I spent the past two weeks worrying aloud that I thought literally slamming the door on the US economic engine was nearsighted, silly and an idiotic move. Sadly, the economic news over the last 72 hours exceeded even my worst projections – along with those of almost every economist. Most figured the US economy would teeter at around 6 or 6.5% unemployment through April, with growth shrinking by about 10% for Q2 after zero growth in Q1. Instead, we now know that we’ve already bled almost 10 million jobs and the unemployment rate has already zoomed to 9.5 or 10%. We also know the economy contracted by about 0.8% in Q1. Along with those (now rosy) projections about how the economy was doing in March, we can also expect the similarly anticipated “V-shaped” recession is about as unattainable as the Ark of the Covenant.
I could sit here and angrily type my frustration that the government decided to shut everything down in the middle of the best economy I had experienced since I was in my mid-20s. (Trust me, I’m tempted!) But as my grandmother loved to say, “There’s no sense crying about the spilled milk. Better to get a mop and clean it up.” So how do we clean up the mess we created?
When I first started writing this yesterday, I planned on including lots of charts and tables, relying on data to drive my points home. But nothing seemed to grab my attention. Then I remembered something when I first started in sales all those decades ago. People rarely make decisions based on data. Oh, we all love to pretend we do. We convince ourselves that we are supremely rational beings. Reality is different: we are emotional creatures first and foremost. When confronted with a decision, even the most clear and concise arguments will get overwhelmed by our strongest emotions: love, hate and fear.
Last week, I wrote “How many people will end up dying from COVID-19 vs. how many people will die from starvation and other diseases of poverty if the economy slips into another massive depression?” That is still the question we should be focused on. People are afraid. They’re afraid of dying. They’re afraid of their parents dying, they’re afraid of their children dying, they’re afraid of their spouses dying. But the narrative spun by both the media and the punditry is that because of COVID-19, the deaths we fear are more immediate. They’ve taken everyone’s fear of death and added the element of immediacy, and then told us the only way to eliminate the immediacy is to wall ourselves off in our homes.
This is as much a political crisis as it is a medical and economic one. As much as the media is distrusted these days (and for good reason), it’s important to note that they are getting their cues from the political class. When the governor of New York is on television daily, declaring he needs tens of thousands of non-existent ventilators or else people are going to start dying in the streets, we sit up and take notice. When the governor of Pennsylvania takes to the airwaves to declare that this is the gravest crisis we have ever faced, people heed his words. When the President of the United States begins a daily briefing by reciting the litany of the dead, we are left with the impression that our lives are about to be snuffed out.
Now, imagine if our political leaders were to go back to the original premise of “which is worse: the deaths that will result from an economic depression plus COVID-19, or just the deaths from COVID-19?” Well, then we still understand the immediate effects of COVID-19, but we’re also asked to consider the long-term effects. Why? Because unless we’re completely irrational our psyche is now forced to realize this is a life-and-death decision no matter which way we decide. People, maybe even people we love, maybe even ourselves, will die. The only question then becomes how to balance the equation so that as few people die as possible.
It’s rare that a moral question can be summed up with an equation, but this one can:
Cnm ⸫ Cm+D
Where C stands for deaths from COVID-19, D for deaths from an economic depression, and m for mediation. What is the relation between those three factors? How do we mitigate the number of deaths in each scenario, and at what point does Cm+D cross to become less than Cnm?
(Sorry. The old data guy couldn’t resist throwing mathematics into the pot.)
We know our current approach is definitely going to result in D, and we also know the human toll of D – in famine, malnutrition, abuse, and exposure – will be dreadful. Here’s what else we’re finding out: countries that shut down even further than the US and then tried to “return to normal” – like China, South Korea and Singapore – have had recurrences of COVID-19 that are even worse than their initial outbreaks. So does that combination mean we’re just screwed? We can’t restart and try to to return to normal without killing more people, and we can’t stay in our current stance without killing more people?
No. Not at all.
The key is we can reopen our businesses, pray they return to solvency and that replacements for those that disappeared come alive quickly, but with a couple of caveats.
