…Concrete Angels With Clipped Wings…

This is Part Two of A Three Part Series

I was coming out of the local Convenience Store after buying some coffee.  I was with my oldest daughter, who I was driving to school after a Doctor’s appointment; when I heard a loud bang and crash.  Immediately, I completely freaked out and moved my daughter and I close to the wall of the store when the crash and bang happened again.  My daughter realized that it was only a garbage truck picking up the dumpsters and emptying them and loudly slamming them down on the ground after they had finished.  The damage to my psyche had been done though; I was shaken and shaking violently and when we got into the car, my daughter held on to me while I tried to work through things to get back to some type of normalcy.  After a few minutes, I was able to leave the parking lot, drop her off at school and get home…where I immediately popped two Xanax to completely bring myself out of whatever panic attack was still there (or waiting to be launched) now that my senses were completely heightened beyond normal.

This has been my life since September 11th, 2001.  This is what happens to me when I least expect it to; why simple things that normally are a routine part of life are anything but for me.  This is why I still have nightmares that I can only remember by my screams upon awakening or the way I feel out of sorts in the morning.  This is why I shake for no reason, and a panic attack will strike me for no good reason (unlike what happened yesterday).  This is why I am disabled; this is what it is like to have acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  My life has changed considerably since 9/11, as has most of America; and some of us are affected in different ways.  Many people have been affected like myself to varying degrees; families have lost loved ones; men and women had signed up for military careers who normally wouldn’t have done so; and on the political spectrum, things have become more polarized than at any time in this nation since the Civil War.

On one side, we have the Democrats who are now the Party in Power; the left wing-ideologues who were silent for almost all of the eight years of the last Administration.  A group of politicians who were complicit in torture, authorized by the sham of a legal patchwork devised by a corrupt Justice Department, by their complete and utter silence on this issue.  On the other, we have a Political Party that has been beaten into submission in the Republicans, who led us astray from our core American values and principles in order to complete the Neoconservative agenda for American domination of the planet.  Oversimplified?  Perhaps, as there were pockets of resistance in both camps who were opposed to the Iraq War (Dennis Kusinich and Ron Paul come to mind); but for the most part, Republicans dominated and controlled the agenda while the Democrats lay on their sides and played dead.  Make absolutely no mistake about this, every single person who is still in the Congress and Senate from 2001 on is complicit and guilty of war crimes…at least in my book.  And yes, this includes the Speaker of the House because she KNEW and SAID NOTHING.  The hell with the Security Oath, the hell with everything…when you have the Constitution on your side LEGITIMATELY you SAY something…otherwise you are as guilty as the individuals who would trash the very document which protects you from harm; as guilty as the individuals who devised the methods of enhanced interrogation; as guilty as the poor bastard who poured a gallon of water on someone’s face 163 times.

My anger crosses Party lines.  Cruelty and subjugation are not the proprietary methods of one Political Party; it is rather, a Human trait that in times of desperation rears its horrible head above the maelstrom to devour any shred of justice and kindness left in those who use “Justice” as a shield.  Yes, I am infuriated and disgusted at those who inhabit the august bodies called The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate who allowed this to happen ON THEIR WATCH.  I am horrified that an Administration that has gone on record as “keeping the American people safe for eight years” conveniently forget that they were in power for NINE MONTHS in 2001 and that horrid terrorist attack that happened on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon HAPPENED ON THEIR WATCH.  What transpired after those attacks is something never seen before in the history of this nation; not even after Pearl Harbor…

We, as a nation went mad.

We were desperate in the days following the attacks and would do anything to ensure this would never happen again.  For some, this became an extended form of paranoia that continues to this very day; and for one man, Richard Bruce Cheney, has become his life.  Whereas I went inward with my madness from that horrid day; then-Vice President Cheney outwardly displayed his; a madness made manifest in the way policy was set toward the arrest and treatment of individuals declared as terrorists.  A madness that went so far as to manipulate the very forces of government to not only carry out a Neoconservative Agenda, but to create his own…a shadow government that existed beneath the legitimately elected one of the United States.  He, along with long-time friend Donald Rumsfeld, became Puppet Masters; adept at pulling the strings of the most powerful puppet on the face of the planet.  They were the brains, Bush was the instrument that carried out their bidding either knowingly or possibly even unknowingly (as I am coming to believe more with each passing day).  They were the ones who engineered a war that would generate profits (purely by coincidence) for companies where both men had served as a Board Director.  They were the ones who assured the American People that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  They were the ones who ensured that the CIA produced the “right intelligence” to back up their claims.  They were the ones who had the Power and the Means to carry out an Agenda of Domination and Madness.

As the bombs were falling on Baghdad, in undisclosed locations around the world, people were being tortured…people who were providing RELIABLE information regarding terrorist cells and plans under conventional methods.  They were tortured not because they weren’t producing enough information…but weren’t producing information that would back up the claims of the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense that Iraq had a connection to 9/11.

