Raised by a Village

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not stray from it.

Proverbs 22:6

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child.  That village is the one that trains and nurtures a young impressionable child in the way which he will grow. Every member of the village has a part to play.  The parents provide comfort, sustenance, affection, training in the first social interaction.  Simple lessons, like there are rules and most of them are for you own good.  Some rules are for the good of the family and maintaining harmony.  As interaction expands, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors begin to influence development.  Ideas of standing in the community develop.  Playmates teach lessons about fairness and competition, team work in play, and peer pressure.  School is the first real expansion of social boundaries, people from other neighborhoods interact, expanding the village.  Education expands the mind at the same time, it opens doors and new avenues of growth.  Jobs and first employers  teach a new set of values and responsibility.  Things have a cost and you must earn wages and respect.  The Village grows, raising the child is an investment in the future.

village

The problem is that some of our children are being raised by a village of idiots.  Parents, who to often are children themselves fail to parent.  If the child is lucky, a grandparent, aunt or uncle will step in and provide some sense of guidance, but mostly it’s neglect.  Lacking a safe environment, the child is raised by the most elemental standard, survival of the fittest, strongest.  The pack mentality, establishes hierarchy and group acceptance is the same as survival.   The classroom becomes another cage, replacement for parenting, built in babysitters.  Of course the babysitter can’t teach or discipline, laws don’t allow that.  And, no one is allowed to fail, so they are never pushed to try.

Today, we can’t ignore the influence of mass and social media.  Adults influence youth to be like them, strong, profane, powerful, sexual.  Grown-up thoughts and actions that young minds and bodies are poorly equipped to deal with.  These same adults, deny their responsibility for the impact they have, claiming to only be telling the truth or blaming the parents for not taking a greater role.  Peers can instantly judge and ridicule on Facebook, Twitter, Snap-chat and similar sites.  So, we have a new word; Cyber-bullying.

Children are smart.  They learn their lessons well and quickly.  Those early lessons set the course of a life time.  It takes an extraordinary person to rise above their training.  To be more.  To break the mold.  We learn by imitation, mimicry and playing the parts of others.   After a certain point, the child becomes an adult and chooses the village they will live in.  The go where they are comfortable and know how to survive and prosper.

It hurts my heart to see so many living in broken villages, continuing in the same circle that created them.  It offends me to think that we are propping up these villages and allowing the same backwards lessons to be taught to the next generation.  It falls on deaf ears when someone tells me that it is my responsibility to raise the child instead of the parents.  Because the proverb is right, it takes a village to raise the child, but it begins in the home.

 

art by Barbara Keith Design

The Sh!t That Comes Out of My Mouth

Some how I don’t ever expect to have a collection of The Wit and Wisdom of Me.  First, much of it would have to be edited for profanity and that just takes the flavor away.  I learned from some of the best (read most profane) men in the field.  Second, I believe I amuse myself more than others most of the time.  Finally, I’m not sure how much wisdom there would be stuffed into the pages.  Really, most of what I do is pass on nuggets that I picked up along the way.

A teaching moment…

I was a young Corporal in the Army.  Hardcore, fit, motivated and always trying to be first at everything.  The battalion was out training on Fort Bragg, night land navigation course in preparation for an upcoming evaluation.  Just before dawn, I came charging out of a Carolina draw, filled with stumps and blackberry vines that would have stopped a Hummer.  Command Sergeant Major Zelka was standing there waiting for me with a hot cup of coffee in his hand.  My uniform was dirty and torn.  I looked like I tried to stop the worlds largest cat fight and just gotten mauled.

“Corporal Monahan,” He said with patient exasperation, “do you know the difference between hard and stupid?”

I completely missed it.  “No, Sergeant Major.”

“When you figure it out, let me know,” as he watched the Sergeant coming in second behind me, walking down the center of the road.

scarecrow

In the same vein, I was talking to my eldest child.  The apple of my eye was explaining why college was unnecessary because she is smart enough.  Going to college is just a waste of time and money, sitting in a classroom listening to people talk for hours about something that could be covered in about fifteen minutes.  “Yes, Honey.  You’re pretty smart.  It runs in the family.” I replied modestly. “But, there’s a difference between smart and educated.”

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the shit that comes out of my mouth actually makes sense.

