Just got a new blood pressure monitor. But this post is not about my blood pressure.
The old monitor gave out after several years: nothing but error messages. Amazon was ready with a new one, delivered the next day. Dropped from a drone? I was running errands when it landed, so can’t be sure.
The new one’s highly rated, and from the same company as the old one.
Out of the box yesterday morning. First step, put in the batteries.
Flipped it over, popped the cover open. Then I noticed this label, just below it:
Nothing remarkable. Except for this statement In tiny letters in the lower right corner:
That set me off. Not a flashback, exactly, but off on a (not uncommon) ADHD tangent:
I was born during a big war, World War Two. I have no real-time memories of it, but my childhood through the 1950s, in a military family, was saturated with its imagery: pictures, comics, books, movies, and then TV shows.
My father had flown bombers over Europe, barely escaped death many times, won medals, but didn’t talk about it. Still, the war, my “birth war,” was always there: fascinating, glorified, ubiquitous, and somber in ways I was too young to begin to grasp.
But it sank in. I expected, in high school, to follow my father into the Air Force.
Then, the Sixties brought Vietnam. And life, in the form of the civil rights movement and exposure to active nonviolence, took me away from the military, to the anti-war side, and among Quakers.
But that’s another story.
I didn’t start hating the military. But I soon began to learn, even from a “safe” distance, about the human costs of war.
The Vietnam lessons went on for about ten years, and yes, they were traumatic for me personally, even 8000 miles from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.
I’m not comparing myself to the millions of Vietnam veterans who never recovered from their firsthand war. But it undeniably had vast impact inside the U.S. Too, impact which continues, though I can’t even begin to fathom or chart the ways here.
The impact was general. It was also, I see clearly now, very personal.
One personal impact was on my spiritual life: I learned that the biblical adage about how we reap what we sow wasn’t just an old saying: it was a Truth.
That learning didn’t make me a “Bible believer.” It did make me a “Take-a-Second-Look-Maybe-There’s-Something-Useful-Here-After-All” Bible reader.
In that second look I uncovered another truth, in Psalm 146: “Put not your trust in princes”(or, in a modern rendering, presidents who promise not to get into a big Vietnam War during a campaign, only to do exactly that three months after winning the election.)
This piece of Truth I’ve had to re-learn several times since; and now that it’s already 2016 everywhere but the calendar, here comes another marathon refresher course.
If World War Two was my father’s war and the frame of my childhood, Vietnam was my coming of age war. And besides being haunted by the living testimonies of veterans and others at home, there are several numbers from it that also continue to haunt:
1-million plus, the estimated total Vietnamese, mostly civilians, killed in it. Two, or thee million more in a sideshow war launched on Cambodia, which loosed a genocide as “collateral damage.” And the unnumbered children and grandchildren of Vietnam disfigured by ongoing pieces of our war such as Agent Orange.
(There are many photos of some of them on the net, casualties of our war who were not even born til a generation after it supposedly “ended”; but don’t look at them if you are weak of heart or stomach.)
Thinking of that war, I often ponder some of what happened next: we were repeatedly told by our “Princes” of the day that we had to win it, because otherwise “Godless Communists” would take over, and impose an economic/political system that wouldn’t, couldn’t work.
The Hawks and wise Persons were right about that much: we lost the war, and after defeating the U.S., the Communists did impose their system; and behold, that system, especially the economic part, didn’t work.
So after running the Vietnamese economy into the ground, the rulers changed course and became, like the Chinese, a variety of authoritarian/corrupt crony capitalists. (Turns out they weren’t so “godless” after all; they shared the worship of Mammon with many of us.)
Now their economy works much “better.” Even the U.S. Government agrees, and we are now “friends” with Vietnam; many of our corporations are doing big business there. Like Amazon, for instance. Starbucks and KFC too. And yes, McDonalds. (Turns out the franchise is –surprise, surprise — owned by the son of a high government official; he also has degrees from elite U.S. universities. “Would you like fries and an Ivy-League PhD with that, sir?”)
But all this does not get to the bottom of my pondering. I keep asking, mostly silently but sometimes aloud: couldn’t we have figured out a way to just back off and leave Vietnam alone? Let the Communists, if they won their internal war, try out their dingbat system, let it fail, and then skip ahead to the post-Communist part?
The part where they make inexpensive blood pressure monitors?
If we had, several million deaths there could have been spared. Many hundreds of thousands of American lives would have been spared too. Not to mention all the hundreds of billions of debt that financed this bloody foolishness, left for us and our grandchildren to pay, in declining schools, failing bridges, roads, etc., etc.
But of course, we didn’t back off. And since my coming of age war, there have been numerous other U.S. wars, the ones of my middle age and senescence, which are ongoing. It’s likely some will still be underway when I meet my maker, even tho I’m hoping to live a good many more years.
