Ya Think This Might be an Addiction?

Before I go to work in the morning I usually spend at least a half hour at my computer checking email and reading web pages like Jonathon Delacour’s that have been updated overnight.

Since I’ve started doing taxes in January, I’ve ended up inputting data into a computer eight or nine hours a day. Luckily, it’s not staight data input or I would’ve been fired for inefficiency long ago. Still, I’m sitting at a computer most of that time and entering data.

When I come home, more often than not, I sit down before dinner, check my email, check the stats from my site, and start reading some of the web sites on the East Coast that have already updated their pages. After dinner, I browse a little more looking for ideas, then I sit down and try to write something half-way intelligent for my own site.

Until Monday night this all seemed perfectly reasonable. However, Moday when I tried to get up from the computer around 11:15 I discovered that I couldn’t get up. No matter how hard I tried. I finally had to drop to the floor, crawl over to the couch and pull myself up. I sat there for a good fifteen minutes before I made it up to bed where I discovered that it was nearly impossible to get my shoes off.

I was apprehensive about work Tuesday when I woke up stiff and sore, but I made it through the day relatively easily. Again, it wasn’t until Tuesday night that I had trouble getting up stairs, this time having to resort to crawling up the stairs to the bedroom. After that episode, I’m beginning to think that it might be wise to make up a bed down here next to the computer so that I won’t have to make that long climb after my last update.

Wednesday was even worse, and I barely made it through work before my back went out. Luckily I was scheduled to get off work early anyway, so I had time to go home and lay on the floor for awhile before trying to finish off the blog entry I had started Tuesday night before abandoning it out of sheer agony.

Strangely enough, here I am writing my second entry of the day just before I head out to my doctor’s appointment to see if there’s any drugs he can give me so I’ll have strength enough to update my site tomorrow.

Goodbye Washington Mutual

My already bad day was made a little worse today when I got a call from WA Mutual saying that they hadn’t yet received my February payment. I checked my checkbook and discovered that I had mailed the check on the 5th of February.

Since they “hadn’t received it,” I called my bank and put a stop-payment on the check, which cost me $17.

After stopping payment, I called WA Mutual’s 1-800 number back and after two fruitless attempts to reach a live person was told that I had to make a payment today in order to avoid being “reported to credit agencies.” Of course, in order to make the payment I would have to pay an additional $10 for making the payment over the phone, and that was in addition to the $27.67 late fee that was assessed for being late.

Now I haven’t missed a house payment in the 15 years I’ve owned this house, nor in the 17 years I owned my previous home, though I must admit I was assessed a $17 late fee for this house by Fleet when the payment was delayed in the Christmas mail rush.

I wonder why the late fee went up $10 when WA Mutal bought the loan from Fleet? I wonder why I can’t just pay the bill plus the late fee the next month when I mail in my regular check without being “reported to the credit agencies?”

As I was doing taxes this year, I wondered why so many people had refinanced WA Mutual loans through another bank.

Are you surprised that I stopped on the way home from WA Mutual and enquired about refinancing the loan at another bank? I guess WA Mutual will be losing an 8% loan shortly. Somehow I would have thought that maintaining a good customer would have been more important than $37 in late fees. Maybe not.

“If I had a Rocket Launcher”

After relecting awhile on how fond I was of The Animal’s “Sky Pilot” in the 60’s, I realized that today I am even more fond of Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” In fact, it has always been my favorite Bruce Cockburn hit, and I like Cockburn’s songs alot:

If I Had a Rocket Launcher

Here comes the helicopter — second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they’ve murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher…I’d make somebody pay

I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate
I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher…I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation — or some less humane fate
Cry for guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher…I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice — at least I’ve got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher…Some son of a bitch would die

Obviously, this supports an earlier argument that I’m not a pacifist, but it also seems to say something more about my feelings about war and religion. If you’ve listened to Cockburn much, you realize he’s a “Christian singer,” at least in the same sense that Van Morrison is.

I’m sure he didn’t write the line “How many kids they’ve murdered only God can say” lightly, nor the lines:

…I’d make someone pay
…I would retaliate
…I would not hesitate
…Some son of a bitch would die.

