Alchemy of Shadows: a Snippet

From a current work in progress, tentatively titled “Alchemy of Shadows”:


When we returned to Daryll’s room, we found a large man standing by Daryll’s bed.  Seen from behind, it took me a moment to recognize him as the same man who had been on the field during football practice, the coach.

Jeff looked up. “Becki?  Adrian?  What are you doing back?”

“I remembered my grandfather had a light sensitivity after his first heart attack.  I wanted to talk to the doctors, make sure they knew about that.”

The story sounded less plausible every time I said it.

The big man turned and looked at us through mirrored sunglasses.

“Becki, how nice to see you.  And this is?”

“Coach,” Jeff said, “this is a friend.  Adrian Jaeger”.

“Jaeger?” The coach smiled. “That means ‘hunter’ in German, does it not?”

I shrugged.  I knew quite well what the name meant but the youth I was pretending to be likely would not.

He held out his hand. “Aleki Ata.”

I did not hesitate.  A shadow riding a human had to depart its human host to touch me.  I took the hand.

“Pleased to meet you.”

Inside, my mind was racing.  The coach, and now one of the team members, both clearly ridden by shadows.  Had they known somehow that I was coming or was it just chance that I encountered a nest doing, whatever it was they do.

I tried to release Ata’s hand but he held tight.  He jerked me close, so that his mouth was near my right ear.

“What a pleaseant surprise…Johann.”

My eyes opened wide.  I pulled back.  The lights went out.  I tugged but Ata still held my hand fast in his grip.  By the dim light spilling around the curtains I could see Ata reaching for his glasses.

I’d left the flare in my right pocket.  Stupid.  I could not reach it with my right hand secure in Ata’s mitt.

I am not a fighter.  One does not live as long as I have by getting into fights all the time.  I avoid fights.  But neither does one live as long as I have without being able to fight at need.  I lifted my left knee then stomped forward into Ata’s knee.  I then raked the edge of my shoe down his shin.  As his leg started to fold, I turned, twisting my right hand up.  I continued to pivot and drove the heel of my left palm into Ata’s wrist.  His grip, loosened in reaction to my kick, popped loose from my hand.  I drove my hand down into the pocket of my pants and dove aside, hoping to avoid the tendrils of shadow that he knew were protruding from his eye sockets.

I succeeded.  My hand wrapped around the magnesium flare, withdrew.

I struck the flare.  Light blazed forth.  Tendrils of shadow recoiled, not just from me.  Some, I saw, reached for Becki but those too recoiled.  Beck stood, her eyes wide for just a moment before her left arm rose to shield her eyes.  Her right arm hung limp at her side.  On the far side of the room Jeff stood, his mouth agape, his face cast into stark relief in the actinic light.  Daryll still lay on the bed, his arms across his eyes, his mouth open in a soundless scream.

I had to think fast.  The flare only gave me a few seconds of light.  My first instinct was to run, get away before the thing riding Ata could recover.  But the shadows kept their existence as secret as I kept mine.  That meant Jeff and Becki…

“Run!” I shouted.

Neither Jeff nor Becki moved.

I dove onto the bed, reaching across to grab the front of Jeff’s shirt.  I pulled.  It was like pulling on a tree, firmly rooted in a mountain.

“Run,” I said again.

Jeff stumbled, his arm still shielding his eyes but he started to round the bed in the general direction of the door.

I pushed myself off the bed but pulled up short.  Daryll had grabbed the edge of my sleeve.  I jerked away, harder.  Fabric tore.  The sleeve came off in Daryll’s hand.  I whirled and placed a hand on Becki’s shoulder, turning her toward the door.

“Run,” I said yet again.  I moved my hand from her shoulder to the small of her back as I chivied her toward the door.  We reached it just ahead of Jeff.

The fluorescent lights of the hallway provided what seemed a dim illumination after the brilliance of my flare.  Bright purple after images from the flare rendered me nearly blind but I could hear people shouting, see others running toward us.

