Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sun and Sand

Nope... I'm not going to the beach. Vegas? Wrong again. Believe it or not, I'm not announcing an appointment to play in a sandbox. Well, actually, maybe I am... in a way. As many of you already know (via myspace, facebook and twitter) I'm scheduled to deploy again in roughly a month - sorry but I can't give you an exact date. I've received many wishes for a safe trip and safe return already which is awesome. Thank you everyone.

In the meantime, let me fill everyone in on the things that I can. If you see updates via my Twitterfeed about ECST, it stands for Expeditionary Combat Skills Training. This is a week long pre-deployment class done here at Shaw Air Force Base. It should be great fun. I spend a day at the M-16 firing range, a day going through CBRNE training (CBRNE: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives), a day of weapons skills training (i.e. physical combat with the use of weapons), Self Aid and Buddy Care and Basic Life Support. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? The prep is more like war, than my deployment itself.

I'm heading out for 60 days for a very specific reason. There's a new building going up at a base "out there" that houses millions and millions of dollars of computer equipment. This building provides, what we call, situational awareness and looks a lot like something out of a movie. Giant screens showing the good guys and bad guys and where they're going, planes, boats, etc. It's basically where the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (OIF and OEF) are run from.

I went over once back in early Sept of 2006 and got back at the end of January 2007. From the day I got back in the US I've been asking when I Can deploy again. Finally this project came up and I got asked if I still wanted to go. I said "Absolutely, what do you need me to do? I'm sure there are floors that need sweeping. Sign me up. Whatever it may be."

I'm sure people want to know WHY I want to go so badly. Ok, I'll tell ya. That's where the magic happens. That's why we exist as a military. All those bad guys that want to undo our way of life here, are already over there and we go to get them before they get us. When any one of you wake up in the morning and make decisions about your life every day, it's because of what military people do. There are a couple of sayings I love - the first is "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier." and the other is "Only 2 people have ever offered to die for you, one for your sins and the other for your freedom." Make no mistake, I have NO intention of dying, but I have even less intention of letting any American die here in our own country. I'm not going on marches; I'm not pulling the trigger, but we all have our parts to play. I do mine and I do it well.

I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes and prayers and crossed fingers, I really do. Just know that I'm not going "outside the wire" where it's dangerous. No mortars, no gun shots. Just lots of computer rooms. It's good money also. Most importantly it's a chance to leave South Carolina and do what I'm trained to do for the most important reasons possible.

It's only 60 days. By the time I get there, in-process, and adjust my body to the time change, I'll be halfway through and back before you know it. Internet connectivity is an uncertainty for now but I'll keep you all abreast of developments.

Thanks again for all the concern.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama avatar

So aside from ranting and raving on here I also host a photography community/forum. And further from that... I'm a staff member on a forum for forum administrators. Someone recently posted a poll about an image (included in this post) and whether it should be censored/removed or not. After 4 pages of ranting and raving and me telling everyone to behave, someone asked my opinions on the image. The rest of this post is my response...

Well I was asked a question and it's not like me to not respond. I was waiting until I had the time to dedicate toward an answer.

I'm not offended by the image. I don't think all individuals of that area of the world want people to submit to them. I think there are extremists in every race, culture, and religion. The dregs of society are spread across color, ethnicity, creed, etc. I don't typecast people. I know white people who are brilliant and others who are a drain and can't be trusted. I know black people who are mentors to me in my career and others who I wouldn't have in my home. Once, a good friend was an Iraqi national who was against Saddam (before his ousting) and part of a nation anti-saddam movement in this country working with our government to find him. I don't like individuals as individuals, not as a category they are pigeonholed into.

I said that to say this. Despite my ongoing attempts at impartiality as a leader in my job, an American, an admin, and a human; I understand that many people don't feel the way I do. I also see that the image that started all this is not racist, in my opinion, but it is in others'. For me to define that image would be to say it's "racially charged." It's not a portrait of the man. It's meant to make a point. It's meant to cause a stir.

The arabic style writing and the turban are there to evoke emotion from the viewer. The turban and font are plays on the facets that the republican party ran rampant during the campaign. Obama said "my muslim faith" and he was touted as being a muslim. His middle name is Hussein which was likened to Saddam. Obama/Osama - one letter apart was all over the media. These are subtexts of the photo left open to interpretation of the viewer. The actual text is "Change - You will submit to Obama." The inferred meaning is that you will do it because he's arabic.

