The Broad is Back!

January 20, 2009

History is made–Is that hope I feel?

Filed under: American culture,heros,Obama,patriotism,politics,Uncategorized — by maggiec @ 7:01 pm

“History was made” is a phrase that appears all too frequently in newscasts. But today, history was well and truly made when Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Thanks to a car accident over the weekend, at noon today I sat in a rental car, listening to the swearing in and the inaugural speech. I was happy when I arrived at my destination as I was crying and afraid to drive. I dashed into the body shop hoping the TV was on, and it was. There I sat in the waiting room of a car repair shop, watching the end of the speech.

Tears were rolling down my cheeks, and while I was embarrassed (I hate to be seen crying), I let it rip. I had actually planned on being in Washington for the inauguration, just so I could say I was there, but the car accident changed all plans.  At the end of the speech, I just looked at the men in the room–it was me and some men–and said, “I’m a girl; I can get away with this.”

President Obama–finally we can say that!  I feel such pride.  And, dare I say it? I feel hope.  The last inauguration that I watched was President Clinton’s in ’92.  It was the last time I was in the US for one, and really, it was the last time I cared.  I was full of hope then, too, after 12 long years of Republican rule by presidents I could barely tolerate.  The “greed is good” 80s were an anathema to my view of life and wealth.  It didn’t take long for me to be disillusioned by the Clinton administration.  They were better than what went before, true, but “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the miserable failure of the Clinton health plan soured the hope for me.

But today, listening to the speech, I felt hope again.  I love words.  I love stirring rhetoric, and today’s speech was a good one.  It had echoes of Presidents Washington (not a man known for stirring rhetoric, of course), FDR and JFK.

The first section of speech that hit my heart was this:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.  The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation:  the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

I actually had to pull off the street because I was crying too hard to drive.  It’s a quote from one of my favorite verses of Scripture: 1 Cor 13:11.  It comes after the famous definition of Love, but there is the hint that in the spirit of Love, we must go forth as a nation.  And because of that, we are all equal, all free, all deserving.  I cried because I believe that wholeheartedly, but also because for so many, especially so many of my students, that equality seems so far.

Then came this paragraph:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given.  It must be earned.  Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less.  It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

I could drive during this part.  In fact, I snorted.  Too many of us in this country have become lazy, looking for short cuts and the easy way.  No one knows this better than teachers.

After coming back from 12 years abroad, I have noticed a sense of entitlement that shocks me.  When I give C grades to students–by definition an average grade–students get angry at me and often demand an A grade, meaning excellent.  I often think the C is inflated, but there it is.  They actually handed something in, so it must be excellent.

Fox News reported on a study to that end last November, “Many Teens Overconfident; Have “Wildly” Unrealistic Expectations” which didn’t shock me in the least.  And of course, their parents are to blame, and that’s my generation.  I see too much laziness and corner cutting in my own generation as well.

So this is what scares me about the challenges America faces.  I’ve mentioned many times that President Obama and I are the same age.  Michelle Obama is three years younger than me.  I’m well educated, I admit, but compared to the Obamas, I’m a regular slacker.  I can tell myself that being a teacher is a noble profession, that I’ve touched the lives of thousands of kids.  Yeah, but I also tell myself that thousands of them don’t remember me at all, or if they do it’s with mild annoyance.

Am I ready and willing to pick up the challenge?  Frankly, I’m tired.  I feel like I’ve been fighting the good fight for the past 12 years.  I was fighting it before that as well.  I’ve never given up the dream of my 60s youth.

When I heard these words today:

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

the tears began anew.  I believe these words with all of my heart.

Hopefully, the tired and ragged idealists among us will feel refreshed and be ready to soldier on.  And those who never really thought of the responsibility part of being an American will wake up and see the light.

I have hope.  One of my all time favorite pieces of advice to my students  is this quote by Edith Hamilton: “When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”  May we learn a hard lesson from history.

And at this junction, I can’t help but think of the Kennedy brothers: the hope they still engender.  My hero Bobby gives me a fitting ending for this essay:

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”

I would add say a prayer for our new president and his family.  Because we live in a savage world, he needs our prayers

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March 19, 2008

Time flies when you’re having fun–five years in

Filed under: heros,military,New Broads,protest,soldiers — by maggiec @ 2:09 pm

Those of you who read the original Broads know that I’ve been against the war since before it started.  And today marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion into Iraq.  The grey freezing rain outside is Nature’s fitting commentary on the state of my country.

