Witnessing the rise of America’s underbelly

The character of a nation, or an empire, begins to erode severely when the unacceptable becomes the accepted.  When the barriers of propriety and formality, where anything goes becomes the rule rather than the exception, when dignity and common decency no longer are part of the soul of a nation that society begins to deteriorate within.  When people, in particular politicians, radio talk show hosts and celebrities say what once would not have been uttered in public are said now without reprisal, a national culture degrades from within.  Quoting Plato, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”  The United States of America has entered the era of inferiority.

In recent years Americans have been subjected to bluster and bombast, lies and deceptions, arrogance and hubris and other misbehaviors that are nothing shy of fully disgusting.  Certain blubbery, drugged-out radio talk show hosts fill the air with bluster and banter spewing forth with false representations and words that are just short of treasonous.  Acting like unbridled buffoons, certain radio celeb nourishes the underbelly of society and insults what is left of basic intelligence in America.

New political opportunists appear on the national stage, purporting to represent the under-represented.  One particular female pol portrays a picture of hope while serving to heighten her own popularity and power.  She gives witness today on how hype trumps substance.  Coiffed like Barbie Doll and speaking with a voice that mimics Betty Boop, she screeches like chalk scraping across a chalkboard.  Her real motive is one of underlying deception for self-gain.  Already she has amassed millions through her charlatanism; her followings partially brain dead and fooled all too easily.

In his latest tome “Empire of Illusion” the late Chris Hedges elaborates on how America is decomposing from within.  Karl Marx once wrote, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  Today, illusion, deception and lies, delusion and fantasy combine to create the new opiate that feeds our nation’s masses.  We are seduced into a national lethargy, apathy and indifference; a national falsehood.

Politicians at local, state and national levels fail as leaders.  They act out in ways to assure their reelection and their sustained job security.  A former vice president, representing the darkest side of humanity, undermines our current president through relentless media ops; a first in our nation’s history.  That former vice president is callous, heartless (in spite of “us” giving a new heart to him) and represents all that is consummate evil.

Wall Street, banks and lending institutions, and insurance giants coalesce to create an institutional largesse surpassing grand larceny at its extreme.  Celebrities of every stripe make millions while the average American, the working and the millions not working scrape by.  Those who should be looked up to, who are expected to follow the higher moral ground fail to meet the expectations and hopes of the average American.  The icons and champions of society simply help to form the underbelly of America rather than work for the greater common good.  The commonweal has become the victim of these all too powerful villains.

Places of Christian worship, once close-knit churches in local communities, now thrive in huge stadiums and auditoriums that are circus and carnival in nature.  The mission of Christianity is failing.  God has become a commodity.  God is on the auction block, turned into a convenient tool that permits religious charlatans to attain wealth and power while the spiritually hungry, the starving masses continue to look on.  God has been transformed into theater and megabucks.  By default, the masses become partners in this charade against God and become party to America’s heresy.

The American media overwhelms its viewing audiences with constant tales and warnings of terror and terrorists.  The more reasoned among us surmise the terrorists are not the ones to worry about.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  America has reached a new zenith where the only thing we have to fear is ourselves.  We are destroying ourselves from within.  Perhaps the terrorists are winning after all, a cleverly contrived psychological maneuver to promote fear mongering, hysteria and lies to keep the masses under control.  The comic strip character Pogo once said, “I have seen the enemy; and, he is us.”

The underbelly of America, like excrement rising up in sewerage, has risen to the top.  The fabric of our great nation is being undone; shredded asunder by false prophets, inept self-gain politicians, and self-described truth-sayers who in fact are purveyors of lies and deception.  Decency, dignity, respect and respectability, accountability and politeness have become society’s cadavers.  The fabric of our nation is threadbare.  In place of leadership we witness strident obstructionism.  Instead of reaching for the higher bar, the bar is lowered so that others may “pass” with less effort and commitment.  Plato speaks once again!  Intelligence and intellect have seen their demise.  In their place are sound bites, adulterated English and college graduates who perform worse than high school graduates of two decades ago.  The illiteracy of America’s youth today is astonishing and should be sending shockwaves throughout the land.  Our nation’s future is being impaled upon the stake of stupidity.  “Faking it” has become status quo.

