Popeye’d Off!

I  sort of “lost” it today, in a manner of speaking reading a blog post.   There’s all sorts of pain, dismay, anger and ranting about the shape America is in.

I have loved and respected America and Americans all my life. I served in the military 26 years.  The ugliness and anger in this country is due to failure of the country, following anything and everything but God and the letter/ spirit of  moral values;  some pick or interpret what to believe; some actually try, fail and try again to follow a peaceful path;  however, there are more than a few who practice a faith whose God is Self.

Second, the failure of the Family to instill a self-respect and respect for others. Single-parent families, absentee dads,  dysfunction  or disinterest in raising children.  A lack of training from earliest childhood.  FB_IMG_1491759647178 And third,  a failure of a people to have ethics, education, and motivation to hold ALL levels of leadership accountable.  Laziness, godlessness, and self-indulged people looking to blame and hate others is what causes this country, which had been the pinnacle of UNITY in the world,  pain.

“when it’s time for leavin’ “

Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man,
Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can.  – Ramblin’ Man, 1973)

American music lost another icon.   Tonight I read that Gregg Allman, a founder of the Allman Brothers Band,  died today at age 69.   By the time my musical taste broadened from the British Invasion,  Beatles Rolling Stones,  Elton John, the Who to Southern Rock, I was 18 and enlisted a year in the Navy.   My barracks room -mate, Ferdinand W,   was another enlisted Navy technician, a few years my senior at the training command, Great Lakes.  In the early morning hours, he would be returning from liberty (we had a rotating duty schedule and class) and usually wasted (very drunk).  He wrecked his sportscar, on base, on one of those binges.  But I remember him mostly for the southern Rock he listened to, and the squeeze box (concertina) he would play along.  A broken ankle from the car accident kept his partying subdued- and the while the Navy was investigating the incident.   download

When I was given orders to the cryptologic maintenance school at Fort Gordon, Georgia in 1978,  I had gained a little exposure to Southern rock- music of Lynrd Skynrd,  the Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet, and Marshall Tucker Band.   About the time that the Navy students in my class were earning top marks, which gave us some early liberty ( we attended an evening schedule of classes) several of us found a small club in nearby Athens, Georgia that must have been named for the Allman Brothers’ song,  the Whippin’ Post.    Many live bands played there.  I remember one Saturday night,  whether a cover band – or the actual Lynrd Skynrd (I don’t recall) played there.  One guy kept screaming “FREE BIRD!!” In forty years, I forgot about those times when you could sit in a club twenty feet from bands that defined a rock era, and then next weekend do it all again.   But history dims with time.  I read a report from 2013 that the long-closed club was torn down.

May memories

A lot changes in forty years. In  May, 1977,  prior to my departure for Boot Camp at Naval Training Center, San Diego in October,  I was graduating high school.   Jimmy Carter was President, a fact that I thought, being a former naval submariner officer, would make him an excellent leader.   People didn’t want Gerald Ford as he had pardoned ‘criminal’ Richard Nixon, but I remember him for sending in Marines to retrieve the Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge a month after the last battle involving U.S. troops of the Vietnam War.

In those last two years of the Seventies,  the Zumwalt-era of loosened grooming standards – longer hair, mustaches and beards worn by Sailors were okay.  Dungarees (bell-bottom style) and dixie cups, were the working uniform.   Pot was a problem on military bases including San Diego.   A community that now is marked by the upwardly-mobile, well-heeled beach crowd, Ocean Beach, was then a place where druggies and ex-military,  tattoo parlors and bars were less restrictive than up the coast near the UCSD campus.

A visit over the Coronado Bridge to the Naval Station Coronado, where carriers were berthed was my first view of a ship – the USS Recruit was a wood and metal reproduction on the Recruit Training Command, to introduce us to naming convention, etc – so did not count.  The ‘aroma’ of the interior of the USS Kitty Hawk was the first ‘knock out’ that I will never forget.  Jet fuel, grease, human sweat, urinals and generally,  the stink of at times, 3500 men (no women then) wafted fresh new sailors who had more recently been accustomed to PINE SOL clean scent.

At the time, I was a student learning to work on complex electronics and mechanical maintenance of teletypes.  Where I now cannot see without at least one or two orders of magnitude, I was able then to discern two from three centimeters adjustments.  The instructor was quite ADAMANT about that ability before graduation.   We had Iranian military students – this was prior to the Iranian Revolution – and when they were recalled by their government,  we were relieved.   Suffice it to say that American and Iranian hygiene were on different tracks.