Strangely enough, despite the fact was my government paying for those helicopters, I would have been more than happy to do the same. The obscene idea that Americans somehow had the right to impose their idea of government on the peasants of Guatemala, to assist in their starvation and torture, enrages me. Fighting for the oppressed is far more noble than standing by and watching them die at the hands of a corrupt, military dictatorship.

Perhaps the more important realization, at least personally, is that I am no more cured of the belief that war can be justified than I was before I went to Vietnam. Just because that was an immoral war does not have to mean that all wars are immoral. I believe that one can be moral, even Christian, if one fights for the right cause.

In other words, I find myself agreeing with those who use the “just war” theory to determine whether a war is wrong or right. What really bothered me about Vietnam wasn’t the killing as much as the uncomfortable thought that I admired those we were killing more than I did the South Vietnamese we were aiding. Theoretically, at least, the Viet Cong were fighting for their own country and for the right to rule themselves without having some foreign nation exploiting them. I doubt I consciously thought that while I was there, but I know I hadn’t been home very long before I felt that way.

The trouble with the argument that a soldier who defends our rights is a noble man is that this “lawful bearer of arms” cannot control his own fate. His lord, or his country, not he, determines who he fights. This is precisely why I threw a fit when my son’s stepfather urged him to listen to the recruiter from West Point when he was in high school. Tyson was the “scholar athlete” on his football team, and with his aptitude for sports and math, he may have been the ideal candidate for West Point, but I was unwilling to let him give control of his life to the government of the United States like I had done years before, particularly considering the required length of commitment.

I could well imagine a war where Tyson would have felt compelled to volunteer to fight, and I would have applauded his decision. Unfortunately, those wars have been few and far between in recent American history. More often than not, our wars have been capitalistic wars rather than attempts to free the oppressed.

Despite Bush’s recent attempts to recast the Great SUV War in this light, it’s going to be a hard sell to convince me that the real reason we’re going into Iraq is to promote “democracy” in the Middle East.

Sky Pilot

Jonathon Delacour’s recent comments on the morality of war, in general, and the relationship between war and religion reminded me of some of my own experiences and feelings while in Vietnam.

Despite feeling the battalion chaplain was a great fellow, I wanted nothing to do with his sermons before and after our combat missions, much less prayers over a slain comrade. Perhaps that was because I had already begun to feel that this war was immoral, but I suspect it was more that I felt deep down that it was “un-Christian” to be killing your fellow man.

As a platoon leader I couldn’t totally avoid the chaplain’s sermons, but I always put as much distance between them and myself as possible, even if it meant taking on an extra duty. I had a duty to be there, but I couldn’t personally reconcile those duties with my own spiritual beliefs.

It wasn’t that I was unaware of Christianity’s history, but I had personally chosen to view the Crusades, and songs like Onward Christian Soldiers, as a perversion of Christ’s message. To me, Christ represented the ultimate “Love,” and there was no connection between “Love” and killing your fellow man. In that sense, I guess I tended to agree with AKMA, not Jonathon.

When I returned from Vietnam, one of my favorite songs was Eric Burdon and the Animal’s “Sky Pilot,” a popular song which pointed out the chaplain’s religious hypocrisy. The bluesy tone of the song was certainly appealing but it was lines like

But he’ll stay behind
And he’ll meditate
But it won’t stop the bleeding
Or ease the hate.

As the young men move out
Into the battle zone
He feels good –
With God you’re never alone

that really appealed to me. This contrast between those forced to fight and those who stayed behind and felt “good” appealed to me on many levels.

Perhaps it’s the INTP in me, but I could never quite get past the inconsistency of the young men bleeding and learning to hate while the minister prayed for them. The two were simply irreconcilable, as suggested by:

In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes
The stench of death
Drifts up to the skies.

A young soldier so ill
Looks at the Sky Pilot
Remembers the words
“Thou shalt not kill”.

Of course, the song ends with the refrain “How high can you fly?/You never,never,never reach the sky,” suggesting that it’s the chaplain that’s wrong and lacks true faith, but I never felt that way.

I simply felt that, for me, there was no way to reconcile my attempts to kill VC with my own beliefs. I had suspended my spiritual beliefs in order to stay alive and to fulfill my duties as a platoon leader. I doubt I could have done any other and stayed alive or stayed sane.

I would worrry about my eternal soul in another time and in another place.