If you watch, I'm sure you'll be joining us, waiting for that next dish of ice cream.
Imagine offering a child a dish of ice cream but allowing them to only take it out of the freezer once a day and each just one spoonful at a time. That's what it was like for my wife and I trying to limit ourselves to just one episode of Stranger Things per day. We failed
Stranger Things is an eight-part SciFi thriller produced by Netflix and it's well worth the price of subscribing if only to watch his one program. Starring Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, it is the tale of a weapons development program that accidentally opens a portal to another dimension, a dimension occupied by an unspeakably vicious predator. And that's all I'm going to tell you about the plot. Just imagine ET written by Stephen King.
I once read that science fiction tends to reflect the temper of the people in the time it is written. During the Cold War, space aliens were threatening. In the peace that followed they were warm and cuddly. Stranger Things is definitely a product of our time when Stone Age terrorists are lurking in the shadows and authority figures are distrusted and cops are being ambushed in the streets. If you are living in 2016, you'll feel right at home.
If you watch, I'm sure you'll be joining us, waiting for that next dish of ice cream.
Imagine my surprise when, early in my sixth decade, I discovered that I had an aunt and twelve cousins of whom I had never even heard. A few years later I was speaking with an aged aunt, my father's sister. “Speaking with” does not quite describe it. Conversations with Anna were more like being spoken to. Sometime during the telephone call she mentioned that she had been talking to her sister's daughter. It took me about fifteen minutes to stop her and guide her back to that point.
“Your sister's daughter? I didn't know you had a sister.”
“Of course,” she explained, obviously perplexed that I didn't know. “Your Aunt Mary.”
I had never heard of Mary.
Have you ever discovered that your family had a skeleton in the closet? A black sheep? How would you feel to learn that the "black sheep" may have had a golden fleece? This is the story that I had to tell.
I'm guilty. I voted for Perot. I've regretted that decision ever since. If I and others who voted for Perot hadn't we might not have ever suffered through the embarrassment of the Bill Clinton Administration and the threat of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Imagine that. Now that we are faced with two unqualified candidates for President, I am once again tempted to cast my ballot for the third party choice, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Dare I?
The election of '92 was a crazy affair. George H. W. Bush should have won. Few imagined that he wouldn't. Teddy Kennedy didn't believe he could be beaten. That's why Kennedy refrained from throwing his hat into the ring. He was going to wait for the end of Bush's second term when he'd have a chance of winning. Yes, Bush was that popular. His coalition of nations had not only chased Saddam Hussein and his minions scurrying back into Iraq, but also reminded the world of America's supremacy. The Pax Americana established by this nation's ascendancy over the evil empire of the Soviet Union was reaffirmed. No other President had such high approval ratings at the end of his first term.
If you read the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, you're familiar with Calvinball. It's a game in which a young child changes the rules to favor his chances of winning regardless of what happens.
Now imagine life were like that. Imagine the frustration of teenagers returning home and being punished because parents changed the curfew without telling them. Imagine the frustration of waiting for delivery of a product or service you ordered and paid for only to learn that the terms of the contract changed without notice. Imagine the frustration of being jailed because the law you obeyed no longer applies and it's been replaced by a new version.
Traditionally, Presidents enjoy a brief period following their election and inauguration during which they get a pass. No one complains. Criticism is held in abeyance. Why? Probably because we're exhausted. The campaigns are over. Everyone is tired of arguing. The loser has conceded. We give politics a rest. Not for long. Just a while. When has any honeymoon lasted more than a couple of weeks?
Normally, that happens. Sadly George W. Bush didn't get one. Instead of throwing rice, the opposition threw hanging chads and went to court (and I don't mean courtship). The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and even their wisdom couldn't put the conflict to rest. Indeed, the wrath of the opposition fell on their heads as Candidate Gore and his followers accused the Justices of playing politics. Thus, even before his inauguration, Bush was named the “President-Select”, and the acrimony never ended, even after he was sworn in.
RallyPoint is an online forum for the military. Its members are scattered all over America. More than a few it seems are scattered over other parts of the world. I've made friends with a few of them. Some are even contacts. But I had never met one in person before yesterday. I had posted a notice about the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War at Fort Irwin, California, and Ken Ellis contacted me to find out if we could go together. We could and did.
