July Four

 

I spent July 4th this year in Romania and the year before that I spent it at work. I felt a little relief by being out of the country this year for it even though I really couldn’t escape the holiday. In Bucharest, they flew extra Romanian flags in honor of the Fourth of July.

I was asked what I thought of the particular holiday and I gave my honest response as always: “It’s a well developed commercialized long weekend for a lot of people. It’s all about camping, BBQing, fireworks and extra discount sales at retail stores. For a lot of people who have to work, it means getting up earlier for work or having to stay late resulting in lack of sleep or not being able to partake in the festivities.” And if you complain about it, the typical American response is “find a different job”.

Fireworks can be heard from about the middle of June to about a week after the actual holiday. It’s annoying. It’s obnoxious. The way I see things is: the Fourth of July has lost it’s meaning. No one really celebrates what they’re really supposed to be celebrating. And when you get down to the actual nuts and bolts of America, would you really want to celebrate that? People want to be patriotic and claim they love America and say that America is the greatest country in the entire world. I beg to differ.

I travel a lot. I’ve been to just about every major city in America and I’ve traveled to many countries abroad. I’ve been to combat, I’ve seen countries and cities that any normal person probably wouldn’t add to their bucket list of places to see. With all the places I’ve seen, I can already tell you that America isn’t the greatest. There are great things about America just like there are great things about other countries that make them great too. I’ll give you an example. I traveled to Romania recently and I experienced a country with little to no crime. Of course, when you get closer to the big cities like Bucharest, the crime rate increases, naturally. Just like here in America. But America has a huge crime problem. Every time I turn on the news or look at social media, there’s a murder, a rape, there’s drug use to epidemic proportions. When I worked in downtown Seattle, I saw hypodermic needles on just about every street corner. Either there’s a lot of diabetics running around dropping needles or there’s a serious problem with drugs.

In Japan I saw one homeless person. One. Granted, I was only there 12 days and secluded myself to the metropolitan area of Tokyo so maybe if I ventured out further I would have seen more. I can walk to the nearest city closest to my house and count ten homeless people right now. What’s so great about that? We have major schools closing down due to lack of budgeting and crooked politicians who lie and cheat their way into office and take our nation to a $7 trillion dollar war for 14 years based on lies and deceit. They spoon feed Americans this crap and we, as a nation, buy into it. I’m ranting, I know. But do you see my point? If America is so great why do we have people like Donald Trump running for president? Why isn’t Hillary Clinton facing some sort of criminal charges? Why are our schools closing and education suffering? Why do we put sports and Keeping up with the Kardashians as our top priorities over knowing the ingredients in our food and making sure corporations, money and greed don’t run this country? We are the people and the government should fear us! But they don’t because we are a nation of sheep.

The fourth of July is good for foreign countries because we buy all our commerce goods like those little plastic American flags from China. What’s patriotic about waving a little plastic American flag that’s manufactured in China? Why aren’t WE, as a nation, providing for ourselves and having solid trade relations with OUR goods to other countries? We have a lot of Toyotas driving around America. But does Japan have a lot of Fords and Chevrolets driving around their country? We allow our goods to be manufactured in other countries for cheaper labor so we have cheaper prices. Is that the end all to it? We stomp on other Americans, ship their jobs overseas and applaud when we get a good deal on a car? It’s disgusting to me. But we let them do it to us.

I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July anymore. I haven’t for years. As long as Americans continue to post pictures of their barbequed hamburgers and cheap (who knows what’s in it) hotdogs on Instagram and Twitter, and laughing and happy they’re getting “extra time off from work” instead of taking some time and thinking back on what this country was actually founded on…

The public school system does a great job of glorifying America. I spent some time in college and experienced some history lessons that some times I’d like to forget. But that’s what really happened. I encourage all to take some college history classes and find out the truth. But I digress.

In the end, what does it matter. People will always be people and we all will continue to live in our selfish, self-indulged bubble.

 

Advertisements

Tamir Rice

As you’re reading this, you probably already know that 12 year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by officer Tim Loehmann, a rookie on the Cleveland police force. No criminal charges were filed against Loehmann leaving Cleveland and most of America frustrated, angry and sadden on this day.

I’m going to get straight to the point on this, guys. Guns and little boys go together like girls and Barbie dolls. They go together like old white dudes and capitalism. There are so many gun-related incidents in America, it’s pretty much expected at any given moment something will trend on social media like “Roosevelt High School” and as soon as you click the link it’s automatically a school shooting or someone has been shot. With that said, this does not surprise me in the least.