I turned in the direction I remembered for the exit and pushed Jeff and Becki in that direction.  I did not have time to let my eyes recover naturally.

I pulled the vial of elixir from where it hid behind my belt.  The lesser elixir would serve for this purpose but even so, I dared not waste it.  When I confirmed Jeff and Becki were moving, I twisted off the cap of the vial.  I tipped it to moisten a finger tip then flicked a few drops into first my left eye then my right.  My vision cleared immediately.

Hospital personnel were running for the room we had just vacated.  Strangely, nobody was paying any attention to us.  I moistened my finger with the elixir again and flicked some into Becki’s eyes, then into Jeff’s.  They both stopped as their own vision cleared.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” I said.

“What…what was that?” Becki said.

“Later,” I said. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

I grabbed her by the arm and pulled.  She followed me.

Jeff hung back. “But…”

“Later,” I said again. “I’ll explain everything letter.  Right now, we’ve got to get out of here.”

The light leaking past the door to Daryll’s room died as the flare within burned itself out.

“Now!” I said.

Becki came with me.  Jeff followed.

The lights in the hall went off.  Gloom filled the hallway, broken only from the light leaking from open doorways along its length.

“Scheisse!” I whispered.

Door.  Where was the door?

I found the door opening button and pressed.  Nothing.  The door itself resisted my push.  I let go of Becki’s arm and placed my shoulder against the door to shove.  It creaked partially open then stopped.  Panic rose in me.  Even without power those doors should open.

I heard a shout behind me, not quite a scream, then silence.

“Johann?” Ata’s voice.

Jeff rammed the other leaf of the door.  It burst open.  His left hand twisted in the front of my shirt while his right grabbed Becki by the arm.  He pulled us through the doorway.  I stumbled for a moment before my feet caught the rhythm and I ran after him.

“What the hell is going on?” Jeff asked.

“Get to the car.  I’ll explain.”

He let go of me.  I glanced over at Becki.  Her right arm still hung at her side.  Jeff still held her left, not quite pulling her along.

“Jeff,” she said, “let go.  I can–”

Her right foot slid out from under her.  She started to fall.  Jeff pivoted, moving with an agility I never would have imagined in someone as big as he was.  His left arm caught her, just under the shoulder and he set her back on her feet.

I leaned back hard, coming to a stop before colliding with the two of them.

We stood for a moment, panting.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said. “I’ll explain everything.  But we’ve got to get out of here, away from that thing, now.”

“What thing?” Becki said.

I waved at her immobile arm. “I’ll explain later, I said.  Let’s go now.”

Without further argument they followed me to the car.


If you enjoyed that, you might like some of my other work.  Click on the cover images to the side or go to the “My titles for Sale” page for brief descriptions of my books available for sale.

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Dunkirk

I got busy yesterday so didn’t get a blog post up.  Sorry.

Today went with the family to see Dunkirk.

See.  This.  Movie.

One thing annoyed me about it, the use of shakeycam.  However the movie was so riviting that toward the end when I was getting nauseated I thought maybe someone had mixed up the drink machine and I’d gotten sugared pop.  It wasn’t until later that it dawned on me.  I was so rivited by the story that I completely forgot the shakeycam even though it was making me sick.

That may sound like a mixed result but really, it’s high praise indeed for a story.

The movie starts with a squad of British soldiers in town making their way back toward the beach.  They come under fire from unseen assailants.  As they flee, they get picked off one by one, until there’s only one left.  The one, finally reaches a street blocked off by sandbags with another squad guarding it.  He comes under fire from them until he’s able to announce, and have them believe, that he’s British.

This guy is one of several we follow through the movie.  And this opening scene pretty much sums up his luck through the whole thing.

