Friday, June 20, 2008

Challenge yourself...

I once wrote a letter to one of the super-delegates in the democratic party. I told him that I respected what he was doing, as his position earning him title of "super-delegate" was earned through chairmanship of a council. I told him that the thanks I often get as a soldier isn't often given enough to those in civil service and politics, for while the soldier protects the rights and liberties Americans hold, it is the civil service and politicians who work daily to make the country function. I didn't tell him who to vote for, but only wanted to thank him.

It is unfortunate, I think, that Americans aren't challenged enough. We are complacent on so many levels. The amount of ignorance of war and politics is staggering and it is adversely affecting the country. This interview on the Daily Show (a show which is still surprisingly relevant) I think challenges us again.

It made me think of a speech I saw given by Robert Kennedy. In it, he went to a college and challenged the crowd, asking them if it was wise or fair that they (his own audience) could not be drafted. Would a politician do that today? Would the crowd respond and think and question?

Much like we have grown accustomed to the style of life we lead economically, we have also grown accustomed to a style of life intellectually that is defined more by Britney and Paris than by Barack and McCain. It is my hope that we can move past this as a nation.

Aunt Janet...

My Grandmother is the strongest woman I've ever known. After moving to the United States from the Philippines, she raised her five children almost alone. This wasn't easy for her, a single, Filipina woman raising a family, but she did it. She worked herself to the bone and all the while also took care of the men she took on--none of whom, from what I know of them, was worthy of the attention and love she gave.

Beginning with my father, the last five years of her life have been plagued by death. First him, then her sister, then her son-in-law (the Uncle who most influenced me to join the military), then her husband and now, her daughter.

While I love my Aunt Janet, and will always remember the weeks I spent in Tennessee with her and Uncle Z shooting, fishing and otherwise doing all the things my own father never let me do, I can only imagine what my Grandmother must be feeling now. She always jokes about just waiting until she "kicks the bucket," but I can't help but know that she is at a period in her life where she's seen enough death, said goodbye to enough loved ones and been through enough that she is only partially joking.

At this point, I have lost enough friends and family to cancer that I am begining to take it personally. I know how difficult and painful it was for my father and I know that it was worse for my Aunt. All I know is that it is not something I am looking forward to, but it is something I have resigned myself to. How strange a thing that is, but it is true. With the history of cancer in my family, it is not a matter of if, but when, and the knowledge of that has probably effected me in ways I should not let it.

Part of me thought it was beautiful how my mother took care of my father when he was dying. How she'd lie in bed with him and caress his sweaty, strained forehead when he could no longer speak...and yet another part of me was horrified. I was unsure if that kind of selfless love was so beautiful I wanted to know someone would be there for me like my mother was or so painful that I didn't ever want to be close enough to someone that I would have to put them through it.

Aunt Janet's husband did not have to go through this with her but was instead, I believe, waiting for her on the other side.

The last few years of her life were marked with declining mental capacity. The schizophrenia (if that is truly what she was displaying) that her and her brother have suffered had grown much worse since the last time I'd seen her and she was a shell of the woman I knew as a child. My Uncle Z was patient with her up until his surprising death and part of me feels that her death is, if anything, a release from the pain, suffering and torment her illness had caused her. I like to imagine that the two of them are together again, but that she is the woman she once was...beautiful and kind with a smile I only remember from pictures. Young and carefree, they can be together and share a love again that wont end.

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


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Friday With Friends...

This last Friday was my last night in the Baltimore area. Lee took the train up and Adam and Lee and I went to Lee's house...confused yet? Yes, there were two Lee's and two Adam's. Luckily we found an easy way to rectify this; I am Adam one, Adam Graf is Adam 2. Lee is Lee one and Lee Beck is Lee 2. Simple. Lee's wife Gosha (which I can't spell) was there too, but she didn't have a name twin, so I didn't mention her in the first line.

We went for sushi in a cool little BYOB restaurant in Fell's Point and sat around eating and drinking until the restaurant closed. Everyone liked Lee 2, which was hit or miss. You see, Lee 2 didn't go to DLI with us and no one knew him but me. He was a hit, however, and he will probably hang out with my friends more than I will get to now.

There were discussions about politics and religion and art and movies and all the things that people who aren't friends can't discuss but when you are friends form the basis of good conversation. We then walked back to Lee and Gosha's place to have a couple more drinks before we all had to part.

It's always good to see those guys and realize how far we've come, how much we've grown and what still lies ahead.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

army navy plays politics

If Barack Obama picks Sen. Jim Webb as his VP, we will be faced with a poor choice as a country--Do we want a USNA grad as President or Vice President? All joking aside, however, there is also talk of Gen. Wes Clark as Obama's VP which would pit a West Point VP ticket against a USNA Presidential ticket.

One might think this doesn't matter all that much, but in reading some of the articles lately, I've found echoes of arguments we've had as Cadets and Middies quite often. Leadership in the Army is vastly different from Naval leadership which is in turn different from Air Force Leadership. Quite often people consider an Officer is an Officer is an Officer, but this is untrue. While I don't necessarily agree with what I quote below, the argument should ring with hints of long-standing rivalry for anyone who went to West Point or Annapolis and, if Clark is chosen as VP, will put the black and gold up against the blue and gold for leadership of the country in a way I don't think we've seen before...and would make next years Army Navy game (immediately post election) quite interesting.