Torture is forbidden by any civilized society, let alone those nations that signed the Geneva Conventions.  The method in question, water-boarding, was used as far back as the Spanish Inquisition (that bastion of righteousness itself) to obtain information.  We prosecuted (successfully) our OWN soldiers in any war we were involved in who used this method on an enemy combatant to obtain information.  The Vice President is going on every conceivable form of communications device known to man to get his point across that this was necessary.  That it protected the American People; that it made the world safe for Democracy and Righteousness.  For a guy that was always in a previously “undisclosed location” for the better part of eight years, this is something of a revelation for the television viewer.  It is also a revelation for every prosecutor in the world who wishes to pursue War Crimes charges against him (and anyone else associated with the so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”).  The remarkable thing is that he is unapologetic about it; as unrepentant as Hermann Goering was when he was caught and just until the moment of his suicide after world War Two.  A bitter man, with a horrid tale of just how far Humanity will go when pushed far enough to maintain what they perceive as “right” despite their obvious insanity.

The amazing thing about Goering was that he was extolling Nazi beliefs and saying how just they were in starting and carrying out the greatest war known to Mankind.  He argued with his prosecutors, displayed an arrogance that has to be seen to be believed; an all-knowing certainty that he was right, and would do the same things again if given the chance.  This is why we have the Death Penalty for Crimes Against Humanity; so that monsters like Hermann Goering will not walk the Earth and have the opportunity to carry out an agenda of horror again.

This is what Richard Bruce Cheney would do again, carry out the Neoconservative Agenda and continue to subvert the Constitution and our core American Beliefs and Values.  This is what people who think like he does would do again.  This is why they lie in wait of another terrorist attack on our beloved country; waiting for the moment when they can say, “I told you so” amid the smoldering ruins of a city as bodies lie in waste.  The sheer fact that lives would be lost would not be enough for them, they would have to ensure that their old agenda would be re-instituted and strengthened.

And we would gladly let it be so.

To be continued…

“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


And Thus, The Mighty Have Fallen…

This is Part One of A Three-Part Series:

I have been silent for the past few weeks because of some personal issues, but also because I have become so inundated with all the information that has been coming out about the practices of torture (let’s call it that, shall we…because that’s what it is) by the United States of America.  The so called “war on terror” now has a new name (whatever it is they call it this week), and “enhanced interrogation techniques” were nothing more than a euphemism for TORTURE, plain and simple.  I cannot believe that this country holds people without due process, without being charged, tried in courts under great secrecy, and currently offshore in Guantanamo.  I cannot believe that this nation has been reduced to compromise on its core values and principles.  I cannot believe that we were lied into a war, willingly supported by a corrupt and naive Congress without much protest by the populace.  I cannot believe that we actually tortured individuals for the purpose of creating information which would support the logic of going to war, just after the bombs had started falling on Baghdad.  I cannot believe that it has all come to this…and I was there at the very beginning of our long fall from grace as a people.

I watched 3,000 souls lose their lives on September 11, 2001.  I had a front seat view, and it wasn’t in the living room in front of the TV with a bottle (although much of that would happen later on).  I was a survivor of the World Trade Center attack, and I always knew from that day onward that my life would never be the same.  Which came first, I cannot say…my own insanity or that of this country; but over the next eight years as I unraveled so did my beloved nation, a country that I love so very much.  When I choose to wave a flag, it is because I WANT to, because I feel pride when I do…because I know what every one of those stars and stripes represent.  I know what went into ensuring that that flag waves proudly in the sky for well over 200 years.  I know the warriors who keep us safe, and the ones who have done their service to this country and are treated like dust upon their return from their tours of duty.  When I was growing up, I saw it from common people who disagreed with the Vietnam War; now, it comes from a detached Veterans Administration while those proud men and women have the full support of their fellow citizens.

I saw Police, Fire, and Rescue departments rush into damaged buildings with no regard for their own safety, only that of others…never to return to their comrades or loved ones.  I saw their surviving brothers and sisters try and dig out their remains and the remains of others for weeks and months afterwards as the fires still melted steel six stories below ground.  The smell of that day still hung in the air for months; and I could not get that scent out of my nostrils even when I got home from work; a job and a career which became even more personally insignificant to me as time wore on.  I saw people who were also heroes in the months after 9/11 go to their jobs in the area around the WTC site keep this nation’s economy moving every day; the truly unsung heroes of 9/11.  What’s more, I saw an opportunity in the days and weeks after the attack for this country to REALLY come together as Americans and for us to put to good use the goodwill shown by the rest of the world toward us to find those responsible for the attacks.  To come together and fight the extremists (political, religious or otherwise) who perpetrate terror and whose target is the freedom of every living being on this planet.  Make no mistake, I may be a damned left wing Liberal, but I bleed red, white, and blue…and I am also a human being.  Also understand that I held hatred and a thirst for revenge in my heart for a few years after that horrific day; eventually I began to seek justice rather than resort to the darker side of my humanity.  Unfortunately, many in our Government and our fellow countrymen did not.

