Sean Davis – Nailed Magazine https://nailedmagazine.com Thu, 07 Jul 2016 00:22:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 Starting Again at Zero https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/starting-again-at-zero/ Fri, 18 Sep 2015 09:00:31 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=13064   Last week, on September 11th, 2015 I went to where al Qaida terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center killing 2,606 citizens of New York. I went there expecting to find something. Even though I didn’t know anyone personally affected back then, I reenlisted into the army infantry the day after the Towers […]

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Last week, on September 11th, 2015 I went to where al Qaida terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center killing 2,606 citizens of New York. I went there expecting to find something.

Even though I didn’t know anyone personally affected back then, I reenlisted into the army infantry the day after the Towers fell, a decision that would end up sending me to lead men in combat during the Iraq War. Four months into my tour, men with the caricature of a US soldier burned into their minds by propaganda, overcome by desperation and hate, killed one of my brothers in arms and critically injured another friend of mine during violent ambush that involved a vehicle borne improvised explosive device, three AK-47s, and a mortar attack. The ambush left me soul-broke and hobbled. The violence and chaos of this day has been a difficult part of my life to put behind me.

I have my own anniversary: June 13th. Every year now, for weeks before the day I was blown up, all the injuries I sustained that day hurt again; I walk with a limp and my right arm numbs, I see my friend’s dead body in my nightmares without being able to do anything to help him, and I feel lost and alone in the world. This time of overwhelming depression and even hopelessness is a very common occurrence not only for combat veterans, but for any of us who have had to live through horrible trauma. I know because I spend a lot of time doing what little I can to help the men and women physically, emotionally, and spiritual wounded by the war. I volunteer at assisted living centers, I’m on the board of directors for The Returning Veterans Project, and I’m also the post commander for the American Legion in my neighborhood.

This statistic gets thrown around a lot, but the truth remains: we lose, on average, 22 combat veterans every day to suicide. And these are numbers from a study in 2012; I’m positive it is more today. We’ve lost so many more of our veterans to self-inflicted wounds rather than in the wars with Iraq or Afghanistan (wars started because of what happened right there in New York City).

I took the train from my in-laws house in Rockland County to Ground Zero, in an attempt to touch, or be touched by, some physical part of the history of that day. I don’t want to say I went there in order to “never forget” because I don’t believe anyone who was alive on that day could forget where they were or how they found out. No, I didn’t go there to avoid forgetting, but truthfully, I’m not entirely sure why I did go. On the surface I was looking for something visceral to write about, but on a deeper level I believe I was trying to find a way to cope with my trauma.

The train snaked its way along the Hudson River from Tarrytown and the headline of all the papers being held up and read announced the fourteen-year anniversary of 9/11. First stop was Harlem with most of its billboards empty except for a street tags, with high-rise apartments made of brick and too many barred windows, too close together, and with old warehouses boarded up and covered in graffiti. I didn’t expect the people to be walking around openly weeping but I hoped (too strong a word?) to see some sort of cathartic moment in the people around me.

My wife, daughter, and I jumped off the train at Grand Central Station and the world zipped by at NYC speed. We walked around the block until we found the hub of the station with it’s beautiful painted ceiling. The people darted, rushed, and hurried in all directions, but I couldn’t find my moment, anywhere.

We took a yellow taxi to the Upper East Side and still it was business as usual. When we arrived at my sister-in-law’s apartment she was starting her normal routine of going for a run, showering, and picking up her son Zephan. She wasn’t too excited about the notion of us going down to Ground Zero. What you have to understand about my sister-in-law is that 9/11 is an enormous part of her life. She had produced documentaries on fallen firefighters even before that day, she married a firefighter who barely survived, and she’s good friends with all of the heroes who worked to save lives that day, and she wasn’t going down there.

Still, no moment.

The site itself was shut down to everyone except the family members and service officers. No one else could get in, so we walked around and took photos of the people taking photos of the people taking photos of the Freedom Tower. News crews searched the on-lookers of the sidewalks to find the right sound bites to put on the news. Even the people in designer clothes coming out of the expensive hotels snapped shots before getting into the cars hired to take them to wherever else.

Later that night we went out to meet some of our friends at the White Horse Tavern, the same bar that Dylan Thomas, Jack Keroac, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan used to drink at, among others. We had an amazing time and the place buzzed, it was, after all, Friday night. After racking up quite the bill we headed out to walk, had another drink somewhere else, listened to street folk sing under a replica of the Arch de Triumph at Washington Square, and finally ended up at Original Ray’s Pizza for a slice of fried eggplant and mozzarella and a bottle of Magic Hat Pale Ale brewed in Brooklyn.

My wife, Kell, went to use the restroom so I scrolled through the photos we took of all the wonderful fun we had that day: Trinity church, Fulton Street, South Street Seaport, the West Village, and all the way back to the East Village. It was only then I realized it wasn’t the city looking at the day wrong; I was. New York, and what I believe America is for that matter, isn’t about dwelling on a horrific event, isn’t about searching for a cathartic moment of healing years later, it isn’t about letting the anniversary of the terror attacks dictate how we lead our lives. No one is forgetting. People are living and by simply living they’ve won.

I believe if more of us who were injured by these traumatic moments can do the same we’d be able to put the horrors of our lives behind us and live. If I can stop trying to have some sort of healing moment on the anniversary of the ambush that took my friend’s life, then maybe I won’t need that healing moment I’ve looked for every year for the past eleven years. If I can learn start my life again from this trip to Ground Zero I can win too.

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World Peace, Yetis, and Alien Abduction https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/world-peace-yetis-and-alien-abduction/ Wed, 19 Feb 2014 10:00:42 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=9066 We meet in the back room of a Round Table Pizza on SE Holgate once a month. We sit around six plastic card tables stuck together and most months every seat is filled. The men and women range in age from early 20s to late 60s and if you just show up randomly you might […]

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We meet in the back room of a Round Table Pizza on SE Holgate once a month. We sit around six plastic card tables stuck together and most months every seat is filled. The men and women range in age from early 20s to late 60s and if you just show up randomly you might think we’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary, but if you were to sit down with us you’d see that everyone here is a little off. Just about everyone here does a little something with their appearance to show they’re not quite right. It might be a dangling earring, some sort of purposeful fashion faux pas, a strange cut or color in their hair, but they all have something. You might miss it at first glance, but if you looked again you’d see they’re all flying some sort of freak flag.

An elderly man sitting across from me places both hands on the plastic tabletop and pushes himself up with a grunt. He looks like a homeless Peter O’Toole in Man of La Mancha. After he clears his throat he announces that in Russia, Yetis are captured and their wills are broken so they can be put to work in some of the outlying villages and there has been at least one documented case where a female Yeti was used as a sex slave. There are skeletons of her offspring on display, he says.