This morning I was at the gym when President Bush gave his “important” speech on the war.  It was being carried live by CNN.  My blood was boiling, and not because of the elliptical machine.  I try very hard to respect the office of the presidency even if I don’t agree with the man in the office.  But I wanted to smack that smug grin off his face.  Even before the speech started, there he was, grinning like a monkey.  I wanted to vomit.  I just went looking for a picture to share with you, but I couldn’t find one.   Guess only the lucky people who watched live got to see the grinning.  In all of the news reports there’s one or two different shots, but the president is trying to look serious.

So, what has this war accomplished?  Saddam Hussein is no longer in Iraq.  That’s good.  But do the ends justify the means?  The war broke international law and the president lied to Congress to get the war pushed through.  Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.  That was Al-Qaeda.  But in today’s speech, Bush said, “The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win.”  I thought the war was about Osama bin-Laden and his terror organization.  Who changed the objective without telling me?

But I will admit, getting rid of Saddam wasn’t a bad thing.  And if you believe that the ends justify the means, then the war has been a success.  I also believe that democracy can not be thrust on a people.  They have to grasp for it.  Change must come from within.  Americans rebelled against the British.  The French helped, but they didn’t say, OK, we’ve decided the time is ripe for your democracy.  The Indians kicked out the British when they’d had enough.  The Irish kicked out the British when the people were tired of the oppression.  Well, they tried to kick out the British, and they did from a good part of the country.  You get my point.

What about those means?  According to Reuter’s report on today’s speech, there are currently about 160,000 American troops in Iraq.   Nearly 4000 American soldiers have died.  During WW II, approximately 408,500 soldiers were killed.  That’s a huge difference, of course, but WWII was a bigger war. During the nine years we were in Vietnam, approximately 58,000 were killed.  So really, comparatively speaking, the cost in lives is low.  (I found a great website about the cost of US wars in lives and dollars.)  Britain has lost 175 soldiers and other countries in the alliance have lost 134 soldiers. 

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed.  No one seems to worry too much about them.  Who decided Arabs don’t count?  No one asked for my vote on that one. 

For some, these may be acceptable numbers, but for whom?  Certainly not to me.  Comparatively speaking these are even low numbers for a war, but how can we speak in terms of comparison when we’re speaking of lives?  And who is the enemy?  What are we fighting for?  WWII–that’s an easy one.  The Nazis were the best bad-guys ever.  Can’t get much more evil and nasty than the Nazis, right?  Then Vietnam–the Communists.  OK, sounds funny today, but looking at it in the context of the times and the Cold War, I can even see wanting to fight the Communists even if the execution of that war was poorly done.  Vietnam became the battlefield for a much larger philosophical battle.  So what’s the point in Iraq?  Hussein was a tyrant and a despot, yes, but he’s not the only one around.  Why’d we pick him out?  There was 9/11, but that was Osama, not Saddam.  They don’t even sound the same.  Or are all Arab names interchangeable?

The war has cost about $500 billion.   That’s billion with a “b”.  We have mortgaged the futures of our grand-children if not our great-great grandchildren.  Our once great military, the envy of the world, has been stretched to the breaking point and demoralized, given substandard equipment to fight a battle many of them don’t even understand.  And I know young men who have been over there.  They come back bitter, let me tell you.  I try to support them–I write, I send gifts, I pray for them–but supporting the troops does not mean I support the war.

Our international reputation has plummeted.  Between the questions about the legality of the war, the torture issue, the mess in Afghanistan and Bush’s unilateral attitude on foreign policy my beloved country is a laughing stock.

Our economy is a mess.  That’s a technical term for disaster.  The poor are getting poorer, but an awful lot of people have become rich thanks to the war.  Funny how none of those people are people I know.  They all seem to be friends of the Bush and Cheney families–the Haliburton crew.  Maybe instead of working for the state college system at a salary below market rate, I should see if Haliburton is hiring.

