If You’re Going to “Show Support” for the Military, Show it FOR ALL

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When it comes to my service in the military, I am proud of it, but I don’t make a big deal out of it. My Honorable Discharge hangs proudly on my wall (thanks to my Mom, may she rest in peace, for keeping it all these years) and I have several photos that show me at different stages during my four years of service. I do fly the United States Marine Corps flag on military and some national holidays but, as previously stated, I usually don’t make a big deal of my veteran status. A situation recently has made me rethink this situation, however, because it seems that veterans still get short shrift in most arenas.

Recently I was flying back from a fantastic family trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (something that I would encourage people to do at least once – it is a historic, beautiful, exciting and fun area to visit) and doing what is the worst part about flying – waiting for the call to board the plane. If you’re one of the few people on Planet Earth that haven’t flown, let me set the stage for you: imagine a herd of cattle in a pen waiting for the train to open up and then, in an orderly procession, slowly meander onto the transport. That’s what loading a plane is like, only in a human form.

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Anyway, back to the point. The gate attendant (the airline was unimportant, but they recently bought the naming rights to the Las Vegas Raiders new stadium) was doing a fine job, actually moving the cattle forward with some rapidity, when I heard her make this call. “At this time, we’d like to allow all active duty, reserve and retired military to board the aircraft first and thank you for your service.”

I’ve heard this on many an occasion but, for the first time, this set me off.

Airlines aren’t the only ones who have fallen victim to this mindset. Many restaurants and other businesses, when looking to “Salute the Troops,” will often use those three designations – active duty, reserve service and retired – often negating those who aren’t actively in service and didn’t retire from the Armed Forces but did actually served for a substantial amount of time in some cases. According to estimates from the National Conference of State Legislators, there are 18.8 million veterans in the United States. Of that total, there are roughly 2.1 million retired military persons and 2.3 currently active or reserve members of the Armed Forces. That means there are over 14 MILLION people in the States of America whose service to the country is being disrespected.

I am sure there are plenty of instances of this, but I don’t have to go any further than my family for examples. My service in the USMC was honorable but, after four years of active duty (and two more in the Reserves), I decided that the military lifestyle wasn’t for me and walked away. Service in the military isn’t for everyone and, although I credit the military lifestyle for being an important building block in the creation of me, I recognized that it wasn’t something that I wanted to make a career of philosophically, politically or otherwise. In short, I was proud of my service, but I wasn’t looking to do it permanently.

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For an example on the longer end my brother, from the time he entered the USMC, wanted to make a career of it. The little idiot actually signed up to JOIN THE INFANTRY, for fuck’s sake. And he served admirably in the first Gulf War, where he was injured by a shattered windshield on his troop carrier (the glass from the windshield nearly took one of his eyes out) as his unit rumbled into Kuwait City, but he refused the Purple Heart.

As the years went on, however, the wear and tear of the military and, in particular, the infantry requirements began to debilitate him. Four years short of making his lifetime goal – to serve for 20 years in the military – the USMC had to medically discharge him because his body was so broken down he couldn’t go on (a prime example of “the mind wanting to but the body unable”). So, for statistical purposes, my brother – who gave his body in service to the country – is NOT a “retired” veteran…just a “veteran” but not worthy of recognition. Nowadays he makes do, but without the retired military veteran’s pension that he had worked so long for.

This type of story can go further, even to today’s veterans. How many of the young men and women have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, after four or eight years of service (or shorter, in some cases) with debilitating or life-altering injuries, and face this same type of thought? That you are “not worth honoring” because you aren’t currently serving or retired? And what about those 14 million plus veterans who did their jobs – and did them honorably, from Berlin to Okinawa, from Vietnam to Korea, from Grenada to Beirut, from Baghdad to Kabul, in “peacetime” (an oxymoronic statement about the States of America) and in times of war – but yet are neglected when it comes to recognition or treatment?

