Tag Archives: Egypt

On Labels: Radio Essay for April 23, 2011

“Something’s burning somewhere. Does anybody care?” These are lyrics from the story-song folk writer, Harry Chapin. Our world is still spinning but it feels as if it is spinning upside down.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to a Tea Party event here in Worcester this week: I was called a racist. If one lives long enough, you are likely to be called a lot of things. Frankly, I am offended. A racist makes value judgments based solely upon irrelevant objective assessment such as the color of someone’s skin or their national origin. Objective logic does not play into the equation, only subjective emotion.

I was called a racist by a bunch of socialists. Now, I am not labeling them; they labeled themselves. There I was, bearing witness to our Constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech and assembly, when a group, some say a mob, of masked protestors invaded our peaceful assembly. I was being verbally assaulted by a group of knuckleheads wearing bandannas over their faces like masked banditos in a John Ford western. They called me a racist. They labeled me because I support Tea Party values.

Is this the face of protest; the face of point/counterpoint? I was not comfortable with the standoff. Visualize this: two opposing viewpoints separated not only by ideology but by four lanes of traffic. A colleague of mine wanted to go over and talk some sense into them; to try and convince them that we were righteous. I admit I was leery. I did not think we could make any headway with avowed socialists, so why bother. My friend was more persistent than I and so we crossed the street.

What I met on the other side was a group of students ranging in age from maybe16 to 25. I introduced myself to Joe and said, “I won’t raise my voice to you and I expect you will do the same.” And so, we talked. It was not much different than talking to my own adult children, really. And when I stripped away the rhetoric, I found a child who was as frightened about their future as was I.

It is an old adage that one need not hunt squirrels with a shotgun. That was what it was like to discuss tax burdens with someone who has never held a real job or owned property or had to worry about the future of their children. But Joe was not without his dreams; he was simply without options and without optimism that someone such as himself could live a life with opportunity. Joe said he had often heard Tea Party people talk about loosing freedoms and asked me to describe one freedom that we had lost. I told him that we- he- was in danger of losing one of the greatest freedoms of all: his freedom of choice; his freedom to have options. He heard me and seemed to seriously consider what I had said.

Harry Chapins’ lyrics went on to say:

“I shook his hand in the scene that made America famous; and he smiled from the heart that made America great. I spent the rest of that night in the home of a man that we’d never known before. It’s funny, when you get that close, it’s kind of hard to hate.”

Labels are a coward’s way out. Each of us is unique in our own personal circumstance and in our outlook. I chose to believe that. I also choose to believe that the majority of Americans, a vast majority, want similar things, for our children and for our country. We need fewer labels and less demagoguery. When we strip away the rhetoric, we will be left with the facts. We can and must do the right thing. I believe that we can.

Press on.

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On the Tea Party and Their Future: March 12, 2011

One watches video of the horrible devastation in Japan after a tsunami raced ashore in Honshu. When I was a Midshipman a very long time ago, I was humbled, early on, by the forces of nature; especially so by the force of the sea. Inexorable. Unforgiving. Relentless. May God have mercy upon the souls who perished and mercy upon those whose lives are forevermore altered by a new reality.

So what does the tsunami have in common with the Tea Party movement, you may ask? Most of the country reaped great rewards in last November’s Congressional elections. We here in the Bay State were shielded, it would seem, by a seawall large enough and strong enough to deflect the tsunami of change that people of the Tea Party helped to bring about. There were plenty of Tea Partiers involved in the elections last year and plenty more still involved today.

Social activism is spreading to people of all political stripes in these recent months. Look to the Statehouse in Wisconsin to see who is swimming against the tide. Could it be that union activists are taking a lead from the Tea Party? Could it be that they are afraid that the seawall that protected seats last November may not hold up against that inexorable, unforgiving and relentless force of nature of the political kind?
But there is a huge difference between the two groups. Unions are, by their very nature, command-and-control oriented structures able to muster hundreds of protesters with the promise of a days’ pay from bottomless union coffers. “Go along to get along.”

