A Liberal Clock Cleaning Of A Fringe Conservative

A few days ago, someone I know posted some pretty ridiculous stuff to their wall on Facebook.  Lots of people do that, but what I am finding out lately is that Facebook is becoming the Internet soap box for political discourse.  Yet, what I am also finding is that the lunatic Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh/Fox News fringe who love carrying guns around in public (just in case they need to make sure their double coupons are properly counted at the supermarket, or stop someone from pulling the plug on grandma) somehow manages to shout down intelligent discourse even on there!  It’s usually through sneaky ways: a quick blurb on your wall while you’re talking about a new recipe or putting you on a distribution list of one of those myriad “notes” that famously get you drawn in to making up lists like, “25 Things That Annoy Me About You”.  Well last week, I received this little tidbit which annoyed me to absolutely no end.  It’s not the politics that got me as much as the factual inaccuracy and subcurrent of racism throughout:

Obama’s First Seven Months: Accomplishments
1. Offended the Queen of England.
2. Bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia.
3. Praised the Marxist Daniel Ortega.
4. Kissed Socialist Hugo Chavez on the cheek.
5. Endorsed the Socialist Evo Morales of Bolivia.
6. Sided with Hugo Chavez and Communist Fidel Castro against Honduras.
7. Announced we would meet with Iranians with no pre-conditions while they’re building their nuclear weapons.
8. Gave away billions to AIG also without pre-conditions.
9. Expanded the bailouts.
10. Insulted everyone who has ever loved a Special Olympian.
11. Doubled our national debt.
12. Announced the termination of our new missile defense system the day after North Korea launched an ICBM.
13. Released information on U.S. Intelligence gathering despite urgings of his own CIA director and the prior four CIA directors.
14. Accepted without comment that five of his cabinet members cheated on their taxes and two other nominees withdrew after they couldn’t take the heat.
15. Appointed a Homeland Security Chief who identified military veterans and abortion opponents as “dangers to the nation.”
16. Ordered that the word “terrorism” no longer be used and instead refers to such acts as “man made disasters.”
17. Circled the globe to publicly apologize for America’s world leadership.
18. Told the Mexican president that the violence in their country was because of us.
19. Politicized the census by moving it into the White House from the Department of Commerce.
20. Appointed as Attorney General the man who orchestrated the forced removal and expulsion to Cuba of a 9-year-old whose mother died trying to bring him to freedom in the United States.
21. Salutes as heroes three Navy SEALS who took down three terrorists who threatened one American life and the next day announces members of the Bush administration may stand trial for “torturing” three 9/11 terrorists by pouring water up their noses.
22. Low altitude photo shoot of Air Force One over New York City that frightened thousands of New Yorkers.
23. Sent his National Defense Adviser to Europe to assure them that the US will no longer treat Israel in a special manner and that Israel might be on their own with the Muslims.
24. Praised Jimmy Carter’s trip to Gaza where he sided with terrorist Hamas against Israel.
25. Nationalized General Motors and Chrysler while turning shareholder control over to the unions and freezing out retired investors who owned their bonds. Committed unlimited taxpayer billions in the process.
26. Passed a huge energy tax in the House that will make American industry even less competitive while costing homeowners thousands per year.
27. Announced nationalized health care “reform” that will strip seniors of their Medicare, cut pay of physicians, increase taxes yet another $1 trillion, and put everyone on rationed care with government bureaucrats deciding who gets care and who doesn’t.  Bloomberg reports: Daschle says, “Health care reform will not be pain free. Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them,” while former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm says seniors have “a duty to die.”

OK, I think you get the point that by this time I was beside myself…so I did the only thing I could do.  I wrote an e-mail.  I decided not to send this off like I wanted to, but since I know this individual reads this blog, I’ll just let my prose take care of everything here:

*******************

A,

Rather than post this and get into a long and probably nasty exchange over the Internet in a public forum, I decided to do this privately and correct you on many of your perceived misconceptions of the first 7 months of this Administration.

Has it been perfect?  No.  Am I happy with everything he’s done?  Certainly not; in fact, as a bleeding heart liberal I don’t think he’s done enough and has sold the Left wing of his Party out to many of the Special Interests that dominate Washington politics.  I think he is too eager to please Republicans when it is clear they do not want to negotiate in good faith; I think he should just ram through legislation, just like the Republicans did when THEY had control of Congress.  Everyone seems to forget that was the way things were run.  Then again, Republicans can’t stand the fact that they LOST the last election and are so hell bent on destroying the Democrats that they don’t give a damn about the country.

Take a good look at just who is destroying America: a bunch of rich white men, corporations, and ignorant white Southern men who burn crosses on front lawns in their spare time.  You and the rest of the middle class who actually believe the trash and nonsense that comes out of Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Fox News and every conspiracy site on the Internet are being manipulated.  You THINK you are saving the country…you are in fact trying to defeat programs that are designed to HELP you.  You are instead maintaining the status quo of keeping the same rich white men and corporations in power.

Oh, and another thing: you guys can’t stand the fact that a black man is in the White House.

Maybe not you personally, but a hell of a lot of your fellow Right Wing Americans do.  Just look at the signs that LITERALLY wish DEATH on this man…is THAT America?  Is THAT the way we as Americans are supposed to have a dialog and constructively work together to protect this democracy?  More importantly, is that the way we act as human beings?  When was the last time you saw a gun brought to an anti-Bush, Reagan, or Nixon rally?  NEVER.  Either because they would be arrested for violating SOMETHING (other than a gun law which allows you to carry openly in certain states) or because they would exercise the common sense notion that bringing a gun into a large crowd of people is DANGEROUS.  And disrespectful to the President.

When was the last time you heard a member of Congress interrupt a speech by the President during a Joint Session of Congress?  NEVER.  It is against EVERYTHING we believe in, because we as Americans have a civil dialog (unlike the British who allow such outbursts.  They have their place, and I must admit I find Parliament amusing, but you better not damned well interrupt the Queen).  What that Congressman did was unforgivable; I would still say this if someone did that do former President GW Bush…and believe me, I’m sure there were plenty of folks in that chamber that wanted to do the same thing…we just don’t do that.  Add to the mix that the man is from South Carolina (first State to secede from the Union), is a member of the Sons Of The Confederacy, and as a State Legislator worked to keep the Confederate Flag on the SC State Flag.  (I find the Confederate Flag as offensive as the Nazi flag because it represents treason to this nation.  It represents a lifestyle that was abhorrent.  Moreover, it is the flag of a vanquished ENEMY.  Do you see anyone flying Nazi flags so openly?)

And this is only the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong now; the way we are disagreeing with one another.  It is one thing to disagree with policy and concepts, it is another thing to call the man a Nazi and a Socialist…which is ironic because they’re on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  (I hope you guys just pick one already).  It is another thing to wish death on this man…and bring signs that say the same to a rally all while wearing a GUN.  (Look, I support the Second Amendment.  I am all for gun ownership; and although I choose not to own one, I will not impede your right to obtain one).  When I saw a sign at the DC rally last week (where the crowd was officially placed at 75,000; not 7.5 million or whatever Glenn Beck said it was.  Another thing…where was HE on 9/12 for the 9/12 project?  Afraid some Left winger with a gun and a sign might actually go after him?) that read “We didn’t bring our guns (this time)”, I was mortified.  THAT was a DIRECT THREAT to the President of The United States…and this is OK?  The fact that people are openly advocating the overthrow of the legitimately elected government of the United States is FRIGHTENING.

Speaker Pelosi (no stranger to violence and political assassinations having witnessed the terrible tragedy of the death of a Mayor and a Supervisor in San Francisco in the 70s) needs to be taken seriously in her warnings against violence.  God forbid the unthinkable happens, you will have chaos and pandemonium the likes this country has never seen.  You will have panic and race riots.  You will have Martial Law and suspension of the Constitution to prevent a revolution…and then you may very well have violent revolution.

And that will only lead to the curb of freedom even more, because the “winners” of that revolution will be an extremist regime that will make the Nazis look like amateurs.

And We The People…shall be but a distant memory.

Here’s what’s right and wrong about your “accomplishments”:

Obama’s First Seven Months: Accomplishments

  • Offended the Queen of England.

It was his wife who accidentally grabbed the Queen’s royal posterior, not he.  And for the record, just WHICH country did we have a revolution against, and why are you concerned with having offended a direct descendant of King George III?

  • Bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Observing a customary greeting for the King of Saudi Arabia is offensive?  And you were concerned about Queen Elizabeth’s ass?

  • Praised the Marxist Daniel Ortega.

He’s done a hell of a lot more for the people of Nicaragua than any right-wing regime ever did.  Perhaps that is why he was ELECTED TWICE by the people in free and fair elections, because you see…Nicaragua is a democracy.  Oh, and he was also voted out of office twice as well.

  • Kissed Socialist Hugo Chavez on the cheek.

Again, a customary greeting…and we’re still with the nice international protocol violations, huh?  Too bad you guys weren’t concerned with niceties demonstrated during the 9/12 March of the Wooden Soldiers.

  • Endorsed the Socialist Evo Morales of Bolivia.

