Friday, December 25, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
We talk and talk and talk, then talk some more about creating new "green" jobs; about cleaning up our environment; about taking the technological lead; yet STILL our country has not had the balls to break its dependence on foreign oil; or find a way to utilize clean energy such as wind power, solar power, geothermal energy or ocean currents to power our cities; to go "green" and to repair the environmental damage our thoughtlessness has set in motion.
And still the evidence piles up daily with each new study clearly indicating our recklessness is leading to the extinction of more and more plant and animal species including the polar bear; the decimation of fish populations such as tuna in our oceans; the death of the ocean's coral reefs; and the ruination of the tropical rain forests of South America.
The fragile balance we call the food chain is on the verge of collapse and yet we act as if nothing is wrong! It would be a crime against this planet if are the root cause of vast extinctions worldwide. It is bad enough we kill our own with barely a second thought but to murder defenseless creatures is a unconscionable.Last week, former Vice President Al Gore, Jr, mentioned on the David Letterman Show that enough solar energy hits our earth every single minute to power our planet's energy needs for the rest of our lives (and beyond)... IF only we would do the work to harness it. Wasted energy! and we do... nothing! Absolutely nothing about it!
If it is not evident that we are heading towards an ecological collapse, nothing is... and all we can do is talk about trading energy units and how excessive it will cost to combat this problem. The real question is at what cost will we suffer by doing nothing?
Today, as I walked through the local Barnes & Noble bookstore where I work, I saw a book that showed a lone polar bear swimming amongst the broken ice floes of the frigid Arctic Ocean. This left leaning liberal is not ashamed to admit the photo nearly moved me to tears when I considered the photo's dramatic implications.
I am not so naive to realize that the photo was an obvious attempt in manipulating my emotions... and it did! I don't care. If we cannot see how our planet's ecological balance has changed dramatically in the past fifty years (AND will continue to do so even more), then we deserve everything we will get by inaction!
And even in the most remote of possibilities that current scientific leanings are wrong or alarmist, what possible harm could come of developing new, clean energy sources for our planet's use?
My thoughts on this subject are obvious. And to our political, business, engineering and scientific leaders I say... lead! follow! get out of the way! BUT dammit, do something!!!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! My sensors detect the presence of an intruder!
Capt. Bugs: Ain't I a stinker?
Daffy Spock: Most illogical.
Doctor Sylvester: Dammit, I'm a doctor not a critic!
Chief Engineer Montgomery Pig: b'd, b'd, captain, my poor engines, they're breakin' up!
Nurse Tweety: I tat I taw a bowl of plomeek soup!
Red Shirt Yosemite: Awwwh hate you!
Tasmanian Sulu: rrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, warp two, Captain!
I am thankful for my son Wes, my parents and my siblings. I am especially thankful for my friends who are as much my family as my relatives.
Having served in Afghanistan last year I can say without doubt that we are the most blessed people in the world. I invite everyone to take a moment to make a difference for those less fortunate than us.
Happy Thanksgiving Day!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
U.S President Woodrow Wilson first called for an "Armistice Day," a day to honor veterans of World War I on November 11, 1919.
Not until June 4, 1926 was an official act of Congress made that brought federal recognition of the holiday honoring veterans of war.
The holiday known as 'Remembrance Day' or 'Armistice Day' in other countries is concurrently observed on the day Germany signed the armistice, thus officially bringing one of the bloodiest, most costly wars (up to its day) to a close.
In the United States--Veteran's Day--in the intervening years, has become a federal holiday and amended to recognize veterans of all wars, past and present.
We live in a country where we have more freedoms than any nation on earth, and while our country is far from perfect, our servicemembers work tirelessly to ensure that that tenet of our lives never changes. Perhaps it is a cliche, but the adage 'Freedom is never free' is more appropriate today than ever before.
Happy Veteran's Day!
Today, I would like to thank Applebees restaurant for their act of kindness. This year, in recognition of Veteran's Day, the franchise offered all U.S. servicemembers and veterans all over the country a free lunch or dinner. Taking them up on their kind offer, I went to dinner tonight with friends and we found a packed house with veterans of all ages. In fact, I met a World War II veteran and another from the Vietnam War!