In Rice’s case, reports were of a black kid walking around some playground with a gun, pointing it at people. In the video it shows a police cruiser drive right up on Rice, the officer gets out and shoots Rice fatally killing him. Turns out the gun was fake. And according to everyone on Twitter, he was just “playing”. Well, guns (real or fake) are not toys. Toy guns usually come with an orange tip on the barrel of the gun to indicate that the firearm is fake. The gun that Rice had did not have any orange tip therefore in the police officer’s eyes (Loehmann) he can only assume that the gun is real. Do I think Loehmann could’ve handled things differently? Absolutely. On the other hand, maybe Rice could’ve left his “toy gun” at home.

I just don’t think it’s safe for kids to be walking around outside with toy guns anymore. I also think America has a sick obsession for guns and gun violence. Everyone seems to want a gun just to have one. My co-workers are always telling me the type of guns they want to buy and when I ask them why they want one the answer is always “I don’t know. Just to have it”. Don’t get me wrong about guns. I own two; one for hunting and one for home defense. I think if the country is going to have anywhere from 245 to 360 million guns around, I’m certainly not going to be left out.

The problem I see is too many Americans talk a big game when it comes to firearms. I’ve heard time and time again about how if someone broke into their home, they’d kill them with one shot like in the movies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Keeping a loaded gun in your dresser drawer all year and occasionally handling it to look cool in front of your friends won’t make you an expert marksman. At 2am when you’re dead asleep and someone comes through your window, and you’re groggy from sleep, it’s dark and you are unsure of what’s downstairs, your heart is racing and you’re shaking from adrenaline and fear…you honestly think you’ll go downstairs like a cowboy and blast the bad guy away? Without any proper training or significant time at the gun range, I seriously doubt it.

Guns are everywhere in America. Movies, video games, laying around on the book shelf, in glove compartments of cars, under floor mats and in the closet accessible by anyone. It should come as no surprise that Tamir Rice was walking around outside with what appeared to be a real gun and was shot by police. It really shouldn’t come as a shocker. This country is founded on a constitution that says we should all have a gun in our homes. We have that right. With that right comes a lot of responsibility. Guns are not a novelty item. They aren’t toys. They require proper training, knowledge and intelligence to use in a safe manner to avoid shooting yourself or someone else. This idea that guns are “cool” and I just want one because I can has got to change.

Concealed Weapons Permits should be given out to be people who can demonstrate the need for a firearm while outside of their home and can also demonstrate responsibility while having that firearm. Many people on social media have already put that argument out there that Ohio is an “open carry” state and Tamir Rice should’ve been left alone. The police have a responsibility to respond to any call regarding a firearm. Ohio may be an open carry state but open carry doesn’t allow anyone to walk around town pointing guns at people.

We’ve created this gun-crazed society in which we live in, people. And sadly, we as a country, are unwilling to change it. How many more school shootings do we have to hear about before change happens? How many kids are going to be gunned down by cops for carrying around a toy gun because the parents are either too lazy or too inept to understand the severity of pointing toy guns at people? Where’s the “guns are not a toy” talks these days? When are we going to break this obsession we have as a nation over guns? Probably never. So as long as America continues to obsess and want guns, sadly, the more deaths we must accept.

 

 

The Wrong Side of Heaven

 

I heard this song on SiriusXM on my way to work the other day and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. This morning I got on Youtube and saw the video for the song and decided to watch it.

It made me angry. I thought back on my time in Iraq and the handful of my battles buddies whom I lost during my deployment from 2005 to 2006.

I’ve been loosely following what’s been going on in Iraq for the past few weeks and when the whole ISIS thing initially started, a lot of my fellow Army comrades were posting things on Facebook that they were upset that things were escalating in the Middle East. I felt like chiming in with my liberal talking points and my “open your eyes and wake up” mentality but I decided to give it a rest and delete my Facebook account instead.

I recently saw on Facebook (yes, I reactivated my account this morning) that an interpreter from Iraq was calling ISIS “towel heads” and “Muslim pigs” because of what they’re doing in Iraq. My opinion on this is; it was just a matter of time after the United States military disengaged from Iraq that a group like this would form and take over the middle east. ISIS has always been in Iraq. They’re the Sunni tribe that was once the majority under Saddamn Hussein. Once the U.S invaded (in 2003) and we pushed the Sunni tribe out to allow the Kurdish and the Shia tribes to prosper, it created a heavy imbalance in the Iraqi economy. And once Hussein was ousted out of position, the problem escalated. The Iraqi army fell apart which left over 250,000 people out of work. No jobs, equals no money, equals desperate times, equals heavy recruiting for Al Qaeda and so on and so forth.

