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There was a message I got that I never did get around to responding to and I figure it’s about time I straighten out a few things. The only thing you really have to know that might help you understand this better is that the area I identify as home is a fairly conservative area – though I by no means spent my entire life growing up there. I also spent some time in what I get the impression was a shady area around L.A. and a good two year stint in the Middle East. I was by no means sheltered; I had plenty of exposure to different cultures and religions. Far more than what I’d imagine the average American experiences in a lifetime. All by the time I was ten.

Growing up I didn’t have much interest in politics. I did read the newspaper, but I usually skipped anything about politics because it seemed boring. Every once in a while something that had some connection to politics would catch my eye and I’d read it but by and large I didn’t really care. And I believed just about anything that was written in the paper – which explains why for the longest time I thought Rush Limbaugh was just a giant asshole picking on Howard Stern (yes, I really did think that based solely on an article I read). At one point I remember thinking it was possible to make the Palestinians and Israelis like each other if we could just get them to dialogue. Or if somebody would just passionately speak to them about the wonders of unity. (I was young and naive, don’t judge me!).

In high school I had a little bit of an identity crisis. I’d always been taught to be proud of who I am and to love my country. But all that newspaper reading – even though it was mostly non-political – had drained a lot of that out. I was far more interested in European cultures than my own. They seemed more refined, more worldly. To me, they seemed to “get it.” Where the USA had no history or culture in my young mind, Europe had gobs of it. They had hundreds of years of history, castles that had lasted centuries, and great, exotic foods, whereas the USA has a couple of hundred years of history marred by thousands of dead natives, slavery, and a rather embarrassing lack of sophistication. This is what I started to think based solely on what I had read in the paper. I was certainly not a conservative and my parents, God love ’em, didn’t try to change my mind or bury me in evidence I was wrong. My dad in particular listened to my concerns and tried to answer my questions, but he never pushed a political agenda. Even into my senior year in high school I was convinced that Europe was somehow better – and even expressed that to my friend (who is European).

Despite all that I’ve always had a thing for the military. I’ve always liked the idea of carrying on a tradition, so even though what I really wanted to do was to go directly to college, it didn’t bother me at all when I realized I didn’t have the grades to get scholarships to pay, so the military would be the only way I was going to get a reliable job and make money for college. But even then my opinions about a lot of things never shifted. America was still the embarrassing little sibling with snot running down its nose and dirty clothes carrying around naive ideas about life and culture. So you can imagine how overjoyed I was to find I was getting stationed in Germany. When I found out where I was going I felt like I was finally going to get the culture I had been craving.

To an extent, that was true; I loved my time in Germany and I wouldn’t take a minute of it back. I made great friends, traveled to some pretty cool places, and ate some delicious foods. But by the time I was out and on my way back to the good ole’ USA I had realized something: Europe is not all it’s cracked up to be. I think a big eye-opener was what happened after 9/11, when flowers were laid outside the base gate and “everyone was an American” only to be replaced just a couple months later with protesters dead set against our current policies. I dealt with troops who had run-ins with locals who attacked them when they found out they were American and I remember being told to be extra careful when out in the city at night because as military we were walking targets to any goons who wanted to mess with the Americans. Being military AND American was like a double whammy. When I went to a soccer game with some friends and we decided to hit a popular bar area afterwards, we had a bit of a friendly rivalry going on with some other guys who happened to have been rooting for the other team. Until they realized we were Americans (and very obviously military – you can’t disguise a military guy’s haircut), at which point friendly soccer banter turned to some pretty insensitive political hounding.

I know some people will say that’s just my personal experience in one area, what do I know? Let me contrast that with the time I spent in Japan. Not only were the Japanese thrilled that I was American, they were genuinely impressed with and incredibly interested in the fact that I was in the military. When I was out shopping with a friend we found some Navy BDU pants with the name still sewn on above the back pocket and I thought it was amusing. My friend told the shopkeeper that I was in the US military and he thought that was just the coolest thing ever. When I went to an elementary school as part of a class activity and a little girl came up to read my name tag (which also had my nationality on it) she was super excited to find out I was an American and expressed it by running back to her friends shouting “America-jin! America-jin desu!” (“American! She’s American!”)

At this point you’re probably wondering what my point is. Well, it’s this: in the time I spent overseas I learned a few lessons that were really hard to swallow at first, but over time have stopped being the bitter pills they initially started out as. I saw firsthand what it was like to live in a country where nobody had any pride in who they were, much less where they came from. I saw what it was really like to live in a country that is desperate to bury its past indiscretions instead of really owning up to them, admitting they happened, and then moving on. It was depressing, if you ask me. Nobody in Germany was proud to be German. All their amazing history, warts and all, and the only time any national pride would kick in was when a soccer game was going on. That was a real shock to me, because even though by the time I moved to Europe I had a pretty low opinion of a lot of the stuff my country had done, I was proud to be an American. Even though I thought we were uncouth hicks with a bit of a chip on our shoulder I realized we’d done some pretty darn amazing things and I’ve always been proud of the fact that we can own up to the mistakes we’ve made in the past.