The frustration and anger coursing throughout our nation is growing thicker and gnarlier.  We continue to hope, but each new hope gives witness to how the underbelly is energized to diminish and wipe out that hope.  Duped, deceived and deluded, we hang on.  The underbelly that deceives us and alludes us is rising to the top like the proverbial sewerage.  Social toxic waste is feeding our nation’s underbelly, assuring that it will grow and thrive at the expense of this great nation, we the people, present and future.  The United States of America is bottoming out.  The bottom feeders are winning.

A Letter of Apology

To Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl:
A Letter of Apology

I do not know you.  You do not know me.  It is unlikely we will ever meet one another; or, have an opportunity to get to know one another.  In spite of that, I am compelled to share with you what follows.

I was and continue to be appalled by the incendiary vilifications lobbed at you and your family by the national media outlets of the United States after you were freed by the Taliban.  The media, writ large, bothered not to look for a back story about your capture by the Taliban five years ago.  Your fellow soldiers in your rag tag unit called you a deserter.  Yet, two of the leaders of that rag tag unit were demoted and your unit was regarded as militarily sloppy and unprofessional.  But, again, the media telegraphed only that which portrayed you as the villain; a deserter; anti-American; your comrades were regarded as “good guys” with the “facts”.

Add to your public abuse how the media went on to attack your family, especially your father.  The “word” being passed around was that your father was a closet Taliban.  That growing his long beard and learning the Afghan language of Pashto transformed your father into a sort-of enemy.  The very idea your father might have actually taken those steps in order to better understand Afghan culture and to better understand how you might be suffering was lost to the press, entirely.

The firestorm into which you were catapulted was heighted by the fact that five Taliban incarcerated at Hotel GTMO were traded for your release.  Sadly, the average citizen in the United States cannot sift through all the excrement that floats from such moments, because politicians like John McCain and Lindsey Graham use such moments to bolster their celebrity before their constituents.  Given the remarks made by McCain and Graham, you indirectly became twice-victimized.  The average citizen becomes somewhat a bobble head, what with all the lies and back and forth among media gurus and pols.

The crux of your problem, even tangentially, is how the United States media and certain politicians feel compelled to use every opportunity good or bad to grandstand once again.  Worse, the unbridled irresponsibility of the press, both print and electronic, has become our national cancer; or, part of our ever-overflowing national sewer.  By no fault of yours, you became the latest “celebrity” to be assaulted viciously by a press corps that cares not for the facts; but, craves the hype and the ratings the press corps hopes to gain.  They lack fully any sense of integrity, going out for the kill for the thrill with heinous disregard for the damage they are creating for the lives of others.

That you as a young Sergeant in our US Military should suffer the sins and viciousness of people ill-prepared, under-informed and ravenous for the next great headline is beyond shameful.  For five years you were a prisoner of war with the Taliban.  Your ill-suited comrades broadcast that you had “turned to the enemy”, later determined as a lie.  If in fact you in any way violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Department of the U. S. Army will handle your situation within the parameters of that Code.  As a Vietnam War Era Veteran, I am familiar with the UCMJ.  It actually may be one of our finest legal guidelines in all of the United States Government.

So, Sergeant Bergdahl, I apologize to you and your family for the hideous and ungracious exposure to which you have been subjected.  One must ponder this moment, because it is a sad commentary about what this nation has become as a result of a media consumed with moral turpitude and politicians who cannot learn to keep their mouths shut.  Godspeed, Sergeant!  Godspeed!

The Normal Heart, a Movie

This film is absolutely superb, yet terribly heart-wrenching and heartbreaking. For those of us who lived through this time, the journey backward unleashed old wounds and deep sorrows. Gay men in particular were treated as society’s pariahs, told this was God’s punishment for being homosexual. The religious community that should have rushed out to help define this moment in history in a benevolent way in fact shut its eyes and doors to the crisis that was looming. I lost a former partner, friends and a few boyfriends to this horrid disease. The Reagan White House all but dismissed HIV and AIDS, calling it “their” disease. Reagan saw HIV / AIDS as divine punishment for homosexuals, although one of his sons is gay and Reagan built his movie career on the backs of very creative gays. Bomer and Ruffalo are beyond awesome in this movie. All the actors are truly sensational telegraphing the sweeping sense of rejection felt writ large by gays across this nation. Had it not been for the aggressive militancy (which I often disagreed with at the time) of the likes of Larry Kramer and others, only God (and ONLY God) could have known where this might have ended up.