A Soverign King

Self-Determination and Public Acclaim

sneetch

** I had to stop writing during the campaign.  All I could do was rant and vent.  That’s no good, so I took a break.  This is one of the pieces I started before the nonsense. **

I have, this day, by my own might and God given authority, declared myself King Robert the First.  I am all things just and wise, provider to my subjects, guardian and lord protector.  My boundaries are clearly marked by a river of flowing black rock, a mighty escarpment of linked steel, and not so harrowing ravine.  I admit that my kingdom is found within the borders of another nation, state, county and city.  So what?  I identify myself a Sovereign King!  If you refuse to acknowledge me as I identify, you will suffer my wrath and a slew of law suits.

The media fueled gender bender, you must identify me as I see myself crap is as ridiculous as me declaring myself king.

How we choose to live our lives is a personal decision.  Forcing others to accept those decisions crosses a line from self-determination to domination.  The same goes for the Trans-gender bathroom debate.  Despite the media definition, gender is a determination of outward genetic expression.  “Yes, Honey.  Boys and girls have different parts because that’s the way God/nature/the universe wants it to be.”  That expression does not change simply because you think God made a mistake.

Since our language has not caught up to the current transition state of our genders, maybe we can find a compromise title or simply omit titles in any case where confusion exists.  I’m sure this will offend part of the 0.3 percent of the population that struggle with this everyday.  It also offends part of the 99.7 percent that are being attacked for not being sensitive enough to their changing gender identities.  If you are honest enough to admit it, sometimes it’s hard to tell which way the gender arrow is pointing.

I think Dr. Seuss was trying to tell us something with the Star Bellied Sneetches.   We just get so wrapped up with other people accepting us, the way we want to be seen that we forget it doesn’t matter.  If you strong enough to decide for yourself that you are supposed to be someone or something else; why the hell do you need anyone else to approve?

I Would Like to Say

I was browsing a few other articles this morning and came across one that I wanted to comment on.  It was about a reaction to a poorly written piece about adoption and mixed race families.  The point that struck me was how violently one author attacked the other.  While I agreed that the first article was poorly written, the second never seemed to rise above the rant and and accusations of racism level.

The comments also seemed fairly homogeneous for so charged a topic.  Most were the supportive or affirmative stuff I’ve come to expect.  Great article. Well written.  I couldn’t agree more.  Maybe only those who were interested enough to write a comment, but I doubt it.  I wrote one and didn’t seem to make it past the sensors.  Yes, I checked.

For a people who claim to want to do away with racism, we seem reluctant to talk about it.  How can we get past a problem when we act like it is only coming from one side?  Does anyone actually believe that if you are black or another minority, that you can not be a racist?  If so, someone, please, give me the new definition of racism and discrimination.

I would like to say that if you are expecting all of the work to come from one side and get this problem fixed, you are an idiot.  That would somehow be viewed as racist, even though it goes for everyone.

I would like to say there is an easy solution.  There is nothing easy about changing minds and beliefs.  It takes work, understanding and accommodation from everyone.

I would like to say that there are intelligent debates going on and progress is being made.  It doesn’t look that way.  To many of the loudest voices on all sides of the conversation are only partially educated.  Or worse, actively deluding themselves about the facts.  To hell with it.  I’m going to go put my feet up and ignore the world for a while.  If that offends you, too damn bad.

War

hamas

I was staring at my book shelves trying to be inspired this morning and noticed something.  There are a lot of books about war there.  My Sci-Fi collection is a who’s who of daring do in camouflage, armor and space suits.  For military reference, I have collected most of the major works.  The sections on religion and psychology are to better understand the way groups think.  Economics are a part of war and society.  Even my favorites from the classics have conflict.  All of that is understandable when you consider what I have done for most of my life.

What I don’t have are a lot of self-help books or feel good easy readers.  I’ve tried a couple and even kept “Siddhartha” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” because they are good stories in their own right.  There are no magic pills or philosophies that can cure the world.  Governments can’t give enough to lift everyone out of poverty.  We cannot all embrace the one true god, simply because we can’t agree on how we are supposed to pray to him and what his rules are.  I don’t believe there are any simple answers.  People are to diverse and selfish to have easy answers.

This brings us back to war.  War is not evil.  The effects can be tragic.  The loss of life seems pointless.  Financial cost are ruinous to at least one of the parties.  For all that they are fought by nations, states and religious or political entities only a fraction of the population actually gets involved in the fighting.  Collateral damage means that those near the fighting suffer the same fate as the soldiers.  Lives and homes are ripped away by buzzing clouds of fire and steel, by Generals trying to reduce to overall cost of war.  The perverse logic of combat being the faster you destroy your enemies ability to fight, the less damage you inflict in the long run.