The franchise gained a customer in me because of this very kind act! Thank you, Applebees!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The reverberations of last's week's hateful vote will spread like concentric waves after throwing a rock in the water of a lake; the ripple effect will assuredly touch countless lives.
Monday, November 9, 2009
My Dad, Douglas Robert Mappin, was a good man who was a great mentor and teacher to his seven sons and one daughter. When I think of him I am mindful of the military tenet that demands its servicemembers lead by example. Dad, a 26-year veteran of the Indiana National Guard, lived and breathed that principle... in his military career, with his job and with his family.
He led. I can think of few men who were so principled, so honest and so perfectly suited to be a leader in the National Guard or as a father.
After his passing--he taken from his family and friends far too young--memories have slowly begun to fog, but I have memories still cherished of the man, the friend and the father that he was. I know, from conversations with my son, that he was too young to have many memories of his grandfather. The point is, sadly, as the years pass images have become less prominent, but thankfully, I have some that will never fade.
I leave it to my brothers and sisters to their memories nor can I speak entirely for them. Their memories are their own, after all. I do know there has not been a day we each have not missed his easy humor, his smile, his laugh and his incredibly strong principles and ethics.
Dad was, like many of our parents, a product of the Great Depression. His work ethic was incomparable. In retrospect, I think we kids sometimes wished that had not been the case. You see, my Dad held three jobs for a good number of years. He was a tool and die maker for a company in North Manchester, Indiana. He proudly served in the Indiana National Guard. And in the last few years of his life, Dad had dreamed of running his own business.
He took that leap of faith to develop and hone his own business skills. Not too long before his death, Dad had quit his full-time job to devote full attention to his own tool and die company on the northside of our hometown Rochester, Indiana.
But this was just one aspect of his life.
Dad had a great ear and always the time for when we needed his advice. I remember his words of advice the day I married; the day I became a father; the day I separated from my wife; and the day I decided to enter college, and I remember how proud he was when I told him I was going to be a teacher.
If there was one thing I remember most about my Dad is the pride he had in each of his kids. And if not pride, the concern he showed even more so when we were troubled. I am sure that at one moment or another, each of the eight of us put him through the test of parenthood. I wonder how many headaches we each caused.
While Dad was a great father, I have only vague memories of what kind of husband he was (young kids are so self-centered after all. I am ashamed to say I did not even know when his and my stepmom's wedding anniversary was until after he had died).
I have only the vaguest of memories of what kind of relationship they celebrated together. I do recall a few times of watching he and my stepmom together. Not long after he had suffered a heart attack, I remember them sitting in the living room one time holding hands. In that regards, Dad and my stepmom led a quiet, private life. But I know how hard they both worked to provide for each of their children.
Now while I said I can only guess what kind of husband he was, I look at my brothers Bryan, Rob, Scott and Matt and look at their marriages. Each of them lead lives that I believe were shaped by Dad's (and Mom's) example.
Funny, when I look at my brother Matt it is like looking at Dad, who we (my siblings) have often commented upon, is nearly the image of our Dad.
Dad was also a loving son. His mother, my grandmother, Valda Mappin was diagnosed with Parkinson Disease when I was a young lad. Dad, being an only child, did the best he could to ensure her life was safe and as healthful as possible. So in addition to being a father of a large clan, working multiple jobs, he still found time to devote what energies he had to his mother.
I suspect he felt he didn't have enough time to do everything he needed to do.
Perhaps my strongest--and favorite memories about Dad were him spending time with us kids. He played with us, taught us and often took us camping at a nearby campground. Fishing at Lake Manitou on his pontoon boat and roadtrips around the state were always fun as well.
One of our favorite jokes involved Dad's long-time penchant for finding the ugliest fir tree tree for Christmas. Dad always cut his own tree and in my mind, I think he sought out the puniest, ugliest tree he could find every year. Thinking he took pity on that one tree, we found a way for it to shine in beauty for that holiday. In fact, one year the spindly, sparse tree had to be tied to the wall so that it would not tip over. We laughed so hard! But Christmas Eve was always special in Dad's home (and still is to this day, to my stepmom's credit).