He did not endorse ANYONE.  The President does not openly endorse any candidate in a foreign election.  Get your facts straight.

  • Sided with Hugo Chavez and Communist Fidel Castro against Honduras.

Well, perhaps the right-wing junta that overthrew the legitimately elected government of Honduras didn’t exactly thrill him or the rest of the other nations who signed a United Nations statement condemning the action.  You know, guys like Germany and England and Australia…our allies.

  • Announced we would meet with Iranians with no pre-conditions while they’re building their nuclear weapons.

The UN Inspector who was sent to Iran confirms they are NOT building weapons…however, it does not mean they don’t have a hidden bunker somewhere where they are.  Since you don’t know and don’t have proof, and you want to prevent this from happening anyway, YOU TALK.  Oh, and what the hell are we SUPPOSED to say, “We’ll only talk with you if you don’t stop building the weapons you’re not building”?  If you want to obtain your goal, you TALK.  Or would you prefer that we bomb their nuclear facilities off the planet, thus sending harmful radiation and fallout into the atmosphere where it will contaminate the food chain, and perhaps kill your own children eventually…as well as the hundreds of thousands such a strike would cause the Iranians.  Or are they not worth being Human Beings because they are Muslim and they deserve to die anyway?

  • Gave away billions to AIG also without pre-conditions.

That my dear, was George Walker Bush and Hank Paulsen  the previous President and Secretary of the Treasury who gave a final parting gift to their rich supporters, not President Obama

  • Expanded the bailouts.

The additional Bank funding was authorized by the PREVIOUS Congress (at the pleading of Bush and Paulsen) in increments.  If you recall, there were hearings early in the year that made sure they needed the additional funding…hearings authorized by THIS President.

  • Insulted everyone who has ever loved a Special Olympian.

OK, the guy did a bad thing here; I agree.  He apologized.  Like you never insulted me at one time and didn’t realize it until the words came out of your mouth?  Please…

  • Doubled our national debt.

No, that would be President Bush who did that…you know, the Conservative who believes in fiscal responsibility…the guy who loved tax cuts so much he forgot how to pay for a war that he started, and Medicare Part D just for starters.  Oh yeah, he was left with a SURPLUS by President Clinton; he left Obama a few trillion in the hole.

  • Announced the termination of our new missile defense system the day after North Korea launched an ICBM.

A 5 BILLION DOLLAR missile system for 10 missiles in EUROPE…one that is based on technology that has not been perfected yet…in favor of one costing half as much that would deploy missiles on ships in the area of Iran as opposed to putting them in Poland where the Russians would feel a bit threatened.  You know, like we did in 1962 when they tried to put missiles in Cuba.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for my gamma ray bath and incineration just yet.  Oh, Korea is a separate issue and is in no way linked to this action.

  • Released information on U.S. Intelligence gathering despite urgings of his own CIA director and the prior four CIA directors.

Just like Valerie Plame was outed by Scooter Libby as a CIA Agent in violation of Federal Law, or was this a legitimate and legal decision by the President of The United States as Commander In Chief?

  • Accepted without comment that five of his cabinet members cheated on their taxes and two other nominees withdrew after they couldn’t take the heat.

OK…bad decisions, and bad vetting process.  I agree with you here.

  • Appointed a Homeland Security Chief who identified military veterans and abortion opponents as “dangers to the nation.”

I’d be interested in seeing where the comment was taken from and the complete context of it.  You guys are famous for taking things out of context.  Another thing, it’s at least less harmful than appointing a man whose only experience in life was raising Arabian Horses as head of FEMA.  His bungling cost thousands of people their homes and hundreds are dead because of “Heck of a Job Brownie” in New Orleans after Katrina.  I’d rather have the bad words said…at least they didn’t kill anyone.

  • Ordered that the word “terrorism” no longer be used and instead refers to such acts as “man made disasters.”

HUH?  Last time I heard, he uses the word “terrorism” whenever applicable.  Is he not using it ENOUGH for you guys?  I mean, to me, wearing a gun to a Presidential Rally holding a threatening sign is terrorism.  Killing a man because he performs late term abortions is terrorism.  Should he have used the word then?  I think so.

  • Circled the globe to publicly apologize for America’s world leadership.

More like made overtures to the world that we were willing to talk and protect our freedom and anyone else’s…but not at the point of a gun or bomb them out of existence.

  • Told the Mexican president that the violence in their country was because of us.

Again, CONTEXT.  This was a statement that since we are the PRIMARY CONSUMERS of MEXICAN DRUGS, INDIRECTLY we are responsible for some of the violence.  Just like if you buy cigarettes on the Internet (which I don’t do) the money may support terrorism.  It’s a fact.

  • Politicized the census by moving it into the White House from the Department of Commerce.

And the price of tea in China is…?  Whatever Administration is in charge politicizes the Census; Bush did it…it’s all a fact of life.  Deal with it, you’ll sleep better in the morning.

  • Appointed as Attorney General the man who orchestrated the forced removal and expulsion to Cuba of a 9-year-old whose mother died trying to bring him to freedom in the United States.

I despised what Janet Reno authorized be done in that incident.  He was only carrying out the orders of his superiors…you know, the same way CIA operatives were when they tortured people.

  • Salutes as heroes three Navy SEALS who took down three terrorists who threatened one American life and the next day announces members of the Bush administration may stand trial for “torturing” three 9/11 terrorists by pouring water up their noses.

Waterboarding is TORTURE, not just pouring water up their noses.  We tortured people in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions that we pledged to uphold as part of International Law.  We went rogue, and in the process lost our soul as a nation and in my opinion, anyone who authorized, ordered, and carried out waterboarding or any other technique classified as torture should be prosecuted as a war criminal, as provided for in the Geneva Conventions.  Oh, and he was absolutely right to salute those Navy SEALS.

  • Low altitude photo shoot of Air Force One over New York City that frightened thousands of New Yorkers.

HUGE MISTAKE…I was mortified and offended.  And so was he; that’s why the idiot who authorized it is now on Uncle Sammy’s bread lines.

  • Sent his National Defense Adviser to Europe to assure them that the US will no longer treat Israel in a special manner and that Israel might be on their own with the Muslims.

And Israel should be treated as “special” because…?  They’re Jewish and make good brisket over there?  Or because the Zionists seek to obtain solely for themselves a piece of land “given” to them by a non-corporeal entity whose existence cannot be proved?  I’ll tell you what, God told me I can have your house.  I’ll be over tomorrow and kick you and the boys out and let you fend for yourselves across the street or endlessly roam the streets of Rosebank.  THAT’s what the Jews have done to the Palestinians…and they are systematically KILLING them, simply because they are a different faith.  Just in case you haven’t realized it yet, you are NOTHING to the Zionists either because you are Catholic and not Jewish.  The Jewish State (according to the Zionists) is supposed to remain PURE.  You want to talk about Nazis?  Look no father than the end of Bibi’s nose.  They have The Bomb, have tons of money donated to them by the Jewish population over here (duped into believing that all of the Jewish People are at risk of annihilation from everyone)…let them fend for themselves.  By the way, there is a VAST difference between a Jew and a Zionist.  It’s like the difference between being German or a Nazi.  I know Jews who HATE the Zionists with a passion and want nothing more than to live in peace with the Palestinians.

  • Praised Jimmy Carter’s trip to Gaza where he sided with terrorist Hamas against Israel.

And he SHOULD have praised his trip because it was humanitarian…they were being SLAUGHTERED for DAYS by Israel.  Or are they worthless because they are Muslim?  And if you were getting slaughtered, wouldn’t you try and fight back?  One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter…just ask George Washington.

  • Nationalized General Motors and Chrysler while turning shareholder control over to the unions and freezing out retired investors who owned their bonds. Committed unlimited taxpayer billions in the process.

Congratulations, you own a car company!  Why?  Because if they went under the entire economy could have collapsed; thousands of manufacturing jobs (auto workers, the guys who make the parts, Dealerships) would have been lost.  Yes, there were job losses, but nowhere near as bad as if there was no bail out.  And all of this came about because GM and the other guys ran THEIR companies into the ground by making poor business decisions.  The shareholders of GM and Chrysler are also responsible because they didn’t throw the bastards out of the Board Room.

  • Passed a huge energy tax in the House that will make American industry even less competitive while costing homeowners thousands per year.

I have NO clue what you’re talking about here…evidence please?

  • Announced nationalized health care “reform” that will strip seniors of their Medicare, cut pay of physicians, increase taxes yet another $1 trillion, and put everyone on rationed care with government bureaucrats deciding who gets care and who doesn’t. Bloomberg reports: Daschle says, “Health care reform will not be pain free. Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them,” while former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm says seniors have “a duty to die.”

Medicare will NOT be touched; Seniors will NOT have their benefits stripped.  Medicare is about as sacred as the Pope to these politicians and to the American People…it ain’t going nowhere…or granny will get her gun.  The cost of the Health Insurance Reform program approaches $1 trillion (it’s estimated at $856 billion) OVER 10 YEARS.  It’s COST not TAX…a VAST difference.  No one will be deciding who gets what and when granny gets the plug pulled.  You think this would have died already…you guys just love keeping up the lies, don’t you.  FALSE, FALSE, FALSE.