- First, we need to understand that normal has changed. Medical science has shown that coronaviruses are, in general, highly mutable: that is, they make up for the fact they are not difficult to destroy by mutating, often quickly, meaning most treatments are not terribly effective. It’s why the “flu shot” is rarely more than 50% effective, and why nobody has yet come up with a cure for the common cold. The mediation efforts we put in place now are likely to remain with us for a long, long time.
- Second, those most at risk from COVID-19 should be isolated from the rest of the population as much as practicable. If you have bad lungs or a compromised immune system, you should stay at home as much as possible. When they fall ill and require hospitalization, they should be moved to separate wards from the remainder of the population.
- Third, the nature of white-collar work should change. I understand many jobs require you to be onsite in order to perform your tasks. Most white-collar work does not. I never understood the resistance to telecommuting; I was doing it 15 years ago and hardly ever “went to the office” for the last 6 years of my career. I think most companies are now realizing that the phobias they had about telecommuting were not well founded and having already put in place the systems that allow remote work, will stick with the model going forward.
- Fourth, the nature of school should change. Just as white-collar workers don’t need to be in a cubicle to do their job, students needn’t be tied to a desk in a building to successfully learn. Yes, there are details that would need to be worked out so far as socialization goes. Yes, it might impose a secondary hardship on families that think both parents need to work. But in an era when school districts across the country are spending billions on trying to maintain crumbling school buildings, buildings often inadequate to meet current needs, continuing with teleschool only makes sense.
Finally, our society needs to accept that some portion of the population will contract the COVID-19 disease each year. It is the nature of the virus. Every time I hear a politician, doctor or commentator talk about “defeating coronavirus,” I cringe. It’s not that eradicating the virus isn’t a worthy goal. It is, however, ridiculous to set that condition as a benchmark for returning to living.
This will probably be the hardest adaptation for our society to make. After all the hype, the shutdowns, and the panic, the idea that this is a new reality – one with yet another dangerous disease – in our midst will be difficult for many to accept. We like to think man is invincible and master of his environment. The idea that nature sometimes refuses to be tamed is a concept that we haven’t truly dealt with for nearly a century.
But if we don’t, we will have destroyed the economy that powers modern civilization. And we will have forgotten that most important of American traits: liberty. A free people do not willingly chain themselves and they are not willingly chained. It’s time we remembered that which makes us strongest and unique, and put those principles into action.
Isn’t that a refreshing scene? There’s nothing quite so calming as a tropical island, with gentle surf caressing a sun swept beach while warm breezes sway the palm fronds in a relaxing rhythm. If you squint carefully, you can almost see the natives roasting a swordfish over a crackling fire and smell the heady aroma of fresh island vegetables.
The island also represents what the medical community wants for America. They want us all to hunker down in our homes in hopes of extinguishing the Wuhan Flu, much as we would be isolated and alone on a South Pacific isle. Numerous government leaders have taken them up on this advice. Sadly, they haven’t given each of us our own tropical paradise. While they aren’t actually calling it an enforced quarantine, the lack of the correct verbiage doesn’t make it any less so. If you think otherwise, try leaving your house after 8pm.
Of course, we’re just starting to deal with the fearmongering that resulted in mass panic, and nearly mass hysteria. The national economy is virtually shut down. The stock market almost collapsed,with losses not seen in nearly a half century. Nobody is certain of the damage done, but estimates range as high as perhaps a 40% reduction in GDP and 30% unemployment, numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Social structures have been irrevocably altered, in ways we cannot begin to understand. The very nature of work has been altered, with more white-collar employees working remotely than ever before. When we do get back to work, to school; when the centers of culture and learning do reopen, we have no idea how the changes that were suddenly thrust upon us will reverberate in the future.
