Sunday, August 29, 2004

Through The Looking Glass

While sitting in the Reagan National airport waiting for a flight back home, I ordered some pizza and took a seat at a counter that was facing a large mirror.

Mirrors have long been a source of fascination. Many works of literature, and other forms of expression, have forever recorded the world of reflection.

A mirror can provide us the opportunity to look at ourselves. We all look into a mirror as we get ready to greet the day, or to see if the pain in our eye is an eyelash. Next time you're brushing your hair in front of that glass vision that is your opposite, stop the primping process for a moment and take a good long look at who is looking back at you.

Move beyond the vanity and into the soul. Ignore the imperfections, and instead see who you really are. Do you like what you see?

Who are you really?

This is a personal view, and can be an enlightening experience. I believe that people should stop and take a look at themselves more often.

Do you spin your wheels trying to change how others view you, or do you apply your energy to improving how you feel about yourself?

I really don't care how others view me. My focus is on my personal journey. It can be compared to playing video games.

When you play most video games you try to best your highest score. In fact this is what makes people keep coming back for more.

I am constantly trying to improve my personal score in life. When someone needs my help, I do what I can to offer my assistance.

While here in the airport this morning, I arrived early so I was just sitting near the baggage claim and noticed an older woman, with obvious physical difficulties, waiting for her bag to come off the belt.

As I watched I was ready to get up and help her with her bags if she were to have problems getting them. She appeared to be looking for a small black roll-around type of bag, since these were the ones she was scrutinizing as they passed.

After a while, everyone had their bags but her. I noticed a Skycap was pulling a few black roll-around type bags off the belt at the far end and took them over to the baggage service area.

By this time the woman was wandering around with a sort of lost look wondering what she should do. I got up, walked over to her, excused myself, and told her that I think her bag may be over in the baggage service area.

When I was leaving the area, I noticed her leaving the baggage service area with her bag.

It is moments like these that allow me to look into a mirror and approve of the man I see looking back at me.

Helping that woman was not about recognition, it was not done for any reason other then the fact that someone needed some assistance, and I had the ability to lend a hand.

Even as I relate this story, the intent is not for any accolades from you. I'll say it again; I could care less what others think of me. These words are being shared with you in hopes they may inspire.

The story of our lives is still being written. As a good story can do, the direction can always change for good or bad. Make sure the last chapter of your story leaves you with a warm feeling of happiness.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Now You See Him

John Kerry’s boat buddies seem to be rallying against him. Apparently his Viet Nam stories are full of more holes then his plans for, well, just about anything else.

It turns out that the decorations he received during Viet Nam, that he is so proud and ready to throw in anybody’s face who isn’t tired of the mantra yet, were awarded under questionable circumstances. I won’t go into the details here, but it’s pretty much all over the talk shows and in the new book that is out called, “Unfit For Command”.

The Editorial Review in Amazon.com says, “The charges leveled against Kerry in this book are severe and include filing false operating reports; lobbying for and receiving three Purple Hearts for minor wounds, two of which were self-inflicted; receiving a Silver Star under false pretenses; offering false confessions of bogus war crimes in both print and testimony; and recklessness in the field, including the burning of a village without cause or direct order. The book also claims that Kerry left Vietnam after serving just four months instead of the usual one year tour and that he returned home and accused his fellow soldiers of atrocities without offering any evidence, endangering POWs in the process.”

John Kerry and the Democratic Party have tried everything possible to attack our current president. Most of these attacks seem childish and not worthy of a grade school playground, much less a presidential candidate. One such attack was to make fun of George W. Bush for joining the National Guard instead of going to Viet Nam.

It was a time when the draft was in effect. At a time when many men ran away to places like Canada to avoid their duty, George W. Bush and John Kerry both joined a separate arm of our defense forces. Kerry joined the Navy, went to Viet Nam and weaseled his way out early, this does not make him some big hero and George Bush not. At least Bush did not create bogus injuries to shirk his duty to his country.

It’s hilarious watching events heading toward this election unfold. Now John Kerry is agreeing with President Bush that knowing what he knows now he still supports President Bush’s actions concerning Iraq. So just what the heck does Kerry bring to the table in an offering to elect him? So far, I see nothing.

The funniest thing is listening to Liberals trying to defend John Kerry, or to try and make up some strange reason to hate George Bush. This comes out in shows like, “McEnroe”, which I’m embarrassed to admit that I watched tonight. It came on after "Dennis Miller", and I knew it was going to be Liberally-biased so I thought I’d see what the left side of the country was saying.