Everyone nods quietly and thinks on this.

Then he says that Stonehenge was in actuality made by the ancient Druids to be one big musical instrument.

Again, everyone nods. The elderly man sits down and the meeting continues.

I started going to these UFO “encounter” meetings almost a year ago in order to research a novel I was (and still am) working on. I thought it would be interesting and unique to have my protagonist fall in love with a girl who goes to these get-togethers so I Googled “UFO alien abduction support group, Portland, Oregon,” and found there were a lot more of these groups than I imagined. Two weeks later I was sitting on a foldout chair at some brick-and-mortar community center in Hillsboro with five other people talking, sharing, and finding truths I was not prepared to find.

I’m not sure exactly what I expected that first day. I guess I figured people who went to these meetings would look like someone on a most-wanted poster. I thought they’d all be complaining about their latest probing. I thought they’d tell their crazy story and not want to listen to anything anyone else said, but none of this was true. The people looked normal. I might as well have been at the DMV, on the bus, or in a library. During that first meeting I took notes on how they dressed and what they would say, but gave them little thought as people. It wasn’t until a few weeks went by that I started to see something I’d never seen before.

We don’t say we were abducted. We say we had an encounter.

There’s a woman dressed in a long, flowing, crocheted skirt in the back; she’s in her mid-thirties and she always brings a clear glass jug of water. It’s the only thing she’ll ever drink from, she’s told us. She stands and talks about how she saw two giants in red togas walking in downtown Portland last week. They were giants, she says, because they had six fingers on each hand and when they laughed she saw two rows of teeth. This is what you look for when you want to know if someone is a giant. This starts a low murmur, but no one is disagreeing with her. They are talking about what it might mean to have giants in Portland. They are trying to figure out why these giants would be here.

I don’t think she saw what she thought she saw. In fact, I don’t really believe most of the stories that come from these groups, but the stories aren’t the important part, at least not for me. Yeah, they’re funny and I repeat them to my wife and friends, and every once in a while someone will say something very credible that I just can’t explain, but two giants that are descended from fallen angels walking through Pioneer Courthouse Square on a Saturday night just isn’t one of those things. The important part of this story, and all the other stories like it, the part we can all learn from, is the group’s reaction.

When I was in basic training all us new privates had a choice to make on Sundays. We could either stay in the barracks and wax the floor, or we could load up in the duty van and go to church. I hated buffing an already sparkling floor so I always chose church. I’ve never been religious but I’ve always been curious so I decided to go to a different church, a different faith, every Sunday. This was at Fort Benning, Georgia, which is a pretty huge military base filled with a diverse population from all fifty states and all U.S. territories. You can complain all you want about the military but they do go out of their way to ensure everyone can practice their freedom of religion. Just about every faith you’ve heard of has a place to gather and worship on that base, and I went to all of them. One Sunday I even went to a Samoan church and the only time they spoke English was when they said bye to me on the way out.

Since then I’ve been intrigued by different religions and have studied all types. If a person is going to trust their immortal and eternal soul to something there must be something worth reading about in it. The first thing I realized is that there are so many, and the majority of them are a schism of something bigger. Judaism begot Christianity. Christianity begot Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Catholicism begot the Byzantine. Protestantism begot Baptists. Islam begot Shi’ite and Sunni. I can go on and on but then I’d be as boring as the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament. My point is that there are thousands of different religions, and millions of ways to follow them. Why? Maybe because there are so many types of people. We all need to find a way to make that connection to something bigger, but some people can’t find a religion that fits. And those people, those ill-fitting people, they are the ones at my UFO meetings.

Like I said, I thought they’d all be sitting in a circle complaining about being abducted, tortured, probed, or whatever, but that was far from the case. Instead, they spoke about how special they were, and because they are special, the aliens, visitors, interdimensional beings or whatever, picked them. They are the only ones who can understand and be trusted with the message. What surprised me even more was the fact that all the messages I heard them talk about were positive. Some people will talk about corrupt governments or global cover-ups, but for the most part they talk about how to help mankind.

Yes, some of these messages sound completely ludicrous, but no one objects, no one argues the validity of another person’s point, and there is no ridicule. I’m not saying there aren’t opposing viewpoints, but what I found were deeply spiritual, optimistic people who care about humanity and each other, and I’ve never seen anything like it, not in any of the dozens of faiths and religious gatherings I’d been to in the past.

The homeless looking Peter O’Toole stands up again and blurts out that Pearl Harbor was an inside job. Then a woman who has to be someone’s grandmother puts down her knitting needles, stands, and talks about the first time aliens visited her. She was in the backyard of her house in Ohio making out with her high school sweetheart when a silver ship shaped like a tetrahedron with three illuminated portals on each side suddenly appeared and hovered over them. Her eyes light up and her hands flutter over her head when she describes the ship. She says because of that day, over forty years ago, she’s been able to communicate with them telepathically, and they’ve been a comfort to her during the most difficult times in her life.

A few minutes later a young kid who had identified himself earlier as an Occupy Portland demonstrator, says he’s seen the same type of craft and then talks about Ashtar, Polarus, and the Space Masters. I have no idea what any of it means, maybe no one does, but no one argues, no one calls him out.

Every meeting after a couple of these stories I’m usually sitting there thinking that these people are batshit crazy, but then I think, Why is believing this any crazier than living your life by rules written down by someone who may not have even existed thousands of years ago? These people aren’t out committing crimes or being evil. They’re not forcing their views on others. They’re not alienating people who hold different beliefs. And at some point in every meeting I end up with the same conclusion: We’re all batshit crazy.

That’s what I think. If we look objectively at the shit the human race does, most of it makes no sense. The whole concept of money is based on playing pretend, pretend to the death; we silly humans have the means to feed and house every one of our species but we don’t. Thousands starve and die of easily preventable diseases while others stockpile wealth they couldn’t spend in a hundred lifetimes. Our countries are separated by imaginary lines, lines we kill for, lines we die for. We also murder each other over which all-powerful deity is best, as if an all-powerful god needs us to fight for it. And what about love, faith, the class system, even our political structures?

We’re all insane, and we need to be in order to make sense of any of these things.

At the end of the night the older gentleman who organizes these get-togethers talks about the recent sighting of a couple aliens dressed as nuns in Las Vegas. Somehow this leads to the documents Snowden leaked, and these documents prove that thousands, maybe millions of the Tall White race of aliens are living under our oceans in bubble cities traveling up to the surface in submersible ships to tell our leaders how to rule. Everyone nods. I like being around them, so I nod too, but I’m not thinking about bubble cities or Tall Whites. I’m thinking about how I can get more people to these meetings because if you think about it, really map it back through history, maybe religion isn’t working. Hell, I’ve been to the Holy Land and it’s in pretty bad shape. They tried to kill me there and almost succeeded. I’m thinking if we’re really serious about world peace, people need to start coming to these UFO encounter meetings. I’m thinking about renting an alien mask and a van.