The biggest problem with all of this is that the data about this disease is profoundly unreliable. It has been said there are lies, damned lies and statistics and no common experience drives home that truism more than the current situation. From the beginning, statisticians and epidemiologists were dealing with incomplete (and even falsified) data from China, India, Italy and South Korea. As a result, modeling – which government leaders relied on to predict how deadly the COVID-19 pandemic would be to the general population – has been terribly inaccurate. The noted epidemiologist John Ioannidis recently remarked that “the fatality rate could plausibly lie between one in 100 and one in 2,000 cases.” Mind you, he is merely referring to death rate for those who are infected. Nobody has yet put forward a reliable model for the infection rate, because the data simply doesn’t exist. This is a problem that was anticipated. On March 17, Ioannidis wrote, “we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.“
“But,” you say, “what about the rapid rise in cases in the United States I keep seeing on the evening news?” Ah, a fair question. Consider: since the United States started testing, it took us 17 days to administer the first 100,000 tests. It took another 11 days to administer the next 100,000. It has taken only 5 days to administer the last 320,000 tests. At current rates, the United States will be testing over 1 million people per week by mid-April. As the number of tests administered increases exponentially, the number of confirmed cases will also increase exponentially. The key evidence to look at is whether the number of positive cases is increasing at the same rate as the number of tests – and that answer is a resounding no. While tests have increased at a logarithmic rate, the increase in positive tests has followed a gentler curve, suggesting that the infection and lethality rates are lower than first anticipated.
One other note on testing: we have only been testing people showing symptoms. Yet the positive test rate is only about 15% of those tested for COVID-19. This is because what the media refers to as the “coronavirus” is actually a mutated form of the same virus that causes the common cold, multiple strains of influenza, SARS and MERS. Those are all corona viruses. As a result, the symptoms of COVID-19 fall into the same generalities as those other diseases: cough, fever, fatigue. That only feeds into the panic, especially as those are also symptoms of hay fever – and large swaths of the nation are entering spring allergy season.
For a doctor, the choice facing the nation is an easy one. They are worried about immediacy, and their immediate concern is to keep everyone alive and healthy. So recommending that everyone stay hunkered down in our houses and apartments is an easy choice. But for the rest of us, the choice is far from being simple. The president, and all 50 governors, have to weigh the importance of preserving lives now vs. the effects of leaving the economy in a downward spiral. How many people will end up dying from COVID-19 vs. how many people will die from starvation and other diseases of poverty if the economy slips into another massive depression? We can roughly extrapolate from available data that around 130,000 people will die from this disease. We cannot make even a haphazard guess about what the death toll from an economic depression that last months or even years might be, because while we know one is inevitable on our current course, we don’t know any of the particulars. We can’t. We’re not fortune tellers.
Without solid data, it is an impossible question to answer. Yet we’re all answering it, from the President to loudmouth Joey you normally meet at the corner tavern. The problem is, both of them – and everyone else – doesn’t really know, no matter what they tell you.
Will this virus be bad for the country? It already is. Will a deflated economy be bad for the country? It already is. But making everything worse is fear and panic. We can’t keep ourselves walled off forever, living in fear of everyone who sneezes. The federal government, between emergency fiscal expenditures and monetary expansion from the Federal Reserve, has already expanded national debt by nearly $8 trillion. That’s about 40% of last year’s GDP, and perhaps 65% of this year’s GDP. In short, that is an unsustainable degree of expenditure. We cannot afford to allow fear to panic us into cowardice, and we cannot afford to to allow fear to bankrupt the nation.
FDR once said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It’s time for the panic to end, and for America to prove that FDR knew what he was talking about.
I’m in awe of the two greatest women I’ve ever known.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that this will be the 28th Mother’s Day without my Mom. 28 years since she passed, 28 years without her sage advice (like ”Don’t follow your heart. Follow your mind and just let the heart make suggestions” and “If you only worry about making the good stuff happen, you don’t have time to worry about the other stuff”). There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss you terribly. You never lived to see me marry, to find the career success you knew would come my way (even when I doubted myself), to see your grandsons.
Which let’s me seque to the other totally amazing woman in my life. For over 20 years, she’s been not only my rock, but the woman who provides our sons a shoulder to cry on or a swift kick in the ass. She’s mended scraped knees and broken hearts, packed lunches along with a wicked wit and despite being badly outnumbered in a testosterone fueled home, kept all of us in line.
So Happy Mother’s Day, Linda!
And Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Sorry for disappearing for so long. For those who aren’t aware, on March 28th I had an ileostomy performed. As I’ve been recovering since then, I’ve had neither the energy to write nor the physical ability to sit up long enough to do so.