On the other hand, the Tea Party relies upon the collective conscience of the individual to move in unison with others. There is no centralized authority and, in fact, much dissent upon whom, if anyone, speaks for the Tea Party. Is it Governor Sarah Palin; is it Representative Michele Bachmann; is it, well, you fill in the blank.

In point of fact, nobody speaks for the Tea Party; but everyone is trying to speak to the Tea Party.
As the next 605 days play out until Election Day 2012, I believe that we are going to discover just how many people, ordinary people, are going to find their voice and speak out loud and clear that the status quo in Washington is NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE.

People are tired of gridlock; tired of sensational headlines; tired of tax code protectionism; tired of preference; tired of being taken for granted.

As the old adage goes, “You can’t see the wind but you know it is there because you can feel it.” And so it is with the Tea Party and what it has inspired and what it will continue to inspire in people of all walks of life. Tsunamis come in waves. The seawall that proved so effective here in Massachusetts is not likely to withstand another onslaught. Incumbents beware.


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The Tom Wesley and John Weston Review: March 5, 2011

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On Seapower: Where Has the US Navy Gone? Radio Essay March 5, 2011

As thousands of foreign nationals were stranded in Libya, anxious governments mobilized their resources to effect the evacuation of their citizens. Some nations sent military or commercial aircraft. The Chinese diverted a warship that was patrolling the sea lanes near the pirate-laden seas off Somalia, half a world away, to evacuate Chinese nationals. That is a display of power projection.

The United States took a different approach: we hired a ferry boat. It carried about 200 people to a modicum of safety after waiting out bad weather in the harbor. What would have happened, I wonder, if Colonel Khadafy decided to block our efforts to extract our citizens? We might have had, and still might have, a hostage situation to rival the Iran crisis that brought down President Carter’s presidency in 1980.

And so I ask, “Where is the 6th Fleet?” Where are the carriers? They are so vital to US power projection that President Bill Clinton was famously quoted in a 1993 speech aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, “When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident that the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: Where’s the nearest carrier?”

An aircraft carrier is 4 ½ acres and 90,000 tons of sovereign US territory that projects power in the face of despotic regimes like no other instrument of foreign policy can.

So how did it come to pass that the best the US Navy had to offer in the Mediterranean these past weeks was a lonely destroyer?

The short answer is that the only US carrier in the Med departed through the Suez Canal to the North Arabian Sea to join two others already there. Three carriers were needed, I suppose, in the North Arabian Sea to prosecute the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am certain that one of the carriers needed to be relieved to head home after a long deployment.

And that is just the point: long deployments, quick turnarounds and a smaller fleet add up to one thing: in the face of astronomical defense budgets, the US Navy is stretched entirely too thin and its’ numbers are in decline. We have 11 carriers today but at any one time, perhaps only 4 are operationally ready and underway. Three are in overhaul; four are just back from a long deployment or getting ready for one. Right now, three of those four are tied to the Persian Gulf, leaving the rest of the globe far too vulnerable.

The United States is an island nation. Some 90% of commerce sails along the ocean: everything from Nike sneakers to Saudi Arabian crude comes by sea. The world grows more fragile and our fleet is in decline. Our fleet is as small as it has been in 100 years. As recently as a decade ago, on any given day, 60 ships of the line were underway, patrolling our own waters or defending the sea lanes against tyranny. Today, that number is merely 20.

Who would think that our world is less complicated than a decade ago? The US Navy can project power to 2/3rds of the world’s population. The Air Force, with its sophisticated stealth aircraft, is confined to bases mainly in the continental US, far from the stress points in the Mediterranean and the Gulf and the Pacific.

The era of Pax Americana is only defensible with a strong and capable Navy. We face peril on the seas. Our fleet will grant to us the privilege of taking the fight to the enemy where they live only so long as they can get and remain underway.

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The Tom Wesley and John Weston Review: February 26, 2011

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