Thoughts On Burning The Flag

Thoughts On Burning The FlagMy first husband was a soldier in the United States Army for the first 10 years of our marriage. After that he left active duty and went reserve status for another 10, for a total “time in service” of 20 years.

Initially, he was a medic, then an LPN after his college training, to each unit he was assigned to, wherever we were stationed.

I was 18 years old, and he was 19 when he enlisted. He left for basic training just 3 days after our first child was born and he was gone for nearly four months. It was a sacrifice to be essentially a single-mother during the time he was away in boot camp and then his Advanced Individualized Traing (AIT). But I knew it was necessary and that he was serving our country.

After basic training and AIT we left our home and family in Utah and moved to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where we lived on a Private’s pay, barely making ends meet, for eighteen months, at which time he received an overseas assignment to Germany. He was gone for 8 months before he secured approval for our son and me to accompany him (it’s mandatory for soldiers to live on post, in the barracks, until they reach at least the rank of Specialist (E4) and spouses aren’t allowed to live in the barracks. So, once again, I was a single mom for the better part of a year.

After we joined him, we lived in Germany for 4 years. And I loved it there. Though, back in those days (1981 – 1985) there was no internet and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet, so long-distance phone calls to the states were extremely expensive. I very rarely got to call my mother…once a month, if that. And when I did, it cost over $100 per call…which put a real strain on our low-ranking budget. The entire time we were in Germany the troops would spend 45 days at a time “in the field”, almost every other month. What that means is that my then-husband was more than 100 miles away, without access to phone, and we had zero contact during the extended time he was training for the possibility of military engagement.

Another real concern while we were in Germany was the regular bomb threats received by American soldiers and their families who were stationed in that country. These attacks were making national news in the USA before I ever left to join him, so my mother was, justifiably, worried about our safety going to live in that country. As US military personnel and their dependents, we were required to follow a daily procedure of putting a different color of tape across all openings on our vehicles each night before bed and then checking all the doors in the morning before getting in to make sure nothing had been tampered with during the night…to ensure our safety. There were those who didn’t take this step and their car exploded with them inside. So, we took this precautionary action very seriously. Many times there would be local demonstrations in various communities outside of US military Post Exchanges (department stores) and Commissaries (grocery stores) where the locals would pour red paint all over their bodies and lay down in the streets, blocking traffic. A clear statement of their opinion about our presence in their country…(even though we were there by request of their government in order to help secure their borders).

Overall, most Germans were very friendly to us and I loved our time living there.

But there were certainly sacrifices made as a part of serving in the military.

Our second son was born while we were stationed in Deutchland and I came back 8 months pregnant with our daughter, who is our youngest child.

Once we returned to the USA we were, again, stationed in states far from our home and family. But we knew going into it that this would be the case.

After my then-husband left active duty and was serving in the US Army Reserves we relocated back to our home state of Utah. But in 1990 he was yet again called to active duty when the war with Kuwait broke out. His unit was deployed to southern Germany, to fill in for active duty personnel there, who were sent to serve in the middle east during Desert Storm.

And once more, I was a single mother.

But this time our kids were approximately ages 12, 8, and 6. And even now, all these years later, they acutely remember the day we hung a big Welcome Home sign on the fence in our front yard and tied yellow ribbons all around the house before going to meet their father when he, and the rest of his unit, returned home from that war.

Why do I tell you all of this?

Because I suspect most “average Americans” have no idea what it means to truly sacrifice and serve their country. To spend days, weeks, months, and years away from home and family, to place yourself in harm’s way 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year, in order to preserve the freedoms those same Americans enjoy, without thought or consideration, every day of their lives.

So, after participating in that system, first-hand, for so many years of my life, it really annoys me to see people who have never given up anything, never truly dedicated themselves to something of significance, literally taking for granted not only the freedoms fought and paid for with blood, sweat, and tears of our brave men and women in arms…but all too happy to suck the system dry seeking federal funding for college, food stamps, financial benefit, and more.