The United States occupied Iraq for ten plus years and we fought an insurgency that we created. It’s not like we got to Iraq and they were already there. If you talk to any Veteran who was apart of the invasion, they will tell you that they rolled around in soft door Humvees for a lot of their deployments. It wasn’t until 2004-2005 and on that things started to get hairy. Of course, there was ample push-back during the invasion, which makes sense, because what country would allow another country to just roll in with tanks and soldiers without fighting back? Things have gotten so bad in Iraq now that President Obama has issued bombings on high ISIS targets. That’s kind of how things got started under former President Bush.

This video really puts things into perspective for me since I’m an Army veteran. The problem is that we are a nation of consumers. As Americans, we hold ourselves very high on a pedestal. We are prideful and want to be the best in everything including having the biggest and baddest military in the world. Unfortunately, having the biggest military means we have to spend a lot of money on that. And when we take our military to war, especially with soldiers on the ground, that leads to having to take care of those soldiers once they are out of country and back in the States. Furthermore, even after those soldiers leave the military, we still must take care of them. It’s incredibly expensive and with the amount of money the government tries to cut every year and the amount of money that people don’t want to pay in taxes and the amount of money the top 1% of this country makes, it’s no wonder we don’t have the resources to tend to our veterans.

Former President Bush and Dick Cheney (among others) who made out like bandits over profiting on this Iraqi/Afghanistan war make me literally sick to my stomach. If you didn’t know, Dick Cheney used to be the CEO of Haliburton who, at the time, was Vice President of the United States. He gave no bid contracts to Haliburton during the Iraq war. Which, in turn, made him filthy rich. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you have some time, I urge you to watch some documentaries that you may or may not have already seen:

Losing Iraq

Iraq for Sale

Donald Rumsfeld trailer

 

These documentaries might anger you or inspire you or you might totally disregard them. They make me angry because our political leaders used our military to become rich and profit off of our men and women who went to war for this nation because we thought we were doing what was best for America.

We were all sadly mistaken. And if you go back to the stats posted in the music video, that’s the price we are paying. It’s not the price America is paying because lets face it; only 1% of America’s population actually served in the United States military. It’s the price our veterans are paying. I have yet to hear any military veteran from the Iraq/Afghanistan war claim that they made millions of dollars like Bush and Co. did. Unjust, immoral and unfair are the words that immediately come to my mind.

460,000 veterans have PTSD from combat. Those numbers are staggering. Veterans are committing suicide every day, are homeless, on food stamps, welfare and unemployment. Thousands of veterans are a lay off away from being on the streets. And it makes sense. Americans are greedy, selfish, fat and lazy. We rank 36th in education. We have the highest obesity in the world. Our youth is more concerned about Justin Beiber’s social life and where they rank in sports then anything else. Social media has typically made everyone extremely anti-social and zombie-like it makes me sick. People can’t put their iPhones down for 30 seconds to carry on a lasting, intelligent conversation with each other. It seems if anyone has anything to say anymore, just check their Facebook account to see their latest rant about work, school or co-workers. But I digress.

If the United States of America decides to re-engage Iraq because of this ISIS bullsh*t, I hope everyone who supports that decision goes down to the nearest military recruiting office and signs up for a three year tour (infantry) and picks their duty station as “Iraq”. You people who have never served but wave your stupid little American flag (made in China) and wear your cheap clothing bought at Wal-mart (made in Indonesian) and drive your Toyota (parts assembled in Germany) to work every day claiming your patriotic and this and that- I hope you sign up for the military and actually show your patriotism. You can claim you have the right to this and that and blah, blah, blah.

Well, I leave you with this quote- “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

 

This blog entry is dedicated to those who served and lost their lives during all combat operations. You all served your country bravely and valiantly and for that, I thank every last one of you. We are our brothers keepers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Political Bullsh*t

“This generation is so entitled.”

“This generation just wants hand outs.”

“This generation thinks everyone else should pay their way.”

“This generation is so lazy and unmotivated.”

I’m not trying to defend something I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m also not trying to come up with wild allegations towards a group of people from what I see from a select few.

“This generation” has quite the stigma places on them in America. As do welfare recipients, black people, Mexicans and poor people. Rarely, do we find anyone in this country ridiculing the extreme rich or politicians.