In any case, I am sitting here remembering Dad. One of my friends over the weekend told me that he thought it sweet that I mentioned it was Dad's birthday--even after all these years, but I cannot help it. He shaped our lives in ways I cannot imagine.
He lived long enough only to see the birth of his first two grandchildren. I remember his pride when he first held my son Wes, his first grandchild.
He did not live to see my brother Rob nor I join the military, however, I do remember how proud he was when both Bryan and Teresa joined the Armed Forces. I remember crying on the plane flying to boot camp when I recalled my stepmom telling me how proud Dad would be if he had lived to see me, his first-born, joining the Navy.
Dad did not live to see any of his kids marry (except for Teresa and I). Like his Dad before him, his life was cut far too short (both died at the age of 47). While Dad was so proud of his children and wife, it only seems fair to say how proud we were of him as well.
Perhaps the best tribute I can give my father is knowing that each of his eight kids, me, Teresa, Bryan, Mike, Rob, Chris, Scott and Matt all finished school and have all gone on to lead fairly happy lives with their own families.
This past year, a hometown reporter wrote a piece about me while I was serving in Afghanistan, but one of my proudest moments came from reading a letter to the editor. That letter, written by a man who joined the National Guard because of my Dad's leadership, said I "sound" just like my Dad. That, to me, was one of the finest compliments I have ever received in my life.
I do wish that Dawn, Tracy (Rob's wife), Tracy (Matt's), Alana and Lori (my sisters-in-law), the grandkids would have had the chance to have met Dad. They would've loved playing with him and including them in their lives.
I think I speak for each of my brothers and sister when I say I miss Dad dearly. Here's to you, Dad. We love you!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Why? Okay, for starters--thankfully--the U.S. and coalition forces are slowly making their way out of Iraq. This is old news. But even if we leave we probably will have some presence there for a long, long time. Witness this: World War II is more than 70 years distant, yet the U.S. has a huge presence in Europe as a member of NATO as well as remaining in Japan. South Korea and the Korean War is more than 50 years behind us and, like Europe, we still maintain military bases in South Korea (where one of my friends is stationed today).
I am not naive enough to state that our presence in Europe and Asia is unwarranted, but I am pointing it out as a point of reference to my thesis that the U.S. Armed Forces forces will most assuredly remain in the Middle East as a vigilant watchdog for more years than I imagine the Bush Administration ever contemplated, and therein lies a problem.
It is obvious to most of us President George W. Bush, his paranoid vice president and "yes-man" staff did not think things through prior to launching a war against Iraq. If they had, they might have (or should have) reconsidered opening the can of worms that they have. But so they did, and now we have to live with those consequences and move on--and hopefully rectify what I consider was a hugely disastrous foreign affairs blunder.
This whole situation of our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is complicated and was exasperated by the events of September 11. Whether readers want to admit it, our preemptive war with Iraq really had little to do with 9/11, but more to do with the Bush Administration's misguided desire to punish Saddam Hussein for his past sins. I do wish to clarify that I am not saying Hussein was a leader we could live with--I am saying other means were available to force him to "play nice," but think he basically drew a line in the sand and lost--and handed the Bush Administration an excuse to attack.
Bush's spin doctors were most expert in drawing conclusions that were erroneous at best, and blatant lies at worst, to gain national and world support for toppling Saddam Hussein's empire. It saddens me to this day that Secretary of State (Gen.) Colin Powell's reputation was used (and severely diminished) to launch a needless war in Iraq.
But I digress.
Today, public support for the Afghan War is beginning to show signs of waning.
Just this week ABC News and independent commentator George Will came out (ala Walter Cronkite's reluctant admonishment that we abandon our war effort in Vietnam) in favor of pulling coalition forces out of Afghanistan, saying we cannot accomplish our goals...
Will says, "So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters."
To some degree, I cannot fully support Will's position, but I do understand it. I disagree with his assessment that we should scale back and wage war from the skies. In the past, this has proven imprecise, unreliable and deadly to many innocent victims. We already have claimed more Afghan lives who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, thus weakening our friendship with the Afghan government, which in some ways is not necessarily a bad thing (the Karzai government, like many before it, is corrupt beyond compare.
