Four articles that might interest you

I’m juggling family and work right now, so cannot blog at length (something that plagued me yesterday as well).  Still, I have four articles I think you might like to read.

One:  I’ve ruminated often here about the nature of heroism.  I’m not talking about the Leftist version of heroism, which is to stand up in a room full of Leftists and say “George Bush is stupid.”  I’m talking about real heroism, of the type displayed on the battlefield by Medal of Honor winners (and many who aren’t so honored), or in daily life, when one hears about the incredible risks people take to rescue strangers.  I’m physically cowardly, and I’m plagued by chronic analysis paralysis.  The Anchoress, who is not a coward, nevertheless writes about her moment with analysis paralysis.  I think she’s too hard on herself, since she was analyzing a possible threat, rather than dealing with a real one.  Even more interestingly, the Anchoress writes from a Christian perspective, which adds another layer to her ruminations.

Two:  All I can say is that this is one woman who must have a very peculiar sex life if her mind works this way.  (H/t:  Sadie)

Three:  It’s shocking that Dakota Meyer’s translator at the Battle of Ganjgal, in Afghanistan, cannot get a visa to the U.S.  Here’s a view from a Military Times blog, and here’s the write-up I did at Mr. Conservative.  As you read about this, you’ll probably think of the Pakistani doctor who helped us catch bin Laden, but who is languishing in a Pakistani prison.  The rule in America under Obama is that the American government (especially the State Department) will abandon you if you serve us with your life:  we’ll abandon you in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, and in Benghazi.  There are no limits to how badly we will treat our friends.

Four:  I mentioned in an earlier post Dennis Prager’s article about the fact that several self-righteous Leftist publications have announced that, regardless of what the Redskins’ management, players, and fans want, these magazines will never again sully their paper or electronic pages with the evil “R” word.  I was especially struck by the way Prager, attacking The Atlantic’s explanation for supporting this stand, honed in on the perverse moralizing that characterizes the Left:

Argument Four is the key argument, offered by The Atlantic, in its support of Slate:

“Whether people ‘should’ be offended by it or not doesn’t matter; the fact that some people are offended by it does.”

Response: This is classic modern liberalism. It is why I have dubbed our age “The Age of Feelings.”

In a fashion typical of progressives, the Atlantic writer commits two important errors.

First, it does matter “whether people ‘should’ feel offended.” If we ceased using all arguments or descriptions because “some people” feel offended, we would cease using any arguments or descriptions. We should use the “reasonable person” test to determine what is offensive, not the “some people are offended” criterion.

[snip]

Teaching people to take offense is one of the Left’s black arts. Outside of sex and drugs, the Left is pretty much joyless and it kills joy constantly. The war on the “Redskins” name is just the latest example.

Second, it is the Left that specializes in offending: labeling the Tea Party racist, public cursing, displaying crucifixes in urine, and regularly calling Republicans evil (Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column last month, wrote that the Republican mindset “takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.”) For such people to find the name “Redskins” offensive is a hoot.  (Emphasis mine.)

Please read the whole thing.

Let’s talk of pleasant(ish) things

I discovered that I was too nervous about the election even to read my usual round of blogs this morning.  After I saw a post about shenanigans in Pennsylvania, my stomach did a little slip-sloppy thing, and I closed all the political blog tabs I had open.  Until I get my equilibrium back, I thought I’d make this a book post.

I’m reading Dakota Meyer’s Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, which he wrote with Bing West.  I’m about halfway through and can already tell you a few things about it:  First, it’s extremely well written.  In the beginning, West’s voice was a little too strong, as he set the scene (making it more West novel than Meyer story), but either I got used to that voice or West sublimated his own writing style as the book went along.  Second, it’s very interesting.  This is a very different take (for me) on Afghanistan.  Meyer was stationed in Afghanistan for quite a while before he found himself in the fight that earned him his Medal of Honor.  Meyer describes the slightly dysfunctional relationship American troops have with Afghani troops, the difficulty dealing with Afghani villagers, and the terrain that allowed the Taliban to hold off both Soviets and Americans for so many years.

The only problem with the book is that I know how it ends:  good people die.  That’s why I’m reading it more slowly than usual, despite its being interesting and well-written.  I just keep putting off those chapters where real people die real, painful, lonely deaths.  That’s the problem with true war stories.  In a novel, you can remind yourself that a fictional creation bit the dust.  When reading a true war story, though, you can’t get out of your mind that a father will never again see his children or that a mother back home has lost her child forever.  It’s rather pathetic that, sitting in my comfy reading chair at home, I’m less courageous than the men and women on the front lines, but that probably explains why I’m in my living room and they’re in Afghanistan.