There are three basic intertwined stories.  There’s the British soldier, and a companion he picks up near the start.  There’s the owner of a small boat, his son, and a young friend of theirs.  And there are the pilots of a flight of Spitfires.  We also have a Naval officer on the shore at Dunkirk, overseeing the evacuation (and played by Kenneth Brannaugh; it took me a while to recognize him) with whom we spend somewhat less time than the others.  These intertwined stories give us different views of the events of the evacuation.

The timeline of the film is rather non-linear.  In the soldier’s story we see daytime, then nighttime, then daytime again but the small boat is all daytime as is the pilots’ story as their tale is told over the course of one sortie.  This gives the film a surreal quality as we’re clearly jumping back and forth in time.  The soldier’s story starts well before the boat crews’ which in turn has to start well before the Spitfire pilots’.  But we’re cutting between their scenes simultaneously.

An interesting narrative choice is that during the movie at no time until the very end do we see the Germans.  Or if we did, I missed it.  They are seen at the very end, but I won’t spoil that.

As things are in reality, some people react with courage and dedication to duty during the crisis.  Others react with moral and physical cowardice.  Some rise to the occasion.  Others are broken.

In summary, I found it a deeply moving picture of a desperate time in the beginning of the 2nd World War.  Highly recommended.

Blast from the Past: Moving Forward

The recent failure of the repeal of Obamacare, with the “defection” of several Republicans has brought this back to mind.  Unfortunately some of the economically most insupportable provisions of ObamaCare remain highly popular.

Elsewhere, the discussion came up again about the political landscape.  Some people, frustrated by Republican lack of anything resembling a spine and repeatedly rolling over for the current administration (Update:  and seem in some cases Hel-bent on rolling over for the previous administration now) are talking about “alternatives” including going third party, “letting it burn” (and thus having society and rule of law collapse), or worst of all “revolution.”

First, let’s be clear on one thing:  If we lose liberty here, it’s over.  Unlike past generations, people elsewhere in the world living under tyranny, we have no place to go.  If the US stops being a Constitutional Republic of limited powers where ultimate sovereignty comes from the people and individual liberty is the primary watchword, then there’s no place else to go.

This is not a new idea:

Some people look at the American Revolution and say “we need to do that again.” What they miss is that the situation here in the US at the time of the Revolution were unique in history, they haven’t been recreated since, and don’t hold now. By the time of the US break with Britain, we had a nation of immigrants “self selected” to a large extent for desiring freedom. Oh, it may have been the freedom to create their own highly insular and regulated communities but the key words there are “their own”. Even the “loyalists” were more “we can work something out to keep our freedoms” than “we should just kowtow to being ruled” (at least that’s my impression from my readings over the years).

The American revolution is, therefore, unique. Looking at other revolutions in other times and places does not lead to happy making feelings “Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite” and The Terror. That’s a more common model, especially “The Terror.”

If it does come to actual revolution, I expect that to be the most likely outcome, not “a new birth of freedom, kumbaya”. The odds are so very long against getting anything like a free society out of an armed insurrection that, well, things have to be pretty far gone indeed for that forlorn hope to look like the better option.

As for the actual conduct of such a revolution itself, that will get ugly. Incredibly ugly. I’ve discussed that a bit elsewhere:

Second American Revolution–I Hope Not

In 2008 a movie was made about Jewish resistance fighters in Nazi occupied Bellarus. One of the things I noted was the partisans execution of an informer. That’s exactly how things will have to be. Doesn’t matter how intimidated you are, doesn’t matter if they beat it out of you or threatened your family, or what. You inform; you die. And if (more like when) that doesn’t succeed in stopping informers (or keeping the level low enough that the insurrection can proceed) the next step is to escalate: you inform; your entire family dies.

Immoral? Downright evil? Yep. But that’s where it will be. That’s what it will be. That’s what an armed “Second* American Revolution” will come to.

Better be damned sure it’s justified before pulling that trigger.

Some other thoughts to ponder about a Revolution.  Back in the days of the American Revolution, what most Americans wanted was to be left alone. They liked the idea of liberty. They might disagree on whether negotiating with the King or declaring independence is the best way to get that but they pretty much agreed (oh, there were exceptions–there always are–but by and large). The problem was outside, the King and Parliament.

