Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Auroran Musings

I have been incredibly flustered lately.  The lack of job continues to weigh on me and looking at the debts I have or soon will have, it is enough to drive me batty.  Indeed today, my significant other had to grab me when I was about ready to pound the computer I was working on.  The source of my ire?  A website associated with a national chain wanted me to reenter all the information that was on the resume they asked me to upload, and wanted answers to questions I couldn't answer or was trapped by.  In the process of the move a lot of things were left in the air.  It was not an orderly transition at all.

Perhaps worst of all I've gone from having at least some control over my life, if only to say "you know what? I think I'm going to get Subway, not [insert fast food chain]."  I am literally at the mercy of those around me.  Should I at any point out stay my welcome I am hosed.  More than that I really don't like being this way.  I hate that I have no control.  I loathe feeling like a bum every day, and perhaps worst of all facing the ever growing list of things I need to do is filling me with a sense of vaguely defined panic.  I suppose it is akin to a blind man sensing a tsunami about to hit.

My significant other is great though.  She realized the problem, having gone through the exact same thing herself.  She was calm, compassionate and understanding, and perhaps just by being there she helped.  A lot.  So at midnight even though she desperately needed to get to sleep she took me to the hot tub, because she sensed I needed it, and as I sat outside I happened to look up and see clouds that weren't quite right.  Clouds that moved too fast and I realized what I was seeing.  An Aurora Borealis.  In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena known to man, and like a camp fire it can be truly mesmerizing.

While sitting in the hot tub, my fiancĂ© said all the things a guy ever wants to here.  She had faith in me.  Confidence that our struggles would make us stronger in the end.  She told me that her sisters have had the same struggles.  One sister, if they make it to March will be the first full year that she and her husband have been employed since they knew each other.  Her other married sister hasn't had stable finances in the six years that they've been married, and her husband's current job has him gone three days a week.  Still...  I'm starting off as low as I can get.  Its scary, and the thought of being married with the kind of financial troubles we have now. . .

We didn't stay in that long, though I would have liked to.  It was the first peaceful moment I've felt since I don't know when, but she really did have to get to sleep, and I needed to at least try.  As I looked up one last time before going inside I was struck with a thought.  After the first full day of fighting at Fredericksburg, which saw a terrific slaughter, the Union troops were hunkered down behind fortifications of their fallen brethren, and happened to look up and see an Aurora.  It's rare to see one so far south as Fredericksburg Virginia, and on this particular night after a day of sheer hell, it was a sight that robbed most men of their powers of speech.  That something so beautiful could follow something so ugly touched those men to their very souls.  One Union soldier even said that it was as if the souls of their comrades were watching over them.

With that thought, I realized, I've survived a lot.  My problems, for all the angst they have caused me are not nearly as bad as those of a Union soldier on the night of December 14th 1862.  For me I can enjoy this beauty without fear of someone shooting me.  And, if the souls of those I've lost are looking down on me in this Aurora, than hopefully they'll be saving me a cold one when my times comes to join them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

About the "Confederate Flag"

The "Confederate flag" means a lot of things to a lot of people.  So some it is a symbol of nobility, a struggle against an oppressive regime.  To others it is a sign of absolutely despicable acts of racism.  I won't get into the merits of either side except to note the people on both sides are incredibly passionate about it.  I will also say that I have seen black men sporting stars and bars paraphernalia, which at the time I found odd, and many will find odd to this day.  The original flag, dubbed the "Stars and Bars" looks nothing like the "Confederate flag" we know today

So let's start off with a simple what IS the Stars and Bars?  Well first you really need to understand the early days of the Confederate States of America it was all largely done out of a hat (sometimes quite literally).  No one had actually panned for the cessation, or setting up a formal government after they had left the Union.  In their haste to exit most of the Confederacy hadn't even agreed on what the new government should look like let alone what their flag should look like.  As the war began almost immediately after cessation the armies in the field were hopelessly confusing.  In Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's brigade there were many troops that showed up in blue uniforms of their state militias, there were cadets from VMI in their grey cadet uniforms, and even a unit that showed up in Revolutionary War apparel.  This is to say nothing of the flags.  There were dozens, and no sense to it at all.