Hopefully, I’ve enlightened you to the Liberal view of things…and all this was done without a nasty sign or at the point of a gun.  You know, through intelligent discourse, like it’s supposed to be…not mob rule.

K.

********************

As you can imagine, that took quite a while to write, and with each word that came off the keyboard, I just got angrier and angrier.  I am realizing that once again, the Right is using the politics of Fear and Division in order to attempt to regain power, through any means possible.  And the way you hear it from some people, through revolution if need be.  This is not the way we do things in this country.  We are the envy of the world every four or eight years as we have a peaceful transition of  power from one Administration to another.  In many parts of the world, this happens at the point of a gun or not at all.  Just because you are not happy with the results of the last election does not give you the right to overthrow the government.  Trust me, if my liberties were being taken away or my rights under the Constitution were declared null and void, I’d be out there fighting with all I had.  This Administration hasn’t done a damned thing for anyone to be concerned about.  If anything, I think they need to put their foot down more and push through their agenda as much as possible given the sizable numbers of Democrats in Congress.  I think that The President is on the verge of waking up and taking the reins from some of his  advisers who are doing an awful job (Rahm Emmanuel, anyone?) and is going to start playing some hardball.  Hopefully, the Democrats won’t follow with their usual habit of forming a circular firing squad.

The way you hear it from the Right Wingnuts, you’d think that we’re on the verge of Nuremberg rallies, bund meetings, and goose-stepping in the streets.  Oh wait!  That was the Bush Administration!

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” – John Lennon

Yet Another Day In September

Somewhere in Washington later on this afternoon, there will be a gathering of people, assembled at the behest of Right-Wingnut Glenn Beck.  A march on DC for the “9/12 Project”, a group that claims to want to reestablish that feeling of oneness and patriotism we all felt the day after 9/11.  To see Beck describe it on his television program, you would think that the idea came forth from the heavens in the form of a celestial vision, or perhaps he saw a burning bush by his apartment building.  We are going to see a bunch of loyal, patriotic Americans who want to take their country back from the evil oppression of President Obama and the Democratic Party who they’ve demonized into Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists…or is that Joe Stalin and the Communists?  Oh well, Communist or Socialist…it doesn’t really matter, because they’re not American anyway.

Please…get a life Beck.  You’re giving us recovering alcoholics a bad name.  You’re supposed to see all the crazy shit when you’re drinking or detoxing, not when you’re sober.  Oh…I forgot; you’re a Mormon and think you get your own planet when you die.  Silly me.  Can I have the number of your cosmic real estate agent, because I’d like a lovely planet not too close to the sun, but one with some nice beaches and attractive women playing bad drunken calypso music?  Yes, the man who can’t even spell “Oligarchy” correctly and who just a few short years ago complained about the sad state of the American Health Care system after a brush with death is going to make sure you get that warm fuzzy feeling you had the day after 9/11/01.

Look, I don’t know how you felt, but I was still trying to make some sense of everything.  I had just been through and survived a terrorist attack.  I had spent a good portion of the night in the hospital talking to psychiatrists and getting pushed, pinned, stuck, and prodded by a team of physicians who thought I could have been carrying some sort of secret plague after I was exposed to  the dust cloud.  I got a few fitful hours of sleep, but I was awakened by a nightmare at 2pm…and I couldn’t get to sleep again for another 24 hours.  So let me tell you how I felt the day after 9/11, sir…let me tell you about how “warm and fuzzy” I felt…

I was shaking constantly.  I was breaking down crying for no reason and at the strangest times.  I was seeing flashbacks of people jumping off buildings because they would rather have died that way than be burned to a crisp.  I was jumping out of my skin when I heard an engine backfire or if something dropped in the kitchen.  And worst of all, I was drinking like a madman trying to get it all to stop…and to forget about the day before.  Trust me, I was not waving a flag and being a patriotic robot.  I was a damned disaster; a shell of a human being, a frightened man who had just lost everything he had mentally in a few short hours.  It was the start of a disability that I still have and prevents me from working to this day…and it was the start of a decent into madness and alcoholism that was to last for another 5 years.

And you want me to go back to the person I was on that day?  Are you INSANE?  I very much want to go back to the person I was on 9/10…a man with a successful career and a family man who just had his second child.  A man who was finally growing up and coming to terms with his life.  A man who would go to work day in and day out to support his family with no questions asked.  A man who went to work one day and never came home again quite the same way.

Sure, Glenn Beck…perhaps in another parallel universe I felt the way you felt; but not in this one.  Please, Beck…do me a favor.  Go back to slugging a few because at least I’ll know where this insanity is coming from.

“Never allow someone to be your priority, while allowing yourself to be their option” – Anonymous

Eight Years On: Memories Of Two Towers Struck Down

I am a Survivor of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

There are moments in History where you know where you were when they happened, and sometimes you become a part of History yourself.  I’ve been to some famous sporting events, watched the first man walk on the moon, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I was on the Tappan Zee Bridge when I found out Miles Davis had passed away, and I had to pull over once I got off the bridge, and cried my eyes out while “My Ship” played softly on my car stereo.  There are moments when you see History and you choose History.  Then there are moments when History chooses you.

When I woke up that Tuesday Morning, I had no idea what was about to happen to me; nor did I have any idea of how much my life would change over the course of the next eight years…but that was a moment History chose for me to be a part of.  It began a very long journey into depression and alcoholism, recovery and triumph over my inner demons.  It began a period of self-discovery and awareness that was not there before in my 40 years on the planet.  But all of this is for a later time.

What I would like to do now is reprint a piece I wrote a few days after 9/11 while I was still very much in shock and totally unsure of what happened and where I was going next.  It has been printed on several web sites over the years, and it resides in the Library of Congress as part of a collection of written history from eyewitnesses and survivors of that day.  It is graphic and intense, but it is MY story of that day…the day when my world, and everyone else’s changed forever.

———Phoenix Uncertain: Originally written on Thursday, September 13, 2001—————-

CATHARSIS I: The Road to Damascus

I need to write all of this down right now, while the smells, sounds, and experiences of the past few days are fresh in my mind. I also need to do this now because I’ve gotten some clarity in the past few hours and I don’t know how long that will last for. I have alternated between disbelief, sorrow, confusion, and anger…and sometimes all of these simultaneously. On Tuesday, the man I was ceased to exist. The light has been extinguished from my eyes. I’ve tried to explain things to my wife and broke down every time. I cannot even begin to explain to my daughter Katie how lucky she is to have her Daddy around, nor can I explain to her why her Daddy screams in his sleep or why he shakes for no reason. I cannot explain to her why every time I head a loud sound or bang, I practically jump out of my skin. All I can do is try and take the medication that keeps me normalized and try and make some sort of sense of the whole thing. Now that I’ve just popped a “happy pill”, I’ve got 8 hours to write this all down, before I descend into my own abyss once again. In the past 72 hours, I have witnessed events that I never thought I would see with my own eyes. What you are seeing on your television is absolutely nothing…and I do mean NOTHING…like it actually was to be there. I keep telling myself that something or someone must have had a greater plan for me, and that is why I am alive today instead of being buried under a ton of rubble. Perhaps that plan just to write this document of my experience to share with others so that they may carry on the memory of those who survived like myself, and the memory of those who were lost. Perhaps it is to share with you that amidst all of the evil, I witnessed some of the finest moments of compassion and humanity that I have ever seen…an affirmation of a belief that I have always held: that we have greatness inside all of us. Perhaps it is about the redemption of my own soul, for like Saul on the way to Damascus, I’m slowly coming to the realization that my life has indeed reached a turning point. I also know that there is no going back to the person I was, and I just have to figure out just who the hell I am now.

CATHARSIS II: Abnormal Normality

TUESDAY, September 11th, 2001: 7:22 AM, Little Silver Train Station, NJ
Kissed my wife and daughters good bye as they dropped me off at the station. Took my coffee, laptop, and briefcase…bought a copy of the NY Daily News. Thankfully since the NY Giants/Denver Broncos game ended late, I don’t have to read about how my team was defeated. Read through the paper all the while sipping my coffee on the one hour ride to Newark NJ, where I will catch the PATH Train (a subway between NJ and NY) to the World Trade Center, just 3 blocks from my office at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza.

8:20 AM, Penn Station, Newark, NJ
Board the PATH train…and actually found a seat! I consider this a good omen for the rest of the day, especially as I was lugging around a very heavy laptop PC in addition to my regular briefcase. It was for this reason that I decided NOT to listen to my CD Player today…it would be just too awkward carrying around a CD player strapped to my waist as well as a laptop and briefcase. I close my eyes to catch a few winks on the 22-minute ride into Manhattan.

8:42 AM, World Trade Center, New York, NY Leave PATH train for the ride 6 stories up a series of escalators to the street level. I decide that my laptop is sitting awkwardly on my shoulder, and that I would fix it when I reached the top of the escalators.

