Dream theater of the absurd…

I know I dream at night, but I very rarely remember them in any kind of detail past the moment my eyes flicker open. Last night was indeed a rarity, because not only do I remember that I dreamed, but there seem to have been two of them back to back. It’s practically unprecedented.

In the first dream I found myself at the alter. That would be nightmare enough in my waking moments. I don’t remember features, but I can tell you that my mind conjured up a tiny brunette for the scenario. The pipe organ thundered through some hymn or another, the padre said a few words, and all the while the slight brunette to my left seemed to develop a magical growing stomach. Within minutes she was very, very pregnant. Dream Jeff gulped hard and I woke up in a cold sweat having scattered the bed sheets and pillows in every direction. It was 12:34 AM.

I reordered the bed and found a cool drink before settling myself back under the covers. Sleep came quickly. I immediately recognized the place where my subconscious carried me. It was on Main Street of the small town in the west of Maryland where I went to college. What in the real world had been one of the most dive-y of bars was transformed in my dream landscape into a banqueting hall in the original sense of the term. Family and friends past and current were assembled, the table gleamed with silver, and polished wood everywhere glowed by candlelight. This was formal dining, white tie and tails.

The doors to this gothic revival gem of a dining hall slammed open with a thud. Conversation halted as another group pours into the room – they too were dressed for the occasion. In the lead was a tall redhead, someone who looked vaguely familiar but far too tall to be anyone I know from the real world. She was striking – in that tall Jessica Rabbit kind of way. She was also, like her predecessor from earlier in the evening, very pregnant.

She pulls me aside and just before the alarm drug me into the waking world, in my dream theater I mumble what proved to me my only spoken line of the night: Just give me a minute, I’ll figure this out.

Byron it’s not, but I’m at least a little impressed that even in a dream state the old brain box was trying to logic its way through the situation. That’s something I guess.

A little bit of insight into what terrorizes us in the deepest reaches of our subconscious is a healthy thing, I think. That my deepest fears stem from something so commonplace isn’t a particular surprise. People fear spiders, swimming pools, and germs and those are all perfectly normal parts of everyday life too. All things considered, though, if I could go ahead and get back to not remembering any of my nightmares in the morning that would be great.

The allies…

Over the last ten years we have seen multiple Islamic extremist attacks in Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and in the United States.

These nations represent some of our oldest allies and newest friends. They represent the bulwark between 1000 years of western civilization and religious fanatics who would see that civilization burn for their own sick purposes.

It is time the allies address Islamic extremism for what it is: a vile and evil tumor spreading across the globe. It is time that the allies declare that we will take not one more step backwards in the extremist campaign of a thousand cuts. It is time the allies eradicate those who threaten the peace and stability of the world.

This is the cause of our generation and it is far past time that we see it through.

Why it’s different…

It took about 36 hours before Facebook posts started trickling onto my feed implying that anyone who mentioned the attacks in Paris without talking about attacks that also took place in Lebanon, Nigeria and Baghdad, earthquakes in Japan, and all other manner of very bad things that happen every day around the world was a hate-spewing bigot.

The fact is, bad things happen all over the world every day. What makes Paris different, to me, is personal and simple. I’ve walked the streets of Paris. I’ve drank coffee in her cafes and rested my head in her hotels. I stood at the base of the Arc de Triomphe imagining the 24-wide mass of the US 28th Infinity rounding the monument and parading down the Champs Élysées when the city was liberated from German occupiers. I’ve stood on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower and marveled like millions of other tourists at a city that was already a millennia old when our own country was founded.

In the French people America found its first ally in our struggle for independence from the British crown and one of our harshest critics during the Cold War and years that followed. Here, now, in the 21st century, France and America are once again marching towards the sound of the guns and a foe who has stated loudly and often the intention to kill as many of our people as possible and drag the whole world back to the 7th century.

It’s different because on September 11th, 2001 the French people stood with America on what was the most shocking and appalling day in living memory for most of us. It’s different because in this new war the great democracies of the Western world must stand together or risk facing a new dark age sweeping across the globe like a plague.

You can choose to believe I think it’s different just because I share the same pale skin tone with many in France, but I know better.

Open door policy…

The news channels are abuzz this weekend with the decision to allow as many as 10,000 Syrian nationals into the United States. Aside from the logistical issues of bring them a third of the away around the world. Aside from the national security implications of allowing 10,000 lightly vetted people into the country from a part of the world who still seems to think we’re the great Satan. Aside from the issues of international law, common sense, and domestic politics. Aside from all those things I think the whole idea stinks to high heaven.