I can report that George Bush is probably a shoe-in for the upcoming election if this is all they have to go on. John McEnroe showed three pictures of President Bush, one in what appeared to be an Asian shirt, one as a cheerleader for Yale with the comment that he played for the team as a cheerleader, and finally a picture of the President picking his nose at a sports event.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had a camera on me 24/7 there would be times when I was possibly scratching, picking, or rubbing things that I would have been trying to do discreetly. Would this make him a bad president, or a human being?

Then McEnroe, the pillar of the tennis world by-the-way, shows a part of Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention and declares, “Great speech by Bill Clinton last night don’t we agree?” The audience sort of clapped a little seemingly to humor McEnroe, but you could tell it was not a big agreement. John tries to cover by saying, “A lot of Republicans in the audience tonight”.

No John, Bill Clinton was a disgrace to the position of President and many people do not consider him a leader in any stretch of the imagination. He reminds me of a used car salesman, and I get pissed off knowing all the crap he pulled while in the office of President and he still remains in the public eye like he did nothing wrong.

It worries me that John Kerry not only has the same used car salesman act, but he performs it worse then Clinton did.

I’m not necessarily a Republican, Democrat, or any particular party affiliation. Heck, if the Democrats came up with a candidate that had great ideas and made sense I would consider them, but John Kerry is not that man. He is certainly not man enough to fill our current president’s shoes and take over the leadership role of this country at this time.

Is President Bush perfect? No. Are any of us? No.

When I see John Kerry I think of the Walt Disney movie that was made years ago starring Kurt Russell called, “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t”. At the moment we see him, but after November he will slink back into the undergrowth of politics where he came from.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

ON SHEEP, WOLVES, AND SHEEPDOGS

This article was sent to me in e-mail. It was written by LTC(RET) Dave Grossman, RANGER, Ph.D.,author of "On Killing."

It is an excellent analogy of how people are basically sheep, wolves, or sheepdogs. Sounds simple enough, but reading how it is all put into perspective from this point of view hits home.

Take it from a sheepdog, you should read this article to see where you fall in the flock of life.

And now, the article...

"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?" - William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997.

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. -- from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

"There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men." - Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your gun, you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear, helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: "...denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying itisn't so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling."

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself..."Baa."

This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other.

Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

Flying Deer

Today started like any other day on the road for work.

Some of you know my job often has me driving all over the Northwestern part of the United States, through the mountains and valleys, near the lakes and the streams.

When I began this day, I never would have thought that I would have seen something that I had never seen before, and will more then likely never see again. I saw a flying deer.

No, this is not an article about Santa’s reindeer, nor is it fictional. For those of you who now doubt my word, I can offer my friend who was traveling with me at the time as proof. He witnessed this event as well. It was a spectacle that left us both gasping in disbelief.

Okay, enough misdirection. As you may have guessed by now, the deer was flying because it was struck by a car.

While heading from the Canadian border toward the little town of Curlew Washington, we were following a car and as we rounded a corner we saw something fly up and over the car and land on the opposite side of the road.

I’ll spare you more details of the incident, because it is obviously a sad thing to watch occur.

We stopped to check and see if the family that was in the car was alright. Luckily, nobody was injured but they were understandably shaken up a bit.

Heading closer to home we entered the blast zone of high winds (apparently about 70 mph). Visibility was low due to the amount of dirt in the air, and the wind apparently snapped and toppled trees, sparked fires, downed power lines and just generally created havoc throughout the Spokane Washington area.

We were fortunate that it seems all of our trees have survived the storm intact, and the trash cans were not yet placed outside for their Tuesday morning pickup.

Tonight we’re surrounded by strong winds, lightening, and rain. We went from 95 degrees to 71 degrees as I write this (11:30PM).

There are times we go about our daily lives ignoring nature, and then there are days like today were nature pops up and demands to be acknowledged.

As my daughter and I brought in the cushions from our patio furniture, I noticed that the back of the house is covered with a variety of spiders. We have been doing battle with spiders in the house too. We now have 10 spider traps placed throughout the bottom two floors of our home.

There is nothing more unnerving then watching a quarter-sized spider cruise across your floor while you’re watching television. While smacking one of these big brutes the other night as he crawled along my fireplace brickwork, he jumped on my hand and ran up my arm before he fell on the carpet. I am not normally afraid of spiders, but that gave me the heebie jeebies!

With the storm, fires, power outages, and spiders, it seems only natural that this day also included a flying deer. This night I will pay tribute to Mother Nature. Today I was reminded that we are not the rulers of the Earth; we are merely living here in concert with a variety of other creatures.