The Patriot Act is a travesty.  We cannot safeguard democracy by eroding people’s rights.  That’s Orwellian newspeak and doublethink. 

I’ve been back in the States for about nine months now, and the longer I stay, the more upset I get.  My country has been kidnapped, co-opted, perverted, bankrupt.  Dark days for the once bright beacon of hope, the “shining city on the hill” the US had hoped to be.

I’d like to end with a quote from one of the most hated men in the 20th century, and no, not President George W. Bush:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”–Hermann Goering

January 7, 2008

Kucinich for President? Yeah, I think so.

If you haven’t noticed this about me, I love my country. As the Massachusetts primaries approach on Feb. 5th, I still hadn’t decided which candidate I was behind. I kept waiting for Al Gore to announce, but he never did, so I was stuck. I have reservations about Hillary Clinton. I have reservations about Barack Obama, similar reservations about their health care plans, actually. I didn’t know enough about John Edwards, and then who else was there? I was a little interested in a Republican’s advertisements, Ron Paul, but I decided it was time to get educated.

Dennis Kucinich, the peace candidate, the guy who says he wants to defend the Constitution, caught my eye. Well, they all say that, but that’s what catches my attention these days. The Constitution is more than “a goddamned piece of paper” as our President has called it. I’d like to see it supported for a change.

So I went to the Kucinich web site and liked what I read. Then I joined the mailing list. Got an e-mail this morning saying there would be a rally today in Concord, NH, right before the primaries. Oh, yeah, Viggo Mortensen would be there. I asked my husband if he was interested, and he said he’d like to see an American political rally. Mortensen got my son’s vote, but then he’s only 17, so it’s the only vote he’s getting.Enlisted to hold a sign

The last American political rally I went to was in 1968. I was seven, and my grandmother brought me to see Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in Brewster, NY. He was late; I was brought home and never saw one of my great political heroes. A few months later, he was gone.

So I listened to Kucinich, and I liked what I heard. He was saying the same thing about health care that I was thinking. Making health insurance mandatory doesn’t help the poor. Then it’s a decision between food and medical care. Massachusetts has mandatory health care, and I think it’s wrong. There should be some kind of subsidized health care if you’re going to have that kind of mandate, or else you’re just doing a favor for the big insurance companies.

I was impressed with him, and even more impressed with his wife, Elizabeth Kucinich. All I knew about her from the media was she had a pierced tongue. You know, the important stuff. She also has a BA in Religious Studies and Theology and an MA in International Conflict Resolution. When she was 18 she went off to India to work at one of Mother Theresa’s shelters for the poorest of the poor, and she’s done volunteer work as a refugee caseworker for the British Red Cross. She’s worked for the poor and disenfranchised all of her adult life. And she’s still only 30.

After the short speeches, I wanted to shake hands with the candidate. I wanted to feel his vibe myself. That might sound a little flaky, but as a reporter, when talking to politicians I learned to trust the vibe thing. First I had a few words with Elizabeth Kucinich. She’s poised, confident, with a keen intelligence shining in her eyes. She’s also devastatingly beautiful. She graciously posed for a picture with me.Elizabeth Kucinich and me

I worked my way to the candidate himself. By this point, I was very intrigued. Unfortunately, this was a busy weekend, and it looked like I wasn’t going to get the chance. A man came up behind me to get an autograph and I was about to walk away when Congressman Kucinich put his hand on my arm and stayed me.

When he was done signing, he turned to me, and I told him, “I’ve found the man I’m going to vote for.”

He thanked me and smiled, then I told him that I haven’t been to a political rally since RFK. I wasn’t just making idle chit chat. As I’ve said, RFK is one of my heroes. Sure, he was flawed; he was human. But he gave people hope. I want to feel that hope again.

I felt it when Clinton was elected. I was ready for change, welcomed it, and felt good about my country’s future again. But he left me and the rest of the country terribly disillusioned for many, many reasons.

Being an eternal optimist, I want to feel it again. I want my country to be as great as I know it can be. I told the Congressman about RFK because I wanted to let him know what I was investing in this.

He looked at me and said. “That is so moving.” He paused, still looking right in my eyes. Then he said, “I’m so touched. Can I hug you?”