We have almost the exact opposite situation here. Now, in America, entirely too many people are infected with “there ought to be a law” or a lust for “goodies that other people pay for.”
So, you have your revolution. You win it. It isn’t hijacked by people wanting to use it for their own ends rather than the cause of “Freedom”. (Three miracles in a row of which the last is the greatest, but let’s go with that.) Now what? The people are the same people. You have your new Constitutional Convention? The people who send Pelosi and Boxer, Schumer and Jackson Lee, to Washington are also going to be sending delegates to this convention. How do you prevent them from doing something just as bad?

If you set up a Representative government, you’ve got the same problem because you’ve got the same voters with the same attitudes. What are you going to do? Kill or forcibly deport everyone who disagrees with you? There is a word for that. (Actually several words, but I’ll just go with “evil”.)
Or maybe you’ll go the other way. A benevolent dictatorship can be as free as a Constitutional Republic: provided you get a dictator whose goal is to leave people alone. There’s very little necessary connection between the form government takes and the freedom of the people under it. So, that can work for a generation, maybe two. Of course how benevolent is a dictator who puts himself in power by force of arms likely to be. (A fourth miracle, greater than the other three combined?)
So you get your revolution and you win it. Now what?

Now as for this “third party” vs. “working within the existing parties” argument. I note that the Libertarian Party to use one example for which I have numbers) was founded in 1971. It has run candidates in every Presidential election since 1972. So far, it has only once been able to capture even 1% of the vote. If you plot its results out as a trend it‘s several thousand years before they reach a level high enough to actually win the Presidency.That should put paid to the “third party” idea.

“But, but, that compromise approach is what got us into this mess.” Yes, because the other side has been willing to go for a little bit here, a little bit there, “compromise” so long as they can get some net gain. taking any setbacks and redoubling efforts for the next round.

The exact same “long game, make small gains where you can, minimize losses where you must” approach that I advocate, has been extremely successful. It’s just the other side that’s been doing it. But it takes discipline, patience, and perseverance. Strange that these are the traits that supposed “conservatives” seem to be lacking in politics
.
I wasn’t particularly surprised by the House and Senate continuing to roll over after the last election. That’s not a sign that “voting for new people does no good”. If you look at the way the new folk vote vs. how the old folk vote you do see a change. But there aren’t enough Cruzes and Gowdy’s and such yet. It’ll take a few more iterations before the balance shifts enough to really be felt–that is if people have the discipline to keep the pressure on.  Update: and we’ve had some improvement since the original post on this.  Still not quite enough.  There are a couple of Republican senators that yet need to be “primaried” and replaced by actual small-government conservatives.

If I ever start voting third party, it will mean one of two things: either the third party has somehow managed to get into the double digits in the vote (hey, I can dream) or I’ve simply given up. It won’t be because I think voting for someone who can’t even get one percent of the vote is going to make things better in any way.

It will also be about the time I start drinking.

(Update) As it happened, I did vote third party this last time around.  Going into the election, we had two people with a history of being liberal democrats.  One of them was claiming to be a Republican, claiming all sorts of things.  However, he’d also wrote the book on saying whatever you have to to “make the deal” to get what you want.  I had no expectation that it would be any better.  So, I went third party, playing the long game in the hopes that libertarian ideas would be seen as popular enough that some future candidates would see it as “politically profitable”* to support them.

So I voted third party.  And I started drinking.

*Poltically profitable:

My recruiter lied to me!

No, actually, he or she almost certainly didn’t.  You just heard what you wanted to hear.

In spring of 1981 I enlisted in the United States Air Force.  That was the culmination of a series of events, and the beginning of another series.

