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6.12.2014

Pretty is, as pretty does...

"Beauty is truth's smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror."--Rabindranath Tagore
So, in the last few days, Bowe Bergdahl was released, five Taliban terrorists were freed, there was school shooting in Oregon, five American soldiers were killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, Virginia Congressman, Eric Cantor, the second highest ranking Republican in the House, lost an almost unlose-able primary election to a novice-nobody-economics professor named Brat, Hillary Rodham-Clinton insulted every hard-working American by claiming that when she and Billy-baby left the White House they were "dead broke", there was another senseless murder associated with the strangely influential character, Slender Man, and Miss Indiana, although she did not ultimately claim the crown, redefined the physical expectations of contestants in the bathing suit competition of the Miss USA pageant by being beautifully normal--and rocking it. WHEW!!! It has been a busy last week!

And as I laid in bed last night contemplating the above mentioned topics (and many more), I was overwhelmed by the senselessness of the tragedies, the ignorance of the ignorant and the strangeness of the modern cultural in which I am attempting to live. Okay, let me hone my discussion a bit...

                                               

Firstly, I think that most of you will agree that Miss Indiana looked amazing in her white bikini bathing suit. She did!! And her shoes were awesomeness!! But let's get real...she isn't curvy. She just isn't rail thin. She didn't look "full figured", as some television and radio pundits are claiming--she looked like a beautiful young woman who works out but occasionally eats normal food (i.e. cheeseburgers and milkshakes). It is obvious and completely refreshing to know that Miss Indiana didn't starve herself for two weeks leading up to the pageant. And before some of you beauty queens get your high-priced panties in a wad, I am not accusing ALL pageant contestants of going to extremes in dieting and exercise. I am simply speaking truth in that there is most definitely an atmosphere of pressure to be very, very thin when you step onto the brightly lit stage to be judged on your polished looks. I know from first hand experience.

Now don't get me wrong: I am glad that young girls (and let's just be honest, women of all ages) across the nation, saw someone who, according to modern societal image gurus, was less than perfect physically, strut confidently across one of the biggest stages in the world. I applaud Miss Indiana and personally think that she looked amazing and healthy. However, it is heart-breaking to me that her healthy body is such a big deal.  How did America get here? Why are we even talking about this? And look--I've been sucked in too!! There are REAL tragedies occurring each and every day all over this world and we are discussing the healthy, fit body of a young woman attempting to earn scholarship money. Somehow, somewhere, we, as a nation, a people, a gender, a generation, have completely lost touch with reality. 

Young women are allowing themselves to be defined by a shallow, fickled, fallen society that is determined to ruin and forget them. The pressure to be beautiful, thin and edgy is destroying the best aspects of being a lady.  I get it, trust me. Being fat, fluffy or frumpy wasn't an option in my family growing up. We fixed our hair and wore makeup no matter what. Shirts were tucked in and belts matched your hand bags. Trust me, I am no stranger to the emphasis on thinness and the requirement to look 'perfect' each and every time you walk out of the door. 

However, as a woman, wife, and mother in her mid-thirties, I can honestly look back on those years I spent obsessing about my appearance, and without reservation or hesitation, say that all that effort did me NO good. As a child, adolescent and twenty-something, my entire self worth was wrapped up in the way I looked and the way that others, primarily men, viewed me. That is a dangerous way for any young woman to define herself. And an almost certain road to emotional and psychological disaster. It was only when I lived a little and matured tremendously that I began to care less about how I looked to others and more about how I looked to myself--on the inside. Don't get me wrong, I still get my hair highlighted, wear bright red lipstick and care about my overall physical appearance. But the way I appear outwardly is no longer the greatest representation of my life or my person. Nowadays, I am determined to be more kind than I am cute, smarter than sexy and more well-informed than best dressed. Essentially, I got over it and moved on. 

I am determined to instill in my daughter a balance when it comes to the adherence of basic lady-like standards of beauty and poise. I want my daughter to understand and appreciate the incredible importance of thinking for herself and speaking up for what is right. I want her to be able to throw and catch a ball without fear of breaking a nail and be confident enough to wear her hair in a knot and little to no makeup. And I will teach her, in good lady-like, Texas fashion, how to doll herself up. She will know about root boost, tinted concealer and Spanx. However, my prayer for my precious daughter is that if and when her beauty fades and her hair and skin are no longer perfect, she will believe that she is still amazingly beautiful because her heart will be good and her mind, strong. Because the cold-hard reality of life is this: There will always be someone more beautiful, thinner, wealthier, smarter, faster, more eloquent and better dressed. That is simply fact. However, God created each of us perfectly, just the way we are supposed to be, exactly suited and prepared to perform this life for His glory. 

So, good for you, Miss Indiana!! I think you are beautiful. I think you are strong. I think you are perfect. But to be honest, I hope and pray that Miss Indiana could care less what I think.

6.02.2014

A new foreign policy has been born: We negotiate now.


"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." 
--John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873) 


My great-uncle spent 18 months in a prisoner of war camp in Europe during World War II. Each evening he was told that he would be executed the following morning. He was starved, he was beaten, and he listened as his fellow soldiers, his friends, scream as they were tortured and beaten as well. The bond that was forged between the captive American service men was something that my great-uncle grew to appreciate. He seldomly spoke of his ordeal and suffered in silence throughout the remainder of his life from the PTSD (although that was not the label he used) that plagued his daily (and nightly) existence. Every year for almost forty years, he and my aunt would make the long trip from West Texas to Georgia to attend a POW/MIA gathering. There, in the midst of heroes and survivors, they found people who truly understood them and their ordeal. It was much needed fellowship for a man who had been forever changed by 18 months of war-time incarceration. My Uncle Russell was an American hero: his plane was shot down, he was captured, held against his will for a year and a half and was freed when, and only when, the war ended and America defeated the enemy.

