Three and ten years ago our nation was stricken a terrible blow; one that altered the course of the world. Not since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor has a singular event so shaped and forever changed the world. Today some among us ask what power has she left? For thirteen years the United States has exhausted every resource at its disposal to oppose those who reveled in the travesty of September eleventh. I will not claim justness in the actions that occurred since that fateful day; but I will claim justice in spirit upon which it was delivered. With a swiftness the United States crashed into the Middle East setting a blaze one of the largest and most transformative events in the region since before the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Today these events are still transpiring and from their ashes has risen a new power; one that is decidedly set against not just our way of life, but the very fabric of our humanity.
The world, and some at home question the willingness or capability of the United States to answer the call to arms. Some have gone as far as to say that she is now quietly ignored like a child at the adults table. It would be slapdash to forget that for over a hundred years the United States has answered these calls in support of any friend and to oppose any foe. Though the trumpets of the doubtful, and the commentary of the nay-sayers rings loud across the airwaves and on our television sets, it is the quiet call that we miss from around the globe asking for our support. From those in the pacific-rim struggling though natural disasters to the trapped souls on the sides of mountains in Iraq; their voices share stories that make you proud to see the Stars and Stripes fly above every school and courthouse across the land. We as a service and a nation have answered MacAurthur’s daring call to bring hope to places where hope is forlorn.
With some haste we pulled away from the fire that is spreading across the Arabian Peninsula and with measured patience we are wadding back into the same storm. To those who look across the seas at us, be reminded that the reach of the United States has no limits. And for those at home, never forget that soft power is nothing more than the amplification of real power; of which we still have plenty. Let no one doubt the resolve of the American People for the men that I have met and have had the honor of calling friends, brothers, comrades-at-arms have paid a ransom to the boat man and yet still stand tall and sure when they speak clearly just five words. “Here I am, send me.”
On this modern-minted-hollowed day just thirteen years ago the New York skyline—a testament to the world’s future—was scarred horrifically by men misguided by the desire to uphold an identity that is as false as the world has ever seen before. These men and their faiths under appreciated the resolve of a nation and a people. They were and are unable to grasp what it means to be free, to be American, to be part of the world’s humanity. And though I will not dare try and tell you what it means to be an American. What I will share is what it is not; it is not a nation that will sit by and watch others suffer, nor is it a nation that will forget that fateful morning and what it means to have glimpsed the fear that others live in continually.
The United States, to her credit, has yet to rip the poem from the base of the Statue of Liberty, her towering presence still screams out hope and steadfastness to the weak, wretched and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And from these people, the Americans, no challenge has been un-met, no obstacle not overcome, no goal not reached; so to shall it be today. That when she decides she has seen enough of this travesty they call The Islamic State, the United States as she has time and time before, will reach her colossal hands across the world and smite those who would see her ideals burned to ashes. With a vengeance our young men and women will storm across the world armed with the most powerful weapon in the United States arsenal; righteousness.
I am alone on a boat, locked into my own private island; swift brown water to separate me from the rest of those who would claim my time and attention. Lost among the metallic chimes of the marina and consumed by the problems of a confusing electrical system of a boat. Hoping that the red in the mirror is the start of a tan rather than a burn, hoping that the new electronics package are plug and play. For years I have claimed the hoping is not a method; yet, i seem to be quite reliant on it every day here beneath the costal stars.
The stars are everywhere, and yet nowhere at once, as they dance across the night sky ducking behind the curtains of clouds the drift over head. I swing from my hammock stretched out underneath the boom starring up at the sky, and wondering the familiar musing of whom else is also starring up at the same stars. From the deserts of Iraq to the coast of Carolina I have taken comfort, as our forefathers have, from the constellations above.
The first day is always the worst, as you try to hang on to your worldly attachments—messaging, emailing, and sending pictures of what you find to be sublime. It is even hard to sleep on the boat the first night, your body rejects the calming of your mind, rejects the simplicity from which it find pleasure. By the second day, your mind and body begin to embrace the new reality, one in which the ocean breeze is barely strong enough to stave off the sweat of humidity. As my mind rejects the complexity of life in shore i cant help but to find myself contemplating a life of tough work along the waterways of the coast. Days spent bent in toil under the sun, and nights relaxing in waterfront taverns.
