“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” – Albert Einstein
I have always admired Einstein and have quoted him so many times over the years. I have mulled over this quote for the last seven months trying to make sense of it. Hard to do as I agree and disagree, in the same breath. Last week, on a sports blog, a young man (who I have never met), referred to me as a ‘mess’. I mulled that one over for awhile and have come to the conclusion that he was quite right.
In my sixty-seven years on this planet I have seen some things many folks cannot imagine. My life has been, as the young fellow said, “a mess.” I have experienced euphoria, and joy, and love, in extremis. On the other hand my life has contained horrors that, thankfully, most folks are spared. Very little has occurred in the middle. I have seldom, if ever, experienced boredom.
In my opinion, the reason we as a society have a lot of the problems we experience is that men like me have done their jobs too well. We have created an environment where many things are taken for granted. For example, half-naked young women, drunk with spirits and their inflated sense of worth, feel comfortable in public at midnight, so sure that nothing untoward will befall them.
Yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving, I visited the VA hospital in Portland to seek treatment for a condition which may become life threatening if not taken care of soon. I could go on and describe this to my readers in detail, but the purpose of this information is not to illustrate the fact that the VA is so overwhelmed that they do not have the personnel to provide timely care to those who have earned it. No my friends the aforementioned factlet is merely a set up for “the rest of the story.”
As many of you may know the VA, as a federal entity, prohibits the possession of weapons on their campus. Again, this fact is not a discussion of the constitution or the abrogation of my natural human right to self defense, it is merely revealed to pull the reader to the next portion of this description of events.
I left the VA Hospital and decided to cruise my motorcycle about the town and possibly visit with a friend or two prior to heading back to our homestead. As I eased my motor through mid-day Portland traffic my antenna peaked as I became aware of a violent fracas which was unfolding on a side street. As I passed by I noticed a large young man (6-4 about 230-240 lbs.) out of his car and threatening a small Asian woman, who remained in her late model, black, BMW.
I guarantee you if a police officer was in my place he would have approached the scene unsnapped, if not in hand. As I made the turn I reminded myself that I was unarmed and this was really none of my business. Didn’t do any good! I was wired at the factory as a protector, and not helping would have caused me more grief than any beating that would have been administered by a large young man who was, obviously, more of a ‘mess’ than I .
Something about the approach of a nine hundred pound Harley mounted by a rider in black armored leather and a full face helmet gave the man pause. He decided to get back in his car, still screaming, and leave the scene.
As I debriefed and reflected on the situation, I realized that the young woman probably would not have said good morning to me had I held the door for her. She said nothing as she left the scene and did not return my wave as she passed me as we both headed to our original destinations. None of that matters. I did my duty and was true to the code that I live by.
As an old man who has seen his time come and go all I can do is live according to the hard lessons I have been taught, be thankful for the many blessings in my life, and honor the fine men, living and dead, who have honored me with their friendship and respect. Semper Fidelis my brothers-you know who you are.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!