What the Star Spangled Banner Means to an American

I’ll answer your question with another. Why isn’t America the Beautiful our National Anthem, or America (My Country Tis of Thee)?

It’s a good question. America the Beautiful has all the hallmarks of a good national Anthem. It speaks with joy of a bountiful land, rich in beauty and touched by the grace of God. It speaks of happy people and gleaming cities.  The song also cries out to the vast diversity of wealth, the vastness and the grandeur of the American landscape from sea to shining to sea. That makes for a really good anthem, and for most countries, that would be the national song.

America the Beautiful is, pointedly, a beautiful song which speaks on much of why America is a wonderful place to live and why so many have found happiness in it. It doesn’t, however, capture the American identity. The Star Spangled Banner, does.

If you travel to any other part of the world, you will find people proud of their land, proud of their history, and proud of who they are. The same is true for Americans, but what is different about Americans, is that they are not defined by that land. Most countries of the world define who they are by the land beneath their feet. America isn’t a commonality of ethnicities. It isn’t a fortune born from geographic chance. Being American is a set of ideals and has little to do with the beauty and bounty of our land.

Consider this, what does it take to be an American? It’s a lot easier than becoming a German, an Englishman, or Chinese. No matter where you came from, if you move to those lands, you will never be one of them. They may grant you citizenship, and that may even be easier than for us, but they will never grant you membership into their tribe. The word “nation”, by the way, originally meant an ethnically linked collection of tribes. Throughout most of the world, Nationalism, still means exactly this. In most nations of the world, you are who you were forever born to be. If you move from India to Cairo, you may be given rights as a citizen of Egypt, but no one will ever say that you now and forever more a real Egyptian. If you move to Japan, you will never be Japanese. If you move to Brazil, you will never be Brazilian.

America is different. All of us came from somewhere else. The only thing we actually have in common is an ancestry with a shared sense of drive, independence, a common desire to pursue prosperity, and to live freely. At one point, each of our ancestors made the choice to make great sacrifice and come to a distant country, work hard, and make something of yourself for the betterment of you and your family. So long as you are willing to do that, so long as you are willing to join our “nation” with the goal of improving it with a hardworking spirit, and defend it with an equal sense of pride and loyalty – You are an American.

Daniel Kamakura‘s answer to this same question sums this mentality well talking about his mother when she took the Oath of Allegiance.

What mattered is what the Oath meant to them: that they were now Americans–full stop. No ifs, ands, or buts. U.S. citizens, free and clear, without caveat or reservation, and entitled to all rights, privileges, and obligations thereof.

So one might agree, at this point, that America the Beautiful isn’t the greatest choice for an American anthem, as it doesn’t really describe the American experience and what makes an American. Perhaps another, perhaps, America (My Country ‘Tis Of Thee) would have been better? This one is also a beautiful hymn, lyrically masterful, and delivers both the moral virtues Americans hold dear, as well as pay homage to the land itself. Poetically, most would agree that it is superior to the current anthem, so what is missing?

For this, only a true understanding of the Star Spangled Banner can communicate what makes it stand out from all other songs about America, and any other national anthem in the world.

The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner commemorates an event, but more importantly, it commemorates a struggle. In the poem, the flag of the United States flying over a fort on some night during the war of 1812, wasn’t just a battle standard. It was more, still, than just a flag representing a nation weak, young, and learning how it might stand against an old empire with world-wide strength. That night, as we later discovered, it was a symbol of the American Experiment. The American Experiment was this ridiculous idea that people from around the world, people wanting to seek opportunity, to seek equality, to seek freedom of faith and freedom of opinion, and finally seeking freedom from oppression, may form a nation, a collective of tribes, tribes not born of race and geography, but of ideas and ethics. The American Experiment was audacious enough to suggest that people would fight for these flimsy self-evident truths, without the slightest command from the aristocracy; their moral and intellectual betters, the feudal lords or great emperors. It was foolish enough to believe it could endure against an old world so vast and powerful, that the sun never set on its reach.

The flag mentioned in The Star Spangled Banner has little to do with a piece of cloth waving in the percussion beats of bomb blasts. It just took such an event to show us what we were. My nation is a collective of tribes, bound only in a moral commonality, baptised in a joining together of wills, and tempered in a battle that tested it’s true value, and the value of its first champions. The Star Spangled Banner represents us. This hymn tells the story of an idea that stood little chance of hope, but still remained aloft. It reminds us that we often only only will see the virtues of our American Experiment, in the lights of its us of terrible struggle. More so, than this, The Star Spangled Banner reminds us that the ideas pioneered by the American Experiment are those worth fighting for, those worth enduring for, and which we may fearfully doubt in our darkest hours, but that, in the end, are themselves unstoppable, unyielding, and impossible to overcome.

The Star Spangled Banner serves as the eternal symbol of the American Experiment with no equal. No other anthem can capture this idea by just listing the virtues of a nation or the beauty of it’s land. No other anthem could capture a spirit of a people like a victorious battle hymn of a desperate time. Most of all, no other anthem could remind Americans, and the world itself, of what is required to maintain what that spirit stands for, and the inevitable legacy that struggle has given to all of us.

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4 Lessons From the First 5 Minutes of Boot Camp

From the first moment you arrive at a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, you are neck deep in the ceremonialized terror that is the way of life within the United States Marine Corps. When recruits’ feet hit the ground, before even they leave the bus, they are psychologically shaken and immediately introduced to what will become their routine and what their expectations will be. While I’d like to discuss what this would be like, words fail to communicate what a proper demonstration would make clearer. Below is a video showing exactly what it is like for every recruit before they even get off the bus at the Recruit Depot.

After you’ve seen it, there are some points I’d like you to take away from the experience, and maybe to review the video once you know what you’re seeing.