Anyway, here is the quote from Clark:
"I know he's trying to get traction by seeking to play to what he thinks is his strong suit of national security," Clark said of McCain while speaking from his office in Little Rock, Arkansas. "The truth is that, in national security terms, he's largely untested and untried. He's never been responsible for policy formulation. He's never had leadership in a crisis, or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff. It's not clear that this is going to be the strong suit that he thinks it is."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Be Thou At Peace Joel...

I remember two things very vividly about Joel Namy, both of which revolve around him being one of the best and most motivated cadets I knew.

The first was when, one day, after football practice, when most of his teammates were in their rooms studying while their classmates were "on the wall" doing duties and being yelled at, Namy showed up to duties. He was late, he was in the wrong uniform, and he had no clue what was going on, but he was there. He was hard to miss as he was a bigger kid too, which was unfortunate for a pleber who didn't know what was going on. No one gave him crap though, because it meant so much to us, and to his classmates, that he was even there. So many of the plebes tried to get out of duties, even if they were supposed to be there, and there was Namy, a kid who had a valid reason not to be, but wanted to be there to support his classmates.

Later that year, we found out Namy had cancer and he left us to go through chemo. I heard off and on how he was doing and, last I'd heard, he was doing well. My last week of school, stressed, excited and self-absorbed, I was running down the stairs from The Nest. Somewhere around the third flight of stairs, I bumped into Namy. He had a huge smile and was bounding up the stairs two at a time. I asked if it was who I thought it was and he responded with a huge smile and greeted me as though he were still a plebe saying, "It sure is! Where Eagles Dare, and Congratulations Sir!" then went on his way up the stairs.

Unfortunately, Namy lost his battle with cancer and with that loss, the Corps, the Army and anyone who knew him is the lesser for it.

Well done Joel, Be Thou At Peace...

DC and Baltimore

I wish I had my camera. A friend gave me one which I left at home so I haven't been able to chronicle my adventures here on the East Coast (where I am visiting for work).

This weekend was amazing as I got to see old friends and (a surprise) spend time with my Godmother. Basically, I've been spending all my free time in between Baltimore and DC. I went to Arlington where I looked for Tim Simmon's Grandmother (and think I may have found her picture, but I'm unsure) and also saw JFK again. I've also eaten lots of good food and wandered both cities endlessly enjoying the people and architecture.

I went to my first Bat Mitzfah (which I don't know how to spell) and went to a Jewish Brunch on the Potomic in a house so large it could have fit two or three of the one I grew up in. The training here is actually pretty good it's nice. Most often either the training is good but the location is bad or the inverse. In this case, both are good, so it's been a great two weeks. In two more weeks (give or take), some friends are visiting me and we're going camping and hiking and shooting and tubing...good times shall be had by all.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Everett, Webb and the Gool 'Ol U-S-of A

I've never really been one to take offense at what celebrities say, nor have I been one to make the argument that what they say doesn't matter since they're "just" celebrities. The way I see it, anyone with the ability to be heard who speaks should be evaluated based upon what he says.

That being the case, the following quote I read from Rupert Everett really upset me.
I'm totally off the States now, the reaction to 9/11 and then George Bush - really, they've got very blobby as a nation.

Now they (the Americans) are whiny victims whose language is entirely taken from two TV shows - Friends and Sex And The City - and there's nothing sexy about them any more. And that kind of semi-blindness about the rest of the world, which was attractive when America was exciting, is really unattractive now."

It seems to me anyone who would say something like that, celebrity or not, is simply blind or wilfully ignorant of what an amazing time it is to be an American. We are in the middle of one of the most interesting and (thus far) civil election cycles we have seen since I can remember elections (I should add that I remember the Bush/Dukakis election when I was in third grade). The race for President is between two people, each of whom has very distinct and worthy ideas and each of whom embodies what is the best of the nation.

A quick look at the VP nominees on either side shows another pool of people who have distinguished themselves, who seem to be smarter than the typical politician and who are bringing issues to the light which have been put on the back burner for too long.

To point out just one, look at Senator Jim Webb. Although he is a USNA graduate (he he, yeah, I know...a dig's a dig, so deal with it) and has said some things in the past about women and other issues I do not agree with, who cannot say that the following statement would have been so far out of the realm of realistic discourse four years ago?
"It is pretty obvious that there are a lot of people, a preponderance of people, who were comfortable with the notion of affirmative action for African Americans, then affirmative action kind of grew into a diversity program for basically all ethnic minorities. I think that's when you started seeing a reaction among people who were less advantaged among white voters...

"The Republicans know how to appeal to this cultural group, the Democrats don't even know they exist, but if you can get the rural whites in this country at the same table as African Americans, it would be good for American politics. I think Barack Obama has the potential to do this.

Rupert Everett is wrong. For the first time in a long time, Americans are looking at our lives, taking stock and evaluating. We are uniting again, we are building and we are moving forward with an eye toward a future where America is again secure, empowered and prosperous...and I, for one, am damn excited to be a part of it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Defense Travel System

Only in the Army (at least, I think only in the Army since I've never done anything else for work) do they send you away for two weeks and expect you to front the cash for it. You see, that's how I travel...I go to Jordan or Arizona or DC (where I am now) and then, a few weeks later, when they've decided it is long enough, they pay me back. This sounds awesome, almost as though I don't need that money now. In fact, this is not the case. I do need the money now and, believe it or not, I can't really take a two thousand dollar hit to pay for a hotel I am sitting in right now.

Oh well...that was just me bitching really.

It's unfortunate the level of crap I've taken to writing on this thing. Back in the day when I could talk about my peers (who were students and not officers) and politics and all those other interesting things, I think I was more interesting.