Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eight Random Items about Hoots

I've been tagged by Execupundit to reveal eight random "things" about myself. This is not one of my favorite exercises, but it's good therapy for breaking out of the shell that blogging can form around someone.

1. As a college freshman I was given placement tests that landed me in an honors English class focused more on critical writing than the basics. A grad assistant conducted the course which was presented on closed circuit television lectures by Mike Shaara, writer in residence at the time. (His son Jeff was later to achieve greater publishing success than he, but his teaching was excellent.) This item alone could take pages of writing, but one fact inspires me to start this list: I don't recall if this rule was from Shaara or the graduate assistant but it is this...


Never use the word "thing." Ever. No matter what you are writing there is always a better word. If you use the word "thing" in a paper, you will not pass this course.

Sorry, but I was bruised for life by this rule. He made such a point of it that I had to begin this list by avoiding that forbidden word. (This is rather like my silly complaint about that the popular TV program called America's Got Talent, instead of the gramatically correct America Has Talent.)

2. I use too many words. (Surprise!) The last time I got tagged was two years ago and I cranked out so many words that I haven't been tagged since. I don't know if it is due to too many details in my writing or too much bullshit. I like to think it is the former, but one never knows...
I am reminded of a friend who was told by an examiner during the defense of a thesis "Roy. your problem is that you are almost never specific. And whenever you are specific, you are almost always wrong."

3. Part of my problem with words is that I am prone to changing my mind about things. (It's great to be an adult, no longer bound by petty rules of the childhood.) There are very few issues about which I am inflexible. Those are issues of morality. But if there is not a moral question at stake, I am mostly laid back. This doesn't mean I won't be sarcastic or critical. There are people and events so breathtakingly stupid that they deserve any treatment they receive. But when it comes to baseline questions of morality, I am content to be marginalized as a minority of one, if necessary, standing firmly on unpopular ground.

4. I may be one of the few people left who attended a one-room public school.

5. I served in the Army Medical Service Corps as a Conscientious Objector. I have been writing about the inevitability of a military draft from the beginning of this blog. I have no need to evangelize anyone. Most young men are better prepared and equipped to be warriors than objectors. But those few who need to know what their options are are not being told and will not be until it is too late.


I have to stop here and go to work. The other three items will have to wait, if I get around to them. I may decide that these five are enough.

Okay, it's the next day and I didn't think of anything more about myself that might be interesting. Instead I'll record my most recent three grandchild stories for future reference.
One of the rewards of working in a retirement community is the sympathy one receives as the tolls of time and gravity take pieces of flesh little by little. Hearing loss, confusion, mobility challenges and short-term memory issues...all these progressive annoyances of age are better received by a population past eighty. They know. They can relate.
So telling grandchildren stories is more fun than complaining about the weather or politics. As with the march of time, they know. They relate. I get to practice. Here are the latest three...
6. The computer generation.
Mother came out of the shower and Nathan was climbing down from the chair at the computer. Nathan at this point is less than thirty months old. He turned two a couple of months before. He apparently had accessed the Internet and found his favorite toddler website. He can't use the keyboard yet, but he knows how to work the mouse to drag around images that look and act like puzzle parts. Getting bored, he found the CD that came with a recently-acquired toy.
He explained to Mother, "I put the CD in but I can't get it to work."
He's just past two years old. Is that scary or what?
7. The introspective generation.
Thanks to the media children learn about emotions and language in greater detail than ever before. A couple of weeks ago one of Nathan's aunts was playing a game of Show me "sad"...Show me "happy"...Show me "silly" me "confused"...and so forth, as he responded with appropriate facial and body language. This is a great way to learn about vocabulary and behavior. But it is also a setup for this...
Mother noticed Nathan frowning, clenching his fists and looking at the floor, so she said, "What's the matter, son?"
To which he replied, "I have issues!"
If this is what almost three is like, I'm not sure I will be ready for the teens.
8. Coping with life.
After the Independence Day parade they came home with candy, balloons and fun stories. They had a great time. Nathan went out on the deck with a balloon and in a moment we heard a terrible scream and crying like he had been injured. Running to check, we saw him looking into the sky crying helplessly as a helium balloon floated up, up and away into the sky. Knowing that even adults couldn't recover it he was torn to pieces having lost his balloon. No amount of hugging and reassurance could help him feel better.
He soon recovered and came back in the house. And Dad had another balloon in the car. This time the balloon was tied securely to his wrist so it wouldn't get lost. He went back toward the deck with his new balloon, feeling better, but when he came to the door he remembered the first balloon and started crying again, recalling and reliving the recent tragedy with all the pain that had wounded his little spirit.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that parents and grandparents watch with painful empathy as life leaves scar tissue on the next generation. It's all part of growing up. And only later do we learn how much worse it might have been.