  1. Everything the drill instructor does has a purpose; everything. Every word the drill instructor is saying is memorized. Notice the precision of language, the directness of orders and instructions, and the brevity of communicating complex instructions. At first glance you would probably view the video either as one of the recruits, frightening overwhelmed, or you may view it as a comical charade. It may seem funny to you, it may seem terrible to you, but every word has been rehearsed to provide some crucial and instructional value in some way.
  2. The recruits are being yelled at before they ever set foot off the bus. This is a unique welcoming ritual, rare in even military circles. You can hear this if you begin listening immediately. It lets recruits know immediately who is command and wastes no time with allowing them to wander aimlessly and confused. They receive clear instruction directing their actions before even arriving.
  3. Within 5 minutes, 100 individuals with no group training at all have been trained by drill instructions on how to:
    Listen and learn while at bootcamp. (Not as obvious as you may think)
    Respond to instruction. (Like everything, there are rules to this)
    Stand in formation. (Also not as self as self explanatory as one might believe)
    Move as a unit. (The Yellow Footprints help with this considerably)
    They have also all been read their rights and responsibilities as recruits, which they listened to silently, then in a speedy and organized manner, filed to a different area. Unless you have ever had the extreme misfortune of dealing with large numbers of teenage boys, you will not appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment.
  4. This is a ceremony that has taken place every week for every new group of recruits for decades. Regardless of technology and the passage of time, it has remained the same throughout. It is very well rehearsed and very well engineered to be important enough to be fit into the first five minutes of Marine Corps boot camp. As I said before, everything a Drill Instructor does has purpose.

Marines on Yellow Footprints aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego read the articles of the UCMJ upon arrival at Boot Camp.

The Yellow Footprints, as they’re known by Marines, are more than just placeholders. They symbolize breaking into a new world much more than they serve to instruct recruits were to stand. Every Marine remembers that moment, those first 5 minutes at the depot and for good reason. They are their own rite of passage and a binding element to Marines across generations, knowing how similar the experience is for so many. It would be good at this point to review the video and realize the power the first 5 minutes have with which to open the eyes of a youth about to enter training. It’s an experience which instantaneously sets the pace for training for what’s to come and makes it clear that no nonsense will be accepted. What’s more? There are three more months of this, and, as I will describe later, it gets much worse.

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Continue on to: We Swear You Aren’t Being Brainwashed – Welcome to Marine Corps Receiving or Read the full story.

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Memorial Day is Too Depressing. Efforts Now Underway to Make it Fun Again.

To combat a recent downturn to consumer spending and overall citizen satisfaction surrounding the late May holiday season, the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization has been working round the clock to figure out how to get folks back at the malls this Memorial Day and back on the lakes with overpriced boat rentals celebrating again as usual.

We met up with one such potential shopper, a teenager, avoiding the mall and instead, on her way to visit a local cemetery.

“Well, it’s important, you know? I mean, I used to go hang out and party and all, but then I read this thing that Memorial Day is actually about remembering soldiers who died and stuff and I just didn’t feel like partying anymore. Now, my friends and I go with those old guys from the Legion to put flags out and they tell stories to us and stuff.”

“It’s a major problem.” Says one local mother.

“I didn’t raise my kids to spend their whole lives thinking about things that make people sad and that I nobody really understands anyway. I mean, I know service people do stuff that is important and all, and that we should thank them for it, I guess, but they already get Veteran’s Day right? Isn’t it a bit selfish that we should give them a second day too?

Look, the wars are all over right? I mean we defeated the terrorists didn’t we? So it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. I just want my kids to be happy and not worry about sad things that don’t matter anymore. Isn’t that what every mother wants, for her kids to be happy?

Online activists are also going on the offensive, fighting back against the attack on their favorite Summer day off from work. They’ve taken to social media to showcase their disdain towards the desecration of what they say the spirit of the holiday is all about.

“I personally don’t support war. I’m a pacifist. I think people who like war are just stupid. Don’t they know that war kills people and stuff? That’s why I think we should just stop glorifying soldiers and war with their own holidays. That’s why I want to see Memorial Day go back to what it was, about peace and happiness with friends. That’s something we should remember, right? I mean, aren’t I right?

Besides that, what exactly are all those kids doing with all those old men and war vets at cemeteries? Don’t they all have PTSD and stuff? Is that even safe? Doesn’t that sound creepy to you? It sounds like some weird death cult. Do we want our kids to be allowed to join a militant death cult? I mean, how much of this are we going to allow?

Relatedly, the sudden onset of awareness has had a drastic downturn in consumer participation in recent years. This is mostly thought to be due to bloggers and individuals sharing stories about their thoughts over social media, careless to the ramifications. In response to this devastating turn of events one local department store chain manager offered this response..

You know the annual Memorial Day Madness sale used to be one of our biggest days, next to Thanksgiving, I mean, Black Friday. This year, though, we’ve spent loads on marketing and even tried to hired some real soldiers to serve as models and to hold signs to get people to come shop with us. We’ve put a lot into making sure to hire veterans, you know. But none of it was working, so we had to resort to dressing our employees up in holiday camo as well, to help encourage more shoppers. All of it has just done nothing to help our sales. All the customers just aren’t coming to the malls anymore. They are all off sitting alone in quiet meditation, being thankful for what they have, like freedom and opportunity. That is exactly what we don’t want. How is anyone supposed to sell people on things they need like clothes and TVs when they are busy being thankful for things that are basically for free?

The issue of consumer apathy has grown so out of hand, the President of the United States, himself, has even weighed in, giving a special speech on this rain soaked afternoon.

I, ah, just want to begin with saying that I deeply respect all the troops out there and their families. That’s why I want to start off today by thanking all the troops and their families for that effort. Today is dedicated to you and America hopes you enjoy it.

That said, ah, it’s also come to my attention that a lot of people are upset that so many young men and women have died fighting in American wars. I can understand this. After a recent golfing trip, I recently read a report that said that over the last fourteen years, we, as Americans, have lost something like six or seven thousand service people, the largest number since any American war since Vietnam.