Of course, there were post-operative complications. My lungs, badly damaged by the chemicals at Camp Lejeune during my time there, nearly failed during surgery. To assist with breathing, I was on an interesting machine called a “bipap” for part of my recovery time. I not only had to recover from the surgery to abdomen, but also from the pneumonia I developed on the operating table. Because not being able to breathe isn’t enough of a complication, the part of my intestine that now forms my ostomy developed an annoying habit of expanding 5 to 6 inches from my skin. But that seems to be resolving itself with time; the doctors assured me that while not common it also isn’t unheard of and it isn’t particularly dangerous. Unless, of course, I run into something stomach first while that’s happening. I would prefer not to think of how messy that would be.
Still, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. So far, my recovery is on schedule and it’s time to get back to as much of my regular life as I can manage. I won’t be able to lift anything heavier than a milk jug for a few more weeks and I’m still adjusting to not being able to sleep on my right side. I’m not supposed to bend, twist or otherwise torque my midsection until June. On a positive note, this has been a terrific weight loss program. I’m down almost 30 pounds since the surgery.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to pause and thank the wonderful doctors and nurses at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Najia Mahmoud, Chief of Colorectal Surgery and her amazing team for their compassion and expertise. I also need to thank the nurses of the SICU, who managed to keep me comfortable and goad my recovery while also keeping my frightened family reassured and informed.
So anyway, get ready for a blizzard of posts. One of the things that happens when you spend so much time lying around is you think. A lot. Now it’s time to put those thoughts into something more substantial than a Twitter post.
If you follow me on social media, or have read this blog for a while, then you know I have Crohn’s Disease. Well, today is the day I’ve been dreading since I was first diagnosed in April 1992.
It’s time to get something removed.
I had always made it a point of pride that I would leave this Earth with all of my parts more or less intact. But that’s not to be. My terminal ileum (that’s the end of the small intestine, the part that connects to the large intestine) is essentially dead and has been causing me all sorts of problems since October.
So, out it comes. The doctors also told me there is a good chance they’ll need to remove the ascending colon, as well. They just can’t tell from the CT scans, but will know better once they get in there and see.
Now, I’m not so worried about what they’re taking out (I’ve kind of resigned myself to the changes I’ll have to make), as simply waking up. One of the dastardly things Crohn’s has done is given me pulmonary embolisms and pulmonary hypertension. They refer to these as “extra-digestive manifestations.” That doesn’t change the fact that breathing isn’t as easy as it used to be, and general anesthesia is especially dangerous for me. As in, might not wake up dangerous.
I’ve placed myself in God’s hands. If he wants me home, there isn’t much you or I can do about it. I always figured that with all the times I’ve defied death until now that God had a reason for keeping me on this planet. It could be this surgery is that reason. My medical team almost sounds like a bad joke: “a Muslim, a Hindu, a Catholic and an atheist walk into a surgical theater…” It could be my surgery will do more for world peace than all the diplomats at the UN have managed in 75 years of talking.
Anyway, by now I’m on the table and the doctors are doing a thing. If you’re the praying type, I’d appreciate if you would lift up my medical team. Oh, and don’t let the big guy upstairs forget I am still needed down here.
Thanks everyone. See you on the other side!
So I’m doing some reading on Nathan Phillips, the Indian guy who claims to have been harassed by the teenagers from Coventry High over the weekend and I can’t help but think there is a serious case of stolen valor here. He claims to be a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, but too much of his story doesn’t add up. This is a guy who has been in the news off and on for the past 20 years, but nobody seems to have checked out his background. His first interview, way back in November 2000, listed his age as 45. His most recent interview, from this past weekend, he is 64. That is consistent with someone born in early January 1955. By his own account (again, nobody has seen his DD214), he joined the Marines at age 17, but this was after a period of time working as a lumberjack.
Here’s where his story starts to fall apart. Let’s be generous and say he stepped on the yellow footprints in February 1972, graduating after 13 weeks. Let’s be even more generous and say he did not have leave after basic and reported straight to ITR. So, the earliest he could have been deployed to Vietnam as a 0311 would have been late July or early August 1972.
The last major USMC combat element, III MAF, left Vietnam in April 1971. The last USMC combat unit, 3rd MAB, left in June 1971.