As a world spanning civilization are we slower to go to war than 100 years ago? Would the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have launched a devastating reprisal, holding Saudi Arabia responsible for the actions of it’s citizens?  Probably not, another thing that has changed is our ability to project force around the world.  The decision cycle is dramatically shorter, too.  In the early 1900’s it still took information days to cross the continent.  We didn’t have a standing Army large enough to confront another nation.  Gathering and shipping supplies around the world would have taken, as it did, the mobilization of most of the countries population.  Additionally, the 250,000 Soldiers, Sailors and Marines would have been required to stay there for the duration.  No.  I don’t believe our response would have been the same.

Something about war.  It is cathartic, purging.  The anger and outrage are washed away in the blood and bodies left on the battlefield.  The ultimate punishment delivered to the faceless enemy by shattering a nation.  Now, we even have national remorse and survivors guilt.  PTSD on a massive social scale.  We feel so overwhelmed that we help rebuild their shattered infrastructure.  An extension of the Marshall Plan, to put the people back to work.  What happens is that US contracting companies hire local unskilled labor and only introduce short lived fiscal stimulation that leaves worse behind later.

We want good intentions and self-restraint to be our hallmarks.  Instead it’s like watching the little kids try to gang up on the big kid on the playground.  When the big kid fights back, the protest is against the victim for defending themselves.  Restraint is well and good if it produces results.  In war it only draws out the conflict by allowing the little kids to think they are capable of beating the big kid.  After the fight, the big kid helps the “poor victim” back to his house, only to be berated by Mom.

We should be who we are.  We became a world power and super power by working harder than anyone else.  We have limited friends, unless we pay for them.  We are resented and despised on a global scale.  Pretending anything else isn’t real politic, it is just stupid.

Scattered, Smothered, Covered and…

hash

I’ve tried to write a few times over the last week, but can’t seem to stay on topic.  You know, the opposite of writers block.  Just a mess of whatever comes out. Huddle House hash browns, scattered and smothered.  Sure it’s great at 3 A.M. after you’ve been out drinking at the club, but it has to come back out sometime.  Usually at 5:30, when the room starts spinning and you can’t make it to the bathroom.

With all the subjects in the news, drawing comment and outrage from all sectors, where do I begin.  How can we make something as simple and universal as going to the bathroom difficult.  If you Google it, between 0.2 and 0.3 per cent of Americans face this problem.  Why can’t it just be as simple as: You’re rights end where mine begin.  99.7 per cent of the population are seeing laws passed to force everyone accommodate 0.3 per cent.  It’s in the same category as same sex marriage.  I don’t care who you love, have sex with or want to share a bitter divorce with.

The Presidential elections are starting to feel like Russian Roulette.  No matter who wins in the end, everyone loses.  The echoes of “Never Trump” and “Never Hillary”, come at me across all media, along with the inevitable “He/she is a liar and is only out for their own good”.  Minorities are being vote harvested by promising that if I’m elected, I’ll give you more and warned that if the other gut is elected you will lose everything.  The pandering is just embarrassing.

If the protesters continue gather and become violent, will they try to interfere with the freedom to vote?  What will it look like on the nightly news when National Guard and Police have to stand outside polling sites, just to ensure freedom of access and protection?

Where is the tipping point of racial and religious tension, that pushes us past words and into intentional, organized, armed violence?  Tolerance has a limit.  When do the sheep, stop repeating what the Talking Heads say and start holding everyone accountable for their own actions and words.  When do the sheep recognize that their news is crafted to be entertaining first and accurate a distant second.

The hash browns have to come out one way or another.  Either way, it will look the same.  Somehow it will still look like something you shouldn’t have eaten at 3 A.M.  No wonder I can’t stay focused.  Now, I’m afraid of what it will be like when it comes out from the other end.

Enviromental Conditioning

snake

Another one of those video clips, that are supposed to illuminate the unequal treatment of Blacks in America, showed up on my computer again this morning.  It reminded me of another post from a Puerto Rican friend reminding everyone that he’s not Mexican so don’t wish him a “Happy Cinco de Mayo”.   Apparently islanders don’t celebrate Mexican Independence day.  For myself, I’ve learned to ignore the comments about skin-heads, neo-nazis and white racist crap.

It also reminded me of another article about camouflage and role models, the image we project to the world.  What is anyone to expect from a person, of any race, who projects an image of foul mouthed, disrespectful, unrestrained threat?  We are conditioned to react to threats by nature.  Fight or flight.  We are also conditioned by society to respond to others in kind.

Before anyone starts, yes, there are racists and assholes on both sides of the argument.  I’m not talking about the ones who have declared their allegiance and stupidity to credos based on skin pigment.  This is about everyday people who feel pressure and resentment over or through the acts of others.