And then they go so far as to trample on the flag…burn the very symbol of that sacrifice and freedom by which they receive so much benefit?

Yes, I absolutely believe in the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. It is one of the core freedoms and privileges our military personnel fight to ensure. So, yes, unlike many other countries where that freedom is not guaranteed and there are strict prohibitions against such public displays of anti-nationalism, I’m grateful for the fact that, as Americans, we can openly express our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and even disapproval of government.

But I find it deeply disturbing and absolutely distasteful and reprehensible that there are citizens of this great country who enjoy the freedoms afforded that citizenship, yet who so blatantly devalue the sacrifices made by the few in order to maintain those benefits of the many.

And that, to me, is exactly what those who burn our flag are doing.

I find it shameful.

Beer Dude Attitude

Beer DudeBeer Dude Attitude

Ok, so I logged onto Facebook today intending to post some uplifting Sunday-esque graphic or message. But a quick scroll through my feed brought me (glaringly) to this image…posted by someone in my friend’s list. This friend is a woman and her post associated with this picture said this: “Truth. (I should be more of a feminist, but I’m not.) open your mans beer when you bring it to him. He shouldn’t need to ask you to bring him one, you notice it’s empty, just fetch it.”
 
Now, seriously? I’m mind boggled. Ok, sadly…I’m not really. Having dealt with so many different people from a spiritual-coaching perspective I must say that I’m not altogether surprised. But it DOES make me sad to see a woman actually promoting this kind of attitude in her partner.
So many people and relationships are broken…
 
Here was my response to the image on her feed: “This is just wrong on so many levels. Key phrase here? “It better be…” Speaks to his attitude of expectation rather than partnership, equality, and appreciation. Clearly, this is a contrived graphic designed to elicit an emotional response (which it has done…a quick look at the comments proves that it was effective) and not (necessarily) representative of the actual guy in the photo. But still…this kind of Beer Dude attitude & relationship are certainly still out there (unfortunately.) He probably beats her, too, if she doesn’t “behave” according to his wishes and dictates. Ugh!”
 
What are YOUR thoughts?
#BeerDude #chauvinism #Equality #WomensIssues #HealthyRelationships 

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My Response to A Time When Marijuana Is Legal

MarijuanaThis issue is so huge that it makes me tired just trying to figure out where to begin with my response.

Let me say that I am not a pot smoker. But I certainly _have_ smoked pot. More than once. And I also inhaled. So, I know first-hand what the experience is like. And it is not the evil, addictive, demon-drug the government and big-industry have made it out to be. Do your research. Get the facts…not the propoganda…and come to your own, educated conclusions.

The following excerpts are from the May 27th, 2013 edition of the NY Times and are letters to the editor. Read the full text for yourself here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/opinion/a-time-when-marijuana-is-legal.html?_r=1&

I will reply, per item below, in the body of the text –

NYT -“To the Editor: Bill Keller gets it right: the question is no longer whether marijuana should be legalized, since whatever system emerges is going to put children at risk. Pot is high risk for children because the part of the brain that censors dumb and dangerous behavior is not yet developed, while the pleasure-seeking part is fully functional. So teenagers will do risky things, like driving while high. They’re also far more likely than adults to become addicted.”

TPJ – There are so many things wrong with what Mr. Rosenthal states here, as fact, that are simply not true. At least he starts out by saying that the question is no longer whether marijuana should be legalized. But that is the only lucid part of his statement. That he goes on to say that whatever system emerges is going to put children at risk infuriates me. This is a red herring intended to illicit an emotional response and is not based on fact. The greatest risk to children currently, where marijuana is concerned, is the potential for arrest, possible conviction and incarceration, of themselves or their parents, and the emotional damage resulting from being forced through the legal system. Add to that the HUGE side-effect of being denied government funding for attending college, something not even rapists and murderers are denied access to, and you begin to see the real risk to children.

