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I think it is fair to say that all too often, justice is not blind.  At least it isn’t blind in terms of race, sexual orientation, or other factors.  Too often, the color of the people involved in an incident helps determine who is guilty and who is not.  There are exceptions of course, but I think that race plays a big role in determining who is to be arrested and who is not.  Who is allowed to “fear for his life” and who is not.

Wednesday, Matt Zoller Seitz shared a story to illustrate how white privilege kept him from getting arrested or otherwise harmed by the police after he started a fight on the street.  The piece is worth reading.  But, it is really interesting the conversation he had with the police when they arrived.  Matt Seitz admits in his story that he instigated the fight with an Hispanic man outside a deli.

After telling the two white officers that he had confronted the guy and punched him in the face after the stranger jabbed him in the chest with his fingers, the cops asked Zoller Seitz if he wanted to press charges for assault:

“I don’t think he actually meant to touch me, though,” I said, while a voice deep inside me said, Stupid white boy, he’s making it plain and you’re not getting it.

“It doesn’t matter if he meant to touch you, he hit you first,” he said. He was talking to me warmly and patiently, as you might explain things to a child. Wisdom was being imparted.

“You were in fear of your life,” he added.

By now the adrenaline fog seemed to be lifting. I was seeing things in a more clinical way. The violence I had inflicted on this man was disproportionate to the “assault,” and the tone of this exchange with the cop felt conspiratorial.

And then it dawned on me, Mr. Slow-on-the-Uptake, what was really happening: this officer was helping me Get My Story Straight.

Understanding, at long last.

Zoller Seitz even admitted that when the police arrived, he had the stranger on the ground in a chokehold.  Which most reasonable people might conclude that he was the attacker.  But, while Zoller Seitz was speaking with the police, the stranger was being held face down on the sidewalk and handcuffed.  In the end, Zoller Seitz was allowed to go home.  He does not know what happened to the stranger he admittedly attacked.

This is important to remember.  There is a grand jury being seated in the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Wilson.  If this case does go to trial, it would be apparent that at some point the notion that Wilson could have reasonably feared for his life during his confrontation with Brown.  Witnesses at the scene have said that Brown had his hands in their air to surrender.  Others, mostly other police officers, hint that Brown charged Wilson so the resulting shooting was a result of physical confrontation.

I wrote in an earlier piece this year that the called “stand your ground” laws would cause more trouble than they were worth.  Remember the case of George Zimmerman, who is white and Latino, after he killed Trayvon Martin?  His lawyers got him off by using the “afraid for his life” argument.  In the case of Theodore Warfare, the jury came back with a different result.  In that case, Renisha McBride, who had arrived on his porch seeking help after a car accident was shot and killed through a locked screen door.  The defense in that case claimed that the loud knocking so alarmed their client that he felt he had no other choice but to shoot her.  Fortunately, this jury didn’t buy the “afraid for his life” argument.

Then there is the case of Marissa Alexander, a black mother in Florida.  A man with a documented history of physical violence, a man who told Alexander that he was going to kill her, did not present a credible threat. Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, broke down the door of the bathroom where she was hiding during a domestic violence incident. He grabbed her by the throat, and choked her as he held her against the floor. Alexander then tried to escape through the garage, but found herself trapped when the door wouldn’t open. She returned to the house having retrieved her handgun from her car and fired at a wall near where Gray stood. No one was harmed. But when Alexander tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law in her defense, she was denied. Twice. According to State Attorney Angela Corey, Alexander was “not in fear” but “angry” when she fired the warning shot. She now faces up to 60 years in prison.

It isn’t just color that defines who is allowed the “fear for his life” argument.  Luke O’Donovan, a white queer activist in Georgia, was last week sentenced to two years in prison and eight years of probation after he used his pocket knife to stab five men who had confronted him in an alleged anti-LGTBQ hate crime in 2012. Donovan was stabbed three times.  Apparently if you are gay in Georgia, being stabbed three times is not a sufficient “fear for his life” argument.

These are just a few examples of how our justice system is not as blind as people would have us believe.  Color, sexual orientation, race, even religious beliefs are all factors in determining who is being blamed and who gets off.  Zoller Seitz’s story is very telling.  Especially when compared to these other incidents.  The straight white guy got a break.  The others did not.  It makes us wonder just how the case in Ferguson will turn out.  But, one thing is for certain.  As long as white privilege is a reality, more Fergusons will happen.