Michael Wade said...

I was about to put the word "things" in a sentence today and then your note came to mind.

I may now be warped for life.

vietnamcatfish said...

Same thing(s) here.

Scott Kohlhaas said...


Thanks for being a CO during a very nasty brutal illegal war!

Would you be willing to spread the word about It's a site dedicated to shattering the myths surrounding the selective slavery system and building mass civil disobedience to stop the draft before it starts.

Our banner on a website, printing and posting the anti-draft flyer or just telling friends would help.


Scott Kohlhaas

PS. When it comes to conscription, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Hoots said...

Thanks for your comment, Scott. I checked out and it gives me encouragement that young people today are just as fired up about resisting the draft as they were forty years ago. In my own journey I came across the War Resisters League and the Central Committe for Conscientious Objectors. (The main site seems to be down at the moment, but the Bay Area group and a Wikipedia article are available.) These are very old groups like yours with much the same message.

You can find buried among my sidebar links the Military Counseling Network, which I think works with people in uniform having second thoughts. I found that link via Young Anabaptist Radicals, a wonderful group of young people of Amish, Brethren and Mennonite traditions less than a year online.

Your comment and the links in this comment are all I will do for your group. I don't do banners because I don't like the effect. But a more important reason is that after all these years I am no longer opposed to the draft. My belief is that a mercenary military is a greater threat to freedom than one with reluctant citizen-soldiers in the ranks who really don't want to be there. Some people, however, are not suitable to become warriors. And it is that group of citizens who should be conscientious objectors.

If you read the above links to other posts on this blog you will find...

Before I was drafted my thinking was very idealistic. I imagined that the world might be a better place if everyone could just get along. After I joined the ranks of the regular army I learned that my thinking was really very unrealistic. I lived and worked side by side with good American men who were just as willing to kill other people as they were to be killed. For most people the issues are not subtle. They see the world in sharp and easy to understand terms of right and wrong. They are able to demonize those who are officially designated to be "enemy" and do whatever they are told to eliminate them. The loss of innocent people killed in the process is excused as unavoidable "collateral damage", much the same as "friendly fire".

My conclusion was that armies everywhere need each other in order to maintain balance. The country without military strength will soon be subsumed by one which will very quickly dominate it. At the same time, the concept of a citizen army got my attention, as opposed to a professional army. I came to the odd conclusion (at least I don't know of anyone else who agrees with me) that armies should be made up, at least partly, of people who do not really want to be there but feel it is their duty to do so. I cannot feel good in the company of people who rejoice at victory and see honor and glory in killing other people, no matter who they might be. I prefer to be among those who regard going to war as a very hateful and disagreeable activity used only as a last resort to conflict resolution.

If I were young and facing the possibility of being drafted again, I would still apply to be classified 1-AO (in uniform, as opposed to 1-O, not in uniform, serving in some civilian capacity instead). The time might come when I would have to shoot someone, either to protect myself or my patients. But when that time came, the decision would be mine, not that of someone else who could order me to aim and shoot at anyone they designated to be an "enemy".

There was a time that I imagined a world at peace, like John Lennon. Not any more. Thanks to a tour of duty in the US Army I have had a reality check to last me the rest of my life. There is no danger that people who think like me will ever reach any great numbers. We are, and are subject to remain, a tiny minority. You may sleep well, America, knowing that military might will always be an extension of your national soul.

I will sleep well also, secure in the knowledge that some small part of that soul there is a conscience. My job in this life is to keep sparks alive in that part of our national soul.