Now, I know that I didn’t serve myself, but believe me that no one has more respect for these people than me. Now, understand this, I’ve known many a veteran, particularly since taking office, and from them, I feel I can safely say this: abandoning our cherished traditions is not what these proud warriors would want. They wouldn’t want you to mourn their deaths; they would would want all of us to celebrate by getting out and enjoying life and encouraging our local economies with our business. That’s why I’ve given my support to the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization towards a campaign for rebranding what has become a day which was once looked forward to by millions, but is now mired in the memory of unpleasant events.

The Bureau’s chief consumer analysts have been busy working on their “rebranding strategy” for months, with the mission directed by POTUS to hopeful have a much more productive and successful Memorial Day Weekend.

Our first plan revolved around making the holiday something everyone could enjoy. We also wanted to pull the focus away from the morbid reality of the day. So, to do that, we wanted to bring in a mascot. In much the same way that Easter and Christmas were rebranded to serve a larger, consumer oriented approach, we think that Memorial Day can be something fun for the whole family, as well. I mean think of how terrible life would be if women weren’t made to feel special on Valentine’s Day with expensive chocolates and jewelry, if children couldn’t look forward to mountains of presents to honor the birth of Jesus, or… oh wow, if we didn’t have the Easter Bunny and baskets filled with toys to water down what has to be the most depressing holiday in the history of religion. Honestly, it took a marketing genius to monetize deicide.

That’s why we’ve partnered with ad agencies to create Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard.

The marketing executive who is credited with inventing Marvin offered his thoughts on the newest holiday family icon.

Marvin is freakin’ sweet. Everyone loves ducks and mallards are, like, really American and stuff. We wanted to go with M’s because it’s an alliteration with Memorial Day, and buyers are so into alliteration. We also wanted an animal, because kids are into those, and also environmentalists. Since most of both of those groups are, like, against war and stuff, we thought that might increase our base of early adapters too.

We were originally going to go with “Milty the Mallard”, or “Milton”, because they sounded like a good old, like 1950’s name, like from when the big war was happening, or whatever. Then we were like, ‘Whoa, Milty sounds a lot like, ‘Military.” and we are trying to pull the focus away from that sort of business. Marvin is a funny name and we want Marvin to be about fun, not sad stuff like war and death. The holiday is still going to be about remembering and stuff, but instead of, you know, thinking about dead soldiers, we will just remember happy things. That’s really what we think Memorial Day was meant to be about in the first place, you know?

The inclusion of the flag was also kind of a big deal. We were thinking that if we are lucky, this thing might go international, like Santa, but that the flag would sort of ruin that if it turns out to offend too many people. Either way, we are looking forward to setting up Marvin in malls so that kids can get their picture with him, buy Marvin the Mallard dolls and toys, there is even talk of a cartoon series. It’s going to be epic.

Hopefully, these new initiatives can be taken and accepted by the broken people of the United States in moving on from their recent losses. Everyone is looking forward to a day when our shopping malls and beaches are back to the way they were before people started worrying so much about things that just don’t matter, not nearly as much anyway, as things like the security of our economy, the happiness of our children, and the freedom to shop. So in the words of Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard:

Marvin 3

Thank you all for enjoying this cathartic piece of satire nearly as much as its given me in remedying my veteran rage. Those who have followed me long enough know that every year I put out a special message reminding everyone to take a moment, that’s it, just a moment, to think about the real meaning behind Memorial Day. Yes, I want you to enjoy your time with family and friends, and yes, I even want you to barbeque, but we do need to have a national conversation about what the meaning of the day is all about. For those interested, here is this year’s message, available through one of my other blogs, shared with many other veterans, The Defense Quorum.

Jon’s Memorial Day Message 2015

I fulfilled my obligation this year and was proud of what I considered my best message yet. Having done that, I went on about my day. It wasn’t until I saw a facebook post from a friend, that my vet rage began to flare up. Having no other course to remedy myself than the exercising of my cherished First Amendment rights, I set towards creating the absolute most “passive aggressive post about how Memorial Day is not about cookouts but dead soldiers” ever. So, in that spirit, sorry to ruin everybody’s holiday buzz, but yes, indeed, Memorial Day is about more than you. It’s about all of us and what matters most, or should matter most, to all of us. That is the commitment and willingness of those who would sacrifice themselves throughout the generations, if for no other reason, than to allow us to be as stupid as we please on social media.

So from Jon’s Deep Thoughts to all of you, have a safe, refreshing, and thoughtful #MemorialDayWeekend.


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Citizens of the Free World – In the Name of Freedom, Demand to See “The Interview”!

In a rare moment for me, I am getting into the entertainment industry. That’s because Seth Rogen and James Franco have created an unprecedented international incident by making a movie about killing the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

I personally was looking forward to it, but it seems that is going to be much harder to do now. That is because of a string of events that began with what I imagine to be a very plump crew-cut dictator throwing the mother of all tantrums, and I now can’t see my movie.

Why this is important: The movie centers on the exploits of Rogen, who plays a journalist and his celebrity friend (Franko) being invited in a rare opportunity to North Korea. This mirrors some actual events such as the much publicized visits to the RPK by basketball superstar Dennis Rodman beginning in early 2013. Where it differs, is that this time, the hapless duo are tasked by the CIA to kill Mr. Jong-un.

Well that sounds hilarious, but what happened next wasn’t. Apparently, Sony Pictures was hacked by what now appears to be a group backed by the North Koreans (which reads more clearly as “Just Plain The North Koreans”.) These hackers have been rumored to have leaked the scripts to several movies yet to be released such as the new James Bond film, among others. That was kind of a dick move, but then they went so far as to threaten terrorist actions against Sony Pictures and various movie theaters if they went ahead with filming.