8:45 AM, WTC Path Square (located in the center of the WTC Complex, 1 story Below Ground, where there’s a Shopping Mall)
Reach the top of the escalator, and begin to fix my laptop. As soon as I get myself situated…something happens…a sound…something different. Sounds like a crash at first…then a low rumble…then a “whoosh” throughout the complex. People are starting to run, and once others see people running, they too scramble for the exits. At this point, I think it’s a good time to get the hell out of there, and start to run toward the exits as well. Someone, in his or her haste to get out, knocks me over. I’m falling face first toward a plate glass window in one of the shops. Somehow, I manage to contort my body so that I land on my left knee pretty hard, but my face hits the floor. I’m dazed…compose myself for a minute…and realize I have to get out no matter what just happened. My knee is killing me, but the endorphins take over, and that pain is quickly gone. I feel something warm on my chin, and realize that it’s blood. My fall knocked one of my front teeth into my lip, putting a nice gash in it. I wipe some blood away, and follow another crowd into the lower level of the Border’s bookstore, which also has an exit to the streets…it’s much less crowded, and a calmer exodus of people. I reach the street and exit into the air. There is a burning smell…I’d never smelled anything like it. There are thousands of papers falling from the sky in a quiet procession of calm amidst the chaos. A paper rain, much like one of those party favors that you might have had when you were a kid…you know, the fake champagne bottles filled with confetti. I start to walk across Church Street. I can see smoke, but because I’m so close to the tower, I can’t really see anything. I begin to walk westward toward Broadway past St Paul’s Chapel. As I walk, people are looking up at the North Tower, then looking back down at my blood stained face. I see their eyes are filled with confusion. When I reach the corner of Broadway and look up I can finally see what happened. There, at the top of a building that is approximately ¼ of a mile long is a HUGE hole…several stories in length…plumes of smoke and flame billowing higher into the air. I can only stand there, watching in disbelief as I realize that what we had all feared had probably taken place: a bomb had gone off in the World Trade Center.

CATHARSIS III: Another Ulysses

APPROX. 9:00 AM, Broadway
It’s funny how the mind operates. You know, kind of like when you see a magic trick, you can’t believe what you saw…or when your team makes a triple play…or when you witness a birth. You know you’re seeing something, but your mind sends signals that it’s just not possible, but there it is. From out of the Tower, I’m seeing debris fall…but it’s coming in very irregular intervals. Usually, debris falls in a pattern as a structure is weakened, and at the same rate of descent. This debris was sporadic, and it wasn’t just falling in a straight line from the Tower…it was arcing. I saw it happen once, twice…but on the third time, I saw what I thought was debris MOVE, I thought I saw arms move…and I realized that debris cannot move, nor could it have arms. I had just seen people throw themselves from the North Tower to escape the consuming flames. I began to shake, began to shout “No F***ing way!” and “Oh my God” at the top of my lungs. Someone came over to me and put their hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was all right. I think I said something to the effect I was, but they offered me a bottle of water and some tissues to wipe the blood off my face. I accepted and I asked if they had seen the explosion…and that’s when they told me it was a plane that had crashed into the North Tower. They also told me it was an airliner. The brain couldn’t register that one really…except for the fact that I thought it was a terrible accident, and thank God it wasn’t a bomb. Another person in the crowd came up to me and asked if I needed help getting to where I was going. I realized that my hands were trembling and couldn’t hold either the tissues or water steady and my knees felt weak. Brain kicks in again: yeah, take this guy up on his offer. It turned out he worked for my company but at another location. We began to walk toward my building, and I notice some debris along the way. About a block from my office, right in front of the Federal Reserve Building I see some debris that catches my eye: some tacky looking upholstery that looks like it came from an airline headrest. It was then that I saw a seat cushion and an armrest…THANKFULLY empty.

APROX 9:12 AM, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
I walk one block further south to my building, and reach the Plaza. Just as I’m about to turn to enter my building, I hear the whine of jet engines. I look down the block at the South Tower, and see a fireball engulfing the building, showering flaming debris across the skyline, arcing outward and in my general direction. There is a low, rumbling sound, very much like what I had heard earlier…a sound that grew as the flames spread and debris rained down upon Manhattan. The crowd begins to run frantically toward the east, away from the falling debris. I overhear someone say that it was another jet that collided into the South Tower. It was then I realized that this was no accident, that my greatest fears were realized: we were under attack. It was at that moment, I knew that I had to somehow survive this…get the hell out of there…and get home to my family. I had just become a modern day Ulysses.

CATHARSIS IV:The Silence before the ROAR

APPROX 9:20 AM, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
I’m pretty superstitious. I usually sit in the same seat for a baseball or football game if my team is winning. I never pick up a penny “tails up”, and I don’t walk under ladders. In some convoluted manner, the Universe played a trick on me, for I work on the 13th floor of my building. It never bothered me before, but on a day like Tuesday, there was just no way I was going to go up into my office…so I decided to go downstairs to the Branch to use the phone to call my wife to let her know I was OK. (A footnote here and an important one because it’s going to come into play later: The Branch is an underground structure, kind of like a rectangular “donut”. It is just below the Plaza, with a circular glass enclosure in its center containing a fountain. There is an opening at the top of this enclosure to the Plaza to let light in. From the Plaza level, there is a circular wall that allows viewing of the fountain from the Plaza, and it’s quite beautiful when viewed from inside the branch at the level of the fountain.)

Just before entering the Branch, I meet up with a co-worker who sees me and is pretty amazed at my condition at this point…I can only imagine: A deer in the headlights look accompanied by a bloody face. I try and tell him what’s happened so far. It turns out, he’s not going to his floor either…and he helps me into the Branch. Needless to say, the Branch had been closed to all but employees with ID. I also know the Branch Manager, Assistant Branch Manager and many of the staff well because I’ve worked with them directly when I was in the Branches myself. I got in there; they sat me down and got me some first aid as well as some water. I called my wife, told her I was OK and told her of what I was going to do next: try and take the Staten Island Ferry and get to either my parents or my in-laws and have them drive me home. I just wanted to get the hell off Manhattan as soon as possible, especially with the thought that there were two ¼ mile buildings a few blocks away that had the possibility of collapsing. I called my parents and told them of my intentions as well. Needless to say, I’m pretty shaken up at this point. I decide to sit a few minutes to try and relax, collect my thoughts, and move on. A woman named Maxine (who I’ve never met before) sat with me and comforted me. She also spoke with my wife during my phone call and said she was taking care of me. God Bless her…she was a BIG help. We turned on the radio to listen to the news, to see exactly what had happened, and it was just as we feared: two jet liners were hijacked and were rammed into the World Trade Center…and one other thing that hit us all like a ton of bricks…the Pentagon was also attacked the same way. Nothing was the same anymore.

CATHARSIS V: No World Order

APPROX 10:15 AM 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
Some people talk about a “New World Order”. At this point in my life, there was definitely a New World, but anything but order. I had finally calmed down, and was about to make my way toward the Staten Island Ferry when the unthinkable happened: That ROAR happened again…that ungodly Roar that still was imprinted in my head from the last few hours… …And then I saw the debris and smoke fill the glass enclosure around the fountain. The ground shook, and we all began to rush toward the escalators that would take us to the vault sub-basements in the Plaza. We arrived down there followed by a cloud of smoke and dust…we made our way through passages that led to the underground cafeteria where security told us to go. My first thought was that my building was attacked, but something completely unexpected happened. We had just found out that one of the icons of the New York Skyline, one of the World Trade Towers had crumbled to dust…and that rubble had spread across Lower Manhattan, washing across the Plaza. We were told to stay put…it was safer here, and there was NO visibility AT ALL outside. More people started to file into the cafeteria…all of them covered in dust…stark white ghosts with terrorized eyes peering from the rubble that had been strewn onto their bodies. Among them were two people who worked in my department. I rushed up and the three of us hugged and held onto each other. We got a table in the cafeteria; got some of the water and wet rags they were handing out to help us breathe. …And we sat…for two hours…and waited for news of when we could leave the building. In the meantime, there was another dull roar in the distance…THAT ROAR… …And the other Tower had fallen. …And God only knew what the rest of the world outside looked like.

CATHARSIS VI: A Hole in the Sky

APPROX Noon, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza
Now I know what my cat feels like when I let him out of his carrier after we bring him back from the vet. He always wants to get the hell out, and yet he steps out gingerly, unsure of what he can expect. I kind of felt that way as I exited our building after we were told to head toward the East River. I also felt like a B-Movie actor on one of those bad 50’s “Day After…” movies, the ones usually used for cannon fodder on “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. There was dust everywhere, and it looked like it was snowing in September. There had to be two inches of dust and debris on the streets as CJ (one of those guys I mentioned earlier who worked with me) and I made tracks for the South Street Seaport. We’re wandering around, towels around our faces like some post-apocalyptic version of TE Lawrence and The Shadow trekking across the Nafud, or Paul and Jessica across Arakis in “Dune”. We looked back where the Twin Towers had been…the same two towers CJ and I came through every day from the PATH (she’s from North NJ)…the same two towers that had dominated the skyline since we were children (we’re both 40, born a month apart). There was nothing. Absolutely nothing…except for a huge black cloud where those beautiful towers once stood gleaming in the sunshine. It was as if you used a photo program on your PC, highlighted the Towers, deleted the image and filled the blank area with smoke. It hurt to breathe (and I’m a smoker, so I can just IMAGINE what a non-smoker would have felt). The dust stung your eyes and skin. It was raining dust…a horrible snowfall on a late summer day…a snowfall that contained pieces of building, asbestos, paper, jet fuel, and God only know what else. I was reminded of Good Friday for some reason… We finally got to the River, and began to follow the exodus uptown toward God knows where. All CJ and I knew was that we had heard there were ferries still running to NJ (the SI Ferry was shut down at this point, so my first plan was abandoned) and we had to catch one. The air was clear, and I decided I REALLY needed a cigarette at this point (NOTE: A martini was my first choice, but the bars were closed). I offered one to CJ…who hasn’t had a cig in 10 years…she took it, we lit up and moved on.

