Saturday, April 5, 2008

Eerie Similarities

Sometimes, reading an article about someone with PTSD gives me pleasure. Is that sick to admit? To realize that I'm not alone relieves my conscience. I think back... how lonely it must have been for my father to suffer through his demons by himself. Not realizing he could have taken another route... instead of suffering in silence, without treatment, he buried his nightmares in alcohol... In some ways, it's the eerie similarities that I see in stories that make me feel better.

I quoted parts of Jesse Wendel's post at "The Group News Blog", he refers to his own and a friends PTSD so eloquently while I struggle for words:

PTSD is medically interesting. It triggers in so many ways. In my experience, those who don't live in it or around it, don't get it...

I have a friend, a serious combat vet... He has his routine, how things work for him, and a good life. But don't fuck with that. New stuff gets rejected (unless he's in charge or comes up with it himself.) He always comes up with a good reason for rejecting x. But really all his rejection of everything new, is because it's a change in his routine, and changes in his routine trigger his threat reflexes.

Ask him to do something, it can take months, or enormous pressure, because he doesn't take to new stuff easily. That's his triggering. The hard part is, he either doesn't know it, or doesn't grant permission to others to point this out to him when it's happening, so everyone dances around the issue, and it makes him hard to work with.

I can't tolerate people coming up behind me. Touching me without my permission is a serious mistake. There are certain sights and sounds which will throw me right back...

...People who haven't had PTSD, who haven't been mentally ill in some way, who haven't had chronic pain, mostly don't grasp how real these are. How much "Command Value" they have over our biology and actions. How totally they take over, and when we are triggered to them, how little in control we are. Oh, people may mouth the words of believing. But their entire way of being is, "I could so muscle through that if it were me. You must be either lazy or faking."

I even believed that myself, about mental illness... waking up night after night with nightmares, flashbacks, and worse.

In spite of all that, I too, thought it was all a bunch of bullshit, till I had a series of incidents in which I ended up a chronic pain patient, suicidal, and forced to deal with all the crap from having been a medic, more or less all at the same time. I was a fool. I was wrong. And so is the Army, in a major way.

The Army still treats PTSD as something to be ashamed of.

Again, the Army still treats PTSD as something to be ashamed of.

If you self-report, you damage your career prospects. No "real-man" or woman, no Soldier, would ever come down with combat fatigue. Only wusses, people who don't have "It", who aren't man enough or woman enough for the mission, want out. It means you're lacking something, some essential fire in your belly that people who don't get PTSD have.
Everything Jesse wrote is spot on for me. Except of course the part of someone who saw serious combat. I was involved in a bunch of small incidents in Panama. I really feel like a wuss compared to what the soldiers from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan went and are going through. I can't imagine what my Dad went through in WWII.

It's important to note that part of my problem is generational. My father suffers from PTSD as well. He stormed the beaches of Normandy and went through the whole gamut of the European theatre. He got sent to England, had poor eyesight, the Army (later Army Air Corp) made him an electrician on the B-17 Flying Fortress. But when his number was called, like a lot of Army Air Corp men he stepped up and filled the roll of Infantryman. It's only now I comprehend why he has night terrors and thrashed around at night. I understand why he coped for so many years after the war by self medicating himself with alcohol.

To go even further back, his PTSD problems very well could have started from an earlier age. From the stories my Aunts tell, my Grandfather (whom I never met) used to inflict beatings on him. Why? I'm not really sure, our family history is a bit muddled. Perhaps it was because my father was the only male in the household. I have heard my Grandfather was a heavy drinker, even a bootlegger, (during the Depression a man had to make a buck anyway he could).

Unfortunately, the cycle of violence did not stop with him. My father brought it with him and it continued in our family. Being the youngest, I was spared the worst of the physical abuse. My oldest sister and brother were not, they got regular whippings. The sister closest to me was spared somewhat, she shut out the world, kept quiet and read books to cope. I was a witness to the drunken family violence. We all suffered verbal berating, including my mother. And when she didn't toe the line, she got whacked as well.