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American Drug: The False Dichotomy https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/american-drug-the-false-dichotomy/ Sat, 25 Jan 2014 10:00:13 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=8867 I’m not a Democrat even though I voted for Obama twice. I’m for gay marriage, civil rights, a woman’s right to choose. Many of the friends I made in my fourteen years in the military tell me this makes me a liberal. I criticized both Bush and his father and I believe our health care […]

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I’m not a Democrat even though I voted for Obama twice. I’m for gay marriage, civil rights, a woman’s right to choose. Many of the friends I made in my fourteen years in the military tell me this makes me a liberal. I criticized both Bush and his father and I believe our health care system needed an overhaul, but that doesn’t mean I should be pigeon-holed. Why do I have to be categorized for voting according to my beliefs? It’s not my fault the Republicans have had their heads up their asses most of my adult life. Today in the land of the free we’re not very free when it comes to who governs the land.

The fact that we only have two choices when we vote for our leaders reminds me of Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984. “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice words down to a minimum.” But today, instead of cutting down our choice of words the government has eliminated our choice of ideals. Today we’ve become happy with voting against scoundrels even if that means voting for lesser ones. Those of us who vote, many times get a sense of gratification voting out of spite. This is a distraction to keep us from being outraged. It only appears we’re given a choice, but a real choice would mean several qualified candidates. Instead we end up with only two real choices: one Republican and one Democrat.

Today, the GOP is frantically searching for an identity like a teenager from a broken home, and just like that kid they tend to fall in with the wrong crowd. Many of their members are sexist bigots or incredibly proud idiots. They put Herman Cain up as their best bet to win the last election and he took the lead, until four women came forward claiming sexual harassment, and Ginger White said she had a 13 year affair with him that ended right before his presidential campaign. When the Cain Train derailed, Newt Gingrich took the lead, a man who was disgraced just years before and forced out as the Speaker of the House. Rick Perry showed himself to be a homophobe, and look at Michele Bachmann’s comments on just about anything. She insinuated that the Swine Flu only happens because there is a Democrat in the White House. She told the world that, “there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” She’s even stated that the natural disasters we’ve suffered recently were sent from God because of government overspending.

Bill Clinton was impeached even though at the time he was a lame duck and acquitted a year later. Now when he speaks at events no one seems to remember the embarrassment he caused our country on the global stage. I can’t stand listening to Nancy Pelosi’s hypocrisy. Al Gore was a lump without personality or presidential gravitas. Kerry was milquetoast.

The political system today consists of both parties putting a bunch of candidates up to be eliminated one by one as their scandals and idiocies come to light and then we’re left with only two choices. If the government made a law that forced a group of people to only pray to either Christ or Muhammad even the Christians and Muslims would fight it. Shit, man, if the government only gave two options to what kind of car we drove or cell phone we talked on we’d start a rebellion. Then why the hell do we only get two choices for the person who runs the world?

I can be unapologetic for believing in affordable healthcare while believing socialism is a failed system of government. It’s my choice to believe civil rights extend to all of our population while wanting limited government. I am completely for a woman’s right to choose and I believe it’s my right to own the same type of rifle I carried during war time. I support the free market but hate corporations. All of this is my right as a United States citizen. If you don’t agree that’s great. That’s what makes a democratic republic work.

This country, our country, has been synonymous with freedom since its inception. I have over a thousand choices of what to watch on television. I can choose between seventeen different types of drugs to make my penis erect, but I only have two choices for the president of the United States of America. Bald men can choose to have hair, flat women can choose to have big tits, the choices are endless, that is unless you’re talking about who is going to run the world. Then you only have two choices and whatever choice you make becomes your identity.

Even though this country was founded by and for the people with the intent of being a collection of open-minded, freethinking, liberated states where the citizens have freedoms the rest of the population of this planet can only dream of, today we only have two choices when it comes to who leads us. It doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe if we can all learn that then we can stop the polarization in our government. Instead of seeing the person across the table, or the aisle, as a Republican or Democrat and start seeing them as a person, we can stop all this stupid shit going on and get this country back on track. Despite the best attempts of the assholes in charge we still have the potential to be the best country on this planet.

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www.newspeakdictionary.com/ns-prin.html
politicalhumor.about.com/od/republicans/a/michele-bachmann-quotes.htm
mwww.politico.com/gallery/2012/07/michele-bachmanns-most-controversial-quotes/000293-003810.html
www.nydailynews.com/topics/Ginger%20White
www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUSZZ-4yILk
www.webmd.com/drugs/condition-2383-Erectile+Dysfunction.aspx?diseaseid=2383&diseasename=Erectile+Dysfunction

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American Drug: Stop and Smell the Poppies https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/american-drug-stop-and-smell-the-poppies/ Sat, 14 Dec 2013 10:30:03 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=8551 “After record opium year, Afghans plant new crop.” –AP headline on November 13th, 2013 When I was in basic training to become an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1993, the drill sergeants would occasionally yell at us, “What makes the grass grow?” The correct response was for all of us new privates to scream […]

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“After record opium year, Afghans plant new crop.”

–AP headline on November 13th, 2013

When I was in basic training to become an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1993, the drill sergeants would occasionally yell at us, “What makes the grass grow?” The correct response was for all of us new privates to scream at the top of our lungs, “Blood and guts, Drill Sergeant, blood and guts.”

While we can agree that the Afghanistan War has been the longest war the United States has ever fought, we may not be able to agree what the hell we’re fighting for. On the day the AP wrote the headline and article cited above, 28-year-old Staff Sergeant Richard Vasquez, one of our elite soldiers, was killed in Kandahar while on a dismounted patrol with an IED. That means he was on foot and he died after an explosion ripped through his body. He was on his third deployment. SSG Vasquez’s brother Romario told their hometown paper in Sequin, Texas, that, “He loved defending his country and he did it well. I could sleep better at night knowing he was protecting us.”

In total over 17,000 United States service members have been wounded in Afghanistan while “protecting us.” The latest numbers put the death toll for U.S. service men and women at 3,396 lives lost in Afghanistan alone. According to the AP the death toll for Afghanistan troops has gone up 80 percent this year. What are we fighting for? What are they fighting for? What are people killing and dying for?

Seriously, I’m asking you. If someone came up on the street and asked you why we are sending troops to fight and die in the longest war we’ve ever fought, in a place that history has shown is a no-win situation, what would you tell them? Are the troops we send to Afghanistan defending our country? As a soldier who was critically injured in an IED blast myself, I want to know the answers to these questions. During the incident that crushed the right side of my body and injured my brain, a good friend of mine was killed, another good friend was critically injured. Why? I really want to know.