CATHARSIS VII: Dorothy and The Scarecrow

EAST RIVER ESPLANADE: Approx. 12:30 PM
I’m thoroughly convinced that The Universe has a sense of humor. CJ and I stop and look out at the river just below the Brooklyn Bridge. We can see hundreds of people walking across the Bridge to Brooklyn, the same for the Manhattan Bridge in the distance. It’s actually a beautiful day; there are no clouds in the sky…there are people just sitting on benches on the esplanade looking out at the water…some are fishing…some are making out. Order amidst chaos. We had just come from chaos into one moment of perfect beauty. I think to myself that this is really a beautiful day, and I imagine myself at the Shore or in my backyard with my kids…and then it hits me… …No beach to walk on unless I get home. No backyard and no kids and wife unless I get home…and God only knows what else happens on this day. Snap back to reality…we’ve got to get home. CJ and I meet a Police officer who says ferries are leaving from Pier 11 for NJ and directs us Uptown. Just a slight problem…Pier 11 is just South of us a few blocks, so CJ and I are headed in the wrong direction. Like I said, the Universe has a sense of humor…

SOMEWHERE ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE: Approx., 1:00 PM
CJ and I have walked for a while. I’m still carrying the laptop and briefcase, and I really can’t feel the pain in my knee yet, but at least my lip has stopped bleeding. Needless to say, both my shoulders are killing me. We walk around trying to find Pier 11, just Dorothy and the Scarecrow trying to find Oz. We walk through neighborhoods that we would never walk through regularly, and people are coming up to us and asking if we are OK (we’re covered in dust at this point). They give us water and comfort. We see others helping people…a woman in a wheelchair giving directions and a bottle of water to two people…four people hugging in the middle of a street glad to find each other…Police Officers with their arms around people offering them comfort as well as direction. I realize at this point what my Dad always said about the blackout of 1964 (he was trapped in the subway) that New Yorkers are people who put all differences aside when in a crisis. We finally find a cop who points us in the right direction…we head back downtown.

CATHARSIS VIII: Just Click Your Heels Three Times…

PIER 11, New York, NY: Approx. 2:00 PM
We found OZ. No emerald city here, just a bunch of ferries that were going back to New Jersey. CJ and I parted company here. She headed back to Jersey City and one of the few remaining trains that were running out of Hoboken. I got on a high-speed ferry bound for the Highlands on the Jersey Shore, about 10 miles northeast from my house. I decided I’d worry about how to get home from there…I’d walk if I had to. The Police search our bags before we get on… The ferry is VERY comfortable, complete with bar that is, unfortunately closed…it costs approx. $18 each way, about twice my cost for the trains (which were NOT running at this time), but they were ferrying everyone at no cost. They gave us water, and there were two clergymen on the boat, a Catholic Priest and a Minister, both Chaplains of the Highlands Fire Department. A call comes over the loudspeaker asking for 50 volunteers to take the next boat. People get up and leave, willingly with no problems. I see the Priest and yell out, “Father, are you riding this boat?” He says yes. I decide to stay.

NY HARBOR, Approx. 2:20 PM
The boat leaves, and the Scarecrow decides to look back at the Emerald City. The Towers are gone. The Black Void is still there. The Scarecrow loses what Brains he had left and breaks down. Like the Towers, I’ve just crumbled into a pile of rubble.

IN TRANSIT THROUGH NY HARBOR AND THE ATLANTIC:
The Minister sees me and comes over to talk. He was in Viet Nam for two tours of duty. I tell him what I’m feeling, and he tells me what happened to him. He’s describing what I’m feeling to a “T”. I’m amazed that someone else can describe what I feel…and realize just how fragile we really are as humans…and I also realize at this point, I’m not the same person who woke up that morning. We both pray publicly. It is my first time praying in public since I was 14. Like I said, the Universe has one hell of a sense of humor.

CATHARSIS IX: …And Say ‘There’s No Place Like Home’

HIGHLANDS, New Jersey Approx. 3:00 PM
We arrive in New Jersey The Minister walks me off the boat and asks if he can do anything else, and I tell him he did more for me than anyone in a very long time. I follow the crowd off the gangplank. We are told that we will have to present ID. We are also told that if we are covered in dust we will have to be decontaminated. I am told to go to the “left” line. My belongings are put in a bag; my laptop and briefcase are scrubbed by men in isolation suits by hand. I am told to stand forward a man with a fire hose that then proceeds to spray water on me from head to toe. As he is doing this, I can see the NYC skyline in the background. What two gleaming towers, had once dominated, was now dominated by a huge cloud of smoke and a gaping hole where the towers should be. I was told to turn around so they can spray my front. They do so…and I have been baptized into the New World. I’m handed my belongings, and a Police Officer takes my statement as he was informed that I was in the WTC when the first plane hits. It’s the second time that day that I’ve told my story…but this time more emotions are coming out…and I find I cannot look anyone in the eyes when I talk to them… I’m directed toward a bunch of vans, busses, and private cars where I’m told that someone would drive me home. I walk slowly, drenched…laptop and briefcase still present…away from the water and toward a parking lot. All I can do is stare straight ahead and make no eye contact with anyone. I feel like I’m there (here) but somewhere else. A woman named Doreen asks me where I’m going, and I tell her. She says she volunteered to give rides to people, and really has nothing to do…mainly because she was just laid off from Nike the day before. She offers me her cell phone to call my wife…it’s the first time we’ve spoken my phone call in the morning. I tell her I’m coming home in a few minutes. Doreen assures her I’m shaken, but OK. We drive off to my home.

CATHARSIS X: Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

We arrive at my house…and I run to my wife (holding our month-old daughter) and my 4 year old daughter, Katie. Everything comes back to me in a big rush…I break down. We all thank Doreen, and I give her a big hug goodbye. In the next few hours, I try and explain things to my wife…and some of them I can…most of them I cannot. We call my doctor who tells me to go to the ER at the Local Hospital for a chest x-ray and some tests…apparently the stuff I was exposed to may have contained asbestos…and God only knows what else. While getting tested, they had me speak to a Psychologist…just like others who were coming in. I told my story the best I could, and she was a HUGE help for my family and me. I needed to talk and I did…and I realized that there is a lot I still have to deal with.

CHARTHIS XI: Phoenix Uncertain

I’m hanging in there as best as I can…and for the past five hours, I’ve been spilling my guts out for those of you I know, and those of you I do not. This has been my story, and there are thousands of others such as I. I mentioned before that I am not the same person I was when I woke up on Tuesday. Quite frankly, I’m not sure who the hell I am anymore…but these things I do know: *I am a Father of two beautiful girls *I am a loving husband of, quite simply, the most amazing woman on the planet AND THOSE THINGS ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT ARE MY LIFE! Please…just take the time to hug your kids, wife, partner, loved ones…NEVER take them for granted! Hold on to your friends and keep them close…chances are that this has touched us all in one way or another.

We have all been transformed in one way or another by this event. We are all filled with a plethora of emotions…I certainly know I am.

Let us work together to seek justice for those who have been killed or injured. Let us offer a hand to those who need it, whether or not they have been there first hand. Let us all show the strength of humanity and compassion that we are all capable of. Let us rebuild our city, our nation, and our fragile planet.

Let us go forward with one voice that says we shall never allow this to ever happen again.

God Bless You, Your Families, The United States Of America, and our Beloved Planet.

Arkangel3 BORN: Mar 14, 1961 DIED: Sept 11, 2001 REBORN: Sept 11, 2001

*****************************************************************************

Coda- September 11, 2009: It’s always interesting when I go back and re-read this piece.  When I first wrote it, I was scared and scarred emotionally and physically.  I had just been through an event that I never in my wildest dreams thought I could have been privy to let alone be a part of.  Eight years have made me a much different person than I was on that fateful day or when I wrote this a few days afterward.  I have literally been through hell and back.  I was diagnosed with Acute PTSD as a result of the September 11th attacks, I am disabled because of it and I try and live with it every day.  I was also diagnosed as having Bi-Polar disorder and I am also a recovering alcoholic.  It hasn’t been easy.