We ended up being the typical dysfunctional family. We had the alcoholic and the enabler. My sisters and brother assumed our roles within the family to make up for the deficiencies of parenting. Our roles were inter-changeable, the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. We did what we had to... to survive, keep our sanity. I wish I had more empathy for my father then. I really didn't understand what he was going through. Why he took his anger, irritability, all his wrath of emotions out on his family... we were the closest thing to him, his comfort zone, he felt secure in showing his feelings to us. He had to be a hard guy, couldn't admit something was wrong... wouldn't seek help.

The rest of my family is ready to move on... forget, dismiss or deny that it ever happened. I guess it's convenient. I refuse for the memory be placed in oblivion. I want everyone to remember... so it never happens again to anyone. Let's be clear, I don't want to place blame... I want to deal with the problem of PTSD. I can't ignore the struggles this sickness placed on us. I want to make sure everyone gets treatment or at least learns the same coping skills as I have.

I'm not perfect, I still lose my temper... I still slip into depression... but I have the sweetest wife and son. I'm grateful they have talked to my Doctors... I'm in constant recovery. When my son comes up and hugs me, tells me, "It will be OK Dad, I love you... I know what you're going through...", I melt. I think, why didn't I convey this message to my Dad... he would have appreciated it during his worst times. Unfortunately, my Dad has advanced Alzheimer's now. My greetings are met with a blank stare and wobbly handshake. He suffers in silence.

I have a message for him, "Dad, I love you, you're a 'real man'... you have nothing to be ashamed of... you're not alone... you've made mistakes, you're human, it was a mental illness... still, you're my hero, an American hero!"

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Questions of the Day?

When did you begin to read Liberal Blogsites?
What made you start commenting?

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Know Not Whom I See

That's Christina Ricci??

Christina now and when she was her easily recognizable self

Now that I get the two images side-by-side, I can see what happened. It wasn't evil plastic surgery, but apparently the 6 months she spent in GitMo on bread, water, and a personal trainer named Famine.

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I heard about this on Rachel Maddow's show:
Looking to honor the forty-third President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, the recently formed Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is looking to change the name of the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility. It seems the group would like to rename the SF Zoo adjacent facility to the "George W Bush Sewage Plant."
I can't envision a better way to memorialize this administration's misadministration. I know whenever I think about the last seven years, I think, "Shit."

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There's Just a Slight Difference...

Pentagon: Colleges must hand over names

The Defense Department has announced a new get-tough policy with colleges and universities that interfere with the work of military recruiters and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.

Under rules that will take effect April 28, defense officials said they want the exact same access to student directories that is provided to all other prospective employers.

Students can opt out of having their information turned over to the military only if they opt out of having their information provided to all other recruiters, but schools cannot have policies that exclude only the military, defense officials said in a March 28 notice of the new policy in the Federal Register.

The Defense Department “will honor only those student ‘opt-outs’ from the disclosure of directory information that are even-handedly applied to all prospective employers seeking information for recruiting purposes,” the notice says.

Directories are an important recruiting tool because they include the names, birthdates, phone numbers and academic pursuits of college students that can be used to identify people with knowledge and interests that are particularly useful to the military.

The new policy also no longer lets schools ban military recruiters from working on campuses solely because a school determines that no students have expressed interest in joining the military. If other employers are invited, the military has to have the same access.

Federal funding can be cut off if colleges and universities do not give recruiters and ROTC programs campus access. While student financial assistance is not at risk, other federal aid, especially research funding, can disappear if a school does not cooperate.

The Pentagon can declare colleges or universities anti-ROTC if they prohibit or prevent a Senior ROTC program from being established, maintained or efficiently operated.

The new policy is, in part, the result of a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal government’s ability to use funding as a means of forcing equal access for military recruiters and ROTC units on campuses.

