Liberty is Fleeting

I am one of the few soldiers that actually patrolled the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany during the Cold War.  During that period I witnessed a divide between freedom and controlled environments. What separated two ideologies was a death strip filled with land mines, razor wire, metal spike crosswalks, and East German border guards that would shoot first and ask questions later. As an American soldier, I was proud that I didn’t live in a nation that habitually lied to its people, denied freedoms, embraced a one-party system, and would jail its citizens based merely on suspicion.

 

Fast forward today, and for some reason, I feel that I am in the middle of lousy reality dream. When I hear the President wants to build a wall along the border I can only think about how we spent decades, at the cost of lives, to tear down a wall.  Police are arresting people based on suspicion without evidence similar to how the Stazi arrested East Germans. Shootings or the use of tasers by law enforcement are often and highly questionable. Listening to our elected leadership habitually presenting false or misleading information all while dismissing the press is a bit disturbing and sounds like the days of Erich Honecker. It is as if we as a nation are told we have inalienable rights only to become the revised version of East Germany and the Soviet Union all over again. The recent United Nations withdrawal from the Human Rights Council should be a wakeup call that our seat of influence to the world has become an observation post where we have no real voice or teeth to promote freedom.

 

There was a time in my life where I could quickly recognize military uniforms and present a level of absolute respect and honor. Today, I witness police emulating military styled clothing closely resembling military uniforms adorned with ribbons, awards, and rank that were usually privilege and expressly used by the military. Overnight we have transformed our police departments into Soviet styled organizations and dressed police officers in military garb because it looks cool or intimidating. It is a stark reminder of civil service versus military service and how the two should instinctively be different visibly from one another. If police persist in wearing military uniforms and camouflage, then perhaps I should invoke my third amendment right of consent. Afterall, if the police want to dress up like military soldiers, then it is high time that this nation pushes back and hold those accountable that tarnish the uniform mixed with its stolen valor by using our third amendment right. The last time I looked, there were specific laws against the militarization of the police and adulteration of the standard police duty uniform.

 

Public buildings once the highlight of tours and open society have been quickly militarized with body scan devices, authenticated access points, and anti-ram bollards that have been institutionalized by a post 9/11 society. Former President Bush suggested that we continue to go about our business, but stay vigilant. The fear-based society of politicians and conspiracy theorist with no formidable data began the terror machine of identifying everyone as a threat. It started to develop registries and checkpoints such as no-fly, offender, terror watch lists, REAL Identification and so forth. These actions are no different than how the Soviet Union and communist countries continue to monitor and control its citizens today.  Specific controls are reminiscent of how Soviets and communist-based neighbors grew suspicious of one another by not becoming vigilant but turning into self-imposed informants. No facts are needed. Just a self-induced form of hysteria that something could happen is all to create a recipe of additional and unwarranted controls.  Lessons learned from history that showed Soviets and East Germans were taught to believe anything said by western media was false. The stigmatic message was that western news was manufactured to be a threat towards communist democracy; at least from their viewpoint. However, capitalism has a strange way today of acting similar to what communists claimed decades ago. Interesting that the Berlin Wall was meant to keep invading forces of the west out. Ironic that no westerners were ever shot for crossing into the east. Moreover, when the Berlin and Iron Curtain fell that unification efforts didn’t put nations into debt. In fact, it created a robust economic powerhouse where America is discovering difficulty in keeping up with the Germans.

 

As a soldier, I was taught and reminded of freedoms all around us both visible and invisible. I am told each time I see the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, that it embraces the embodiment of freedom from all forms of oppression. An interesting fact is a broken chain that lies Liberty’s feet. It reminds us that we are not prisoners of our beliefs or pursuits. Liberty became an icon of freedom and of the United States and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad that all are welcome. But with an impending wall on our border, immigrant children separated from families, using religion as a precursor towards public policy, or prison populations higher than most national census seem perhaps fitting that we return the Statue of Liberty to France. Apparently, we are losing our vision, integrity, and accessibility with regards to freedom and how this nation was created.

 

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
– Gen. George C. Patton

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View from the Gloryhole

Growing up I learned a lot about having to cover for whom I really was. Thirty or so years ago there was no such thing as the LGBT community in the public view. In fact, merely saying that you were gay, lesbian, bisexual or experimenting could be the difference between life and death. During that same period, I witnessed witchhunts in the military, at school, in the church, and community of those that didn’t fit the straight model citizen approach. Any person not straight or straight-acting learned quickly to lie or make up any excuse from being identified as gay, lesbian, or any deviation from the public norm. Back then it was a matter of pure survival in a world filled with machoism and legalized beatings based on fear.

