Give me apathy, or give me death

Sometimes I wish I cared about things a little bit less.  I think about that  a lot when I have to listen to giant-sized portions of political rhetoric, which is fairly prominent around this time of year, especially what with the Presidential race and all.

I never thought of myself as politically-minded prior to fairly recently.  And I still can’t think of many things I dislike more than talking about politics.  But with that said, I still want the best for my country, because I love it.  I just think some of the people that live here get a little confused sometimes.  All I’m really hearing about this current election is “change,” and “end the war.”  All that.  OK, what change?  And sure, I’d love to end the war, and bring the troops home.   But at what cost? Look what happened in Somalia in the early 1990’s.  We sent in the Marines, and they did their job.  People ate, and lived, and some small measure of order was restored.  Yet right after they were pulled out, the country fell once again into disorder, and Mohammed Farah Aidid started slaughtering and starving his own people to further his own agenda.  So we sent in the Rangers to restore order yet again, but we did not allow them to do what needed to be done.  Instead, we hamstrung them with rules of engament, and a bunch of them died.   But what if we’d maintained a Marine presence for a little longer?  What if there had not been such ridiculous rules?  What if we’d better trained the UN troops that were there to do things like, oh, fight (but don’t even get me started on the darn United Nations). 

Anyway, what happened is that the Marines were yanked out, and all heck broke loose. Still is.  Mogadishu is the wild west (and does Hollywood even think about what would happen in Darfur if we pulled the troops from Iraq or Afghanistan and sent them there?  Oh, they’d stay for a while, and then leave.  And the crap would hit the fan.  And the cycle would begin again…)

People argue quite fervently that the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan serve no purpose other than dying for something that isn’t worthwhile, and fighting for a cause that has no direct consequence in the U.S.  Well, I’m sure the soldiers don’t feel that way, or at least most of them.  And the last time I checked, we still had a volunteer armed forces.  We do not have a despot at the helm, conscripting young men and women to exact personal vengeance, or fatten his personal coffers (like Aidid in Somalia).

And what about the Iraqi people?  The men I’ve talked do that have done tours in the gulf report an entirely different story than the liberal minded media would have all of us know.  These people do not think we’re there for no reason.  And who am I to question someone’s willingness to go across several oceans to ensure my way of life is protected?

So what if Saddam Hussein did not personally fly one of the planes into the World Trade Center.  All I know is that since our military has been enforcing peace through strength, there hasn’t been another attack on American soil.

Unless, of course, you count the ones by ultra-left organizations such as the reprehensible “Code Pink.”  These people are disgusting, and demean our armed forces by doing things like vandalizing recruiting centers, to name but one.  It makes me sick, but it also makes me angry.

These folks ignore the fact that the sole reason they have the legal and protected right to engage in that very act is because our armed forces have given it to them.  What shall we do?  Huddle in our nice warm country and wait for the war to come to us?  It already has.

and then you see so many celebrities pitching fits about Darfur.  Yes, that’s a terrible situation.  Yes, it’s genocide.  Yes, it should stop.  But does that fact make what was (and is) happening in Iraq and Afghanistan any less horrible?  Is murder and repression different in other parts of the world?  More acceptable in some places than others because it occurs in less dramatic numbers over a longer period of time, or does not involve as much starvation?

Anyway, the short version is that I care about my country.  And if you do, too, then you need to do what you can.  What you can do is vote, and you can ask questions of the people that are running the country.  They’re answerable.  Nothing wrong with asking questions.

But so much of the things you see happening now, both in the media and in the country at large, are not just people asking questions.  It’s attacking people that are willingly going into harm’s way on our behalf.  It politicians crying out for change, but not backing up their outcry with a specific solution. It’s misguided and half-assed judgements made based on parroting another’s opinion.

My God, I could go on for hours.  Just look into what’s going on, is all I’m saying.  Don’t take anyone’s word for anything.  Form your own opinion.  Don’t let your life be ran solely according to party lines.  Do the best you can for  yourself and your country.

to be continued….

Fear is Fear

I am not brave.   Never have been.  In fact, it would be fair to say that there are several things that really  scare me.  Probably they shouldn’t, but the thing about irrational fears is that they are still fears.  In my case, I think the thing I am most afraid of is the dentist.  I really, really hate going.  Not just because of the pain thing, because I think I have a decent enough tolerance for that.  Maybe it’s the unknown.   Whatever the reason, when I take my fear combined with no dental insurance for most of my life, I haven’t gone for many, many years.

Until a couple days ago.  Finally, I made an appointment for a check up.  There hasn’t been any pain, or other symptoms, but after a good deal of prompting, I had to admit it was time.