I don't see how the Pentagon ties in ROTC bias and being anti-recruiter?

There's just a slight difference between going to work for a civilian job and joining the military: One doesn't pressure you into possibly making the ultimate sacrifice!

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Rank Comes Off

I'd like to take a moment here to talk about the election.

Forget my occupation; this is a matter of personal opinion, but it's opinion that I feel needs to be voiced. I've been watching the news closely from here in Germany, and frankly I'm excited about what's going on. We have two strong Democratic candidates, and while I may have my own preference, that preference is irrelevant. I'll vote for either one, regardless of who gets the nomination.

But I have a problem. I look at the news, and see the reports that show percentages of Democratic voters not being willing to vote for anyone in the general election, save their preferred candidate. These people would rather vote for the Republican than for a member of their own party.

I don't get this. You'd rather vote for a man who can't tell a Sunni from a Shiite, who admits that he knows NOTHING about economics? You'd rather vote for a man who touts his military service, but destroyed five aircraft out of gross negligence or a simple unwillingness to take evasive action while in the cockpit? A man who visits a Baghdad market, flanked by two platoons worth of infantry, and then says that "Baghdad is safe?" By the way, 21 people were taken from that same market the day following, after which they were driven out to the edge of town, hands bound, and shot execution-style.

The mainstream media, and the Republican party want you to believe he's a straight-talking maverick. But his campaign is run by lobbyists, for lobbyists. He takes his foreign-policy cues from Bush step-and-fetch sycophant Joe Lieberman. He complains about solutions to the housing crisis as providing "rewards for people who behave badly," and yet totally IGNORES the runaway problems we have in this country with CORPORATE (read: Bear Stearns Kmart Delta Airlines) welfare.

This man is bad-tempered, ignorant, out-of-touch, and completely for sale. And you'd rather vote for HIM? For what? Some boneheaded sense of fucking pride?

This. Man. Is. Poison. Never forget it.

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Only three days left

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Fafblog's back!

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Monday, March 31, 2008

They Hate You If You're Clever, and Despise a Fool...

Back while I was deployed, there was a bit of a dustup over some rather heated things I said on my other blog. For a while, I had to go dark, owing to large numbers of people in the conservative blogosphere trying to root me out--prove I was a phony, a fraud, or simply a "traitor." I received threats to my career, even threats to my life.

Even now, it angers me--for all the talk about "supporting the troops," it seems that said support only applies when you go along with the official line. I don't support the war, indeed I have lost my taste for war in general as a valid option for enforcing policy abroad. So when I spoke up, suddenly I was exposed to the ire of the warmongers and the party-line goose-steppers.

It was bad enough that I had already been extended for three more months, but then to be told that I had no right to be angry? It's said in the Army that "we don't live in a democracy, we just work for one." This only became clear to me after I dared to express my frustration.

A lesson: In the Army, you are not a person, you are property.

So imagine my surprise: A recent study by Special Operations Command has been released, which considered recommending that high-profile bloggers be co-opted, even be placed on the Army's payroll. That's right: your tax dollars went into research that considered turning us into propaganda tools. Don't take my word for it--go read. It's disgusting.

To think: I could have avoided all of this hardship, all of that fear, if only I had gone along. I might have even been able to make a dime on it.

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Old Skool Red Bull Before RedBull

My wife and I were out and about today - we both have Mondays off; she works Sunday (natch) and I work Saturdays.

Its somewhat common to see leather jackets with mission and unit patches in Iowa still. Usually on guys who are on one side or the other of retirement age. Harley and long white beard optional. What isn't common is to see a jacket that I would associate with the Vietnam War on someone who couldn't be older than 30. I blinked, looked again. Must be his Dad's - which would be pretty cool.

No. That's a brand-new distressed jacket detailing this veteran's experience with the Iowa 1-133rd from 2005-2007 in Iraq. Otherwise known as the Red Bull. Including tributes to 2 Sgts. that had been killed in his unit.