 

As I grew older, I began to find people somewhat like myself. There was an unwritten and complicated code of “people like us” or “friends of Dorothy” styled references that would ultimately allow ones guard to be let down for a brief moment. That guard was immediately restored if something traumatic or raised suspicion within the close-knit community. It was an era and continues to be, a somewhat traumatic for those raised during a period of pre-LGBT history.

 

As people would let down their guard and become comfortable there were two sets of identities to utilize. One would be your gay friends. The others would be those that would never meet your gay friends – thus the alter-ego of straightness. While songs by the Village People, Soft Cell, Indigo Girls, and Culture Club could let you off the gay hook, one had to be careful not to be singing Madonna loudly “Like A Prayer” or Cher “Believe” with drag styled hand motions. Otherwise, your secret is no longer a secret.

 

While LGBT issues appear to have significantly improved over time so has the opposition that demands nearly criminalizing anything gays have tried to highlight. As the wall of guilt and shame eventually were removed, it was straight people that began to outnumber gay patrons at predominately gay establishments (talk about a confusing time to differentiate who is gay, really gay, with the girlfriend, or secretly wishing they were with a guy instead of the girlfriend, or the dreaded “this is my first time here” liner). Gay marriage finally passed, but straight people are still trying to figure out who is the groom or bride in some weird traditional comparison. Of course, wedding cake makers seem to be devout Christians for some strange reason, and we seem to be living in a world where anyone can wear a rainbow shirt. But that is where the party ends, and queer life goes back to being really gay leaving the community divided, displaced and minimalized.

 

I watched a world where AIDS was joked upon by President Reagan and fear from contracting HIV was similar to blaming the cat for the spread of the plaque. Today HIV testing is buried and defunded yet infected rates continue to climb. Hate crimes are still relevant today with gay club shootings or random killing acts that capture the headlines of the evening news that are quickly forgotten. The George Michael days of public restroom cruising, Gloryhole arcades (yes, they called them arcades), exclusive LGBT hookup sites such as Craigslist, Men4RentNow, and many others have been forcibly removed because of claims of possible sex trafficking. Much has changed over the past decade. What has incredibly changed the most is how LGBT issues and rights are once again becoming a campaign moment that somehow “the gays are responsible for terrorists” ideology? Despite all the religious-right talk, there is very little of people actually countering to argue back. Keeping silent is pretty much just as the same as agreeing with the rhetoric.

 

There was a time were acquiring condoms, birth-control, or other sex-related items primarily came from people in the LGBT community – sometimes for free to promote safe and responsible sex values. However, today sex education is removed from the educational curriculum or most meeting establishments. Those free condoms, birth control or other informational handouts have been criminalized leaving all communities vulnerable.  Once again, the gays seem to take the blame.

 

One upside to the gay community is that more men are allowing themselves to become a bit more promiscuous because of the #metoo movement. If you think your man is over at a buddies house watching the game? – Think again! Some men are actually fearful of engaging in conversations with the opposite sex or having one night stands for fear of being sexist or possible false accusations. Therefore, the gay community is once again open for business to take care of what straights usually fuck up in the first place. But without condoms, education, and a way to become connected with a buddy system so will the rise of hate crimes, STD’s, false allegations, sex crimes, and other violence will undoubtedly begin to trickle again making the gay community the villain in these cases. That’s just how politicians want to paint that canvas – but the gays know how to add vivid color!

 

It is funny that history always seems to know exactly how to repeat itself. There are no real official spokespeople for the LGBT community. There are many advocates and high profile celebrities. But rarely will that celebrity status be used unless it benefits that individual. I don’t visualize Tim Cook, Peter Thiel, or Lady Gaga gunning for LGBT issues – unless of course, it profits their wallets. The new gay has become the professional and closeted gay saying, “what happens in my bedroom is none of your business!’  That may be true and valid, but society has a vulgar and graphic way of depicting any image it wishes to pursue. The facts remain that children that are LGBT are usually subject to abuse, homelessness, depression, PTSD, living two lifestyles, and disconnected from mainstream society. The programs once with highlight and mantra of the LGBT community has become an app or some weird paid online subscription trying to fix someone that isn’t quite yet broken but looking resources.

 

The gay bars, bookstores, gloryholes, dance clubs, anthem icon singers, and follies of gaydom seems to finally have ended. A few remaining protestors continue to fight to be the instantaneous posterchild for fifteen minutes of fame before becoming the lightning rod of the Republican party or religious-right groups. Perhaps we need to bring those infamous Gloryholes back? It could stimulate the economy and excite a few returning Republican Party members and religious-right patrons- as they were the most significant contributors to the Gloryhole society.

