Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A couple of insensitive idiots later...

It seems that themes run through my day. Today listening to the radio I heard a story that was later reinforced by the email from the member of a group I belong to. It seems insensitivity is the theme today.

I am going to post the email from Gray in complete form, which will make this long, but I think the message makes it necessary.

I am also going to rant a little later. I don't have to, I just want to. And its not going to be nice.

The radio story was about the Lt Governor of Pennsylvania, Catherine Baker Knoll, who came to the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. She arrived late, sitting down during communion. She asked the woman she sat next to who she was, and when told it was the soldiers aunt, she handed her a business card.

After the service was over, she left without meeting the soldier's wife or parents, but she had enough time to talk to the reporters on the way out.

The quote of the day from her was:

I want you to know our government is against this war


Well thanks, that's what they needed to hear as they buried him. Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich was a former police officer and a career Marine. The audience was full of the police officers he served with, and his fellow Marines, as well as friends and family who wanted to tell the grieving family what Joseph meant to them. She wanted to campaign. People brought flowers and tears. This brainless fool brought damned business cards.

Jerk!

Maybe she meant well, but good God have a little bit of freaking sense.

The family demanded an apology, and she issued one, which if interested, you can read about here: http://tinyurl.com/eykfg You decide of she meant it heartfelt or not, as for me, my respect meter is at zero.

The second issue was when a man I know found out his son was to be deployed to Iraq. He and his ex wife have had to deal with their fears over what could happen to him over there, as I think we all would. But they also had an insensitive jerk, the boys stepfather. He has been publicly complaining about the war, and how he opposes it, and how he blames this person or that for his step son's enlistment into the Army.

Here is his post uncut:

This is more of a personal reflection than anything else. I wonder if there are others in our community here that have had experience with this.

My son is being deployed to Iraq. After being in the Army for several years, he was able to go back to college a year and a half ago, do extremely well, and maintain being in the national guard. However, he got notice this past February that he would be deployed.

This was a new experience for me. Being a father, I want what's best for my children - no matter how old they are! Initially, my gut reactions were of "they can't send my son!" I slowly got used to the idea that he was going no matter what - after all, he knew going into the Army that this was an option.

This past week was a hectic one. I attended a parent's orientation, the official deployment ceremony, and was there when his unit was bused to the airport, where they were sent to finish out their training for the next few months.

Being all that I just said, there is one issue that infuriates me in all of this.

After talking to several of the men and women who will be going with him, I can feel nothing but great pride in what I am hearing. This is a unit that will work together in all they will do. I purposely sought out and talked to many of his superior officers - I wanted to know the men and women who were going to lead my son's troops over the next year or so.

The problem is his step father. After hearing the news this past February, he has repeatedly voiced his opinions about his opposition to the war. So annoying was he in doing so, his wife (my ex) put her foot down and told him to not bother coming to the deployment ceremony. What was my part in this? Why did this affect me? My son visited me several times when he was home, in between his training. Normally, he hasn't been one to be vocal about things that may be bothering him. However, he was very much bothered about the in-fighting that went on at home. I am not trying to air dirty laundry here, but when someone else's actions affected my son's attempts at trying to deal with the prospect of going to war, I had to take action.

I called his step father and told him what I had observed and how much his actions were overshadowing what was happening. I attempted to point out to him that this was NOT about his view of the war. This was ALL ABOUT my son going to war.

My talks were of little use. Although my son and his step father did talk, this man, even while being at the family orientation this past week, still voiced his opposition to the war. Where was his support of my son? Why had he attempted to blame my son's mother for him getting into the army in the first place?

The only thing I can do is to support my son in what he is doing, to be there for him, to keep in touch with him, send him letters and care packages from home, send packages to his friends and hope and pray that he and his unit will return safely.

As for this man, who attempted to draw the attention to himself rather than offer more support, I won't go there. I do feel for my ex wife for having to put up with this, but realize there is nothing much I can do there. We - my ex and I, are my son's parents, and, like any other parents, are both very proud of what he is doing, and concerned at the same time.

It just angers me that some people vent their own agendas when they should support those who are helping us to keep our freedom.

Ok..Nuff said. Thanks to all for reading this and allowing me to vent a little here. I'd appreciate hearing from any who have similar experiences.
- Gray

I told Gray two things in my reply that I will share here:

Ouch! I respect anyone's right to oppose war. Frankly despite being ex military, I am not really a big fan of it, but at the same time, your son is a grown man who has made his choice, and may even pay the ultimate sacrifice for that choice. And he knows it. So what needs to happen, what MUST happen, is those who love him have to swallow the bullshit and love him and offer him unconditional support, because if he is conflicted there, he will not be able to concentrate on his job, and that could lead to mistakes that could affect his or others lives.

and

Not just the only thing, that is the best thing. A good friend of mine's fiance just came home, and he has related how much those packages and phone calls and emails meant to him the year he was gone.