While that day still lingers for me and thousand of others, it is also a significant point in Human History as well as in my own life.  It is a point at which we choose a path to go down in our life as individuals, as a nation, or as a planet. For my own personal journey, it has been a source of self-discovery (and rediscovery); of sadness and pain, and occasional joy and triumph.  But what has been born of pain has made me more Human than I could have ever hoped to be otherwise.  And the most painful thing I had to work through was the most challenging obstacle to overcome: the guilt of surviving while so many others died.   I was spared, and somehow came home to the loving arms of my wife and children…and yet, I could not get past the guilt of living.   A painful reminder was the sight of my neighbor on a daily basis; her brother was killed in the attacks.  I saw her go through the grief and anguish over the next few years, and all I could think of was what she was thinking every time she saw me…perhaps asking the Universe why I was alive and her brother wasn’t.  And every time I saw her I kept asking the same question.

Last year when I started this blog, I was looking for a quote from Robert Kennedy to close out a post.  I came across something RFK quoted from the Greek poet Aeschylus at Martin Luther King’s funeral:

“And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair and against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God”

What Bobby was trying to tell those gathered in the Church and the Nation was that although we might not understand why that happened, and the pain it caused us; there was a reason for it and it would be revealed in time.  That eventually the pain of the loss will go away, and from it something new will come.

I was struck as if hit by lightning.  In that very moment, my guilt began to wash away and the pain of having survived the attacks began to abate…for I had finally begun to forgive myself.  For all the pain I had caused my family, for all the pain I had been through…I began to forgive myself…and thus begin to slowly live my life again.  The key had been turned and the circle closed, for that part of my life was finished; now I have to deal with what is coming and I do that a day at a time.  I do that by trying to be the best human being I can be on a daily basis, and sometimes I fall miserably short in that lofty goal…but I am human after all.  There is always tomorrow…and why I was spared I may never know; but I have a tomorrow…and that is all I can ask for.


One Year On…

One year ago, I started this blog with the intention of trying to change the world one word at a time.  Well, at least my little corner of the world.  I think I might have succeeded on some levels, certainly on a personal one.  I tried to blog as much as I could; most especially during the election, once or twice a day.  Lately, I’ve been ill and it was the end of the summer, so I took some time off to spend with my kids before they went back to school…but I have a lot of free time back on my hands right now, so I’ll be posting at least three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.  I might even pull a column from the past as a reprint on the other days of the week, especially if it deals with current events.

I have to admit, bloging is an interesting experience; you just sit down with a blank canvas and “go” on some days; and on others it’s like pulling teeth.  That’s why I am not a great believer in forcing a post on a daily basis; if it’s taking me that long to write something, then it’s not worth posting because chances are it’s of low quality.  (Although I have to admit a few times I did post that sort of stuff and incredibly people loved it.  Maybe I’m too hard on myself).  It’s been great talking about everyday events and trying to put a funny spin on them, or writing about an historic election that I must admit at times had me pulling my hair out (and thank God I have plenty of that left).  I also loved being able to share some of my philosophy and beliefs in the Universe with you, and if I touched something in you along the way then I was doing my job.  That’s what writers do: we are SUPPOSED to touch something inside you, make you feel a certain way or think twice about your own beliefs…at least that’s the way I see it.

I also started this blog one year ago in a very different place than I am now.  I was at the verge of accepting what happened to me on 9/11 and the results thereafter.  I was definitely at a crossroads, and this blog helped me to focus myself on what had to be done personally and hopefully professionally as I embark on writing a novel.  The past few months have been rather a lull for me creatively and personally, and sometimes that can be a good thing.  You take the time to enjoy and appreciate your family.  You take the time to get ideas and get some sketches down on paper.  More importantly, you interact with your friends and other human beings more instead of furiously typing away at the Mac.  All of these things combine to refresh the spirit and create a new beginning.  So now I am ready for the next phase of what has to be done in my life…and this blog is certainly a part of it.  Hopefully, you’ll stick around for the ride…just make sure you fasten your seatbelt!

Special Note: Tomorrow I will be re-printing a piece that I wrote a few days after 9/11 that kind of went viral back then and every year that I reprint it, it does the same.  It’s my first hand account of what happened to me on that horrible day 8 years ago, but it’s also accompanied my my current thoughts on the event.  I hope you’ll read it again, or for the first time; it’s one of the pieces of writing that I am most proud of.  It’s unfortunate that it had to come from such incredible events…then again, when you are witness to history, sometimes you have to tell your piece of the tale so that no one will forget that day and so that it will never happen again.

I Was A Teenage Socialist!

30 years ago when I was a youngster of 18 attending a small college in Vermont, I registered to vote in that state.  At the time, my politics was very left-leaning, and my grade advisor (who was only in his 20’s with a PhD and two Masters) was an unabashed fan of jazz and he was also a registered Socialist.  I learned a lot from him over the two years I was at that school; so over drinks or coffee (usually with Miles Davis as the soundtrack), we would both bemoan the fact that Ronald Reagan was President and that any chance at a serious Progressive agenda was DOA.  The vast tentacles of the Right were infiltrating every portion of my life, most especially in denying me the Guaranteed Student Loan for my 3rd and 4th years of college, because my father made too much money; which is why I had to change schools (and eventually my major from Political Science to Journalism).  But back in 1979, influenced by my ideals and hatred of Republicans (Nixon’s resignation just shook me to the core) I signed a piece of paper that made me a card-carrying member of the Vermont Socialist Party.

You see, it’s quite simple.  I believe in single payer Health Care for all Americans.  I believe in single payer Education for all Americans up to and including a Bachelor’s Degree.  I do not believe in the Death Penalty except in cases of Crimes Against Humanity.  I believe in a woman’s right to do as she chooses with her own body (quite a Libertarian view in fact) as well as access to the same salaries as their male counterparts.  I do not believe in the United States being the Policeman of the world (yet another Libertarian view).  When I had to register for Selective Service (we were the first to do so along with those born in 1978), in large black marker I wrote on my application, “Conscientious Objector”.  I organized protests at an all-boys Catholic High school (something not easily done), most of them “silent” by us choosing not to do something and doing something else.  I wrote a rather unflattering letter to the Editor just prior to my graduation; about recent events in the school that caused the administration to deny us a Senior Day.  They wanted me to edit it myself and to tone it down in tenor…I refused.  They published it anyway, and I still hear about it from my classmates.

So you see, by registering a Socialist, I codified my beliefs under one umbrella; the beliefs that were already there but needed a name to unify them.  The beliefs of Socialists clearly reflected my views at the time, and I proudly became one.

As the years wore on, I became a Registered Democrat and then a Registered Independent, as I started to vote for the candidate rather than the party…which I till do.  Only now, I am a proud Registered Democrat.  I did so last year in order to support Barack Obama in his quest for the White House.  This too came as a decision based on several years of being a free soul thanks to being downsized in 2004.  Yes, I was also disabled; but in the quest to find myself, I awakened those core principles which had remained buried for so long.  I took my new found life experiences and codified them under the Democratic umbrella…and here I am today.

I sit poised to remember something horrible that happened in my life 8 years ago, as the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center loom on the horizon just 7 days from now.  But what happened to me was that out of those ashes and flames, I was born anew.  I have my mental (and now physical) challenges directly (or perhaps indirectly) related to that day; challenges I face on a daily basis.  But I have become more open in my heart, and more willing to allow my Humanity to shine through in a way that has never shone through me before.  The fact of the matter is, I give a damn.

And this is what motivates me politically.  This is what and who I am now.  I have come full circle…and although I have a label on me politically, I am so much more than that.  I wonder how many Republicans can say that, now that their once great Party has been taken over by zealots and wing nuts?

“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.” – Alexander Hamilton

Silens Haud Diutius

Just under a year ago I started this blog as a means of expressing my personal and political opinions, mostly about the forthcoming election.  It’s clear mandate was to put a Progressive Pragmatic voice “out there” on the web in the hope that some like minded souls would read it and perhaps link to it or pass it on to others.  While I have succeeded on many levels, I have clearly failed on one very important level: to MAINTAIN that Pragmatic Progressive voice on a regular basis.  Many things contributed to this, among them work on my novel and my health, but for a time, this blog was causing a bit of a stir and some controversy.  I became complacent with the election of Barack Obama, thinking that perhaps important legislation that was stalled in Congress for years would get passed now that there was a Democratic Majority.  It hasn’t.  I thought the open hostility and racism that ran rampant in the McCain/Palin camp would simply go away because it was agitated by a few right wing lunatics.  It hasn’t.  Instead what has happened was more gridlock, and open rascist hostility toward The President Of The United States.  I have seen tactics used by the Right to silence ANY form of progressive thought, speech and action in Town Halls.  I have seen members of Congress on both sides of the aisle become blatant in their being beholden by the Health Insurance industry and no one giving a damn.  And worse, I have said nothing.

But I shall remain silent no longer.

This nation, in fact, this very planet; is about to go through marked change which will shape the course of Humanity for generations to come.  We CANNOT exist in the manner in which we currently live; we CANNOT hate instead of taking care of one another, and we CANNOT stay divided by petty squabbles that have divided us for centuries.  We must surely learn to live together in peace, or we shall surely pass into the night consumed by the fire of our own making.  What’s more, those of us who see the path we need to take must organize better and not resort to complacency from our lawmakers who are bought and paid for by Corporations.  We must make others see as we do through common sense and an approach to governing and survival that has never been attempted before.  We cannot wait for anyone else to do this for us…we must, we will, and we can do it together…or not at all.