You can see the problem here. Those dates mean either Nathan Phillips was the only combat Marine in Vietnam, he was assigned to the Embassy or he was one of the 60 or so advisors the Marine Corps left with the ARVN forces. The last option is least likely (a boot private without any combat experience isn’t going to advise anyone on tactics). If he were assigned to the embassy, he would likely have clarified this by stating his MOS was an 8151.
Now for where things REALLY get interesting. Phillips also claims to be a Force Recon Marine. In his own words in a Vogue interview in 2018, he actually says “I’m what they call a recon ranger.” Well, knock me over with a feather, but if I had a nickel for every recon ranger I’ve met who never even wore a uniform, I’d be a millionaire. To my knowledge, I’ve never met a Force Recon Marine in the First Civ Div. Do you know why? Because most special forces guys don’t go around advertising their training. They don’t need to.
But let’s suspend all reason and say that Phillips isn’t laying it on thicker than molasses in January. The absolute minimum training time for a Force Recon Marine is 4 months. Let’s also suppose he was selected for Force Recon out of ITR. That puts his earliest arrival in Vietnam as January 1973.
That’s still 4 months after the last US combat unit, the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Brigade left Vietnam in August 1972.
I suppose it’s possible Phillips forgot some dates. It’s possible he can’t recall his MOS. Anything is possible, after all, even though I’ve never met a Marine who can’t remember what his job was, the dates of his service and every time he was deployed (and where).
I hate to call him out as a fraud if he isn’t. But considering he has spent the past few years putting himself in the news and is now muckraking to the point of driving hate mobs towards teenagers, it’s time to put his veracity to the test. If you served with Nathan Phillips, let me know. If he is a Force Recon Marine, I’ll gladly retract every word of this, buy him a beer and thank him for his service. But if he isn’t, he is deserving of every bit of scorn and derision we can heap upon him.
Update: On January 23, the Marine Corps released the following statement:
“Nathan Phillips, 64, spent four years in the Marine Corps Reserve and left in 1976 with the rank of private, or E-1. Previously identified as Nathaniel R. Stanard, Phillips never deployed, but served as a refrigerator technician and anti-tank missileman.”
This is one of the most difficult posts I will have ever written, or ever feel compelled to write. But what I am about to say must not only be heard, but preserved, if only because the topic is of vital importance.
As you’re undoubtedly aware by now, late last night, Ian David Long drove to the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA. For reasons we will probably never know, he arrived with evil intent. He was armed & he was dressed for combat. He began by shooting the doorman with his Glock 21 .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. By the time he was finished, 11 others lay dead, including Ventura Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Ron Helus. 10 more were wounded.
In the hours since we have come to learn that Ian Long was discharged from active service with the Marine Corps in 2013. He served one contract, like most Marines and servicemembers. He did nothing that particularly distinguished his brief military career, nor did he do anything that detracted from his service. He was simply your average Marine, like most of those who earned an Eagle, Globe & Anchor before and since.
When I first heard the news this morning, I remarked to my wife (this was before we knew who the gunman was) that I had to begrudgingly give the shooter kudos for round efficiency. See, as a Marine I appreciate good shooting – even if done for evil reasons. Good, accurate shooting under pressure is a skill that every Marine must master. There is no earning that EGA without it.
Of course, now we know the shooter is a Marine.
The news has devastated me.
On Saturday, our Corps will celebrate our 243rd birthday. Personally, I will be in South Philadelphia to join a few thousand other Marines in raising a mug and joining in the cake ceremony. Of all the things that join us as Marines, it is these traditions that go back to the very beginnings of the nation that are the most important. Every Marine knows we were born at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia on November 10, 1775. Ordinarily, this time of year is only exceeded in anticipation among Marines by Christmas.
Now, that excitement is tempered by the realization one of our own has gone off the reservation. To make matters worse, as a former Veteran’s Service Officer for the American Legion, I know there was no need for it. This was the most preventable tragedy imaginable.
It didn’t take long for the media to begin with the “crazy veteran” stories. It feeds an all too common narrative among the non-veteran community that veterans are damaged goods, this misperception that veterans are incompatible with civilization. After all, we do have higher rates of mental illness than the civilian population, so we must be ticking time bombs. An incident like last night shouldn’t be a surprise, according to the talking heads. The surprise should be that it doesn’t happen more often.