Indeed, during the first battle of Bull Run (or Manassas depending on which side you were on) there was so much confusion between the Confederate troops carrying the Stars and Bars, and the Union troops carrying the Stars and Stripes that at one point Jackson tried to rally troops that weren't his.  It seems extraordinary, but the confusion was so great that it was nearly a disaster for both sides.  After the battle General Beauregard demanded that something be done.  Even though the Confederate congress rejected a "battle flag" specifically for the troops Beauregard went around them and used the war department to designate a "peace" or "parade" flag, and a flag for battle.  What came out was a square flag (not rectangular as is commonly depicted) of a blue X with thirteen stars in a red background.  It was distinct enough that it helped cut down the confusion, and for the remainder of the war the Army of Northern Virginia (the main Confederate army in the eastern theater) used it.

The "official" confederate flag remained however.  At least until 1863.  At that point a new flag was adopted owing to the sentiment that the flag was too like the Union flag.  What followed were a series of two flags, both rather goofy looking and neither really popular.  The first was simply the confederate battle flag on a white background.  The second was a vertical red stripe at the end of the flag.  As the political history of the Confederacy is not often studied (or is massively dwarfed by the military history) the history of the Confederate flag is lost, and many assume that the battle flag was the Confederate flag.

I believe that it is an important part of our past, and should not be consigned to the dust bin.  I thing the confederate battle flag should fly.  With a caveat.  It should fly over reenactments.  I think there is a middle ground, where we can honor the courage and sacrifice of Americans, regardless of side, and also at the same time recognize the wrong done.  Unfortunately, at the time, passions are too high for this to happen.  One can only hope that the blood pressure subside enough that we can take a more realistic look at our history.  Accept both the good and the bad, and learn from both.  Like it or not the Confederate States of America is a large part of American history, and without the CSA, the USA would not be the country it is today.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dear Navy, Air Force, and Marines

WE CAME FIRST!!!  Seriously, the US Army was here first, and you can argue all you want that the Navy, and Marine Corps did there parts in later wars, there would not be an America if the US Army hadn't done so well, despite being nothing more than a bunch of country bumpkins, when facing the most powerful military in the world (at the time).

Really, let's take a moment on this, the 240th birthday of the United States Army to give props where props are due.  Who fought in all major theaters of WWII, and conducted a majority of amphibious assaults?  That's right the Army.  I get it, the Marines have a right to be proud of what you've done.  No one will deny you have that right, but guys, seriously?  You act like you were the only ones in WWI, the Pacific, Chosin, Hue, and the drive into Baghdad.  That's getting a little annoying.  Actually we'd love hit you upside with an arty tube once you get going.  It's not personal, but you guys had got to knock off the "we're the only ones fighting" crap.  Even in your most notable battles the Army was near by or supporting you.

And yes, the Navy.  Love you guys.  But lately you've lacked that luster.  The sheer brilliance that you once claimed, has lost its shine.  I understand.  Budget cuts suck.  Lately you've been trying to replace your old ships, and get shiny new toys.  I truly understand the desire.  I also understand that you've been setting unrealistic standards.  You've got people getting fired for minor things.  Corrective training is a good thing.  Accidents are going to happen.  stop treating accidents as if someone peed on the admiral's dog, and start treating them as teachable moments.  Like I said, I love you guys.  Even if you can be insufferable at times.

Air Force. . . oh where do I even begin.  First off. . . GUYS.  MILITARY BARING.  I hate to say it this way but damn.  Hearing junior enlisted personnel refer to light colonels on a first name basis… really?  Your job is to blast the enemy out of the sky, shut down their electronics, and blow the ever loving hell out of their stuff with a wide assortment of bombs.  Can you at least act like your job in the military is part of that end?  While we're on the subject of blowing shit up, what gives with the A-10?  I get that you, like the Navy want new toys, but have you ever serious stopped and asked why so many people are rallying to keep the A-10?  Want to retire the B-1?  You'll probably not hear a peep.  Maybe you ought to ask why this airframe has so much popularity.

To my fellow Soldiers, sit back, drink some beer, and raise a toast.  Past Present and Future, we can be proud of our Army.  We've put our blood sweat and tears into making our organization top shelf.  You can deploy the Army to disasters, wars, construction sites, hell I'm sure there's a few missions the brass hasn't even thought up and I'm sure you'll be good at it.  Take a moment of pride and enjoy that.