We are throwing away the lives of some of the best people of these generations.

According to Marine General Joseph Dunford, who now leads the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), winning this war doesn’t mean taking down al-Qaida anymore. We are not planning and executing missions to find and destroy the Taliban or al-Qaida. The general said that winning now means, “Setting the conditions for the Afghans to exploit the decade of opportunity that will come in 2015 and beyond.” Sounds like the man in charge just said we’re focused on building up their government, not defending ours.

There are over 400,000 acres of poppies growing in Afghanistan. Every acre yields about fifteen pounds of poppy paste and this is bought from the farmers at around $600. This may not seem like a lot of money to us, but in Afghanistan no other crop comes close to bringing in this type of money for the families growing it. Of course the Afghan Government has decreed that growing this crop is illegal and has been since 2001. U.S. forces had been encouraged by the U.N. and instructed by their chain of command to destroy the crops as recently as 2009, but now our official policy is to ignore the fields. In fact, Army Major Charles Ford in Kandahar, the same region where SSG Vasquez died only a few days ago, says poppies are a source of stability for the country. Yes, and they are also a major source of income for the people violently killing our service members.

For years during the war we had burned the poppy fields, but that ended up throwing the country into chaos. Almost immediately there were bombings and assassinations of the poppy eradication agents. The Taliban terrorized the farmers who desperately pleaded for help against them or picked up arms themselves sending the regions into complete lawlessness. Destroying the illegal drugs became “a distraction” from the real mission of the war. So now, the farmers sell the poppies to the Taliban. The Taliban creates heroine and sells it for a huge profit. The profits are used to fight U.S. service men and women. U.S. service men and women die.

After record opium year, Afghans plant new crop.

What makes the grass grow?

Why aren’t you outraged?

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m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Uds2rIAF

cnsnews.com/news/article/what-are-we-fighting-general-re-explains-what-winning-means-afghanistan

www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/afghan-poppies/all/

www.state.gov/documents/organization/142643.pdf

atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/a-maze-of-complication-in-the-afghan-poppy-fields/?_r=0

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American Drug: To Serve and to Serve https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/american-drug-to-serve-and-to-serve/ Mon, 11 Nov 2013 01:00:25 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=8170 Today, I walked into the grocery store and saw that if I buy a certain bottle of wine a small percentage of the profit will go to Operation Homefront in order to help veterans. I noticed that Heinz Ketchup says that they will give a portion of their sales to the Wounded Warrior Project. Are […]

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Today, I walked into the grocery store and saw that if I buy a certain bottle of wine a small percentage of the profit will go to Operation Homefront in order to help veterans. I noticed that Heinz Ketchup says that they will give a portion of their sales to the Wounded Warrior Project. Are we really honoring our veterans by using them to sell condiments, cheap wine, and whatever else? Does anyone seriously get a sense of satisfaction that they’ve helped or honored a veteran when they buy a yellow ribbon magnet or give five dollars to one of the hundreds of these new “veteran support groups”? Maybe we’ve forgotten how this all started.

The Great War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Months later, the Treaty of Versailles made it permanent and official but the original purpose of November 11th was to commemorate the end of “the war to end all wars” and to honor the veterans who fought and died. Of course the war to end all wars didn’t end all wars and we were back at it not even a generation later. In 1954 after WWII and the Korean War, congress changed it to Veteran’s Day, a day to pause and honor all the men and women who fought and died in the wars our country decided to fight.

I was born seventeen days before the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam was signed at the Paris Peace Accords. That ended direct combat operations for the US in Vietnam. Except for that two weeks and some change I lived most of my years in relative peace until September 11th, 2001. This horrible act birthed two terrible wars that have been trudging on ever since. I reenlisted the day after the towers fell and was sent to Iraq. Even so I feel war has been the anomaly in my life, but today I teach college and I realize that when these wars started most of the students in my classes were five, six, or maybe seven years old. Peace is the anomaly in their lives. What does that do to a generation?

Less than one percent of the US population is serving in our military right now. The latest numbers put our population at approximately 309 million people and there are 2,226,883 men and women in the armed forces. In comparison there are 21.2 million veterans today. 3.6 million of them have service connected disabilities, millions more are trying to get their service connected disability rating. One veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes. We are losing 22 of our best and bravest every day, 22 veterans who survived the wars only to die at their own hand in the land they fought for.

My uncle was a marine in Vietnam. Today he’s been trying to file a claim with the VA for the past three years from injuries he incurred during the time he served. He is surviving solely on social security, living alone with his old dog Roxy, in a fifth wheel trailer in the middle of the Cascade Mountains. I have a good friend who served with me in Iraq who has finally come to grips with his PTSD and is seeking help but the VA says that he drinks too much for them to give him medication. Of course he drinks too much; he is trying to self medicate. Another of the men who served in my platoon during the war was just arrested for the sixth or seventh time last week. He’s addicted to meth and breaks into houses at night to steal and support his habit. Another Vietnam Veteran I know had a stroke from smoking crack, which resulted in being a triple amputee. He told me he had turned to drugs because of the hell he experienced in combat. They used to call him Sergeant Boomerang in country because he always came back. Now he lives in a run down assisted living facility in Northeast Portland hundreds of miles from his family with no one to visit him. I don’t know, maybe if we all buy enough ketchup something good will happen for these people.

I haven’t seen it personally, but I’m sure these large veterans groups help. I’ve looked at their numbers though, and I see CEOs making hundreds of thousands of dollars and a very low percentage of the money collected actually going to the veterans. I encourage you to look at this as well before giving to any of them; it’s public record. But beyond that, I encourage you to honor our veterans, and honoring them doesn’t mean giving spare change to buy a magnet that says you support them. Go out of your way to find a veteran and do something to honor them, to help them, to support them.

Find the Sergeant Boomerang in your community. There are assisted living centers in every neighborhood and I guarantee that every single one of them has a forgotten veteran. Go read to them, or just speak to them. Please. Talk to your uncle, father, mother, brother, sister, grandparents, and ask them to tell you a story about their service. Tell them you’re proud of what they’ve done. But the best thing you can do is to find just one veteran who needs help and do something to help them. We may not be able to end war, but we can honor the small percentage of those who risk their lives to fight them.

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The American Drug: GOP vs. The Tea Party https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/the-american-drug-gop-vs-the-tea-party/ Fri, 01 Nov 2013 09:00:12 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=8075 The GOP’s Top Secret Plan to Rid Themselves of the Tea Party A few weeks ago the New York Times announced that “the top ten percent of American earners took home more than half of our country’s total income—the highest recorded level ever.” A little over a week later the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed […]

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The GOP’s Top Secret Plan to Rid Themselves of the Tea Party

A few weeks ago the New York Times announced that “the top ten percent of American earners took home more than half of our country’s total income—the highest recorded level ever.” A little over a week later the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to cut food stamps by 39 billion dollars. Now the House is trying to pass a bill that will gut the Affordable Care Act even though the ACA is a law and will take effect in a few months. Is this a full scale war on the poor like several news sources say? Sure, but in the background is a coordinated effort by the senior officials in the GOP to reboot their party by offering up a sacrifice.