Tomorrow I will push away from the bonds of hard ground and sail out into the blue. Pushing only far enough to strain the boat, like stretching before a long race; hoping to find where it will hurt before you injure yourself. The will push Morgan’s Folly into the wind and feel her strain under the weight of the wind and the tides. I will bend her to my will and take to sea like the adventures of old. Searching for my lost treasures. I will find them in the plow of the waves, I will find them in the grain of the hull, and creak of the rigging. I will bend with the boat to the wind and cut the waves with her bow. Tomorrow I will be free, even if it just for a moment. Afterwards I will reward myself with music and scotch as all adventures must, so that I might have a forum to tell these tails of the sea.
Like Alexander and Pompey before me,
I go searching for a guide.
The stones of Delphi sits silent as I am forced to face the future,
Delphi opens wide her ancient chasm of pythian vapors,
she deafens me with her silence.
I hear only the drop of a tear in which holds my reflection.
Would Alexander be as calm, I think not.
No woman stands before me for my Neronian revenge.
In the ruins of Apollo’s dragon, its stony broken teeth raised to the sky.
Oh, Delphi how you sit silent!
I gather the strings of fate up into my hands.
Oh, how way leads onto way.
And I pull tighter on the meridians attached to my own ends.
Searching for my own Ipseity.
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
I close my eyes and try and remember the day I committed suicide. What was once fresh and easily distinguishable has blurred to another random sentence in the book that is my life. How can one person be both the victim and victimizer? How tight are the bonds that hold humanity together? For my simple act made me the aggressor towards others who deemed my life forfeit for their own comfort.
Though there are as my types and reasons for suicide as there are the multitudes on the earth. This but the silent majority, the ones that shock us when their story ends in ash, have a narrative that is as tragic in its ending as it is in its typicality.
Many years ago, before consciousness, something must have happened, something must have been done, or said. Maybe it was you, maybe your parents, or maybe even the world. But with such lessons, at such age, there is no recovery. Failed lessons become reinforced; and way leads onto way. Without realization you are forever marked. You are so young when you realize that something is wrong; that something is not functioning right within your body. You move forward unable to share this feeling with others because you can barely describe it yourself. By the time you are able to recognize that the buzzing noise that relentlessly drowns out every other feeling is pain, pain that threatens to drown you, it is too late. You immediately look up and out to all of those who pass by daily. For so long you just assumed it was natural, that it was normal to feel this way. Its when you choose to look for it in others that you become scared. All of the other children look back absent of the pain you wish you could share; and you just can’t understand why they do not feel the way you do. Their happiness seems to span the constant tic-tic-tic of the clock, and yours is only for the moment, lost as soon as it is found. How is this possible, what could possibly be wrong with you.
Deep unsettling despair descends upon you, and now instead of being suffocated you are drowning. Looking around you see no one else struggling and you go out of your way to hide it. And every night you pray to your gods and family that it will end tomorrow, that tomorrow will be the day that you wake up and your body works correctly; to be like everyone else. It is these early years that you dream of being normal, that you dream of being like those who seem to have it so easy. This is before the scarring, this is while you are still teaching yourself how to be strong in the face of all that is clearly wrong. Each night you convince yourself that it will be better. You can only lie to yourself for so long and then it changes, you convince yourself each night that you are strong enough to endure. Yes, right here is where the world fails to take notice. It is this moment, this change, that the outside worlds of influence, leadership, love and concern cease to be the defining factors in you life. Self motivation prevails, and with this self induced strength comes a pride. Though the pain only deepens, and the waters pull you under with more strength, you now accept it as a part of who you are, for as much as you want it to be different you demand the pain as a part of your very identity.
Somewhere in this struggle you will attempt to match the outside world with the one on the inside. Most will hurt themselves in a futile attempt to make what is felt rational. If I am hurt, then I should feel pain; but, the pain will stay and the hurt will go away. This mantra will be repeated again and again with similar ends. They will cut at themselves for the momentary relief, and the scars left will only serve to remind them of how much it still hurts. Others will commit to their most base objectives in an effort to relieve this pain even for a moment. Sexually, artistically, athletically, all will find something that will take the pain away for just a breath, and they will fight harder and harder to have it taken away time and time again. This internal motivation allows them to achieve so much, yet they can enjoy almost none of it. They are lost among the success and failures with no concept of how to determine right from wrong as their souls feel only torment. Every night, going to bed, fighting against the urge to make the pain go away. For now they know that it will never leave them. If they are lucky, the pain is shed, gone, like a frustrating cold that just up and disappears one day. But, for the rest, it never leaves. They deaden themselves towards the rest of the world and step boldly forward, knowing only defeat in the arms of victories.