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Recognition of veterans has always been a bit shitty in the States of America, to be honest. We talk a good game about “supporting the troops” but, when it comes down to actually taking care of that Afghanistan veteran, now a quadriplegic, who is trying to get by on a Social Security check or getting the right mental health care for that Vietnam veteran who saw a village on the Mekong wiped out by napalm and still wakes up at night screaming, this country hasn’t come up for them. We have an amazing capability to create veterans, we also have a tremendous ability to tell them to fuck off when they need help the most.

In the grand scheme of things, whether ALL veterans are honored with special treatment isn’t that big a deal. But instead of segmenting some for “special recognition,” it perhaps would make more sense to either recognize ALL of those who served – regardless of whether they are active, retired or “just a veteran” – or just don’t bother with the platitudes. If you want to show “support for the troops,” how about taking care of them once their service is complete rather than a couple of bucks off a meal at Golden Corral?

What’s My Problem? It Should Be Everyone’s Problem…

After one of my essays the other day, someone had the audacity to ask me what was my problem with the Republican Party. “Why don’t you go after the Democratic Party the way you go after the Republicans?” the person asked. I offered a quick, Facebook-friendly reply – which wasn’t enough for that person (it seldom is – Facebook is not an essay-friendly arena) – so I thought that I would take the time to fully enunciate what “my problem” is with the Republican Party, at least the way that it is constituted today. When I reach the end, I think that most people might recognize that it should be everyone’s problem.

I came of age in the 1970s, in the post-Watergate/post-Vietnam Era when we questioned everything that made up the government (in fact, it is why I still question it today). Whether it was the federal, state or local offices, none of them were given a break over the conditions in the United States. Republicans back then were not identified by their blind addiction to denial of social norms – abortion was an issue that was just beginning to bubble – but were more likely to be viewed on their business acumen, foreign policy expertise and respect for the military, things that everyone could get behind including their counterparts. Democrats at that time were looked at as the voice of the “people,” the party who would actually stand with those who needed the help the most when the times were the toughest, and protected them sometimes against those businesses that threatened them.

As the 1980s rolled around – and especially after the mixed results that were the presidencies of Richard Nixon (and, after his resignation, Gerald Ford) and Jimmy Carter – the two parties were still somewhat malleable in that they stood for different things but worked together for the improvement of the United States. The election of Ronald Reagan was something the country needed – a new rebirth, if you will – and it did serve to recharge the nation. I served in the United States Marine Corps during Reagan’s presidency and, while seeing him build the world’s greatest military, I also saw the Republican Party’s treatment of its fighting force in decrepit barracks and base housing, inadequate equipment, improper usage in military actions and other various areas of governance, including the denial of the AIDS epidemic and other societal ills.

Because of the success of Reagan, President George Bush – Bush I, as I like to call him – was a natural choice to continue. But Bush was different:  he was practical, he knew that you couldn’t just force the military anywhere for any reason (perhaps because of his days at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, he had a bit more “intelligence,” no pun intended) and he also knew you had to pay for the military. Thus, when he paid for the First Gulf War (or military action as “war” was never declared per se) by raising taxes, he was doomed as the 1990s began.

The true segmentation of the Republican and Democratic parties (and there is a segmentation, they are not “the same”) – and the reason for my look at one over the other – came about in the 1990s. When Bill Clinton became President in 1992, the nation took off, arguably because he worked with a Republican-led House of Representatives and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1994 and they maximized the “tech surge” of the mid-1990s. It was the second term of Clinton, however, that put the nail in the coffin for me.

Instead of being pleased with making the country work, the rising “neo-con” movement in the Republican Party – not happy to have a military that was sitting on the sidelines, wanting a bolder and more aggressive foreign policy and willing to do whatever it took to regain not only the power in Congress but also in the White House – seized on Clinton receiving a hummer from intern Monica Lewinsky and turned that into an impeachable offense (ever the opportunist Gingrich, rather than trying to staunch this wave, grabbed a surfboard and rode along with it). Fortunately, a more-rational Senate was able to stave off the slathering idiots that were the neo-con Republicans screaming for Clinton’s removal, but it would only be a momentary pause before the truly shitty schism would develop between the two.