After failing to stop President Obama’s reelection, the Republican Party has fallen apart and has lost its identity. President Obama has painted the republicans as a do nothing congress. They are on track to becoming the least productive congress in recent history. When they do pass legislation it’s some last minute bullshit like the CR they’re trying to pass now, but mostly the House of Representatives goes about their ineffectual posturing. For example, they’ve voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act forty fucking times even though they know it will never get through the Democrat-controlled Senate. Why are we paying these idiots’ salaries?

Honestly what have the Republicans done since Bush? I know that he is the one who should not be named in political coverage, but in all reality he is the one who fucked the GOP. W let the extreme right-wing idiots believe they can have a voice in something as important as ruling the free world and they took the Colors and they’ve been running with them every since. Putting a man of below-average intelligence in the White House opened the flood gates and made the Tea Party a power in the world of politics. Bush was easy enough for Rove and Cheney to control, but now that he’s gone we’re left to deal with his legacy, and that means idiots like Ted Cruz who wants to take a law that we already passed and defund it. He wants to force the choice to either gut the ACA or shutdown the Federal Government. Sure, Speaker Boehner is actually right when he says that the government won’t really shutdown, but what he isn’t telling you is only the services deemed necessary for the security of our nation will be funded. Of course that means all these shitheads will get their paychecks, but it will affect the pay of our service men and women, social security, and you think the VA is messed up now? Wait until we defund these federal bureaucracies. Remember the Sequester? This will be a lot worse.

The whole place is going shithouse and the senior “leadership” of the Grand Ol’ Party knows it. They’ve known it for a while now, but don’t underestimate what old rich white men with a shit-ton of power will do to keep that power. It’s their American Drug and they need it more than a smack head needs H. They’ve made a career out of prostituting themselves, so what other extreme measures can they possibly do to keep it? A human sacrifice.

Boehner has orchestrated an attempt to defund the ACA. Harry Reid believes that this new CR or (continued resolution) is an unreasonable and illogical. “Democrats stand ready to work with reasonable people who want to improve it, but Republican attempts to take an entire law hostage simply to appease the Tea Party anarchists are outrageous, irresponsible and futile.

If by some miracle they succeed, this shutdown will make the Sequester feel insignificant. Many senior republicans like McCain have come right out against it, calling it a moronic idea, but what people don’t see is if this attempt fails, Boehner can pin it all on Ted Cruz. For some reason this Texas Republican Freshman Senator has become the focal point of the fight, a fight they have little chance of winning. How and when did this happen? By the Twitter feed of an anonymous Republican leadership aide. Cruz picked up the Colors and he’s running with it. On the floor of the Senate he announced to God and everybody how he doesn’t trust the Republican Party, his own party. That may be like comparing al-Qaeda to the Islam religion, but however you look at it Cruz is the offspring of the GOP.

When they lose this battle not only will Cruz be the sacrificial lamb, but Boehner can take it a step further and demonize this new Tea Party/Freshmen Senator crowd and in his mind put things back to pre-Obama politics. Saturn devours his own children in hopes of wrestling the power back, but can he successfully rid the GOP of the Tea Party? To quote Sarah Palin when talking about Paul Revere, “He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure, as he is riding his horse through town, to send those warning shots and bells, that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” Some bells can’t be unrung.

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The American Drug: Fox News https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/the-american-drug-fox-news/ Fri, 18 Oct 2013 09:00:56 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=7994 The Punch Line Syrian President al-Assad went to Fox News and told them that he is committed to a plan to destroy his chemical weapons within a year’s time. Holy shit. I really cannot believe that people outside of the United States see Fox News as a viable, credible place to announce any type of […]

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The Punch Line

Syrian President al-Assad went to Fox News and told them that he is committed to a plan to destroy his chemical weapons within a year’s time.

Holy shit. I really cannot believe that people outside of the United States see Fox News as a viable, credible place to announce any type of news. I just assumed that everyone, including leaders of nations, knew that Fox News was a joke.

President Obama, the most powerful leader of the most powerful nation in the world, has openly stated that he plans to launch a volley of Tomahawk missiles into Syria. Missiles that have a range of 1,000 miles, and travel over 500 miles per hour until they smash through the front door, window, or ventilation shaft of whatever building they’re aimed at. The accuracy of this missile is a miracle of modern science, and it carries almost a half ton of high explosive ordinance. In response, al-Assad goes to Fox News. Why?

One of the leading stories this week on the Fox News website is how Grand Valley State University was forced to remove a wrecking ball because of the new Miley Cyrus video. As if her twerking wasn’t enough, now she’s making our country unsafe by corrupting young minds and forcing us to remove public art. Their news “sources” on this story were anonymous tweets and a YouTube video of a young naked male student swinging on the pendulum sculpture.

You’re right. It’s easy to pick on their journalistic integrity over an entertainment story, so let’s look at an op-ed written just a few weeks ago by a Fox News Insider (notice they’re not called reporters). Dr. McCaughey in the New York Post (notice the New York Times isn’t running this) argues that the Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama will cause medical doctors to ask every single patient about their sexual practices and preferences. That’s right, if you go and even get a flu shot, then you’re going to have to spread it around that you’re gay, or a slut, or you’re just not cool enough to find anyone to sleep with you.

Instead of building credibility by citing any of the language of the actual law, asking an expert who has read the law to speak on it, or even coming up with a solid argument, this opinion piece hits one Greek Fallacy after another. The Straw Man Fallacy: she attacks an exaggerated version of the ACA to try to win people to her side of an illogical argument. Argumentum ad Hominem: she attacks the President and says he is coercing doctors to become government agents and he is forcing each of them “to violate their Hippocratic Oath.” Even the quotes she uses from experts look out of context. She writes that Dr. Richard Amerling, a nephrologist and associate professor at Albert Einstein Medical College, says that your medical records should be “a story created by you and your doctor solely for your treatment and benefit.” No one is arguing this fact. The ACA isn’t arguing this fact. Unless she found some proof she’s not listing. I can just as easily say about Dr. McCaughey and Fox News that Joseph Pulitzer said: “Money is the great power today. Men sell their souls for it. Women sell their bodies for it. Others worship it. The money power has grown so great that the issue of all issues is whether the corporation shall rule this country or the country shall again rule the corporations.”