First, some background.  I grew up in a “broken home.” My parents separated when I was about three.  Some time after that, my mother remarried.  I have some isolated memories of that period and it seems like it was a good time but it didn’t last.  For whatever reason, my mother and this other man separated.  We moved to a little house in Portsmouth Virginia which my mother shared with one of the women she worked with (she waited tables) and her two children.

Shortly before I entered school, my mother married yet again to a Navy sonarman who served on destroyers.  Neither my sister nor I liked this guy.  We much preferred her other suitor, who was also in the Navy.  He proposed to her shortly before shipping out and my mother did not want to give him an answer in that rather narrow time window.  My sister and I (I was like six.  My sister was four) urged her to accept the proposal but she said she had time to decide.  My argument was that if she waited, then the other guy would convince her while the preferred guy was out.

Damn, I was awfully perceptive for a six year old.  Not only did I peg that the other guy would convince her to accept his suit, but that it would prove to be a really bad idea.

For a while everything seemed okay.  Oh, there were some hints.  When I was bullied at school, he didn’t do anything positive–not even to the extent of teaching me to defend myself.

Then, for reasons that I will not go into here, he lost his job as an officer of the Portsmouth City (Virginia) police and he moved back to his home in Cambridge, OH.

That’s when the problems really started.  You see he was an alcoholic.  While we were in Virginia, he wasn’t drinking, at least not much, but on return to Ohio he started drinking a lot and he was a mean drunk.

Another nice little bit is that he brought home a nice little present from a “side piece” (I believe that’s one of the current terms for a person with whom one is breaking ones oaths) and gave it to my mother.  He got himself taken care of but never said anything.  We didn’t find out until my mother literally collapsed on the floor and had to be rushed to the hospital where they found the damage was so extensive that she needed a total hysterectomy, plus the removal of one of her ovaries.

And yet my mother stayed with him.  A modern term for that is “co-dependent”.

In that timeframe, his treatment of me was harsh, but did not rise to the level of physical abuse, at least not by the standards of the time.  How he treated my mother, OTOH, that was a whole other ballgame.  I remember lying awake at night, listening to him coming home drunk, their fighting, the smashing sounds that I learned later were of a porcelain lamp being broken over my mother’s head.

And still she stayed with him.  For years.  I was thirteen when she finally left him and made it stick.  And while she had the occasional relationship after that, she never remarried.

The upshot of all that was that I never had a good male role model in my life.  I never had anyone to show me what it was to be a father, what it was to be a man.  And when I started growing up and the folk around me were growing faster, there was no one to explain that puberty hits different people at different times.  Some come earlier and some, like me, come later.  Frustrating as it is, it’s not something wrong.  And most importantly once it did come I would catch up.  Nobody to help me understand what was going on when I was the last one in anything related to gym class.  Years later, looking back I could see that I was basically just one year behind.  But then?  I was just a wimp, physically inadequate, completely incapable at anything requiring muscle.

As it happened, I did catch up.  There were signs that I was starting to catch up at the tail end of the Freshman year.  They had a track and field block near the end of the year and while my running was pathetic, one of the last things we did was high jump.  As student after student dropped out from failing to clear progressively higher bars.  I was still in.  This despite my horrid form (I was more hurdling than high-jumping).  Then there were just two people in–me and one other.  And the other guy was on the track team specializing in high jump.  I eventually failed twice at 4′ 8″ (Having cleared 4′ 7″).  The other guy managed 5′ 4″.  Not great numbers, but compared to anything I had ever done before?  I was actually pleased at that fluke.  If I’d had the practice to get good form, I probably would have been close, at least, to that other guy.

That year, however, was the last year of mandatory physical education and I firmly put it behind me.  After all, what was the point?  Despite the fluke there with the high jump, I was just a physical wimp, right?

Yeah.  I had severe self confidence issues.

Years later, I’d completed school, tried to get into college (my grades and test scores were fine but…well, that’s another story) and didn’t.  Worked for a bit in food service–bussing tables and washing dishes–and decided to join the military.  Talked to a recruiter.  Took the ASVAB’s.  Practically aced them (lost a few points in the “administrative” category so I was not qualified to be an accountant or a disbursement accountant–not that I wanted to.