But gay men do not come off Scot-free from this moment in our history. Many, as noted in the film, were more inclined to continue with their reckless hedonism rather than heed the warning signs going off like sirens’ sounds. At the time I had a friend / colleague who was heading a national gay rights organization in its formative stage. I suggested to him during one of our luncheons that his group should raise the red and yellow flags about this health crisis. He responded that gays had been told for too long how to behave and his organization simply would not do that. I suggested that to be a failure of leadership.

Soon to turn 70, having come out 46 years ago this month with my first partner, I have managed to “dodge the bullet” as one long time friend puts it. Thank God — literally — the gay world passed through that moment in history. The scientific medical research that came as a result is perhaps a Divine gift in and of itself, because before HIV retroviruses were studied nowhere. They suddenly became the rage at medical research centers.

The fact Christian fundamentalists and right wingers turned up their noses rather than take the path that Jesus would have taken pretty well sums up how those folk are not Christian at all; neither in spirit/Spirit nor in action.

The Reverend Vincent Turner

The Lord of the Fields

By the Reverend M. Vincent Turner
August 2009 / Revised March 2012

Growing up in rural Maryland farm country was unquestionably idyllic.  There is much about my boyhood life that I relish to this day, a time that upon reflection seems far simpler than today’s time.  Yet, amidst all the open space, fields of hay, rows of fresh grown produce, orchards filled with apples, peaches, pears and cherries, along with varied livestock resided certain torment.

We moved east to just outside Baltimore in 1948.  I had just turned four.  Midwestern and Southern folk transferring from Indiana to the East, our family had a long history in those Southern and Midwestern roots.  Coming through in the late 1600s what now is known as The Chesapeake, my ancestors migrated through Virginia into Kentucky; settling in lower Indiana.  Lower Indiana along the Ohio is where my great-grandfather and grandfather Turner created huge tobacco farms, taking their annual crop each year to auction in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dad remarried the day before my fourth birthday.  He had requested a transfer from the company he worked for, Seagram’s Distillers, in order to avoid rumors in the small Indiana town that had been home to my birth mother, my older sister and me.  The divorce from my birth mother had been hailed a milestone, my dad being among the first among men to secure full custody of both children.

Five years after moving three more times Dad bought a small six acre farm in Howard County.    At the time they called small farm plots “farmettes”.  I doubt you will find the term in any Webster’s!

Work became an early lesson.  It was our standard way of life.  When we arrived, the farm was unkempt and overgrown with shrubs, weeds and only God knows what else.  Soon a tractor, plows, discs and other farm equipment appeared.  My dad, a workhorse by all definition, was an engineer by day and a farmer on evenings and weekends.  It did not take long, given our Scottish and Scots-Irish work ethic to turn this proverbial diamond in the rough into a jewel all its own.

Fields once overgrown and occupied by huge black snakes were turned into a landscape of rye, soybean and winter grasses.  Where no garden once had existed an array of fresh vegetables soon took root.  The orchard, long gnarled and absent the necessary care and pruning, ushered forth into a proud stand of fruit trees that offered up fresh apples, peaches, pears and cherries for fresh eating and canning.  Where neighbors had said, “Nothing will grow there” grew an abundance of lima beans, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, early peas, scallions, Swiss chard and other produce that graced our dinner table in their season and then winter fare from daylong ordeals of canning and freezing.  Our ancestral history of being successful farmers and producers once again rose to its own proud and fresh heritage.

The lower fields were mowed to a respectable landscape.  Then we bought sheep to graze the pasture, keeping once-wild fields properly barbered.  Fresh eggs were gathered from the hens, their manure used sparingly to fertilize young plants in late spring to promise fresh produce ample enough to feed us throughout the summer and fall.  Work, I soon learned, was meant to put one somehow closer to God.  My dad’s favorite mantra, “Idle hands lead to the devil’s deeds” still rings loudly in my ears this day.

Work was not simply an honorable exercise.  It was required; mandatory.  Being lazy and sloth like was not merely frowned upon.  It was an indictment; an indictment against you and God.  There was something profoundly Biblical in the manner in which I was brought up.  Each day was to be productive.  To be nonproductive was disgraceful, lacking in “Grace”.

That meant tending to the sheep, breaking winter ice that coated the top of the cistern in the harshness of winter for their fresh water.  It required tossing fresh hay into the sheep pen each morning, and cleaning their pen on a regular cycle.  It meant feeding the hens corn each day.  Whether it was shelling beans or peeling apples and peaches; or, doing homework for school with earnest instruction to earn a better grade, each was to be done with the best of intention and with heart.

