Today (November 7, 2013) is my 70th birthday, so…Happy Birthday to me! As I look back over the last 70 years of political reality in the United States of America and around the world, though, I find myself shaking my head a bit. Even on this minuscule blue ball we call Earth, there is much to ponder–whether one is by nature an optimist or a pessimist.
Will this page flow smoothly once the writing is completed? Who knows? But…here goes. The observations that follow are mine alone. You may or may not agree with them, and that’s fine.
This is a warring universe. I’m a war baby, pure and simple, born smack in the middle of World War II in the Naval Hospital at Pensacola, Florida. My father, one of those thousands of men who joined the military the morning after the Japanese bombed us at Pearl Harbor, served as an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed at Pensacola during the time of my birth.
In addition to the war against Hitler and Tojo, Dad had his own personal battles to fight. It was in Pensacola that he was bitten on the neck by a black widow spider and nearly died–and also in Pensacola that, not long after my arrival, he literally threw his mother in law into the back seat of his car, threw her suitcase in on top of her, and drove her to the train station to ship her back to Oregon.
Those two were not exactly cuddle bunnies with each other.
Since then, our nation has endured the Korean War, where one of the hired men on our Montana ranch had served as a U.S. Marine. Dave had his own personal wars, too, once serving a prison term for manslaughter in California after getting drunk and killing a man in a bar fight.
There was of course the Viet Nam War, my generation’s war, with me and my kid sister’s husband both dodging the jungle bullet, serving our draft terms in the U.S. Army but ending up stationed in Germany, not southeast Asia.
Both sisters have sons who missed the First Gulf War but later pulled multiple tours in Iraq, one as a Marine, the other in the Army as an Apache helicopter mechanic. The Marine did his six and got out; the Army soldier is making a career of the service–and was stationed at Ft. Hood when Islamic militant Major Hasan shot up the place.
Watching all of this, living through it and taking notes, studying history and the psychology of individuals, communities, and nations, has led me to one inescapable conclusion:
There is no such thing as peace except through strength.
If you are not strong enough to hold your own against any and all potential aggressors, you will sooner or later be overrun, your land, wealth, and women taken from you, unspeakable atrocities committed against you and the ones you love.
If you are a weakling in any way, your only hope to escape either annihilation or enslavement is to enlist the aid of others who have the strength you need. This is why women and hungry rats alike are drawn to males who exude power. This is also why we have codes of behavior called laws and police forces, be they Andy Griffith and Barney Fife for Mayberry or the combined armed forces of a great nation like the United States of America.
It’s also why people study martial arts and stand up for the Second Amendment to our U.S. Constitution. It’s why I built a home we call the Border Fort for a reason, a domicile that deters aggression by its very appearance in an area where countless illegal immigrants trek northward, drug lords smuggle illegal recreation, home invasions are not unknown, and American citizens–Border Patrol agents and civilians alike–are gunned down without provocation.
Weakness, especially the appearance of weakness, is a provocation in and of itself.
This is a warring universe.
For a few, love comes early and stays until the end. For most, it’s not that easy. For me, it was almost (but not quite) impossible.
My parents and both of my sisters stuck with their original spouses, for better or worse–but as my mother once told Pam, “It’s not easy being married to the same man for 52 years, either.”
In my case, it took seven tries to get the right woman, the tiny redheaded firecracker whose severe disabilities have finally slowed her down some. Every one of our first 17 years together (we met in a Tonopah, Nevada, Laundromat in 1996) has been fraught with challenges, but 99.999% of the time we’re on the same page, in full agreement regarding what needs to be done to survive the crisis of the moment, and that makes all the difference.
A talented psychologist once pointed out to my wife that her very existence gives me purpose. The man barely knew me, but he nailed it.
In a sense, life is not that hard for me. That is, my survival skills are legion. If it’s me alone out there, just needing to scrape up enough coin to gain (or create) food and shelter for the moment, I can do that easily, mostly without breaking a sweat. But add a lady into the mix, one whose needs are as legion as my skills, and the race is on.
Over these past seventy years, learning about love as it pertained to me personally was a significant challenge. Fortunately, the single most critical lesson for me in that arena was this:
When it comes to love, never settle.
Plenty of folks out there will take issue with that one. For example, what about duty? Duty is important, too, is it not?
Yes. Of course, duty is important…but duty is a separate issue. Love and duty, while often related and intertwined, are not synonyms.
The political forces operating both within the borders of the USA and around the world are inimical to liberty. Statesmen, such as the Founding Fathers who gave us our Constitution in the first place, can do much for the cause of personal liberty. Few politicians, however, qualify as statesmen. In fact, give a politician the liberty to make laws, and most of the time he (or she) will set out to bind you in chains.
I wrote about this once before, itemizing a few of the countless links in our slave shackles. A great number of those links have been forged in the name of the very liberty they destroy. The road to Hell really is paved with good intentions.
Although I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, my paternal grandfather built two separate homes after I was born, one for his family and, a few years later, another for himself and his youngest son after his wife of 25 years finally divorced him. Neither construction project required a building permit, nor were there any building codes involved. He was not required to hook into the nationwide power grid.
No one cared if he smoked (which he did, like a chimney); that was his business and his alone. He carried no health insurance, nor did anyone else in the area except for workers compensation and a few group policies provided by large employers.
Firearms could be ordered through the mail with no paperwork involved except the order form and some method of payment.
In Montana, there was no specific speed limit on the major highways. If you were driving like an idiot, the Highway Patrol would go after you, but it was a matter of common sense, not arbitrary numbers.
People got killed in car crashes all the time. Mostly, unless it was someone we knew and cared about, that was not a problem. It was considered normal. It culled the herd, reduced the number of idiots on the road, and helped keep the funeral homes in business.
We did not have the President of the United States spying on us with drones and spying on telephone calls. In fact, there weren’t that many telephones around in the first place.
Now we have the FDA planning to outlaw all transfats in processed foods, New York City limiting the size of soda drinks, fat mamas like the First Lady Herself trying to tell us how to exercise and how not to eat (and God forbid she tries to tell us how to dress).
The list is endless and would be depressing but for one thing. Liberty can only be taken from those who choose to do nothing, to let it go without a fight.
These past 70 years have taught me not one but three things about keeping or, as necessary, retaking Liberty. Hold on; you may raise an eyebrow or two:
1. There will always be folks out there attempting to squash your personal liberty flat. There’s no getting around that fact. Deal with it.
2. Stand up and be counted when it comes to defending (and/or retaking) Liberty…or pay the consequences.
3. At the point where those who would oppress us have written enough laws of their own choosing to fully remove Liberty from our lives, only outlaws will remain free.
Remember, according to the King of England, the rebel American colonists were all outlaws–and quite a few of them were hung as such. An outlaw, by definition, thinks and operates outside of the laws that are on the books at any given point in time. Not all laws are good laws (the so called Affordable Health Care Act being a prime example); they are simply laws.
The outlaw is the last bastion of freedom.
Naturally, not all outlaws are really the good guys–but then again, not all law enforcement personnel are knights in shining armor, either.
This birthday political rant is about done. Let’s wrap it up with a few words about equanimity. That is, keeping one’s cool, not getting too excited about how the politics of the moment might be going.
When I was in my teens, one of my Dad’s hired men–Dave, the same former Marine who’d done time for beating a man to death–had a favorite saying:
“A hundred years from now, nobody will know the difference.”
He’d trot that saying out whenever I got a little upset over some trifling matter, such as getting bounced off the high school’s A team for breaking training rules, or being turned down for a date by a pretty girl, or some such.
His homily didn’t do much for me at the time…but I did remember it. Now, all these decades later, I realize he was more or less right.
Oh, some memories do endure for longer than a single century. The story of Jesus of Nazareth, for instance. But scientists have been figuring out how entire star systems work, how even the celestial bodies are born, go through a cycle of life, and die again. The lives of the stars might be measured in billions or even trillions of years, but they’re still finite. There’s nothing immortal about them.
Understanding this fully, which took most of these past seven decades, has allowed me to (finally) approach most (not all) new days with a measure of emotional and spiritual balance. I still look ahead, far down the road, as I’ve done for as long as I can remember, but for the most part, I no longer sweat the small stuff.
And, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, it’s all small stuff.
This has been my Happy Birthday to me political rant. I promise not to burden our readers with more than one of these per decade. You may therefore consider yourself safely inoculated against such drivel for a while, and thanks for reading.
May the blessings be.