By the way, Dr. Betsy isn’t a medical doctor. Her PhD is in History from Columbia University, but she spent most of the first decade of this century in the medical field as a member of the boards of directors of Genta, a medical supply corporation that focuses on products for cancer treatment, and Cantel Medical Corporation, a company that produces and sells medical equipment. I wonder if both of these companies are set to lose a lot of money when the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

Dr. Betsy is only one of the characters that has it so wrong on Fox News. Look at Bill O’Reilly. When an atheist being interviewed on his show came up with a stellar argument on how he knows God exists, Mr. O’Reilly said, “Tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication, you can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.” He either chose to ignore, or just forgot about the science that most of us learned in grade school. Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Geraldo Rivera — these aren’t journalists, they’re personalities — personalities who are there to sell airtime and make money.

Poll after poll tells us that Fox News has the most uninformed viewers. The people who watch Fox News are the furthest away from reality. Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University conducted a study saying that people who watched no news at all had a better idea of what was going on in the world than those who only watched Fox News. Forbes magazine, a Gallop Poll, and… just search the Internet for them yourself. There are many. Take a minute and examine the stories they’re reporting on the television, newspapers, radio, op-eds. Do you really believe the personalities who are reading these stories are journalists, or even experts in their fields? If your argument is that CNN, MSNBC, and NPR are not any better, then you’re missing the point.

Again, why does al-Assad choose to speak to the American people, to the world, through the Fox News channel? Our president, who is a democrat, announced he will use force against Syria. The Syrian president went on the news channel that is watched almost solely by Republicans, a channel that has been proven to supply its viewers with misinformation.

Should we go to war? No. Should we believe what he’s saying? Hell no. But the biggest issue here is that a foreign leader, an arguably tyrannical asshole of a foreign leader, is exploiting one of our biggest failures as a country. We’ve let the corporations take over our news. They sell us sensationalism, they sell us rifts between our two parties, the sell us glorious indignation, the sell us bad information that they use to sell us more shit or bad policy like in the case of Dr. Betsy. It was bad enough when we all knew it was a big joke we were playing on ourselves, but now it is affecting foreign affairs and global politics.

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The American Drug: The Poison Is in the Dose https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/the-american-drug/ Mon, 23 Sep 2013 15:58:08 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=7573 The American Drug – A column that battles the mental obesity that comes from our unhealthy consumption of fast food for the mind.  I. The Poison Is in the Dose “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that […]

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The American Drug – A column that battles the mental obesity that comes from our unhealthy consumption of fast food for the mind.

 I. The Poison Is in the Dose

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a direct quote from the United States Constitution, and it is the foundation of the American Dream. While the words haven’t changed since they were inked by our founding fathers, the definitions of those words have. What’s life today compared to life in the late Eighteenth Century? What does liberty mean in your life? Happiness in our one-time-use, consumer culture isn’t a quantifiable item; happiness today is a high, and our fix comes in every sitcom, celebrity scandal, and now the coverage of our wars. The American Dream isn’t a dream anymore it’s a drug.

The drug is the marketing of the American Dream. Name a popular contemporary American artist. Name any American Artist. Okay, you came up with Jackson Pollack or Andy Warhol. Good job, but today if an artist has true potential to be great and wants to make money they inevitably move into graphic design, advertisement, or marketing. Our amazing works today come in the form of logos, slogans, and marketing campaigns instead of paintings, sculptures, and symphonies. The advertising agencies sell us happiness in the form of soda, pills to ask our doctors about, or yogurt that keeps us regular. Talent is hoarded in order to better sell more products and art is condensed to quick slogans and clever logos to give us a more potent drug. We’re given small doses every day for a sustained high.

Change the channel to TMZ or click on any social media and watch Kim Kardashian getting paid millions for a broadcasted wedding that lasted a little over two months. Justin Bieber told a five-star hotel representative that he was blessing their establishment by pissing into a mop bucket in their kitchen. Britney Spears lost her mind, shaved her head, and beat a Lexus with an umbrella handle. Chris Brown beat his girlfriend and months later he hits the talk show circuit, a golden boy, like nothing happened. Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Anthony Weiner. Nothing feels as good as being outraged, self-righteous, disgusted. Then the second wave rationalizes, justifies, or screams that we should be worried about a bigger problems: Miley Cyrus is just trying to sell records; we wouldn’t be having this discussion if it were a man up there; or while you are worrying about Miley Cyrus, Syria gassed their own population with chemical weapons designed to kill people in amazingly agonizing ways. Not only do we have a fixed stream of advertising providing a steady high, we also have celebrities to give us our peaks and valleys.

I was unable to move as I watched Miley Cyrus twerk her way into the collective memory of our culture. I watched in disgust, anger, and disbelief, but why? This has happened before and will happen again. The media outlets pray for these viral outrages so they can sell records, sell magazines, and sell ad time. We eat it up. We love it. We need it.

We need to remember the American Drug isn’t necessarily bad for us. The difference between medicine and poison is in the type and amount. There are healthy choices out there but too many people choose the better-tasting, empty calorie fast food for the brain and because of that our society is always hungry. It’s the obesity epidemic of the mind. It all gives us a mean need to consume, but this drug, like any other, can be abused. The next MTV Video Music Awards may not cause our society to collapse, but it will help to make our once great country a caricature of itself. If we reward vice, scandal, and stupidity we are removing the opportunity for our next generation to have any clear, responsible goals. Life becomes a sentence, liberty means the freedom to make an ass out of yourself, to get a viral video, and the pursuit of happiness has no real meaning.

The end.

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How Being a Terrorist Helps My PTSD https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/how-being-a-terrorist-helps-my-ptsd/ Wed, 28 Aug 2013 09:00:39 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=7528 The machine gun fires and I worry it’s so loud that every shot’s doing some damage to my eardrums. I can barely hear myself screaming in Arabic at my makeshift squad of sad terrorists. At least a dozen Oregon National Guard soldiers sprint toward me, up the rocks and bushes of my hill. The muzzle […]

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The machine gun fires and I worry it’s so loud that every shot’s doing some damage to my eardrums. I can barely hear myself screaming in Arabic at my makeshift squad of sad terrorists. At least a dozen Oregon National Guard soldiers sprint toward me, up the rocks and bushes of my hill. The muzzle flashes remind me of popcorn on the stove. When I turn to escape I realize how hard it is to run in a dishdasha, the full-body garment that some of the more uncouth soldiers call a man dress, but it’s really the traditional garb of the people who I’m pretending to be. Another squad crests the hill to my left and I accept that I am going to die, for the fourth time today. I jump down the uneven rocks and head down the hill, running. Somehow this is helping me to live a better life.