Well now that’s just rude. Actually, it is an international crime, but we’re splitting hairs. What we have is a direct threat by foreign agents to cause “terrorism”, which we can only assume means intentional acts intended to cause grievous harm to Americans and American property if demands are not met. This act has caused Sony Pictures to cancel their premiere of “The Interview” and Carmike Theaters, a company with over 200 theaters in the United States, has opted not to showcase the movie at all.

For that reason, more so than just threats, grievous harm has already been made against Americans. American companies now are being terrorized into capitulating to the whims of some impossibly immature, maniacal dictator. Forget for a moment that actual American lives were threatened and focus on the concrete damage that has been done. The North Koreans, (you’ll note I’m intentionally no longer still pretending it was some random hacker group who just so happens to absolutely adore Kim Jong-un) deliberately stole industry sensitive information that cost one American company, Sony Pictures, headquartered in California, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. It destroyed the premiere of one Hollywood picture and devalued many others. Thousands of people connected to the films industry are going to suffer because of this. If I haven’t been clear, this was a deliberate act of economic warfare, terrorism rather, from one sovereign nation to the United States.

And now those who regularly follow me see why I am interested. This attack demonstrates particular failures in the United States national defense strategy that must be addressed. The attack demonstrates the power that nationally backed hacking programs have to disrupt and damage American and allied country’s economic spheres. Showcasing the vulnerabilities of individual companies and individuals, the North Korean attack on Sony Pictures clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the United States government’s response to attacks on its economic sector. Obviously, it is providing an inefficient level of defense for companies housed in the United States, because, as it seems, threats like the attack on Sony Pictures aren’t actually considered a threat to national security.

In case you think I going overboard, this isn’t even the first time Americans have been targeted like this, either. It has long been known that the Chinese have used commercial intelligence and espionage to silently break into the networks of American companies, steal their patented trade secrets and deliver them to Chinese owned corporations. Other nations even have entire departments and special third party agencies (like the one in question) dedicated to the endeavor of cyber-espionage and signal based attacks. Have you ever heard of Syrian Electronic Army? They are a group who does nothing but commit acts of cyber terrorism and espionage in the name of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran and the United States, among others have even been trading blows in a cyber pseudo-war for years. Lest we not forget my favorite subject, the group known throughout the world as ISIS. Their exploitation of social media has been used to target American Veterans and active service members at their homes, encouraging Islamic radicals to target them and their families.

The point here is that there is a major threat to American interests. Individual lives as well as the economic security and strategic corporate advantages of thousands of companies, the very lifeblood of United States national security itself, have been compromised. I am not someone who agrees with others that Sony failed by giving into the terrorists. If people were somehow attacked at a theater, it would be those executives blamed for the deaths, along with the North Koreans. Furthermore, a company, any company, like Sony Pictures have absolutely no defense against the ongoing threat of future revenge attacks like this, leaking all of their sensitive trade information, the secrets like unreleased scripts they need to keep their company going for years to come, given the enemy they are defending themselves is North Korea.

Do I honestly think that the RPK is going to bomb some movie theater because of a stupid movie, possibly starting a war that they will definitely lose? No, I don’t, but I do think that Sony Pictures Entertainment faces an existential threat by way of North Korea. Are we supposed to blame Sony Pictures because they can’t defend against a whole country? Switching gears, imagine if Providence Health and Services, a major healthcare company with hundreds of hospitals under its umbrella, were to face a similar cyber attack. Tens of thousands of people could have their sensitive health data, valuable information in itself, made public. Are we really going to blame Providence when the perpetrator of the attack was Iran? If all the lights went off in Santa Maria (just outside Vandenberg Air Force Base) is the city of just over one-hundred thousand people at fault, when the attack originated from inside Russia? No. How could every single company, agency, state, city, and individual in the United States be expected to protect itself, and by extension be responsible for the combined security of everyone else in the United States, against entire nations set to steal their valuable information, damage their property, or worse, end their lives?

What we need, in the lowly opinion of this former United States Marine Corps tactical data and networking communication specialist, is a deeper look into our signal defense architecture. More projects and agencies which specialize in SIGDEF need to be given priority in the coming years. Far more if even movie companies are more afraid of a dictator 5,600 miles away than they were of our own President. Frankly, the future of warfare is going to look very similar to events like the attack on Sony Pictures. Weak points in very large systems are going to be exploited with the few things that they are vulnerable to. Each time they are, the gears of industry are grind down just a little bit slower.

In the case of Sony Pictures, this attack was a direct hit on two fronts. The first is money. By threatening the movie maker, they lost the company millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. More so, many millions, perhaps billions more may have been lost now that valuable scripts have been made public. I don’t fault Sony Pictures though, for making the decision to pull the premiere. They showed their values there. They believed the threat of terrorism on American movie goers was true and for that reason, they chose not to risk lives of people at the cost of many millions of dollars. That decision, from my point of view, is admirable and the commitment to protecting innocent people over making money, should be recognized and commended. Perhaps they did it just because so many of the movie theaters decided to pull the movie too. I can’t honestly say for sure. All I know, is that I don’t blame them for the decision they finally were forced to make.

As for Americans though, I’d like for us to make it clear that we don’t give credence or credibility to the tyrannical tirades of any post-pubescent dictator. This isn’t something we need to call in the military, or spin up the missile batteries, though we have been at peace now for about two weeks, so it’s about that time again. All kidding aside, letting North Korea know simply how impotent we view them militarily by not putting our own troops in the front is the way to go. I mean honestly, what is the NPK going to do? Start a war over a friggin movie? Do you really think China would back you after bombing an American movie theater over something this petty? This whole scenario doesn’t even make sense. If they were though, I’m reminded of the line from 300 delivered ever so eloquently by  Gerald Butler:

No, the right move for Americans right now isn’t to force our military to take action. It isn’t to scold Hollywood either, for doing what they thought was the right thing to do to keep people safe.

