Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Warrior Persona of Everyman

A New Yorker “Talk of the Town” piece by Rebecca Mead entitled “Theatre of War” grabbed me by the throat and still hasn’t fully let go, two weeks later. The meat of the piece, a mini-interview with a former professional soldier named Jason Everman after an “antiwar” play about the Iraq War (it was “pay for a vet” night) pissed me off enough that I spent the last two weeks stewing about it.

Here’s Mead describing Everman’s reaction to “Black Watch”, a play about the famed Scottish regiment of the same name’s Iraq deployment:

At least one veteran declared himself a conscientious objector to the general approval of the play. “I didn’t join the Army because I didn’t want to work the deli counter at a convenience store,” Jason Everman, a heavily tattooed, bearded veteran of the Army Rangers and the Special Forces, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said, referring to the play’s depiction of soldiers as having been motivated to enlist by the lack of alternatives. “I joined the Army because I had a specific agenda: to develop the warrior aspect of my persona.”

As a teen-ager living in Washington state, Everman explained, he had been inspired by the “Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini.” “He was the quintessential Renaissance man: an accomplished warrior, an artist, a philosopher,” he said. Everman had already taken care of the artistic aspect of his persona, a friend who was with him said, at which Everman admitted that he had been a guitarist. (No kidding: post-encounter intelligence reveals that in the early nineties he played with Nirvana and Soundgarden.) Having left the military in 2006, he is now studying philosophy at Columbia University. “It’s the Platonic ideal of the tripartite soul,” he said. “Wisdom, courage, and temperance. Those are Plato’s words, not mine.” When pressed, he took issue with the antiwar sentiment that the play ultimately expresses. (“This is nay fucking fighting,” one soldier says, while watching a four-hour assault by American forces. “This is just plain old-fashioned bullying like.”) “War sucks—I can say that with empirical knowledge—but there are alternatives that are worse in the world,” Everman said, and added that he had done nothing as a soldier that compromised his ethics. It was suggested that perhaps the playwright, Gregory Burke, was developing the artistic aspect of his persona, and had yet to progress to the warrior aspect. “If he did that, he might have written a different story,” Everman replied, in an answer that was both philosophical and artful, and which deployed the very special force of tact.

The parts that got my panties in a bunch are Everman’s assertion that he joined the Army specifically “to develop the warrior aspect of [his] persona”, and the whole thousand-year-old-plus renaissance man Warrior/Artist/Philosopher bit, which seemed to me so much like a turd garnished with rose petals. I think I stopped reading and said aloud, “what a fucking asshole.” I thought of the thousands of vets coming home with scrambled eggs for brains, with missing limbs, with hideous scars or burns, and the one’s coming home in flag-draped boxes; I thought of those men and women and their families coping with disabilities for the rest of their lives, of mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters mourning the loss of their loved ones; I thought of the men and women doing two, three, four, five tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, and especially of one soldier to whom we’d sent care packages who’s whole family (Father, Mother, and Wife) had all done at least one tour in either or both countries. I thought of all that and hated Jason Everman and his preciously-gained warrior persona.

That’s where I was off and on for the last two weeks, with the article and the perception of the man from the article marinating in my head. I thought of how my view of war has and continues to evolve, and specifically about two books I’ve recently read on the subject: Chris Hedges “War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning” (buy it) and David Livingstone Smith’s “The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War” (buy it). I still haven’t finished Smith’s book, but the gist of both is that war is a part of our DNA–woven into our nature over millions of years of evolution. From “savages” we evolved, and more often than not from the largest and most powerful and most warlike tribes–those that decimated their rivals. No matter how pointless, barbaric and destructive war often is in the modern era, no matter how toxic its aftereffects are to our minds, bodies, and planet, the capacity for war and warfare exists and will persist in us until we as a species attain mastery over our minds and emotions. That time, unfortunately, will not come for millions of years more, if ever.

