Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Political Epiphany

I watched the most recent Presidential debate and contrary to the reaction of many others, I am happy that I did so. My satisfaction is hardly derived from entertainment or insight (at least insight directly from the candidates themselves) that I reaped from viewing. From the candidates indirectly, however, I learned a valuable to lesson…

…how liberating one feels to begin to break bonds from organized associations.

That notion requires clarification. And clarity will be most easily achieved by referencing the one example that most motivated the recognition of this notion.

Politically, I first to began to associate myself with the Republican Party no later than immediately after joining the military. Interestingly, however, my real passion for Republican doctrines was cemented during my first year in college when I was exposed to economical theory and the free-market principles of experts such as Milton Friedman.

Since that time, I have fell victim to the trap that one can be so easily snared when dealing with party politics. I began to follow my party’s rhetoric blindly which, roughly, brings me to my general political ideology up until the last debate. And, then, with seemingly minimal effort, Senator John McCain, whom I have met and respect dearly, caused a sudden recognition of my own folly.

I was planning on voting for McCain because he was the Republican candidate. Now, however, I will vote for him only because the policies that Senator Obama recommends somehow scare me worse than Senator McCain’s. And that is really saying something, because it is Senator McCain’s plans as President that distance him so far from the conservative base.

So, instead of being bound by cookie-cutter party ideology, I will now and forever live by my own standards of good governance.

This was caused by several McCain policy endorsements, a couple of which I will briefly discuss.

During the debate, Senator McCain continually propagated his plan for economic recovery that included the purchasing of falsely-valued mortgages by government; these mortgages would then be resold to the original holder at their current (real) value. While I am cognizant of the plight that many of these mortgage owners face, I am only marginally sympathetic. I wonder to myself at what point people began to believe that it was wise to purchase homes so financially beyond their means. It is easy to pass the blame to those that, for a period, gained the most from this vast amount of exorbitantly priced homes sold (the sellers), but some (err… much) of the blame has to be placed on the individuals that borrowed so recklessly in the first place.

The U.S. economy, without too much government interference, is going to require a period of “tough love” to straighten itself out. However, I believe that it will correct itself and in doing so, and by encountering the consequences that citizens themselves sowed, the U.S. economy will be stronger and wiser for having gone through the trials brought on by excessive gluttony.

But the Arizona Senator’s plan is nothing like this. He wants to rescue the “victims” of this crisis. And, while I can hardly fault the moral obligation that he feels, I can fault his policies for being contrary to every free-market conservative principle in which I have been exposed. If this is what the Republicans are currently selling, than I am not buying it.

Finally, there is the topic of my single largest pet-peeve in regards to the “new” McCain: his lack of fortitude on the issue of market deregulation.

It is currently the vogue opinion to blame the financial crisis on the deregulation of financial markets. Senator McCain himself, throughout the debate, was targeted negatively as a proponent of deregulation.

To which, I only ask: when did promoting a free-market economy become a bad thing?

Apparently, to Senator McCain, it has become just that because he responds to each of these accusations sheepishly. A candidate with my ideology would stand strong when exposed to deregulation being referred to negatively. I would suspect that an individual whom truly bought into their conservative principles, which I do, would respond to such criticism by pointing out that any market requiring DEregulation was never free in the first place. Why not counter such criticism by questioning how effectively a truly free market could be?

That question, of course, is rhetorical. Such a response from Senator McCain would be akin to him surrendering the election to Senator Obama, because everyone “knows” that deregulation has led to the financial mess in which America currently finds itself. To be a proponent of such policies would be like being a proponent of the agitator that caused the current financial meltdown. Never mind that we hardly know where the economy would stand right now had it ever truly and originally been liberated to the point some of us would have liked and would still like.

By following my advice and aggressively standing firm on the conservative values in which the Republican Party was formed, would be doom for Senator McCain’s Presidential bid, but - should I hold myself as an example - it would go a long way in reassuring grassroot Republicans that our Party has not abandoned us.

But, it has.

And, in my case, this is not unfortunate because it has revealed to me the liberation of never again voting on someone else’s terms. While I despise the Democratic Party’s platform, there is much to dislike about the G.O.P.’s as well. Why restrict myself to such limiting and inadequate standards?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Soldier's Tale

Tonight, something different.

