For no good reason except that my wife's ongoing adventure with colon cancer made me wonder, I scheduled a colonoscopy, and went to the Weed Army Community Hospital at Fort Irwin yesterday to do the pre-surgical consult, take the tests, fill out the paperwork. I wasn't thinking about a lot -- I was fasting in preparation for the bizillion labs I figured would be ordered, and was curious only about how long it was going to take. I had my Kindle, set to Marching With Caesar - Civil War, by R.W. Peake. Peake is a retired Marine Grunt, who has bothered to research this series of novels about a leading Centurion, one of two that Caesar mentions by name by doing such things as humping around Hadrian's Wall wearing the plate armor and carrying the gladius that these men carried. Fascinating read, and worth it...I was reasonably ready for a miserable day.
Ok, got there on-time, which meant I only had a short wait. Fox News, that staple of TV in waiting rooms throughout Pax Americana was on and the usual cast of dolts was babbling about Newtown. A couple of chairs down, a 30ish NCO getting ready for leave was waiting, and he made eye contact. Must have figured that I was wise or important or new something -- be an older, short,grey-haired, sorta in-shape guy on a military base, and people assume you're some kind of Colonel or General or something. As a retired First Sergeant, I find that amusing, not unlike Peake's Primus Pilum would have. Usually I don't get into conversations with strangers, particularly when the Right Wing Noise Machine is in full flight. But, the guy started talking..."I don't understand this. They're trying to say this guy was crazy; but man, he shot kids. He needs to be executed." Dude, the kid did have a disorder, autism, and he committed suicide. "But, I used to be a cop. How'd he get the guns? Why didn't anybody do something?" Guy was broken up about this, which surprised me a bit. He then told me that he had been talking to an Afghani while deployed who was convinced that these sorts of attacks indicated that we were an evil country. This bothered him; he was having to come to some sort of decision as to whether or not that ragheaded mofo might have actually been right.
They called me back, filled out some paperwork, took me to admitting who sent me back to the waiting room. Guy was walking down the hall to his appointment, but when he saw me, he smiled and said "Hey, Sir!" I nodded, smiled and said, "Top, not sir, and thanks, brother." While I was sitting there waiting again, the Fox noise was upset about a union organizer talking about following and harassing Republican legislators who backed anti-union measures. The waste of protoplasm babbling complained that the Republicans didn't have any organization to do similar things, that this was only the Communist-Radical-Liberal Democrats. I looked up, and made eye contact with an elderly black gentleman and asked, " Am I carzy or do these people not remember the last 6 years? did I dream that the tea party had posters calling for the execution of the President, signs with him as the Joker and people going to political meetings carrying guns? Am I crazy?" Guy looked at me, smiled and nodded.
Next stop after admitting was an EKG, more paperwork processing and a consult with the anesthesiologist. The OIC was a mid-40s Captain who told me that she had joined the Army a couple of years ago because she felt she should after a successful career as a civilian nurse. This gal has kids in college and now she's starting a career patching up kids ranging from her youngest's age through her own. She fell into the same trap as the first guy, and decided that I must be some source of wisdom. Anyway, she told me that she was troubled by so many of the young soldiers she sees. It turns out that they get a lot of soldiers admitted for basically sleep deprivation -- unable to sleep more than two or three hours in a night. Welcome to NTC, where PTSD makes you fit in! Even if admitted and medicated lightly, they can't sleep and spend the night pacing. She felt kind of helpless to help, because she'd only been in the Army two years and had only experienced Fort Sam Houston and Fort Irwin. I suggested that she think of Weed as a rural hospital with a really good trauma center... Then they took the EKG. At 61, I have a perfect EKG for a guy in his lower 20s. This confused them, because they don't see that with people in their lower 20s. People in their lower 20s have that they see have EKGs usually suitable for someone in their 50s or 60s. I pointed out that I haven't smoked or used tobacco for 30 years; haven't drunk for over 20; am reasonably serious about working out with weights and, nobody has been shooting at me lately. Got a sad laugh from everyone.
As I was driving home, I saw lots of flags at half-staff. Public buildings, installation and so on. I thought that this habit of flying the colors at half-staff for any tragedy was a relatively new phenomonon but couldn't think of a more appropriate gesture after things like New Town. Then I learned that Daniel Inouye had died. If we continue to have heroes die and horrible tragedies punctuating our lives, the National Colors should stay at half-staff in perpetuity. I have followed Senator Inouye since I first became aware of the guy, at the Senate Watergate Hearings. A Senator and a Medal of Honor winner and an amputee from the Go for Broke Regiment who willingly took on the No Win gigs his party needed someone to take on is always going to be worth paying attention to. (Is it my imagination, or the MOH winners who have served in the Senate all been Democrats? And both suffered traumatic amputations during combat?)
I knew that I wanted to write something about the Senator, and realized that I wasn't feeling particualrly articulate today. And then I read Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker. The article is well-written, and brief -- and well worth the effort. He writes this in part :
"The point of all this is that sometimes reporters like me know things, or think we know things, and need someone in the know to hear them out, and perhaps provide some guidance or a sense of where to go next—and, above all, why it matters."Oddly, the first piece I read this monring was Wonkette. Their take on the Senator was as powerful while totally brazenly off-kilter and probably would have had the old man crack a couple of smiles, and offer a drink to Tip O'Neil and Bobby Kennedy and Ted Kennedy and Pat Moynihan saying "See what Commie Girl's buddy Abdill wrote about me?" Put it to music, and he's sound like Davy Crockett...
Upon returning home, Inouye founded the state of Hawaii, which he represented in Congress every day of its statehood until today. Inouye’s approach to governance was very similar to his approach to killing Nazis, which was “shut up, I am busy doing good things here.” He walked around being a good guy and doing good things, and one day, he wanted to eat lunch with a black guy, so they walked into the House cafeteria, and just like that, it was desegregated. Because he was hungry, and that’s that. Inouye died yesterday, after 49 years and 11 months in office, likely because he received an intelligence briefing about somebody causing a ruckus at the Pearly Gates. It’s certainly taken care of by now.
Well, we certainly assume so; and, we need to figure out how, as that generation passes on, what the hell we're going to do for leadership. Clinton and Bush showed that the Boomers don't have it in them; so, we're left with...Eric Cantor? Clare McCaskill? Debbie Wasserman-Schmitt? Louis Gomert...
Yeah, things are definitely going down hill. Hope that Daniel Inouye have room at the bar for an non-politician in the hereafter. I guess if I'm dead some Bushmills would be ok, and I'll play Danny Boy on the house guitar...