On the subject of books, I continue to be fascinated by that Folio Society website I told you about.  The link I just gave you is to another war story, although this one is fiction:  Erich Maria Remarque’ All Quiet on the Western Front.”  This is another book I’ve been meaning to read forever, but somehow haven’t gotten around to.  After reading Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, I’m as emotionally cowardly about WWI as I am about events in Afghanistan.  Still, maybe I’ll be brave and try to entice myself into reading the book by buying a copy that’s aesthetically pleasing.

That’s the thing about these Folio Society books — they are so beautiful.  They also make me feel kind of bad about getting rid of childhood classics.  One of my craven secrets is that I never really liked Charlotte’s Web.  I liked Stuart Little and The Once and Future King but Charlotte’s Web never worked for me.  So, I got rid of my copy once I left my parent’s house for good.  Too bad I didn’t realize it was a first edition.  You can get a gorgeous Folio Society reprint of that first edition for only $40 at the Folio Society.  My copy probably cost $3 back in the day.  Oy!

Are you reading anything interesting today?  Funny would be good.  I need a funny book in my life.

The media again attacks the military

I came of age in the post-Vietnam era.  Let me amend that:  I came of age in San Francisco in the post-Vietnam era.  Although Fleet Week, which started in the City about 20+ years ago has done a lot to turn things around, San Francisco has not been a military friendly city, and most definitely was not so in the decade after Vietnam.  Every institution was hostile to the military.  I grew up knowing, probably from the San Francisco Comical, with increasingly large dollops of help from ABC, NBC and CBS, that military vets were deranged.

This was my first run-in with cognitive dissonance.  You see, I knew a ton of military vets.  The difference was that they weren’t Vietnam Vets but were, instead, WWII and Israeli War Vets.  And they weren’t deranged.  At all.  Many of them were sad men, who had seen too much, but they were all highly functional men who married, raised children, held jobs, and helped out a lot around the house.  My parents explained to me that Vietnam Vets were deranged because they were all drug addicts, except that didn’t make sense either.  The drug addicts I knew (and I was in San Francisco and at Berkeley) weren’t the vets; instead, they were the ones that had stayed behind.

Hmmm.  The first step in crossing the Rubicon was figuring out that the media has the military in its cross hairs.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The latest casualty of the media’s war on the military is living Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer.  Although the McClatchy news organization readily concedes that he acted with unparalleled bravery, it’s making a big push to say he didn’t really act with that much bravery.  This story stinks for a few reasons.  First, it leaves a strong impression that Meyer lied, although a careful textual reading shows that it’s really claiming that the Marine Corps itself exaggerated.  The Marines shouldn’t have exaggerated, but this story still should have been left alone.  Why?  Because as Jack Cashill explains, this kind of attack on an extraordinarily brave young man manages to highlight what an absymal job the media is doing when it comes to its main job — namely, keeping the public informed about its leaders and keeping politicians honest.

Think about it:  this is a media that tries to destroy the reputation of one indubitably brave, decent man, while it kept us in the dark in 2007 and 2008 about Obama’s entire history and, even now, is doing its best to bury such interesting stories as Fast and Furious (which the blogosphere cares about, but the MSM has ignored almost entirely) or Solyndra (ditto).

I shouldn’t really be so surprised or angry, I guess.  This disdain for and hostility towards the military is reflexive and pervasive in our media.  But I can’t help it.  It still hacks me off.

(P.S.  I do suggest, though, that military types don’t do things like this.  It’s one thing to do your job and get savaged by idiots.  It’s another thing to hand them red meat on a silver platter.)

McQueary’s age is no excuse for his lukewarm, delayed action

Dan Abrams, who’s some sort of ABC talking head, has weighed in about Mike McQueary.  Because I’ve already flogged the topic to death in other posts, I won’t explain here why I strongly disagree with his argument that McQueary really didn’t do anything that wrong.

