Folks, I never thought I’d be writing this column. I no longer think of this simply as a blog project. By now, I feel I’ve earned the right to be considered a vocal, meaningful force for Veterans and an able advocate. I never rest on my laurels. To me, evolving like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a resplendent butterfly is a given. Be all you can be and all that blather. As most know, the VA continues to metamorphose on a fairly regular basis, too. Isn’t it odd that they have to continually reinvent their ” litigation wheel” every six months in spite of having a claimed 96% accuracy rate? What’s wrong with that picture?
If the state of America this morning upsets you, this column may cause mental trauma. If so, please move along and find lighter fare elsewhere.
First of all, here’s a few things irking the living poo out of me. Kung Flu aside, all this brouhaha about protesting a hangnail/statue/word is getting a bit much. If you venture into downtown Portland tonight to truly “protest” (as opposed to armouring up, dressing in Ninja black, freezing ten bottles of water and loading your backpack full of M-80s), you can still expect to to be introduced to some pretty edgy law enforcement personnel who a) don’t really relish being there; b) might be sore from getting clobbered by that last water bottle that hit ’em upside their head; and c) are itching to hit something/someone back who gets in their face calling them untermenschen- or worse. Now, if your inner Karen actually demands you get in their face, I can almost guarantee you’ll be wearing that new cologne called Eau d’Stress that smells a lot like CS or cayenne pepper. You may even (gasp) get into a predicament that causes you bodily harm when you discover the lines of battle have changed and you are now unwittingly at the forefront and appear to have become their leader. Shit happens. I know that feeling. Every morning when we strapped on our 0-1 Birdog and took off for the PDJ and points east, I realized the “front lines” were about 76-125 klics to my rear. Going down in Indian country was a poor option. Why this mental concept is so hard to assimilate for these young people is a generational defect. I know how I felt about Kent State and the massacre there. I had been boots on the ground a mere eleven days when that happened. I can’t say I wouldn’t have been there in the thick of it if I’d been attending college, but that was a fluke. I doubt anyone thought the Ohio Nasty Guard were going to suspend the ROEs. No one in their right mind these days could be so naive as to believe the nightlife in Portland these days is ‘peaceful’ or violence-free.
Changing subjects, my claim to fame will always be capitalizing the ‘V’ in Veteran since the inception of my writing career for Tricia Lupole at HCVets.com. VA has now even appropriated it from me. It was Tricia who invented the asknod moniker. Ask is simple. Nod is merely Notice Of Disagreement. Similarly, I don’t capitalize my website name as I’m not important enough to warrant it. With the recent capitalization of the letter B taking over the headlines, my choice was on point. Remember, we’re in the Woke world now, baby. Get used to it. One of my uncouth fellow Vets who is heavily decorated feels it would be equally woke to now capitalize the W in white based on a simple concept- not that All Lives Matter but that Life matters. God doesn’t pick and choose which color to capitalize. We are all his children regardless. So… subject closed.
Yesterday, I read with horror the WaPo article about my brother Navy Veteran Chris David deciding to have a “dialogue” with a DHS “employee” about his oath of office. Hey, don’t take this the wrong way. I feel for him and sympathize with his desire to mentally come to grips with this new Portland paradigm. However, walking peacefully up to some untrained, overstressed security cop amped up on Red Bull and no sleep for the last week is guaranteed to have less than a happy ending. After 50-plus days, nerves are frayed thereabouts. Whatever the reason(s) for the initial fray months ago, that message evaporates with each succeeding morning’s dew. The article states Chris professes to be a Veteran of eight years and to have attended the U.S. Naval Academy. As a Veteran versed in the ways of war, he should have made a tactical decision not to try to conduct a survey with “the DHS man-on-the-street” with the bombs bursting in air. Poor timing, Chris. Personally, I send those queries to my Congressman. It’s less confrontational and you get more nuanced dog and pony show replies. Perhaps even one of those TY4YS blurbs.
Our New AMA Paradox
Changing subject once again, and the actual reason for this article and title, I find myself battling VA in arenas I never dreamed of now. Considering the new AMA was touted as the derniere cri to end all derniere cris before it, I find it a tremendous disappointment. An FNG GS-10 step 1 now has the same cachet as a 16-year veteran DRO GS-13 step 8. What? You want an HLR for your recent denial of a supplemental claim? Roger that. Mr. HLReviewer emails your rep (assuming you aren’t pro se) and says “I’ll give you ten minutes next Thursday when I call. It’s informal because we don’t have to do formal, recorded stuff anymore, Mr. Gordon.” Next Thursday, he calls your cell phone while you sit patiently in the office staring at the office phone you listed for the conference. A day later you see the 21-0820 and the new denial in VBMS. You email this joker, explain the f/u and ask for a do-over. Sure, cowboy. How about I pencil you in for September 23 at 0800 EST(0500L on the left coast). Ad nauseum. Accountability and the nonadversarial ex parte system have now similarly evaporated and the essence of ennui and ‘Idon’tgiveashitism’ have set in. Truly invested employees are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Worse, the hierarchy encourages them like supercharging kids with megasugar-infused candy bars before going shopping at Walmarket®. It’s a vicious cycle. The more they are encouraged to misbehave, the more emboldened they become. Now I have GS-9s writing denials at Ft. Fumble in Jackson and Fort Pea Gravel, Arkansas denying my clientele with killer IMOs. Worse, the denial is predicated on the wrong legal standard of review. When I complain to the Appeals Management Office (AMO) (formerly the Appeals Management Center or AMC) which was just reanointed as the Office of Administrative Review (OAR), I was referred back to the same idiot whose Coach denied me. S/he calls them up to inquire if that is still their considered decision. End of inquiry. I just get a new “Yep. Stilled denied. TY4YS. ” Changing the name of the AMC reminds me of poor old Hansel and Gretel and their breadcrumb trail. Do they think that by changing the name all the time that we won’t be able to find them anymore?
