life with trauma that will never go away. It destroys families, strains governments, and splits nations, as this note would do, if-----as I sincerely hope not---you were to take it as slap in your face and an argument for argument's sake. Again, I'm trusting that you consider it just a dialogue between two folks with differing views where we happen in this case to strongly disagree.

I don't believe that I am an insensitive person, but I have the same "prayers" for the safety and successful return to their family life for all those soldiers suffering through their current experiences as you do, so brutally well-documented in the pictures you have attached and documented by your pictures, but I offer exactly the same prayers for rig-workers, law enforcement agencies, yup, even truck drivers, construction workers and secretaries and pizza delivery boys. Name every job there is, including the unemployed or under-employed, and my feeling for their safety is exactly the same. I think the individual person is where true value lies----- where the real, almost tangible dignity and integrity lie, not in an esoteric grouping such as "the army" or the "youth workers in inner cities", or "the runaway/throwaway kids" or the "junkies" or the CEO's of Fortune 500 companies.

Considering that I end virtually all of my blogs with "Peace", it would make me a total hypocritic to say otherwise. A few months ago, I was trying to help out a couple of kids that were school drop-outs, stoners, and going nowhere fast (they were two of the kids who painted my house last summer, and live close by). I managed to help get one of them enrolled in an alternate school so he could at least finish his high school. Since I'm quite deaf now (getting a hearing aid in a couple weeks!!), I often don't hear the doorbell if I'm in the basement or upstairs, so they would always phone before they were coming over, and I'd go and make sure my front door was unlocked so they could come in and yell for me.

One evening, one of them felt like coming over for awhile, so I went through the standard routine. About 10 minutes later, I went downstairs because I hadn't heard anything (they usually shout for me from the foyer), and discovered almost right away that he had stolen $100 from my wallet that was sitting on a table by the kitchen where I always keep it. I convinced his friend to get him to come over at least one more time (he had an unlisted number), because I wanted to tell him to his face what I just said above. Namely, I had not the slightest hint of having less respect for him as a person, and he deserved always the dignity and rights of any human being, including from me. I made it very clear that I was really pissed off with some of the things he did, and demanded he pay me back the money (knowing I'd never see a penny of it anyway). I don't think I saw a more surprised and confused look combined together on their faces in all my life. I doubt that either of them understood a word of what I was saying, and of course I didn't get the money back, nor have I seen him again. His buddy dropped by a few more times, but now he too has stopped coming over [Ed. note --- he called just this morning and asked if it was okay for him to still come by occasionally. I feel good]. I don't know if he'll continue with his schooling or not. He says he will. Do I consider them a "failed project"? Absolutely not, because whether it actually happens or not, I planted a seed of ethics and morality with them (which neither had in great supply), and I will always believe that at some point further on down their life path, it will have some effect, in some manner, in some situation....even if it doesn't. That's the sort of thing I live for now. Not meaning to sound like any form of braggadacio, but that is the kind of thing I'm going to try and do more and more of with what remains of my life. I have discovered that there is truly no greater payoff than that. At least, I haven't stumbled across it yet..

Wow! Sounds you touched a nerve, eh?! Thanks for the note, and "forcing" me to renew my thoughts and feelings on this topic. Some people say the decline started with the fall of the Iron Curtain. That you need the yin-yang of life to maintain balance, and we've lost the "yang". Where from next? Perhaps China, India.....the future will tell, we can only speculate.

Love and Peace

(and a deeply, personal thank you for the supportive words and thoughts you've sent my way over the past while. Believe me please when I say they made a huge difference in my life when I really needed to feel them. I am forever indebted. )


P.S. I truly, truly, honestly don't mind if you're not comfortable with it or would rather it not be, but I'd like to ask your permission to post just my reply as my next blog entry. There a lot of thoughts up there that I would like to "get out there". I will fully honour your desire if you'd rather I don't...and I won't use your name at the top, or any part that "implicates" you as the original e-mail sender of your original posting if you'd prefer it that way, unless of course, you want it, or parts of it included, to balance the discussion or whatever. I will, as I say, totally honour your desires, even about publishing my response. I know it's a touchy, controversial issue. But isn't that what we should be talking about, and trying to find a way out of? Just my thoughts.


This was her response:


Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your opinion.

I have to say you have definitely given me some food for thought. Since the American retaliation on terrorists after the World Trade Centre attack there have been almost 5000 American soldiers killed. How many Canadians? How many Britians? I guess the terrorists could add that to their tally too.

No matter how you look at it it's all damn sad.To be honest I don't know what who or what to believe. I try to make an informed decision but it is hard.

Dave & I were discussing your views on this & Dave did have a valid point.Our soldiers may be not just peace keepers over there but they don't really have a choice in the matter. They are given their instructions & if they refused they would face courtmarshall. I know for a fact there are soldiers that do not wholeheartedly agree with the role they are playing over there but feel they have no choice. We definitely know that they don't have a say.

Please do not ever worry about offending me with a difference of opinion. I love to hear different opinions on things. It helps me see things from angles that I might not have seen prior. I do not mind if you want to use this replay as a blog post. You can use my name too, not a problem.I think it would be interesting to see some others opinions too. Thank you again for taking the time to share your views.

I know I just used this a few blogs ago, but I can think of no words that can make the point more perfectly.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
-John Lennon

We truly can get along with folks who are different than us, radically diferent even, in whatever way. We just have to try....and try hard enough.