Until we, as a society, come to terms with this phenomenon nothing will change.  If we do come to terms with it, then maybe we will have a society where justice was truly blind!

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There have been screams from the right for years about how tax-payer money is spent.  They scream about tax-payer money being used to fund abortions for example.  There have also been screams from the right about unions using union dues for campaign contributions.  They want to make sure that any union member can “opt out” of their dues being used to support candidates.  We all know that if unions were endorsing Republican Candidates, this “opt out” wouldn’t be necessary.

Their argument has always been that tax-payer money cannot be used for things like these because everyone doesn’t agree with them.  So, if you disagree with abortion for example, your tax money should not be used to fund abortions, even for military personnel.  On the surface, that seems logical.  But, on the other hand, they have no problem with using tax-payer money to pay for things like Christmas scenes on government property.  They call that religious freedom.

Well, the State of Kentucky has just taken this one step further.  It seems that the State of Kentucky is recognizing a particular religious cult.  They are willing to offer tax incentives and tax-payer money to them to show their support.  Of course, Kentucky is saying they are doing this not to recognize a religious cult, but rather to create jobs.

Here is the story.  Ken Ham and his nuts are planning to build a life-sized Ark based on the biblical story of Noah and the flood.  The Ark Encounter is being built by Answers in Genesis, which also runs the Creationist Museum in Kentucky.  The issue is that this clearly religious organization has been approved by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, a state-run agency, for a great deal of state money. Yep, this religious group has received preliminary approval for an $18 million tax incentive.

However, the State is turning a blind eye to the fact that the people who apply for these jobs will be subject to discrimination based on their beliefs. Daniel Phelps, a geologist, president of the Kentucky Paleontologist Society, and vice president of Kentuckians for Science Education, pointed out:

“However, it is apparent that Ark Encounter is likely to discriminate against non-Christians. Moreover, Catholics, mainstream Protestant Christians and some conservative Christians who have different doctrinal beliefs are also unlikely to be hired.

The job description included this statement: ‘Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost.’”

The entire job description requires a salvation testimony, a creation belief statement and a confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.  That “Statement of Faith” includes these items.

“Those who do not believe in Christ are subject to everlasting conscious punishment, but believers enjoy eternal life with God.”

And:

“The only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other, and has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s gender, or disagreement with one’s biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God”

And:

“By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

It doesn’t take much reasoning to figure out that this Statement of Faith, which is required by anyone who will be employed will lead to discrimination against non-Christians, Catholics, LGBT persons, atheists, or anyone else who does not agree with the Statement of Faith.  Yet, As Phelps put it: “The tax incentive, along with the city tax breaks, and the parcel of land sold to the project at a discount by Williamstown, plus $200,000 cash given by the Grant County Economic Development Commission is clearly a case of government entanglement with religion.”

The State may claim that this tax money is being used to create jobs.  But, it is being used to create jobs for a small minority of people.  It will be used to discriminate against anyone who disagrees with the Statement of Faith but still needs a job.  As a result, there can be no conclusion other than the one that says the State of Kentucky is guilty of “recognizing” a particular religion.  That is an obvious violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that says “the government shall not recognize an official state religion”.

Kentucky, the home of the renowned constitutionalist Mitch McConnel, seems to think that the First Amendment doesn’t pertain to them.  But, that is the way it always works.  Vilify your enemies and reward your supporters.  Even if it breaks the law.

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With the advent of the FOX News Network, and I do use the term ‘News” loosely, there has been a lot of talk about how things have gone from bad to worse.  Especially considering that FOX has a tendency to cleanse things to their liking to prove their point.  This is hardly new information.  And, FOX is not the first of the so-called “conservative” networks on TV and Radio that are guilty of this.

It is not unheard of that both sides are trying to cherry pick the points they want to expose.  It is very easy to take a quote, pick out the parts you like or dislike, and make those small points out to be major problems.  When this type of reporting is done, that leads to misinformation rather than informing the public.  I admit that both sides are guilty of such practices.  However, the length that FOX goes in this is remarkable considering that they not only cherry pick the points they want to make, they then demonize anyone who points out that is what they are doing.

But, FOX is not the leader in this either.  Limbaugh has been lying to his listeners since Reagan did away with the policy of allowing opposing views on any news point.  It used to be that if Limbaugh said something that another group disagreed with, his network was required by law to air an opposing view on the same topic.  Reagan did away with that law, and the lying moved to new heights.

