Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Things People Say

I recently had the following conversation with a client, and he graciously gave me permission to share it.

  "How long were you two together?"
  "Eleven years."
  "How long has he physically abused you?"
  "Eight years."
  "Why on earth do you tolerate that kind of behavior?"
  "Well, he's a really nice guy...when he's not doing heroin."

Monday morning at ten, I'll be trying to get him a five year Domestic Violence Protection Order.

Billy Graham’s Good Points

OK, I will say right up front that  there are a LOT of things I do not like about Billy Graham. That however, is a topic for a different day. I think it is a good idea to recognize some good even in people you don't admire.

  1. From the earliest days of his ministry, Billy Graham had *independent* accountants keeping track of the money- so Rev. Graham has avoided any financial scandal for over a half century. Many would do well to follow his example.
  2. Immediately after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, Graham ordered that seating at all his public appearances be integrated. (That was *not* a universally popular position to take at the time)
  3. Once, when Martin Luther King was arrested in the early 60s, Graham paid King's bail.

Educating Silly-Vilians

One of my dearest friends is retired from the U.S.  After 25 years of serving as an enlisted woman in the U.S. Navy – not the usual career path for a graduate of Yale University - she was a “sparky” (that’s a radioman for you civilian types) and since Sue is quite vertically challenged, she is proud to tell you she is a “short wave radio operator.”  One of her favorite expressions is to refer to people who have never been in the military as “silly-vilians.” Occasionally when I would hear some life-long civilian’s misconceptions about the military, I’m reminded of Sue’s expression.

When I was in Alaska, I was once having lunch with co-workers and a woman whose politics are very far left of mine.  She made a comment that someone she knew was in Iraq. Continuing she generalized that they were probably all happy about that because that would give them the chance to use all the drugs that they wanted.  I resisted my initial inclination to break something heavy over her head.  Instead I very firmly but politely told her she was off by 180 degrees.  I said that the military is just about the only place in America where you are in very serious trouble if you possess or use drugs.  In the immediate aftermath of Vietnam, drug use was a horrendous problem in all of the services.  In the late 1970s, there was a horrible accident on an aircraft carrier where more than 10 sailors were killed and half of them had cannabis in their systems.  When I was going through language school in the early 80s, we had people going to Captain’s Mass losing a stripe, half a month’s pay for two months and being restricted to base and getting extra duty for two months.  By the time I finished my enlistment in 1984, there had been dramatic improvement and by the time I was teaching on board U.S. Navy ships in the late 80s and early 90s, the Navy’s program of “operation golden flow” for all hands had made drug use very rare in deed. On the ships I taught, the Navy’s policy was very simple.  Test positive for drugs and you have a one-way ticket back to the civilian world with a less than honorable discharge. I remember hearing officer’s express dismay after two members of a 400 man crew tested positive for pot.  They were chagrined that they even had one pothead on board.

This is a matter where some liberals (if the shoe fits you can jolly well wear it) are acutely contradictory.  They will make jokes about drug use in the service and then express horror when the Services come down really hard on drug abusers.  Many years ago I saw an editorial in the New York Times op-ed section boo hooing about a young officer who had been caught with drugs and had received a general court martial, a dishonorable discharge, and a couple years of brig time.  The writer actually had the chutzpah to state that the defendant had not expected that his off-duty activities could have official repercussions; reading that article made me yearn for the days of the cat of nine tails. I suppose that that New York Times writer would have any objection to a service-man being stoned at 7:55 am on a Sunday morning, after all what’s the worst that could happen.

I was reminded of that issue as I read the memoires of former defense secretary Robert Gates first days at the Pentagon.  Once when he took a break from doing paperwork to answer nature’s call, he heard a knock on the bathroom door.  It was a sergeant with a plastic vile in his hand.  Yes, even the Secretary of Defense had to pass operation golden flow.

John Rowlands

John Rowlands was a young man when the American Civil War broke out and he was drafted into the Confederate Army.  He found military life not to his liking, so he deserted.  He managed to make it to Union lines where he was promptly drafted into the Union army. He succeeded in finagling a medical discharge, but soon found he was not able to find a job to support himself, so he enlisted in the United States Navy.  After his discharge, he found work with a business man whose last name was Stanley and Mr. Rowlands changed his name.  After such an unpromising start, he managed to win immortality as a journalist under the byline, Henry Stanley in the New York Times which published letters from his trip to Africa.  It was during this trip he was able to locate a missionary who’d been missing for years; approaching him with the immortal question, “Dr. Livingston I presume?”

A Troublesome 12-Year-Old

When I was teaching 11th grade at Simon Sanchez high school at Hagatna, Guam, I dealt with some 17- year-olds who made me *very* grateful for the fact that I'm over six feet tall with a pretty big frame. Deterrence can be priceless.

I recently read about a *very* scary 12 year old, who was attending a school, well over a century ago, in a country, far, far away. His homeland had recently become a part of a much larger country, and this kid's teachers were very strict about their students learning the language of the empire and not their native tongue. This irked young Josef *bigtime*. So, one day, he lured the teacher into an empty classroom, and (backed up by a couple of 18-year-old friends) told the teacher that if he didn't change his ways, Josef and his buddies were going to kill him. (That is far worse than anything I ever heard at either SSHS- or UAHS.)

The Secret of the SS Minnow

Anyone around my age will remember the SS Minnow as the name of the ship of the crew and passengers were on for a three hour tour (a three hour tour) when the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed...etc., etc.

Most people would assume that the wrecked ship was named after a very small fish. WRONG! I recently learned that the ship's name was a jab at the then head of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Norman Minow- remembered today for his "vast wasteland" speech. Mr. Minow is still with us aged 88. No word on his opinion of "Gilligan's Island."

Astronomy … and pizza?

There is considerable debate as to whether Pluto qualifies as a planet. I rather hope so. There is a great way to remember the names of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.