So we began to first isolate ourselves from within; you either believed in the ideology of the Neoconservatives who had begun to exert their control over the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government did, or you were an enemy of the state.  You were either “for us or against us” as the mantra said.  We then began to apply that to the rest of the world, and we then started two wars; only one of which I feel was justified.  The other was a complete fabrication and an aberration.  We had unfinished business with Iraq according to some, and a personal vendetta given form in the personage of the President of the United States, who was only more than willing to carry that out.  So a case was made for a war that was ostensibly to find weapons of mass destruction, which then became a war to find Saddam Hussein and remove him from power, which then became a war for Iraqi freedom.  The strange morph of purpose was because we had no justification for our original intent, and we then began to alter intelligence to fit the designs of the Neocons.  Now we find out that people who were giving us valuable information, information that was later proved to be true and aided the United States; were tortured to get them to confess to a conspiracy involving Iraq and Al Quaida that would give us justification for the war.  And we began to lose our way in Afghanistan as well, executing a poorly devised strategy that cost our soldiers their lives and allowed Osama Bin Laden to go free into the mountains to be a moving target impossible to find in subsequent years.  More importantly, we began to lose our way at home.

The Justice Department doled out anything but; it’s lawyers conspiring to allow torture of prisoners, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.  These same lawyers passed judgments on what the President could do during war time and began to construct a framework of a virtual dictatorship that could be put into place at a moment’s notice.  Prisoners were held without charges or afforded due process and shipped to Gitmo, where they were tortured again and again to no avail by people following their orders.  The true Americans were the ones who risked their careers, their commissions, their lives by having the guts to say one simple word…”NO”; not just at Gitmo, but in other locations all over the globe where we had secreted some of these people.  Are they Terrorists?  Well, almost all of them are, but a few were declared terrorists because of varying circumstances where the NEW definition of what a “terrorist” was, was applied.  If they weren’t terrorists when they went in, they certainly were when they were released; the Bush Administration certainly assured that.

For the past eight (almost nine) years, we as a people have started down a long pathway toward Darkness; one that we can still pull away from because there is still time to do so.  It begins not with any level of Government, except that of the most basic level: the level of you and I as citizens.  First and foremost, we must be AWARE of what is happening.  Just because we changed Administrations, does not mean that different means of furthering our downfall as a people cannot exist.  Despite the fact that I truly like most of what President Obama has done in office, I take issue with the fact that he is reluctant to prosecute those individuals in the Bush Administration who manipulated the law and circumvented the Constitution in order to wage a covert war based on principles that were decidedly un-American.  He (and WE) have a responsibility to prosecute under the Geneva Conventions; this is not an optional clause, it is MANDATORY.  I also take issue with the fact that the President has still maintained a Military Tribunal system to prosecute some of these prisoners.  Each person in our custody is entitled to due process, no matter how horrific the crime; that is GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION.  I do however, agree with his decision to withhold further photo evidence of torture conducted by the United States.  It is distasteful to even have to write those words, but the fact remains that further release of damning photos to the rest of the world could only incite further Terrorist recruitment and endanger our Military around the world.  I think the atrocities that were already shown were more than enough to damn us in the eyes of History and the world.  Those photos should be made available for prosecutions, however; and if necessary kept as guarded evidence during any future trials.

The fact of the matter is that this President was left a MESS (to put it mildly) by the previous Administration.  As more and more is revealed daily, it becomes increasingly obvious that the man most responsible for this quagmire of conscience is one Richard Bruce Cheney, former Vice President of The United States of America.

To be continued…

“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide. ” – John Adams

Hello Again…Just A Quick Note

Things have been a bit crazy around here with birthdays, First Holy Communions, and pneumonia (one of my daughters). Needless to say, I haven’t been able to post for a while….but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on something.

I have a three part series coming up about my feelings toward the Bush Administration, the two wars we are now fighting, torture, the Obama Administration…and losing our soul as Americans along the way. It’s just my take on the past nine years of this decade as a citizen and patriot. It comes from my heart. No one is spared, and the barbs may not necessarily fly in the direction you think they might.

Most importantly, it’s about our collective American conscience and identity.

The first part will be posted Friday May 21. See you then.

A Dozen Years Of Being Daddy

Today is my oldest daughter’s 12th birthday, and it’s one that I’ve been dreading almost as much as my own 30th birthday.  It’s the last one where she’ll still be a kid and not a teenager, and the days of innocence will yield to years of turmoil and tribulation culminating (somewhere) somewhere down the line in enlightenment.  And that’s as much for me as it is for her, because I’ve found that in the dozen years of being daddy; every day is a new experience and an unplanned and sometimes joyous adventure.  You kind of get a pattern down and then your kids grow up a bit more and change it when you least expect it.  I guess that’s just the nature of things, but being a parent even more so.