To fail was unacceptable, no matter the task.  God was in the mix, and it was one’s duty to make God (and, dad) proud.  Good enough was never good enough.

But behind that veil of all our good works and deeds lurked a darker, sadder side.  Alcohol became the Achilles heel for my mother and father.  “Mother” in fact was my stepmother, a woman who possessed a profound sense of unconditional love and duty to her family; and, for me.  She had neither smoked nor drunk alcohol until she married dad.  The two of them would then travel down their slippery slope of abuse for years to follow.  (Her mother despised my dad.  I learned to understand why.)

Mother, as I came to call her, was first generation English Canadian American.  Among the many gifts she bestowed upon me were my good manners, a strong sense of dignity and an instruction not to be judging of others.  For as much as she might find a person, a group or something else horribly distasteful, Mother always allowed that was “their” world and we had ours.  Best simply to leave them to themselves!  Mother was the glue that held us together through the bad times and the good, striving to set the best standard in all settings.

Despite the intrinsic goodness that was intentioned, alcohol abuse became our family’s nightmare from which each of us – my siblings and I – still struggle to wrest ourselves free.  Rage and anger, yelling and screaming coursed through each weekend and sometimes on a given weeknight.  This belied what to the outside world appeared an all too typical and contented American family of the fifties.  The tranquil beauty of the open countryside was forced to yield to a cacophony of mean-spirited shouts and insults that would be all but forgiven through the next morning’s hangovers.  The abuses that formed the fabric of the previous night’s imbibing somehow were neutralized or minimized by the next day’s bold silence as if nothing “bad” actually had taken place that previous night.  Hangovers rendered a unique and welcome silence.

How to free myself from this sordid chaos, I pondered?  Where to go?  Where can I?  How could this young farm boy escape the madness that routinely raged within?  Truly, my young mind could make no sense of the torment that ricocheted from off wall to wall, room to room.

Soon, though, I learned my escape.  Whether warm weather or cold, I discovered my one available and consoling exit:  the outdoors.  Mother and dad, so busy stewing in their own brew, would not see my easy exit out the backdoor of our large farm house. I went outdoors unnoticed.

Here is where I found “it”.  Here in the still of an early night, walking casually and whimsically through the fields, I found solace.

Free of the din of any city noise and the all too bright lights, the darkness wrapped itself around me like a solemn cloak, a cloak of comfort and peace.  Gazing upward at the heavens, the darkening skies were peppered with crystal like twinkling stars upon stars.  The moon, whether crisp as a sliver or bold and shining in its fullness, spoke of a world foreign to the verbal anguish taking place inside our large farm house.

I would reach heavenward stretching my arms as far as they could go, imagining myself pulling up to those stars and clinging onto their celestial majesty.  Or, I would crouch down as if to sit in the cockpit of a make-believe spaceship, closing my eyes tightly and pretending to levitate to fly and hover about well above the earth.  At an even younger age I would have dreams about flying freely about, soaring above the houses and trees.  Oh, how I wished I could bring that boyish dream into this night’s reality!

The quiet solitude at times would be interrupted only briefly by the rumbling growl coming from the Hollywood pipes of a souped-up Ford, Mercury, Chevy or Plymouth.  A dog barking from a distant neighbors or the peal of the steer at the local university cattle farm might stir the silence only for a moment.  Then, again:  stillness.

As I walked through the rye grass or the rows of beans, tomatoes and other greens I began to understand there was something “greater than this”, greater than the living hell that left one never entirely at-ease on any given weekend.  Still too young to identify this universe I sensed so intuitively as “God”, I embraced the greatness that had yet to form its name on my lips.

At this age of 10 or 11, I had yet to discern what we called it, or by whose name it might be called.  Yet, its greatness and awesomeness did not escape my boyish gape.  Its wonder held me not merely spellbound, but offered me assurance of a greater place with a solemnity and peace yet to be realized.  Of course I had heard about “God” and “Jesus” throughout my young life.  I simply had never “felt” it.

Attending Sunday school, joining the choir, becoming a youth leader and a Boy Scout all played into my deeper and richer understanding as to what I had felt, sensed and intuited.  There was that place where I knew no fear, no anguish.  A place where foul and angry words were not in the chorus I had become so accustomed to.  No!