As a Sailor in the US Navy I find this approach of detached warfare somewhat cowardly. I do, however, agree with Mr. Will's position regarding Pakistan.
Already, critics are calling this "Obama's War." This is rather unfair assignment as this was a war launched by President Bush in response to the actions against us on September 11, 2001. I do not, however, have the same harsh words over this one issue. The Afghanistan of 2001, one ruled by Taliban tyranny also played host to Al Qaeda. As news commentator Ted Koppell said on National Public Radio it was here where Al Qaeda was given safe refuge; it was here where the events of 9/11 were nurtured, planned and launched (with the aid of certain factions in Saudi Arabia) and it was here where American launched a manhunt for the world's most hated man, Osama bin Laden.
Where I part ways with President Bush in regards to the Afghan War is simply this: He blinked. He lost focus; and he lost the game. By allowing his hatred of Saddam Hussein to consume him, he lost track of why we went to war in Afghanistan. We weren't at war with Hussein, but with Al Qaeda. But he forgot that and we lost ground; we even lost the "high road."
Not because of WMDs as he claimed; not because Hussein was a threat to U.S. security as he claimed; and not because Hussein was killing his people (that argument, I could have supported). Saddam was not the first nation to thumb his nose at U.S. concerns, but he was the first to suffer from a U.S. led preemptive war.
President Bush lost the game in Afghanistan and now--eight years later (next month)--we find ourselves immersed in the longest war in our history and many are beginning to question for what gains and at what cost... and why?
Having served as a Navy photojournalist in Afghanistan for a year, I am proud of the work our troops are doing in the streets of Kabul and countless other cities. We are there, not as conquerors nor bullies, but as teachers, mentors, humanitarians and as a protective friend. However, as the violence against the Afghan people escalates--and against us--that role is beginning to change... and as a result plans are being made to circumvent a return of Taliban rule.
When we invaded Afghanistan in 2001 we were welcomed by a people as we put an end to the Taliban tyranny that for all intents and purposes propelled that nation backwards to the 13th or 14th century.
For those of us leading comfortable lives here in our safe and sanitized world, most of us cannot imagine the horrors of the day-to-day lives of the Afghan people under Taliban rule. Women were stoned to death for refusing to submit to male dominance (the old adage of "barefoot and pregnant" would find a willing home in the Taliban's eye); girls were forbidden to attend schools; men imprisoned for refusing to wear a beard; no music, no television; beheadings in public squares... all used to invoke terror and subjugation. This is what the U.S. led coalition forces saved the Afghans from.
Move forward eight years to today and now the Obama Administration finds itself in a quandary. In 2007, then Sen. Obama, on the road as a presidential candidate, made it very clear he was not in favor of the Iraq War, but reluctantly concluded that our presence in Afghanistan a necessary evil. Today, plans are afoot to send in more troops to face an increasingly bloody Taliban threat who want "their" country back.
The sad matter of fact is, they (the Taliban) are beginning to make inroads. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that the Taliban is making life increasingly more difficult for the Pakistan government as well. Today's military strategists believe Osama bin Laden and the top Al Qaeda echelon are hiding out in the twisting mountains of Pakistan, aided by members of the Taliban.
This is dangerous for both coalition forces and the Pakistan government. For Afghanistan, this is problematic since the border between the two countries is extremely porous making it easy for Taliban terrorists to move back and forth with relative ease.
Coalition forces training the Afghan National Border Police are making this a more difficult aspect for the Taliban, but for Pakistan, the presence of the Taliban is creating its own dilemma-for both Pakistan and for the coalition forces hoping to bring a lasting peace that would bring a revival of long poor Afghanistan (where the average Afghan earns approximately $400 a year).
Not wanting to appear as alarmist as the expert Bush Administration, the Taliban's influence in Pakistan is increasing and this puts us--and Pakistan in a terrifying position. Terrifying for Afghanistan, terrifying for India, terrifying for China and Russia and terrifying for the entire southeast Asian continent.
Why? Because Pakistan possesses the bomb. It is no secret that Pakistan has built approximately 100 nuclear warheads, standing ready for launch. World leaders as well as the Pakistan government are fully aware of the consequences if that government were to fall to the Taliban. The entire region could be destabilized with one careless action from Pakistan if its government fell to a zealot Taliban force (especially if they remain aligned with Al Qaeda).