Throughout the past elections, there has been talk about the public being uninformed.  There is a lot of talk about low informed people going to the polls and basically voting against their own interests.  An example are white poor people who continuously vote for politicians who want to take away the very social safety nets these poor people depend upon.  They vote for these politicians against their own interests because the politicians tell them that their plight is the fault of those “other” people.  And, that is what the poor white people want to hear.

This leads us to the mess in Ferguson, MO.  As I have written before, I am opposed to the violence that has occurred there.  Looting and rioting is not the answer to the shooting and killing of a black man who was unarmed.  However, the nice people at FOX seem, at least to me, to want this incident to continue.  It is my opinion that they are helping to foster the atmosphere that usually leads to trouble.

Many of the FOX “reporters” and pundits are making statements like the victim may have deserved to be killed.  They are leaning towards their opinion that the police can never act badly and that the shooting was justified.  Instead of reporting on the facts of the case, they are more interested in reporting that the New Black Panther Party has a couple of their members there.  As if that makes everything the police have done and are doing justified.

When the Ferguson Police released a security video showing a man who looks like the victim robbing a store of a box of cigars, FOX went on the rampage basically saying “see, he isn’t innocent.”  It was much later that the Ferguson police stated that the officer involved in the shooting was unaware that Brown may have been a suspect in the robbery. FOX did not back off though.  They are still saying that the shooting may have been justified.

They keep bringing up the fact that Al Sharpton is in the area.  They keep bringing up that people like Louis Farrakhan have made comments against the shooting.  They keep bringing up that the New Black Panthers have people there.  They even go so far as saying that the reporters who were arrested in a McDonalds deserved to be arrested.  Their argument is that they did not “obey” the police order quickly enough or that videoing them in the restaurant provoked the police.  For a network that claims to be a “News” network, that is a remarkable thing to say.

This is a perfect example of how so-called news reporters can lie and mislead the viewers into believing something based on totally unrelated information.  Rather that reporting the facts, they look for side stories that show the victim is the one to be blamed.  They are actually using the defense too often used by rapists and their lawyers.  The victim wanted or deserved what happened to them.

However, when the “offended” person is white, they call them patriots.  Remember Cliven Bundy?  Here is a freeloader who owes the government about a million dollars for illegally grazing his cattle on government land, and FOX called him a patriot.  Worse, the man in the picture lying flat on the ground of an overpass behind concrete barriers pointing a high-powered rifle at Federal Agents, they call a patriot.  The difference in these cases is that in the second, the government was acting on court orders.  Yet, the criminal was a patriot.  In the first case, a young black man was shot and killed by a white officer.  That makes the victim not a patriot, but a criminal who deserved what he got.

When people hear lies enough, they begin to believe them.  When people already believe that Brown was guilty of something, then the lies are even easier to swallow.  FOX news plays to the hate and bigotry that already exists.  I won’t go so far as to say they make things up, but they do emphasize the points to justify the bigoted beliefs that the victim was wrong.

It used to be that “fair and balanced” meant that all sides of a story would be explored.  That the truth, no matter what it turned out to be was the primary focus of news reporting.  That meant that all sides of a story had to be reported.  FOX News has perverted that phrase of “fair and balanced.”  They have made it to be whatever they deem to be fair, and balanced has nothing to do with reporting the news.

I don’t agree that most Americans are low informed.  I do believe that they are misinformed on purpose for political points.  That is not reporting, it is propaganda.

 

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I regularly read news papers and watch news television during the day.  I need to keep up with what is going on in the world, and I make sure I have different points of view on each story.  Mostly, you can tell a political lean of a news paper or news station easily.  Each side is quick to make sure their like or dislike for something is based on their political view and what is wrong with America.  But, when it comes to rape, I find that none of the mainstream, or non-mainstream media for that matter, really give a shit about rape or the victims.

When rape does hit the headlines the news media is quick to not only say a woman had been raped, but then conjectures on “why” she was raped.  Many have even gone on to write editorials pointing out what they think causes rape.  Naturally, the perpetrator of the crime is never mentioned.  Only the victim.

USA Today was the latest to wade into the foray.  They wrote an op-ed that basically says that rape on college campuses is due to, now get this, “women drinking too much”.  We hear this stupid nonsense all of the time.  It seems that whenever a woman is raped, it is because they either drink too much around men, dress too provocatively, behave improperly, or just use bad judgment when picking their friends.  It always seems to fall back onto the victim not the perpetrator.

How is this even possible?  Why is it that people have to blame the victim for being a victim of an abusive crime?  Why isn’t it the fault of the man who is committing the crime?  There are various opinions as to the cause of the problem, and some people have made very serious suggestions on helping to fix the problem.