Think about it: when was the last time you heard anybody talking about the European slave trade? The American slaves didn’t get here by chance, they were brought over by Europeans, who bought them from warring tribes in Africa. But if you mention slavery the US is the only one anybody ever talks about. And if you’ll notice, we’ve never tried to justify it or made fake mea culpas. We’ve acknowledged it and we’ve attempted to move on. The only reason it’s still an issue today is because certain entities need a victim class or they’ll lose their funding.

Another thing to ponder: how many “empires” have you ever known to give land back? Our military, stationed around the world, will pick up at the drop of a hat and move if our government is told the local people don’t want us there. We have graveyards in Europe. That is the only permanent land we’ve kept outside of the 50 states. Even our protectorates periodically vote as to whether or not they want to become states themselves or completely sovereign. And if they did want to leave we’d let them, because that’s how we roll.

I learned a lot about the US just from living outside of it. I’ve learned that vastly different cultures look at the world in a completely different way than we do from living in those cultures. And since 9/11 I’ve learned a lot about foreign policy because it directly affected my job at the time. None of my opinions on foreign matters from high school survived slamming into the real world. Not one. Domestic matters took a little longer, but given my experience with somebody I know who is currently wasting my tax dollars – and has been for a long time – my pie-in-the-sky opinions about “evil” rich people and “oppressed” poor people haven’t survived the Real Life Cluebat©, either.

To sum it all up, the opinions and positions I now hold are based on a lifetime of experience, not some “hard-coding” in my brain’s wiring because I spent a good deal of my life growing up in a conservative area. I know that will upset some people. I know that some people like to see me as being unable to change because it makes them feel better about the time they’ve spent talking to me; if it’s me that has the problem – if I’m the one who can’t change – then they don’t have to rethink any of their opinions or positions. Ultimately, I’m fine with that. I know who I am, I know what I stand for, and I know none of that came to me as easily as they’d like to think it was. I had to make a lot of mistakes and be willing to change A LOT of preconceived notions I had. Even now I’m still evolving in my opinions. Some might be set in stone, but that doesn’t mean the stone can’t be cracked. Heck, where I used to be a pretty hardcore conservative (following my bout with liberalism in high school) I’m now pretty hardcore libertarian politically.

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Grrrrrrrr!

I have apparently somehow deleted the file that had three of my post ideas in it. Figures. I don’t even know how it happened!

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New stuff is coming

I haven’t posted in a few days but I would just like everybody to know that yes, new stuff is coming. I’m currently working on four(!) very different blog posts. Why that many, you may ask. Well, the short answer is because I saw something that made me think of each topic and felt I had something to say about them all. And since I have a tendency to forget things I’d really like to remember, I figured it would be best if I at least write the ideas down and start thinking about them. Needless to say, my brain is a bit full right now.

In the meantime, enjoy my “Hitler has to take the DLPT V” inspired by my 1 1/2 year stint at DLI:

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I’ve spent some time since last night in the midst of a political debate that hasn’t exactly been the most civil that really started to bore me somewhere around the middle. To be honest I start to get bored with a debate when it’s clear nothing I’ve said is even remotely being taking into anything that can be described as consideration by the person I’m debating. Which is usually evidenced by a rehashing of every single point they’ve already made that I’ve already gone over. I don’t mind spending the time to research old articles – which can often take hours – but why would I want to waste my time doing so for somebody who has already made up their mind so thoroughly? I guess my take on it is that the information is out there and if they really want to find it, they will.

I’ve said before that I’ll admit when I’m wrong – albeit grudgingly. I’m stubborn, what can I say? But I’d rather actually be able to admit – no matter how difficult it may be – that I’m wrong than be the type to stick my fingers in my ears and scream bloody murder until the other person either gets sick of it or ends up with sore fingers/raw throat from trying to continue on with the debate. The only problem is that in order for that to happen, I need facts. I need numbers. I need the person debating me to not be condescending, not insult my intelligence, and not assume that just because I may hold beliefs that they don’t it doesn’t mean that whatever I say is automatically suspect. That last one is especially galling because it’s an incredibly unfair stick by which to measure anybody.

