Sep 8, 2012

The Fear of Hunger

Abigail and Dolley readers 46.7 million Americans are on food stamps.  1.5 million middle class families have been added to the roles THIS year.  That is 1.5 million families who have previously been self sufficient who out of desperation, pain, and humiliation have had to seek assistance for FOOD.  Not vacations, not new cars - FOOD.  What does that do to a middle class family?  What does that do to a mother and a father, to have to seek government help to eat?

This Depression has been hard on us all and I understand what it is like to be afraid that there is not enough to feed your family.  Never mind the mortgage, the car payment, the electric bill - those will keep you awake at night but there is panic and a desperation that goes along with fear of hunger that is foreign to the middle class American spirit.

Look at their faces in Aldi, Walmart, and Dollar General - they are scared.  They have their cell phones set on the calculator and they are adding up the purchases that go in the buggy because there is $64 in the bank and they've somehow got to figure out how that is going to feed a family of four for a week.

Their husbands are out of work and they are making less than they made a decade ago.  Their 5 year old cars in the parking lot were once very nice but the gas tanks are on empty and those last few payments are falling behind.  The kids just think Mom hasn't gotten to the grocery store in the last few days and sigh as they eat ANOTHER peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  They don't have their friends over to eat at each other's houses anymore - everyone is just barely scraping by and it is indeed very scary. 

So forgive me if I don't think your $9/month birth control pills are a top priority.  Excuse me for being offended that killing babies on demand is your primary concern.  Pardon me if I get a little pissed when I hear from you that the middle class is doing fine.  Don't tell me there is a recovery when I know people who have been trying to find work for more than a year.  Sorry if I get a little testy when I realize that my family of three owes $150,000 toward the National Debt. 

Why don't you fly off on another tax payer financed vacation, give your political friends more billions to squander on fire fly electricity plants, but STOP telling me your way is going to fix this mess because from where I am sitting this is the worst shape my country has ever been in and you have been at the helm of its destruction.

Sep 3, 2012

Ode to a Friend - Tony McGee

Abigail and Dolley readers it is with great sadness that I learned the news of the passing of my friend, Anthony William McGee I.  Tony, as we all called him, was 48 years old and died unexpectedly of natural causes on 08/28/12.  Tony was the beloved brother of Pam and Donna, the son of Peggy and Junior from Pineville NC.  Tony is survived by his wife Lyn, his two daughters, Ashlyn and Amber, and his granddaughter, Layla.  Today he is reunited in Heaven with his cherished son, Will.  Tony will be missed greatly by all who loved him.

My story with Tony is an old one and a simple one, he was my first love.  It was the Summer of 1984, Tina Turner and Springsteen played on the radio, we wore parachute pants, and drove American muscle cars with racing stripes.  Older than I by four and a half years, we had never seen each other until that party at Kenneth Moore's.  Shortly after my Sweet 16, I was on a date with one of his friends.  Tony met me in a darkened hallway, I don't know if it was an accident or if he'd seen me go the restroom and was waiting for me.  It's more fun to think he was waiting on me....  He backed me up against the wall with his arms braced on either side of me, leaned down and asked me, "What's your name?"  I nearly kissed him in that moment.  The chemistry between us was amazing, not merely a spark, more like a lightening storm, beautiful, wild, and dangerous in its intensity.  I broke up with his friend that night on our ride home.

It was a classic summer romance, full of longing, passion, and fire.  I was giddy and spent every waking minute thinking of him, talking to him, or trying to figure out how I was going to get to him.  I wanted to crawl inside his skin.  He was funny and playful, full of life and love.  He laughed easy and loved to tease and tickle.  The only time he ever got mad at me was when I had a friend drop me off at Pineville Park to wait for him to get off work.  He was angry at me for being there at night, alone and made me promise I would never do that again.  Neither of us had a car, and come to think of it, Tony did not even have a license... he worked second shift and our time together was hard earned!

It was doomed from the start and in retrospect, he knew that long before me.  We came from two different worlds and our future paths did not run in parallel but our lives briefly intersected.  Love doesn't always make sense, it doesn't see the obstacles, and it believes it can defeat all. First love is powerful magic full of promise and a level of invincibility that is absent from any that should follow it. Alas, it is also a wicked double edged sword, I did not escape without scars.  In the weeks, months, and years that followed, I often wondered if it was worth it, the answer is most definitely, yes.  To have loved such a sweet soul is one of the greatest blessings of my life.

By late August, we were over and I found myself surrounded by dozens of partying friends at Myrtle Beach.  The boy I had broke up to go out with Tony was there and chased me around all weekend.  I was heart sick and simply wanted him to leave me alone.  After three days of forced revelry, I took a solitary walk down the beach.  I sat on a piece of driftwood and wept bitterly.  It is perhaps the hardest I have ever cried in my life.  An older lady came over, put her hand on my shoulder, and asked kindly, "Are you okay, Honey?" I looked up from my sobbing and told her, "I've lost someone that I love."

As the years went by, I would think of him and hope he was doing well. When he joined Facebook, I broke my "No Former Lovers as Friends" Rule and accepted his friend request.  I did it mainly because I had learned of his son's tragic death and I wanted to offer him my sincere sympathy.  I thought of him often and each time I would say a prayer for he and his family.  I was very careful not to open the Pandora's box of first love, I am a happily married woman, after all.  He respected that, but periodically would send me a short note or comment on a status with such sweetness that I realized that perhaps he too still felt a tenderness for me.

I have always been a writer and was working on my first novel the Summer we dated.  It is Tony who I use in my mind to bring that first love to the page.  It's his warm embrace and soft lips that I recall in the passages about young love.  That Summer of 1984, when we were separated by thousands of miles, we would walk outside and look at the stars.  We took comfort that we were at least looking into the same night sky and we talked to the wee hours of the morning.  I had forgotten that until he sent me a note last year and reminded me of it.  So tonight when I look at the stars, I will remember you, my friend, my dear first love - rest in peace Tony McGee, I'll see you soon enough.

Even before he died, I would hear these songs and think of him.  I'd like to think he did the same.

Sep 1, 2012

French Soldier's Take on the American Soldier

Abigail and Dolley readers this was written by a French Infantryman who served with our forces in Afghanistan.."We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while -they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with
them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing "ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events". Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine (Heh. More like Waffle House and McDonalds) - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo.  Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that: the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location: books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions: the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.