For the last thirty years, the world has loved to take a swing at America the Punching Bag. We’re everyone’s favorite bad neighbor. We’re the country they absolutely love to hate. And they do hate us… right up to the point where the shit hits the fan and they need someone big enough and strong enough to save the world one more time. We’ll do everything they ask and more and when the crisis has passed we’ll be collectively criticized for not doing enough or not doing it right or not doing it faster. There’s never a nod of thanks or a word of appreciation. With the turning of the news cycle everyone will be right back to cheering “death to America.”

Before we announce an open door policy for tens or hundreds of thousands of people, I think ought to ask a simple question: How many of the countries demanding that America do “something” would let a hundred thousand American citizens just show up in their country with the expectation that they would then be responsible for these people’s health and welfare? How many of these wanna-be great powers would lift a hand to help if our house were on fire? I can think of one or maybe two, but even their offer would certainly have strings attached. I shudder to think what price countries who aren’t our closest allies would demand if suddenly America were on her knees.

I’ll never win humanitarian prizes for my foreign policy. That’s ok. Want to bring in 10,000 people? That’s fine too, but can someone please promise me that these people won’t be free to roam about the country until we’re sure someone over there isn’t smart enough to use a humanitarian crisis as an convenient cover for getting as many terrorists into the country as possible. There are potentially millions of people on the move. If you think our enemies aren’t pondering on ways to use that to their advantage you’ve clearly underestimated them. If we’re bringing people here, we owe it to ourselves to get it 100% right, because the bad guys only have to get it right one time to exact a terribly price for our hospitality.

All the news…

It’s a busy weekend. That’s good in so much as it means that this post more or less writes itself. That’s bad in that the world seem shell bent of flinging itself apart at the seams. Terror attacks on three continents that may not have been coordinated, but the timing of which is certainly close enough together to be suspect. A political fracas in the US that covers all the ground from heritage to hate to healthcare to marriage. The greeks have declared a bank holiday and appear all but determined to drive their country over their own fiscal cliff and straight into default while the European Union hopes the rest of them can shrug it off.

If you’ve kept an ear on the news, there’s a lot of information coming in on all fronts. Weekends are usually where they bury the stories we’re not supposed to pay attention to, but any one of the headlines this week would usually have legs all by itself. Combined, there’s almost something in there guaranteed to keep everyone stirred up at least for a few more turns of the news cycle.

I’m not fool enough to think any of these problems amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but they pace at which they keep coming is a little troublesome. I’ve got at least half a dozen methods of information delivery in an arm’s reach right now… and I find myself wondering if we all weren’t just a little bit better off when we got our news from the morning edition, the evening edition, and 30 minutes of TV highlights at 6PM.

The world’s always been a complicated place, but it’s only recently that we’ve all gotten the opportunity to watch the sausage made each and every day. I wonder if it isn’t time I try to force myself to tune it out for just a little while.

We stand on guard for thee…

o-CANADIAN-FLAG-facebookTonight, in the face of the day’s events, I stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors to the north. This isn’t the post I intended to write tonight. It’s a post I’ve hoped to never write again – after the attacks in Spain and England, after the coldblooded killings of civilian journalists, after 13 years of hard war.

Whether this attack on Canada was the act of a single lunatic, “self radicalized” individuals, or a directed effort from those cowering further afield this is the work of terrorism. Our ability to adapt and respond to the existential threat of extremism in all of its forms, from within and without, is being tested. In attacking the great pillars of Western civilization, foreign and domestic enemies must find no purchase. They must not be allowed a foothold. They must be ripped out by root and stem and destroyed utterly.

I stand with our friends in Canada because it’s where they’ve stood when our roles were reversed. An attack on one, regardless of its source, is an attack on all.

The last perfectly average day…

September 11I don’t remember a damned thing about September 10, 2001. It must have been a perfectly average Monday. I was a second year teacher just trying to get through the week – or more likely trying to get through until Thursday and pint night at the Green Door.

America went to bed that night a nation more or less at peace with the world – victors of the Cold War and long past the 100 hour ground war in Iraq – we contented ourselves with international peacekeeping and the occasional cruise missile strike. We collectively went to sleep not knowing what would happen a few hours later. We went to sleep not knowing we were already at war and that the enemy wasn’t coming for us from across the ocean, it was already here living amongst us. For a few more hours, ignorance was bliss.

Not long after dawn, thirteen years ago tomorrow, the enemy came out of a vivid blue sky, targeting indiscriminately men and women and children and killing our kin and countrymen in their thousands.

I don’t remember anything about the 10th of September, but I remember almost everything about the day that came after it. If I let it the whole thing can spool through my memory like a newsreel. When I think about it now, especially today, the anniversary of the last day that was perfectly average, the sting and loss and anger all come back. It’s just like it happened yesterday.