It was a place of healing and inexplicable understanding.  The incomprehensible somehow became the comprehendible; the comprehending.  Its greatness was tangible in the most mysterious of ways.  Absent ridicule and harshness, its warm embrace was magical.  Felt but unseen, known but not heard, this extraordinary power of the unknown held me spellbound.

That greatness, that “allness” I felt swarming around me and within me was but one thing and one thing alone:  The Lord of the fields.  God!  My God!  How I did come to love Thee and to know Thee!  That You would Grace this young farm boy’s brow with the fullness and awesomeness of your Presence was near fantasy, a magic trick without the trickery.  You, My Lord of the fields walked with me under the night sky, assuring my footsteps while giving to me the promise of a more holy and wholesome state of being.  And that, Oh Lord of the field, you did grant to me with your Holy Grace!  Thank you, Lord of the fields.  From a boy’s heart, “Thank you!”  Amen.

On Reflection

Those who know me well know that I have been a political junkie for many years.

You also know that justice, integrity, honesty, loyalty and fairness form the core of my being.  None of those elements is fuzzy, wishy-washy or taken lightly.  Each owns its intimate share of gravitas for me.

The caption under my high school graduation picture in my senior yearbook for that year reads, “Every man of courage is a man of his word.”  Over these last 47 years that message has grown in meaning to me.  Did my high school friends see something in that only in these later years has spoken more deeply and profoundly to me?  Do those words give credibility and authenticity to the fundamentals of my character?   Have they framed my later stages of life?  Truly, I want to believe they do.

I come from a family where discipline was law, not an exception.  My father was a stern and strict Scots-Irishman who was unbending in his demands for excellence, hard work, truth, honesty and steadfast determination.

Much of that framed not only me, but most of the young Americans I grew up with in the rolling hills of Maryland farmland.  There was honor in a hard day’s work, and anyone who knows a thing about farming knows about a hard day’s work!

Honesty and truthfulness put one closer to God, they said.  To lie, to cheat, to steal or to be disloyal violated some unwritten inborn oath one had made with God.  Yes, God was important:  Church or Sunday school every Sunday.  Prayer was said before every meal, even in restaurants when we went out to eat (which was not often, because money was not abundant at home).

I was a Boy Scout, sang in the choir, served as a church youth leader and was an avid fundraiser during Holiday sell-a-thons for Christmas nuts, cookies and whatever else we might purvey for the good of the church, the Scout fund or the community.

God was not some distant grandfather-styled figure who lofted above the earth in a heavenly white robe with a long gray beard handing down edicts from on high.  God was a constant source and presence in one’s life.

In school we prayed The Lord’s Prayer each day, and we saluted “Old Glory”.  Teachers had full authority over us.  If we got out of line and the folks at home found out, watch out!  The rule of the teacher was never in question.  Even the smallest misdemeanor could be regarded as a heinous criminal act.  Upon returning home at the end of the school day, one prayed to Almighty God mom or dad had not “found out”.

At the end of every “Yes” or “No” came a “Sir” or “Ma’am”.  Failure to end such responses with the required suffix could result in nothing less than hell’s fury.

When elders walked into the living room or the dining room where the younger among us had been sitting, we stood immediately.  We did not sit again until the older folk or the ladies had taken their place.  If there were no places left to sit, we stood; and we stood quietly; silently.

Television was turned off by a certain hour on weeknights, homework study taking full priority over any entertainment one might otherwise hope to indulge in.

An honest day’s work was expected for an honest day’s pay, and slacking off was to be as much as a sin against God.

Holding doors open for ladies and one’s elders and always taking one’s hat off inside any building was never the exception.  It was the rule.  Respect for others was not an exercise randomly exercised.

To be mediocre was to “miss the mark”, so striving toward excellence and personal betterment were real signs of good, strong character; of being the good citizen.

All of these standards of performance were ingrained in us, drilled into us in such manner that they formed the template for our futures.  They served me well in my military duty, my leaving the US Air Force with three written commendations for outstanding leadership and excellent performance.

Those values, unlike the muddled values of today, have served me well over these last 47 years.  They were not “my” values; they were “our” values.  If you did not like a certain group of people, or a particular lifestyle, you were told, “Leave them alone.  Walk away.  Mingle with your own kind.”  We were told to keep our nose out of someone else’s business.

“Mind your own business,” and “Change what you can change” were the voices of reason frequently heard and handed down by those older and wiser.