But as important is the support you and your ex and the rest of the family need to provide for yourselves and each other. His being gone affects all. This jackass is going to cause your ex so much grief over his constant negativity.

And jackass he is, and the Lt Governor as well. How can people be so insensitive and cruel to the feelings of others. I don't give a rat's ass how much you hate war, hate Bush or hate anything else, there is a time and a place for those feelings, and sometimes there is a time to shut the f**k up, and be considerate of the feelings of those people who hear you. It isn't about free speech, nor is it about disagreement.

It's about respect.

They both need to be slapped. Hard.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why Roe won't go

The recent retirement announcement by Justice O'Conner, along with all the rumors of other justices retiring, has led to increased speculation about how the next justices will swing the make-up of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

The left has immediately jumped in the accusations that Bush will load the Court with conservatives and immediately seek to overturn Roe v Wade. Of course they have their own agenda, but that's another story.

It's interesting that the first case out of anyone's mouth is Roe. I don't think any decision since the Dred Scott decision has generated this much controversy. While the subject of abortion is certainly polorizing, there are decisions The Court has made or may soon make that may affect more people. The recent ruling on eminent domain for example will be at the front of a lot of peoples fears for a long time, the least of which is Justice David Souter, who's house is currently being sought via eminent domain by an group of investors who want to raze it and put up a hotel (http://tinyurl.com/c642s). Now that's creative justice.

Despite his critics, I think Bush himself hade the case why Row will not be overturned. In an interview recently published in USA Today (http://tinyurl.com/2cn3u) he noted:

"I don't think the culture has changed to the extent that the American people or the Congress would totally ban abortions.."

And he is right.

First, the public is still closely divided, about 48% for keeping abortion, and 45% against. There is not enough popular support to allow a complete ban. At best it would become what it should have been all along, a States rights issue. But even then the support would likely be to keep it alive.

And I admit, I have no doubt whatsoever that he wants to ban partial birth abortion, and apparently 68% percent of people agree with him, but a complete ban? No.

And even if it were banned or restricted, it would not make a difference. The culture we live in would simply work around any prohibition. As long as people see sex as being without consequence, and unexpected pregnancies as just an inconvenience, then no law's prohibition will prevent people from seeking a more abortion friendly environment.

What Bush noted, and I agree with, is that we need to promote a culture of life. As we have also seen in recent months, the culture of death (or perhaps the culture of the Death Eaters in a nod to Harry Potter) simply has too much momentum in our society. Until life returns to being cherished, the unwanted fetus will continue to be considered inconvenient scrap. Banning it won't stop it, it will simply hide it and force it into back rooms, or across statelines.

With all respect to activists demanding that all abortions cease, they are in a sense fighting the wrong end of the process. We need to make contraception a little more responsible.

Then maybe the abortion clinics might close: From lack of use.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Suffer the little children part 2

I am pissed, angry and enraged.

This started in May 2005 in Coeur d'Alene Idaho, where the bodies of three people were found bound and beaten to death, Brenda Kay Groene, 40, her son, Slade, 13, and her boyfriend, Mark Edward McKenzie, 37. This is bad enough, but there were two children missing, Shasta Groene, age 8 and Dylan Groene, age 10, who were believed to have been home when the murders happened.

Amber alerts and manhunts, searches and tips turned up nothing. Then, July 2nd, an alert waitress at a Denny's in Coeur d'Alene saw a girl she believed to be Shasta. She notified authorities and delayed their order till the police arrived. It was her. Her brother Dylan was not with them, and is presumed dead. Investigators have found remains they believe are his in Montana. DNA tests are pending.

She was with a man named Joseph Edward Duncan, 42, who has been charged with kidnapping, and is the only suspect in the murders.

Duncan is a convicted, high risk sex offender. In 1980, when he was 16, Duncan stole several handguns in a burglary. Later that same day, he abducted a 14-year-old boy who was walking to the grocery store. He raped him a couple of times, dry fired the gun at him, beat him with a stick and burned him with cigarettes. Duncan pleaded guilty in adult court to first-degree rape and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On the recommendations of a Pierce County probation officer, a judge suspended the sentence and ordered Duncan to enter the sexual offender program at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, Wash. In 1982 after he left the hospital grounds and peeped in the windows of nearby homes, a judge revoked his suspended sentence and Duncan began serving his time in a state penitentiary. He was released on parole in 1994 but violated it by not registering as a sex offender and was sent back in 1997.

Just last July, he was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted criminal sexual conduct Ã?‚Â? accused of molesting a 6-year-old boy at a school playground in Minnesota.

In that case, he was accused of approaching two young boys with a video camera at a playground, and pulling down the shorts of one of the boys and touching him. He was released by Becker County, Minn., authorities in April on $15,000 bond and ordered to stay in touch with a probation agent. In May, authorities said they were seeking Duncan on a warrant after he failed to do so.