The Republican neo-cons weren’t happy with skewering Democrats, they also ravaged their own. First they took down John McCain in 2000 with a bogus “black child” scam, getting their hand-picked puppet, George Bush (or Bush II), into the nomination, then they would turn the targeting on Al Gore as the election hinged on the state of Florida (the “swift-boating” of John Kerry four years later was just icing on the cake). Having seated 10 of the last 12 Supreme Court Justices, the Republicans were able to use the U. S. Supreme Court to shut down any further review of Florida’s recount in 2000, with 538 voters being the determining factor in Bush’s 2000 Electoral College win (Gore won the popular vote) over Gore.

Once back in power – and with the attacks of 9/11 – the Republican neo-con movement was given the proverbial golden chalice of opportunity to sweepingly affect the United States and they took full advantage of it. They enacted the Patriot Act of 2001 – with a reluctant Democratic Senate coming along (only Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, voted against it) – arguably the worst piece of legislation in the history of the country. They started first an air campaign against the alleged (true) mastermind behind 9/11, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, but then for some inexplicable reason transferred most of their attention to an air and ground invasion of Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein, in essence starting a two-front war.

While making these mistakes, they also spent money like drunken sailors on shore leave. Instead of maintaining steady tax rates, the neo-cons lowered taxes – apparently thinking that there would be a magical money tree that would just drop $100 bills from the sky – while pushing an extreme anti-everything social policy that impeded on the rights on every person that isn’t a white male in the U. S. If that wasn’t enough, then the fiscal collapse of 2008 occurred – and the resulting “bank bailout” that was started by President Bush – before President Barack Obama came to office.

Now, in my entire existence, the Congress may not have agreed with the President, but they at the minimum did their job and attempted to work with the President. They passed bills, put them to the President and it was up to him as to whether he wanted to enact them. They WORKED with the President and/or his personnel. From the start of the Obama Presidency, however – and epitomized by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous “our job” speech (“Our job is to ensure that the man in the White House is a one-term President”) – the Republicans have done exactly NOTHING to further the cause of the United States (and please don’t try to say the 60 or so votes to end the Affordable Care Act constitutes “action”).

Where I come from – my core beliefs – is that government works the best when it does keep its nose out of the lives of its citizens. There come moments in a nation’s history, however, when it does require the “voice of reason” to step in and make a determination. Slavery, the right of women to vote, civil rights, abortion, equal protection for women and LGBT persons…these are all moments when the federal government has to step in and say, as a whole for the nation, that there is one rule for one nation. Through this method, one area of the nation cannot inflict its ignorance, giving the country a black eye over something that should be settled (as Alabama recently did over the gay marriage issue).

With these issues, the Republican Party seldom seems to be on the right side (slavery seems to be one of those rare occasions). Rather than embracing the rights of people, the GOP seems to kowtow to a small sect (and I use that term in its perfect religious intentions) of people who consistently chop off their leaders’ arms for not trying to be more accepting of people DIFFERENT THAN THEM.

I don’t want to see leaders blaming people for being disadvantaged or poor, I want to see those leaders attempt to help those people (a great program in North Carolina, started by a Republican, encouraged people on public assistance into a two-year program that eventually saw those people get off the dole). I want to see schools given every tool available for the children rather than hear politicians cry about the tax expenditure (education is the only way to ensure that we improve as a country) of simply providing textbooks. I want to see leaders who try to improve life for everyone rather than improve it for a few. I want to see intelligence praised instead of derided, as many in the GOP do when it comes to science.

As to the military (and as a veteran), I would like to see our troops used less rather than more. I’d prefer to see them used only as a TRUE last resort instead of as a “peacekeeping” force (as they have been since World War II). And, if you’re going to use the military, supply them with the equipment they need, pay them well, take care of their families and, when they come home, take care of the veterans and their medical conditions. The Republicans who say that they cannot take care of veterans – calling it an “entitlement” – shouldn’t ever darken the door of Congress again.

This means you have to have money for everything. Paying for a strong military, infrastructure, improvements overall for people’s daily lives, business and education improvements…it all takes money. While it can be streamlined, it also needs funding to function. Taxation for government is a necessary evil and denying that increase in revenue is a death sentence to being a third world country.