Most important was, “Be the best you can be.”

The foregoing code of ethics might seem foolish or trite to many today.  In fact, my experience over recent years is this code of ethics is embraced by far too few and regarded by too many as foolish, a waste of time.

“What does all this have to do with my being a political junkie”, you might ask?  Everything!

This week a man was sent to prison for stealing 50 BILLION dollars from his clients.  50 BILLION!  Yet we, the humble wage earners, must now foot the bill for his incarceration.

Lending institutions over-qualified families dying to own a home, families who did not qualify to buy that home.  Now those families are about to lose their home if they have not lost it already.  Why?  Because someone higher-up in the pipeline of the lending institution wanted to close more deals, make more money and claim their own great success story of the moment.

We hear a national radio talk-show host who boasts loudly how he wants our current president “to fail”.  To my ears, that is a first in our history!  It translates into, “Let this nation fail!”  There was a time when such talk would have been considered un-American, even treasonous.  Now, it gets widespread celebrity.  He continues to earn millions where he should have been run out of town on a rail.  Fired on the spot!

Again this week we hear about our most recent president and vice president authorizing secret hit squads, teams of assassins.  Those two former senior representatives of our nation authorized torture in direct violation of numerous national and international codes.  Is this not criminal?

College graduates today cannot form simple sentences.  They cannot even reconcile a basic checkbook.  Too many are buoyed up by “mommy” and “daddy”.  Left to their own devices, these young people could not survive in our real world.  In the future, they may not.  After mommy and daddy are dead and gone, then what?

A sociologist recently reported that the generation now coming into adolescence is so inept they will not be able to function as adults when they become adults!

Our national infrastructure has fractured, despite years of warnings from engineers, architects and savvy managers.  Roads and bridges collapse despite early warning signs that could have changed such fate.  Corporations fail because of failed leadership, dinosaur mentalities and ether-style thinking.

Members of Congress approve millions of taxpayer dollars for bridges to nowhere, airports in the middle of nowhere and frivolous “pork” projects that defy the public trust.

While politicians are in abundance, leaders are in very short supply while in great demand.  The poverty of leadership in our nation is a disgrace.

Those who make honest, sincere efforts to improve the plight of our world are overshadowed by those who rob from the public and the land.  Larceny of the commonweal has become standard fare.

Villains have protections and rights greater than their victims.  Judges often are so corrupt they fail in just decisions to give sway to their own power, political connections and job security.

Our Constitution has been undermined and soiled by those entrusted by oath to protect it.  Many who claim to be solid citizens are the latest fascists.  “Liberty and justice for all” has become “liberty, justice, power and wealth for the few”.

Congress passes laws giving corporate America a free ride while we the working people see our lives and lifestyles diminished over time.  The middle class that once was has fallen to the lesser class.  The poor cannot get much poorer.

The “American Dream” for too many has become the “American Nightmare”.  The promise of a good and solid future has been robbed from us by the very ones elected to protect and shore up that future.

Our national financial system is bankrupt.  We, the capitalists, now borrow from the communists – and by huge sums!

Our US Military is sent off to fight false wars, big lies.  Who is to stop it?  Large corporations get fat off the blood of our national treasure, our Military.  We the people get to foot that bill, too.

Corporate heads watch their companies go “belly up” while exiting with millions in “parachutes”, buyouts and stock options.  Their workers, the ones who brought corporate heads their success, see their life savings disappear, jobs lost and lives ruined.

America the beautiful has become America the ugly.  Children run their parents.  Parents run the schools.  Corporations run the nation.  Inept managers run viable entities into the ground.  National politicians simply run:  run toward greater power, run toward greater personal wealth and greed, run to the next big lie or deception and often simply run to hide.

America need not worry about terrorists from the outside.  We already have enough people destroying us within!  This is, after all, about politics: politics at every level, in every quarter, because everything is political.

Have you had enough of all this?  I have!

A Few Good Men

A Review of the Movie, “A Few Good Men”

After seeing the movie “Black Hawk Down” on a recent Friday evening, I have reflected repeat-edly on this movie.

Despite the heavy artillery, gunfire and airships tumbling to the ground, the theatrics cre-ated to make a war movie all the more appealing to the audience, there is a deep, rich side to this movie. Based on actual events that took place on 03 October 1993 in Somalia, the movie producers did a good job in spite of some liberty with history necessary to make the movie ex-citing and appealing to the average audience. However, something else comes through that the writers and producers may not have planned, intended or expected.