For Americans, and the rest of the free world for that matter, the right thing to do is to march up to the box office and demand to see something that some North Korean dicktator threatened you not to see. We need to stand up in the roar of many voices and let it be known that we the people, will not capitulate, cower, or suffer the whims of tyrannical brats. We the people won’t be pressured, bullied, threatened, or crossed. We’re Americans dammit and we don’t get told what to do. We are Leviathan.

Thank you Sony Pictures for your concern, but I for one, am willing to risk the potential attack on US soil and would like to see your movie, if for nothing else than to give a big and hearty American one fingered salute to our friends over in Pyongyang.

(That’s not the salute I’m talking about, BTW.)


Thanks for reading!

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How do I deal with the bitterness that has been festering inside of me since I’ve returned from the Middle East?

A question was asked on the social media website Quora. Another veteran expressed his frustration over trying to rejoin society after his combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I deeply sympathized with his frustrations and felt the need to reach out.

The Question:

How do I deal with the bitterness that has been festering inside of me since I’ve returned from the Middle East? How do I stomach listening to ‘patriots’ who talk about things they know nothing of? How will I ever fit back in to our society after hiding in my apartment for the 5 years since I’ve returned from my final deployment? How do I deal with being so lost? How can I live with this anger for my countrymen who sent me to two wars and then refuse to pay thier taxes while carrying so much debt? All while watching American Idol and wearing a “I support the Troops” Tshirt, what does that even mean anyway?

The Answer:

Welcome to the club.

I’ve been where you are now and there are many of us who are frustrated. After four years in the Marines and two tours in Iraq followed by my biggest challenge, going to college with my 18 year old counterparts, I decided something: I hate Americans. That feeling isn’t really as severe anymore because I eventually mellowed out, but I do feel for you.

During this period I wrote these answers that might help you see that you’re not alone. Read them, see if they make you feel better.

In them you’ll see a unique amalgam of intense pride, disillusionment, patriotism, shame, self-sacrifice, self-righteousness, arrogance, entitlement, and an ounce of old fashioned chivalry. Sound familiar?

Warning: People who have never served in the United States Military will notappreciate the rest of this answer. Don’t get pissy. I warned you. Having said that, there are a few things the person asking the question should let go of if you want to move on.

1) How do I stomach listening to ‘patriots’ who talk about things they know nothing of?

Did you ever have that one E-3 in your unit who just thought he was really smart? So smart in fact that he tried to recreate a scenario he read in The Darwin Awards because he just knew that he could make it work? These are called idiots. You remember, the ID-10T’s. They are morons on a good day and in their best day all they do is talk. The political ones you will run into on the outside are no different. Most of them are just self-righteous know-it-alls who really love their country. Maybe, or maybe they just hate all the people who see the world in a different way. Fundamentalists don’t just wear turbans and the sooner you realize that the better. They all say the same thing, “I really wanted to serve, but my [ random pissant disability ] wouldn’t let me in.” And for some reason, seem to think that entitles them to some sort of glorified status among veterans. I don’t get it either. Stop trying. Just avoid eye contact. Smile and nod. Walk away.

2) How will I ever fit back into our society after hiding in my apartment for the 5 years since I’ve returned from my final deployment?

You won’t. Society isn’t all that great anyway. I went through a recluse phase, too. It isn’t productive. The best advice I have is to try to find a veterans group where you can vent your frustrations with an equally annoyed bunch of old farts, so that you heal in safe way among a fraternity of people who understand you. It really does help to talk it out with people who have been there. Even if they didn’t exactly go through what you did, they have experienced stuff like it or at least have thought about it far more than a healthy person should. You’ll need their experience and their wisdom. Your friends won’t get you. Your family won’t even get you. All they can offer are cliches and Dr. Phil nonsense advice. I wish I had done it sooner. I stayed angry for way too long and it cost dearly in the relationships I could have made as well as in my career.

Besides that, what you need to do is realize that you aren’t supposed to “fit back in”. You’re special and not in that Barney the Dinosaur sort of way. People respect you because you have done stuff that blows their minds, or at least their stereotypes of you blows their freaking minds. In some circles, you can walk in and command a room just with your presence alone. Warning though, eventually they get to know you and you don’t live up to their stereotypes, so they get bored and will want to throw you away because you somehow failed to live up to their impossible expectations. Sorry about that. This paragraph was supposed to be uplifting.

That said, you do have a lot of skills that most people don’t. You have a lot of character traits that others don’t. Values, ethics, ideals and expectations; the whole shabang. Your problem is that you suck at dealing with people, certain kinds of people anyway, and I am sorry to say, those certain kinds of people are everywhere. You are going to need at least, in my experience, two years to learn how to fill in the personality gaps between you now and normal for the rest of humanity before you can fake it well enough to happily work at a job with people.

3) How do I deal with being so lost?

Veterans of Foreign Wars – They have a waiting list that’s a year shorter than seeking counseling through the VA. It is a sad joke, because it is true. You should try to talk to people. Old vets are cool because you just hang out and they don’t mind being there when stuff gets real. If you start crying, civilians want to label you and run for the door. Old vets, just remembered when they cried. Sometimes they give you a hug. Sometimes they tell you to suck it up. They also know how you feel and can relate in a way that reminds you, “That’s right, I’m normal. I just went through a really crappy time in my life.” At the point where you seem to be, you might need to get started on the process to talk to a professional. I had a friend who was really messed-up after Iraq and it really helped him. It just takes dropping the macho, “I’m too tough to speak to anyone about my head problems.” or “There are people worse off than me,” or “I didn’t really experience anything actually traumatic.” It’s only your life you’re wasting if you don’t.

4) How can I live with this anger for my countrymen who sent me to two wars and then refuse to pay their taxes while carrying so much debt?