In May of 1982,  with several of my fellow Russian Language students and the professor – I was able to travel  to Russia – prior to the end of the USSR (1989) – visiting cities – St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Tbilisi.  If only for all but one – a socialist-  the trip was very informative and probably saved them and their future families from the ‘snowflake’ sensibilities, the mantra of “coexistence” and “socialism’s great”.  The people may have been interesting and interested, but the economy was a shambles. Ambition was reserved for the underground economy — some of whom are today’s Russian millionaires and billionaires.

In May of 1984,  I had been out of the Navy four years, attending the university in Tucson, Arizona.  Four three of those four years I had been actively involved in the Veteran students organization on campus,  and while peers were pursuing commissioning programs,  I was looking toward a government job after graduation.  Strangely,  in my second year after graduation,  when my graduate school plans went unfunded – I re-enlisted in the Navy -Reserve – that is.  The entreaties of one of my friends finally had me join his unit, only to see him quit!

After petitioning to resume an Active Duty career in 1987,  the next major May milestone I recall was May of 1997 when I was transferred from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California.    1970 Dodge Chargers, if you could find one in decent shape were then ten thousand dollars or more,  homes which had been an unheard of, eighty thousand dollars – for an ocean view, were nearly eight hundred thousand,  and NTC was closed but for a few administrative medical functions.

And in the twenty years since that time,  friends and mentors went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq,  the Soviets became Russian trade partners, the Chinese became the world’s second-most powerful economy, the Islamic world tried to separate the economic need for the non-Islamic world – from the ideology that wants to reduce infidels to ashes,  and we are again at some form of odds over military preparedness against the adversaries that were no longer adversaries?

 

 

Red Sky in the morning….

There’s an ancient mariner’s rhyme that says, “Red sky at night, Sailors’ delight; red sky at morning, Sailors take warning”.  From Wikipedia,

It is based on the reddish glow of the morning or evening sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region.[2][3][5] If the morning skies are red, it is because clear skies over the horizon to the east permit the sun to light the undersides of moisture-bearing clouds. The saying assumes that more such clouds are coming in from the west. Conversely, in order to see red clouds in the evening, sunlight must have a clear path from the west, so therefore the prevailing westerly wind must be bringing clear skies.

Talking with a elder friend and mentor this morning,  Jack related a story how, as a Navy man fifty or more years ago, he had been a Tin Can Sailor ( alternately known as a destroyerman)  on a World War II-era ship.  He had been a yeoman and the Captain’s bridge talker.   Jack relished telling me how he had been selected for that job by the CO as he could translate the southern drawl of the Engineering crew muddled by ship’s intercom system.  And he loved to share with me the story of his ship taking 40 to 50 degree rolls in a Pacific storm they rode out for a week.

1944_12_17_unk_dd_700x
A ship of Task Force 38

I too, was blessed with a strong constitution, riding out a few violent Atlantic storms in the destroyer PETERSON, ( launched in the 1970s) where most personnel not on the binnacle list,  were at their positions with barf bags at the ready.   I do recall the one or two times I foolishly ventured on the upper deck by our workspace – the “Oh- three”  (03) Level, to witness the power of the wind and the waves.  Metal bent or was torn away by the power of the sea.   Fortunately with modern navigation, we did not ride through the center of these storms where the waves were reportedly fifty feet high from trough to crest.

typhoon20cobra
Typhoon Cobra

I started to think what the Sailors of WWII dealt with – battling the Japanese in the Western Pacific and typhoons.   On a website this morning,  I discovered that an error underestimating the weather put a heavily armed Task Force, with some top-heavy ships directly through a violent typhoon – Typhoon Cobra –  with fatal results.   Ships were heavily damaged, some capsized and sank with hundreds of men lost,  and generally raised more havoc than the enemy they were to battle.

 

Treading water

dont-tread-300
Gadsden flag, 1775

 

As I get older,  I wonder what has become of my military-physique – the early one, not the rounder one of my last year – and what became of the ‘forego the mission, clean the position!” fanatical routine with cleanliness.   Not that I don’t love the smell of PINESOL in the morning,  but leaving the house all day with two big hair-shedding dogs results in a truce between the advance of dirt and actual boot-camp standards of clean.

Attitudes that once were socially and fiscally conservative,  I generally vote in every election, hold ‘personal responsibility’ in high esteem — welfare is for the most-desperate and least able to work,  and believe military service is beneficial to everyone between 18 and 50 years old.    Now, I hold fast to my church family, my spouse, and keep my personal values fairly close to the chest — outside the street I live on.  Fortunately, I have neighbors who were also military or police, and are now retired.  A neighbor on a street where I walk the dogs has a “DON’T TREAD ON ME” flag above his door.  Another proudly has a TRUMP sign.   Both have pickup trucks with Marine and Army stickers on the former.   Then again,  I wear “VFW Life Member” and Navy Chief t-shirts to work.   But I am mellowed with aging.