What intrigued me in the article was a point I’ve seen others make, but that Abrams makes with beautiful clarity (emphasis mine):

In retrospect, should McQueary have been satisfied with that? No way. Should he have done more? Yes. Could he have done more? Of course. Should he be celebrated as a hero because, as he put it, he “made sure it stopped?” No. But many have even suggested that McQueary is monstrous for having called his father for guidance before immediately reporting the incident. Is that really so hard to understand? A 28-year-old, so troubled by what he has seen in his workplace, that he calls his father for counsel?

McQueary has been described in most articles as a student (albeit a graduate student), which implies that he was very young at the time.  In fact, as Abrams establishes, he was 28.  Twenty-eight.  Not twelve.  Not ten.  Not even just turned twenty-one.  Ten years before witnessing his boss raping a child (and description of his boss’s activity is per McQueary’s own grand jury testimony), he’d earned as a matter of law the right to vote; to marry without parental permission; and to go off to war, with really cool weapons in his hands.  Seven years earlier, he’d been given official permission to buy alcohol.  He’d passed all the milestones of youth, and then some.  He was not a child.  By my lights, he was a man.

Now, I think it’s very nice that McQueary has a close relationship with his father.  I hope to have a close relationship with my kids until the day I die.  I hope, too, that they continue to see me as a source of wisdom, someone they can turn to for advice or just to kick around interesting ideas.  But I also hope that, by the time my kids are 28, I will have done my parenting job sufficiently well that, if they see an older man anally raping a 10 year old child, they will intercede immediately, rather than having to sneak out of the room so that, some hours later, they can ask me for advice.

Sorry, Dan Abrams.  Sorry, Mike McQueary.  Mike’s “youth” is not an excuse.

And just to give you a little perspective:

Dakota Meyer, 21 when he engaged in the conduct that earned him the Medal of Honor:

Rank and Organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Corporal Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Sal Guinta, 22 when he engaged in the conduct that earned him the Medal of Honor:

Rank and Organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry,173d Airborne Brigade.

Place and date: Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, 25 October 2007. Entered service at: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Born: 25 January 1985, Clinton, Iowa. Citation: Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, on October 25, 2007. While conducting a patrol as team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, Specialist Giunta and his team were navigating through harsh terrain when they were ambushed by a well-armed and well-coordinated insurgent force. While under heavy enemy fire, Specialist Giunta immediately sprinted towards cover and engaged the enemy. Seeing that his squad leader had fallen and believing that he had been injured, Specialist Giunta exposed himself to withering enemy fire and raced towards his squad leader, helped him to cover, and administered medical aid. While administering first aid, enemy fire struck Specialist Giunta’s body armor and his secondary weapon. Without regard to the ongoing fire, Specialist Giunta engaged the enemy before prepping and throwing grenades, using the explosions for cover in order to conceal his position. Attempting to reach additional wounded fellow soldiers who were separated from the squad, Specialist Giunta and his team encountered a barrage of enemy fire that forced them to the ground. The team continued forward and upon reaching the wounded soldiers, Specialist Giunta realized that another soldier was still separated from the element. Specialist Giunta then advanced forward on his own initiative. As he crested the top of a hill, he observed two insurgents carrying away an American soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other. Upon reaching the wounded soldier, he began to provide medical aid, as his squad caught up and provided security. Specialist Giunta’s unwavering courage, selflessness, and decisive leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon’s ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from the enemy. Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment, and the United States Army.

Michael Monsoor, 25 when he gave his life in Iraq, earning a posthumous Medal of Honor:

Rank and Organization: Master-At-Arms Second Class (Sea, Air And Land), United States Navy
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as automatic weapons gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army Sniper Overwatch Element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element’s position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy’s initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

I could go on, but it will just make me cry, and I assume I’ve made my point:  McQueary’s age is no excuse.

I’ll say here again that I don’t know whether I would have done any better in the same situation than McQueary. I’m perfectly willing to concede that I would have fallen prey to analysis paralysis, disbelief, denial, organizational paranoia, etc. But the fact that I too might have behaved badly does not excuse McQueary, a 28 year old man, from failing to do the right and proper thing, which was to act immediately to protect a small child.

Dakota Meyer; or who carries the seeds of greatness?

Navy One brought my attention to the fact that America’s 1st Sergeant once served with Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer.  I quickly headed over to the link, anticipating some reminiscences about Meyer.  Am’s 1st Sgt didn’t include any.  Instead, he repeated Meyer’s own words, spoken after the fact:

I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was. I was just going to keep fighting until they got me. I wasn’t going to sit there and lay down and let them win. That was the only thing on my mind was how to get those guys out. I would’ve done it again.

