Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Every month, The Washington Post prints pictures of America's war dead. I am always staggered by the two, full pages of pictures. Each young face represents a child whose parents joyfully anticipated his birth and carefully chose his or her name. This child was a beloved family member and, no doubt, someone's BFF. We will never know if one might have become a brilliant scientist who discovered a cure for some dread disease.When a young person dies it is so unnatural and unexpected. A child is not supposed to die before his or her parents do. As one mother said in another Post article, she never expected to see her baby's name on a headstone. That did it -- I lost it. How do soldiers' parents and friends cope with such a huge loss! No words, medals or certificates can provide comfort for such a loss. The rawness of losing a child in such a violent way -- well, I don't have words to describe it. Deaths caused by warfare have happened for centuries; eons, really. How have we not concluded that this is wrong? Modern warfare is deadlier and less selective than ancient methods of killing one's enemies. A sword, arrows and spears could not compete with guns, bombs, land mines, poison gas and nuclear weapons. Still, countries find reasons to build and maintain arsenals of ever more deadly weaponry. Land mines left over from long finished wars kill and maim thousands of civilians in several countries every year. Many of them were made in the good ole U.S. of A. Is the industrial-military-complex too big to fail? Just think if some of the billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent developing new weaponry were redirected to medical research, caring for those who cannot care for themselves and improving the miserable standards of living for people around the world. Peace might just happen! Thousands of refugees from manmade and natural disasters are still caught in an unending cycle of loss and lack of real recovery perpetuated by half-measures of aid. But then, some of those refugees may actually be better off than "America's invisible poor." Homelessness and hunger are not exclusive to dirty, bearded men who hang out on heating grates. Too many of those dirty, bearded men are veterans who, for whatever reasons, were unable to assimilate back into society. Others could not find employment which further broke their spirits after sacrificing so much for their homeland. Many did not agree with U.S. military stands, but served anyway because it was the right thing to do. Each and every one of us owes a significant debt to our military -- past and present. It's all fine and good thanking service members for their service. What they need is not a handshake but a hand-up into a job that will help restore their self-reliance and facilitate a more normal life out of the military. It can be a huge adjustment, but with understanding and patience from employers and co-workers, it would be one helluva great home-coming gift!
Friday, November 11, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Five days from today is Veterans' Day. All the ads in the Sunday newspapers made me think about how veterans themselves might view what has happened to this day of remembrance and thanksgiving.
Yes, I know the official Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November. The sale ads for the day after -- "Black Friday" -- are already being hinted at. That holiday is observed for a completely different reason and has evolved far away from it's original intent.
Even now with so many American military members overseas, we are encouraged to focus on buying stuff on the one day intended to honor our veterans.
Veterans' Day isn't even observed by many employers. It has become a regular work day so that employees can be off to spend bundles on "Black Friday"! For the folks who remember their family members and friends who served their country, this may be a painful reminded of how their sacrifices are ignored.
For a high school classmate of mine, Veterans' Day and Christmas Eve are two difficult days. Nancy's older brother John was sent to Vietnam in 1968, within days of completing basic training. Five days later, he stepped into a rice paddy and was shot dead.
Five days after completing grueling training which was rushed because so many young men were dying in Southeast Asia and needed to be replaced, John was no more. Five days wasn't even enough time to grow a decent mustache . . .
His family was at the airport when his remains were brought back to the States for burial -- on Christmas Eve. As sometimes happens, a SNAFU on the identities of several other caskets caused even more agony for the families.
Losing a family member messes up family dynamics. It certainly did in Nancy's family. Her younger brother was so traumatized by his brother's death that he ran away. All these years later, he has very little contact with his parents and siblings.
Military service is honorable and noble -- no doubt about it. It can also throw families into turmoil and cause unimaginable pain. With both men and women being deployed thousands of miles away for incredibly long periods, it's a wonder families can survive. Children can feel abandoned. They cannot understand why Mom or Dad's job sends them so far away from home for so long. Sometimes they blame themselves.
I don't care about missing "fantastic sales" this Friday. I'll sacrifice the sales to remember family and friends who sacrificed their time, health and often their sanity to protect me and our country.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
What I dreaded most about a recent, horrendous crime was confirmed by a Washington Post columnist today. I had so hoped that I was wrong.
The gist: two females at a high-end suburban store got into a fight that ended in murder. One was the manager and the other was an employee who had been caught stealing. It was a very noisy, bloody fight that lasted for quite a while and only ended with the manager's gruesome death.
This high-end store is in a shopping mall and shares a wall with another store whose employees were also working late. They heard everything, including screams for help and did a b s o l u t e l y n o t h i n g.
I cannot imagine what was going through their heads as they listened to terrified screams and pleas for help through the wall. It's not as if their lives were in danger. So why didn't they call 911? Not one of them has offered an answer to that question.
It's been about 50 years since Kitty Genovese was repeatedly stabbed outside of her apartment complex in NY. People watched and listened to her screams from their windows yet did nothing to help her.
If we all maintain an attitude of not wanting to get involved what is to stop criminals or sociopaths from harming others? With the 911 system, it's so easy to simply pick up a phone, dial the number and report anything suspicious. It's easy and necessary and can be anonymous!
I still live with my shame of several years ago. We had a neighbor who had recently separated from his wife. They had two sons, one of whom was 3 or 4 years old. We often heard shouted telephone conversations between our neighbor and his estranged wife through our bedroom wall.
When the younger boy came to visit his father for a weekend, the parents got into a tug-of-war over him on the side walk. The father had the boys torso and the mother was pulling on his legs. Both were shouting at each other and the boy was hysterical.
Having heard this man berate and curse his wife, I was afraid of him, so I tortured myself hoping that they would realize what they were doing and stop. After several minutes of their ugly scene, I looked up the number for Child Protective Services and called them. The man who answered advised me to call the police, but by then the parents had left the scene.
Helping someone in trouble doesn't always require endangering your own life. Police are trained to handle all sorts of gnarly situations, but they have to be alerted to them to do anything.
I would hope that if I were in a scary situation someone would come to my rescue or, at least notify the police. I have to live with my slow actions but I won't repeat them. If I see or hear something untoward, I won't hesitate to notify authorities. We are, after all, our brother's keeper.