I have YOSEMITE, bicycling, and Grand Canyon hiking stickers on my car, a VFW license frame and a Nature Conservancy brochure on my car seat – I contribute to purchasing wildland around San Diego to preserve it.   What happened to the guy who owned firearms, enjoyed target plinking,  and was a fan of talk radio?  Gone.

I need to get out of California.  I’m starting to love it here.

 

http://www.gadsden.info/history.html

Last humanist standing?

Tonight, it was during a television show that I found some time for reflection.   Tim Allen’s comic touch on his TV series, Last Man Standing, is very engaging.  While we generally are spending time after work with our church family, working on chores at home, and writing (my wife and I both have blogs),  this was a moment to enjoy a little quiet time.

Over the last decade, television in the United States has really turned me off, but for a couple of shows that both my wife and I like to watch together. Television exaggerates stereotypes, current events, criminal behavior, and sexuality to capture viewers.  Yet with Last Man Standing, I think it is great that this show can portray the timeless interplay of parents and children – who are not children but grown into fledgling adults. And depicts topics with a touch of humor that also makes a point.  In tonight’s episode,  a scene where black neighbors and Tim’s character and wife meet for a barbecue, the wife constantly is making references to “show how ‘colorblind’ she is”. The husband, Tim’s character, pokes fun at how she sounds, and then makes a comment that the wife says “sounds racist”.

“I’m not racist. I’m a humanist. I hate everyone equally.”

Families are depicted as we actually are – sometimes we do sound ignorant, or a little too blunt towards each other, and at other times say things that are  “politically incorrect”.    In 2017, people in the United States have split into opposing camps, those who yearn for ‘how it used to be’ and those who want everyone to conform to the “new normal”.   Where has humor, civility, disagreement, and free expression gone?

I look back fondly to my military service.  I understood the military as the conversion of the willing into a homogeneous offensive or defensive unit.  It was also my conversion to educated citizen of the world.   Each culture has advantages and disadvantages, with  different ideas, customs and history.   As a result of a military uniform,  I was able to see the benefits of living in America come into sharper focus despite the nation’s ills.

That is why I am becoming fond of family comedy of the sort that Tim Allen’s show represents.  It allows a little relief from contemplating all the challenges around the globe.   I am a different sort of humanist.  I love people individually.  I am learning to have an open mind toward the rest.

Things Really Did Go Better with Coca-Cola

 

Yesterday I interviewed a woman for the Navy Reserve who was born in 1986. And I thought, what a different world to have come of age in, than the one I remembered. The Nineties had already seen the beginnings of capitalism occuring in Russia, the second decade of a U.S. economic boom – jobs, cars, and homes, and since Desert Storm, a large and ongoing military presence in the Middle East. After Vietnam, the government was such a mess it couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of veterans with PTSD, or Agent Orange exposure, and in the Nineties it continued to deny that Desert Storm vets were exposed to chemical agents when they went into Iraq and the smoke of burning oil wells in Kuwait. We hadn’t heard before 2001 of Al Quaeda, but that the Soviets had lost in Afghanistan. My generation knew all about radicals, but lumped together the Jim Jones cult nuts, a few old 60’s Patty Hearst -type groups, paramilitary groups in Idaho and a few drug traffickers. Before advertising warned us of HIV and STDs, and condoms for junior high students, we still were educated in grainy black and white film about sex organs and where a baby comes from. GM and Ford were going downhill – and Dodge already had been bailed out.

We hated Iranians who had seized our embassy, lobbed missiles at Saddam Hussein when he kept plotting to kill our Presidents, and were frustrated why Israel and the PLO could never have peace, but American politicians always thought they were able to “fix it”. When I cast my first Presidential voting ballot, I cast for a former Navy man and peanut farmer from Georgia.
It was easier then to be liberal – young, inexperienced, and idealistic. After seeing the mess that a Democrat President and Congress made on the world stage, the crazy inflation, gas lines, and even with college, very little opportunity, it was easier to be cynical, conservative, and Republican. Those men and women who came of age in the Nineties – the Gen -X – are now trying to settle into family life, careers, and looking what the future holds for their children. Today, after the smashed idealism of voting for and now seeing the effect of an Obama Presidency and Democrat Congress, these folks as well as an old Conservative, hope to somehow claw our way back from utter national bankruptcy. So you see, not much has changed in the generations, except our currency value has crept closer to Monopoly money with each multi-billion payout. I think fondly of the Coca-Cola ad where everyone had joined hands across the world and sang for harmony, but today I am more akin to Toby Keith whose current song about the world in crisis- it’s all going to hell, but the world keeps turnin’ regardless.