There is something that I really want you to realize and it will help you get through a lot. Your countrymen never sent you to Iraq or Afghanistan. You did. The United States is an all volunteer service. There is no draft. There is no obligatory service and there is no conscription. No one forced you to go to MEPS and no one held your hand up while you swore the Oath. Judging by the time frame, you also probably knew there was a war going on already. From that point until your DD-214 you gave your word that whatever happened, you would fulfill your promise to serve the Commander-in-Chief, the chosen representative of the combined will of these fifty states according the Constitution of the United States.  If war was going to happen, it wasn’t the fault of any one of them, not even all of them. If you feel that you suffered from war, you have to remember that it was because you chose to go. I’m sorry to be real like that, but you have be responsible for that part or you are just going to get more and more bitter about what others did to you, when really, it wasn’t “others'” fault.

As for the “and then refuse to pay their taxes while carrying so much debt?” have you ever read the book Starship Troopers? It’s a really great military sci-fi for military folk. It was written by a former Naval officer who really seemed to capture the feel of people in the service… four hundred years from now, anyway. One part I remember most is that, in that world, the only people who can vote are the veterans. It isn’t that they are the smartest or even the most qualified. The reason they are the only group allowed to vote is that they, alone, have proven the one trait that should be a requirement of citizenship, the willingness to sacrifice for their society. They don’t make poor choices which are self serving because they, alone, have actually invested real skin and blood into their society and they won’t break it with a black hole entitlement programs, an unproductive criminal corrections system, forgiveness for the chronically ineffective, and enabling hand out programs.  No other group, by virtue of their existence, has proven they have a vested interest in the future of their society, which they are willing to defend, besides the veterans. We don’t live in that world, but I understand what Heinlein was trying to say. You’re going to have to accept that there are just so, so very many people out there who are complete and utter leeches on society who have a vote no less powerful than yours. That is because we live in a democracy where merit, ability, education, and social mobility are traits that don’t really matter, just how many friends you have. Perhaps I should have said that democracy was based off of the belief of the fundamental equality inherent to all God’s children. Alas, I didn’t and I am sure your know why. Until the day when Heinlein’s fascist utopia/draconian nightmare (depending on your point view) becomes real, we are just going to have to accept this fact, too; worthless people matter just as much as the greatest in a democracy. For better or worse, this is how it will be in any sort of perceivable future. As yet though, this has been the most successful setup for self governance, so far, so it can’t be that bad. As I have already said, you also volunteered because, at one point, either because you were naive or really, really idealistic, you believed that that democracy was worth defending. If you still value it, you have to let go of the anger toward the idiots that also get to vote even though the have never and likely will never contribute anything but deficit to our society.

5) All while watching American Idol and wearing a “I support the Troops” T-shirt, what does that even mean anyway?

Americans, in general, are pretty self-centered creatures happy to sit on a couch and wait for, or even demand, whatever in the world there is to entertain them. Many will live their whole lives without progressing the human race forward one inch. That really terrifies me, but they have different values than you do. That’s why you joined the military; to do something heroic, or something important, something adventurous or just something different, or whatever, but they didn’t. Many of them are just worthless blobs demanding more intake of whatever gives them their individual fix. Call it American Idol, heroin, weed, sex, politics, money, work, or whatever. They just need whatever it is that makes them happy and that is all they will ever know.

That’s why when they faced the risk of their blissful happiness and their precious ability to consume entertainment at a breakneck pace was blown out of the water for the first time in sixty years, all anyone could do was thank a Marine for going out and doing the nasty stuff that kept their right to a 50″ surround sound maintained. That is seriously the only reason that many of them do it. They got scared of living in a world not as blissful as America in the 1990’s and the military suddenly seemed like the only group of people who would make that happen again.

And then what happens? They watch the news and hear that we are at war. They know a guy who went to war. Well, they know someone whose brother is in the war. Or maybe he is just in the Air Force. They don’t really remember, but they sure do feel like they are at war. No they aren’t rationing. No they aren’t planting victory gardens. No they aren’t recycling pig fat, panty hose, or iron shaving. No they aren’t buying war bonds or even enduring any sort of increased taxation to pay for this war, but they sure do feel the effects of that war, goshdarnit.

The fact is that many are simply saying “We support our troops” because you went to war and they didn’t have to. Others are simply just saying it because of social obligation. Nobody wants to be that guy who doesn’t support the troops, you know, like the entire country after Vietnam. They sure didn’t in that war, when absolutely no one thought it was important. Then veterans were spit upon when they came home. At least my generation still gets handshakes, social prestige and from time to time a real, true to life thankful person will buy me a coke after they find out what I did.

I do want to go on record to say that most people aren’t really the problem. The problem is a minority. There are about 10% of the people, of no particular race, religion, creed, or color, who come together as individuals to form a collection of the most loathsome, despicable, and worthless human beings imaginable. Not to themselves, of course. To themselves, they are the most magnanimous human beings on the face of the planet and worthy of all that was given to them, and so much more. It is only people who see things through your point of view that they are so horrible. (Me too, by the way.) You have to realize though, that they are a minority, a small number of people who command a massive amount of your attention because you feel very passionately about certain things which you have given so much for and have a certain set of values which many do not truly appreciate or even fathom. Once you learn to adjust your blinders during times when you don’t want to deal with those kinds of people which bug the crap out of you, you’ll start appreciating a lot of other people around that aren’t such oxygen thieves.

Summary

Wars are going to happen. Sometimes they will happen for reasons we say are good because the alternatives are probably worse. Other times, incompetent officials elected by incompetent voters will start them. At those times men and women who are willing to do whatever their leaders ask of them, in service of a country they are really proud of, will have to carry out the acted will of the United States. You already did that. As someone else who did, I am sincerely thankful for you doing that and I am very sorry that you are going through “the suck” right now. But you owe it to yourself, and to the rest of us veterans, to get better. There is a festering horde of worthless no-goods out there becoming more and more dependent upon the almighty “They” for absolutely everything in their world. You really are one of the few people out there with unique skill and value set, buried underneath all that pent up frustration and angst which we all share. Get some help and go talk to someone. You really are blowing the best years of your life being pissed off and it isn’t doing anyone any good, at all. Once you correct yourself, you’ll be happy you did. I promise.