For example, Dana Bolger of Know Your IX wrote a rebuttal in the same newspaper that puts the argument of the editorial board to shame.  She wrote:

Rape is a powerful tool of social control, used to keep us in our place. Like rape itself, the endless chorus of “don’ts” keeps us quiet and submissive. But it neither reduces violence nor comes without cost: It keeps us out of public space, afraid to take risks. It does violence’s work for it.

To reduce rape, we can challenge the conditions of inequality that allow gender violence to flourish. Begin consent education in elementary schools, teach boys not to rape, and hold perpetrators accountable in our colleges, churches and families.

The alternative — to deny women the opportunity to move freely and live full lives — reaffirms the very effects of violence it seeks to mitigate.

We continue to have these problems because it has been inbred into our culture.  We have been taught from an early age that women are not to be treated as equals.  We allow the predatory behavior of men towards women simply because it is really controlling them.  Men are entitled to what they want while women are to submit to the will of men.

This is taught everywhere.  Every time an athlete is accused of rape and gets away with it because of his “entitlement” to be pampered we teach our boys that it is okay to rape a woman.  Every time a minister preaches from the pulpit about how women are to submit to the wishes of her husband, we teach boys that it okay to expect whatever they want from women.  Every time someone in the media blames the woman for being raped because of her drinking or how she dresses, we teach boys that it is okay to rape women.

This a real culture that men perpetrate all too often and apparently want to keep.  It is nothing but entitled control over the opposite sex.  Somehow blaming the victim of rape seems to make these men feel really good about themselves.  After all, she must have had it coming.  Of course all of that is total stupidity.

Like most social problems, this one will not go away until there is more done to prevent rape in the first place.  And prevention does not start with blaming the woman.  It starts with respect for everyone.  It starts with educating our boys that rape is a crime and they are not entitled to have sex with a woman if she does not consent.  I am sick and tired of hearing about that “poor boy” or “poor man” and what the crime will do to his life.  I am more interested in what the crime will do to the woman’s life.  She was the one attacked, not him.

Rape is a vicious horrible crime.  What is even worse, is making the victim the cause of this crime.  If you ask any man who has a daughter or wife what they would do if their daughter or wife were raped, you will probably hear the same response.  “I will kill the SOB that did it.”  But, if it is his son who committed the crime, you will usually hear that “she probably had it coming”.  Until that second response changes, the problem of rape will continue and women will continue to be blamed for being attacked!

Sometimes I wonder if man really evolved, or if we are still in the cave.

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Something is definitely wrong.  No, I am not talking about the political environment either.  We have begun to see more and more mothers being arrested simply because they have allowed their children a little independence.  When is it okay to allow children to “go to the park to play” without supervision?  That seems to be at the heart of this question.  But, more importantly, why is up to strangers and/or police to make that determination instead of the parents?

Nicole Gainey, a Port St. Lucie, Florida mom was arrested on Saturday for letting her 7 year-old son Dominic walk alone — in the daytime, with a cell phone — a half-mile to a local park. “I honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” she says. “I was letting him go play.”  But, she was arrested for letting her son “go play”.

During his approximately ten-minute walk, the boy passed by a public pool, where a patron asked him where his mother was and other questions. As he told a local news station, “I got scared and ran off to the park, and that’s when they called the cops.” Police picked up the boy at the park, brought him home and arrested his mother for felony child neglect. In their report, police noted that “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity.” Gainey says the cops “just kept going over that, you know, there’s pedophiles,” which sounds to me like the kind of problem that perhaps there’s a better approach to than whisking kids off playgrounds and arresting mothers. The State’s Attorney’s office notes that there is no law regarding how old children can be before they can travel unaccompanied.

In case you missed that last sentence, the State’s Attorney’s office notes that there is no law regarding how old children can be before they can travel unaccompanied.  If that is the case, how can the police arrest this woman for felony child neglect?  Where is the “probably cause” needed to arrest someone of a crime?  There isn’t one, except that a total stranger thinks that allowing a child to go and play is child neglect, and a police officer agrees.  Talk about making up laws as you wing it.

This case falls on the heels of the other one that was reported on in South Carolina.  Debra Harrell let her child play at a park near where she worked while she worked her shift.  She was arrested too.  Not only that, she lost her job because of the arrest.  Her daughter is 9 years old.  She even lost her child to the custody of the Department of Social Services for a brief time.  She has subsequently got her daughter and her job back.  But, she still faces charges and can spend up to ten years in prison for letting her daughter to “go play”.