I work in the inner city.  I see a lot of kids trying on the image of a street thug or criminal.  I recognize part of that coming from protecting an image in the community, protection from reprisal on the street.  When I run into this, they get a short lesson.

  1. If you want respect, give respect.
  2. Acting like a criminal gets you treated like a criminal until proven otherwise.
  3. You choose your role model and destiny.

It carries over.  The image of blacks has been blasted across the evening news, music videos, movie screens and the internet.  It is not the  image of Dr. King and his peace marches, or the scholars and doctors helping to change our world.  It’s the image of Al Sharpton’s race baiting rants, mobs of people rioting, looting and burning Baltimore, shooting each other in record numbers on the streets of Detroit and Chicago.  To few people have the perspective I enjoy, so they react predictably.  Fear the threat.

Back to the beginning.  The black community is being treated differently.  It is more from the image being broadcast to the world, than rampant racism.  The vocal minority is accelerating this through hype and hyperbole, peaceful encounters become violent, innocent bystanders are caught  in the mix and injured.  These groups are conditioning the world to fear them and it’s working.  The black communities are being isolated for protection.  Police are less likely to take risks confronting hostile groups.  Employers are discriminating over appearance and speech, assessing risks.  Fueling more complaints of racism.

An Indian woman found a rattle snake frozen in the snow.  She brought it into her home and nursed it back to health.  When it was healthy again, it bit her.  As she lay dying, she ask “Why?”

The snake answered, “Stupid Bitch.  You knew I was a snake.”

The Pit and the Pendulum

It doesn’t matter if we call it history repeating itself or action and reaction. Society, in general, goes through a pattern of extreme swings from conservatism to liberal thought in reaction to trends.  Post World War II, the Viet Nam era protests and Free Love movements were a sharp contrast to the nationalistic fervor of twenty years before.  Then the Regan years where we were proud to be American again.  The last twenty years have been confused.

The-pit-and-the-pendulum

We vacillate between pride in our nation, rallying behind the government and military and despising everything that we are or have been.  As a people we can not decide if we want to protect ourselves or lay down and die for our beliefs.  Worse, we fight among ourselves because Three Hundred Million people disagree on which we should be doing.  In effect, we weaken our ability to have different opinions, because eventually laying down to die means someone else will be left in our place.

I was watching the news and started having a vision of tomorrow.  Racial strife will tear a gaping hole in our nation, riots and murder will run in the streets.  Probably in the Democratic havens like Detroit and Chicago, because they have fought for so long to destroy the elements of law enforcement and justice.  When the local government can no longer placate the masses they will rise in protest and be violently suppressed by the state and federal government.  I can already hear the screams about Posse Comitatus by talking heads that have never read the Constitution.

In the aftermath, there will be those who point out that it was the weakening of the law that allowed the situation to develop in the first place.  We will swing back to the other side, capital crimes will be punished with capital punishment.  Hopefully, people will remember that they have to work for what the want.  Peace and prosperity will replace rampant crime and expectation of entitlements.

All the while I felt like the character from Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Pit and The Pendulum”.  Facing uncertainty only to awaken and find I am facing certain death, watching the pendulum swinging inexorably closer.  Somehow, I manage to escape that only to face walls closing in on me, pushing me to my death.  We hope to elect our own LaSalle, to rush in and save us at the last minute.  That’s the thing about good horror stories, they always leave you uncertain if you’ve really escaped at the end.

It’s taken us over two hundred years to swing back to the point of wanting someone else to be responsible for our lives.  The burden is to heavy.  We must need another King to determine the course of our lives and destiny.  By electing our new nobles, we relinquish authority to others.  Walking the center line is to difficult for us, somewhere between responsibility for ourselves and accepting the authority we relinquished to the government.

Procrastinating for the Future

pierced

I am supposed to be on my way to the gym, the modern version of labor and fitness, but I got distracted by my thoughts.  It was a simple thing at first.  Just a post about a random event in the news.  A little later, I was skimming Blog posts and found something about losing languages and cultures as the world moves towards a single culture.

Then, I tried to imagine it.  A single unified world, all speaking one language, eating a fusion cuisine that we can only imagine today.  My luck it will turn out to be some formless pap, that looks and tastes like cat food.  With the drift towards sameness, race and ethnicity will become meaningless.  The entire human race will become a Latte colored, medium dark haired, average build, bland copy covering the world.  Individual expression will be reduced to brightly colored shoes or body art.

I’m probably wrong about most of that, but it throws a lot of the news today into perspective.  We are ripping into each other over ignorant, pointless issues like race and skin color.  Language and arbitrary national borders are enough to kill over as we try to protect ourselves from outside danger.  Economics, politics and religion are being used to divide the world instead of unite it.

What’s the point?  In this distant future, when our equally bland colored descendants look back at where they came from and waggle their ears in sad confusion, none of this will matter.  The perspective of time will reduce most of what we do to pointlessness.  A dash of color or spice to dilute to change anything.

plane stunt

The point is it does matter today.  I won’t be here in the distant future, except as a tiny scrap of DNA and recycled atomic particles.  We have to live where and when we are.  It is vanity to assume anything we do will impact that distant future.  I hope someday one of my borderline insane descendants will hit the gym and shave their head before they go do something monumentally stupid.  First, because they still have the choice.  Second, because that little strand of DNA is still around to make the world at least a little interesting.

Not Quite 12 Steps (Addicted part II)

PTSD2At my worst, I was a basket case.  A rolling chassis with bits and pieces still hanging off and a bunch of pieces in a plastic bucket.  Probably an old five gallon pickle bucket with grease on the side.  I remember the absolute fear that would hit me when anyone asked me what was wrong.  “No!  I’m not ready!  I can’t even think about that.” How can you explain to someone what it’s like to hold the hand of another man while they died, from a wound they took following your orders?  Looking down the sights at a living person who is nothing more than a target.  It’s not even math anymore, at that point it’s just survival.

In the early stages of my counseling, I found a book by Dr. Abraham Twerski, “Addictive Thinking” (Hazelton Press, 1990).  It was on a discount rack in the mall and I just wanted something to read.  It turned into a personal guide to recovery.  As I read, there were constant points where I saw my own life in the pages.  Making excuses for my actions, trying to hide what I was doing from others, binging on rage and violence, shame and remorse in the aftermath.  There were even co-dependents and facilitators, family and friends who helped me make excuses.

The excuse, “no one else understands”, let me continue to associate with other PTSD Addicts.  There was comfort in their presence.  There is a real feeling of belonging and safety with others who had “been there”.  The same as with high risk behavior, it fed the disease.  Self-medicating out of a bottle or popping pain pills that some got hooked on after an injury.  Anything to numb the pain and let us pretend to be normal.  Denial is still denial, no matter how you dress it up.

How can there be a problem if I’m still able to function in society?  Sure, there are some rough spots.  Relationships are destroyed, but that happens to everyone.  New job?  Just a change of scenery, they didn’t like me being gone for a year, either.  Uncontrolled emotions.  Not a problem.  I can deal.

Step 1.  Admit that there is a problem.

That was the hardest part.  Like most addicts, it took a situation and moment of clarity, waking up with your belly on fire, head pounding, feeling your body dying from the abuse you’ve poured into it.  Admitting weakness, injury or not being strong enough is anathema to most soldiers.

Step 2.  Commit to the change every day.

You are going to have tough days and episodes no matter what you do.  Be prepared for them and dedicate yourself to getting better every day, some times every hour.

Step 3.   Be honest about what PTSD means and what it has done to you, your life and those who share your life.

Most of the people who love you haven’t been to war or shared the trauma, they can’t understand.  It is also true that they won’t have a chance to understand unless you try to explain.  Apologies are probably in order as well.  You’ve been through hell and put them through the hell of watching you suffer.

Step 4. Live the changed life.

You are trying to reprogram your brain.  It won’t happen over night or in the first few years.  You will have PTSD for the rest of your life.  The only way to avoid relapse is to change those things that are your personal triggers.

Step 5 (?).  Get help.

You can’t do this by yourself.  Find someone who you can trust and talk to.  It doesn’t have to be a professional but it does have t be someone who is committed to the process.  Another plus to professionals is detachment.  Your significant other can be easily hurt by what you say and do.  It is important that you be able to vent sometimes, more often in the early stages than the later ones.

Step 6.  Use the tools.

It’s stupid to try to tough it out unless you have to.  I don’t recommend meds because your body tends to adapt.  On top of that, you can’t reset your brain chemistry if you keep artificially adjusting it.  As a short term assist, they work to give you a break, room to catch your breath.  Not every therapy will work for you.  If you honestly try something and it doesn’t work, go to the next one.

There is so much more.  Faith.  Friends.  Catharsis.  Practicing trust and love.

For those who don’t fight this daily, pass it on.  There are 22 Veterans who lose the fight everyday and choose suicide.  That’s a little less than one an hour, almost a quarter of the daily suicide rate in the U.S. alone.

Help them keep fighting.