Monday, May 28, 2018

Et in Arcadia Ego

[Note: We met Mr. Weis when he posted a comment to a 2012 RAW post (A Soldier's Heart). He composed the piece below for the planned 50th class reunion of BGSU this fall. It expresses the meaning of the day as well as any piece of writing can.]

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
 In Flanders fields 
--In Flanders Fields,
John McCrae

 Remembering My Friend Doug Mabee

On the 50th Anniversary of his Graduation from BGSU:

          I have been asked to write a few words about my dear friend Doug Mabee, a young man who was generous with his hospitality, generous with his peaceful and gentle sharing, generous with the affection and caring that defined all his friendships.

          I met Doug through Eric Moore, also a member of the Class of 1968, and a close friend of Doug’s from the time they both started at Bowling Green.

Eric and I made regular late night, post-studying visits to Doug’s off-campus apartment during the 1967-1968 school year, where we shared a few beers, some progressive jazz, and the simple and soulful philosophy that is a tradition in one’s final year of college.

I was a junior that year, and I would see many of my one-year-older friends leave me behind as they graduated and moved on.  Eric contacted me in April of 1970 to share with me the sad news of Doug’s death in Viet Nam.

          Doug was my fourth friend to die in Viet Nam.  Aside from being my friends, they had other special attributes in common, and Doug perhaps exemplified those attributes most endearingly: modesty, humility, softness, an utter absence of belligerence or hostility toward others, an aura of peacefulness, an instinct for empathy, an ability to listen with deep caring and understanding, a gift for showing others that he liked them and was always glad to see them.

Each of these fine men perished in war, yet they were men of peace and love and acceptance.  I could never imagine Doug Mabee – not to mention Airnaldo Cantu, Terry Huebner or Ted Bartholomew – ever picking a fight with another human being.  I cannot imagine Doug Mabee ever hitting another man.  Perhaps that is what drew all of us together.  Ironically, these peaceful men – and our friend Doug Mabee – died in war.

          I wish Eric Moore was still alive to share his memories of Doug.  He would do so with great enthusiasm and honor. He passed away in 2002 in the Virgin Islands where he resided. I was close to Eric throughout his life, during which he gave me many fond memories and a few good friends.  Doug Mabee was one of those special friends – a friend whose memory will be with me for the rest of my life.

          A half century has passed.  Those of us still here look very different than we did in 1968.  Doug looks the same – a young face with glasses, a slightly awkward smile, an expression and a body language that always said, “I’m happy to see you.”

I am writing this wholly inadequate tribute to Doug Mabee one week before Memorial Day of 2018.  On this Memorial Day, as in every one, year after year, I will be alone in my thoughts of four young friends whose faces are still young and still so vivid in my mind’s eye.  And I will be wishing, for Doug and the others, that I could give them back the half century they lost.

          Thank you, Doug, for your service.  They say that “time heals all wounds.”  “They,” of course, are wrong.  All of you here today know that.  Some wounds leave scars that no years of longevity can heal.

Losing Doug Mabee to a war, now long ago, is one of those wounds.
--Bill Weis (Class of 1969)

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Another One BItes the Dust

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient
is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion,
but allow very lively debate within that spectrum
--Noam Chomsky  

Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat 
--Another One Bites the Dust, 

Equality may perhaps be a right, 
but no power on earth
can ever turn it into a fact
-- Honore de Balzac
Once there was a newsman named Paul Harvey who was famous for his "Rest of the Story" radio show. By fleshing out the details, one could come to understand the ground of the story. This is the thing we are least inclined to do today.

In fact, we are loathe to move beyond the salacious. Too difficult, too sobering. But we will do that here.

This is not an apologia for Eric Schneiderman, newly-retired former New York Attorney General, three hours following the publication of a New Yorker piece in which two of his former girlfriends indicted him of what amounts to either rough sex play, or abuse.

Judged in the court of public opinion, he was already dead in the water. Another one bites the dust.

"Some women like this," he told one of the women, after he allegedly slapped her. He very likely believed it, or he would not have said it, and done it. Each of these two women stayed in relationship with Schneiderman for over a year.

