There are some things going on in our world today that I have come to believe are intolerable. There are a faction of those in our society who don't understand that their "screw everyone else" mentality is drawing us closer and closer to a breaking point. The sad part is that I don't believe that they even care.
There are few in this world who really know me. I mean REALLY know me. But if there's something I want you to understand, it's that I have no political leanings. There's no reason for me to follow one party or another. I have no loyalties that encumber me to some faceless entity with a meaningless list of planks that I either ascribe to or I am not invited. And while this is supposed to be a blog about change and leadership, it is for this reason I am even writing this today.
But I resent like hell that when I speak my mind about something, I have people out there who pigeonhole me into whatever little category they wish in order to say their piece. The truth is, I don't really care what someone has to say except that these days, if you happen to be openminded enough to listen to those who oppose the status quo, you get labeled unpatriotic. Or liberal. Or radical. Or socialist. Or traitorous.
So let me tell you a little about myself, for reasons that will become quite clear later.
I am a white male in my late forties who has held a meaningful job for over thirty years. Throughout most of my life, I have actually held more than one job. I am a college graduate and have some postgraduate level courses in my transcript. I am a practicing Catholic and go to Mass at least once a week with very rare exception.
I have voted Republican in more than one presidential election. I am a member of organizations that people would consider conservative, however, I by no means define myself as conservative or liberal. I do not support the "distribution of wealth" that is constantly suggested as being the case if you happen to support the current President, and I do not for a moment believe he supports it either, although there are plenty of people out there who love to repeat that.
When I was graduating high school, I scored well enough on the ASVAB that the Marine Corps came calling. The VERY HOT blonde female recruiting sargeant told me I could have whatever MOS I wanted. I rode with her over to Parris Island, right across the Port Royal Sound from where I live, and spent a few days over there getting toured and poured. I was going to sign on the dotted line when in the course of a week, not one, but TWO of my close friends, who were both in the Corps, told me about how they got screwed on their placement. I chose to take the job I was offered at the fire department instead. It turned out to be a game-changer. But I have no hard feelings, in fact, I often wonder how things might have been different.
When the Towers fell, I was in shock. When I learned 343 of my brothers died, I cried. When I heard who had done it, I was okay with waterboarding or hooking electrodes up to testicles, or whatever it took to find these pieces of shit, hunt them down, and kill them one by one. But when our government began to use those powers against other people for their own agendas, including against American citizens who really had nothing to do with terror, I found that I wasn't so willing to allow the games to continue. But it didn't change my mind that we should hunt these f**kers down and kill them where they stood, even if it was in a friendly nation.
Likewise, while I think we should be striving for peace and we should be helping our brothers, especially the less fortunate, when someone runs down a firefighter (or anyone else) in the street, or bites an EMT (or anyone else) who is trying to help them, I'm also okay with dragging the individual out the open window of the car and beating the snot out of them, or knocking the jerk's teeth out with a PR-24 so he won't bite anyone else. Or if someone fires an RPG at one of our troops then hides in a church or a mosque, I say, go get 'em. A saying I have always liked: "Don't f**k with me, and I won't f**k with you. If you hurt me, I will hurt you. Bad."
So as far as I am concerned, anyone who wants to characterize "all" of the supporters of the Occupy Movement as "unwashed", "jobless", left-wing", "nut job", "lowlifes", can pretty much STFU. And just because we are willing to listen doesn't mean that we support or reject their ideas either.
I have no idea what the Occupy Wall Street movement wants. God bless 'em, but I'm not even sure THEY completely know what they want. I am closely following some of the Occupy feeds, because I find it interesting and I find that I can identify with some of their points. And I have made friends with some of the leaders, who frankly, have been pretty damn interesting. Conversely, I have also been reading some of the posts by those who don't even try to understand what it is the movement is about and tried to engage them, which has had a pretty predictable outcome. You can't argue with someone who has already made up their mind.
So I hate to recite the disclaimer line, but it bears mentioning for clarity's sake. I believe in hard work and honest work. I was raised in a family that didn't have money, so we worked hard to make our money. When I ultimately married, my wife and I ate (and still do) a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and drove old cars so we could put money away for a nice home and to send our children to college. And we have invested in America, even though right now, it doesn't seem like America wants to invest much in me or my loved ones.
I don't want the rich to give up their worldly possessions. I just ask that if I do what I was told would get me ahead in life, that I at least won't have what little I do have taken away. And I'm not necessarily saying that we need a "level playing field", whatever that is, but I sure as hell don't consider insider trading, influence peddling, and corporate thuggery to even be playing in the same stadium. And I also sure as hell don't believe that when I support a bail-out (which I did) of our "too-big-to-fail" corporations, that I should see those same individuals being rewarded with cushy bonuses during a time when my brother firefighters and cops haven't had a raise in three years (although we got a 1% increase last year) or worse, are being laid off.
But don't blow smoke up my ass and tell me it's sunshine, because frankly, the private sector has done a phenomonal job screwing us all between insurance, the banking and mortgage industries, and environmental protection. I'm a cynic: "Trust, but verify." (That's an old Reaganism, for some of you who don't realize that). I do not support the belief that socialism in any aspect is better than any other solution. Working very closely with the state and federal governments, I know first hand that if there were a private partner that could effectively and ethically handle much of the service government provides, it would be better. However after watching Halliburton's (and others) handling of our War on Terrorism, I am convinced more now than ever that there are those who wage war not to help nations rise and be self-sufficient, but to line their already full pockets.