I have always believed that as a parent it is your responsibility to gradually allow your children more and more independence.  That is the only way that gain the tools necessary to live on their own in the real world.  I do not understand this rush to treat parents as criminals simply because they believe their children are capable of playing by themselves or with their friends.  That has always seemed natural to me.  I went outside to play by myself when I was the age these children are.  I used to walk several blocks away from my house in order to go play basketball.  I even walked by myself several blocks to school when I was 5.

Today, there seems to be a rush of the self-anointed, self-righteous people who think that children are incapable of playing outside by themselves.  Just because they need to have their children under their thumb 24 hours a day, they think everyone else should keep their children under the thumb as well.  It is just another case of pushing your values on other people whether they want them or not.

Yes, I know that children face problems out in the world.  We, and our children faced the same problems.  Before you argue that I was in the military and therefore living in a “closed” neighborhood, I was in the Coast Guard and we lived in the local community.  With only about 25 people stationed in an area, the government didn’t provide base housing.  The difference is that we and our parents taught our children how to protect themselves and to run away when faced with uncertainty.  Today, it seems the people afraid of their own shadows don’t want children to enjoy themselves without the parents chasing after them.

As a matter of fact, Ms. Gainey’s son showed exactly what children should do.  When he was peppered about personal and private matters by a stranger, he ran away from that stranger!  That was precisely what I taught my children to do.  He showed that he would not allow strangers to hurt him.  Yet, he was dragged out of the park by police and his mother arrested.

Every child is not the same.  Each parent is not the same.  Some children can “go out and play” by themselves earlier because their parents taught them to protect themselves.  Maybe the difference today is that people are not interested in “neighborhood” closeness.  Maybe the difference is that some adults are more interested in “proving” they are better parents than their neighbors.  Whatever the case, these arrests are not doing any good.

Child neglect is a very bad thing.  But, child neglect is not feeding your child.  Keeping them locked up in the cellar.  Locking them in a car for several hours.  Physically beating them.  Or, a host of other evil things that some parents have been convicted for.  But, letting a child play outside is not child neglect.  Police said there were pedophiles in the area.  Yet, over 90% of children sexually abused are not abused by strangers.

It is hard enough to protect children from bad people.  I cannot imagine how terrifying it must be to be arrested simply because your child was allowed to “go outside and play”.  That is insane!

 

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Sunday marked the 45th anniversary of man landing on the moon.  On July 10, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module onto the surface of the moon with those famous words: “One small step for man.  One giant leap for mankind”.  But, did you ever wonder what would have happened in the 1960s if Ken Ham and his ilk had political power?  We probably would not have landed on the moon.

Ken Ham, leader of Answers in Genesis has a problem with space exploration.  He thinks we are wasting money trying to discover if other intelligent life is out there.  He wrote on Sunday “I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life. “

He went on to say “Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!  The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!”

He has been known to howl at the moon on several occasions when it comes to science.  See, he doesn’t believe that science actually exists.  He doesn’t believe anything that he cannot find in the bible, which he considers to be a scientific tome.  But, that doesn’t keep him from coming up with different interpretations of what he is reading than other religious scholars.

He even goes on a rant that even if there were alien beings in the universe, they are all doomed to hell.  His interpretation of the bible is justified in his own words.

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.  God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior.  In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word).  To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.

So, once again we find Ken Ham making up his own beliefs.  This is the kind of thinking that would have stopped JFK from getting the financial support for his quest to land a man on the moon.  We all know from history, that Kennedy didn’t give a damn about the science of landing a man on the moon.  He only wanted to beat the Russians there.  It was more of a political show than a scientific show.

But, the science that came out of landing a man on the moon has had a tremendous effect on our lives.  I am still in wonder that the computers used to land a man on the moon had less computing power than a pocket calculator does today.  That is making the most out of what you have.  But, Mr. Ham doesn’t think any of that is necessary.  He wants to stop further space exploration because he considers it an affront to his god.

He even goes on to say that we must be alone in the universe.

The Bible, in sharp contrast to the secular worldview, teaches that earth was specially created, that it is unique and the focus of God’s attention (Isaiah 66:1 and Psalm 115:16). Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches. Christians certainly shouldn’t expect alien life to be cropping up across the universe.

Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space.  I certainly suspect not. The Earth was created for human life. And the sun and moon  were created for signs and our seasons—and to declare the glory of God.