But I was physically a wimp.  Of course I was a wimp.  I knew I was a wimp.  The physical demands of the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy intimidated me.  I was too wimpy for them.  I knew it. (That I was wrong didn’t enter into it.  I knew it.)

So I joined the Air Force.  I had a plan.  I had always had an interest in electronics.  Abusive stepfather was also a Ham radio operator and the one good thing he did do in those years was teach me some basic electronics.  So, at the advice of a friend, I was going to go into the Air Force and study electronics, take the longest school they have with the idea that electronics is electronics so the longer school I would have more to build on once I got out if I didn’t decide to make the military a career.

My recruiter, however, had other ideas.

Did I mention I had self-confidence issues?

He presented this alternative option, something called “Cryptologic Linguist.” It sounded intriguing.  I would be working with radios and recording equipment.  I would be sent to a language school to learn a foreign language. (I’m sure you see where this is heading.) I’d have to pass a background check for a top secret security clearance. (Got it now?  Nothing I’ve said here is not in the actual field description that I was handed as a potential recruit.)

Oh, and I would be able to enter in April rather than have to wait until September or later for the electronics fields (and I was out of work so that mattered).

He just sort of mentioned that if I signed up for six years, because of how long the training was, I’d get an automatic promotion to E3 on graduation of Basic Training and a $2500 bonus when I finished technical training.

That sounded like a lot of money to a kid just out of high school whose only experience is with jobs paying 1980 minimum wage.

Did I mention I had self confidence issues?

I took it.  Not the worst mistake of my life, not even top ten, but probably in the top twenty.

What he didn’t tell me was the long hours of boredom.  Of time spent sitting, waiting for something to happen.  And you can’t. do. anything. but. wait.  Some people an handle that.  I can’t.  I had a friend (different but related field) who described it as he could “turn off” his brain and just trigger whenever what he needed to respond to happened.  I can’t.

I went quite slowly mad.  My performance led to a counseling session where I was rated “not eligible to reenlist”.  And, well, the suicide attempt (not stemming from not being eligible to reenlist; I was perfectly happy with that; the feeling was mutual) lost me my security access and I ended up working in building maintenance (what was called “casual status”) for the last few months of my enlistment.

Then I was hit by a car.  But that’s another story.

So, no, my recruiter never lied to me.  I heard what I wanted to hear and, frankly, I was young and stupid (but I repeat myself), and simply did not have the self-confidence to stick to my plan.  But none of that was the recruiter’s fault.  He was just doing his job, and doing it well.

I’ve talked to friends since who suggested other areas that I might have been much better suited for.  And I sometimes wonder how things might have gone had I taken a different path–like say sticking to my original plan.  Even if my military career had gone no better, I would have been in a much better position no separating. (The only thing “marketable” from that cryptologic linguist field was the security clearance, and I’d lost my access so that was right out.)

And, yet, for all the trouble, that process started a sequence of events that, in the end, led to the wonderful daughter who’s currently napping in the next room.  With that in mind, looking back, even if I could, I don’t think I’d change it, not if it meant I wouldn’t have that daughter.

Trans and the Military

Well, Trump has made his declaration, that Trans people are to be forbidden from serving in the military.

Okay, look, I get it.  Sometimes the “wiring” doesn’t match the “plumbing” someone is born with.

I get it.

There are hundreds to thousands of genes involved in the determining of the sex of an individual, any of which can express “incorrectly” during development making “XX = female and XY = male” not an absolute determinant.  One or more genes “turned off” when they should be turned on or “turned on” or vice versa can complicate matters. People using that simplistic chromosome argument as an argument against someone being trans are like folk using the “solar system” model of atoms as the be-all and end-all of science.  It’s close enough for a middle school science class but the reality is more complicated.

I get it.