These mortals are little swayed by encouragement or retort at this point in their lives. They have survived so much more than any of us could imagine, and are not afraid to balance that against your tiny words, your lifeless hugs. Neither then should you make the mistake as to believe that you can encourage them to this end. No amount of conversation, or lack thereof, will push or pull these individuals to their desired ends. You can only at this point set the stage for the final execution of a lifelong dream. These men and women who have done great things end up leaving this earth in a heart shattering event that leaves them condemned by their religions, stripped of their accomplishments by their peers, and a forever sense of shamed by their own blood. In what world do you think you have the ability to change what they know to be true when they decide that they have had enough. In what world do you think your condemnation, or threats of striping away their institutional awards, will change their choice that night as they sit alone.
At what point does their suffering outweigh our perceived obligations that they owe to the living? A selfish act you call it, I ask you why? Is it in consideration for others? What amount of pain must I endure before I can let loose those bonds of humanity. Why must they owe us such?
Know that not all men are created equally, nor are all daemons faced the same. The stories of childhood were never written to let us know that dragons lived, but rather to give us the hope that we can slay these beasts of our minds. As we award medals to those whom have served faithfully, and then demand their return when they take their life, are we not the damned. I ask no man to live his life for the sake of mine, I will not live my life for the sake of another; and therefore will not condemn a man that knows his own damnation. He wears those scars openly for us to bear witness to and leaves a shattering quake behind him as he lays open a truth that we are still afraid of what we do not understand. I do not condone the choice of suicide, but I will stand tall and honor the man that lived his life to the end of his choosing.
Rest in peace; Captain Fallensbee and all those like him who have met his fate. To name a few others that were living success for us while paying a price we could not understand and they could not bear; Ludwig Bolzmann, Admiral Jeremy Boorda, CSM Lewis, Sam Gillespie, Ernest Hemingway, Megan Meier, Sylvia Plath, Roy Raymond, Hunter S.Thompson… and the untold masses that have impacted our lives at the sake of their own.
A letter, one that i was recently reminded of….
In the dark room, with the slight smell of scotch so gently wafting towards my nose, I lay awake and see your face. Your porcelain skin framed in copper hair, that pulls straight and down just past your shoulders, thin lips pressed together in thought, that have already been completed. Your penetrating gaze that is looking to me for resolution. Then, with the certainty that I did not have, you reached forward grasping at my face pulling me towards you. Mouth to mouth in front of a crowd of random bar goers in Southern Pines, you had made a choice that I had wanted to make for months. Fleeting our these moments, fleeting are too the feelings that these moments draw.
Bunted up against the protective masks worn by woman in a mans workplace, layered with a uniform of war and disparage, I looked at you and saw the steel resolve that you place so comfortably in front. Then on, all I wanted to see was what else you could possibly have, where in that wisp of body could be anything else other than the iron core that was on display. Well, what I found I liked, and what I liked, I ended up desiring. I remember clearly when that happened, the moment, when I gasped and thought shit, I am going to get into trouble, not just from the palace guards, but from you, from the fact that without control I would have tried to have you then and there. When you raced to some poor secretarial desk on the second floor, and climbed one or two steps to get to the desk, you turned and looked at me with a smile that was one of a child. It was free, and unhindered, no longer weighed down by a mask of iron that allows you safe passage through the days, it was you. From there I was patient while I watched you throw your voice across the great room, enjoying the echo of your own sound. I stared in wonder at the woman that was before me, so fragile and tender, so filled with life, and I demanded more. In a land of extremes, in a world where possibility and reality must be given equal time and thought, it is those few moments where the desert fades away and the minarets soulful wail is quieted, where the world narrows to just the front seat of a Ford, and then expands again in the eyes of a woman who sat across from me. As my desire built, and my heart rate rose, I continued to stare at you while I drove. I was lost and needed your touch to bring me back. I put the truck into park and when I reached out to grab your arm, to show that the indifference on my face was my mask, you jumped out of the truck and raced to your room. Such was the end, that I remember. The weeks went on and the hours turned to days as our interactions became nothing more than the remarks on short emails and comments on a social web site.