For instance, if I want to know about physics, any kind of physics, I’m going to look up Einstein, Hawking, or any number of brilliant physicists. However, when it comes to philosophy and religion, I’m going to turn to other people. People who have studied philosophy. I’m not going to judge Einstein’s intelligence based on any of his philosophies, some of which I know I disagree with. The man was brilliant with numbers and theory. I can call him all the names I want based solely on his philosophical leanings, but that doesn’t in any way tarnish his incredible and overall history-changing contributions to the many fields of physics. What it does do is make me look like a petty jerk who can’t get over my own dislike for just a part of who the man was, as opposed to pleasantly disagreeing with it while respecting everything he has done for modern science. People are the product of multiple inputs; you can’t assume they know nothing about one subject based solely on the fact that they may not know – or have very limited knowledge – about another subject. I, for instance, don’t know jack about trains and don’t particularly care to remedy that ignorance, but do I know much more than the average person about firearms. I would hope that my overall apathy toward anything having to do with trains wouldn’t somehow inform your perception of my knowledge of firearms.

Which of course feeds into one simple fact: everybody has a bias and they judge people by that bias. Even people who tell you they don’t care one way or the other do. If you break the big issues down into the smaller ones and ask them whether they agree or disagree, nine times out of ten they’ve got an opinion, they just don’t like talking about the big picture. It’s either overwhelming or they feel they have better things to do with their time. And that’s ok. I think if there weren’t any people who were apolitical we’d probably all have killed each other by now. Especially in today’s political climate.

I’m fully willing to admit I have a very strong bias against the left in general, to include Obama. Unfortunately, much of it is the result of name-calling and ad hominem attacks on me that have left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth toward people on the left. I’m a fairly intelligent person, so it does irk me to some degree to be treated like an idiot simply because the logical conclusions I’ve come to based on years of reading and observation are different than that of another person. I’ve found that over time it has made me far more likely to want to jump down somebody’s throat than listen to them and that has been an extremely difficult urge to temper.

Much of that tempering was done in the past (and will be done in the future) by blogging. Where some people use physical activities to expel anger, frustration, or a flood of adrenalin, I use writing. By focusing on the logical flow of ideas that is needed in order to write a coherent post or story, I’ve found that I can use that excess energy, whether positive or negative, to hone what would normally be only a so-so piece of drivel you could find anywhere into razor-sharp, biting prose that is distinctly mine. Not all of it is perfect, true, but it is absolutely amazing to take something I’ve written while in a calm state of mind and look at it when I’m in a more ramped-up emotional state and see precisely where I can make changes that will add that extra bit of oomph that will keep somebody’s attention. When I stopped blogging, I lost my outlet and began internalizing everything, which ultimately has left me to deal with a flood of angry, frustrated, adrenalin-fueled energy I do not control very well. The kicker? At the time I was blogging I didn’t realize just how much being able to blow off steam through the intense focus it took to produce something I was happy with contributed to my own sanity. Now I do and I think it will do wonders in reigning me back into a more civil – and even coherent – tone when I’m debating or even just discussing any of a number of topics with other people.

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… I was a braindead little teenager that was absolutely convinced that the big bad world would only get better if those evil rich people would just give all their money away to people more deserving – or at least more likeable. Because rich people, by virtue of the fact they have a lot of money they are obviously hoarding, are unlikeable douchebags who would be perfectly happy if us little people disappeared and they didn’t have to deal with the riff-raff.

Then I grew up and it occurred to me: Just as I work for what I get, and groan when my paycheck is turned into a shadow of its former self by the various taxes that are involuntarily withdrawn from it, people who have spent their lives sacrificing and working for more must really feel the pain watching the results of that effort be plundered by an entity that constantly demonizes them, but can’t survive without them. I don’t know about you, but I’m less than pleased to watch money I’ve earned be taken by the government only to have them waste it on programs that don’t work, have no hope in hell of ever working, and keep us all in indentured servitude to them. I can only imagine what it must be like to earn enough to be stuck in the top tax bracket and watch it happen.

Thus began my transition from braindead progressive teen to brain-using libertarian adult. I’m grudgingly willing to admit when I’m wrong, but that means you’ve got to be on the top of your game and convince me with facts, not feelings.

Now that I’ve put that out there, you know what you’re getting into should you decide to read my blog. And it IS my blog. With that in mind, I’ll let you know that I reserve the right to delete comments I find inappropriate or ban you if you insist on leaving such comments. That said, I plan on keeping a rather loose comment policy. Just don’t test me.

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Redecorating! Pt. 2

As you may have noticed, I’ve put a new banner up. Yay or nay?

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Redecorating!

I’m currently in the process of designing and making a new header for my blog. The downside of having a WordPress blog is that there are only about 77 blog designs to choose from (trust me, it’s not enough) and just about every single one that I do like has one fatal flaw. I really wish WordPress had a little more diversity or would at allow us to use our own designs. I would have to brush up on html, of course, but it didn’t take me long to learn in the first place.

Anyway, at the moment I’m most concerned about the header, which is an important part of any blog. But I am, unfortunately, stuck. I have no idea how to approach it. Thoughts?

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