That’s for the best. So many are bent on forgetting – on reinventing a past that never existed – that those of us who lived through it owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to never forget what we saw and what actually happened on those days in September. As for me, I’ll never forget. I’ll never forgive those who did it or those who supported them and who support them still. At every opportunity I’ll call for my country to be vigilant, to take the war to the enemy, and to beat back the gathering international darkness using every element of our national power.

We’ve all most likely seen the last of our perfectly average days. From here on out I’m afraid we’re destined to live in interesting times.

Civis Americanus…

I’ve just started seeing reports of a second American citizen, a journalist covering the war in Syria, being beheaded by Islamic extremists.

Two Americans are dead at the hands of these thugs and still there is a deafening silence from the White House. We don’t have a strategy. The American president has so much as said he doesn’t want to engage and that his administration doesn’t have courage to lead this great Republic in a war of retribution against those who would do harm to our countrymen.

I’m reminded of a first season episode of The West Wing, when President Bartlett notes how Rome responded when a citizen was killed. He said, “Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus — I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens… Where was the retribution for the families, and where is the warning to the rest of the world that Americans shall walk this Earth unharmed, lest the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of mankind comes crashing down on your house?!”

I’m sick of hearing that the United States doesn’t have the stomach to be an occupying power. We’ve been occupying Germany and Japan since 1945. We’ve been occupying Puerto Rico since 1898. Our warships patrol every seaway across the globe. We’re already an occupying power in fact if not in word. It’s time we get over the self-denial and self flagellation about that. A hundred years from now keeping the lid on a batshit crazy world will be someone else’s problem, but today it’s ours.

As such, if I were President this afternoon my statement of strategy would be simple: I have directed the Secretary of Defense to begin offensive military operations using overwhelming force against Islamic radical elements in Syria and Iraq and in any other location where they harm or threaten to harm the interests or citizens of the United States. I have directed my Secretary of the Treasury to seize all assets and freeze all accounts held by or known to support terrorist elements. I have directed my Secretary of Commerce to place an immediate trade embargo on all countries known to support terrorism or those doing business with countries known to support terrorism. I am invoking Article 5 of the NATO Charter and calling on our allies to take immediate steps to place themselves on a similar war footing. Those countries who shirk their long standing treaty obligations are no longer considered strategic allies of the United States. I am calling on Congress to vote an immediate declaration of war and directing every resource of the United States government towards eradicating the threat of radical trans-national terrorism by stem and root. There are no terms except unconditional surrender.

To do anything other than rise to this challenge is an act of cowardice and wholly unworthy of the United States of America.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Using your outdoor voice. There’s a time and a place for the outdoor voice. When you’re sitting at your desk, in an office, with 8 other people in earshot is not the time to decide to communicate with one another by having a 20 minute conversation from one side of the room to the others. Life in cubicle hell is bad enough without trying to block out three simultaneous cross-room conversations. I realize it’s terribly inconvenient, but maybe get up, walk the dozen or so steps, and have your chat face to face instead of favoring us all with every detail at 103 decibels. As a rule, your colleagues shouldn’t be able to hear your conversation when they’ve got their ear buds turned up to ten with Van Halen’s classic guitar riffs beaming directly into their brain.

2. Illegal immigration. I’m all for having some kind of sensible immigration reform in this country. However, while Congress flails around with that issue, I’m more interested in seeing if we can stem the flow of people illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the US. Call me crazy, but I think the first step to reforming the immigration process in this country is to make it a hell of a lot harder to just wander across the border and a hell of a lot easier to send people back from whence they came if they do show up here illegally. I have no earthly idea why we’ve collectively decided that enforcing the laws on the books falls into the too hard to do category, but until we figure out a way to actually enforce the laws on the books, I have no idea why we’d bother passing any new ones that are just as likely to be ignored.

3. Iraq. The allies poured out a decade of blood and treasure to liberate, defend, equip, train, and support a government that looks like it will collapse at any moment. I dearly wish I could wake up in the morning to find a Patton or a MacArthur or a LeMay had risen from the dead to take command of CENTCOM. Instead, I fear I’ll wake up in the morning to find the mission failed while we were all busy wringing our hands.

Jeffreytharp.com vs. Mike Hayden…

According to former Director of the CIA and NSA, because I’m an advocate for electronic privacy, I should think of myself as part of a collective of “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years.”

I usually try to keep this place about halfway family friendly, but the only response I can come up with is: Fuck You, Mike Hayden. I swore an oath awfully close to the one you swore as a Air Force officer. We both swore to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Check that again. Foreign and domestic.

This republic has endured two centuries of revolution, invasion, civil war, trench warfare, sneak attacks, and terrorism. Our foundations are too strong to be brought down so easily from the enemies at the gate. If it is to falter, fail, or fall it will be from the domestic advocates who are willing to cut down every protection guaranteed by our Constitution to prove their point or press their agenda. Once that happens, I don’t know what the hell we’re bothering to fight for anyway.