-Semper Fi
Sgt Jon Davis (inactive since 2008)

Blues


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Quora Answers: Does President Barack Obama’s decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants violate his oath of office?

I would say that it isn’t quite a violation of his oath. More a choice on distribution of resources, but it does set a dangerous precedent and I don’t think it is a good idea. 
What the President is advocating is that we should focus our immigration efforts away from nonviolent immigrants and focus it elsewhere. While this is sound in reasoning it is also going to put even more pressure on some of the hardest hit of the last recession and channel taxpayer funds away from their intended recipients. While I like that the President is advocating we do the right thing for these people, I disagree with it because to do so would hurt many Americans and many more Americans do not agree with this policy. I am also worried that this policy won’t actually have any power or affect any change to help those in question, but may just be a ploy to sway Latino voters. That is the short answer, here is the long one…

What is really being said here?
What the President is advocating is that a group of illegal immigrants no longer fall under the threat of deportation. This isn’t amnesty and it isn’t citizenship. It is just not being deported, according to his words. This group, according to the press conference of the President, will be limited to those who:

  • Were brought here by their parents at a young age.
  • Have been here for 5 years or more.
  • Are seeking to go to college or join the military.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video…

I try to be fair in my posts, so you will see pros and cons. I have my opinion and I will share it, but I will also try and give alternative points of view as well.

Pros:
The immigration system will be able to focus it’s efforts on more dangerous criminal immigrants and be diverted from less dangerous threats such as students. 
One of the arguments mentioned that there was a need to fix the broken immigration system. This is true and has been for a very long time. The borders, particularly the southern border, has been a highway for criminal smuggling activity for decades. This is a main route for drugs, weapons and human trafficking into the United States and black market money out. This argument is not concerned that too many people entering are flooding labor markets, but that without the secure borders we are allowing dangerous contraband to enter the states and even more dangerous people. Here the argument makes sense because the initiative does focus efforts where they will be most useful.

More suspicious and deserving of our attention…

Than this.

Some very good talent will be kept in the United States that would have otherwise been lost through deportation.
I have a great deal of faith in many immigrants who come into this country. They possess within them a great courage and enthusiasm, enough to leave their homeland and start fresh among strangers. Immigrants and first generation Americans have the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the country and are serving as much of the foundation of our economy. Many come here just seeking work and don’t come with baggage that many of my fellow white privileged Americans seem to hold. We feel entitled and a lack humility. Many of the Chinese and Mexicans that I have known and work with in particular exemplify this mentality of hard work and humility while leading a quiet life. They add to not only the countries financial wealth, but also her cultural, moral and social wealth as well. If those who fit this description, a reasonable filter being those seeking higher education, are ignored by immigration then perhaps that is a better use of INS resources and might not be the worst thing.

Cons:
There are already programs in place to protect immigrants who seek college education and service in the military.
While I was in service in the United States Marine Corps I served with several illegal immigrants. Of course they had become naturalized citizens by this time, but I, as a home grown white American was in shock the United States would allow such people into the forces! (This statement was meant in sarcasm people, unbunch your britches.) But it was a surprise to me. Several of them described a process of expedited citizenship in exchange for service in the military. That being said, I am not an expert on this process, but I am aware that it already exists and doesn’t just offer protection, but citizenship. Along with military service comes veteran benefits including the GI Bill and loans for housing. There are also other programs in place to aid illegal immigrants in college already in place that I will mention later down. So the President’s statement seems at best misleading, at worst creating a new solution to an already fixed problem. In the case of these other Marines, many of them were my friends and I trusted them very much. As a born citizen I think that those who leave behind their homeland, pick up weapons and fight our wars beside the “true” Americans don’t just need to be awarded citizenship, there needs to be a statue somewhere in their honor. That, however is a different post. The point is, this program already exists, why is he selling a new one?

This is already the standard practice of INS.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is already fighting one of the toughest unsung wars in US history. They are undermanned and patrol a massive area. By practice their policies already focus on the most dangerous and the most trafficked areas. They already put much more effort into apprehending those who are a danger to the citizens of the United States than they ever would to a college student. The President in his speech remarked that in recent years there has been a great increase in dangerous immigrant captures. This could not have been done checking ID’s at the local community college in Denton, Texas or any other college campus for that matter. It also can’t be done by “being a nation that expels young kids” which is a quote from the speech that seemed more intended to incite an emotional response rather than reflect what statistically is not the case with the majority of deportations.

This represents the President choosing to ignore certain mandates for certain people.
This is really the heart of the question that Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was pointing to. By saying that laws set about can be ignored he is saying that he has the power to prosecute whomever he wishes, even treating two people differently who are guilty of the same crime. This is a funny grey area since in this case neither are citizens of the United States, but the ramifications are scary. Could the President or future Presidents one day do the same for other groups, Democrat/Republican, Black/White, Male/Female? I believe that was the direction Mr. Gonzalez was pointing to. No matter how nice it would be a President should not have the power to choose who they do and do not punish. This reasoning places the President’s moral high ground and doing the right thing ideals on a foundation built on very sandy soil. That being said, he would certainly not be the first president, Republican or Democrat (or Federalist) to do this, in all fairness.

This is in opposition to the wishes of many, many American people.
While the issue is deeply contested most Americans worry about too much immigration. They are concerned about dispersal of jobs, resources such as in the public schools and entitlement funds for a growing portion of the population that goes largely untaxed. They feel that if the investment in tax payer dollars is made in these young people there is no guarantee that they will stay around to better America for it. There is also a large argument brewing between the differences in American illegal immigration policy and the much more severe policies of other countries, one ironically being Mexico. This worries a lot of people. Whatever your particular stance on this issue is, a very large number of Americans do not support any program they feel makes it easier for illegal immigrants to take advantage of American wealth. Since so many feel this way, it leads me to say that the President’s job isn’t to decide when the American people are wrong, but to be a conduit for their wishes. He is their elected representative to the most powerful position in the United States. For that reason, I would view that it is his obligation to follow the expressed wishes of the majority and not decide on his own what is right.

