Monday, September 9, 2013
Spending most of my early growing up years in Michigan it wasn't uncommon to see somebody do something ign'rnt on the highway, then immediately hear "(blankety blank) California drivers!" often followed by hand gestures including, but not limited to, digitus impudicus. Then I learned to drive in California... at 65 miles an hour, bumper to bumper, ripping down the Santa Ana, Garden Grove, and LA Freeways, in the process discovering we didn't have any bad drivers, at least not for long. They generally eliminated themselves from the gene pool before doing much damage.
Then I charged headlong into adulthood as an under aged, under paid, over sexed, beer cooled, green amphibious monster... where I learned a few things about leadership. Specifically, I'm not one. Oh, they tried. They sent me to the NCO Academy trying to teach me to be a better Non Commissioned Officer. They sent me to the Staff Academy at Quantico trying to teach me to be a better Staff NCO... and dang near killed me with all that running. I was, after all, a Wing Wiper not a Grunt. But we are what we are, and the sooner we accept that fact the more quickly we can get on with being the best that we can be. I also learned a lot, a lot about leaders and leadership.
If we think about leadership, just a little, what is a leader? A leader must be inspiring, doesn't he... or she. It takes a special person to inspire others to step into harm's way, with the very real possibility of being harmed... or worse. Valley Forge, Kings Mountain, Tripoli, Chapultepec, Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Peking, San Juan, Belleau Wood, Normandy, Bataan, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Khe San, Hue, Fallujah, Ramadi, Kandahar, Tora Bora, Frayser (TN)... none of these are merely selections on some kid's video game console. Neither is strapping on a dual turbocharged, suped up rocket with little stubby wings, and afterburners, that can travel at twice the speed of sound, or more, from 50 to 50,000 feet above the deck, and can exert forces on a human body 4 and 5 times that of gravity... or hovering over a firefight with real bullets flying to pull their guys out, or just the wounded, or drop supplies and reinforcements, or even cruising over the ocean for hours on end tracking unfriendly sub-surface watercraft. It takes a special kind of person to lead men and women where someone's going to be hurt, and a special kind of courage to go in knowing it just might be you.
Several years ago someone I respect very much, except that affinity for what he calls "manipulative leadership," suggested I watch a Robert Redford flick, The Last Castle. During the first major scene, when Redford's character is meeting the prison commandant and being shown his military artifacts collection, Redford comments "Any man with a collection like this is a man who's never set foot on a battlefield. To him a Minié ball from Shiloh is just an artifact. But to a combat vet, it's a hunk of metal that caused some poor bastard a world of pain." I might add that it probably screwed up someone's medical records, royally.
It's easy to "draw a line in the sand"... when we have nothing to lose personally, no "skin in the game" except a loss of face. It's easy to issue ultimatums. It's easy to spend other people's money. And it's easy to pledge the lives, fortunes, and futures of others, people we don't even know, isn't it.
Just about 5 weeks ago our congress went into recess, purportedly to commune with their homies, their constituents, those who elected and put them in office. Where have they been?
Where's Senator Corker been after pushing so hard for illegal aliens to have free rein over our borders and depressing the wages of hard working Americans? Construction costs certainly haven't gone down as a result of illegal immigration over the years, have they. Could it be he's afraid constituents will bust his chops like Senator McCain's have done?
Where's Senator Alexander, other than a few campaign ads intended to tout his questionable creds? He, under whose watch as Tennessee Governor facilitated our state taxes doubling, has a history of taking advantage of financial windfalls not available to the common man, and who brags about his commitment to education... but our children still can't read in ever growing numbers, graduation rates are in the septic tank and decreasing, and we spend ever more money for ever diminishing returns.
I haven't kept up with Congressman Duncan, second generation legislator from Knoxville whose elected official son was recently busted for fraud in Knox County and received no jail time, unlike we commoners, but most of the time a nut doesn't fall far from the tree, does it... sort of like other families working in government, with an increasing air of arrogance and sense of entitlement with each generation.
Where's Congressman DesJarlais, MD? There was a news report of a town-hall meeting in Murfreesboro but where's he been in Marion, Sequatchie, Bledsoe, Rhea, and Bradley Counties? Surely he isn't afraid of being asked those difficult questions, other than by a little girl about her illegal alien daddy... from an audience very likely salted by his own campaign.
And then there's Congressman Chuck, Esquire. Oh, he can drag a milk carton, excuse me, that should be a soap box, up to a podium in front of people who are afraid to ask those difficult questions in groups such as the Pachyderm Club, where those who do ask difficult but realistic questions are ostracized, but where has he been, exactly? He can pontificate about what he's doing, but is he really doing anything more than sitting in the amen section cheering for Mr. Speaker Boehner to keep compromising on our society's principles?
I was always taught never to trust a man who can walk in out of a rain driven by gale force winds and not have a hair out of place. That isn't good grooming. It's bordering on narcissism. I'll always trust a man with helmet-hair and a little grease under his nails, with calloused hands, over fufu-ness. But that's just me.
These are our self proclaimed leaders? Our champions in the halls of congress... who are doing nothing more than wasting the lives of our nation's finest in wars without end, giving our nation's treasure to people who hate us, their buds too, and buying our votes with our tax dollars? What's wrong with this picture?
Unlike those California drivers back in the 60s, though, we're stuck with our elected officials until the next election, aren't we.
It's easy to grab a line from history that someone has written or spoken. I used to be one of the worst, until I decided to always research the origins and discovered that a quotation taken out of context can take on an entirely different meaning than intended. One of my favorites is a line from a poem written by John Dryden in the year 1681, Absalom and Achitophel; Beware the fury of a patient man. No matter how we use that one, the meaning is always the same. Our nation is filled with patient people. We have elections every two years. Perhaps it's time we ensure that our government is once again afraid of the electorate instead of the other way around, that the elected seats they occupy belong to us, not them, and they can be unelected just as easily as they were elected.
Karl Rove ran the biggest independent PAC in America, or one of them. He won only 1.3% of his races. What's that say about the absolute influence BigBucks have on our elections? We need to remember this guy's a SuperPundit too.
I also need to remember that Scottie Mayfield has a new Mega Turtletracks ice cream. I wonder if that will be as good with cayenne pepper sprinkles as the chile pepper chocolate my favorite TreeHugger recently told me about. But I also eat a lot of peppers so another one of my favorite quotations never applies; Life is like a jar of jalapenos. What you eat today just might burn your (tush) tomorrow.
Royce Burrage, Jr.