Also, the wiring in many ways more determines ones identity, ones “personhood” than the plumbing.  Back between the time I left the Air Force and the time I entered college I worked temp jobs.  One of my co-workers had lost a great deal of memory from an accident.  And this person was in many ways a completely different person from the individual before-accident.  A lot of the memories and experiences that went into the forming of their personality were gone.  And the personal characteristics that grew up as a result of those things were likely gone.  And since sexuality is so big a part of a person’s identity someone might reasonably object to being turned into someone else.

I get it.

That’s even leaving aside the idea that attempts to “fix” the wiring have generally not worked well.

That said, sometimes the plumbing matters.  And sometimes the dichotomy between the plumbing and wiring is a real issue.

There are several issues that one has to deal with on the issue of trans people in the military.

Being trans is a medical issue.  It’s not a matter of being “at fault”.  Being trans doesn’t make someone a bad person.  It’s a medical matter.

However, there are a great many medical matters that disqualify one for military service which aren’t a matter of “fault”.  I passed my induction physical back in ’81.  However a number of things I have now, had I had them now, would have disqualified me:  my arches and my knees in particular.  But there are plenty others as well.  The simple truth is, military operations are extremely physically demanding.  Even folk who aren’t in combat arms…well, history has shown that can be naively optimistic.  Anyone might end up on the sharp end with not just their own lives but the lives of those around them depending on them keeping up and doing their job.  And this is often at the end of long supply lines with limited logistics.

That means, the hormone therapy that transgender folk (example for MtF) is either not going to be available or is going to add to the logistics load.  And by “add to the load” we mean “trade off something else not being available for this”.  How many units of blood for treating wounded soldiers are you willing to leave behind so that a transgender can have his or her hormone treatments?  How many Motrin for that matter?

And if the hormones are not made available, how many discrimination lawsuits are we going to have?

And what about transition surgery?  Is the military going to be required to provide that?  Apparently, the courts have decided, in the case of Chelsea Manning a prisoner had to be given the transition surgery.  This leads to some questions:

  • Where is the budget for transition surgery for military personnel to come from?
  • How long is a service member out of action related to that surgery?
  • We already have people joining the military for education benefits who then balk at fulfilling the large print on their enlistment contracts (Hint:  first and foremost purpose of joining the military is to fight America’s enemies–everything else is a distant second to that purpose).  These people then balk and become “conscientious objectors” when ordered to deploy.  How long before the same thing happens with transgender folk joining the military just to get their transition surgery paid for?  Do you really want to try to claim that they are such angels that this would never occur to them?  I’m not going to claim that transgender folk are any worse than anyone else.  But I’m not going to let you get away with trying to claim they are better either.  They’re people–good, bad, or indifferent.

The purpose of the military is not to serve as a laboratory for social justice.  It’s to fight and defeat America’s enemies.  Everything else is a distant second to that purpose (see “purpose of joining the military” above).  As thing stand now, with the medical technology we have now, having transgender people serve looks to be detrimental to that end.

There is no “right” to serve in the military.  People are turned away all the time for medical conditions that interfere with their ability to perform duties they might be called upon to fulfill or which add to the difficulties of managing and supplying a warfighting force.  If one is not able to serve in the military there are other ways one can serve the country if that truly is ones motivation.  The military can always use support from the civilian sector.

But if your motivation is anything other than the best needs of the military and the nation it serves, then the military is the last place you should be.

Confessions of a libertarian Goth

I’m going to ramble here a bit.

When I first started exploring Goth subculture I saw posts that said that Goths come from all walks of life and all political persuasions.  However, in my own experience I’ve seen more of a left-wing bent.  One link I found (not going to link to it) that purported in a forum to be to “right-wing goths” and had an appropriate sounding URL but led to a porn site.  Apparently the poster thought that was a prank worthy of a giggle.  I supposed a kinder interpretation might be that the registration on an old domain had expired and a porn site had bought it up invalidating the old link.