Courage.  Justice.  Freedom.  Humanity.

All of these describe what is necessary…but the most important of these is courage, for without that nothing else can fall into place.  We must have the courage to shun those who continue to propagate racism in all of its forms, and yet remember that as flawed as they are that they are a part of Humanity too.  They are frightened, for they know nothing else than what has been taught them for generations.  We must have the courage to organize and make our numbers count because we know that there are more of us out there trying to save this planet and this species than those who seek to destroy it.  They just have the louder voice.

We are not alone.  We must seek each other out.  The time has come to try and save this place we call Earth…and it begins by our not being silent any longer.

And that starts with me.

SHOW ME THE HEALTH CARE!

For the past several weeks, you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing.  That is because I am sick.  REALLY sick.

I am currently on Disability due to Acute PTSD that was a direct result of 9/11.  I am also bi-polar.  This, you guys have all been familiar with as I write about them all the time.  I manage my life around them slowly and surely, and have also overcome alcoholism over the past three years.  That was of my own disastrous choosing, but with a lot of help and Grace and Redemption, I overcame that as well.

Years ago, I used to climb mountains…literally.  I would use ropes, hike trails, hang out on ledges…all because it was the most incredible high I ever have gotten without the aid of any drug or drink.  On one of those climbs, I injured my back and had to make an arduous trek down Mount Mansfield.  Luckily, we were near a trail that the CCC had paved out in the 30’s, and instead of going back blazing our own I slowly descended using what normal, sane individuals used to go up the mountain.  I eventually got over my injuries after lying flat on my back for a day or so and drinking lots of vodka accompanied by Tylenol #4 with codeine that the campus infirmary so graciously gave me.  The damage to two of my lower vertebrae in my spine was done, however.

Throughout my 20’s and into my 30’s, my back would give out, and I would be shuffling around like some Quasimodo for sometimes up to two weeks at a time.  The last time this occurred prior to my recent bout was in my mid-30’s, and for years nothing else happened.  No pain.  Nothing.  I thought that perhaps somehow my back had corrected itself and I was out of the woods.  Then one day last year on a late May evening, I saw stars.  Galaxies, in fact.  The pain came from nowhere, and it was more intense than ever this time…and it happened for no good reason.  It just HAPPENED.  I made the emergency call to my Doctor who called in a prescription to get through the weekend before I could see him on Monday.  Next thing I know I’m going through a set of X-Rays, and an MRI and seeing an Orthopedist.

Yup, those two discs had returned to haunt me.  We tried traction, exercise, everything over the course of the year…nothing worked.  The latest MRI showed what indicated a loss of the spongy areas that separate the vertebrae in my back in several other spots this time…in other words, my back was getting worse.  I’ve had a blood test taken, and I’m waiting for my results to be officially told to me by my Doctor (although I know that the anemia indicated doesn’t represent anything fatal like it could have).  But all of this happened, suddenly and out of the blue without warning.

It can happen to anyone, it can happen to YOU.

I’m covered under my wife’s insurance policy, and I’m also covered by Medicare because of my disability.  Had I been employed and somehow changed jobs, my new insurer could have refused to cover me for any of these conditions.  In other words, I’d be broke and suffering…just like so many Americans are.  Now, I’m just suffering; and at least I’m getting through this with a modicum of expense.  Between co-pays my office visits and drugs run about $200 a month.  That is STILL a nice chunk of change, but I estimated one time how much that would have cost me without insurance or Medicare, and I figured somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 A MONTH.

And people say we don’t need Universal Health Care in this country?

How many others are in the same boat as I and are left untreated?  How many others are shelling out full price for services and have to choose between eating, a roof over their head, the power being on, or medicine for their ailments?  How many people in this country have absolutely no insurance and are refused care because they have none?  Why is it that the most powerful nation in the world, the richest and most generous, cannot be generous with its own people?  Follow the money, folks…it’s all about insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, and elected officials beholden to these special interests.  SHOW ME THE MONEY!

And we come to a point in this country’s history where we are at a crossroads; where we must START down the road of Universal Healthcare.  The President is asking Congress to develop a plan that would allow affordable health care for every person in this country.  Not only that, you could not be denied coverage and if necessary the government would pay for you (we do already with those who go to the ER and skip out on the bill) if you could not afford it.  A Government run plan would COMPETE with private plans…you know, like a basic capitalist principle that the Republicans and Democrats who oppose even the CHOICE of a Government option don’t want YOU to have.  Because it’s all about the money.  It’s all about how rich people can get off human misery and suffering, how we are reduced to numbers and filed away somewhere so that the rich get richer, and the divide grows even more between those who have and those who have not.

All we need is a CHOICE for a Government run plan or a private one.  No one wants to take away your existing plan if you like it.  No one wants to deny you services, or doctors, or operations.  What WE need to do is make it clear to our Elected Officials that enough is enough…that it is time we are treated like Human Beings and with dignity.  It is time to end this barbaric practice of parasitic politics at the expense of the suffering.  Say it loud, say it strong, and say it clear…

SHOW ME THE HEALTHCARE!

“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.” – Number 6 from “The Prisoner”

OK…So Where Do I Stand?

Throughout these past 10 months of blogging, I’ve said a lot of controversial things.  I have espoused my Liberal beliefs in certain areas, and I have some Libertarian views as well.  So let’s run down the laundry list to see where I stand on the issues of the day:

HEALTH CARE: I believe in Universal Healthcare for all Americans, plain and simple.  Every American has the inalienable right to maintain good health, and it is the Government’s responsibility as part of its charter to provide that essential human service to its citizens.  There should, however; be a private choice allowed for those individuals who can afford Health Care through private insurance policies and who want elective surgery provided that might not be available under a government plan.

EDUCATION: Every American has the right to a free Education up to and including a Bachelor’s Degree.  It is the only way this nation can compete with other nations in business, technology, and and science.  What you do with your education, how you compete for a job AFTER you have completed your studies is up to you.  This way, all people will eventually have the same point at which to compete after a number of years of having every citizen educated and armed with a Bachelor’s Degree.

THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS: “From my cold, dead hands”, Charlton Heston once said.  And I agree.  The Founding Fathers put the Second Amendment in the Constitution for a reason: so that we have the ability to overthrow a Government gone awry.  It has NEVER been used for that, and God willing it never will be.  The moment guns are taken away from the people, The Government OWNS the people.  The People cannot fight back. Yes, there should be certain restrictions such as a waiting period for certain weapons, and background checks to ensure that unstable individuals don’t get control of a weapon.  I also do not believe in a Concealed Weapon Law; in fact, I believe that if you are packing, you MUST wear it exposed on your person.  I don’t know about you, but if I see someone packing heat, I’m not going near him.  I have chosen not to own a weapon, but I will sure as hell not prevent anyone from obtaining one legally.

ENGLISH AS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF THE UNITED STATES: English MUST be the official language of the United States.  All government documents MUST be in English.  All schools MUST teach in English.  All Immigrants MUST be taught English.  You can maintain your melting pot at home and with your friends; but all business MUST be conducted in ENGLISH.  Plain and simple.   Just look at Canada: they have two official languages in French and English and they will TEACH you BOTH as an immigrant.  It works well for them and for other nations in the world; it’s about time we established English officially as our spoken language.

TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY: I believe in a woman’s right to choose to carry a baby to term or not.  For the Government to interfere in such a personal matter is unconscionable.  I personally do not like abortion; my opinion of this changed drastically as I saw my first child being born.  I would like to see more adoptions, and certainly more contraception covered my medical insurance (which would happen under a government plan).  Prevention of unwanted pregnancies reduces the number of abortions, a very simple equation.

MARRIAGE: I believe that any consenting adult (age dependent upon each State) may get married; be it heterosexual or homosexual.  All legal spousal rights apply.  Love transcends the bodies our souls happen to inhabit; it deserves to be allowed to flourish.  There is too much misery in this world already.  Also, the Government does not belong in an individuals bedroom…PERIOD.  Govern, not gawk…please!  Churches however reserve the right in accordance with their own beliefs to sanctify a marriage within religious bounds.  This the Government may not in any way override in accordance with Amendment One.  Civil marriages however, MUST be permitted IN ALL STATES WITHOUT EXCEPTION…and yes, call it MARRIAGE, because that is what it is.

EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK: All people regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation MUST get the same pay in the same job.

DEATH PENALTY: I do not believe in the death penalty, except in the case of Crimes Against Humanity.  If a Napoleon (who escaped exile once) or Hitler were to rise again, imprisonment might allow their followers to free that individual to begin their reign of terror again.  It is just to kill an individual who threatens the human race.  On the other hand, murderers who commit their heinous crime that do not fall under this clause should NOT be put to death.  Instead, they should be placed in a cell with no form of communication, no books, nothing…in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives with no chance for parole.  There may be no family visits.  If evidence is found that they were wrongly convicted, they would be freed and appropriate restitution given.  It would indeed be a form of “living death” and a fitting end.  If that alone does not deter you from committing the crime, I don’t know what would.