So for almost half a century, promoting & working for “peace” has been an active goal for me. But as an American in my time, it is war, big and “small,” overt and secret, that has enveloped and shaped my life. I didn’t want it that way. They say the Vietnam War ended 40 years ago this week. But I haven’t been able to escape it, or its spawn. Ignore it briefly, now and then; escape it, no.
All this tumbled through my mind as I slid the batteries into my new monitor, and got ready for its initial reading.
“Made in Vietnam.”
Maybe this post is about my blood pressure after all.
There’s a grimly fascinating update from “Rightwing Watch” (RW) detailing how the harder core of the religious right is throwing down the gauntlet to the U.S. Supreme Court, to wit: Legalize same sex marriage nationwide, and you’ll face an armed insurrection. A new Civil War. A Boom-Boom-Bonhoeffer Moment. Your Honors, You Have Been Warned.” (RW is an ongoing project of People for the American Way.)
The Arkansas legislature has passed a religious-based antigay law, HB 1228, that is a near-clone of the controversial Indiana law. It now goes to the governor.
But Attention Wal-Mart shoppers!
Let me repeat that, after picking my jaw up off the floor:
<< “Every day in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers an communities we serve,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. “It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual. Today’s passage of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.” >>
[NOTE: as far as I can tell, this story is NOT an “April Fool.”]
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has previously said he would sign the bill. Will Wal-Mart’s opposition change his mind?
I admit that the tourist spectacle of Las Vegas, the very shamelessness of its gilt-edged tawdriness, stirs a certain repulsive fascination for me.
But that aside, my sense of the city is that it combines a manifestation of the Beast of the Apocalypse with a showcase for the Seven Deadly Sins.
The photo below shows Lust, but even greater is greed (primarily on the part of the hordes clustered around the gambling, including me mthe other night for $2 worth)
Then there are legendary buffets that cater to gluttony (I went for a very Chocolate French pastry by the Eiffel Tower.)
Pride, in the form of hubris, pervades everything. It shows above all in the confidence this endlessly lavish, spectacle of pointless, metastasizing consumption can be plopped down & maintained in the middle of a desert.
This hotel has it right: it’s a mirage. And the Mexican section of “The World’s Largest Gift Shop” jauntily shoves at customers the underlying reality of it all: memento mori! Eat drink & be merry, suckers, because tomorrow. . .
. . . Oh, but there is no tomorrow in Vegas.
Only one of the Seven Deadlies eluded my prying gaze here: sloth, acedia. Every where I turned, people were working hard, from the pimps on the corners, to scurrying hotel clerks, the dealers at the craps tables,–even most of the revelers crowding the Saturday night street appeared diligent to the point of obsession in their-pleasure seeking; I certainly was.
But what about the culminating deadly sin of Anger/Wrath? Seemingly it doesn’t fit the city’s painstakingly maintained image of naughty fun.
But fear not: it’s right offstage, just up U.S. 95 at what is reputed to be the biggest U.S. Killer drone facility, Creech Air Force Base. (There was a round of little-noted anti-drone protests there early this month, and a “Sacred Peace Walk” from Vegas to Creech is underway this week.)
I wasn’t having a good night. And I hadn’t had a good day. Needleman in the Washington office had called just after lunch. He said they wanted me there, right away. I had to help the boss get ready for a big hearing before the Defense Systems Commission tomorrow. I told him I’d promised to take the kids to a ballgame.
Needleman wasn’t impressed. “They play ballgames in Pittsburgh every night, Nelson,” he said. “We get a chance at a hundred million dollar contract once every ten years, if we’re lucky. This hearing could win it for us. The boss needs your data, and he needs you here to explain it to him. Tonight.”
Okay Folks, This is Your OFFICIAL NOTICE: I Am Now Truly FREAKED OUT by the reach of BIG DATA
About an hour ago I was in a well-known Big Box store, picking up this and that. Along the way I saw a display of slippers. I’ve been thinking it might be good to get a pair of really warm slippers; tho I have not discussed this impulse online with anyone that I can recall.
Anyway, I paused and browsed the display of slippers. Even tried one on. It was — well, not bad, but didn’t actually grab me (or my foot). So I put it back and went on. I did NOT purchase any slippers there. Continue reading Freaked Out About Footwear→
RALEIGH — As thousands of mourners prayed for the three Muslim-American students killed in Chapel Hill this week, the FBI opened its own investigation into the case Thursday.
In a brief news release late in the day, the FBI said it had launched “a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case.” The FBI had previously been called in to assist the Chapel Hill police in processing evidence from the crime scene; the new inquiry could broaden the case’s jurisdiction and potentially bolster the charges against the suspect.