We’re living in precarious times. We’ve been lucky with this democracy project for over 200 years. They say the tree of liberty has to be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants to keep us free. I don’t think Tommy Jefferson espoused that platitude referring to the present situation. Up is down these days. Wrong is right. Bad behaviour is ignored- or worse- condoned by inaction. The First Amendment only applies to the ‘woke’ among us. If your concept of equality clashes with mine, I have the right to “protest”. I can deny you your right to voice your opinion. My protest opinion might get a little physical. Deal with it. While I’m protesting ___________ (fill in subject(s)), I am free to smash Azos Jeweler’s display window at 4th and Main and “liberate” a few baubles. I’m poor and protesting costs money. Why not? They just looted Wendy’s and the 7-11 up the street. Helloooooooooooooooooooo?
Obviously, I’m not going to change the world. I rarely venture off the VA reservation to opine on life. I have been debating how to address this conundrum for weeks. America deserves better than a bunch of disaffected, underemployed live-at-home snowflakes with an exalted opinion of their own self-worth telling us, the great mentally unwashed, how we’ve gotten this sooooo wrong for centuries. The entire concept of us as Americans being a part of a whole and not individual, autonomous islands of entitlement has swung precariously 180° into troubled waters. I don’t expect to wave the magic asknod wand and make it all hunky dory. I don’t think they sell gunsha that powerful.
I once jokingly wrote about how one day they might suggest the feasibility of tearing down the Jefferson memorial in DC based on ol’ Tommy’s racist proclivities in Charlottesville back in the day. That joke isn’t so far-fetched this morning now is it? As for tearing down or removing all these statues, why is it that America gets to tell southern states what is or isn’t politically correct? Let us never forget President Andrew Johnson granted a pardon to the “traitors” who, by virtue of their birth, were forced to side with their state and brethren and fight that war on the ‘wrong’ side. A Virginia Confederate battle flag seems to have become the equivalent of demon rum to the Prohibitionists; a red flag to a bull. We should think long and hard about that. I was born south of the Mason Dixon line and lived the majority of my life there prior to enlisting in the military. In all my life, I never heard anyone advocate for a return to slavery. I don’t think you could find anyone today who feels that way. We all have our unpleasant moments we would rather put behind us. Reigniting racism is pointless. Burning down the house is not the way you rid it of vermin. Outlawing the display of a flag is like King Canute commanding the tide not to come in.
Now, as for changing the name of every Army base in the South based on the name being a Confederate traitor, please mansplain how that is going to magically eradicate future problems with bad cops who abuse or kill black suspects in their custody a la George Floyd? 99 out of 100 of you wouldn’t know who General Bragg was so it would be tantamount to finding some important black legislator named Bragg and naming it after him now. You could call it Fort Fumble and it wouldn’t really change the world. Tell me how burning down a Wendy’s in Atlanta is tit-for-tat for the cops killing that poor Rayshard Brooks? The guy who owns Wendy’s didn’t kill him. I will never think that killing the poor man was okay, but by the same token, I was taught that when a cop says “You’re drunk. Turn around and put your hands behind your back”, the correct action is to do the handcuff Macarena. Taking his taser away from him and trying to shoot him with it is a Bozo No-No where I came from. I probably wouldn’t have shot the poor guy-maybe winged him. That’s a product of how cops are trained. In war, we were taught to shoot to the center of body mass but nobody ever told us to empty 20 rounds into them. This spray-and-pray technique of shoot ’til they quit moving is insane. There used to be a time when gun control meant being to put a bullet where you aimed it. This morning I read that a Seattle cop accidentally killed his partner while shooting at a bad guy from inside their vehicle. One of his bullets hit his partner’s gun and ricocheted back into the buddy’s noggin and killed him. Look at the Chicago fiasco back in 2017. Four cops shot their guns dry at a poor unarmed black kid running away. 64 rounds fired and 9 hit the boy. That’s pathetic-not to mention defying the law of bullet trajectory probability physics.
Remember old Rodney King after he got the tar beat out of him by cops? Even he came forth and tried to quell the ensuing riots. Where is a man with the moral fiber of Martin Luther King when we need him? Content of character over the color of a man’s skin? We will heal some day. Until then, I strongly beg all of you to remember the Golden Rule. It’s time to sky down and disengage. Put on happy face mask for a month or two. It won’t kill you. Folks down in Southeast Asia have been doing it for centuries to stay alive. Be nice. As my Kindergarten teacher admonished us at Northside Elementary in Albany, Georgia in 1956:”Be a do-bee, not a don’t bee.” We, as a society, have devolved into a self-centered hoard of Karens. Our respect for our fellow man, let alone his entitlement to a certain opinion, is disappearing. Everyone is entitled to an opinion- but only their own. Let’s keep it that way. Talk about something else. Protest the weather . Blame it on Trump. Or Bush. Dealer’s choice.
The cancel culture is going to soon become a runaway locomotive destroying our ability to sit down and have a nuanced discussion that stays on subject. If all we can think of is the next “gotcha” and our 15 minutes of Warholian Faceplace™ fame, we doom this great country to a majority consisting of the fringe minority-those who can gain the largest audience of like minded social henpeckers obsessed with embarrassing their neighbors, a lady with a dog off the leash or a politician with a contrary view. We’re better than that. Or we were once.
And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. I’ve probably already said too much but then, being born on April First has its advantages- it makes you a fool before you open your mouth and remove all doubt. Well, that and being born with Tourette’s syndrome… Hoo doggies.
And heeeeeere’s Pickles in her new Pickle pool.