The scene opens to a domicile; it could very well be a college dorm or a location similar. The composition of the room is modern from being freshly built. The gleam of luster, however, is fleeting. Trash is strewn throughout the room which, itself, is separated in two. The makeshift partition is formed by two entertainment centers, their backs against each other. Very little in the room - a uniform lying here, a pair of boots sitting there - makes it apparent that this is a military barracks room, but it is. The individual currently solely occupying the room is himself a soldier. Discipline, however, is hardly manifest here. The trash scattered throughout consists of half-crushed beer cans and empty liquor bottles. Hastily discarded take-out boxes complete the reckless motif.

The soldier, seated in a chair, faces the screen of a laptop computer. On the screen, several programs are open. The fingers of the soldier tap quickly as he transitions from instant messaging software to an internet browser. The screen lights the face of the soldier brightly - all else is dark. Being night time, light fails to cut through the blinds of the only window visible in the room.

As the soldier continues to work doggedly at the computer, the contents of the screen become visible. He is viewing a website describing the effects of a new recreational drug, known as DXM, and commonly found in cough syrup.

Moving from the screen and to the soldier, it becomes clear that this soldier is but a kid. At first appearance, one would believe him to be more likely found on a college campus than on a military base. He is wiry and wears surfer-style clothing. His shirt is a collared polo. The shirt is matched with a pair of beige cargo shorts. The prep ensemble is completed by a pair of beach sandals.

As his face becomes more discernible, it becomes clearly apparent by the glaze over his eyes that this soldier has already partaken of the drug in which he investigates. This only becomes more obvious as a flash from the computer screen reflects off the plastic of two empty bottles of Robitussin.

What’s occurring is less an experiment and more an adventure; an adventure that those affected by the soldier would later interpret differently. Those of the military in charge of the soldier would later explain the event in ways shaped by their short-sighted perception. They would also be the most off-base in their assumptions. To them this was at least a means to escape and at most an attempt at suicide. To those that truly knew him, and to the soldier himself, this was perhaps the former, but definitely not the latter.

The results of this adventure, which would include an emergency room consultation and a prolonged stay at the hospital, and its interpretations are nearly insignificant. More important are the thoughts in the soldier’s mind as he travels in ways he has never before.

While its true that stress associated with the military life probably pushed the soldier to the precipice of this adventure, it was his own desire that caused him to step off. He wanted to experiment and his adventure was currently unfolding mostly as planned. In front of him, on the computer screen, was a documentary of his favorite classic rock band, the Doors. All footage was taped live and Jim Morrison currently slivered on-screen, in front of a night-glowing crowd. And then, without warning, the soldier was there. He was in the crowd, bumping shoulders with his peers from Los Angeles, 1968. He watches, mesmerized, as Ray Manzarek makes the keyboard sing. The bottleneck guitar of Robby Krieger is as real as the air around him. The transition is complete and he is fully in the period, enjoying his temporary night of Human Be-In. The soldier can detect the palpable feel of rebellion. He has a clear sense of the Vietnam War occurring “out there” and the magic occurring “in here”, at the concert, of which he is now a patron.

He couldn’t be any more satisfied.

The soldier has his glorious trance interrupted. Someone has messaged him from online. His flight is taking a detour, but the pleasure is to continue. The message is from an old friend from a location the soldier has left some time ago. That location, however, is home to the soldier. He longs to be there again. He also longs for liberation from the demands of his military lifestyle. His buddy’s message provides momentary escape. Instead of reading words, the soldier sees his old pal. His friend is hardly conversing from computer to computer with a separation of many miles, but rather - in the mind of the soldier - sits on the other side of a wall. The soldier can see through this wall however. With each online message, he sees his friend speak his words. Having left his friend and life “back home” long ago, this act of conversing is so special to him. It is a treasure; and to his perception a very real return to a place he loved and loves.

The “success” of the soldier’s night would soon come crashing down around him, but it would occur unbeknownst to him. He would pass out in a near comatose state. The ranking individual most directly in charge of this soldier would later break into his room, alerted by the soldier’s worried parent. After being awoken in the hospital room, of the little that the soldier would later remember, the most prominent would be the thick chalky taste of the liquid charcoal he was forced to swallow to repudiate the toxicity of the overdose of cough syrup he had earlier consumed.

For two hours, maybe less and perhaps more, the soldier greatly enjoyed his adventure. He would later, however, regret ever stepping off on the journey. The enjoyment provided by the escape would be overshadowed by the embarrassment of being so reckless. Not immediately, but some years later, he would begin to understand the anxiety that his immature actions caused in others. Around the same period, he would shed his embarrassment. Instead, feeling no need to regret mistakes made in living life, he decides to share his tale through his most cherished medium. Feeling satisfied in his personal expression, he decides that many more stories should be openly shared.

To be continued. …