Ten years, one deployment, 455 days left and...now what? Just lookin for someone to play the game with me now.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Peggy Noonan on torture and the IRS
I've mostly been avoiding politics on the facebook. But--I've had too much time sitting around in waiting rooms lately. I've been trying to place my thoughts in context about this IRS thing and I finally figured out what was bothering me. Here's Peggy Noonan in 2004 exonerating Rumsfeld for Abu Ghraib and here she is today pinning the IRS scandal directly on Obama. And therein lies my distaste for the political handling of this.
In 2004 the Vice President issues a memo which leads damn-near directly to US troops breaking Geneva Conventions and torturing Iraqi prisoners and in the end--we put the entire blame on a Private. This time around a fairly low level IRS worker makes some poor decisions regarding how to systematically sort through thousands of applications and it is supposedly clearly the President's fault? How is that explained other than by having two different standards by which to judge?
So, here's a quick overview of what I see happening
conservatives, of the little "c" variety (since
the big "C" Conservatives like Barry Goldwater were for LGBT
equality) spent years and decades trying to keep LGBT people in the closet.
They forbid us from having organizations to help our young adapt to society,
they boycotted when we tried to come out, they boycott when any LGBT person is
shown in a light other than evil, and...they lost. We won. The statement
"we're here, and we're queer; get over it" has come to pass.
But, rather than recognize that we are at a tipping point
where it is growing increasingly acceptable to be LGBT, and that there are
still areas of society where such is not accepted--particularly those areas of life
which have been dominated by masculine and conservative norms (boy scouting,
football, politics etc.), these same people now want to point to the very
success of the movement they tried to stymie as reason to marginalize further.
See Ben Shapiro here tryinig to argue that being the first openly gay professional sportsman is decidedly NOT heroic. Why? Because America is such an accepting place, if you find anything special about him coming out, it means you have no faith in America's general goodness.
His argument, in a historical context, can be viewed as
twenty years ago--if you're LGBT, we hate you.
ten years ago--if you're openly LGBT, we hate you.
Today--if you think it's special that you're not hated for being gay, you
See how that works? Despite spending decades and decades making America a place where LGBT people were decidedly un-equal. Despite fighting tooth and nail to keep us out of the military. Despite trying throw us out of schools and rejecting our blood from the Red Cross. Despite not allowing us in churches, or to marry in most states. Despite not allowing our families to immigrate legally--despite all that--if you think it's special you've overcome all of that hate directed at you--then you (get this) hate America. Why do you hate it? Because you don't see past all the hate directed at you to see how wonderful and accepting it is apparently by nature.
Oh, and for the record, the list of people he DOES
consider "real" heroes? Here you go: Mark Levin (for discussing how
liberals are bullies) Adam Carolla (for?? Being a jerk on the radio?) SEN Ted
Cruz (for general nuttiness I guess) and Josh Mandel (for losing an election)
President Bush Addresses the Nation (March 19, 2003)
Ten years ago I saw in the dayroom at Fort Monmouth with my fellow USMA Prepsters.
We had been given a reprise from having to attend mandatory study hours to watch a very important speech--we knew our futures hung in the balance. I had just graduated at the Arabic training course at the Defense Language Institute and couldn't help but think of my friends and what this would mean for them. I knew I had four and a half years before I could be called to Iraq
but my friends did not.
A cheer went up in the room when the President announced the ultimatum. Ben--a friend whose opinion I regarded highly--looked at me and asked in a quieted voice "Does no one else understand what this means?"
If I knew ten years ago how many of those in that room with me would not be here today I would never have believed it. If someone had told me that we would have been there so many years later I wouldn't have believed it.
THE YOUNG DEAD SOLDIERS DO NOT SPEAK
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.
They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.
They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.
They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.
"Mansions of the Lord" performed by the Cadet Glee Club of West Point
In 2003 after my father had died, I returned to West Point stressed out and feeling very alone. It happened to be the anniversary of one of the cohort classes--the year of which I cannot remember--which had fought and lost in Vietnam. They were holding a vigil out on Trophy Point and the day after I returned to school, I joined a small group of the Glee Club to sing Mansions of the Lord for them.
We were new, the plebes, and hadn't really had time to learn the words and music as well as we would have liked, nor had we been properly taught to wear the sash and uniform correctly. There was a lot of risk assumed by the upper classmen in letting us represent the Glee Club to these Old Grads.
I remember walking out to Trophy Point feeling a little like everyone was looking at me. While I knew it wasn't true, I couldn't help but feel that everyone knew I'd just lost my father and that they were treating me differently. When I finally got to Trophy Point a Firstie, Adam Snyder, came up to me and asked if I could help him study for Arabic during duties that night. I realized what he was doing--he was offering me a way out of duties that would allow me to study for Arabic without necessarily giving me an "unfair advantage". I appreciated his offer and took it immediately, and there began a relationship between him and I that lasted for years--he was younger than me, but far wiser, and remained a mentor as I Commissioned and became a Lieutenant years later.