We rallied at the Main Place Mall in Santa Ana, California, about midway between our homes. A car club of Shelby Cobras happened to be meeting there and provided a welcome diversion before setting off. Another Vietnam Veteran, John Gleason, a member of my VFW post, met there too and we took off for Fort Irwin about midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Actually, this Army post, affectionately known as the nation's cul-de-sac, lies 30 miles off Highway 15 in the middle of the desert.
We may well-imagine sound arguments being made for several wars or the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) being worthy of the trophy as the greatest or costliest mistake in modern U.S. History. However, all of these are merely the symptoms of other mistakes, aren't they? Finding the root cause depends upon how far back you're willing to look for it..
Ultimately, it may be argued that We the People are accountable for all of the decisions made by our representatives in government, state and federal. Yes, We pay the price, don't we? We pay the taxes. We shed the blood. But the responsibility for those bad decisions vests in our elected representatives.
How does responsibility differ from accountability? Simple. Those who make the decisions are responsible in that they were elected for that purpose: They are responsible for making decisions or executing them. They may even take the blame for making bad ones. However, they never really pay the price for those decisions. They never actually suffer the consequences of them. More often than not, they are reelected so they can return to their seats of power and continue making bad decisions. Whose fault is that?
That being said, We the People electing poor representation to government is not a very satisfactory answer to the question: What is the greatest or costliest mistake in modern U.S. History? Ultimately, it is too broad. It means that We are both responsible and accountable for all mistakes. To determine which is the greatest or most costly mistake, We must narrow our vision to one specific mistake.
It's true. The highest ranking general will snap to attention and salute the lowest ranking enlisted man wearing a Medal of Honor. Why do you suppose that is? Are they honoring the man, the medal, or the act of valor that it represents?
Hero-worship is as natural as breathing. Most of us join the military fresh from childhood reverence of sports heroes. Thus, we didn't invent the practice but we certainly elevated it. I more so than most. As Chief of Awards and Decorations for the 9th Infantry Division during a portion of my tour of duty in Vietnam, I investigated many acts of valor and sat with senior officers who evaluated my recommendations including four that rose to garner the Medal of Honor.
Everyone who has ever worshiped a hero ultimately has been disappointed because every hero falters. Go ahead. Study the record of history. Even mythology tells the same tale. In retrospect, it seems that the West Point statue of Benedict Arnold's boot, commemorating his contribution to the Continental Army's victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga before he “turned coat”, is the most rational memorial to heroism to be found. [Note: Arnold was wounded in the foot during the Battle of Quebec.]
To be fair, I've never had bad hospital food. I've never even seen it, that is not until I visited the VA Hospital in Long Beach, California.
In the interests of complete disclosure I have eaten plenty of hospital food, but never in a VA hospital. I've eaten it while a patient in civilian hospitals as well as military hospitals. I was stationed for a time at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii where I was a patient for a week with my second bout of malaria. My first hospital stay with malaria was in an Army field hospital in Vietnam where I contracted it, and the food wasn't too bad even there.
I can't speak to the food served at other VA hospitals, but my expectations aren't very high. The food being served at the Long Beach VA Hospital is prepared at the one in West Los Angeles and trucked to Long Beach. The kitchens at the Long Beach VA hospital are closed for lack of sufficient funds in the federal budget. Congress could allocate more or the President could rearrange his priorities, but they have more important matters on their minds.
Sometimes I wonder what I've left undone. I've lived a long and adventurous life, one filled with love and hate, success and failure, great joy and great despondency. Still, there seems to be something left undone. I'm still here. Why?
There is one question that hasn't been answered. Why did my wife wait so long for me? She is a beautiful woman. The perfect mate. She was thirty before we met and I have often wondered what was wrong with the men in California? Why did they leave the most desirable fruit unpicked?
She'll probably blush when she reads this. She always does when I tell her. Then it occurred to me that she may have had a premonition, one that discouraged her from encouraging just any man. She was waiting for me. Why?
Like any good storyteller, I used it as grist for my mill.
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