This isn’t to say all Republicans are evil, just as it isn’t to say that all Democrats are saints. But, when the scales are weighed, I see one side doing more for people and the military overall and it certainly isn’t the one that is represented by the heavier animal. I’m always open for presentation of evidence to the contrary but, for the Republican Party, that evidence is rather sparse.

Is that answer good enough?

The Sane Side Finally Stands Up in The Republican Party, But It’s Too Late to Save the Institution

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Ever since the stampede that began literally three years ago following Barack Obama’s re-election and inauguration to a second term as President of the United States – and if you don’t think the 2016 Presidential Race began there, you’re adorably naïve – it seems that, at least for one side of the two party system in the United States, the inmates have taken over the asylum (and just as a tangent, if any other country in the world said “we only have two parties to choose our leadership from,” the U. S. would be screaming voter repression from the highest peaks…in our own country? Not a peep.). The Republican Party – the party that once held such great thinkers as Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, other politicians such as Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller, journalists Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and the late William F. Buckley – has usually been able to bring some sane minds to its leadership. Around the turn of the century, however, there was a change in the thinking, what became the Neo-conservative mindset, that splintered a once great party. Instead of being a party of intelligence like the people above, it began to erode from the inside, with its hoi polloi beginning to follow the baying of hounds such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the en masse robotic diatribes that flow from Fox News, turning the GOP base into an ugly, misogynistic, xenophobic, scared-of-its-own-shadow (and any minority that may have the audacity to even begin to think its…equal…to them) mob.

The sane side let the mob rant and rave after Obama’s election in 2008 and his re-election in 2012, saving its energy for the 2016 election. They set about trying to say all the right things in their 2012 “autopsy” about what went wrong:  they needed to reach out to women and all minorities – Asians, Hispanics, blacks and gay voters – and needed to have a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. They needed to have fewer debates – presumably so their candidates didn’t shoot themselves in the foot as often as they did in the run-up to the 2012 election – and needed to decide their nominee earlier, changing their primary structure. But the sane side said their principles were still good, they just weren’t “resonating” with the electorate.

Then the sane side let the maniacs in the asylum take over.

It started in 2010, actually. Elected that year, Florida Senator Marco Rubio had made it clear that there was only one aspiration that he desired in his political career and it wasn’t to sit in the U. S. Senate for the rest of his career, it was to be the President of the United States. In 2012, another player came along with that same philosophy, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and both of these men were embraced by the “Tea Party” element (the “Tea Party” element is actually a bastardization of the group originally started by former Texas Representative Ron Paul, but that’s another story for another time). While they didn’t announce it, both of these men were running for the GOP nomination well before they even inked the paper letting the Republican Party know they were in the race for 2016.

The Republican National Committee, after their 2012 “autopsy” and all their plans and their sanity, saw the maniacs bring that all crashing down. They were OK with Rubio (not so much with Cruz) but, after the November 2014 midterm elections Dr. Ben Carson, a darling of the “Tea Party,” began to leak information that he “was interested” in running for the GOP nomination and actually entered the race in May 2015. Instead of getting a few “qualified” candidates, the floodgates opened; by the time the spigot closed, 17 people had announced their candidacy for the Republican nomination, an unruly amount that would present logistical difficulties on several fronts.

It was one of those 17 candidates that truly exposed the maniacal – or, perhaps at its unfortunate worst, the true heart – of the Republican Party. When he made his announcement in June that he would seek the GOP nomination, billionaire Donald Trump immediately stuck his foot in his mouth by insinuating that Mexicans were “rapists, drug dealers…and a few are good people, I’m sure.” He said he would deport all illegal immigrants – estimated to be approximately 12 million in the United States – and build “a wall” on the border between Mexico and the U. S. and “force Mexico to pay for it.”

In a normal world, under normal circumstances and with a normal party that hadn’t fanned the flames of xenophobia and racism after being thumped twice in a Presidential race, Trump’s comments would have brought a direct disavowal from the party’s leadership. Instead, the party’s leadership reached out and embraced Trump while at the same time trying to look aghast at what he was saying. The sane side of the party sat on the bench and tried to reason that their fellow Republicans would come to their senses and realize the rhetoric that the Orangutan Mutant was spewing wasn’t A) becoming of a member of their party, let alone the human race, and B) would eventually move towards a better choice.