I believe our federal and state governments have managed to screw up everything they have gotten their hands on. However, I have seen the private sector screw things up worse, and with a lot more greed and disloyalty to our nation than any bureaucrat could ever manage. I'll take my chances, in certain things, with the government, because then at least we have some control over firing someone.
Our nation has a chosen few who exploit their position of power to enrich themselves to the detriment of many, and have no problems sleeping at night. They give no thought nor support to people being forced out of their homes, into bankruptcy, or becoming jobless. But while I try to consider the fact that while I may not agree with what someone has to say, I realize that they are individuals, people with families, people who go to church (or not) or work alongside others in a community (or not), they have the right to be treated with some dignity, even though that treatment doesn't appear to be reciprocal. But when I see brother public safety "professionals" beating defenseless individuals, or pepper-spraying them as they sit on a sidewalk, some of the offenses by those in power that have been brought to light seem even more despicable and more arrogant as they are actions being taken against those who we are supposed to be protecting.
I've never let a bully act out against someone who wouldn't or couldn't defend themselves. The anarchists who hide inside activist movements are simply provacateurs, with no agenda other than to destroy and to incite hate. Like in the instance with the guy who bit the cop the other day, there ARE some people who should have the crap beat out of them. But these individuals are just a few among the real activists, those who are pushing for peace and fairness, who unfortunately, get swept up in the tide. If anything, we should be able to identify with being painted with a broad brush; anyone in public service should be upset when people talk about how terrible government is. Just as we despise the inference that our jobs as firefighters are the cause for all of our taxpayer woes, those who are peacefully agitating for justice I'm sure are angry that there are those who abuse their right to free speech by acting aggressively.
I am not the first to say it, but the irony that the Occupy movement is embraced by those who have abused their power the worst (certain politicians) and is lionized by people whose ideals most agree with their basic tenets (the Tea Party) is profoundly amusing, but completely indicative of how obtuse some people are. Our elected officials are so busy pulling to the right or to the left that they have abandoned the rest of us: those of us in the middle. And there are many, many individuals who have aligned themselves either as Democrats or Republicans who follow zombie-like to their message when the real message is this; we will tell you what to think, and you need to shut up and listen.
I'm not sure that the Occupy movement is all of what it was intended to be. There are a lot of people suffering in this world at the hands of a few. I don't for a minute believe the distribution of wealth is the answer, although detractors seem to make it as if it is. No, what I would like is an equal chance to prove that hard work and investment will give my family a nice home, a decent car, and that our kids will go to the college of their choice. But when you can manipulate markets, create back-room deals, and obtain insider information at the expense of the rest of us, or ask us to bail you out and you instead use the money to give raises to your executives and lay off the working stiffs, then you are not one of us, you are one of them.
While you all are busting your ass tonight on your third fire alarm activation, or taking Granny to the hospital, consider that there are those, those who are laughing at you right now, thinking that they'll be fine because we are too dumb to do anything about it, while advocating cutting our benefits, laying off brothers, closing up fire stations, or defunding necessary equipment and programs. But hey, let's not raise the spectre of changing things because that wouldn't be "patriotic".
I'm not asking you to support the Occupy movement or to come down on it. I'm asking you to think and digest what is going on in our world right now and come to a belief not on what you are being told to think, but on what you value and you observe to be the truth. Then, considering that others can disagree with you and not bully you into their own ideas, agree that what we really do need is insightful, considerate action toward bringing our nation together, and taking care of our neighbors, before we end up in a new civil war.
We have people who are in power who act irresponsibly and say things that are blatantly inflammatory and throw out as a defense of their ignorance that they were divinely inspired to run for office. And if, God forbid, we speak out, assemble, or otherwise oppose their beliefs, we are "anarchists", "socialists", "un-American" and "unpatriotic". And if we were to speak out, like our forefathers once did, we should be run off of public property for holding rallies to say the things we see as important.
I'm aware this is a very long post, but I have been chewing on it for quite a while. The reality is that many are willing to lay down and take a beating from those who don't give a flying f**k about whether you have a job, a home, or your next meal because they are sheep, not leaders. If you are willing to deny the right to speak and assemble to those who seek justice, then you are sheep, not leaders. If you can sit there with a straight face and suggest that "we the people" are being appropriately represented, that we have "leaders" who are serving OUR interests and not the interests of corporations and the elite, and suggest that we have been supporting our most vulnerable populations: the elderly, the young, the disabled, and even more, our veterans, then there is nothing I can say to change your mind.
When did our nation become a gathering of those who tolerated bullies? Our whole existence has been predicated upon fairness and justice, compassion for the downtrodden, for the underdogs, for the needy, for the victims and the persecuted. But I guess these days if "you've got yours", then it's okay to say, "screw everyone else." If that isn't being a bully, I don't know what is.
Don't criticize what you don't understand. And even then, if you find yourself to be in a position of understanding, realize that it's still just your perception. A little openmindedness and willingness to see from someone else's point of view would go a long way.