PEACE, my friends, PEACE.

Ummmm.....me thinks people may be a little too apprehensive about responding to this.

Mackey: Perhaps that, or there's nothing else to say! (smile!)

Probably, though, it's just because I don't have anyone except you and 2 or 3 others reading my posts anymore! (double smile!)

Wow. Well, I guess I just don't know anymore what I think about the whole thing. Of course I would love nothing more than a world of no war. I honestly don't know why we are still over there, why we REALLY went there in the first place, or what the point is in blowing up stuff just to pay to rebuild it again. And it seems that things just keep getting worse instead of better. I really truly hope that a change can be made soon. But I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Nothing. I can support the soldiers who have been sent there, and pray for peace. But it changes nothing.....

You definitely have a way of inspiring people to THINK about all this stuff... :) I'm not sure I'd even know where to start to comment on all of it. But I will say this: I hope you'll reconsider your trip to Chicago in March. It would be a shame for you to never visit such a great city (where I'm very much hoping to move soon) because of the new passport rules. Yes, it's inconvenient and stupid... but Chicago has a lot to offer visitors. I'm going up in February to visit my brother, and I'm already looking forward to it... :)

Anyway -- I wanted to thank you for the comments you left on my blog! And no, we haven't moved yet, but as I was saying, we're hoping to be up in Chicago within the next few months. My life has sort of been up in the air this last year, and I'd really like to land somewhere. :)

Thank you for all your good wishes! :)

KSHIPPYCHIC: Yeah, it sure is a frustrating, empty feeling, isn't it? But I wasn't just meaning to speak of "over there" and "now".

I guess I've never wrapped my head around how killing people solves problems (except ones like over-population or shortage of food...and of course, I trust you realize that I mean that with a big dose of sarcasm).

No, I mean war. I mean hatred. I mean what Farakhan said in the quote I gave of his at the beginning of this blog. People of differences (let's face it...we're ALL different) CAN come together, MUST find a workable, sustainable solution. THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVES LEFT (sorry, I wasn't "shouting", just emphasizing..forgot I was on the Internet!). There, the Internet, BTW is a powerful universal communication tool that was not at our disposal as recently as a decade or two ago. Let's use it for something other than (or I should say, as well as) chatting about last night's baseball game.

We MUST find a way. And because of all the other problems we've been ignoring for far too long (the easy spready of unknown strains of global diseases because of the ease of international travel now, environmental destruction, the melting of the ice caps, floods....we all know the list), we'd better do it damn quick.

Some would argue that it's just survival of the fittest, and like all wars, the "victor" will be the survivor because they are the "fittest" (and just how are they determined? The guys who score the most kills?) Is that how you measure victory...I don't know....to me, ONE death is one too many, but then in the same breath I fully and completely without shame admit that I am an idealist. So what?

I would put it to you that too many of us sit back and let the "politicians" work it out. They don't have any more of a clue than you or I. What they DO have is influence and power. THAT is what we need to get at. THEIR influence and power. A phoney election every four years don't cut shmuck, either. It's got to be an unrelenting, daily battle. The one thing that politicians do very well is to listen to groundswell opinion in their region.

So, I'm going to (nicely!) disagree with your premise when you say that you as an individual can do absolutely nothing. I would suggest, in fact, that exactly the opposite is needed to effect the changes necessary.

We demonstrated that with the Viet Nam war, with blacks not having to sit at the back of the bus or work as chattel, with getting women the right to vote or have an abortion, the right of gays to have a life like any other human being and get married if they love each other. The list is endless.

So, I guess what I'm saying in my usual long-winded way is that not ony CAN you do something, you MUST. It's really easy to snap one twig and make it break in two. Try it with a bundle of a hundred, or a thousand, or a million. (A Biblical reference, I believe!)

Remember that old shampoo ad "....and she told two friends, and they told two friends, and..."

Luv ya, and thanks for the input.


Who can argue with reason & common sense? This is my island of sanity and why I come visit so often.

Please rethink the Chicago trip. Family means much more than sticking to your guns. I'm sure your visit would mean so much to your neice & to your brother.
There is a time to be stubborn...but this is not one of them.

With the example of the young guys...you did the right thing. What would you have achieved if you treated the one who stole with hate and refused to speak to him?
The only other thing I would have done is demand that he work off his debt to me...this is something I have done in the past and it worked.
I have also told someone who robbed from me that he would have to earn back the trust...and he did.
We all screw up at times...are we to be banished forever?
I helped a lot of young people in the past...and would tell them to pass it on.......whenever they get a chance to., and if they were needy to ask me and I would do my best to see how we could work things out.
Too many have been banished from their homes for similar deeds...instead of getting a hand up..they were given the boot-out.
Even today..family & friends constantly put me down for doing the right thing...asking me why I continue to help out these people, bums, losers and I reply..that one day...they will do well....and pass it on.
I truly believe they will look back and remember the one's who took the time to acknowledge them..to listen to them and to give them a hand up.
Kudo's to you, Rick!

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  • I'm Evydense
  • From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • And I'm tired of living in the shadow of narrow-mindedness and ignorance. So here's the fax, Jack! "The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and three hundred and sixty-two admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision." - Lynne Lavner*** I'm confused; curious; satisfied; realistically resigned to being a frustrated idealist; usually at peace with myself, but not always. Amazed at how little I know, and wondering how much I need to understand.
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