So... back to Afghanistan, where we are definitely damned if we do, damned if we don't. This is the ultimate nightmare... and why it is unlikely the U.S. will leave the region any time soon.
But one can certainly hope.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The rules: This can be a quick one. Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Email 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose. Only 15...
1. When Worlds Collide by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie (this book and its sequel are the ultimate doomsday novels showing mankind at its best... and worst... I love the fact that the writers had the balls to do exactly what most authors would never dare to do... end it all. While the book was written in 1932, it still strikes me as an incredibly emotional read. For years, I have been trying to write a prequel... Let me tell you now, writing a novel is really HARD!!!)
2. After Worlds Collide by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie (I first read this book and its first installment when I was in the 4th grade.... I've revisited these two books more times than I can count, even as recent as when I was stationed overseas. I highly recommend them both!)
3. Maurice by E.M. Forster (one of my all time favorite love stories written in 1913-14... The author considered this book so controversial that he refused to allow it to be published while he was alive. He left instructions that it could be published a year after his death, which was in 1970, and the book was released the following year. Oddly enough, the 1987 movie based upon it is remarkably faithful, which almost never happens).
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (yeah, yeah Charles Dickens is long-winded. But then the book's roots was a newspaper serial where the author was paid by the word--you do the math! At 39 chapters, this book captured me from page one).
5. Silas Marner by George Eliot (this too, was my mother's favorite novel as a child). I've not read it in years. It is one of the most moving books I've ever read. Most modern readers probably know this, but George Eliot was a woman... but Victorian English society in that time frowned upon female writers... interestingly enough, Charles Dickens once commented he thought the "male" author was a woman... Maybe I should revisit the book?).
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (another book that launched my interest in science fiction... I discovered this book about the same time as #1 and 2 on this list. This highly regarded, esoteric award-winning novel is well worth the read! Like many other books on my list, this popular book launched a series).
7. Trapped in Space by Jack Williamson (books I read in childhood really had a profound affect on my life.. I have often wondered if it would read as good now 40 years later).
8. Revolt on Alpha C by Robert Silverberg (this was a Scholastic Books selection I bought when I was in the 6th grade. This is basically a sci-fi version of the American revolution. It was the author's first book).
9. Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov (I read this long before I had the chance to see the movie... both stand on their own and both are amongst my favorite stories ever committed to paper and film).
10. 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (what can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? For some it was the ultimate "trip" (one of my high school friends got high when he saw the movie and totally tripped on it), for me the book was an incredibly good voyage into the unknown--as was the movie).
11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I believe this was the author's sole novel. As a former teacher, this and Dickens' Great Expectations should always be required reading).
12. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (in more recent years, the trilogy expanded to seven books before the author's untimely death [some written by other sci-fi authors]. The original three, Asimov's way of imagining the rise and the fall of the Roman Empire, were written during the "golden age of sci-fi," it remains one of my favorite series.).
14. Star Wars by George Lucas (okay, Alan Dean Foster really wrote it. I read this book a full six months before the original movie came out in 1977. Remembering it now, I could not put the book down, as I read each page I thought, "oh my God, how are they going to put this on film???" To be honest, this book and The Empire Strikes Back shall be the greatest stories of the entire franchise).
15. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (this title is a series... seven books so far, but who's counting? It captures the 1970-80s San Francisco's gay culture in a very compelling, humorous and thought-provoking fashion. Who can ever forget the sweet, lovable Michael "Mouse" Tolliver or the antics of 28 Barbary Lane?).
Okay, I am cheating as I am adding an honorable mention: The War Against the Chtorr by David Gerrold (This book was originally intended to be a trilogy, but it has expanded to four completed novels with an additional three planned... that said, the last installment was published in 1993 and frankly, I wish the author would complete the series as it is a superior, psychological science fiction series!).
Monday, July 27, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
In later years when interviewed on NPR's Diane Rehm Show, Cronkite explained what made a good journalist:
He was a force that time could not diminish, yet his integrity was not limited to only his career but in his personal life as well. His marriage to his wife Betsy lasted mere days shy of 65 years, when she passed away in 2005.
