During a health emergency the scale the world has not endured since the Spanish Influenza of 1918, many have taken advice to remain in a “voluntary” quarantine. My business is at a standstill. We have sufficient access to everything that meets our basic needs. But what does one do, if you are not ill and much of your time is spent close to, or at home?
Through access to the Internet, and several texts I have held onto for twenty years, I am taking a refresher in the Russian language. A bookcase holds books on the visual arts and photography. With the news that two of my relatives have passed this year, I am going through old photo albums of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles long deceased. When that becomes grieving, it is time for other pursuits. Walking the dogs, and tending to the flower garden and fruit trees. My wife asked me for a little car maintenance today – changing a burned-out taillight that a passerby noted on her drive home.
When you are engaged in the enjoyment of learning, you may find little time to catch up on celebrity deaths, Trump’s latest self-congratulatory pronouncements, or dozing in front of the television.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. – John F Kennedy
Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the sneak attack on the United States of America, that resulted in the murder of thousands of men, women, and children. On that day we, as a nation, and the world first learned that a death-cult comprised of fanatical Muslims would use commercial airliners to bring down a symbol of American enterprise, the towers of the World Trade Center, and a kamikaze strike into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This was also the first time our enemies would learn that American civilians aboard another flying would-be weapon, would willingly and aggressively fight these fanatics, to bring down the aircraft before reaching its target.
The stories of bravery, from these men and women, from members of the New York Fire Department, Police Officers, and civilians and victims in this tragic series of attacks is well-known. We also remember the hundreds of men and women who have suffered life-threatening illnesses from combing through all that poisonous debris – to find, identify, and bury their fellow citizens murdered on that horrible morning.
What Americans should do on this anniversary is to tell our elected representatives that we will no longer tolerate disrespect for our institutions, the purchase of loyalties from non-citizens at the expense of citizens, or the rewriting of history. Further, we oppose the diminishing of American accomplishments, disobedience to the Constitutional-granted powers and laws, and the blatantly self-seeking and pandering politicians. We should instead honor our dead. Support our veterans who, over eighteen years of conflict have suffered and lost. Be proud of our history and our institutions. And fly our national ensign proudly so the living will never forget.
Warriors throughout world history were sent off to war with trumpets, drums, celebrations or religious ceremonies. And over those thousands of years, young men and women were victors or the vanquished. Celebrated as heroes, or corpses left behind in distant lands. Where there are records, including Chinese and Aztec tombs, ancient Akkadian tablets, Homeric Greek dramas, Roman histories, and Biblical scrolls, men and women went into battle blessed by the gods of one side or the other.
“The victims of PTSD often feel morally tainted by their experiences, unable to recover confidence in their own goodness, trapped in a sort of spiritual solitary confinement, looking back at the rest of the world from beyond the barrier of what happened. They find themselves unable to communicate their condition to those who remained at home, resenting civilians for their blind innocence. David Brooks
The Moral Injury, New York Times. Feb 17, 2015″ , via goodreads.com
War has always been brutal. Long before “civilized” conduct of war, if there is such a thing, treatment of enemy prisoners, women and children was often slavery or death. Even in the Twenty-First Century, we learn of kidnapping, abuse, and sexual slavery still being committed throughout the world. How many victims were emotionally scarred? How many returning warriors over the millennia were affected by such brutality?
While histories do not record the struggles of the victims of war, and we cannot help the long ago dead, we know that, in America alone, some 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Alcohol and substance abuse, reckless behaviors, and firearms, all contribute to someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder killing themselves.
War demands sacrifice of the people. It gives only suffering in return. – Frederic Clemson Howe
Where does the isolation begin? People do not know their neighbors, and do not develop real, vulnerable, honest friendships with one another. Governments which send young people to war, have only overwhelmed or emotionally-detached bureaucrats who quickly “treat” veterans and then move to the next sufferer. Communities develop a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) reflex to homelessness and addiction, and many expect veterans to simply ‘get over it’. Societies do not have a “moral” center anymore. Mass media incessantly blare stories of anger, outrage, frustration, violence, and political blame-gaming. Media sensationalizes suffering; bickering within communities has created more isolation. in such a state, people do not recognize a potential suicide victim’s quiet withdrawal – even within their own household.
While everyone seems to have an opinion about the easy access to firearms in America, the easy access to prescription drugs, as well as methamphetamine, heroin, and the most misused though legal drug, alcohol, is no less a societal problem. When liquor store owners knowingly provide booze to alcoholics, on credit, because they know their customer receives State aid and will be paid – they knowingly contribute to that person’s death – or some innocent’s death or injury along the way. That is a problem society should address with equal outrage as to those with firearms.