I was a little disappointed not to learn more about Meyer himself from one who worked closely with him.  This silence on  Am’s 1st Sgt’s part got me wondering what I was expecting to read.

Did I want to hear that, from day one, Meyer was marked by greatness, so that those who served with him felt it was inevitable that he would be awarded the nation’s highest military honor?  Reading things like that helps one come to terms with being ordinary.  “Hey, it’s okay that I’ve never done, nor will ever do, something special.  The ones who do something special are already tagged by God.”

Or perhaps I wanted to hear that Meyer, up until his moment of bravery and self-sacrifice was an ordinary Joe, just another good ol’ boy in the Marines, and that, while everyone liked him, nobody ever expected those vast reserves of raw courage.  That’s also a good one, because it says that, until we are tested, we don’t know who or what we are.  Sure, I’m just a stealth suburban blogger, hiding my true identity from those around me but, if push comes to shove, I too am capable of stepping outside my own fears and limitations.

These aren’t just random thoughts.  They actually started a few days ago when I saw this video:

The video shows an accident scene in Logan, Utah.  A motorcyclist plowed into a car, his motorcycle burst into flames, and he slid under the car, unconscious.  The burning motorcycle made the entire scene dangerous.  The bystanders, instead of running away, investigated the scene, analyzed the risks to the motorcyclist (refrain from moving an injured man lest one causes worse injuries or run the risk that the car will explode) and then, having decided that immolation was the greatest risk, in one huge frenzy of energy, flipped the car over and dragged the motorcyclist out.  They saved the motorcyclist but, at the same time, each and every one of those bystanders risked death or injury.  None of them, I’m sure, went to work that day assuming that they’d be faced with that kind of decision-making.

In England a short while ago, it was a 22-year-old woman who showed physical and moral courage.  Two drunken thugs were brutally beating a man in public.  People drove by or watched.  Twenty-two year old Aimee Yule, a taxi dispatcher, chased the thugs away, administered help to the injured man and, when the thugs returned, actually used physical force against them.  Ms. Yule’s own thoughts on the subject bear noting:

She said outside court: ‘I couldn’t believe no one else was stopping to help him, there were loads of cars going past.

‘People were stopping and calling ambulances and the police, but no one came over. He got knocked out and there was blood coming out of his mouth.

‘When I approached they moved away, but they kept coming back to kick him.

‘One of them ran towards me and lifted his hand but I stood still and told him to leave. Luckily, he never hit me.

‘I was just sitting with him trying to stop them. I said “that’s enough, he’s had enough, please just leave it.”

I couldn’t believe more people had not stopped, cars had to swerve round them and some had stopped at the other side of the road to watch, but nobody came to help.’

Miss Yule said the incident left her badly shaken. She added: ‘I wouldn’t normally get involved with something like that, but I just thought, that’s somebody’s son being stamped on in the middle of that road.’

Bravery, then, seems to be an amalgam of moral courage and low brain function.  Think too much, and it’s all over — you can always talk yourself out of the risk.

The Logan scene notwithstanding, crowds also seem to inhibit courage.  I became aware of this several years ago when a crowd of people stood around and watched as a deranged man stomped his two-year old son to death on a public road.  The bystanders all seemed to be watching each other for cues.  Each was apparently wondering whether s/he was reading the situation correctly or was running the risk of public humiliation through overreaction.  And each person, by worrying about the others’ responses, stood paralyzed as a child died.

These stories are one of the reasons I love MMA.  I’d like to think that if, God forbid, I’m ever confronted with the need to act, I’ll have drilled sufficiently that I’ll be able to dive in without thinking.  It’s the analysis paralysis that worries me, since I’m an over-thinker at the best of times.   I work hard so that I’ll do the right thing, instead of berating myself later for failing to act at all.

Dakota Meyer, American hero

I hate hearing the word “hero” thrown around with the casual abandon we see today:  he’s a sports hero, he’s an “action” (movie) hero, she’s a heroic teacher.  I don’t mean to denigrate people who are brilliant athletes, entertaining movie stars, or dedicated teachers.  It’s just that “hero” is the wrong word, and it cheapens a word that should be freighted with ideas about taking incredible personal risks to save others.  Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor winner, is a real hero in every sense of the word.  Read his story and be awed.

He’s a young man still, so I wish him a long life that is fulfilling and happy.  He deserves it, and then some.