I don’t know if there is intelligent life on other planets.  Statistically, the probability exists that there is.  I don’t doubt that there probably is life out there, but, until we have proof of intelligent life on other planets, I will keep an open mind.  I refuse to live in a fantasy world where one book seems to have all the answers.  Nor, do I believe that if that book doesn’t directly address a question, I can make up whatever I want it to say.

Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis group are part of the larger problem humanity faces.  These are people who refuse to look at the universe and think what a wonderful and mysterious place it is.  Whether you believe in a god or not, the universe is a splendid place.  We must continue to explore whatever is out there.  Unlike the closed mind society of the Cult, we are creatures of inquisitiveness.  That is what makes us what we are.  There are questions.  We are bound to discover the answers.

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You just can’t stop the images from flooding into your mind.  The death and destruction.  The faces of fallen friends.  The faces of the women and children killed.  You see danger behind every tree or wall or fence.  The fear grows with every step you take.  Your eyes are glancing from side to side looking for the danger.  You are on edge.

That isn’t taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan or even Vietnam.  It is happening as you take a walk down your street in your hometown.  Something triggered all of the memories of those conflicts.  Sometimes it isn’t even war that brings these memories.  It is natural disasters or plane crashes or even boating accidents you worked.  Something that you have witnessed while serving is suddenly flooding back into your conscious memory.

Even after you realize you are home, the dread lingers.  The guilt of having survived while others were not so lucky.  The thought of your friends killed while you lived haunt you.  Survivor’s guilt is what they call it.  It is real.  It is affecting everything you do.  It affects your ability to sleep or work or even laugh.  It affects every fiber of your existence.

You begin to feel like “damaged goods”.  You begin to feel like you aren’t worthy of living anymore.  You begin to feel like your family don’t want you around in “polite” company anymore.  You begin to shrink from society and shelter yourself away from others, including those who love you.  You never fully realize what is going on.  You think that somehow you are the cause of the problem.

Far too many times, you settle these internal conflicts with what you believe to be the only answer that is best for all.  You commit suicide.

That is just a very brief and incomplete example of what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD affects millions of our veterans everyday.  It is something that haunts memories and lives.  There are many ways veterans cope with PTSD and most of them are self-destructive.  Many will seek help from the VA.  Others too often turn to alcohol or drugs.  Anything that will “make me feel better” at least for a while.  But, they don’t help, they make things worse.

According to statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day!  That is 154 veteran suicides every week or 8000 per year.  Why, you ask, don’t these troubled souls get the help they need?  That is a fair question.  Many don’t get the help they need because they don’t fully understand what is happening to them.  Many don’t seek help because they think it is admitting a flaw in their personality.  Real vets don’t feel this way, they think.

Most try to cope with PTSD by themselves.  As a result, they don’t seek the help they need, and eventually push their families aside.  Especially when their family tries to convince them to seek help.  Psychological problems are difficult for anyone to accept.  People with psychological problems have been shunned by society for hundreds of years.  Besides, they don’t need help because they are “heroes”!  Heroes don’t need to be helped.  They are above all of these problems.

How do they know they are heroes?  Because every single day, someone is calling them a hero.  Every single day they hear the term used like “we want to thank all of our heroes for their service”.  In their own minds they start to become mythical.  They buy into the hype and never get the help they need.

That is how a simple word “hero” can affect people.  I know that everyone who uses the word thinks they are paying a compliment to those who have served.  They have risked everything in defense of our country.  They deserve the compliment.  But, sometimes, the simple word “hero” actually de-humanizes veterans.  It puts them on a pedestal that they are afraid of falling off.  They start to believe that if they seek help, they will no longer be a “hero”.  Heroes don’t have flaws.  They suck it up and move on.

We need to see our veterans for what they really are.  They are humans who served our country in some of the most god-awfull circumstances.  They have seen things that most people will never see.  They have lost some of their friends.  They have seen carnage we don’t want anyone to see.  It will affect them!  It will change them!  It will haunt them!

When people start using words like “hero” to describe our veterans, they don’t think about what that may mean.  They don’t understand that it can taken an excuse to “thank you” and then forget you.  No one means to be like that.  No one means to forget veterans.  But, all too often it happens.

I know very few veterans who need hero-worship.  We need respect.  We need jobs.  We need to take care of our families when we finally hang up the uniform.  We simply need to be a “normal” part of society.   What we do not need is to be called a “hero” and then forgotten.

 

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