First, stop with that nonsense. Yes, veterans have seen and done things that 98% of you cannot even begin to imagine. Yes, those things leave an indelible mark on your psyche. They also form the basis for a bond among us that those of you who have never served cannot begin to imagine. But that does not make us monsters lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on you at first opportunity. For the most part, when we take off the uniform, we lead perfectly normal lives. We are bankers, cooks, bartenders, construction foremen, teachers; you’ll find us doing all of the same mundane things you do. The battles we wage with our personal demons are off to the side, leaving you unaffected.
Whatever drove Ian Long to commit his act of premeditated mass murder, to plan it out with the ruthless efficiency of any Marine infantry commander ordering the clearing of a building and execute it with that same efficiency, we will likely never know. The speculation is that he had PTSD. I’m calling bullshit on that media diagnosis right now.
I should know. I am also a veteran with PTSD, like millions of others.
But I also have two other diagnoses, Explosive Personality Disorder, and Survivor’s Guilt, that would be more likely than PTSD to cause someone to do what Long did. PTSD is not the type of mental illness that leads to violence. If anything, left untreated it is more likely to result in suicide than murder. EPD, on the other hand… anyone remember the old “Hulk” television show? The classic line from that show was David Banner telling the reporter who chased him, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
But we’ll never know because by all accounts he was not receiving any care for any mental issues. This is despite a visit from a clinician in April of last year, someone I’m certain who was well-meaning but likely totally unsuited to diagnosing a veteran. As mentioned above, we’re expert at dealing with our problems privately. Part of that is learning how to hide the outward signs. I survived for nearly 12 years before a fellow vet convinced me to get help. It was the best thing that could have happened for me, although my fight with the VA to get that care could probably fill a novel.
The VA’s version of care for mental illness is a big part of the reason many veterans, even though they know they need help, do not seek it. I abandoned their treatment regimen not long after beginning it since it basically consists of keeping the veteran doped up on handfuls of pills. But by getting into treatment, I met plenty of other vets who were also dealing with their own issues. Working with them, I found my way back to God and an inner peace. Do I struggle at times? Sure. Do I still wake at night to the sights and sounds of helicopters falling into the water? You bet. Do I still find myself getting melancholy? Sure. Do I still think to myself, “I really should just knock this guy’s block off” a little too often? Probably.
But I don’t just haul off and beat the crap out of the deserving. I was able to get the help I needed. Through my work as a VSO, I’ve helped others get the help they needed. As a veteran, I’ve spent midnight hours on the phone with veterans and their loved ones, defusing crisis situations that most civilians are unequipped to handle, no matter how well-intentioned. The shame of this whole thing is that Ian Long did not get the help he needed, for whatever reason. His demons beat on his soul until finally, he snapped. It shouldn’t have happened. There was no need.
The next bit is for every veteran who made be reading. If you are not a veteran, the language that follows may be a bit salty for your tastes. Bear with me – and please share this part with any veterans you know.
You do not have to suffer alone. In fact, that is the worst thing you can do. Trust someone who’s been where you are, who’s been where you were and who wants you to at least get as far as I have, if not further. Here are some basic life skills for veterans to cope with the civilian world. Don’t get me wrong, I have some great civilian friends. But they will never know the things you do (how the hell could they?).
1: Cultivate and maintain close friendships with at least one older and one younger vet. Your elder has been where you are and can help coach you through it. You can do the same for the younger, and benefit from helping another.
2: Do something creative/constructive. Work with wood, steel, words, music, paint, sculpture, food, whatever you can do. Balance the destructive with the creative. I like woodworking. You might prefer painting. Whatever, just git ‘er done.
3: Have a routine and stick to it. When it gets REALLY dark, stick to it even more rigidly. Concentrate on doing the “next thing.” Even if you have to force yourself. 0700: Reveille is reveille. Make yourself get up. 0705: Your rack must be made…make it. 0710: Wash your nasty ass, etc. Sounds basic, but it works. There’s a reason we spent all those years having our sergeants bitch at us every time we were 30 seconds late for formation, after all.
4: Stay alert when you’re out and about. LOOK for neighbors (anyone in your community) who could use a hand, and help them. Even better if you can do it “on the sly,” and let ’em wonder. You’ll feel better about yourself and your community.