As a child I dreamed of battles but I am no warrior. I served four years in the US Navy, during a period of relative peace for our country, from 1996 to 2000. I enlisted, in descending order of importance, most to least: to learn a trade, to serve my country, to get away from home, and to get some money for college. Since being discharged in the Spring of 2000, I’ve thought about going back in off and on. Unlike many, 9/11 angered me, but didn’t motivate me to reenlist–I figured “we’d” get bin Laden fast and easy and that would be that. I hated the Iraq War since 1997, when it was just bombs and sanctions, but nonetheless for about five years I’ve fought a small but nagging voice in my head which has urged me to rejoin the Armed Forces, and not the relatively-safe US Navy, but the rifle and pack and patrols Armed Forces. Again, I’m no warrior, but I feel the pull to go to war–to participate in the epic conflict of my time. My rational side (my chickenshit side?) has so far prevailed, and as a father of one young child with another on the way I’ve got many reasons not to go–but I’d be lying if I said not going didn’t make me feel like a shit.

And there it is: I’m not pissed at Everman, I’m pissed at myself. I don’t even know Jason Everman. The guy in the Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker sketch isn’t him, but just a snapshot of him gleaned from a few minutes of interview after a play. Everman went to war for his reasons, I may have thought those reasons made him an ass, but it was his own ass he put on the line every step of the way, and he did everything the Army Rangers asked him to do and then came home. He told the truth to Recebba Mead: he didn’t go to war for a sixpence, or to learn how to fix computers, he went for the experience and because he wanted to understand the warrior instinct inside of us all that urges us to fight, to conquer, and to kill if necessary. He is the warrior he set out to become, and a very honorable man to boot.

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EFCA MORE democratic than NLRB "secret ballot" elections

You’ve heard the talking point: the evil unions want to ram something called the Employee Free Choice Act through congress, and if passed this “so called” free choice act will strip workers of their democratic right to a secret ballot election. Shock and horror!

As with most Corporatist talking points , this one is meant to muddy the issue and get organized labor and the general public confused on what EFCA will and won’t do. (I’ve discussed the EFCA in some depth is previous posts, here, here, and here) Nathan Newman at TMP Cafe really knocked one out of the park with some common sense wisdom on the EFCA: it will actually be MORE DEMOCRATIC than existing labor laws, since it will engage a larger part of the workforce. Until now, unions could organize for an NLRB secret ballot election, set a date for said election, and as long as a majority of participants in the election–not necessarily a majority of all workers–voted yea, the NLRB would certify the union for that workplace and ask management to bargain with the union leadership for a new contract (unfortunately, with labor laws so weak presently, it’s a bitch to get management to the bargaining table, therein the problem and the need for EFCA). When you consider all the reasons people give to skip voting: apathy, too busy, forgot, etc–it makes perfect sense and Mr. Newman is right; EFCA card check, which requires a majority of all employees in the work unit to sign on the union drive, is more democratic than the NLRB’s election.

Nathan Newman, from TMP Cafe:

Horrors, the business lobby cries, weeping for the lost democratic voice of their workers (as they threaten to fire anyone who supports the union during the election), but here’s the thing– an NLRB election recognizes the union if a majority of THOSE VOTING support the union, while the card check option requires support from a majority of ALL WORKERS IN THAT COMPANY OR VOTING UNIT. So the latter option is harder and actually is more guaranteed to reflect the will of the workers. Follow below the fold to imagine how this would play out in a federal Presidential election.

And, as Mr. Newman explains, the secret ballot election never went away, despite the crazy talking points that say it did:

The secret ballot is a useful institution and workers will retain that right under EFCA, since 30% of workers in a worksite can always demand an election and as long as a majority of workers refuse to sign cards authorizing the union, they hold onto a right to have an election instead. But where a majority of workers recognize that they want a union and want to avoid the employer threats and coercion that accompany an NLRB election, the right to a card check option should clearly exist and is the best way to reflect the real democratic will of workers.

This should be on the top ten list of stuff to pass come January 21, 2009.

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My Kin are klansmen?

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In the middle of reading a story about Idahoan elementary school students chanting “assassinate Obama” on their busride to school, the name of the town where it occurred gave me pause: Rexburg, Idaho.

In addition to being the “reddest place in America” (according to a 2006 Salon.com article, they voted 93% for Bush in 2004), it’s also the neighboring town to where my father was born and the “family seat” was.

My father was born in Rigby, Idaho, in 1941. We don’t talk genealogy, and I’ve never visited, but I believe many 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and “kissing” cousins of mine still live there. My paternal grandfather was a “jack” Mormon, one who left the LDS church and didn’t look back. Many of my father’s cousins, however, are still very involved in the Mormon church.