His claim that the part of the brain that censors dumb and dangerous behavior is not yet developed is just laughable. I’m not a scientist…but I have raised 7 children to adulthood…so I have a little experience in this area. And let me tell you, even my 2 year old grand daughter knows all too well what dumb and dangerous behavior is and she is very good at preventing harm to her person…and recognizes when she has done something she shouldn’t have. Contrast that with the fact that violent crimes are committed, to an overwhelming degree, not by children or even teens, but by mature adults, and his claim doesn’t hold water.

As far as teenagers doing risky things, like driving high…well, don’t get me started on drunk driving statistics and the fact that a person is FAR more likely to drive drunk than high in the first place…And while there are those who do drive high (and I’m not advocating it here, btw) the difference between driving under the influence of alcohol vs. driving under the influence of marijuana are night and day. Alcohol increases brash and brazen behavior and emboldens one to think they are completely capable of operating machinery, when in actuality their judgment and reaction time are impaired. Conversely, under the influence of marijuana, the absolute opposite is true. A person who has consumed pot becomes hyper-aware of their abilities, and because of this, is more likely to choose not to drive. But if a person does drive high, they are usually more cautious than they would be if not under the influence.

His statement that “they are more likely than adults to become addicted” is completely unsubstantiated. There is no scientific data to support that marijuana has any addictive properties. It has been used by large populations of people, world-wide, for thousands of years and is perhaps akin to a coffee addiction when it comes to the physically addictive properties in marijuana. And let’s not even begin discussing all of the “perfectly legal”, highly addictive, pharmaceutical drugs such Suboxone, Revia, Vivitrol, and others that are being prescribed by physicians at “rehab” and “intervention” facilities to manage (treat?) mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, that are far more damaging and detrimental to the health of those consuming them (including children) than marijuana could ever hope to be.

According to Phoenix House’s 2012 annual report: “At Phoenix House, they are able to detoxify in a controlled environment WHERE MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS DISPENSE AND MONITOR MEDICATIONS…A commitment to the use of every available and appropriate treatment tool is evident in INCREASED EMPLOYMENT OF PHARMACOTHERAPIES at Phoenix House. medications such as Suboxone, Revia, and Vivitrol, which control drug cravings, are being used conjointly with other treatment tools. For a number of clients, concurrent medication-assisted treatment allows them to gain the strength they need to maintain sobriety and succeed in recovery.” Suboxone is an opiate and highly addictive with strong potential for abuse itself, and carries a laundry list of side effects, including possible death.

I’m not necessarily saying that these particular pharmaceuticals are being used to treat marijuana “addiction”. But the fact that these rehabilitation centers are treating drug addiction with other addictive substances seems problematic and counter-productive to me.

NYT – “Pot smoking changes brain anatomy, retards maturation and impairs learning, memory and judgment”

TPJ – Show me the evidence. This is propaganda to support the continuation of The Drug War. There is no scientific data to support such claims.

NYT – “At the programs of Phoenix House, the overwhelming majority of adolescents we have treated used no drug more potent than marijuana.”

TPJ – Ahhhh…now we get down to the crux of the issue. “At the programs of Phoenix House.” Follow the money. This guy has ulterior motives. He is money-motivated, as is almost always the case. Mitchell S. Rosenthal, M.D. is founder of Phoenix House and served as President and CEO from 1967 to 2007. A quick look at the organization’s listing at the Better Business Bureau tells us that the current President and CEO, Howard P. Meitiner, receives annual compensation totaling $637,898. Not too shabby, especially for a non-profit. Mr. Rosenthal was deputy commissioner of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency (ASA) at the time the organization was formed. And, as of July 2010, he was elected to the Board of Directors at The Partnership for a Drug Free America. (see http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/dr-mitchell-s-rosenthal-founder-of-phoenix-house-elected-to-the-board-of-directors-of-the-partnership-for-a-drug-free-america ) Another interesting note is that Phoenix House received $61,865,683 in government contracts and grants (representing almost half of their total income of $112,223,034 in 2012). Much of their business is a result of the judicial system referring individuals to them who have been arrested on drug related charges and are compelled to participate in rehabilitation programs, or else face jail time. And those without insurance coverage have to pay for this penalty out of their own pocket.