A first step? Let us as people stop dividing ourselves into “us” and “them”. With that first step, we can then work on empathy. Personal responsibility. And action.
Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Ernest Hemingway
When my sons and I now debate the polarizing topics of the day, we still can see the others’ point of view though we disagree on positions, evidence, and interpretation of those differing opinions. My spouse, who deals with conflict in her job has on numerous occasions stated to us and to others that she is “Switzerland” when we all try to bring her to our side.
But there are times when the family rallies around one another. Nobody takes a position of non-intervention or turns a blind eye to family crises. Politics, gender, religion, age, birth-order, and sports are not discussed when a family member is hospitalized. Berating individuals about life choices and mental fitness are banned, delayed or withheld, in order to support the suffering member.
Perhaps we are fortunate. Or that we have a unique perspective. But I do not think so. Our family has six adults, one by marriage, and a grandchild. Our “empty nest” has been re-nested with the same suffering family member recently. Our family has been touched by illness, substance abuse, divorce, step-parenting, military service, job loss, overwork, financial issues, car accidents, and even a fire in our home. Everything from hospitalized parent (the author’s and his wife’s), online stalking, high school shootings, and even a student suicide have touched the life experience of members of this family.
In the end what holds us together as family is more permanent than what makes us individual. In the world, the concept of “family” means different things to different people. But in ours, there is no room for anyone to sit on the sidelines.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I have reached a point in life that shopping in “big box” stores disappoints me. Twenty-five years ago, the big stores were a curiosity, since as a single man, I never imagined the option to buy a year’s supply of toilet paper at one time, a 10-pack of chicken thighs or steaks, or ketchup by the gallon. People were nicer then, too. As you drove in the parking lot – at 2 mph – a customer might say, “hang on a minute and you can have my spot”. The clerks at the checkout would chat with you – both your kids play baseball at the same high school. The three people in line at checkout would not fume at a little friendliness. You might see your child’s teacher, or coach, or your co-worker shopping also. It was a time when buying something foreign-made ( Japan, Mexico, or Latin America) was a good deal, and not going to start a debate on politics or foreign policy.
Talking with another entrepreneurial co-worker my age, most working people are in one of two situations. Either there is not sufficient income to meet needs like housing, transportation, medical coverage, and school-age children’s support, or the opposite extreme, too little income to pay for the ego-boosting debts of expensive homes, cars, boats, entertainment and $1000 IPhones.
But there is a third option. Establishing a plan (earlier in adult life, the better) that develops skills and experience with a disciplined savings and investment strategy. Some reputable standout entrepreneurs I know began that way; building a great reputation among friends, employers, customers and peers, they had entrepreneurial ambitions, and were willing to risk failure.
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. Albert Einstein
In our industrial society, age instead of financial stability, is a commonly-held benchmark for “retirement”. Instead, I support the notion that a disciplined approach to provide that stability at a self-determined age is the foundation. And an entrepreneurial venture providing a valued service, personal challenge and some material reward, is a valued “retirement”.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. —Epictetus
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. Tecumseh
Judging from reports that superhero movies generate billions of dollars of sales around the world, people hunger for heroes, heroic actions, and feel-good-that-bad-guys-lose stories. As much as I loved watching the Avengers MCU franchise, I do not think of the big green guy, an Asgardian with a big hammer, or an Elon Musk -on-steroids, Iron Man, when I picture a “hero”.
A hero is the eighteen year old Kendrick Castillo who charged the murderous punks at the STEM school in Colorado, protecting his classmates at the sacrifice of his life. Let’s not forget his classmates, Jackson Gregory and Lucas Albertoni, who also rushed the shooters. I would hope the media and history books will immortalize them and not dwell on the perpetrators. It is that latter attention that inspires damaged people to commit other heinous crimes.
Dwell instead on those like Oscar Stewart, the Army veteran attending services who instinctively chased after the murdering coward in the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California. Honor also Lori Kaye who died defending her rabbi. They wore no armor, and doubtless, had any plans to defend their fellow worshippers that day from a hail of bullets.
A superhero is someone who, at some point or in some way, inspires hope or is the enemy of cynicism. Mark Waid Read
In a world that is always at the mercy of violent men (and women), we can be forgiven for indulging in fantasy where evil may triumph for a time. Thankfully, fictional heroes figure out a way to defeat it and save the universe.
In tragedy, unlikely people emerge as heroes, defending family, friends or strangers from evildoers. In troubled times, there is always a need for heroes, but not magic stones to combat wrongs.