"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Super-bored . . .

OK, maybe it wasn't that bad. Last night's game was actually pretty good, down to the wire and all that. It's just that no one at our Super Bowl party had any emotional investment in the outcome. That, and an underwhelming performance by Bruce Springsteen, coupled with lame-ass commercials, made it pretty dull night (most of our guests were nodding off well before the clock ran out). Though I WAS excited to see a trailer for the next Transformers movie, which will feature some 53s flown by one of our sister squadrons (I am still pissed that I wasn't able to book that gig for us). Of much greater interest in the sports world these days is the revelation that one Michael Phelps, gold medal magnet and American swimming extraordinnaire, spent some of his down-time doing hits off a bong at a college party.

In this age of athletes doping, getting 'juiced', maybe or maybe not having sex with underaged girls, and shooting/getting shot at night clubs, Phelps' stupidity is hardly surprising. It is, however, hugely disappointing for Americans, young and old, who looked at him and thought maybe he was different. He certainly had a different story, one of incredibly hard work, self-discipline, and dedication to his craft, all of which was rewarded by a summer to remember in Beijing. Now, he's just another in a long list of diminished heroes. To all you pro athletes out there: is it really so much to ask that you conduct yourselves with a modicum of responsibility when you're off the playing field? You know that you live in a fishbowl; is it so hard to act like a normal human being, or at least be smart enough to keep your trash out of sight so that parents don't have to explain to their disheartened children the mechanics of the bong?

I know. While Phelps is kicking his drug problem I might as well ask him to bring peace to the Middle East and find a cabinet nominee who's actually paid his taxes. But I can wish.

And while we're talking about the Super Bowl, Americans got a brief glimpse of a man who operates under tremendous pressure every day, is responsible for the welfare and lives of those entrusted to him, and doesn't need a little blow to help him cope.

Gen. Petraeus took a break from his role as General of the Armies to do the coin toss. The only things parents will ever need to explain about him, and those he leads, is why this nation owes them eternal gratitude.

One last Super Bowl note and I'm done. I know of few other countries that honor their military at public events like America does. It's a little dose of reality, a reminder that, outside the stadium, men and women volunteer to play a much deadlier game on fields far away to keep the playing fields at home safe. It's something appreciated by those of us who serve and the families who support us. You have no idea what it means to have hundreds of thousands of fans fall silent and hear about "the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air", honoring those who live that verse even today. I spent last year's Super Bowl in Iraq; this year, I was at home, and we had two wives with us whose husbands are both in Afghanistan. No eye was dry, and no words were spoken, as we listened to Jennifer Hudson's beautiful rendition. It's good to know that those few stanzas still mean something to this nation.


Meghan said...

I thought the Mr. Potato Head commercial was hysterical. I was bummed that they only showed it once!

Other than that, the commercials were kind of lame. I miss the days of the Bud Bowl.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand our ongoing obsession with treating smoking pot like its some immoral action. As far as I can tell, getting stoned isn't materially different than getting drunk; impaired motor skills, bad decision making and lots of crazy stuff. For whatever reason, we make pot illegal and alcohol legal but the effects are largely the same. This is what people do when they're in their 20s. That he smokes pot recreationally apparently wasn't enough to stop him from staying in sufficient shape to win all those gold medals. If he wants to get high in his private life, who cares? So long as he doesn't hurt anyone let him live his life. Conversely, athletes who abuse minors or engage in violent behavior should be condemned because they actually harm others.

Anonymous said...

Also, as cool as it was for Petraeus to be there for the coin toss. Jennifer Hudson absolutely nailed the national anthem; I haven't heard it sung that well in sometime.

Meghan said...

"This is what people do when they're in their 20s"

1. I'm in my 20's, and never smoked pot.
2. Most people actually do it in their teens and are so over it by their 20's

"If he wants to get high in his private life, who cares?"

1. The parents of children who worship him and his 8 gold medals.
2. The people paying him to be a sponsor for their products who don't want their products tainted by recreational activites that don't retain their approval.

Cincinnatus said...

Meghan makes some good points which I won't belabor any further. I just have a couple things to add. First, I think there is a great deal of distance between acceptability of alcohol and acceptability of pot, and that society has traditionally drawn a line between alcohol and drugs for good reason. In the end, sure, the effects of getting hammered can be the same as getting high, though I'd argue that it takes a lot more booze to get drunk than it does weed to achieve the same effect. There are also a lot of studies which have shown that certain types of alcohol like red wine (in moderation) actually provide health benefits, whereas I have yet to see a study promoting pot use as part of a healthy life-style.

Second: regardless of the above, have no fear, I would be equally disdainful of Phelps' behavior if he were caught on YouTube puking on himself from being smashed. In either case, his behavior was stupid and embarrassing to himself, his fans, his sponsors, and his country.

Third: if he actually did this in his private life and never brought it into the public eye, I wouldn't care. Why? Because me and the rest of civilized world would never know about it. If he got high every day of his life, but simply did it in the privacy of his own home, and someday died an old man without the rest of the planet being the wiser, that's between him and his God. But he let his garbage out into the public square, where he's now forced the rest of us to reckon with his own foolish behavior. And he has hurt people, from his sponsors to his fans and the nation to which he was a source of pride. Just because he didn't get high and then run someone over doesn't mean he didn't do any damage.

Anonymous said...

If the parents of kids who worship him care what he doe sin his private life, they need to find hobbies. Otherwise, you can use this for time as motivation for having conversations with children about making good decisions and taking care of themselves. I'll concede the sponsor part as they'll probably act to cut his endorsements as, correctly, they'll surmise that his commercial appeal may be hurt. It's worth noting though that Phelps didn't bring this into the public sphere, someone took pictures of him at a party and then put them on the web. We can all argue, sure, he needs to be aware of what's going on and avoid these situations but, again, he's 23. He didn't intend to partake pot publicly, it was foisted upon him by someone else.

I'm being serious here in that there's little to no moral difference between becoming intoxicated by alcohol and being intoxicated by weed. I find it even harder to say society draws a line between drugs and alcohol. Drugs are everywhere in life; drugs for headaches, drugs for nausea,drugs if you can't pay attention, drugs if you can't stay awake. I don't endorse the overall effect, but to say we're a medicated nation would be an understatement. And yet, somehow, marijuana, which has never killed anyone (and certainly killed far fewer people than alcohol) is beyond the pale. I'll stack the people who have avoided heart problems from wine against the 16,000 odd drunk driving deaths we experience annually. Our drug laws are archaic and should be changed; addiction should be treated and hard drugs should be treated more harshly, but, again, there's no reason for marijuana to be outlawed when all these other mind-altering substances are legal.

Winefred said...

One neglected point in the drug argument: every time, without exception, that somebody uses an illegal drug, they are enriching the henchmen of organized crime. Mobsters of one sort or another have their hands in every aspect of the drug trade, and even the casual user is at some level making a contribution to their continuing choke-hold on the heroin, cocaine, and sex-slavery businesses. That's one of the reasons that Phelps's endorsement contracts have 'morals' clauses, and it would be a good lesson for everyone if he were to suffer the penalties he agreed to when he signed them.

Anonymous said...

Which remains more an indictment of how poorly structured our legal system is in regards to drug use. During prohibition, you could have used a similar argument against alcohol use. We recognized that this approach was not working and legalized alcohol use, eventually adopting stricter penalties for drunk driving and attempting to improve awareness of alcoholism as a disease. A similar approach to marijuana would likely harm the criminal organizations you mention while helping to alleviate much of the clutter in our legal system.