So I hugged him. And he told me a story that I won’t share here. Not political, about someone he knew. Then he said he’d sign an autograph for me and asked me to spread the word.hugging

So here I am. I am a good judge of people. I’m a trained listener and as a college professor and writer, I get lied to on a regular basis. I have that gift Hemingway said writers need: a built-in, fool-proof shit detector. I wasn’t hearing shit today.

Dennis Kucinich is a dedicated true believer, and he will get my vote in the primary. He would make a good president. He has ideas to help this country be what it can be. His wife has the potential to be the best First Lady we’ve had since Eleanor Roosevelt. They are the real deal.

I’ve already written to ABC news to complain that he was cut from the televised debates. More on that tomorrow. My husband and I watched the news tonight, the only channel that sent a reporter, and Kucinich wasn’t on the air. Even with a sound bite from Viggo Mortensen! The media is muzzling the elections and making it hard for Americans to make an informed choice. The news covered five candidates: Clinton, Obama and Edwards, McCain and Romney. They showed the three Democrats on their poll, but five Republicans. As I say, more on that tomorrow.

But check out Kucinich. Don’t let the big media companies give you tunnel vision. If you like what he says, great! If you don’t, that’s great, too, because at least you made an informed decision. But in a recent independent poll, Kucinich got 77% of the vote–a far cry from what the corporate media would have you believe.

Oh, and Viggo Mortensen was a treat, too. Erudite, passionate, intelligent. Soft-spoken, but angry as all get out at ABC, and I liked to see that.

October 4, 2007

A message via the Broad

Filed under: heros,military,New Broads,protest — by maggiec @ 6:18 pm

I haven’t got time to write, but I still have time to pass on important information.  So here you go.

 All Bloggers and Webmasters: Place a “Free Burma Banner” in place of your daily blog Oct 4th:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=6760367115
==========================

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
_________________________________

A Day of International Action for a Free Burma

 

Free Aung San Suu Kyi & Support the Monks in Burma

Saturday 6TH OCTOBER 2007

Time: 12 NOON in every major city across the world

We are marching in solidarity with the monks and ordinary people of Burma who are risking their lives for freedom and democracy.

We appeal to all religious and secular communities across the world not to look the other way while the people of Burma cry out for international support.

Now listed as en EVENT “A Day of International Action for a Free Burma (Oct. 6th) Worldwide” all cities and locations will be posted there shortly.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE PROTESTERS

1 – PROTEST- Look below in “Recent news” for details of worldwide protests.

2 – SPREAD THE WORD- Invite your friends to this group, email all your family and friends, write to local newspapers

3 – CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIAL- they will respond if enough people contact them.

4 – EMAIL COMPANIES STILL IN BURMA their email addresses are listed here http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24957770200&topic=3071

5 – SIGN A PETITION there are lots listed here
http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24957770200&topic=3175

6 – KEEP UP TO DATE -READ SOME BLOGS/WEBSITES We’ve compiled some great resources http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24957770200&topic=3231

7. EMAIL YOUR NATION’S EMBASSY IN BURMA, asking them to open up their WiFi networks for our contacts to utilize. We’ve had reports that the internet is down to keep reports and pictures IN Burma, we need to do everything we can to make sure they get OUT. Your embassy’s contact info will be on your country’s ministry/department of foreign affairs webpage. http://www.alloexpat.com/myanmar_expat_forum/foreign-embassy-in-myanmar-directory-t5.html

8 – CONTACT EXTERNAL MEDIA. If you have any updates pass them to the press via details listed here http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24957770200&topic=3232

9 – BOYCOTT CHINA – Think about boycotting Chinese goods. http://leedsac.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24957770200&topic=3223

10 – BROWSE THIS SITE At the bottom of the page is the constantly updating wall with up to the minute news on protests and what is happening in Burma.