There is something just plain wrong when significant landmarks are named after corporations; the selling of a famous landmark's name, to me, is akin to a mind rape. Okay, that is pretty dramatic, but I detest corporate America feeling it has the right to plaster its name on everything from stadiums to skyscrapers from streets to college dormitories and study halls.
Chicago Willis Tower? Yuck! What were they thinking???
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I immediately turned to apologize and his response both startled and amused me. By the same token, upon later reflection I was proud of this young Sailor's progressive attitude.
As I apologized, he said (while smiling), "Now you owe me dinner." and then he caught me off-guard as he leaned closer and demurely mumbled ala "Friends" Joey Tribbiani, "How u doin'?"
"Old school" opponents constantly decry the dangers of damaging unit cohesion, breakdown of morale and discipline, all the same arguments used to justify racial separation in the 1940s and 50s. Of course, the changes were initially painful, but history has proven them beneficial.
Friday, July 3, 2009
We are a lucky people with bounty aplenty.
Having served three tours of duty in the Middle East, I am thankful for my son Wes, family and friends--and for the countless members of the armed forces with whom I served in the U.S., Kuwait and in Afghanistan.
God bless my fellow Sailors and members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving abroad. May we thank and remember them every day, for without them we would not have the freedoms we enjoy today.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
When I was searching for photos that could inspire, initially I was searching for a quadriplegic runner. Then I found this one and was touched by its subject-matter. It wasn't until after I had decided to use it that I really paid attention to the details. At first, I thought it sweet that a little girl would run with this man, her daddy perhaps? BUT the details finally sunk in and then I caught it... if you want inspiration, this photo is it... 'nuff said?
About the photographer: Andy Hooper was born in Dorset in 1963. He studied at Salisbury Art College where he gained a Higher Diploma in Photography. Winner of the prestigious Royal Photographer of the Year, Andy is a multi-award winning photographer. He is based in Surrey with his wife and three young children.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
So you ask what happened yesterday? Well, you are not going to believe this.
Since returning from Afghanistan I have not had much luck of establishing a regular sleep schedule and I find myself asleep (annoyingly so) during the day, as was the case yesterday afternoon. While napping, I was instantly awakened to the noise of three loud slamming bangs against my front door that shook the house and sent my cat Billie running for her favorite hiding place.
I jumped up, ran to my front door, opened it to see three male teens running away from my house. I then examined the door which is now cracked, the door jam splintered and it immediately dawns on me the the three had just tried to batter my door down! In broad daylight! In the afternoon, no less!
Naturally I immediately called the local police department with a police officer arriving just shy of three minutes. He records my information. One by one--four police cars in all--appear within seconds after that! I compliment our police force for being so prompt!
In any case, the officer toured my yard looking to see if anyone is hiding out in the backyard--or for any evidence left behind. Not finding anything, we talked for about fifteen minutes about what just happened.
The officer tells me that this kind of thing has been happening with a disturbingly increasing frequency. One: he tells me my neighborhood is experiencing difficulties. No kidding! This is not my first brush with such idiocy! While serving in Afghanistan last year some local kids (and not apprehended) were playing with matches and nearly burned down my garage and in August someone--in the dark of night--stole my central air conditioning unit!
Seriously. It is bad enough that these events have occurred, but more so since I was overseas defending our nation and not here to protect my home. It is downright insulting!
Two: the officer tells me things are getting worse as our country's economy turns south. Last month, a similar event occurred, only this time the perpetrators, also reported to be teenagers, gained entry and beat up an 89-year old lady while ransacking her home. This too, occurred in the light of day.
One has to ask, what the hell is going on in my city, and in our country?
Having resided in my current home for the last thirteen years--and in South Bend for 27 years, I have seen the ups and downs (mostly downs) of my neighborhood. The police officer tells me this used to be a nice Polish neighborhood. I agreed, but I know those days are pretty much a memory.
Sadly, my neighborhood has turned into an area that is depressed with many abandoned homes and perhaps the most telling change is that it has primarily become a rental community rather than like its origins where families owned their homes, improved their homes, lived in their homes, raised their families here, and took pride in their neighborhood.