If you get to know me at all, the fact that I was blown up will undoubtedly be volunteered in one of our early conversations. It was an ambush in Taji, Iraq, back in 2004. One of my best friends was killed instantly and another critically injured. Most the bones on the right side of my body were broken. Well, maybe not most, but many. I try not to drop that on people right away, but it was a very traumatic time in my life and I can’t help but talking about it. I push the weight of these memories around all the time. Some days are worse than others.

Some of the most brutal combats in the history of mankind has bookended the current generations with our most recent wars lasting over a decade. Today just about everyone is related to or loves a veteran of one of these wars and we become emotionally invested in their struggle with transitioning back into the civilian world. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts thirty-one percent of Vietnam veterans, eleven percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, and twenty percent of Iraqi war veterans. I think these numbers are low, but as it is, 7.7 million members of our country’s population have a mental disorder caused by experiencing the horrifying deaths of other human beings.

In the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus asks why we should go on living once a person realizes how absurd life really is. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger said the world can’t offer anything to the man filled with anguish. Many of us feel this way and we begin to see suicide as an option. I did. I hate to admit this to anyone, but I planned to take my own life in my lowest moments. Life had no meaning anymore and I had no purpose, no mission. I just pushed the rock up the hill to have it roll down the other side so I can push it up the hill again.

I jump a cliff and slide down on the loose rocks. When I hit the bottom I roll but keep a hold of my rifle. The rest of my terrorist cell is either killed or being searched and cuffed. I run along the bottom of this small ravine until I see a box canyon and climb high enough to find some cover and watch the National Guard soldiers clearing the objective that was my hill just minutes ago. I’m watching from behind a couple of juniper trees trying to breathe slow enough to hear them call out for their aid and litter teams, to hear the team leaders call out to consolidate and reorganize, to hear the squad leader communicate with the platoon leader. I’m mentally taking notes, making sure they’re doing everything right.

There are two OC, observer/controllers who act as referees during these training missions and they’re doing the same thing so when the mission’s over we’ll all sit down and talk about what the Guardsmen did right and what they did wrong. We do this so when they are deployed to Afghanistan next year they’ll be better prepared to patrol the mountains. In my own way I’m helping train soldiers how not to die while at war. I have a purpose. I have a mission again.

I get to play pretend with the army every few months and each time I get more and more of my old army buddies to come out with me. This time I have Patrick Eldred, Kurt Clickener, and Joe Hogland. The last time I saw Pat three men were firing AK47s at us. I was bone-broke and bleeding sprawled out in the middle of an Iraq highway. He hovered over me and tried desperately to get an IV in my hand. The needle couldn’t find my vein no matter how hard he tried. I still have the scar.

Pat isolated himself from everyone after coming back. Over the years I would hear news how he wasn’t doing very well. Click had been having problems too and just wasn’t getting the help he needed from the Mental Hygiene Clinic at the VA. I mean, do you think you’d get the help you need from some place called a Mental Hygiene Clinic? Without getting too much into Hogland’s life I’ll just say his problems after getting back from the war were as severe as you can get. We were all pushing our own boulders.

I trained my entire adult life to be an infantry and was damned good at what I did in Iraq, but that didn’t keep me from getting injured. The ambush that almost killed me wasn’t the first time I was hit either. And the horrible shit I’ve seen: people burned alive, people dying slowly and crying to their gods, stray dogs eating the dead. It all made me this guy who was too proud to understand why the one thing I took the most pride in also was the one thing that caused me the most pain. How does a person reconcile that?

The platoon has taken my hill and now surrounds the bodies of my men. They have confiscated my RPGs, my AK-47s, and my artillery shells. The platoon leader is reading a list of all the enemy personnel and equipment they found over the radio to the battalion leadership, but one kid is on a knee looking back at all that’s going on and not pulling security. I slink out of my position, down my hill, and move on him.

I crawl real slow on my stomach and move around the hill for a good position. I find a rock to get behind and peek over it. The kid is talking to the soldier on his left and not looking out for bad guys like me. I pop up and fire off half a magazine at him. He pulls his body in three directions not knowing what to do and ultimately falls over. The rest of them scream out my position and maneuver on me but I don’t see it because I’m running away. But they’re good so it only takes ten minutes before I’m face down in the dirt spitting pine needles as two giant soldiers are manhandling the shit out of me during their prisoner of war search. I don’t blame them. I’d be pissed to if some jackass made me sprint up a hill with all my equipment on. My hands are ziptied behind my back and they’re going through all my pockets. They’re moving up and down with their hard breathing and the drops of sweat fall on me like rain.

This time I’ve spent running around the hills dressed as a terrorist while shooting machine guns has made my life less absurd, more than that I’ve been able to help some war buddies. I know most people won’t be able to work out their problems by pretending to be terrorists, but I did learn some ways to help the combat veterans who might be having problems. Give them a mission. Ask them for help because they need a purpose. Have them rebuild relationships because when a combat veteran has some serious PTSD they will isolate themselves and self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, or pills. The more connections they have to this world the harder it will be to leave it. They won’t like this, but it’s important. It doesn’t matter if they join a chess club, volunteer at the community center, or get a pen pal. The more groups they are a part of, the better.

The adrenaline is out of our system and now everyone’s sitting with their helmets off in the afternoon sun. My terror cell and I stand in the back waiting our turn to tell the group what they did right and what they did wrong. When this is over a few guys light up a cigarette and joke for a few minutes before they have to head to the next mission. We turn to reset the cache of guns and equipment for the next group to find. During this time one of the sergeants announces that all us terrorists are actually guys who have served in the unit in Iraq a few years back. They all drink last sips of water, put the lids on their canteens, field strip their cigarettes, and tighten their ruck straps, but before they leave, one by one, they thank us for helping them out. I smile and nod, but there it is. There’s why we’re doing it. Pat, Click, Hogland and I grab our gear and begin climbing to the top of my hill again.

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Jesus Gave Me an A-Bomb https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/jesus-gave-me-an-a-bomb/ Wed, 01 May 2013 17:57:36 +0000 http://www.nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=6565 “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” -The complete Second Amendment of the US Constitution Jesus Gave Me An A-Bomb by Sean Davis   I have spent most of my adult life training to kill […]

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“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

-The complete Second Amendment of the US Constitution

Jesus Gave Me An A-Bomb

by Sean Davis

 

I have spent most of my adult life training to kill people and blow shit up.

