Monday, November 12, 2012

A Little More Than Thanks (Monday LINKS)

Yesterday, November 11, was Veteran's Day.  It will be "observed" (what a weird description of a "day off") as a "federal holiday" today.

Our appreciation of this Country's veterans is well worth examining.  So often I feel that our thanks come in forms that are self-serving, or worse, self assuaging.  Facebook has cheapened so much and Veteran's Day is no exception.  "Post 'Happy Veteran's Day' share this picture of Marines and...I'm...done."

But in the converse, how can we adequately show appreciation for this kind of service?  I watched Restrepo for the first time over the weekend.  It is an amazing film with great weight.  The sacrifice of our American soldiers is inescapable.  There is one scene in which a scout unit is attacked during "Operation Avalanche."   These men, most barely over 20 years old, fight through biologically ingrained programming to flee and charge into danger.  Physical strength can be built with weights and protein shakes in the safety of a gym.  The type of mental heavy-lifting it takes to override basic human instincts is Herculean. 

We all "appreciate" the risk to life and limb, but we try not to think about it too much.  If we do, it is a quick slip before we feel guilty (we can't have that).  But how can you escape this topic without feeling "guilty" that one half of one percent (0.5%) of all Americans serve in the military?  That those who have already sacrificed are compelled to do so again and again, either due to obligation or a forced choice based on financial needs.  This is not a shared burden.  Perhaps it explains why our Country has lost its reticence to go to war to "protect our friends" or "spread freedom."  We're not the ones fighting.

All of this culminates in our shamefully inadequate treatment of returning veterans.  Americans don't like the idea of a lost war.  Better to have served in a good one, with no politics attached, and you may get a parade.  It should be completely unacceptable to all Americans that 20-25% of all homeless men in the United States are veterans.  It should be completely unacceptable that any veteran is without a job.  It should be completely unacceptable that any veteran should be limited in what kind of education he or she receives after returning home from service.

My Dad, my Uncle, and my Grandfather all served in the United States Army.  I think of them every Veteran's Day.  I also think about how they would want to be "appreciated."  Yesterday, after prompting from TJ back in February, I made a contribution to Team Red, White, and Blue.  Team RWB takes a holistic approach to helping veterans and enriching their lives.

George Washington once said “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."  I would like to think that this works in reverse as well.  A veteran's pride in service, and self-worth with respect to the same, may be directly proportional to how we treat the veterans of today's wars.  We can't undo decades of sweeping bad wars, and veterans of the same, under the rug, but we can show them that it won't happen again.  But it takes a little more than "Thanks".


David Frum offers some food for thought on where the Republican Party should go from here.  His post-election analysis has been quite spectacular.  I do think pundits are going a bit overboard on their recriminations of a Party that was one or two shifting policy planks away from pulling in a majority of the popular vote.  This wasn't 1988.

Arthur Hirsch looks at the Howard County Charter questions, with particular focus on the new referendum standards.  As I was quoted as saying in the piece, I think the presumption has to be that Howard County voters knew what they were voting for.  This is a discerning electorate that actually voted down Question 7 for expanded gambling.  Moreover, I think it is conceptually inconsistent to say that the voters were not competent to decide a question that would have more readily allowed them to decide future questions.  If you think they were duped, we're better off not having them be duped again!  My perspective is that Howard County voters want certainty in the legislative process, which is a reasonable position to have, even if that means the de facto existence of the referendum is squashed.

Baltimore City's Ethics Board, which oversees the Ethics Director, has not met since the 1990's.  While this will make for good stump speech material, I really don't find it that upsetting.  The ethics director receives inquiries from City politicians and provides opinions related to the same based on written guidelines and comparable jurisdictions.  An oversight board may do more to muck up that position than anything else.  Then again, why have the Board if they aren't going to meet?

Very scary story over the weekend of a Taco Bell Manager shot several times outside the store just off of Broken Land Parkway.

Luke Lavoie shares the plans for a park and bocce ball court in Hickory Ridge.  It would be great to see some public momentum behind this plan as the expected opponents (trees, money, volleyball advocates) sound their horn.

Featured Blog Post of the Day:  WB notes one more episode of the sad trend amongst certain Republicans to hang the American flag upside down as a matter of protest against the reelection of Barack Obama.  I was willing to say this was a one-off dramatic display by a nut, but then my Facebook feed started showing the occasional upside down American Flag as profile pictures.  (My "friends" list needed some trimming anyway.)  This behavior is a shade off of burning the flag and absolutely unacceptable.  What offends me all the more is that many of the people promoting this nonsense once appeared on a Howard County ballot.  I'll tell you this much, should they ever run again, we'll remember.

That's all for today.  Please consider contributing to Team RWB or some other worthy non-profit to show your appreciation for our Country's soldiers. 

Have a great Monday doing what you love!