Of course I know intellectually that a dentist would not intentionally inflict pain on me, and does not mean me harm.  That in itself does not help.  My last memory of a visit to the dentist, I was very young.  I don’t remember the reason it happened, because I didn’t get any fillings at the time.  Probably, it was a routine checkup.  And what happened was that I ended up stuck in the chair waiting for the Dr for a very, very long time. 

I remember being scared because I didn’t know what they were going to do.  I could hear the noises of drilling and scraping and God only knows what else, and I could not imagine having to get any of that done, or what it would feel like.  I just knew it would hurt.  I remember nothing being explained to me, and no one coming to check on me.  It felt like hours, but in reality was probably no more than 30 minutes or so.

And of course, when I went on Tuesday, the same thing ended up happening again, but for even longer–almost 50 minutes this time.  But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

I mulled going to my appointment over and over again as I was waiting for it to come, trying to psych myself down rather than up, because for a while, I got kind of revved up about it, to a pretty big degree.  But in the end, I felt like I’d almost gotten my mind around it by Monday (which wasn’t the case, of course).  We did the usual soaking prayer (relaxing and reflecting while worship music is played live) before we met, and while I was trying to just sort of shake off the day, my worries about my dog, and going to the dentist, I found myself thinking about my childhood visit again, which made me think about being afraid (again).  I prayed while I was listening, of course, and found a little peace, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to lead a prayer session.  Turns out I didn’t have to.

When we got into the Lighthouse Crew room, I was glad that we didn’t end up doing a normal, theophostic prayer session.  We just prayed for a few guys in the group that wanted or needed prayer, one of whom was me.  I hadn’t planned on it, but Steve just sort of looked at me and said, “Tom…” in that deep, Moses-like voice of his.  So I got prayer, and of all things that could have happened in that 15 minutes or so, I was surprised that I ended up laughing, due to an inane comment that I didn’t make myself for once.  I felt pretty good when I went home that night, and while I wasn’t exactly doing the happy dance about going, I was a little less freaky about it than I’d been before.

Of course, by the time I got there at 3, I ended up letting my mind wander places that weren’t very helpful.  They sat me down in this little alcove with an x-ray machine and took what seemed like a couple dozen x-rays, which ended up taking until about 330 (I’d gotten there at 3).  Then they took me to another small room in the back, and sat me in the chair, telling me the Dr would be in soon, and leaving me with a remote control, so I could watch a few short videos about the various procedures they did.  I only watched two, and then sat down the remote, because I figured the Dr would be coming.  And I waited, and waited, and waited some more.  I could hear people walking by, and water running, and what sounded like drills, and other unidentifiable noises.

And I began to think once again about the stuff that had come up intermittently over the past weeks, and then in living color the night before.  I didn’t have a vision, or anything that extreme. I was aware of who and when I was, but at the same time, I could also remember hearing similar noises when I was a kid, and sitting in the chair with the door open a couple inches, exactly like it was then.  And I started thinking those same thoughts, feeling those same feelings.  What were they going to do?  Were they going to remove or pull any of me teeth?  I knew they’d have to eventually.  Would I get stitches?  My mind and my heart began to race, so I tried to do the

“deep, cleansing breath” thing that people always talk about.  Only worked to an extent.  Where was the damn DR?

And then it finally occurred to me to pray. What God showed me was that I was not alone in that room.  I hadn’t been then, and I wasn’t now.  I didn’t see him, or hear a clear word, but after a few minutes,  I began to feel peaceful, or more peaceful, anyway.  Suddenly, I was taking those deep breaths without trying to.  I took out my phone to check the time, and thought about texting my friend, eventually deciding against it.  After a few more minutes, the Dr came in, and it was impossible to be afraid of her.  She was an extremely pleasant Vietnamese woman named Nguyen, and told me she was very sorry for the long wait–turns out my x-rays had gotten mixed up somehow.  She struggled with pulling them up on the computer as well.  They were mislabeled.  My upper x-rays were where the lower should be, and vice-versa.

Anyway, the point is that one, I should have been praying all along, instead of letting my imagination run wild.   Once I finally did pray, I began to feel less fear and more peace almost immediately.  And two, the Dr Nguyen had no intention of hurting me.  No dentist had, actually.  Did my fear go completely away?  Of course not.   It’ll always be scary, a little.  But I think the unknown was the worst part.  It doesn’t seem like  a big deal now, when I think about it.  It’s almost embarrassing thinking about how upset I allowed myself to get, and that I almost blew my friend’s ear off right afterward talking about it.

I think next time I’ll try and do things a little differently.  I’ll go in ready this time, and I’ll remember to put on my armor.  That’s the plan, anyway.  We’ll see how well I pull it off….