I joined the army infantry right out of high school and learned everything there is to know on just about every small-arms weapon system the United States Military bought in the last fifty years. More than that, I’ve used these weapons systems in real world events. In 1995 I spent several months in Haiti during a revolution and while patrolling I carried a M16A2 assault rifle. I have no doubt I saved lives with my rifle on that deployment. When we guarded President Aristide’s presidential palace I sat behind an M60 crew-served machine gun. We reinstated normalcy to a population in complete chaos. In Iraq I carried three weapons: my trusty M4, a Mossberg 500 Shotgun for blowing locks off doors, and a Russian-made AK-47 I stole from some dead Iraqi General’s house after searching the place for the shitheads who were mortaring us. I carried a loaded weapon on US soil while patrolling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve been shot at by, and I’ve shot at other human beings. Today, I own an AR-15, which is the civilian equivalent of the assault rifle I carried while at war. So I’m telling you right off that I’m a big fan of what guns have done for me, and I’m very aware of their killing potential.

I also believe in gun control. More than that, I believe that gun control is a common sense issue. What I can’t believe is that the US Senate voted against tighter gun restrictions and more extensive background checks. I watched Idaho Senator James Risch talking in circles on Anderson Cooper saying we should not have extensive background checks because he doesn’t want law-abiding citizens to be penalized. He essentially said that criminals don’t go by the laws so why pass them? This man was one of fourteen senators threatening to filibuster the gun control vote and when the vote happened he voted against the bill.

The morning shows, talk radio, and social media have polarized in the last couple months. It’s all filled with hyperbolic nonsense. I heard an NPR host say that the magazine decides whether or not a weapon is automatic. California Senator Diane Feinstein said at a Senate Judiciary Committee that, “We have federal regulations and state laws that prohibit hunting ducks with more than three rounds. And yet it’s legal to hunt humans with 15-round, 30-round, even 150-round magazines.” I saw the clip of Ice T on London’s Channel 4 telling Europe that the Second Amendment is the last line of defense against tyranny of police officers. How many memes have you seen on your Facebook feed with President Obama’s smiling face behind a caption about taking away your guns? My favorite rant was on how our rights don’t come from the US Constitution; our rights come straight from our all-powerful, all-knowing God.

Well if Jesus wants our government to fear us because we are a “well-regulated militia,” then that obviously means he wants us all to have A-Bombs, because I’ve seen first hand that small arms fire even with high-capacity magazines do very little against the strongest and most technologically advanced military that has ever existed on this planet. So if you’re talking open rebellion, or a second civil war I’d put a couple drones, some tanks, and maybe a dozen attack helicopters on your Christmas list.

Somehow the smart, articulate reasoning and arguments on either side of the issue faded into the background. Instead of intelligent discourse we have Snoop Dog versus Clint Eastwood. Michael Moore against Ted Nugent. Peirs Morgan fighting Glen Beck. It’s an all out sponsor-fueled circus full of screaming idiots doing their very best to drown out everyone else.

Honestly, I was conflicted on the issue. The reenactments of the Newtown killings, the interviews with grieving parents, Gabby Gifford’s open letter to congress, it all broke my heart. I like to think of myself as a pacifist, but I did spend much of my life defending the weakest and most miserable individuals on this planet with an assault rifle in my hand. I know that these weapons have a terrifying potential, but I’ve kept order in the chaos of revolution, defended the weak and wretched in Iraq, and provided stability in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in history. Without my weapon I could not have done any of it. But that was wartime. What role do weapons play in our civilized society? I was unsure.

Watching the news media, it looked like I had two options: turn my guns in and be a sniveling hippie-victim, or give myself a DIY lobotomy, join the Tea Party, and slap a bumper sticker on my car that read, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.”

To figure it all out, I contacted the smartest people I knew on both sides of the issue. When they finally got back to me, I didn’t get the answers I expected.

The first person I contacted was Jim MacMillan, who was an embedded Associated Press photographer with my unit in Iraq. I’ve kept up with him through Facebook, and his updates are filled with articles and photographs of gang crimes and children’s deaths due to senseless weapon’s violence. Mac was supposed to be my advocate on gun control, and I asked him if he could give me a reason or two for stricter laws. He answered, “If you read my posts closely, I don’t actually advocate for gun control.”

This blew me away. I thought I had the liberal end of the spectrum covered here, but instead of taking a stand against weapons, Mac viewed these atrocities as a public health problem. “If you think about guns in America in terms of supply and demand, gun control is about reducing the supply, but I work to reduce the demand, helping people to know that they are at greater risk when armed, that they have alternatives to violent actions, and that their actions have ramifications not only for their adversaries, but also for their own families and communities.”

This makes sense and made me think. Maybe a solution can come from gathering community support and having us all take responsibility for social problems that lead to gun violence: mental illness, lack of good schools, not enough jobs that pay a living wage, the easy access to illegal drugs and weapons. Just watch a news channel, read the papers, or listen to the radio for an hour and you can see that we all agree there is a problem; but we can’t agree on what kind of problem, and that’s something we need to do if we want to solve the damned thing.

At the same time I’m reading Mac’s email, I get a response from my old platoon leader/army buddy who is a card-carrying member of the NRA, a police officer, former SWAT member, as well as a licensed weapon dealer. I asked Chris Kent about universal background checks, thinking as someone who sells guns he may have an intelligent argument against them. The opposite happened: “I think that gun ownership should be licensed like cars are. You take a test and get a drivers/shooters license. You can then buy any kind of car/gun you want to. Want a motorcycle/machine gun? That will require an additional endorsement on the license. Let someone without a license use your car/gun, and there are penalties. Universal background checks will make sure that law-abiding people sell to other law-abiding people. Great.”

What the hell was going on? My reporter friend who lives in the middle of the gun violence in Philadelphia wasn’t against owning weapons or the Second Amendment, and my old war buddy who sells guns and uses them everyday in his job was okay with universal background checks and gun registration. If I relied only on the media for my information, these two responses would have made me think the world turned upside down. For a day or so I did think their responses made little sense, but then I realized that there is room for an intelligent conversation on this issue. Soon after, I was hit with another realization: not only was it possible for us to have an intelligent conversation, but we owed it to our society to do so, not to mention the grieving family members from the ongoing atrocities, the ongoing atrocities that seem to be happening with increased frequency.

I spent most of my adult life training how to kill people and blow shit up; I very much want to spend the rest of my life doing whatever I can to stop senseless violence. Knowing what I’ve sacrificed, and after getting to know the good people in the community around me, I’ve decided that we have all earned a special little time and place on this planet for our children to live together and be kind to each other. I’ve decided that there is a way for us to keep our right to responsibly own weapons, while making it as difficult as possible for maniacs to murder innocent men, women, and children. To do so, we may have to tune out the celebrities and politicians and put forth an effort to have an intelligent conversation on the issue as a community. Ignore the lobbyists and the slander campaigns and realize that as dangerous weapons, guns need to be controlled. Anti-gun people need to realize that individual weapon ownership isn’t going anywhere, but at the same time, the Second Amendment isn’t a cure-all or a license to be irresponsible; in fact, it’s vague as hell on purpose. Left that way so we can figure it out on our own.

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Header photograph by Heidi Mass.

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