DRUG rehab is BIG BUSINESS! According to information posted at http://www.addictionrecoveryguide.org/treatment/residential/centers#pho , treatment ranges anywhere from $375 per day at one facility, or $1300 a month at another, on the low end (with most programs lasting over a month…up to 90 days appears to be the norm for marijuana treatment) to nearly $40,000 a month on the high end.

NYT – “So once the legislators are through, it will be up to parents to protect children, convincing them that legal does not mean “safe” despite what government allows. Somehow Mr. Keller did not add the greatest dilemma to his list, which is just how any system of legalization can help parents to do this. Mitchell S. Rosenthall, New York, May 20, 2013, The writer, a child and addiction psychiatrist, is the founder of Phoenix House.”

TPJ – It has never been any system of legalization’s job or responsibility to be in the business of regulating morality or personal choice. Government’s role in society is not to monitor, prevent, or treat any kind of personal behavior. It has always been, and should always be, the parent’s job to educate themselves, to the the best of their ability, and then teach their children the truth about the world we live in, and prepare them for functioning in it as a contributing member of society.

I found an essay that elucidates my own thoughts on this very well. The author doesn’t provide personal information so that I can credit them, and the site is old…but the logic is solid, regardless. I’m pasting some of that essay here:

“The thing that separates a government…from any other civic or social organization is that governments may legally initiate the use of force. Nothing and nobody else may do this… Only government has this power, which is called the police power. And politics is nothing more than deciding how this power should be used.

Everything that a law demands that you do, or forbids you to do, is at gunpoint, if necessary — at the threat of death. Perhaps not for the offense itself, but if you are stubborn enough about not accepting the penalties that government places on you for breaking its laws, you can easily find yourself under the barrel of a policeman’s gun.

The defining characteristic of government IS the legal use of force. And if the use of force is legal, then it also should be just. In fact, the reason that mankind ever formed governments in the first place was to protect ourselves from others using force to kill us (violating our right to life), or to make us do their will (violating our right to liberty), or to take what was ours (violating our right to property). Everybody agrees that when somebody comes to hurt or kill you, or to enslave you, or to rob you, you can defend yourself. Government is the same thing, only in groups. The point of having a government is to organize force for the defense of a group or community (be it a neighborhood, a town, a city, a state, or a nation). And the government IS us. So at what point does it become justice for the government to do by force that which it is unjust for US to do by force?

The answer is, “Never.” The role of government is to defend our lives, our liberty, and our property, from those who would violate them, and to punish those who do so by making them pay us restitution.

It is neither our job nor that of the government to use force to stop us from being stupid, or hateful, or immoral, or discriminatory, or to help the poor, or provide medical care, or schooling, or art, or homes.

If we are going to have a just society, we must limit government to its core functions: protection of life, protection of liberty, protection of property, punishing those who transgress those rights, and gaining restitution from them for their victims.”

NYT – “To the Editor: Bill Keller suggests that legalization of marijuana is a foregone conclusion. The voters in Washington State and Colorado have proposed that one way out of an intransigent public health problem, costly law enforcement, spiraling prison costs and reduced tax revenues is to legalize a known addictive substance.

TPJ – Here we go again…marijuana is NOT a known addictive substance. See my comments above.

NYT – “It is wishful thinking, however, to believe that a government-regulated marijuana marketplace will raise enough money to offset the harm that today’s highly potent drug inflicts on communities across America.”

TPJ – Well, I may have to write a Part 2 to this post in order to properly address the cost to the American tax payer of law enforcement and prison costs associated with monitoring, harassing, arresting, and incarcerating millions of non-violent citizens simply because they choose to consume a harmless weed. And the potential upside, from a financial standpoint, to the government for legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana, similar to alcohol and tobacco consumption, is staggering.