$15,000 dollar bond? For a level 3 sex offender? What were they thinking?

You know, recent news stories have really forced me to test my beliefs in many ways, one of which is on the subject of seoffenders andnd indeterminatsentencesss.

Iseemeddd to me that people needed the chance to rehabilitate and society owed people the chance for redemption. Now I wonder. Maybe we should just lock the bastards up.

If the authorities had used that method in April, and cuffed and stuffed him instead of letting him ouon anmeaslyyy $15k bond, then maybe Shasta would not have had to watch this guy tie up her family, murder theand shehwouldn'ttt have had to endure him raping her and her brother repeatedly over the course of several months as they were fugitives.

She is with her father now, and she is safe, but the wounds of her ordeal and the loss of her family will remain. Not much of a happy ending, but I will take one survivor over none.

Question to the reader: Is our society too easy on sex offenders? At what point do they deserve a chance to be rehabilitated and returned to society?

And as I read the accounts of his past cases, over and over I see leniency and compassion leading us to this horrible tragedy.

At a 1997 parole revocation hearing in Olympia, Wash., Richard Wacksman, a Fargo doctor Duncan had met at a coffeehouse in San Francisco, testified on his behalf. Wacksman said he would support Duncan financially and let him live in his home if he was released. (wonder what he thinks now) In 1999 another psychologist rated the risk of Duncan repeating his crime or being violent as medium. (same question) And in the recent case, a $15K bond and promise to keep in touch with a parole officer.

It's sad and sick. We as a society want to be loving and supporting and nurturing. We want to heal the sickness, and make the criminal productive. We argue for civil rights and due process. Did all that contribute to the death of 3, possibly 4 and the traumatic rape of an 8 year old girl?

What if there are people like this SOB, who are by all appearances just plain evil?

I don't like the answers any more then the questions.

For now I will pray a special prayer for Shasta. Forget.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Free speech

Free speech is a commonly discussed topic these days. Seems like you cannot trip over the paper on the front porch without seeing some headline concerning it.

But I think lately it is also terribly misunderstood.

The idea was awesome I have to admit. The First amendment to the Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

There it is, clear as day. Congress shall make no law....abridging the freedom of speech. So then how did it become so twisted and meaningless?

First, near as I can tell, the current ideas of free speech are a myth. What the 1st amendment says is that "Congress shall not..." there is no specific restrictions on states, schools, cities, local communities or any other manner of organization, yet most of those places are where most cases come up. The concept was intended to prevent the Federal Government from being tyrannical. What we have instead is every special interest group in the world clamoring for attention, and demanding to have their speech be free, while restricting everyone else's. Sure, it is probably a very good thing that so many states and other other governing bodies try to follow it in spirit, but all that aside, the constitution seems to protect against federal restriction primarily.

And not only that, but suddenly the idea has become extended to not just speech, but expression, so not only is speech protected, but so apparently is graffiti, porn, obscene art and nameless other actions.

But let's say I am way off base with my thinking that free speech was intended as a federal measure. Even if we accept the modern interpretations, there are so many controls and restrictions and exceptions, that it might as well not exist, and I am not talking about the "yelling fire in a movie theater" example.

Here lately we are seeing all manner of wild tangents:

A Flag Burning amendment: Critics claim that banning flag burning is a violation of freedom of expression.

Using the word God in a term paper: A teacher gave a student a failing grade on a term paper for using the word God in it, she is claiming this violated her right to free speech.

Porn on local access TV: A local cable access program was sued when they canceled a locally produced porn show, the creator claiming it was his freedom of expression.

Parades: A local parade canceled a float containing people suspending themselves on hooks. Of course the float maker claimed it was a freedom of expression issue.

Libraries: Porn on library computers has been claimed as free speech.
It seems that on both sides of the issue, no one can agree what is speech and what is not, and whether it is free or not.

For my part, I regard it as a very necessary principle on a democracy, but one that has been terribly abused, like so many other modern issues. And don't get me wrong, I think that freedom of speech (which makes my blog possible) should be protected. But I also think that somewhere along the way a sense of realism and responsibility needs to surface. I think we lost our understanding of what the value and cost of it is.

The way I see it, free speech is as much a responsibility as it is a right, or a privilege.

I think if you want to see free speech in action, go where it has been denied and ask the people there about how life was when saying the wrong things would send you to prison, or even to your death.

Go to Iraq, and ask the people there who can now speak openly without fearing for their lives if that freedom also means a cross in jar of urine. Ask the people whose lives were lost fighting for it, if it should have meant the ability to curse at a teacher and not be suspended.

Today is Independence Day.

Consider what that freedom means. By all means use it, and fight diligently to protect it, but take a moment and try to understand what it cost and what its real value is.