_________________________
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO

DONATE money to the Democratic Voice of Burma:
“”The Democratic Voice of Burma was established in Oslo, Norway in 1992 and is broadcasting radio and TV to Burma. Due to current events, transmissions have increased to 24/7, which is very costly. To donate visit their website at http://english.dvb.no/

CONTINUE EMAILING those associated with the Beijing Olympics
http://ubc.facebook.com/event.php?eid=6524045893
http://ubc.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24957770200&topic=3351

LOBBY your education institution’s Student Council or Student Union to pass a resolution in support of the Burmese Peoples’ Protests and in condemnation of the Military Junta’s actions. While a symbolic gesture, it gives hope and keeps the issue at the forefront of people’s minds.
http://studentsforburma.tiddlyspot.com/#Welcome

SUPPORT The Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma. This is a group that has been working together with activists inside Burma for many years, and the Australian side is headed by a high-profile local council official. They are currently trying to get equipment INSIDE Burma to get news OUT – which ties in with what we’re doing, as we’re trying to SPREAD the news Far and Wide and KEEP it in people’s minds. Information about their activities can be found at http://qutedu.facebook.com/event.php?eid=5100614153
and http://www.burmasolidarity.org
__________________________

***EMERGENCY NUMBER ISSUED BY UN IN BURMA***
Please be informed that the UN Designated Official in Rangoon has established a 24 hour hotline in case of emergency, especially during curfew hours. The numbers to call are: 01 554 597 or 01 554 625. Please pass this to all people inside Burma. This is a Rangoon hotline that should be reached immediately.
__________________________

BURMA OR MYANMAR?
If you are confused why some people call it Burma and some Mynamar please read this article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7013943.stm

In brief – It’s known as Myanmar in many countries and at the UN. But the UK&USA don’t recognise the legitimacy of the regime that changed the name therefore still use the pre-military dictatorship name (Burma).

HOWEVER, that being said, it’s important also to recognise that some people choose to call it Myanmar as Burma was the name given to the country during British colonization.
————————–————————–——–
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

April 28, 2007

A Shout Out to the Boys and Girls

Filed under: heros,military,Old Broads,soldiers — by maggiec @ 7:59 pm

Originally published August 12, 2004  Note: I don’t want to exclude females, but at the time I wrote it, I was thinking of young men I knew. I have since come to know many brave women who are serving just as selflessly. They face the same privations and dangers.  And sadly, often sexism to boot.

A lot of times in this column, I talk about encountering
anti-Americanism. OK, talk is a euphemism. I complain. And I’ve
mentioned how I don’t wear things obviously labeling me as an American because I worry about attracting unwanted attention. It’s the same theory as not wearing my jewelry in the New York City subway–why tempt Fate?

I’m not alone in this approach, of course. Just the other day I was
reading that one of the American TV networks has warned its staff going over to cover the Olympic Games not to wear American flags or even the network insignia when they are out in public in order to avoid being the target of a terrorist attack.

But then I got to thinking about some people who can’t avoid being seen as American: the members of the US Armed Forces fighting or guarding in different areas. And I really wanted to say something about them, but I was trying to think of a way to avoid all the political implications. It’s not easy. No, I take that back. It’s impossible. Oh, I can write without mentioning politics at all, but I can hear people out there shouting at me because I’m choosing to ignore the political.

But that’s just what those soldiers have to do. They have to ignore the shouting and the politics and just do their job, and frankly, it’s a
pretty crummy job. And for all my sitting in nice, safe Sweden and
writing about the image of America abroad, I *am* safe. So I wanted to take a week and give a shout out to the “boys and girls” in the service and say thank you. Thank you for being braver than I could ever be, and thank you for putting your life on the line. Although there has been much made in the press of the bad apples, the good apples get basically ignored, so this is for them.

Just the other day I heard about two Iraqi brothers who have been living in Sweden for 25 years. They just sold their shops and they are going home for the first time since they left their country. They couldn’t go back because of Saddam Hussein. I might not agree with how it was done, but what’s done is done, and good riddance to him. Saddam, that is. Those two brothers were quite pleased that the US finally got rid of him so that they can go spend their final years at home. And let me tell you, they say thanks to the boys, too.

A kid I used to baby sit is with the Marines in Afghanistan, and more
than one friend has a son in Iraq. Through them, I’ve heard things that
give me pause. I complain because I can’t get my favorite cleaning
products in the places I’ve lived. These guys can’t get the sand out of
their underwear. You know how horrible it is when you’ve got sand in
your bathing suit? Well, from what I hear, this is a permanent problem
over there. They feel like their underwear and socks are made of
sandpaper. Sand gets into everything. One day my friend got frustrated and washed his clothes in a bucket of water. When he hung them out to dry, a sandstorm blew up and sanded them worse than before. I’m told one of the best things they can get in a care package is a pair of tightey-whiteys (the regulation underwear) as it means no sitting on sandpaper for a day or two.

