Does Size Really Matter?

While this question is sometimes asked in regard to male nether-region proportions, I am referring to something different. When I see football field-sized American flags during the National Anthem or huge flags flying at car dealerships, I sometimes wonder if bigger is better. Granted, I am all for patriotism and love of country, but I think some of these symbols might be a bit excessive as there is often a fine line between good taste and gaudy. I mean, is the NFL really that patriotic? Maybe they just want more fans and viewers  just like car dealerships just want to sell more cars. I think sometimes the symbol of the American flag can be used for ulterior motives.

Along these same lines, I stopped by the local Golden Corral for a Veteran’s Day meal this past week. I have been to some of these meals in the past, and I often experience mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am grateful for those who have sacrificed to preserve the freedoms currently available in this country. On the other hand, I’m not sure how I feel about a Disabled Veterans Organization member holding the door at the entrance urging vets to refile and maximize their VA disability claims.

My initial thoughts during these types of dining experiences are usually somewhat condescending for some reason. After hearing stories of benefits fraud and those trying to milk the military for as much as possible, I guess I am somewhat jaded to the whole military hero idealism. However, after talking to some of these veterans for a little while, I think my preconceived notions slowly changed to a sincere appreciation for their military service. To hear them reminisce fondly about their service days, recall war stories, and instantly bond over certain shared experiences is truly unique and educational.

I recently read America by Dinesh D’souza. It is enlightening to hear the other side of the story regarding events in American history. When politicians seem to be apologizing for America’s place in the world, it is important to remember this country helped defeat dangerous European powers during the world wars, stopped the spread of Communism in Korea and Vietnam, won the Cold War, and has been involved in the Middle East for some time. The U.S. has stood for democracy, justice, and free markets for a long while, but it seems like many in the mainstream media would prefer a weak, spineless America who plays well with others as its utmost priority. This book basically examines the progressive movement in America over the last few decades, and major arguments for and against different political issues are discussed. D’souza discusses topics such as slavery reparations, Native American rights, anti-colonialism, and leaders of the progressive movement. He also reveals the relationship that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had with Saul Alinsky, the infamous Rules for Radicals author.

In summary, I guess I am a little more skeptical now and no longer blindly assume all flag-waving is purely patriotic. Sadly, it seems like the actions of a few have ruined this ideal, but it really shouldn’t detract from all the great accomplishments and sacrifices of other service members.







Prison Strong, Oprah Rich

I first heart the term “prison strong, Oprah rich” in reference to a military service member deploying to a hostile location. Basically, the free time allows one to lift weights frequently and the bonus money is pretty good.

I’m not exactly sure what inspired me to read Going Up the River, but it probably had something to do with my coworker’s stories about her time working in the prison system as a psychologist. Apparently she was helping a high ranking member of the Disciples through some tough times, and he returned the favor by ensuring everyone in the facility respected her.

Basically, Going Up the River details the recent growth of the prison industry as small rural town’s increasingly rely on this sector for employment. It is surprising how prisons transformed from self-sustaining operations in the earlier part of the twentieth centry into money-making enterprises. In fact, I recently read about Arkansas prisoners working on farms in the past to provide some of their food. These days, prisoners are almost celebrated with reality television shows documenting their every move, and I have to believe this was not always the case. Don’t other countries subject prisoners to hard labor for relatively minor infractions? North Korea, Iran, and China immediately come to mind.

Anyway, the basic premise of the book is that the military-industrial complex created many government jobs during the Cold War, and fear of the Soviets propelled this employment sector. However, once the Cold War ended, a new enemy needed to be created, and crime was a convenient choice. So basically, more and more citizens were transformed into prisoners creating the need for new prisons. Of course, cunning businessmen are never too far from a financial opportunity and private prisons were created. No longer were punishment and reform the top priorities of the correctional system; instead, money and jobs became a large factor.

Several examples throughout the book are used to illustrate these points. Rural towns across the South and Midwest are sustaining jobs through this system as citizens are drawn to the stability of prison system jobs. It does make you wonder what has fueled the growth of criminal activity. I happen to think eliminating the Bible and prayer from public schools was probably a starting point. Granted, poverty and poor family functioning probably also play a role, but the decline of the influence of the church is definitely important.