I was already considering a special section on the topic of preparing for "that day" when this think-piece from a veteran arrived in response to Peregrine's "I will most probably die here sometime this year..." Here are the considerations of a man once taught to fight for his country who now wonders if he'll someday have to fight to preserve freedom from his government.
Ah, Cognitive Dissonance. "Psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously." A fancy-sounding phrase that latched onto my mind years ago.
A fancy-sounding phrase that more and more describes the nature of the thoughts going through my mind this last year or so.
It shouldnít, but it does.
I've more or less outgrown children, and should be gradually acclimating myself to the idea of grandchildren, watching my 401(k) growing, and thinking about slipping into semi-retirement and enjoying myself for a change.
Thatís what I should be thinking about.
But is that what I think about? No such luck. I wonder what the real effect of the Year-2000 computer problem is going to be. I wonder how badly the Clinton Impeachment will expose and aggravate divisions within our hyphenated society. I wonder what the FBI will do with its list of law-abiding citizens. I look at the US stock market and remember what they say about things that seem too good to be true.
I ask myself, "Is it possible for all this to just blow over and let us continue on in our fat, dumb and happy way?" And I canít for the life of me come up with a "Yes".
So what does that leave for me, then? If I end up, like Carl Drega or Peregrine, gathering flies in the driveway, that leaves a too-young-widow. If I fall into line, like a good citizen, that too may eventually lead to a too-young-widow, or even both of us gathering flies at the hand of a crook, with or without a badge. Pull an Eric Rudolph and disappear into the woods? Possibly. On the face of it, it appeals to American-Western-rugged-individualist in me, and probably also to more than a few of you reading this.
But Iím also a Veteran. While I've never been shot at by anyone who "meant it," I've been to a few of the schools the Air Force and Army send folks to to learn the soldierís trade. And I know that the soldierís trade means being Wet. And Cold. And Hot. And Tired. And Hungry. And Thirsty. And Eaten by a zillion little bugs. And most of all, Scared. And I pause to reflect that what Iím thinking about here could, ultimately, be construed as "conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States." And I think back to an Oath I once took to "Ösupport and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic." And I say to myself ,"This is lunacy. Do you know what youíre getting into here? And besides, youíre too old for this crap. Knock it off." But I canít knock it off. And therein lies the cognitive dissonance.
As an aside, thereís a wonderful bit of irony here. Back then, had I actually been sent to war against foreign enemies of the Constitution, the enemy would have called me, among other things, a "criminal." What I describe here, a war against the domestic enemies of the Constitution, will also leave me labeled Ö a "criminal.".
Itís easy to say youíre willing to die for freedom. I ran into a claim a while back that along the lines of "Itís not enough to be willing to die for freedom. There are lots of scoundrels who will be glad to oblige you there. The real question is ĎAre you willing to kill for freedom?í" In defense of myself or others Ė "Well, yeah, if it came to that". Beyond that, killing those who pose no immediate threat to me or mine, my instinctive answer is "No." I hope desperately I am never put into a position where that answer has to become "Yes," but I fear that may happen.
It sounds very grand and noble to pledge "Öour lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor," but when you start thinking about the details of what that really means, it leads to some very unpleasant realizations and choices.
So again, where does that leave me? I have no idea. So on I go. The best I can hope for, then, is to be remembered as a good husband, a good father, and, if it comes to it, a man who died gallantly.
With acknowledgement to Harry Chapin, "Changes," 1974
There I was in your Air Force
Uncle Sam, you owned my brain.
I tried to see myself as a sex mad savior
sailing on a silver plane.
I started out to do my duty
ended up just doing time.
What is it about you
my mother of a country
that makes so many change our minds.
You had me on your honor roll
for your dream I would die
now I would not even cross the street
to help you live a lie.
(c) 1999 Duncan Waring
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