Fuck. Aren't we too young for this shit? There's something incredibly wrong in seeing someone wearing honors that look like they belong to the VFW when they could be part of your high school or college graduating class.

Nothing new I'm sure to those elders whom had to sacrifice Somewhere Else for Dubious Reasons.

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Toward a More Bitter Pacifism - "Imagine"

The original version of this song, performed by John Lennon, first debuted over a decade before I was born. Still, my mother was a huge Beatles fan, and so hearing this song served for one of my earliest childhood memories.

That version, of course, was bright, dreamy, optimistic. It carried, deep in its lyrical folds, the promise of a better tomorrow. This updated cover, performed by Maynard Keenan side-project A Perfect Circle, carries truck with none of that. It is mournful, bare, angry. It prays for peace, and knows that it will find none.

On the evenings before mission, laying in bed as my comrades slept, I used to listen to this song and dwell what might await me once I left the safety of the wire. I remember the pain of my separation from Anne, the dread that I might never see her again, the guilt of feeling that I had doomed my marriage to end in widowhood, and I found something I knew in the tones of Maynard's voice. I used to look up, squinting, as the F-16s roared skyward over my motor pool, and think of that clanging piano. I thought of the American people back home, some who wanted me home, some who wanted me to stay, and I felt abandoned to a loneliness I had no ability to understand.

This song helped me "get it."

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Actual Conversation

My husband was in line at the bank the other day and an older man was in front of him with a little bag full of the new dollar coins.

The man said, “I was collecting these, but they don’t have “In God We Trust” on them.” The older guy went on, “I cannot have that. I won’t have that.”

My husband, collecting the coins himself, and curious if these might not be the misprinted ones that were worth a lot more than the dollar,
asked him “They don’t have it on the edge?”

Irritated that he might not seem ‘with it’ enough to figure out the truth behind his own outrage, the man replied, “Nope. I checked!”

Prior to 1864 I guess this guy might have traded in horses.

Coming up with a good question for the guy, after they had parted, my husband wondered if the man had “in God We Trust” imprinted on his debit and credit cards.

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Let the Balls Roll Where They Fall

It's no secret that this blog and it's mothership have a certain disdain for the echo chamber that passes for a blog at Daily Kos. However, I do read it every weekday morning for one reason - Bill.

I know there are several problems - I'm hetero, he's not. We're both married to our particular spouses already . . etc. But I think you get the idea.

Bill raised a good point today:
I remember hearing back in '04---and the Very Serious People in Journalismland were adamant about this---that "few people really pay attention to the race until after summer vacation." If there's even a shred of truth to that, we can let the primaries play out to their scheduled June conclusion just fine. If Hillary's chances haven't risen to at least 50-50 and she stays in anyway, that's when she'll have jumped the shark and her support will naturally crumble.

What happened to that bit of wisdom about how the American electorate really doesn't pay attention until the fall? Well, it sounds a bit hollow when literally hundreds of thousands of new caucus and primary voters have shown up this year at the polls, setting incredible records and scaring the pants off of the GOP establishment. People are paying attention. And the possibility of a historical landslide election equivalent to 1980, 1976 or even 1932 is exceptional. So is the wisdom still valid? Will there still be the same time after the summer conventions?

Obama, on campaign in PA, went bowling yesterday. Apparently he sucks at it, like most of us, but he took it in stride, focusing on the message and not the gutter balls. But I tell you, the AP photo just looks . . odd.

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My name is Milo Freeman. You might know me from my blog 'The Calm Before the Sand" (See blogroll at left). I'm 24 years old, soon to be 25, which I imagine makes me the young whippersnapper of this crew, but don't worry--you won't find any lack of life experience here.

First off, I'd like to thank the motley sea-dogs of Low and Left for inviting me onboard. I've been an OG reader of this blog since back in the day, and I was genuinely saddened when the site closed down. However, now that we're back up, I'm happy to be here. Big ups to iamcoyote for inviting me to the roster, as well as to Seven of Six, himself a wartime vet. SoS could be described as my "Blogfather." So anyway, thanks again, and I hope that I can prove a valuable member of this team.

