Monday, May 24, 2010

Thoughts as Memorial Day approaches

I just watched a program on PBS Frontline - The Wounded Platoon. I was galvanized to start a blog, but it turned into a project: I'm working on a full-blown essay that I hope to post to my Website soon. [Update: that essay is done and has been posted here] What I'm posting here is the short version.

This PBS program revealed how the horrors of war have ravaged some of our soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Life is all about choices, and our soldiers are responsible for the choices they make, even in wartime and certainly afterward. But they didn't necessarily choose to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That happened because they were doing their duty in a terrible situation: combat is always terrible. And they're suffering the consequences of PTSD in awful ways: rage, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, murder, suicide. If we're going to make our young people suffer such things, one would hope that it would be for a good reason (e.g., WWII) rather than bad ones (Vietnam, Iraq).

Although I was in Vietnam, I only experienced a shadow of what real combat troops went through. You couldn't call me a PTSD victim. But still I was horrified by the casual acceptance of terrible things in war, even in the relative quiet of Phu Bai in 1970. I suppose becoming numb or indifferent to horror is a coping mechanism. What was really difficult to accept when I returned to my civilian life in 1972 was that civilians who've never served have no grasp of what war can be for the soldiers. Only another soldier can understand.

As Memorial Day nears, I hope our nation will honor their warriors, even though they may hate the war. After Vietnam, our nation generally has improved its support for our 'war fighters' but there still seems to be little understanding for PTSD victims. We as a nation need to help support them. While I don't condone the choices some of them make, I'm saddened by the way our nation has used them and then discarded them. We collectively are responsible for what happened to them, and for the military simply to give them bad discharges and turn them loose is just not right. The first Rambo movie, First Blood, was about this - however bogus and stupid Hollywood can be, at least this was an attempt at a sympathetic treatment of PTSD victims when they return home to find themselves to be strangers in a strange land.

Think that over this Memorial Day weekend ...

Chaser Convergence

Since my last post here, the blogs that I began have evolved into long essays that are more appropriate for my Website than here. But I do want to post something here about chaser convergence, which has been something of an e-drama since 19 May 2010, when vast crowds of chasers clogged the roads in Oklahoma. Some of those chasers engaged in various forms of irresponsible behavior, including passing the long lines of cars while going uphill. Among these irresponsible chasers was the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) of Sean Casey - famed for his place on the Discovery Channel crockumentary, Storm Chasers. His TIV was caught on tape engaging in this unsafe behavior - and he's done similar things in the past. He's become a poster child for irresponsible chasers.

There has been a lot of discussion about what it would take to rein in the irresponsible chasers, and various thoughts on the growing hordes of chasers. There doesn't seem to be much we can do, frankly. Eventually, I believe that law enforcement is going to urge the passage of laws restricting storm chasing - however difficult those laws might be to enforce consistently, I suspect that many places in the Plains eventually will respond to the mob scenes with a vengeance.

And we (including I) have brought this on ourselves, by going on in media interviews about the awesome beauty of storms, the adventure of chasing, and so on. With the growth of chasing into what amounts to a 'trash sport', more and more 'extreme' chasers have become active - people who sneer at the very thought of responsibility in their quest for attention, for glory, for cash. The media have glamorized storm chasing, even as they portray chasers as thrill-seeking lunatics. Perhaps that image appeals to certain chasers?

I'm about to commence my storm chase vacation for 2010 ... adding my vehicle to the hordes dashing about in the Plains this spring. I have a strategy for avoiding the worst chaser convergences that worked reasonably well last year, although no doubt I'll be caught up in them occasionally. I want to avoid being anywhere near a storm that Vortex2 is working - in part to stay out of their way, and in part to avoid the mobs of tag-alongs they attract. We'll be keeping a low profile, so I hope you don't see us!!