Nerve Agent Is New Terrorism Threat

Last week Kim Jong Nam, the son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was assassinated according to Malaysian police. Kim Jong Nam died shortly after two women put a substance on his face while he was checking in for a flight. Police have not said how the women were able to apply the nerve agent to Kim’s face and also avoid becoming ill themselves. The seeming contradiction of a poison that could kill him quickly but not sicken the attackers has stumped experts. A statement from the inspector general of police said that a preliminary analysis from the Chemistry Department of Malaysia identified the agent as “VX Nerve Agent.”

 

When I heard the news events regarding Kim Jong Nam I couldn’t help but think, “this is like a 007 film in real life.” The scary world of missile test launches just took a back seat causing the world to become a whole lot more terrifying. Just think for one moment that every bomb terror plot or dirty nuclear device that our nation heavily investigates and monitors now has to deal with a potential military grade nerve agent that can kill unmonitored within seconds. What makes this story interesting is that it was quickly administered with the potential to expose others in a public area such as an airport. Look for a moment at the diplomatic chaos it has stirred. Is Homeland Security prepared for this new threat both domestic and internationally? Maybe on paper, but perhaps not as prepared as we may think.

 

My question is, “was this a test of a new terrorism threat to airport security?” If so, how will airports or security experts deal with detecting nerve agents as a threat from public places? But another question is where did this nerve agent come from? It has been since the 1960’s since nerve agents were widely identified. Ask any soldier from the Cold War Era, and they will mention stories about Nerve Agent Treatment Autoinjector training scenarios. The threat was real until Congress banned nerve agents in 1972. 32,000 tons of nerve and mustard agents had already been dumped into the ocean waters off the United States. Currently, Russia stockpile of nerve agents is still available but lacks the money and resource to destroy it. Perhaps this is the footprint from where an international investigation should begin? But that is likely to occur due to the current relations between the United States and Russia.

 

I would suggest that Congress and the United Nations begin an accountability audit of nerve agent nation facilities immediately. This is not the time to point fingers at how the nerve agent was acquired or used. It is a time to place steps and practices, so this horrible event doesn’t escalate into a catastrophic incident. If I were the Director of the CIA, I would be concerned how a nation such as Malaysia has a military grade nerve agent on its land. What if this nerve agent was in a small container on a plane bound for the United States? Do we have the technology to intercept it? These are the questions that you and I should be concerned about.

Another Wag the Dog Repeat?

I don’t wish to sound like a conspiracy theorist. Such sounding rhetoric does not add to any credibility. But President Trump seems a bit hell bent on sending us into a possible war with just about anyone. Trump sent out a recent Twitter message to Iran with an “all options response are on the table” ending. This only eludes that the United States has a plan to use force or strong military action.

Okay, for the sake of argument lets say that something does happen and the United States shells an Iranian Navy ship or patrol boat. It’s safe to say that that’s all it would take to incite an Iranian response. Now, let’s mix that powderkeg immigration policy that seems to play into the hands of Al-Qaeda where I fear that terror cells already in the United States and abroad will begin their campaigns. It as if Trump had a plan to flush terror plots quickly which will, in turn, require a substantial funding for military operations. This is where a Wag The Dog moment becomes quietly historical. Terror incidents mixed with a potential Iranian conflict will be a headliner. The best kept Trump secret is when our NATO allies are not 100% on board with something that was agitated in general. Therefore I predict that Trump will lean in towards Russia for some cooperative assistance as a gesture of improved partnerships.

What all these military actions, at least in theory, are spattered all over the headline news. Quietly in the background, the dismantling of Obamacare and other highly politized issues will never have the chance to make a front line news. Naturally, Trump has a clever way of controlling the media with his Twitter account and diverting important issues to be back burner. I feel this is what we should expect to become as a Trump strategy. But if NATO becomes divided between international and incited domestic issues is where Trump may fracture the NATO alliance and shift chaos to the United Nations. We may quietly witness historical UN declarations and possible sanctions for the first time levied against the United States. Again, this is all speculative but plausible based on the path some are witnessing.

Our nation is still attempting to recover from a historical market crash from a Republican-led administration. We had two separate wars going on not to mention some questionable situations with other host nations. Our banking institutions and corporations were at the brink of collapse. It took nearly another presidential two terms to reduce that debt. Are we to repeat another war-like effort just to “get it over with” and have another President spend his/her time to mitigate that issue? It seems and smells like another national disaster in the making leaving the United States and its citizens to clean up the mess all over again.