Does that make the image racist be definition? No. Does it make it racially profiled? Yes. Does it mean that you will have a divide within your community over the inferred meaning? I believe so.

The end result is that it is, in fact, inferred meaning. It's composed in a way to let people apply their own values and come up with their own meaning. Because it's not spelled out as to what the author/designer meant, people have to decide for themselves. These are beliefs that you can't change.

Is an avatar worth a political split on your forum? Is freedom of speech (on a PRIVATE forum) worth an uprising among members?

Satire has been used and I agree that's what it is, but satirical items can be based on lots of parts of life. Nazi Germany has had satirical political cartoons done for many years. Nobody wakes up and raises their hands. Why? WWII was over 60 years ago - SIXTY! It's not a threat.

Muslim extremists are a current threat. Not muslims, but muslim extremists. During the crusades, Christian extremists were the threat. The word fanatic has the word fan in it. Someone who is a fan to an unhealthy level that they become a fanatic.

Take a heated political/presidential campaign, the first black man running for that office, add in the current hot button issue of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a general fear (albeit misguided) of arabs and muslims in America and put it all into a cartoon right now, not 50 years from now and you end up with a recipe for angry, emotionally charged debates. It's playing to the emotions of all sides. Republicans get pissed because they say "see? we were right about him." Democrats get pissed because they say "He is NOT a muslim." Christians get pissed because they say "We shouldn't have a turban wearing president that looks like and has a name like those trying to kill us." and Muslims get pissed because they say "We don't ALL believe you have to submit to us."

It's not racist but it IS offensive, in some way, to basically everyone. I'm not offended by it because I know it's meant to offend me and I won't allow myself to lose sleep over a political cartoonists satire and fall victim to his game. But I still wouldn't allow it on my forum. My forum is about photography and I wouldn't let the spirit and intent of my forum get disrupted over an avatar. It's not worth it to me.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Half Truths or Half Told Truths

I can't decide if there is a difference in concept or in felt impact between the two. I recently got an email on another site asking me to join the fray and help stop the clubbing of baby seals in Canada before the 2010 Olympics. The logo showed the Olympic rings so, naturally, my first thought was that it was going to be a new sport. You can imagine my disappointment as I read on.

As it turns out, this crusade is led by PETA, which I recently learned does NOT stand for People Eating Tasty Animals. Dismayed once again.

My spidey sense should have warned me that this was going to inflame my intolerance for left wing, tree hugging, hippy, commie, pinko bastards. (simply stated - Democrats).

Here's the deal, PETA wants to stop the clubbing of baby seals before the 2010 Olympics arrive because it'll put Canada in the spotlight, etc. I have some thoughts on this.
1) Does anyone think the Molson guzzlers care what PETA has to say on the topic?
2) While I think that Canadians can put their time to more productive use by studying proper vowel usage, skinning baby seals is what they do. It's not dissimilar to seeing the Italian greaseball right off the Tortellini boat like me with Tomato gravy dripping down my chin. It's really not much of a surprise.
3) I find it hard to believe that a group of flannel wearing Canadians sat around and one said "How can we get more press here, since the Olympics aren't really noteworthy?" and got a reply "EUREKA! Let's club baby seals!" This has been going on for a long, long time.
4) Now, PETA likes to talk about the cruelty to animals part but nowhere do they mention any of the reasons why it may be necessary to let this activity continue. For instance, is there an overpopulation of seals? This is done seasonally and once a year so it could be a way of population control.
5) With every industry seemingly failing in more than just a few countries is now a good time to put people out of work to save animals?
6) Not much more to say than - evolution and/or food chain.

Believe me, I don't wish harm on animals and quite often there are more people I'd like to see clubbed than animals in the first place. Unfortunately, you can't make a coat out of all of my ex-girlfriends so they're left free to roam causing more harm than the seals on any given day. However, why must every group with a cause get in the way of everyone else with a cause. You don't see the seal clubbing industry firing back at PETA. I think people in a mission like this need to shut their mouths and let others do what they do. Is it illegal? If so, notify the authorities. If not, go away. Just because you don't like it, I don't think you have the right to shout from the mountain tops and invade my personal space. In America, we have many freedoms but you freedom stops when it impinges on mine.

If nothing else, understand that Canada is a frozen tundra with nothing to do and it's inhabitants need a hobby. Besides, what has a seal done for you lately?