5: Have a couple brothers you can call (and vice versa) 24/7 when it’s REALLY bad, and CALL them. (These can, but don’t have to be, covered in #1…just be sure they’re people who will call you on bullshit if necessary.)
6: When you get the blues, when you start missing friends who will never be coming back, when the bombs are going off around you – when the demons begin whispering in your ear – don’t try to lose yourself in a bottle or some other drug. Go back to the first 5 tips instead. Those demons in the bottle are only going to make you angrier, sadder and start talking to your other demons. Next thing you know, they’re going to be making you say “IT’S TIME TO FUCK SOME SHIT UP” and do something stupid. Like, shoot up a bar full of innocent people, for instance.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go mourn. I’ll be mourning those innocents who lost their lives last night.
But I’ll also mourn the loss of Ian David Long, a Marine left alone to fight an impossible nightmare, on this the eve of the Marine Corps birthday. In many ways, he is a victim, too.
Tuesday, I patched holes in walls. I replaced some broken and chipped moldings.
I also voted.
Tuesday night, I watched election returns. I was pretty disappointed in the performance of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania, How could they possibly vote against their best interests and return that many big government types to office? I was pretty happy with my fellow citizens in other places, though. They were smart enough to realize the Andrew Gillum, Stacy Abrams and “Beto” O’Rourke’s of the world can’t possibly deliver all those goodies without crashing the goody cart. When my local US Representative was declared the winner at 11:30 (praise be to God we’re the one district in this state that kept our sanity!) I went to sleep.
Yesterday, I woke, put on the coffee (I’m always up before the missus), helped my nephew get ready for school, ate breakfast, checked the weather (no rain, FINALLY!), didn’t shave…
Look, the point of all this is simply to say that anyone who reads this blog or follows me on social media knows I follow politics intensely. You know I love a good argument on applied governance, on Constitutional principles, on budgets, on policy. I can go on for thousands of words about the finer points of repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments.
But like most Americans, I have a real life outside these digital dots and dashes, with real people that I care about and who care about me. The entire point of my political life is about securing a better life in the United States, not only for myself but more importantly, for them. Politics is simply one aspect of (what I hope, anyway) is a wide and varied real-world life. Among my fellow conservatives, this seems to be our understanding of how the real world works. You work, you raise your family, you hang out with your friends, you dabble in politics and such as needed to let you keep doing the first three.
This is why we are bemused and confused when we see the mobs of left cultists rioting over an election result. Or rioting because there isn’t an election yet. Or just rioting over politics generally.
Elections happen annually. Sometimes, even more frequently if you’re unlucky enough to live somewhere the locals deem it that way. So that means every year you get to go vote. In our system, we vote for people who do the daily voting for us. Sometimes, the person who gets chosen is the person you wanted. Sometimes it isn’t. But the entire idea, our entire society, is built on the idea that everyone accepts that person until their term is over (or they turn out to be so corrupt they get arrested *ahem New Jersey ahem*).
Left cultists don’t seem to get this concept. Maybe it’s because we stopped teaching civics in school. Maybe it’s because, as parents, we were too lenient on Not My Johnny. Maybe it’s because they’re mentally more susceptible to believing fantasies. I was talking with a friend the other day, a pretty astute guy for a Marine, who mentioned he thinks this is all from technology. When I quizzed him as to why, he said the very tools that make interacting easier, are also the tools that make expansive government less necessary than not that long ago, and the left cultists have bought into the idea of the nanny state. I’m not sure, but there’s a kernel of an idea in there.
I’ll have to explore it later. For now, it’s time to put the coffee on and start getting ready for my day. Moving furniture is probably one of my least favorite tasks.
I haven’t meant to be away for so long. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media (and while we’re on that topic, why aren’t you?), I experienced yet another flare of my Crohn’s Disease a couple of weeks ago. Or, as the doctors call it, an exacerbation. Whatever you call it, I call it a humdinger of an attack. My ileum (that’s the part of your intestines that connects the large and small intestine together) blew up like a hot air balloon. I wound up totally obstructed, which is a pleasant way to describe a very unpleasant form of constipation. A week at the VA hospital in Philly, and another week of more-or-less R&R at home, has me feeling much more like myself these days. I’m not totally out of the woods just yet and ileostomy remains a very real possibility if this recurs in the next 60 days, so even if you aren’t the praying type – prayers are appreciated!