Flying home and taking stock all that I had gained or lost, I was reminded of the experiences that we shared, though they were few, they were real. The random phone calls gave me hope, taught me that there might be something more to this, that at least you to had thought of the possibilities. Then my arrival to Fort Bragg and seeing your smile when I walked into your work, I knew that there was a chance. Now as I lay here on my bed, I recognize how insecure you make me feel when I do not hear from you, when your words are anything but inviting. I am not asking for anything to change nor am I asking for more than what I have already asked for, I am trying to explain what I see when I close my eyes at night when I have had a long day, when I have felt tired, when I realize the adult in me deserves happiness. I know where you have said you are, I know where you have said you are going and what you claim to want. Knowing that your own mask easily hides the same emotions that you so easily claim I do not have, with no intention of asking for anything, just this once, I have found that the chance for embarrassment from these petty words is worth the risk of sharing how another person has managed to touch me in a world of indifference.
I was seated at a table, small round, covered in the familiar green felt that I had come to dread. The room was in neutral colors, beige paint on textured walls. The room was rimed in the dark cherry oak that you would find in our grandfathers studies. The room reeked of cigars, its pungent left over smell and its slight discoloration of the ceiling would be nauseous if not edged by the glass of scotch in front of me, filling my nostrils and flooding my senses with something better. I glance around the room and recognize the leather chairs, reading tables and bar for what it is, a famed Republican hangout. A place of old men sipping bourbon and smoking illegal cigars, where decision are made and discussion take place that will move the country. A place of power; A place of control, a place where those who sat before me knew the rules, and would change them when they did not fit. I blink, the view blurs and as I bring it into focus I see the glass in front of me. It is half empty; a pessimistic truth that came from an optimistic beginning, the glass was full of Glenlivet. As my eyes focus I see the bottle on the other side of the green felt, a similar glass in front of him, slightly more full I should say. There is card stuck to the bottle, slightly eschew, it is a queen of spades. I am mesmerized by the card. Then I am aware that I too am holding a card to my forehead. I have no idea what it is, yet I will continue to bet. The bottle of scotch looks at me, taunting me. Yet I know it is a game, a card game, it has rules, and rules bring equality. As I look at my bet, I notice the small reflection in the glass in front of my opponent, it is hard to make out but it is the card on my forehead. As if it can read my mind the bottle laughs at me, he knows the rules, I do not.If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise? If a game has rules to level the playing field, and one of the players does not know the rules, are there really any rules. It is clear that I have been out classed by this piece of glass across from me. The reflection becomes clearer and I see the four of hearts stuck high on my forehead. I laugh, a sad laugh, and reach for my glass and take a long pull. The bottle has done it again; it has beaten an opponent that doesn’t know the rules. The room around me blurs and fades into my neighborhood, into my dining room where I sit glass still in hand. The dining room blurs to a collage of my past and present. I see the bets that I have made ignorant of the rules; ignorant of the second and third order affects. I laugh again, slightly harder this time as I realize the truth. I have placed myself on the altar of self pity and I have drank deep from the wells of despair. The control I envisioned around me, and of me is gone. I have wished it to be with a passion that made it almost real, then the bottle looks across the table at me, waiting for me to ante up. Reality slides away, or is it the other way around and my world drifts into reality. I am the fiction writer constantly amazed that there are no dragons.I stand from the table and turn to walk away, knowing that it is impossible for me to let it go. Our illusions are everything, they are my everything. I look back, and feel the emotion rise up from somewhere deep, somewhere where childhood dreams still live, and I come crashing back to the table swinging my arm in a sweeping arch sending glass, cards and the bottle to the air. With defining shatter all smashes against the hard wood floors of the Capitol Hill lounge. I blink, and sit up. The room is dark and I am breathing way too hard. Ripping the covers off of me I swing my legs out of bed and take the three large steps to my bathroom sink and splash water on my face. It is but a dream, a reminder of the effort that I must put forth everyday to maintain control; to maintain my illusions of control. I breathe a little calmer; the cold water has felt good. I turn and head back to bed, fully aware now of where I am. I lie down and reach over to turn off the light, and that is when I see the empty glass looking at me.