As far as the harm marijuana inflicts on communities across America…I think my position is clear by now that “the cure is worse than the disease.”

NYT – “The only chance we have to get ahead of the coming epidemic is by adequately financing treatment programs so the infrastructure of marijuana production, distribution and retail is matched by broad-based community services. Peter Provet, President and Chief Executive, Odyssey House, New York, May 21, 2013”

TPJ – Of c-o-u-r-s-e it is…Once again, Mr. Provet is monetarily motivated and has a vested interest in ensuring The Drug War stay alive and kicking. Just look at what we are already paying to fund these programs: “The requested Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Drug Control Budget is $25.6 billion. This represents an increase of $415.3 million (1.6%) over the FY 2012 enacted level of $25.2 billion. And the FY 2013 request includes two new Departments and two new bureaus to the National Drug Control Budget.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/the-national-drug-control-budget-fy-2013-funding-highlights)

TPJ – Grrrreeeaaaat…that’s just what we need to fix a massively failed Drug War. More money and more bureaus and departments to manage it. According to the government’s own websites:

“Unfortunately, the success rates of treatment are rather modest. Even with the most effective treatment for adults, only about 50 percent of enrollees achieve an initial 2-week period of abstinence, and among those who do, approximately half will resume use within a year.” (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/available-treatments-marijuana-use-disorders) And from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America “In one study, 71 percent returned to marijuana use within six months.” (http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/drugs/study-examines-new-treatment-for-marijuana-dependence)

This whole issue is a mass of confusion, deception, misdirection, lies, and abuse. And none of it is to benefit the American public. When it comes to marijuana “addiction” far, far more benefit goes to those who administrate these programs.

The only time government should become involved in the private lives of it’s citizens is when a violent crime has been committed.

Islam and Religious/Cultural Discrimination

I remember many times, as a young child, being involved in conversations where the person I was talking to was speaking badly about someone else, trying to convince me to dislike them, too, based upon their opinion. This never sat well with me. I have always felt very strongly that it is my responsibility to learn about people, places, principles, ideas, and philosophies, utilizing my personal experiences and intellect to come to my own conclusions, rather than accepting another person’s opinion on it.

This has not changed for me as I have grown older. I continue in my commitment to learn about any given person or subject, first hand, and form my own beliefs, based on the information I have gathered myself, instead of simply going along with the masses. And here is why; Over the course of my lifetime, I have learned, many times over, that the masses are frequently wrong. That many times what is painted as being right, or true, or moral, or politically correct is not based on truth or fact. I have also learned that the masses are generally content to accept, at face value, what the media, or perceived “authority figures”, promote as being a certain way, when in many cases, this is not the reality of things at all, but instead, promotes some deeper, ulterior motive not readily seen when viewing things on a superficial level.

I have also noticed that one of the primary objectives of the media and those in power appears to be to keep the public emotionally bound up in the “drama du jour”…of the day, frequently distracting us from taking the higher road of self-analysis and objective thinking.

I am choosing to take my default approach with the current issue of Islamophobia, or Islam and Religious/Cultural Discrimination in the USA and abroad.

This probably isn’t a popular position to take. And I’m not saying there aren’t reasons for concern. But what I am saying is that I have never been one to adopt stereotypes for entire groups of people based on the attitudes or behaviors of a few. And one thing I _do_ know, for sure, is that whenever there is fear or hatred associated with a particular person, issue, or belief system, these emotions are frequently caused by a lack of understanding. So, I for one, always to try to step back from the emotional, trigger-happy, reactionary response and instead take time to come at it from a more reason-based, rational, cool, and intellectual point of view. Why would I simply take someone elses word for it without doing my own research and investigation into the matter?