Since this whole $15 dollar minimum wage battle that’s been surfacing in America, it’s been wildly concluded that spoiled, booger picking, lazy teenagers are the ones who’re going to benefit the most from a minimum wage hike. That these so-called entitled kids of this generation are simply asking for handouts and aren’t exactly working hard for their money or success.

I call bullshit. If it’s just the teenagers in well-to-do neighborhoods and families, who’re are spoiled and simply asking for someone else to get them through life, why in the world would they be slaving away at places like Taco Bell, McDonalds and Burger King flipping burgers? If that’s their aspirations in life (to be a full-time burger flipper in the back of some greasy McDonalds) then the problem is a lot worse than I thought it was.

First of all, since 2007 (when the economy took a nose-dive under the Bush administration) jobs have been at an all time low. The job market (and wages for that matter) are not thriving like they used to. 40 years ago you could get hired, join a union and thrive making $20 dollars an hour with benefits. It took only one member of the family to bring home the bacon, so to speak, while the other slaved away raising the kids and tending to the house. Now it literally takes two working parents to keep the lights on in the house and food in their children’s’ bellies. I have never seen people in my entire life slave away at their jobs more so then I have in this day in age. It’s sad, sickening and pathetic.

Let me tell you what it’s like to be an Army combat veteran in the civilian workforce. And I bet most of you can relate and the sad part is, I possess skill sets that most civilians do not. Not a dig; just the facts.

When I got out of the service after ten years, I was able to pick up this sh*tty job in retail security making about $10 dollars an hour. It wasn’t even full-time work. I practically begged for hours. I attempted to go to college in the mean time but I’m one of those educationally inept people that can’t stand listening to an instructor drone on about sh*t I don’t care about. Honestly, history was my passion- and sadly what will majoring in history do for me except make me really smart about history..?

I took a second job (full-time) as security in a casino. So between both jobs I was averaging about 60 hours a week. I’ve heard everything from, “wow, you must just be raking cash” to “I’m really sorry you have to work that hard for practically a kick in the nuts.” No, I was not “raking” cash as some would put it. I was barely clearing $20,000 a year. If that. And to be completely honest about uniformed (and un-uniformed) security jobs, they are basically glorified wanna-be police jobs. Being heckled and degraded daily by drug abusers, drunks and trashy women is probably the second worst thing about those jobs. Not being able to punch those people in the face without it coming back on you is the first worst thing about those jobs. But I took the abuse because it was work and I was (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this)  just glad I was employed.

It wasn’t until the following year that my VA benefits finally dropped. I waited patiently for roughly 20 months for some kind of outcome to all my problems that were dealt to my body while I was in service. From Patellofemoral syndrome in both knees to PTSD symptoms, night terrors, anxiety, depression, anti-social behavior..and the list goes on and on. The VA finally contacted me and gave decided to give me a check every month to help combat these issues. Plus, I get to visit the VA any time I want for whatever reason and I get to see a therapist every month.

After living in my car for nearly a year, I could finally get my own studio apartment. My VA check helped me financially. I quit both jobs and hired onto a different company (whom I still work for) and they give me lots and lots of overtime including other fringe benefits throughout the year like holiday pay, mileage and parking reimbursement in case I ever have to pay to park. Also, I get a 401k and benefits. Rarely do I get heckled as much by drug abusers, drunks and trashy women anymore. So that’s a plus.

That all seems really great and I’m very appreciative of the opportunities set forth before me and believe me; I’ve taken full advantage of it all. I’ve built my resume up and have really grown as a person. The sad part is this; if my VA benefits were to vanish, I’d be right back where I started from when I first got out. I’d be making more money, of course, but I wouldn’t be able to afford my apartment. And it’s not like I went out and bought the most expensive apartment out there. I got the cheapest, yet safest one I could find in a good community and I bank about 60% of my VA check every month. Truth is, these jobs today could pay more and will still do very well for themselves. We are all in this rat race together and what really upsets me is how this country defends the rich so much.

I’m not trying to get rich and I won’t die trying. I’m trying to afford a comfortable life that is fair. I’d like a few weeks of vacation time a year, solid benefits, good pay and a sound work environment. We spend a good portion of our lives at work, why not making it enjoyable? Why not making it worth our while? If you feel under paid and under appreciated at work, you probably are. Stop being a sheep and dig for what you’re really worth.

 

 

 

 

World Issues

As I sit here on this mid-afternoon, warm day in July sipping on my coffee in the confines of my own apartment living area, it literally astounds me of the issues in America. On a much grander scale, world issues are much more complex and serious than some of these trivial problems we Americans encounter daily.