I’ll be honest here: I wasn’t quite ready to be a father when my daughter came along.  Not that she wasn’t planned, because she most certainly was; but even though I kept telling myself that I was ready to have kids, at then 36 years of age I wasn’t.  My wife and I had two careers going, we were still newlyweds (only married 4 years at the time), and pretty much used to hopping on a train or a plane and going away for a long weekend somewhere.  There was always the twice a week dinners at our favorite restaurants as well as some serious partying on our terrace which overlooked the Atlantic.  In the summer, it was a gathering place for all sorts of friends and relatives who would make the trek to our place for an afternoon or weekend by the complex’s pool (which was right across from the boardwalk in the quiet end of town).  The blender was constantly whirring with exotic drinks, a cooler or the occasional keg was on the terrace and we were LEGENDARY in our complex as people who liked to have fun.  So in September 1996 after Labor Day weekend, our home pregnancy test came back positive and was confirmed by the doctor a week or so afterward.

Smart woman that she was, my wife quit drinking (she still doesn’t drink; her last cocktail was on our 10th Wedding Anniversary 5 years ago) and smoking (she was only the occasional smoker, usually indulging only when we were out at a bar) immediately.  I decided it was a good time for me to quit smoking marijuana, and for 5 years (except for the occasional toke at a party) that held firmly until after 9/11, when all bets were off.  We would still go out, but I no longer had a partner in crime; and being the good alcoholic that I am, I decided that all things being relative as far as our bar tab was concerned, I’d just drink enough for two.  We would still go away for weekends and have friends over…and then on May 7, 1997 my life as I knew it was definitely going to be different after 7:40 PM.

When my daughter was born, I was absolutely walking on air; I saw her birth and was completely moved by the experience.  I got used to diaper changes (more on those in another post…except to say that two kids later, I have yet to change a poopy diaper) and spit up.  I got used to being woken up at all hours (even though my wife breast fed) and my daughter getting all the attention…from both of us.  I got used to no spur of the moment vacations or New Year’s Eves out with a bunch of drunken revelers.  I got used to eating out in a restaurant with a child, and for the most part she was unbelievably well behaved and enjoyed going out to dinner immensely.  (Except of course the one time where she threw her entire plate of spaghetti handful by handful at random tables and passers by…an incident her mother and I constantly remind her of because it’s hilarious when recounted in detail).  We had a few vacations as a young family as well down to Wildwood Crest, and eventually moved out of our apartment (which was a fairly large one bedroom, but quickly got cramped after a year and a half) to our current home.  Her sister was born in August 2001, exactly 30 days before the worst day of my life.

All of these things helped me to BE a parent and hopefully to learn from my experiences and be a BETTER one.  At 48, I’m not sure if I can validly say I would be ready to be a parent because I don’t think that anyone really IS ready; that is, until you have a child.  There is no instruction manual; they do not send you to school to learn parenting (although a few people I know could benefit from that experience).  LIFE is the school you learn from, and the professor of that class is not an adult…it’s your own flesh and blood…a child.  Of course, there are other things children teach you about other aspects of your life as well…like how to creatively learn code phrases when your kids finally learn how to spell and you can’t get away with that little trick anymore.  Most especially, children teach you how to become a better human being; and I guess I just discovered as I’m typing this what the old phrase “The child is Father to the Man” means.

So for twelve years I have had the privilege of being the father to one of the most incredible human beings I know.  She has been there for me in more ways than most kids her age have ever had to be for their own parents.  She’s tough, she’s tenacious, she despises intolerance and injustice, she absolutely loves the NY Giants, and is a tree-hugging Liberal.   I can’t take credit for the latter, she came to her own conclusions about that, but I will admit to turning her into a rabid NY Giants fan.  She gets damned good grades too; I never have to keep on top of her to study or do her homework; I guess she learned to be a bit more self-motivating and independent when I was at the worst point of my alcoholism.  She reminds me to recycle and continuously works on me to quit smoking.  She watches James Bond movies with me, falling in love with the series once she saw “You Only Live Twice” (which was also the first Bond movie I ever saw) and she RAVES about the latest Bond, Daniel Craig, and “Casino Royale” (although “Quantum of Solace” didn’t really impress her).   She makes an excellent cup of coffee, and is a pretty good cook as well.  All in all, she’s an awesome person and I absolutely adore her (as I do her sister, but for entirely different reasons…they are very different people those two).

A dozen years of being Daddy; twelve years that absolutely flew by…and I’m not only glad I’m alive to enjoy these years, but I think I’m finally ready to be a father now.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” ~Mark Twain