That something else is an excellent portrayal of male-to-male love created through esprit de corps and camaraderie. It is not sexual love. It is not intended to be. It is, however, the unique connectedness men develop in a military-style, all male setting. Men bond. It is what “being a good soldier” is about.

Toward the end of this movie, young Sgt. Matt Eversmann (played by Josh Hartnett) asks a fellow soldier, Sgt. Hoot (played by Eric Bana), “Why do you keep doing it? Why do you keep going back out there?” Hoot ponders for a moment, seeming not quite sure how to answer. Then he responds, “It is for them. It is for the guy next to you.”

Here is a fact: Military environment for the most part is a homosexual environment. Sex is the one part missing (presumably) from that environ. That men can love other men in nonsex-ual ways, rely on them, hug them and cry with them, is not a failure of the masculine. That men can love other men in sexual ways is not a failure of the masculine, either.

I recall a friend some years ago who was “seeing” a Marine. My friend shared with me, “It’s kind of odd. My boyfriend loves the sex and all that. But, NO kissing! To him, kissing a guy just isn’t right.” Yet, having sex with another guy was okay. Kissing implied intimacy, turn-ing the act of sex into something feminine. That was unacceptable to the young Marine, no matter how frustrating it might have been for his civilian boyfriend.

In a Details magazine interview of young Marines in the early nineties, when the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy was being implemented, one young Marine said to the inter-viewer: “The only difference between a straight Marine and a gay Marine is a six pack of beer.” Perhaps his comment oversimplified the issue, but it speaks to the barriers, barriers often inten-tionally created on ill-founded or false theories in order to keep people under control.

In Black Hawk Down it is refreshing to see a display of young military men crying over the loss of a buddy, or simply out of fear itself. It suggests that we, men – straight men and gay men – have advanced somewhere along the emotion scale. Even gay men do not cry, stuck back in time with the words from a parent, usually the father, “Suck it up! Boys don’t cry.” It is okay for boys to cry.

And, boys and men do cry, as we should. Considerable emotional crap and sludge gets washed away through tears of sorrow, fear and regret. And what about the tears of joy? Are men to let tears roll down like mighty waters in the heat of a huge victory or a feat of extraor-dinary athletic achievement? Or, do we just “suck it up”, pop another beer and belch out the words, “Geez! That was great!” the tears choked back through brew swirling down our throat?

For one man to love another man translates no more into having sex with him than having sex with a man translates into loving him. That formula is universal for gay and straight folk alike. Intimacy between men does not translate into sex, anymore than sex translates into in-timacy. That, too, is a universal formula for gay and straight alike.

What Black Hawk Down left me with is a sense of encouragement. Encouraged to see the film industry evolve to a point where it can show young soldiers crying together or hugging one another without someone in the audience letting out a huge gasp in disgust. In the framework of U.S. military service, gay men in the military are not the problem anyway. Other nations are admitting openly gay personnel with little fanfare and even less anxiety. In the U.S., it is straight men fearing gay men, fearing a gay man may bring that straight guy to realize he, too, might be a little bit gay. And, as some bisexuals might tell you, not all men are “full time” gay or “full time” straight.

Whether in combat, in Special Forces units, or non-combat peacetime, the few good men work in unison. They are a unit. One unit. Symbiosis. How a man undresses or what he does once undressed does not really affect morale of the unit, plus or minus, despite current military propaganda to the contrary. It is the military’s interpretation, interpretation most often biased to the negative, which places some military men in the dark abyss of denial, fear and confusion. It is their fear, fear of being labeled a “sissy,” that drives some men to extreme measures. The beating death of Army Sgt. Winchell just a few years ago is a perfect example. Winchell was “known” as gay among his buddies. He whipped a young soldier’s butt during a fight one night. That young soldier, taunted because he had been beaten “by a fag,” bludgeoned Winchell to death with a baseball bat. The rest now is history. Unfounded fear, unnatural fear leads some men to drastic acts.

Men are victims of a lie, the lie that tells us not to feel. And worse: We cannot feel. Little wonder there is so much rage and anger in American men, especially straight. Men have been told far too long we cannot be who or what we are – naturally. Black Hawk Down, intentionally or unintentionally, dispels the myth. Real men do cry. Even a “few good men” do cry!