Kendall Jones– Who is she? But firstly, who cares who she is! The memes, tweets and Facebook posts I’ve seen about this girl literally blow my mind how wrapped up our society is over some Texan cheerleader going on wild hunting adventures. Her main goal is to probably get some media attention and a reality show (like everyone else). How clique and boring.

Hobby Lobby– This issue actually had to be address by congress. Sad. It kind of reminds me of the whole steroids in baseball thing that was tied up in congress for months on end (which, by the way, didn’t solve a f**king thing because players are still getting popped regularly for performance enhancing drugs. Not to mention it was a total waste of money). Businesses/corporations don’t seem to have any freedoms anymore. Target can’t tell its customers who carry guns around to not carry guns around and Hobby Lobby can’t tell it’s employees it will not provide birth control within the benefits unless they get some official ruling from the government. Hobby Lobby is a known religious business. People know this.

Furthermore, Hobby Lobby is a joke. It’s pretend religious values make me sick. They buy the majority of their product from a country (China) who has a strict one-child law which in turn forces families to have abortions (which China seems to be totally fine with) and they invest in companies that make the very conceptive they’re against! If you didn’t know any of this, you’re an idiot.

Benghazi– still hearing about this, although, mainly in meme fashion on Twitter and Facebook, it’s still tired and old. Blame former President Bush who released a “terrorist” (Abu Sufian Bin Qumu) responsible for Benghazi from GITMO years back- oh, and President Obama apparently drone-striked his ass. So he’s dead now.

Gays, Guns, and Sarah Palin- There are millions of non-religious people in this world, most of whom don’t care anything about what others believe in and vise versa. So the religious teachings of this “one man, one woman” thing doesn’t exactly apply to everyone. Get. Over. It.

Guns aren’t going away any time soon and for most of us that’s a blessing. For the other half who hate guns, well, this is America. Or ‘Merica, rather. President Obama is not trying to steal your guns away but if you walk around with an open carry side arm/rifle strapped to your back, expect some police attention and try not to act too much like a douchebag when the cop wants to check things out.

I wish Sarah Palin would go away. She’s a mental burden on our country and she’s making those who listen to her more dumb every day. If you’ve ever invested any time paying attention to her, please walk off a cliff now. You’ll be doing our society a giant favor by purging yourself from the world and not being able to spread her idiotic-ness.

 

 

‘Merica, right?

Memorial Day

I joined the United States Army with encouragement from family and friends.

I joined the United States Army on my own accord.

Actually joining the service was the toughest part. It’s a mystery what happens after you sign the papers. Joining the unknown.

Where do we go from here? What happens next?

Basic Training wasn’t “tough” or “scary” once you get used to the routine. There was a lot of yelling and running. We were nervous boys slowly turning into men. What’s so scary about that?

I wasn’t told what to do every waking moment in Basic. There were times when I had some down time to think about stuff.

We walked a lot. Everywhere we went, we walked. Was it hard? No. The days were just long. We just did what we had to do to get the day completed. That’s all.

Eventually, Basic Training ended and we were real soldiers.

Every day in the Army was pretty much the same. Get up, go exercise, go eat breakfast, go to work, work and then go home.

We weren’t marched around like minions or told to shut up all the time. We had jobs to do and we did them. Mine was working on tanks and it was pretty awesome most of the time.

If you screwed up or slacked off, you’d get called out on the spot. Maybe some push ups or maybe yelled at. It all just depends on who your leader was. I worked for and with some pretty great people in my career.

Once you reach NCO things change quite a bit. Life gets a little more complicated and you’re expected to know more and have more responsibility. But you’re within a brotherhood of Non Commissioned Officers and that was the really cool thing about it. You could talk shit to other Sergeants and laugh about it.

Combat wasn’t what I expected it to be. I expected less death because we had all this awesome equipment. Those insurgents are pretty tenacious though. I expected to be involved more and help out a lot more than what I actually got to do.

I volunteered to go on missions as much as my leadership would allow. I’m not a hero and I just did my part as best as I could. I wasn’t out on the front lines as much as I wanted to be and I would’ve traded my life for any one of those soldiers on any day while I was in Iraq. And that’s not a lie.

Coming back from combat was different. I felt different. I felt used and beaten down.

Recruiting sucked and ended my career. We had such shitty leadership who didn’t care about the welfare of the soldiers. It was like a nightmare that never ended.

I miss my Brothers. I joined the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association thinking I would find that connection like I had in the Army. That feeling is rare, I suppose. If they had a “Nomad” chapter, I would join that.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. I hope your weekend is a good one.