A bit about me: I'm a United States soldier, currently on Active-Duty in Germany. For security reasons, that much is all I care to divulge for now, but I am also proud to state that I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the domestic front, I have a wife, "Anne," whose posts can be seen at my main website. We've been married for nearly three years now, and we share our home with an attention-starved cat, Allie. We have no children.

My career with the Army is approaching an end. I've decided, after much debate, to leave the Army and move back stateside to Idaho. I'm an aspiring writer, and I plan to focus more on my blogs in the coming months, as well as on starting a family. I'm also in the final stages of writing a novel for young adults, and plan to be seeking out agents by fall. In addition, I'm in the process of applying for membership with Iraq Veterans Against the War, and I've been invited to write as a columnist for their publication, SITREP. This latest is a new development, but I am very excited at the prospect. More news on those areas of interest as events warrant.

I am proud to have served my country. I am proud to have earned the title of "soldier." But I am also a proud progressive and Buddhist, and I am deeply opposed to what I witnessed in Iraq. I plan to use this new blog to voice my thoughts on foreign policy, war as a construct in the American consciousness, and yes, conditions for troops on the ground. I still have several years remaining on my Army contract, and so for the next four years or so, I will be a member of the Individual Ready Reserve. This means that I will live and work as a civilian, but may be subject to a call-up again at any time. To be truthful, I don't care for this option, but its better than trying to serve my faith and my wife within a war-machine whose agendas I no longer champion.

Make no mistake: my posts will not be uplifting. They may be informative, meditative, even humorous at times. But I will always try to punch my readers in the gut. This is an unpleasant war, in an unpleasant time, during an unpleasant period for American politics and life. I love my country, but I always be first to hold up her sins to the light. I do this, lay bare her failings, her secrets, because I love her, and because I believe that she can be better. We deserve better, America, and there is no greater trigger for my outrage than all the ways in which we daily sedate and delude ourselves: with sound-bites, with talking-head platitudes, with--yes--little yellow magnets on the sides of our cars.

We deserve better America. Our troops deserve better. You deserve better.

To close up, thanks again, Pretzelheads, for bringing me in. It's an honor and a privilege. Everyone else, strap in and put your heads between your knees.

We will be experiencing turbulence.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tracy Chapman - Talkin' About A Revolution

Time to stop talking about a revolution!!

BTW, Tracy Chapman shares a birthday with me!

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Ain't gonna study war no more...

Milo's got a new post up, go take a look.
It's true: I DON'T watch war movies anymore, or partake of any entertainment dealing with military life. At first, I figured it was simply for lack of a need--after all, I AM military--but then I realized that it was something more. These war-movies, these wargames, all attempt to depict a body of experience alien to most people. For most, the reactions I have seen to these forms of media are not disgust, fear, or introspection, but rather envy.
From the Keyboard Kommandos to Bush himself, who blatantly said he was "envious" of the troops in Afghanistan:
"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."
It all boils down to penis envy. These guys don't actually want to do what the soldiers are doing, they want to be as adored by history as the real soldiers are (as depicted in film and on tv). They want to be seen as heroes, and believe that somehow, by fetishizing the troops as heroic avatars, and cheerleading a continuation of military conquest, they'll somehow become warriors vicariously, and history will paint them victorious and noble. Fat chance.

As for those depictions of war, they've always been romanticized by artists from the first cave drawings all the way up to Band of Brothers. Even Picasso's Guernica - for me, one of the most vivid and visceral depictions of the horror of war, is an abstract, as if we can't bear to look at the profound devastation of life, land and hope straight on. I can understand why you aren't interested in war movies anymore, Milo, you've seen the real thing day in, day out, and any depiction from here on in is going to seem like a lie and a betrayal.

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