This hurts the Americans who right now are already suffering greatly.
Another major concern is that this new policy will create a massive surge in college attendance. While at face value this sounds like a wonderful thing, there are issues with this. The problem with many schools today is that they have already dumbed down the curriculum to open their doors for less serious students and gain their tuition. This is creating a generation of college graduates little better off and with no fewer skills than when they entered school. To confound this with a flood of students not interested in learning, but on not getting deported would only dilute the school systems efficacy further. This brings about the question of payment. There are already numerous government grants that reward a great deal of college tuition based only on household income. Proof of citizenship is not an issue and therefore, government money is used to compensate non citizens for attending college. This too reflects a bad policy diverting funds intended for the American poor to non-Americans. Skip ahead a few years and you have a massive influx into the job market for people aged 22-28.

This group recently has been hit the hardest with the unemployment crisis ranging at times of 25% unemployment. While the average unemployment during the recession was between 9-10% the young college graduates struggled around 14%. This being due to slow growth in the economy, the lack of growth in entry level jobs and few start-ups in non-tech industries. These people are already having hard times getting their carriers off the ground and to invite more competition would be inviting failure for all parties involved. This sub-crisis has been a major contributor to many of the recent politcal action of youth like the Occupy protests.  While I disagree with much of the movements rationalities I do see their point of view in this struggle. We already have a country who’s economy can’t support it’s current college graduates, what good would more and less educated ones do? You have to ask, “As a country do we want to weaken one of our most vunerable groups of proven talent by inviting, supporting and protecting non-citizens?”

In summary…
No. I do not think that this is expressly going against the President’s oath. He is choosing to govern the resources of agencies like the INS in a more efficient way. He is also not dealing with American citizens in how he chooses to follow the laws or mandates. I do however think that is policy is a bad one because:

  1. It doesn’t actually create any new programs that don’t already exist in one way another or are not already the standard practice.
  2. It could put new pressures on schools and the labor market hurting American citizens.
  3. It is built around the story of the “hard working, good grade earning kid who has never done anything wrong” who has historically never been the real target of deportation. This is an emotional pull which diverts people from issues and dilutes them in idealism and racial debate.
  4. Is against the wishes of many, many Americans. As I mentioned before, it is the role of a president to be the representative of the people, not the one who decided when they are wrong.

My final concern is one also shared by the Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, that the President may be trying to use this as a hook to gain Latino voters a few months before the election. These of course are actual citizens, but sympathetic to many illegal immigrants today.

Will This Winter be the Occupy’s Valley Forge?

There has been a lot of talk about that Occupy is dying down now that the weather is turning and it isn’t fun anymore to bang drums in the middle 20 degree weather. Campuses in numerous cities are breaking up due to this or because of local government interaction. In places like LA and Philadelphia the tent cities are being broken by police while smaller sites, such as the one near where I live in Denton Tx, were for the most part abandoned voluntarily.  And while the camps continue to fade many will be thinking “So this is the end of Occupy?”

Not that a good job wouldn’t help…

I seriously doubt it. Many are indeed abandoning the tent cities erected over the past several months that have evolved into a type of forum for an endless open air debate on the nature of the government, economics and social reform. There was also a lot of weed.  The people however will carry the discussion home, influencing those who are close to them and pushing the conversations they had to the rest of us.

It is those who stay behind though. Those hard-core believers in the… something. If they survive this winter, these individuals will be the ones who make the news some three to four months from now.

What those who stay in the tents and endure are going to do for the movement will be very important for its future evolution. They will face cold and rain, snow and ice and intense feeling of “is it worth it?” “Why are we sitting out here in the cold with the entire nation thinking our movement is a joke?” And while they sit something else may happen.

They will talk. As they talk, those that are left, will be creating a conversation that will be different than what they have been saying before. This conversation will be different because it won’t be clouded by the flood of their current population. The flood of fair weather idealists, drugged out self-righteous know-it-alls and the remnant hippies reliving the 70’s that are the current populace of the camps will likely take their leave until the nice weather returns and protesting is a fun sport again. And those that are left will be consolidating the ideas that are left. Their muddled message about the greed of the 1% may finally evolve into something that people can deal with. Those people may together be able to realize some economic truths and realities and create a message that the majority of American people can understand and get behind.

While I don’t agree with the economic views of the Occupy movement and I feel that most of what I heard from them at this point is idealistic, some of it selfish and most of it lacking realism or a long term understanding of what their ideas will end up meaning for the country. I believe however, that some of those taking part in the Occupy protests are intelligent people. I think that if these people do stick it out they may come up with some good ideas, some real ideas and something that can actually create real discussion with the American public.

I compared this period that Occupy is about to go through as their Valley Forge.  No so much in selflessness and courage, nor also the desire to seek both personal and governmental independence, but in zealousness at least. What happened at Valley Forge was that a beaten and weakened Continental Army weathered the winter of 1777-1778. At that time they were a band of confused, unequipped, demoralized and lost group of individuals lacking a clear vision and direction for the future. During that winter they received leadership from our founding military fathers. When the winter was over what came out of the fort was a strong, disciplined Continental Army guided by a shared mission and vision and led by strong leaders. The comparison pretty much ends for me there, but for many Occupiers they see this as their Valley Forge moment. In many ways they may be right, if they can come out of this better then they went in.

Whether you agree with Occupy or think they are bunch silly misguided kids on a tantrum, if they can survive this winter what will come out next spring will be a galvanized group. Their ideas my be better or they may be worse, but what is certain is that those who survive it will be leaders of the new Occupy, whether they like it or not.

Will it? That ball is Occupy’s court now.