As Trump’s comments became more outrageous, his support grew rather than fell. Disparage a decorated military veteran who was a POW in Vietnam? Sure! Ridicule a handicapped journalist? He’s on it! Want me to bash women? Let’s talk about their looks and menstrual cycle! It’s now gotten to the point that Trump has discussed killing journalists and that he could “shoot someone” in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose any voter support. We’ve even reached the point where white supremacist organizations are sending Trump information over Twitter…AND HE RETWEETS IT without anyone blinking!

It’s finally gotten to be a bit much for the sane side of the Republican Party, but it is far too late as you’ve already lost your party to the lunatics. The conservative magazine National Review dedicated an entire issue last week to the question of Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party, firmly stating their opposition to his candidacy and his position as the potential GOP nominee for President. 22 conservative voices stepped up and penned essays explaining their reasoning for not supporting Trump, with a predictable response.

Trump, after lauding the magazine the week prior to the issue’s release, ripped the Review as a “failing rag” saying that Buckley (the founder of the Review) “would be ashamed of them.” The RNC, not surprisingly, sided with Trump in removing the Review from a future debate as moderator, citing that a “moderator can’t have a predisposition.” Other voices have also sounded off and it may actually have an effect.

In New Hampshire, the mood is supposedly turning against Trump despite what current polls say in the state’s upcoming primary. According to the New York Times, a sizeable number of GOP voters are anti-Trump and feel that the polls are being swayed by those that won’t be voting in the primaries. They call themselves the “68 Percent” – “the significant majority of Republican voters here who are immune to Mr. Trump’s charms and entreaties, according to a battery of voter interviews on Thursday at campaign events for his rivals,” according to the Times.

The problem is that the sane side hasn’t stood up to this point yet, to put an end to the maniacal side’s reign of terror. They haven’t been able to thwart the drive from those that feel that Donald Dickhead is the one who should be the face of the United States, the one that we should send to discuss important worldwide topics as climate change, nuclear proliferation (let’s not get into the factor that he doesn’t even understand what the “nuclear triad” is), worldwide famine or pestilence, potable drinking water for lacking areas, reasonable solutions for refugee situations (either through war or natural disasters) and other critical matters. Then there’s the home issues, such as domestic spending, military spending, Medicare/Medicaid, improving employment options and living arrangements, drug and alcohol treatment and a litany of other areas. If Trump thinks he can come in and wave a magic wand, “hire the right people” or just “it’s gonna be huge” everything away, he’s going to be greatly surprised.

Then there’s the problem with the GOP itself. For a party that ran an “autopsy” on itself in 2012, they don’t seem to have learned anything. It seems that the party’s leadership is willing to make the same mistake with the Hispanic vote, thinking that a miraculous outpouring of disaffected white voters will somehow appear out of the woodwork to somehow counteract the damage that Trump has done. Then there’s the factor that the spokesperson for your party’s leading candidate (Trump, naturally) wants to call President Obama a “half-breed” and defends it because she is one, too…not exactly the way to embrace minorities.

Finally, let’s get to the GOP…it really doesn’t seem that they are “for” anything, rather it seems that they are advocates for “taking” things. The Republican Party wants to take away the woman’s right to choose, take away gender equality and gay rights, take away “welfare” and food stamps. They’ll defend “family values” as long as they agree with them (right, Governor Huckabee?), shrink the government (unless it infringes on the military), put Jesus back in the school system (but no other religions) and create jobs (despite not introducing a jobs bill in the past six years) by cutting taxes on everyone who already has more money than they absolutely will ever need.

Perhaps the sane side should have spoken sooner. But perhaps the sane side was lulled to sleep, thinking that they had taken care of the potential problems for 2016 and just needed to keep the wolves at bay with a little red meat. Now, those wolves – the maniacs that they let grow to a size too large to keep in the kennel – are recalcitrant to the sane side’s arguments and discussions. Along the way, they may have destroyed what was once known as the Republican Party…the remainder of 2016 will decide that question.