Sand is a hardship, of course, but then there’s the getting shot at. Of
course, that’s an occupational hazard in their chosen career, but still,
I can’t think it can be much fun. How’s that for understatement?

I sometimes get e-mails from the mothers, written late at night when the fears can set in. Those moms are heroes to me. (Dads, too, I guess, but as a mom, I emphathize with them more.) I have a hard time sending my son to school where I know there are bullies marking him out. I literally can not imagine waving my son off, knowing he’s going into battle. Mothers have been doing it for millennia, of course, but hearing my friends voice their fears makes me wonder how they can
possibly do it. I know I am no Volumnia, mother to the great Roman
soldier Caius Martius, later known as Coriolanus. Thanks to
Shakespeare’s version of the story, she’s famous for training her son to
be a fierce soldier. In fact, in the play, based on Plutarch’s /Lives/,
Volumnia says that she was happier when her son was first wounded in
battle than she was the day he was born and she was told he was a
“man-child”.

Some ancient cultures recognized how difficult it was for women to send their children into battle. So according to their beliefs, men could
attain paradise by dying in battle, but women could attain paradise by
giving birth to warriors. I can understand where that belief came from,
believe me. Faith got those mothers through.

Today, all of my friends get by on Faith, as well. I’ve heard it said
that there are no atheists in foxholes. Well, there don’t seem to be
any among soldiers’ moms, either.

And they get by on the kindness of strangers. Time after time I hear
stories of regular people doing things for the soldiers overseas through
their churches, work place or social groups. As I mentioned to one of
my soldier-mom friends, one good thing about this awful war is that it
has shown us that Americans really do unite and help one another when they need to.

As I was preparing to write this essay, I found an interesting piece in
the /New York Times/. It was David Brooks’s “Snapping to Attention,”
and in it he says that civilians in America have a strange reaction to
our military: “Our attitudes seem bipolar: we’re either at the
military’s throat or we’re at its feet.”

“Sometimes,” he says, “the military is regarded as a bizarre, primeval
institution dangerously at odds with enlightened American culture.” But
then, “at the flick of a cultural switch, the same people who were
watching “Dr. Strangelove,” “M*A*S*H” and “Platoon” are lining up to see “Top Gun,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “We Were Soldiers.” Suddenly the military is a bastion of the higher virtues – selflessness, duty and honor.”

Burke has a few reasons for this “bipolar disorder”: “I get the feeling
these bipolar attitudes arise from a cocktail of ignorance, guilt and
envy. First, there are large demographic chunks of the nation in which
almost nobody serves….At the same time, they know there’s something
unjust in the fact that they get to enjoy America while others sacrifice
for it, and sense deep down that there’s something ennobling in military service.”

(You can find the link to buy the essay at
_http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30D10F73D580C708CDDA10894DC404482_
It is from the /New York Times/, Late Edition – Final , Section A , Page
19 , Column 1.)

I think he’s on to something there, but I also think that in its ideal
form the military is a “bastion of the higher virtues,” but these
virtues he mentions, selflessness, duty and honor, are losing their grip
in our society. And not just American society, all of Western society.
(I can’t speak for other societies here, because I’m a product of
Western liberal humanism, so I’m limiting myself to that.) Honor seems to be a forgotten word in our life, and duty? Well, that just seems laughable to most people. Think of all the people you know in your own life who shirk duties–work responsibilities, parental responsibilities, marriage responsibilities–because they are too much, too hard.

When we see young people, some just barely 18, fulfilling their very
dangerous duties in a highly unpopular war, how can we not be made aware of our own failings? And it’s easy to take our frustrations about the war out on the young people who are fighting it. Many of them joined the military for a shot at a better life. And they’ll have one if a) they can stay alive, and b) they can resist the temptation to hate.
It’s difficult, but hate is what turns them sour inside and makes them
into the people who get the negative headlines.

So when I pray for them all over there, and I do, every day, I pray for
physical, emotional and spiritual safety. And this is my shout out to
you all–thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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