Monday, January 23, 2017

American Rifleman, and Personal vs. Professional

Boo-yah! The February edition of the American Rifleman came today, and I CAN READ IT! The last day of my 21 day firearms-reading fast was yesterday.
I don't feel the need to go on a binge, though. The purpose of the fast was to give me some spare resources that I could use to draw closer to God. And, I think that worked. At least so far. This blog, and book reviews, are my way of reaching out, and helping people. And, since I stopped spending those hours mentally fondling the best self-defense ammo, or examining the workings of the latest (or oldest) firearm technology, I've been devoting my time to writing.
Now, I started to say that I don't know whether or not the process has made me more spiritual. But as it happens, I just had a conversation with Mylon, one of my oldest friends, and I realized that the most spiritual things have their manifestation in the physical world. We talked about the Tommy Nobis Center,  established by one of the most dominant linebackers in the game of football, which provides job training for youth and adults with developmental issues. And we talked about the House of Cherith at the City of Refuge in Atlanta, which provides a long term support program for women escaping from sex trafficking.
Those are big things. My writing is invisible by comparison. However, they are all physical manifestations of an inward desire.

Ah. Inward desire. Yeah, that's also the problem. You see, I realized over the past couple of days that I have an inward desire to destroy. It's based on the chain of events that started when my first born son volunteered to serve his country by joining the Georgia Army National Guard.
Actually, the chain started long before that. It probably started around 1917, when my grandfather volunteered for the Army and went to France in World War I. More links were forged by the service of my uncles, cousins, and father who served in World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam, plus the non-combat service of his father.
He wasn't expecting it, and neither was his wife, but shortly after they realized they were going to become parents, his unit was designated to go to Afghanistan. He spent the better part of a year getting retrained. His was a Field Artillery unit, but what they needed was someone who could guard an airbase. So, they were re-purposed as infantry, and instead of staying back a comfortable 16 miles and booming a M109 howitzer at the bad guys, he was busting down doors and dodging IEDs. And one day, after weeks of constant rocket attacks, he was blasted into a concrete wall by an incoming shell. When he came to, he didn't think he was hurt badly; his knee bothered him. But he refused medevac until the day he found out he couldn't fall back with the rest of his squad when they thought they were about to come under fire by a company-strength force. I talk more about it here. 

My son carries his own internal scarring, in addition to the scars you can see. But his is not colored with the bitterness that I feel. Here's what he said at the time, responding to something Mad Mike had written in "Tour of Duty":
I call them "those guys"; after working with the locals you get to know them and it just doesn't seem right to call them all Hajjis, RIFs, or any of the other delightfully euphemistic nicknames . And I've never been insensitive enough to call them ragheads or Arabs either. Funny how even in the middle of a fight one cleaves to the honor of refusing to be/sound racially biased. "The Dean" prevails. 
Me? Nope. I'm not there. Frankly, the way I'm feeling right now, I would not shed another drop of American blood in an attempt to resolve that millenials-old mess they have over there. And I didn't know how badly I felt about it, until I read an excellent book called "The Midnight Sea."

I hated the book. It's well written. It has a good plot. The characters are real. And I hated them, and I will NOT be reading any more of the series. Why? Because it takes place in an alternate reality, 2500 years ago, in the same area of the globe where my son bled. And my anger and grief prevented me from feeling sympathy for the characters who undergo horrible torture, including the heroine having her hand amputated. Instead, I found myself thinking: "they were a pack of vicious monsters then, and they are a pack of vicious monsters now." And I purposely did not refer to them as animals, because animals do not engage in the systematic torture and slaughter that wicked people do.

So: I attempted. I attempted to set aside my bitterness and grief, and evaluate the book on it's own merits. I think I succeeded, at least in pointing out that those merits exist. I admitted my own bias. And I hope that my experience does not cause the author any loss of sales.

So, why did I review the book at all, if I felt that way? 1. Because I was asked to do so. 2. Because this WAS so intensely personal, and powerful. that I needed to say it. Perhaps, just perhaps by admitting to my virulent distaste for a people I have never met, I will be able to receive healing of my wounds. I do not expect to receive the grace given to my son; his burden is different, and he is meeting the challenges of life with a traumatic brain injury and a permanent limp with strength that amazes me. But I need to be healed.

And so I wrote the review.

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