LEGALIZE MARIJUANA: It is less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes, not physically addictive (although mentally is another matter), and may even have medicinal purposes.  Have the FDA manufacturer it, sell it, distribute it, and tax it. Guess what’s going to pay for a lot of social programs, my friends?  Lots of happy people doing bong hits, that’s what.  Some would argue that all forms of drugs be legalized, I do not.  I have seen with my own eyes what everything from alcohol to heroin can do to people; it is a horror.  No; alcohol, hashish, marijuana are fine; anything else should remain illegal.

THE MILITARY: The military should remain a completely volunteer force.  We have professional soldiers, all of them great men and women who give of themselves to serve their country.  ALL AMERICANS HAVE THE RIGHT TO JOIN THE MILITARY, REGARDLESS OF RACE, CREED, RELIGION, SEX, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION.  In other words, I support gays serving in the Armed Forces.

I’m sure I’ll think of more…but here’s the start of my laundry list.

The Ring Means Something

I wear this white gold ring on the third finger of my left hand.  Inscribed inside are the words, “Always and Forever July 17, 1993”.  When I first put on that wedding band, I swore it would not come off my finger.  Nothing was going to break that promise I gave to my wife on that beautiful summer day in 1993…nothing.  And she has been MORE up to the task of upholding those vows than I ever could have dreamed.  We’ve been through richer and poorer, sickness and health together.  I honestly don’t understand why she stayed with me after my bi-polar PTSD addled drunken escapades over the years, but she did.  And I love her even more for it.  We’re two of a dying breed it seems.

Two nights ago, the very famous Jon and Kate announced they were getting divorced.  Just a few minutes ago, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina announced he’s been having an affair.  The bastard left his wife and kids over the weekend (on Father’s Day, no less) to go to Argentina to conduct a little “personal business”.  The worst part about it is his wife KNEW about the affair.  What political spouses will put up with these days, just in case they get into the White House.  Nice to see that the political party of “family values” continues its proud tradition of maintaining extramarital affairs.  Outside of the Obamas, I honestly think that the last happy marriage in politics was Ron and Nancy Reagan.  You can see the honesty in these two marriages as opposed to (let’s say) the convenience of the Clintons’.

It’s inevitable that people will change over the years; that’s a given.  But always deep down is the person you first fell in love with, and that is something that time NEVER changes.  It’s often burred in the Present making the Future with that person that much harder to see.  God only knows the storms my wife and I have been through, but we work things out…and it’s not just “for the kids”…it’s for US, because if our relationship isn’t working, than what good are we to our children?  Furthermore, it’s detrimental to each of us as individuals if our partnership isn’t working.

My friends all have varying track records when it comes to marriage.  My best friend has been married three times, and is SO much happier the third time around.  Another friend has been married twice and she’s gone through hell both times and is only recently starting to live her life again.  Still another friend celebrates her 20th wedding anniversary today.  Almost all of my friends (outside of my brother, myself, my daughter’s Godparents, sister-in-law,  and the aforementioned anniversary celebrant) have been divorced at least once.  One of my friends just became a widower.  I’ve been there with these guys through all the events that lead up to the unhappy separations (ranging from just complete incompatibility to having their wife run off with someone they met on the Internet).  Then I look at why my marriage is so strong and why we’ve stayed together…one simple word: love.

I knew damned well that if I didn’t stop drinking, not only would I be dead somewhere down the line, but I would have also been a dead divorcée.  I stopped because I had to and because I loved my wife more than I loved the booze…but it took a while for me to get there.  I loved the booze more than anyone or anything for a very long time, but in the end it was my wife and my love for this remarkable human being that won out.  Not everyone is so fortunate, be they an alcoholic or someone who suddenly finds that they wake up one morning and realize they no longer love the person laying next to them.  Marriage is a tough thing; no one gave you a manual nor told you it was going to be easy.  The only words you were given were those vows; and every single word means something and should be taken seriously.

So here we have the very public divorce of one celebrity couple (and don’t even get me started on these two, because that’s best left for another post); and who knows what will happen with the good Governor.  Looks like while he was rejecting an economic stimulus package for his State, he sure as hell had his own personal stimulus package that he was more than willing to accept.

I sure as hell hope he wasn’t planning to live in any houses that were white recently; because it looks like a nice brick one will do nicely.

“For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked.” – Bill Cosby

You Are Not Alone…Yes You Can!

To my Brothers and Sisters in Iran:

You are not alone.  The American People stand with you, although our Government remains silent on the matter.  They are playing the usual game of Political Brinkmanship, while you are fighting for your lives and your Freedom.  You have had your election stolen from you much in the same way we had ours taken from us in 2000…and look where that led.  When the voice of the People is heard loud and clear; when you march in solidarity…we will be there with you.  We will ALWAYS be with ANYONE who is fighting for their Freedom.  Do not stop marching, protesting, and taking back your nation.

Among all things, do not despair.  There is always hope, and justice, and freedom in the hearts and minds of all men and women on this planet.  It must be awakened.  You have awakened, and are now lighting the torch of freedom for all of the world to see.  The Internet is carrying your message throughout all Nations despite the mainstream media’s complacence or denial of the situation.  We are passing the light from your torch from one blog to the next as a sign of solidarity.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  WE ARE WITH YOU IN SPIRIT.  YES, YOU CAN!

“2.193. And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. But if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” – The Holy Koran

PLEASE PASS THIS BLOG POST ALONG, TRACKBACK, AND COPY IF NECESSARY INTO YOUR OWN BLOG AS A SIGN OF SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE FIGHTING FOR THEIR FREEDOM IN IRAN.

…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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOO BOO!

…And They Want To Talk About Torture, Huh?

So…where have I been lately?  Good question.

One of the things that I have learned in my 48 years on this planet is that the Universe has many constants.  The polarity of a hydrogen molecule is always the same.  To our knowledge, the speed of light cannot be exceeded (unless of course, you enjoy looking like a big, flat, infinite pancake).  Old Faithful erupts between 42-125 minutes every day.  And I have learned to tell what the weather will be and what time of day it is by the pain in my back.  Yes, I can not only tell you if you should bring an umbrella, but if you’re late for an appointment (so long as your appointment is scheduled during my own pain eruption times of 5-6 hours when my medication wears off).  Trust me on this.

As most of you know, I used to do dumb, stupid things in my youth: driving cars while on LSD; jumping off cliffs into a river just for the hell of it; and most daring of all, I used to climb and hike…mountains.  Not knolls, nor hills, nor even big piles of dirt and rock…mountains.  You see, while everyone else I knew in college was busy skiing (I went to school in Vermont for a time); I decided that I liked the feeling of having some sort of control over the force of gravity rather than having me careen out of control down a frozen, snowy, adult version of a slip and slide.  I decided that facing the mountain head on by going up and then down by the force of sheer will was much better than doing a Sonny Bono on the links.  On one of my frequent excursions, I took a bit of a fall and landed square on my backside…operative word being “back”.  I now have two degenerative discs in my lower back that cause my almost daily pain as a result of my youthful indiscretions and adventurous spirit.

So last week as the first heavy spring rains came upon the Great State of New Jersey and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, I was seeing entire constellations of stars at two in the afternoon.  It was like when Bugs Bunny gets his over the head and things start spinning around his cranium.  They want to talk about “enhanced interrogation techniques”?  All they have to do is somehow siphon the pain from my back into a patch, and this so-called War On Terror (or whatever it is these days we call it) would be over in minutes.  Metallica at ear splitting volume; sleep deprivation; confinement; and other nefarious techniques used by the previous occupants of the White House would pale in comparison to one of “Doctor Ken’s Back Pain Patches”.  Trust me, this is not what I bargained for when I came into this world 48 years ago.  I also didn’t bargain for alcoholism, bi-polar disorder, and Acute PTSD either…but those were my cards in the hand I got dealt.  This one, though was the deuce of clubs from the pack when I was running a royal straight flush of diamonds.

Sure, I could type…but what good would it have done?  I was too busy enjoying my Pink Floyd collection thanks to those very nice pain killers every time I sat here to write this blog.  My Yes collection never sounded this good.  In other words, there was no way a coherent thing was going to come forth from this keyboard.  So I stayed away from the blog.  Oh yeah, and there was TOO MUCH to write about as well!  Could you really expect me to focus on ONE topic in the past week or two without going crazy?  Pandemic Flu, wars, Chrysler going bust…these were just too much.  Add to that the syncopated pandemonium of my daughter’s First Holy Communion Party (run in part by me, the non-Catholic in the house) no less; with my mother and my in-laws and kids and other assorted guests dithering about.  So as the weather improved, so did my back…and hence this post, all because I joked with my wife about being able to tell the time and the weather by my back.

Right now it’s almost midnight, and the front is moving in.  Yup, it’ll start raining by your commute on Friday morning.  My last dose of assorted M & Medications was taken just after dinner.  And I will gladly let in the “Spanish Inquisition”…so long as they bring along the comfy chair and the soft cushions.

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong