A little Nathan Hale…in you.

It has been remarked that “in times of war the national suicide rate goes down”, referring to the fact that the crazies are getting slaughtered by the enemy, rather than by themselves (if you’re asking who remarked this and when, take another look at the title of this post.)  Currently however, that trend has been further ridiculed by the fact that suicide rates for active-duty soldiers will probably exceed the national rate this year, an excess that has not occured in this country since Vietnam.

I would not necessarily consider myself a pacifist – I have too much of a temper – but I’m not a big fan of war.  I rather prefer countries to play nice with each other.  I would especially prefer not to be involved in a war that causes Americans to kill themselves, whether because of the severe conditions of the war itself, or from a lack of adequate support back home and between tours of duty.  It seriously makes me wonder what we’re doing as a nation.  What kind of warrior spends the time and money necessary to make a beautiful sword and then beats its keen blade against the ground until it breaks?  If you need to dig a hole, use a shovel.  What kind of military planners thought it would be a good idea to send soldiers back to war repeatedly, tearing them away from home and family, and not give additional financial and emotional support for that stress?  Let’s think a little here.

I dislike inefficiency.  I dislike rash or illogical action (perhaps more so because I am occasionally prone to both).  I dislike manipulative policy.  Current military practice seems to be all three.  Though the Veteran’s Association is attempting to address the issues facing active-duty personnel, I wish we had the ability to anticipate such problems more ably.  It would give me a little more confidence in the type of war my country is fighting.  Like Uncle Victor says, for very different reasons, let’s get back to “the kind of war this whole country can support.”

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Off Road Rage

I don’t like people acting dumb.  I get really annoyed especially when someone else’s dumbness impinges on my freedoms or activities, or especially when it reduces my safety.  Still, I do have my limits.  I might use a horribly annoying tone of voice, or yell, or even smack someone.  But it’s rare for me to revert to more serious violence.

Especially on the road, this is not the general rule.  People hate other drivers cutting them off, or driving unsafely or too slow, or generally not knowing or communicating what they are doing.  People steal parking places from one another, park illegally, or leave their moving vans blocking the entire road.  People, as a general rule, suck.  Sometimes in these situations they resort to physical violence against each other, for real or imagined slights, as in this case of two men tasering each other.

Was this the case of a tense situation escalating?  Did the security guard have the right to inspect the area in the first place, and in particular, put the boot on a van behind a restaurant?  Even if he didn’t should the restaurant owner have attempted to get the boot off himself, rather than calling security?  Was anyone really right here, or is it just a case of selfish annoyance at the situation, and why do we feel like we shouldn’t have to ‘put up with’ such things?  I am sure both sides felt justified in their actions.  Are we so eager for others to listen to our side and understand, that we’re like perpetual teenagers, always acting out so someone else will be forced to deal with us?

I’m not ready to ‘take out the threat’

While I don’t generally consider myself a pacifist, I am not a big fan of guns, either.  I don’t see myself going hunting, as I don’t really want to kill things.  And while I may insult people verbally and even threaten physical injury, for the most part these threats are only talk.  I supposedly know some basic things about loading and firing a sidearm due to Mike, but again my actual experience is virtually nonexistent.  I don’t want to hurt something or someone, and due to my poor hand-eye coordination and general klutz, I feel like a gun in my hands is like a monkey with a grenade.  Sure, nothing might happen, but he might pull that pin and lob it, too.

At its core, my reluctance to deal with guns stems from two things – a fear of myself, and a fear of the weapon being used against me.  The first is more nebulous and hard to qualify.  Do i get angry too easily?  Do I do things I later regret?  Wouldn’t a gun only render more harmful these aspects of my self?  The second is easier, but perhaps realistic for others who might carry guns.  I am a physically weak woman.  In a confrontation with another, a gun might make me initially stronger than the opposing force, but eventually, the gun will probably be taken from me.  What then?  Of course, this is true with any weapon – knife, brass knuckles, swords.  But somehow a gun seems the most threatening.

Questions like the right to carry arms into colleges and universities bother me.  While past events have shown that students can be killed by the few bad seeds amongst them, I don’t think more guns are the solution.  In fact, I think the Second Amendment is no longer valid, or at least not necessarily applicable.  The defense of our nation now lies with the various armed forces, rather than in the hands of basically untrained militiamen.  What need would we possibly have for the common man to go armed?

In fact, I would say that both modern media and culture don’t allow for a rational consideration of what legitimizing guns on campus might mean.  it is unfortunate that Michael Flitcraft doesn’t seem to realize that the ‘someone’ coming into his classroom to kill him and his classmates is most likely someone he knows, and possibly someone he likes or is friends with.  it is unfortunate both for him and for others on both sides of the issue that ‘taking out the threat’ probably means killing someone who needed friendship, understanding, and probably psychiatric help.

Is this what you mean by ‘manly things’?

Last night after football (ugh) Gina and I renewed our faith in a childhood television classic: American Gladiators (yay). This wonderful show, now being hosted by Hulk Hogan, is really about the renewal of the American Dream: showing your stuff and physically and mentally dominating others. While I don’t normally go for tough talk or shows that encourage participants to verbally or otherwise abuse each other, somehow this show is the exception to the rule. Perhaps it’s the facade of safety measures that makes the whole thing seem more fun: all the padding on the contestants and the gladiators seems reminiscent of physical challenges on Double Dare (Did I mention Mark Summers went to my high school?). And I will say, I have been able to try the joust before, and it was pretty fun. Kinda like a pillow fight on stools.

Still, the second episode we watched was a display of just how ridiculous and violent the show really is. First off, some guy who tried out for the original AG came in with a big mouth. He also got a little rough on the first even, knocking the helmet off of one of the gladiators (for which he was penalized). So, even if there’s lots of padding, said padding can always be removed. Also, they have giant squishy looking padded wrecking balls that the gladiators swing at the contestants as they try to cross a bridge. It looks just like really slow ungainly dodgeball – until you see one of the contestants knocked of the bridge by one of the 100 lb things. The contestant, upon being asked about what went wrong for her on the event, said she thought she could deflect the ball. Alas.

It was this same crazy Marine girl who reminded me of yet another American trait – dogged ridiculous persistence.  On the eliminator, there’s a new ‘flame’ section – contestants must dive and swim beneath a section of piped gas flames.  Our poor little girl was a little disoriented in the water and swam into one of the pipes hard enough to set her back several seconds.  What she didn’t seem to realize was that she had also gashed open her forehead.  She kept chugging along, unable to regain her lost ground, blood streaming down her face.

I can now say it was probably only a superficial cut – face wounds bleed quite a bit, and it was streaming, rather than pumping.  Still, there is something innate in my gene code or upbringing that says bleeding face = seek medical attention.  Sure, you’re already bleeding on TV and looked stupid banging your head into a steel pipe, but that’s no reason to keep pushing your body, making your blood pump out faster.  I really don’t know whether I feel proud of this girl’s persistence, or ashamed of her irrational pursuit of TV fame.  Maybe a little of both.

Ultimately, being caught up in at least two hours of AG has taught me one thing.   I may make big talk about being concerned for the greater good, and not being amused by more plebeian humor.  But at some level I’m still a Roman, expecting my circus.