Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Non-Traditional (Part 6) - A Bit About the Students

The end of my first semester back at school was a busy time, what with all the running around, studying, writing, reading, staying up late, waking up early, and ignoring this blog… and that’s nothing on what most of the students I know do.

I was so frazzled that when I woke up, I’d have a mug of coffee with breakfast, or for it. I’d stop at a 7-11 about two hundred feet away, fill up my mug, and stop again at the one across the street from SWC. Then and only then did I feel fortified to start thinking.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a lot to do outside of school, but I saw a lot of students working their tails off to ace those finals and get those grades up. I am impressed. They impressed me, and by and large, they were those students who were here for an education, not a degree.

I say again – I was impressed.

I did well. I pulled some high grades on some finals, turned in some tremendous work, and now have a GPA floating at about 4.0. I’ll be honest. There’s some strutting involved. (But only because this is the first time in recorded history that I’ve rocked a 4.0. In fact, I’ve got some teachers back in the days of yore who would have laughed their rumps off had I told them I’d ever do that well.)

I’m going to show restraint. I’m going to keep my strutting to a minimum. Because I’ve seen students do a lot more, a lot better, and with a lot more obstacles. I know students who have kids and families, are carrying an insane number of classes, who have to travel from campus to campus, who are holding down overtime jobs while they go to school, and who are taking classes and writing essays that make me say, “whut?”

That’s impressive.

Now that I find myself jumping through the same ridiculous hoops that they jump, and digging out exactly what forms the admissions and financial aid people want, and dealing with SWC’s insanely rude and backwards computer systems, and trying to do everything the administration demands, I realize…

It’s really damn impressive. Not me. Them.

I’ve got some things to say about things, believe me. But it only took me a moment to realize that I didn’t want to use this space talking about them. I wanted to use this space for something better.

There are students that still drive me crazy with their laziness, their inability to arrive on time, their dishonest, and their willingness to cheat their ways to that degree.

Like this guy.
 But this isn’t about those people. This is just my way of saying how good it is to know students who do care, who strive to succeed, who work hard, who are never late and never miss a class, are honest and honorable.

This is my way of saying, “Wow, you folks really and truly impress me.” You are the reason that professors like doing what they do. You set an example for your classmates and your colleagues. You make coming into class a joy. You are helping to make the world a better place.

Keep it up.

And speaking as that non-traditional guy who’s gone back to school to improve himself, and who probably watches you and what you do more than you realize… thank you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why We Cheered: Death of Osama bin Laden, Part 1

On May 1, every news broadcast outlet in the free world announced the news that Osama bin Laden was dead, and that a joint United States venture of the Navy SEALS and the CIA were responsible for his death. After the initial shock, reports continued to come in: some true, some false, and many contradicting the others – Osama was killed a week ago! He shot back at the SEALS! We lost soldiers in Abbottabad! He was buried at sea!

And of course… He wasn’t killed at all!, but that greasy shtick is for a later post.

I cheered. Actually, at home I smiled smugly and made happy comments. On Twitter and Facebook, I cheered. I’m not afraid to say it, and frankly I don’t care if you don’t like it. I cheered.

I watched our Commander-in-Chief explain it to us, in a concise, classic fashion. And I cheered again.

This is the guy in charge, not W.

I don’t recall many people upset that Americans cheered. It would be a ridiculous argument to say that any nationality was happy to hear of his death more than those of us in the States. The Architect of 9/11 had been killed, and by our own goddamned Navy SEALS.

I cheered. I’m still cheering.

I would venture a guess that to most of America, I’m doing nothing more than you are. But to a surprising number of sensitive liberal types, I have suddenly become a tragic monster, an evil, misguided individual who wallows in the death and suffering of others.


I remain a staunch lefty, an American progressive, and a proud liberal. I didn’t lose anyone in the Twin Towers or on 9/11. I knew no one on Flight 93. No one in my family has died in Baghdad or Kandahar. In some of your eyes, I have no justification for it, but still…

I cheered.

I’ve heard your arguments. I’ve seen you misquote Martin Luther King Jr. as you try to convince us of your virtue. I acknowledge your questions, your concerns, and your worries. I respect your right to respect life.

But none of that changes the fact that Osama bin Laden, a monster, is dead. As the head of al-Qaeda, and the man responsible for the deaths of thousands in New York, Washington DC, and Ohio, he is the single worst mass murderer in American history. A murdering sociopath wrapped in faux-Muslim garb, he has directly ordered the deaths of many thousand more Muslims around the world – anyone who disagreed with his fundamental – and fundamentally wrong version of Islam.

I cheered that the monster is dead. No, I didn’t dance in the street in New York or DC, but I share the sentiment. And I’ll admit: I’m confused as to why you don’t.

You argue that President Barack Obama stated that this made the world safer. You say it’s not true. You point out that aside from one terrorist operation of the past decade bin Laden has basically had no impact on world terrorism.

That’s true. So is the fact that just because he’s dead doesn’t mean that terrorism will suddenly disappear, and we have won.

But I find this particular belief system to be disheartening. It supposes a world where this is a black-and-white issue, where terrorism is either on or off, and where we have won or not. I find this binary representation of terrorism and global political situations to be… well… brain-dead.

Yeah... not so much anymore.

President Obama stated it correctly: the world is safer that bin Laden is dead. In addition to planning 9/11, bin Laden planned a series of attacks on Germany, France, and the UK that never happened. But if he is not around to plan these attacks, are we safer? Damn right we are. Are we safe? No, we are not.

Furthermore, you claim that this action will mean that Al-Qaeda will retaliate. I suspect that they will. Here’s the ugly little truth you don’t want to admit you know – al-Qaeda is always looking to retaliate. They are a terrorist group; this is what they do. They need no inciting event to cause them to say, “Gosh, Muammar! With Osama turned into a tub toy, perhaps now would be a good time to attack the United States again!”

They don’t need that. Al-Qaeda has scattered and spun out into various corners of the Middle East, and has become less effective without a figurehead at the top. In the past decade since 9/11, the terrorist icon bin Laden became a shadowy figure, then a spectre. Without that grip that he provided, this may be al-Qaeda’s one last chance to make a splash.

I’d be worried about it, were our intelligence agencies not working with the agencies of the west to stop whatever actions al-Qaeda was planning, regardless of what act has motivated them.

I refuse to live under fear. Those liberals out there who fear a terroristic retaliation are no better than those conservatives who would throw away any civil rights for a chance to feel a little more secure. Your irrational worry is no reason for the rest of this country to feel shame. It is, however, an excellent reason for you to be ashamed.

I suspect that this will have offended many of you. I can’t say I care. I’ve heard you and read your posts where you complain that people like me have attacked you for your beliefs. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. I’ve read, and heard, attacks by people like you against people like me – repeatedly. You say that I’m a “savage” or “jingoistic” or “wallowing in the deaths of others.” You’re entirely wrong, but you’re entitled to your opinion.

Which is why I don’t really care if I offend you. I’m also entitled to my opinion, which is: Osama bin Laden is dead, and the world is a better place because of it. We’re not safe, we know we’re not safe, but we are safer. Al-Qaeda will continue to try to retaliate against the United States, as they always do. They don’t need bin Laden’s death to justify it.

Feel free to live in fear of that attack. I’m not. I continue to expect that they’ll plan it and we’ll interfere with it. In the meantime, I’m going to be cheering.