In either case, it wasn’t what I was looking for.

To be honest, I tend to be pretty much a loner as a Goth.  In the city in which I live there is exactly one “Goth Club” and even that is just one night a week at a club that serves other segments of the community the rest of the week.  And since I’m older (and need my recovery time) and have to go to work in the mornings, staying out late to party on a weeknight just doesn’t work.

Maybe “Goth-lite” or “Entry-Level-Goth” is a better description for me.  I tried the “Cowboy Goth” look for a while, but in the end it didn’t suit.  Recently I’ve decided that, since my religion of choice is Asatru, I should see if I could create “Viking Goth” as a look.  My results have been mixed.  I’d love to say that adding a sword or an axe to an outfit is always appropriate, it can be a problem when having to deal with mundanes.

Let me give you a little bit of my background as it relates to being a “libertarian Goth”.

When I was a child, for a long time, black was my favorite color.  This really wasn’t a Goth thing.  It was late 60’s.  This was before Punk was even a thing, let alone the various post-punk movements which included Dark Wave and Goth.  Still, when you add in that my household were big fans of the original run of Dark Shadows, it was perhaps a sign of things to come.

Time passed, and I just missed the early days of the Goth movement in England in the mid-80’s.  I mean just missed it.  You see, I was in the Air Force at the time and stationed in England from 1983-1985.  I’d finished training and, well, I’d started buying clothes for off-duty wear.  Looking back those clothes were pushing in the direction of what could now be called “trad-goth”.  Being in the military there were limits on what I could do with hair and piercings were right out.  Being a man in the military with even simple lobe piercings is a great deal of trouble.  However, I was moving in that direction.  Then someone took me aside and “explained” that if I wanted to be attractive to young women I needed to start wearing bright colors and that my darker ensembles were a put-off.

Being irredeemably heterosexual I took this advice to heart.

It didn’t work.

Still, the habits stuck for a long, long time.  I slipped into uncomfortable mundanity. (I don’t care, Spell Check.  That is too a word.)

During all this time, I nurtured a deep and abiding distrust of government.  It started when I was very young but especially blossomed in the years post-Air-Force.  I’d always been a fairly small-government conservative.  I didn’t so much change as think through my positions more and try to make them more consistent. (Do I still have inconsistencies?  Since I’m human that’s going to happen.  I try to work things through and make them consistent but that’s an ongoing process which will likely continue to my dying day.)

Fast Forward.  Some years back, however, I came several books by John Ringo.  He introduced me to music that didn’t so much drag me out of the musical rut I’d been stuck in as blast me out of it with a cannon.  Dragonforce.  Nightwish.  And this group called The Cruxshadows.

Oh.  My.  God.

The Cruxshadows.  Some sources called them “Dark Wave”.  Others called them “Goth.” Well, I’m not really clear on the difference.  But…wow.  Dark music, but music that honors concepts like self-sacrifice and martial virtue that resonated with my own political philosophy.

I expanded from that starting point exploring other bands.  Within Temptation.  More Nightwish.  Evanescence and their “spin off” band We are the Fallen.  Bauhaus. The Cure.  Souxie & the Banshees (in an interview she swore up and down she was not Goth, but others drop her in that category).  Lacuna Coil.  Epica.

Well, you could go on and on.

I find Goth Rock (Bauhaus for instance) a pleasant change of pace, but most of what I listen to these days is Gothic and Symphonic Metal (Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica, etc.)

And, at the moment, I’m fixing a hole in my musical history knowledge and exploring Sisters of Mercy.

A lot of the music fits with my personal philosophies surprisingly well.  And a lot doesn’t but it’s still good music.

But, I encounter so very few people out there who combine both my philosophy of “leave government out of things, no, there ought not be a law” with the enjoyment of the darker side that I get from Goth/Gothic Metal music and subculture that I often feel very much alone.

But that’s okay.  Being alone in a crowd that does not understand…is Goth.

And here’s some music to end with: