I want to tell you a story. A beautiful, moving story of America. A story that resonates with the wonders of democracy and the liberties guaranteed under the inspired Constitution. I want to tell a story with tears rolling down my face as I reflect on my own membership in the Greatest Nation on Earth.
How I wish I could tell that story. I grew up around government and military. My dad enlisted during the Vietnam war so he wouldn’t have to see combat time. He did his four years and fell in love with the mistress that is Patriotism.
My mom worked to put him through college so that he could re-enlist in the officer program. Officers are the decision makers. They don’t go into fox holes. The sit in huge underground bunkers, like my dad did for the majority of his very decorated career. It was only after he retired and his clearance removed that I found out that for a large portion of my early life, he was a cookie man. Cookie men hold the launch codes to nuclear weapons that must be confirmed by the President before anything leaves the silos. He was never allowed to talk about it.
Imagine this-imagine being one of hundreds of school children attending school on a military base, each having something in common with the other through our parents gainful employee. Only that wasn’t all. None of us knew what our parents did, only that their uniforms were pressed and starched and their phone calls long and quiet.
I write this only for the benefit of demonstrating that the rocks I’m throwing at this glass house come from experience, not opinion.
I even tried to join the military, same branch as my father. I had no love for the military, no tried and true notion that they were the front line of keeping our country safe. Like so many others, I merely wanted the benefits. The government takes care of their own. The military even more so. If your wages were low, your allowances were high, such as food, clothing, housing and medical.
This is where my first questions about my country stemmed from. What if all our soldiers from all branches of the military simply wanted a stable life for their families and the price of that was the looming question of will I some day die, not for my country, but for my security?
Very early in my tech career, I was hired by the government of Wisconsin to work on a pre-Y2K conversion project. I shared office space with the then Attorney General, Jim Doyle. Jim was an inspirational and positive man who could always pull a smile at the right time and always deflect with kind words. When not in the capital building, I would talk with him often. I asked him once why he kept a job that ran him so ragged and held little hope for political advancement for a Democrat such as himself? His response was one of the greatest truths I’ve ever heard and something that has governed my own moral compass in times where leadership is required. He said to me, “I do it because I know who I am. If I don’t, all I can do is worry about who will fill that vacancy and what might happen on their watch.”
So far two examples. One from the military, one from the elected government. One leading me to wonder if patriotism is a direct correlation to how greatly you value the security of your families ability to not keep up with the Jones’s, but be them. The other from a hard working official who was motivated by the worry of someone else doing it worse.
We live in times that long ago surpassed Orwellian. This world is just plain scary. If a person expresses a thought on Twitter in the morning, if enough people agree with the wording or posture or position, by dinner it has become gospel. We are a nation of too much information and far too little motivation.
Many would disagree. Though it is an amazing time for human rights, with new and necessary movements gaining traction all the time, the one thing we always fail to ask ourselves is how did we get here? How did we allow ourselves to think, for example, that one man sexually harassing and assaulting hundreds of women was just part of the Hollywood status quo, thus giving birth to the #MeToo outcry? Or a President that tasks his personal attorney with paying hush money to not one, but two mistresses, tells him to lie about it, and then when pressed with the truth, disavows the man completely, allowing him to suffer the consequences of his campaign finance legalities all on his own?
When did we become so big that we woke up every day for years thinking this was allowable shit to do, to have done to us, to suffer and endure, only to come to our senses later and unite under the banner of reform?
These are just my thoughts and these are merely my ramblings. I believe in large that with the deluge of information we wade through every single day that we have begun to feel small compared to the vastness of what we share or see about life all around us.
Small things go unnoticed. Small things can slip through cracks and evade outcomes. Small things can be led and trained, programmed and misinformed because even small things have an insatiable appetite to understand the world around them. All it takes is someone or something pointing in a direction that is palatable, and off you go, God speed on your journey.
I know that I’m dancing around a very singular point. I’ve been a military kid with questions. I’ve been a tech consultant and allowed access not only to government secrets, but the secret feelings of government officials. I have been given much tutelage to fuel my pondering and what I’ve come to is basic at best.
Why we were never guaranteed the freedom to know our enemy? Why do we cling to secrecy rather than transparency? Why are we taught to display our lunch, yet hide our emotions?
I started writing this with hopes that I would come to my own conclusions. If you have followed me thus far, I truly thank you. Sadly, those answers have failed to appear. Again.
I’m left to do only one thing. Like my old acquaintance Jim Doyle, I’m going to be me. I’m going to be the best me that I can and I’m going to use my voice and actions in the best way possible because if I don’t, who else is going to shine my light?