Now, one of the things that happens when you’re lying in a hospital bed is you get a LOT of time to think. Boy, have I been doing quite a bit of thinking. I have notes and ideas scattered all over my desk. The topics foremost on my mind: the looming midterm elections, the immigrant “caravan,” and the impending baseball offseason. And no, the World Series is not high on my list of worries this year. The only team I hate more than the Dodgers are the Red Sox. This is the first year I find myself hoping nobody wins that thing.
So, beginning tomorrow, prepare to get deluged with posts. Lots and lots of posts.
September 11, 2001.
There are only a few dates in a person’s life that can be recalled in perfect clarity. Dates where your memories are supercharged by the emotions felt that day, dates that haunt your dreams and whose events can be replayed like an old video.
My wedding day is one such day for me. The other is not nearly so happy: September 11, 2001.
It was my first day off from work in nearly two months, and I rewarded myself by sleeping in that morning. I was sitting at my kitchen table, a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper (yes, back then, a newspaper was not unusual) in front of me when my wife hollered from the living room. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” she yelled. “It’s on the TV. Come and see!”
I’m ashamed to admit that my first reaction was that it was a bad accident, but one I had been expecting for years. After all, those two skyscrapers jutted out, almost into the air lanes at the very southern tip of Manhattan. That no pilot had accidentally run into them before I considered a miracle.
I went into the living room, coffee in hand. My wife had the Today show on. They were showing the smoke pouring from the building via a helicopter shot and Matt Lauer was babbling about the WWII bomber that ran into the Empire State Building. I remember thinking that as much as I had dreaded a pilot losing his way and flying into one of those towers, I couldn’t wrap my head around how one had done so on that morning. The weather seemed so perfect, the skies so clear, that it seemed impossible that a pilot couldn’t have seen where the hell he was flying.
Fast forward a bit, and the first reports came in that air traffic controllers had lost contact with the plane before the crash. “Maybe the pilot had a stroke,” I remarked to my wife. It was 9:01 am. I remember the time because I had glanced at the wall clock as I turned to go back into the kitchen. I was hungry and about to root around for some food.
2 minutes later, my wife was screaming, “Another plane just crashed into the South Tower!” It was the moment our world changed. Because at that moment, I knew this wasn’t an accident. It was a planned, coordinated attack on the very heart of our economic might, on symbols of our national strength. Someone had just declared war on the United States.
Do you remember how you felt at the moment you first realized that? I do. I was pissed off. And confused, because like most Americans I had no idea who it might be. I had never heard of Al Queada, and never in a million years would I have guessed a bunch of cave dwelling goat herders could be sophisticated enough to use our own aircraft to attack us.
After that, of course, came the mad scramble. I called my store, told my employees to lock up and head home for the day. Called my DM to tell him what I did and why (like a lot of people, he was already at work and had no idea what was going on yet). And then the phone lines were jammed – nobody could a call through, which just added to my wife’s anxiety. I wasn’t certain if it was another attack or just everyone in the country trying to call one another, but I wasn’t taking chances. We raced to the school to grab our kids, just in case this was a precursor to a larger attack.
Of course, there were two more attacks that morning: flight 77 rammed into the Pentagon, and the heroes of flight 93 averted a major disaster by taking back their plane and crashing it before it reached Washington.
At 9:59, the South Tower collapsed – and like everyone else, I was shocked. One plane brought down a 1000 foot skyscraper? A few minutes later, the North Tower followed it’s sister to its death.
I was numb. I was angry. I was afraid.
And I wanted whoever had done this to be beaten to a bloody pulp, heads ripped from their necks, a pike driven so far up their asses that when it rained they could get a colonic.
When a date is so traumatic, so vivid, that it can be shared by a generation, it is a milestone event, a moment in history that can galvanize and define nations. Such is September 11.
God bless those who lost their lives that day and the men and women who toiled for weeks after to search for survivors and perished as a result.
May God bless the United States.