This is not to victim-shame, but to state a fact: If the man you are with thinks this behavior is good, and you comply even if only in your continued presence in the relationship, how is he to know that it is not appreciated? Seen another way, could this not be part of an archetypal master-slave game?

Do we not read and watch films based on books like 50 Shades of Gray? Was it not heralded as some sort of revelation for women's empowerment? Some pain -- that's how the master-slave game is played. It's all good.

Sacher-Masoch's classic, Venus in Furs, argues for the power of the slave in such relationships, for the master does not exist without it.

One episode recounted in the article has Schneiderman's girlfriend Ms. Selvaratnam saying that after being slapped, "(I) got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down." If this were a typical case of outright abuse, the woman would be unlikely to come back at a much stronger perpetrator and "take a swing".

This sounds like game playing gotten out of hand. Maybe not your cup of tea, or mine, but for some, this is cricket.

When dungeon games are played correctly, there is always a "safe word", a way for the slave to stop any activity deemed outside the realm. This apparently works well for couples who abide by the rules.

But Mr. Schneiderman was too damaged to play the game well. His life is now ruined by the testimony of two women with whom he failed to be a consistent all-powerful character. He was weak, and not strong.

The New Yorker story states he awoke in pools of his own blood following injuries sustained while in drunken stupors. One woman bandaged his bleeding leg injury following one such episode, returning to re-bandage the newly-bleeding injury in his office the next day.

She had also seen him fall face down like a log following one episode of his getting wasted. Reading between the lines one finds a more nuanced story.

The woman said she had hoped that maybe she could help him stop his alcoholism. Of course, anyone in addiction treatment knows that cannot be done. The recognition and desire must come from the addict himself.

What seems evident is that Mr. Schneiderman was a runaway train in his illness, and it was only a matter of time before he was revealed. Unfortunately, there is no "#metoo" for the sick perpetrator of what he imagined a slice of society to approve. And Mr. Scheiderman is sick in the medical sense of the word, as the article belies his epic alcoholism and epsiodes of self-injury.

Like any typical functional alcoholic, those around him enabled his sickness to continue. As someone stated, he was "too valuable" of a commodity. So for all of his alleged objectification of the women in his life, the sadist was an object, too.

When the story broke, I told Ranger there would be a woman of color involved, and there was. Her statement that she was made to say that she was Schneiderman's "dark slave" is precisely in line with the sado-masochistic game. But it so offends our sensibilities that nothing can be heard beyond that.

As much as being a story about dysfunctional relationships and abuse, this is a story about a sick man who did not get the help he needed to be well.

So are we a prim bunch of morality policemen, or do we smile upon the panoply of sexual congress and call that freedom a good?

It would be nice if the rest of the story were told.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Eight Million Ways to Die

The neighbor ... shot at the dog from an upstairs window
 with a bow and arrow. 
The dog’s owner ran back into his house 
and came out with a Walther P-38,
a World War II souvenir.
The neighbor also ran outside with his bow and arrow,
and the dog’s owner shot him dead 
--Eight Million Ways to Die, 
Lawrence Block 

In modern war ...
you will die like a dog for no good reason
--Ernest Hemingway

He who has a why 
can bear any how
--Victor Frankl

Recently, we participated in a local initiative of our mayor's office, a community dinner called "The Longest Table". It actually takes place around a lot of 6-10 person tables at venues throughout the city. The purpose is to allow community members to voice their opinions on various topical matters, and to enjoy a civil evening of hopefully provocative sharing.

Last year was our first in attendance, and each table had its own monitor to facilitate discussion and note commonalities and differences. Sadly, this year's event was more of an ad hoc affair, and lacked that direction. (Perhaps because our Mayor Gilllum's office is currently involved with an FBI investigation.)

As a result, it was interesting to see how opinionated and righteous people can be, sans helpful direction. However, most people are not professional mediators, thus can be forgiven their indiscretions.