Here’s the news story on the bus chant, from KIKD Channel 2 News (story, videovia RawStory)

REXBURG – Controversial words spoken by kids on a school bus have some Madison County parents concerned.

Matthew Whoolery and his wife aren’t blaming the school district for what happened on the bus but they do think all parents need to be careful about what they say and teach their children.

Whoolery and his wife couldn’t believe it when their second and third graders got off the bus last week and told them what other students were saying.

“They just hadn’t heard anything like this before,” said Whoolery. “They were chanting on the bus, ‘Assassinate Obama. Assassinate Obama.’ Then adding in a name sometimes of a classmate on the bus, ‘Assassinate Obama and Kate.'”

The Whoolery’s explained to their kids what assassinate means then contacted the school about what was happening.

“I think the thing that struck us was just like, ‘Where did they get the word and why would they put that word and that person together?'” said Whoolery.

It’s not that the Whoolery’s are big Obama fans they just don’t like people joking about a serious matter concerning any leader of the country.

One final anecdote about Rexburg, from RawStory’s David Edwards and Muriel Kane:

The population of Madison County is not only heavily Republican but also 97.7% white. One of Rexburg’s lone Democrats, a professor at the university, told Salon that “she remembers the time when a group of classmates followed her third-grader home, shouting out ‘baby-killer’ all along the way. She took it up with the teacher, who didn’t seem to mind.”

I grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts that was probably equal or greater than 97.7% white. Fortunately, I joined the navy I met and became friends with people from many different creeds, colors, and nationalities–even a couple of Mormons. Unfortunately, a lot of people from small towns don’t get out, and they keep the same asinine views on race their whole bigoted lives. I don’t have bad feelings towards the parents of Rexburg who teach their children to chant “assassinate Obama”, I pity them.

The city of Rexburg (“America’s Family Community”) has a website–check it out if 100% vanilla, 100% of the time is your thing.

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How it went: 2008 Election Map

NC officially went for Obama today, Democratic again after 32 years of Republican dominance (last Dem Pres winner in NC: Jimmy Carter in 1976). So, excluding Missouri (too close to call–being recounted now), here’s how they went in the Presidential Election of 2008 (click map or link to go to interactive map from TMP and Google maps):

Lots more blue than 2004, or even 2000. Unfortunately, the country’s in a lot worse shape than 2004 or 2000. Fortunately, the guy running the show in a couple of months, and the great citizens of this country, seem to be more than up to the challenge of repairing the damage and moving forward in a positive direction.

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Too soon?

OBAMA/CLINTON 2012


I’ve had the thought running through my head on and off since the Dem. convention. Biden will never run (can’t win) for President in 2016, and Hill and Barack can do a lot of fence-mending, country-rebuilding and party-building together in 4 years time. She is an extremely capable, fearless, intelligent and attractive candidate, and nothing done or said by either O or Hillary in the primary won’t be forgiven in light of Obama’s huge victory over McCain in the general election.

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McCain concedes

David Gregory on MSNBC just reported at 11:11pm EST that John McCain has called president-elect Obama to concede the race.

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OBAMA 44

All networks call race for Obama at 11pm EST. Barack Obama is now president-elect of the United States of America.

Waiting now for McCain’s concession. . .

And suddenly, my words from the primaries, come back to slap me in the face:

But–here’s a shocker–most democratic voters don’t read blogs. And most get their news from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN, etc. To the most hopeless among them who believe what they see on TV, John Edwards is the breck girl who gets $400 haircuts. Hillary is a shrill bee–otch. The TV people won’t forget to remind voters that Barack’s middle name is Hussein and his last name sounds like Osama. And that he’s black.

. . .

Barack Obama already has a secret service unit assigned to him because of death threats he’s received. If he wins his party’s nomination, I will support him wholeheartedly–but I will also gnaw my fingernails off worrying about his safety. And there are a great many democrats who will swear up and down that they are not racist or prejudiced but inexplicably won’t vote for Barack when they fill out their ballot.

I’ve come a long way in the months since. And I’m so damn proud of my country right now–and I’m so glad that I was so wrong for so long about Barack Obama.

Thank you, America. Thank you President-elect Obama.

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