Jeff and I took multiple business trips in September of 2001. On the eve of September 11th we found ourselves on a flight from Portland, Oregon heading to Tampa, Florida. We landed just before midnight, Tampa time. After going to the luggage carousel (and discovering that my bags had been lost), then picking up the rental car provided by our customer, we made the drive to our accommodations, and got to bed around 2:00 am. We decided to sleep in a little and not worry about getting to the customer’s location until after noon. So, we got up, dressed, and headed to the mall for lunch where we were surprised to see how empty the parking lot was. When we walked into the restaurant around 11:00 am I remember waiting to be seated and looking up at the television monitor above the hostess station to see, what I thought at the time was a preview for a new action movie, but in reality was footage of the attack an the World Trade Buildings that morning, and what would later become known as 9/11.

Without going into all the detail of the turmoil of the week that followed, I will skip to my point, that being that the airport opened sooner than we expected, just one week later, and we were able to fly home to our teenage children without further delay. But the experience at the airport that day was something I will never forget. It was like a ghost town. The place was nearly empty as we walked through the terminal and located our airline check-in counter. There we found a line of people who were, likewise, waiting for their flight home. As we stood in the, rather lengthy, line I was greatly saddened by what I saw taking place. Many people who were Caucasian and “American-looking” (whatever THAT means) were either checked in right away, or their bags were briefly searched, and then they were allowed to pass. But the memory that really stands out in my mind is one of a very clean-cut, slender, Arabic-looking young man, dressed in a nice business suit, who was being detained much longer than anyone else. The security guards were literally opening each of his suitcases and rummaging through every item in them, pulling out pieces of clothing and questioning him. I noticed that many people at the other desks had long since come and gone, while this young man stood there, very patiently and politely, enduring this humiliation. At that moment I had a strong desire to put on a head covering, or hijab, in an attempt at solidarity with the many people of Arabic-decent whom I knew would be experiencing this same, or similar discrimination in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Purely based on fear and physical appearance. This country saw the same kind of behavior and attitude during the second World War when the government rounded up approximately 110,000 people of Japanese decent and confined them in internment camps in California and Hawaii. All people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in internment camps. Sixty-two percent of internees were U.S. citizens. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_American_internment for more information.) I mention this not to suggest that anything similar is happening currently, but as a reminder that we are capable of it.

As expected, Jeff and I passed right through check-in without even a cursory examination of our bags. I was actually a bit infuriated, as I looked behind me to the end of the counter where the young man was still being detained. Somehow I would have felt better about it if EVERYONE was being similarly searched. But that was clearly not the case. I was observing blatant bigotry and discrimination, first-hand, and it irked me to my core.

Now, twelve years later, I am amazed that we continue to see rampant discrimination, disdain, fear, suspicion, and judgment associated with many of Arab ancestry in this country, as well as in other western communities throughout the globe, usually by those who have little-to-no first-hand experience with people of the Islamic faith.

So, here is what I learned from our marijuana activism experience that seems to carry over to this, or any other issue where fear is used as the basis and justification for judgment and condemnation; Your attitude changes when the issue becomes personal to you. We are only able to hold these kind of attitudes when the issue doesn’t touch our lives in an up-close and intimate way. What do I mean by this? Just like in marijuana activism, where you find that attitudes shift dramatically when a loved one is arrested on marijuana charges and hauled through the legal system, so too, in any kind of discrimination situation, whether it’s racial or sexual, or whatever, if you become close friends with someone belonging to this group, and you begin to care about them and gain a better understanding of who they are…then you also see that attitudes begin to change.

What is the purpose of this post, then? I guess simply this; Rather than judging a whole group of people and engaging in stereotyping, based on what you see in the media, take a leap and commit to get to know someone of the Islamic faith on a personal level. Strive to make friendships. Ask them about their belief system and culture. Even consider going to a local mosque to find out for yourself what is being preached from the pulpit. Use your head and your heart to observe the reality of the situation, and then form your own, educated decisions about what you think and believe. After all, Fred Phelps is a Baptist minister, but any thinking person would not judge all of Christiandom based upon his words and actions. Likewise, I tend to think that the actions of a few fanatical, fringe Muslims do not reflect the thoughts, behaviors, or culture of the entire Islamic community.