Moreover, in today's wired world, it is a small blessing when people actually unwire from their 24/7 media feeds in order to communicate face to face. That said, the comedown in empathy was palpable at the event. Mostly, participants opted out of dialog on anything of any import, probably because they know how quickly fever-pitch would be attained.

At our table, discussion was opened by a self-proclaimed former service member who began the usual rant regarding the badness of our current president. No one took the bait, to their credit.

But Ranger did engage with the man's second concern regarding societal violence; particularly, youth crime.

Ranger observed that extreme and life-like violence was a part of many young people's lives on video and computer, and that when young minds are bathed in this toxic brew there must be some causal relation between time spent and exposure to this extreme violent depictions, and possible anxious, anti-social or violent behavior in the consumer.

A young woman, a recent college graduate, insisted there was no research to prove such a linkage. Since we had no data before us, further speculation on the topic was D.O.A.

But let us consider the matter further here. Has the opposite been proven?

Is there research showing that prolonged exposure to violent media produces sound mental health and a sense of equanimity? Perhaps, it facilitates calm and reasoned thinking?

Shy of that, is there any proof that there is no effect from repeated and early exposure to such violent images and sounds? Have we even lived this "lifestyle" long enough to have a meaningful longitudinal study?

Everyone's favorite traveling protest show --the Parkland (FL) student marchers -- are  weekly  calling for a ban on and confiscation of all semi-automatic rifles. This would mean that 100-year-old rifles would be confiscated to quell the emotional demands of the teeny-boppers and their elder fellow travelers.

Okay. So we ban semi-auto rifles. What then about semi-pistols? Does this ban extend to our police? Or do they remain as armed and dangerous as a U.S. Army rifle platoon?

Let us not be goose-steppers here at Ranger, and take our collective heads out of the ground of public boilerplate.  

To wit: Toronto and London, both sites of recent terrorist killings, have draconian gun control laws. Yet the criminally crazy may still murder and maim en masse.

Just rent a van and mow them down. No aiming, no choosing a good site position. Sure, it lacks finesse and is as brute as murder can be.

But dead is still dead, whether via a slug from an elegant Walther PPK or under the tires of a moving van, dead like a dog in the street.

Outlawing any class of individually owned firearms will not stop the killing. While Ranger is not an NRA member, he acknowledges the correctness of their position that Americans are not crazed killers, and the U.S. citizenry is not the enemy.

When one is intent on committing an act of mass violence, the means for doing so are manifold. Remember that the last 16 years of war began with the commandeering of another means of of conveyance, the airplane, to kill thousands of people. There was no move to ban planes.

Banning semi auto or black rifle clones will not eliminate the problem. There is no simple solution to these episodes of violent crime.

We have a puritanical history, so banning things that can be abused always seems like a good idea. (Though it is odd that Democrats like this approach, as it has such a patriarchal, Big Brother overtone.)

But the holes in this argument to ban-as-solution are so big you can drive a truck through them.
Our own Temperance movement and the subsequent 18th Amendment (and it's subsequent repeal with the 21st) is a good example. If you want it and cannot buy it legally, you will get it another way.

In addition to alcoholism, obesity in the U.S. is a huge problem today. Big Pharma must love the profits, but the medical system is weighted down caring for the manifold illnesses consequent to a life spent in a state of Type II obesity-triggered diabetes.

So how do we change this poor behavioral pattern of overeating bad food choices?

Do we ban sugar? If we did, there are substitutes in defilade which still trigger the insulin response, and which would probably produce even worse bodily results.

Remember the Good Thing that liberals espouse, namely, that we are one world and irrevocably interconnected? If isolationism is not a good, and not even possible, then how can a ban on transnationally available goods work?

And yet, for a determined person, banning things within our borders begs only the simple question: how then do we get it here? Whether it is a moonshiner or an importer, someone will gladly oblige, if the price is right.

How does a waiting period to take possession of a legally-purchased firearm a measure that improves our security posture?

A resourceful mind can weaponize many objects. With any will, there is a way. Therefore, limiting access to discrete objects are not where the solution is to be found.

Guns, knives, planes, trains and automobiles are not the problem we are addressing when considering the problem of mass killings.

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