We sang Mansions of the Lord that day and many days thereafter for graduates who had fallen--we sang it for a widow who had just lost her husband in Iraq, we sang it in Notre Dame the night before a football game when West Point had just lost three graduates in Afghanistan, and we sang it at our graduation concert in honor of my Father who, while not a graduate, was a Veteran.
Between that day and this we have lost many gradautes--friends and classmates--to the ongoing wars. The Glee Club has seen its own share of voices silenced too soon--and just this week we lost another--a beautiful and funny woman who sang with me that day--Sara Cullen.
We sang this song together many times--for for her I repost today.
“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” ― Jack Kerouac
I used to love Kerouac--I still do. Just not in the same way I guess--but more like I love the opening coda to the Main Street Electrical Parade. It takes me back to a time in my life that I remember fondly, but don't necessarily want to go back to.
I was thinking about Kerouac on Andrew Sullivan's blog this morning and my reaction to him when I'd first read On the Road in college. I was young and newly gay--I thought I'd never have a reason or opportunity settle down. I thought the quote above would define me--it was, I thought, my destiny not my chosen mantra. Then I met Peter. I've been thinking about this a lot lately--we've been married some time now. I'm in law school and Peter is at work, and, as always seems usual for me, my peers are much younger than I am. Law School students are generally 22-25 years old, so I'm an anomaly being married and 32. I've gotten myself involved with the Law School Student Veteran's Association and LAMDA--the LGBT group at school. We often text one another as the kids (I use that term loosely for groups of other people who are having a good time, not pejoratively or patronizingly) are going out on the town. The other night my phone was vibrating like it was going to die--the guys were headed out and good times were around the corner. I was in bed, dogs tucked under my left arm, Peter holding my hand, his head on my chest and him quietly sleeping. I laughed... there was a time I couldn't imagine the stability and home I have. I squeezed Peter's hand smiled and went to sleep. It's funny--one of the questions I get often from my friends about marriage is something along the lines of "Aren't you worried you'll get bored?" I think the unspoken question there is probably more about sex then live, but what I think people don't get--what I didn't get--was that marriage is about so much more than sex. Marriage and love--they're about stability--about finding answers to questions you didn't know were plaguing you. It's about knowing that to some degree you've arrived at your destination and that "the rest"...well that will figure itself out, but whatever happens you'll be fine because you're rooted and grounded in something and someone else. It's not purely self-less; it's selfish. I love Peter because he makes me better, he gives me stability, he gives me hope and strength and I hope I give him the same. Peter's my star now--no more chasing--I have direction. I'm no longer listless and have moved on from Kerouac. I began reading Steinbeck years before college while at DLI but I think I only get it now...
“The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you.”
And now... instead of being On the Road I feel like Doc and Suzie driving off to La Jolla still uncertain about the future, but OK with that because my compass is true.
People have said, and will say, some ridiculous things. Sometimes, I can look and laugh, knowing that what's said is tongue in cheek and that not everything is worthy of faux-outrage so common today. (Go ahead, log into facebook right now and see how many things you're supposed to be pissed off about.)
Sometimes, however, someone can say something so callous and outrageous that it takes all I have not to throw my own computer in protest. Tucker Carlson just did that.
Here's his tweet after Panetta lifted (sort of) the ban on women in combat.
Feminism's latest victory: the right to get your limbs blown off in war. Congratulations.
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) January 24, 2013
I shouldn't have to list all the women who have already given their lives and limbs in combat to make it clear that this guy is just an outright asshole. You'd think someone who considers himself a voice worthy of being heard--someone who gets paid to spout his idiocy on television and print would know better than to minimize the sacrifice of the thousands upon thousands of people braver, stronger and more resilient than he'll ever be--would think twice before writing something like this.
Without the combat designation, women veterans can be denied the benefits they need, particularly medical and psychological, because they were designated non-combat while serving. Receiving many benefits from the VA is dependent on "if the veteran engaged in combat with the enemy." A critical part of the approval process is what was the veteran's designated military occupational speciality. If women will have noncombat MOS even if they engaged in combat because they are women then that means the VA might not approve them for combat related requests for benefits. Women are not being treated equally under the law because of the noncombat designation.
I was googling images today looking for a photo when I stumbled across an image of Pussy Riot protesting in the church that really caught my eye. I started reading even further and finding more images and was struck not only by how effective they've been, but also by the difference between American protest and Russian.
Clearly this is a generalization, but honestly, we have an airbrushed guy with "NOH8" they have...a guy who sewed his lips shut.
We have women felating vegetables to protest...animal cruelty? They have...women covering themselves to protest speech.
And religion? We both use it to shock...but guess which is Eastern European use of imagery to protest political repression and which is American for...I don't even know.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go glitter bomb something.