That too, seems to be of a bygone era.
Our local government, well aware of the problem, has in recent years taken some superficial steps to remedy the problem (such as tearing down longtime abandoned buildings, more police patrols, etc.), but not fast enough to suit my tastes.
Ironically, I see some similarities here of some conditions I observed while stationed in Afghanistan.
When poverty takes root, it isn't long before one can see civility and citizenship slide away to be replaced by despair, ugliness and crime. Three: When I mentioned to the officer I was shocked someone would do this in broad daylight, in a home where I have a home security system. His reply was rather disturbing.
He said that these kind of crimes follow a similar scenario: The burglars burst into a home, look for light, easy, valuable things to grab such as DVD players, TV game systems, computers and other valuables... and if necessary, rough up a resident if they happen to be home, and then run for cover.
The criminals, and that is what they are, are in and out of the house in a matter of minutes--much faster than police can usually respond.
After the police have left me standing in my front yard, I make the usual phone calls (I hate to say 'usual' in this kind of situation) to get matters under control. I hear the expected comments: "I'm shocked! Can I help? Are you okay? Please, sell your house--get out--please!"
Now you can call me stupid, but leaving, to me, is not really an option. I like my home, simple it may be, but it is mine; I plan on living here and retiring here someday; AND seriously, who wants to be run off by the random acts of cowards and criminals?
After my friends John and Sherri come over to help me begin the process of repairing the door I began thinking of what I need to do to make sure this does not happen again.
John tells me we need to fortify my house. Sherri questions this, saying, "who wants to live in a fort?" A sentiment I happen to agree with, but when it comes down to it, I can be logical about this situation or I can be reactionary. I choose the former, but... to some degree John is right.
Let's face it, crime is not a matter of logic. And not wanting to be a victim, I have begun considering what options are available to me... some are cheap and easy, some not, some are hard choices and again, some not:
* Move out... not really a choice as far as I am concerned.
* Buy a gun for protection. This, perhaps, is the hardest choice to ponder. In my case, not bloody likely as I have always despised guns! Sure, I know how to use one. I just do not want one in my home (give me a good working phaser, however, and I could probably be coerced).
* I called the police late last night asking if I "could pick her brain" for a few minutes. I asked for advice for someone who does not want a gun... she suggested I keep mace in strategic locations (it does one little good to have mace in the upstairs rooms if criminals were to burst in and you are on the first floor)... she also suggested keeping mace on my car's key chain.
* Ask the police to inspect your home; they are always happy to give helpful tips to crime-proof your home.
* Make sure your doors are sturdy. Mine are--obviously, since the criminals (luckily) did not succeed in busting the door in. Next, and this should be a simple idea, but one so many people never give a moment thought: Lock your doors--day and night... whether you are home or not... ALWAYS!!!
* Keep all windows locked at all times. Outside your home, plant thorny bushes below the windows to make it painful for any would-be intruders, dissuading them from an apparent easy entry.
* Have a home alarm system installed (I have had one for years). If you have an alarm system, test it quarterly (for example, making sure its batteries are working).
* Bond with your neighbors so that everyone keeps an eye out for each other.
* Enclose your property with a security fence.
* Install night-time security (with motion detector) lights.
*Watch your neighborhood for strangers who seem to have no visible purpose being in the area.
* IF you happen to be home when criminals break-in, try to remain calm, do not confront or antagonize the criminals--and if at all possible, get out before you can be harmed. Your things are replaceable, you, on the other hand, are not.
* For some, buying a dog is an answer-- for me, not possible as I am allergic to most dogs.
* Most importantly, know the local police station's phone number... as a reminder, for emergencies call '9-1-1.'
You know, I could get angry (and believe me, yesterday I was); I could wring my hands crying; I could get all reactionary, but really what would that accomplish? And frankly, I refuse to give such lowlifes the satisfaction.
So now a day afterwards, I am sitting here at home tonight thinking about taking care of this situation. But to me, there are matters far more pressing. I am still seeking meaningful employment, still trying to get acclimated to home-life after being deployed overseas for a year, and I really hate having such stupid distractions.
But as they say, this too shall pass--and still, who would have believed it?