As a general rule, I don't watch war movies. I can't take them. However, this last weekend my husband was watching "We Were Soldiers" and I made the emotional mistake of sitting down and watching it with him. It was exactly as I imagined: a multi-tissue nightmare. In fact, some of the scenes in the movie had actually been filmed at Fort Benning, Georgia, on our old street, near our old home. Way too close for comfort. The fighting was real, the emotional range of the characters was believable, and the bravery indescribable. I was literally shaking with sobs. At the end of the movie, when Mel Gibson's character slowly lifts his soiled combat boot off of Vietnamese soil and took his seat among the survivors of his unit, in the safety of an American helicopter, I looked at my sweet husband and asked, "do you think we left a lot of guys behind?". His handsome face grimaced, his dark brown eyes lowered, and slowly he said, "yes." Neither one of us slept very well that night.

The very next morning, we learned of the release of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who has been held captive by the Taliban for five years. An immediate wave of relief and joy washed over me! How wonderful: an American hero miraculously freed and returning home. There is no better headline than that! However, as the story in its entirety began to unfold and as the news reporters continued their reporting, things became less and less joyful. 

Yes, Bowe Bergdahl had been released by the Taliban. But, in exchange, this administration, without Congressional knowledge or approval, had agreed to release five, high level, enemy combatant terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Yes, Bowe Bergdahl was headed home to a loving and devoted family who had campaigned tirelessly for his release for five years. But, as a result, the five terrorists, with hands stained in American blood, were being shipped to Qatar, where they will be held for one year and then released without restriction. Yes, an American soldier was beginning the long journey from foreign captivity to American freedom. But so many questions remain unanswered. Why and how had then PVT Bengdahl been captured in the first place? Was he abducted at the latrine? Was he taken because he was lagging behind during a routine patrol? Was he drunk and taken by the enemy as he stumbled around the edge of base camp? Or did he leave his post, after being told not to when he requested permission, and willingly enter the lion's den? Did Bowe Bergdahl's well documented dissent with American policy and his disgruntled attitude finally get the best of him and he knowingly walked out of his base camp and into enemy hands?

These are the facts as established by PVT Bowe Bergdahl's email correspondence with his family during the three days prior to his capture:
He hated his chain of command. He didn't agree with the American mission. He was disturbed by the supposed treatment of the Afghan people by some in his military unit. He allegedly witnessed an accident where a young Afghan child was run over and killed by an American military vehicle. He was upset and angry and confessed to feeling misled by his ARMY recruiter and lied to by the military. He was an angry American soldier.

And like Bowe Bergdahl, President Obama has been uncomfortable with our War on Terror. In fact, he refuses to even use the term. He is, by nature, a pacifist and has never fully supported our military efforts in Afghanistan or Iraq. Our dear leader has done a lot of things over the last six years that I have completely disagreed with. However, most of his mistakes could, with great effort, good leadership and loads of prayer, be corrected and rectified. For instance, Congress could repeal Obamacare. It would be difficult but technically, it is possible. In two years, America, with new leadership, could strengthen her economy and renew growth in the private sector and shrink the public one. Again, it would be hard, but recovery is achievable. These are just a couple of examples of recoveries that are possible after Obama leaves office. However, some mistakes that have been made by this president cannot be reversed. Some policy cannot be undone. And this release yesterday, even with the momentary joy, is one of those times. Negotiating the release of enemy combatants for the life of an American soldier with foreign governments, whether hostile to the United States or not, has never been policy. This is not the way to retrieve America's missing service men and women. Special Forces could have attempted a rescue mission. Special Ops could have worked some of their magic. If the Obama administration will remember, some pretty capable American Navy Seals found Osama Bin Laden and successfully killed him. There are ways of getting Americans out of situations that don't include bargaining and release. Every American soldier, everywhere in the world, is now a target. A new foreign policy has been born. 

Yesterday, flanked by his joy-filled wife and President Obama, Bowe Bergdahl's father addressed reporters. His extremely bearded face and long hair seemed somewhat strange for the Ohio Calvinist. His first words in the Rose Garden were spoken in Pastun, the native language of Afghanistan. He claims his son may not be capable of speaking in English. In the past, Bob Bergdahl has Tweeted, and very recently deleted, some extremely anti-American sentiments. For a father who has been publicly grieving the supposed kidnapping of his only son, he shows enormous sympathies for his son's captors. Whether the entire family has fallen victim to the phenomenon known as Stockholm's Syndrome or are simply choosing to cast blame at the wrong people, their reactions and behaviors have been their own. As a mother, I cannot imagine the stress, fear and unimaginable sadness of not knowing the health and welfare of my child. As a wife who sent her husband to war twice, I cannot fathom the anguish of loving and waiting on a captured soldier. Their pain is something that I hope no other mother or father will ever have to experience. 

SGT Bowe Bergdahl, like my Uncle Russell, will undoubtedly be a different man when he steps back onto American soil. (He has been promoted twice since his capture.) After my Uncle Russell returned home from the POW camp, he went to college and devoted his life to educating youth. He taught math and science and eventually became a high school principal and superintendent. But in reality, my uncle's body healed much more quickly than his mind did. And given the length of Bowe Bergdahl's POW incarceration, the same will probably be true of him. This young man's life has been forever altered by his capture and his five year long captivity. I can't imagine the anticipation, excitement and gratitude of his parents. I just hope and pray that his recovery is speedy and complete and that he will make the most of his life and the second chance he has been given. That second chance came at a great cost.