March 28, 2008

FREE VITAMINS AND OTHER DILEMMAS

Sis B left a comment in the last post. Excerpt:

As far as entitlement... I'm always at a loss here. I have been in situations when I desperately needed a hand up. I have friends who have needed that as well. All of us have used what little we could get by with and managed to get back up on our feet. That's the way "the system" should work.

However, I also know people who have lived in public housing for SIXTY years. Without ever trying to leave. People like that ruin things for everyone else who just need a boost.

I totally agree with this. This is what Bill Whittle meant when he said, "we no longer have a safety net; we have created a safety hammock." I agree that there are times when people need help, and there should be someone they can turn to in a pinch. But I fear there just aren't that many "The Pursuit of Happyness" people out there. I think once you get used to getting something for free, it's hard to let it go. Or once you get used to the government taking care of things, why do it yourself?

I have had a battle raging in my head like this for months now, over something so trivial but completely representative of my beliefs. And it's become a value struggle for me. It's over prenatal vitamins. In the military, we get all prescriptions for free, including prenatal vitamins. But only after you get pregnant, not just while you're trying. I've been buying bottle after bottle of these vitamins for over a year now, and every time I buy them, I get a little mad that I have to shell out the eight bucks myself when I think the Army should just let me have them. For the past six years, I haven't asked for hardly anything from Tricare, so I feel entitled to those damned vitamins, especially since they'd give them to me for free if my body would just cooperate and get pregnant. And when I did get pregnant, I got a bottle for free. When I miscarried, I wanted to go in before the pharmacy found out I'd lost the baby and grab more of the danged vitamins.

It's so stupid and trivial that it seems laughable to write about it. But I think about it all the time: why do I feel entitled to those silly vitamins? Why does it make me mad to pay for them? Simple: because in different circumstances, I would get them for free. It makes me feel like I should get them for free all the time.

How I hate to admit that I have had such a thought.

It's really playing mindgames on me. I don't like the realization that I think the government owes me prenatal vitamins. I don't like the fact that I want to get them for free. I am considering punishing myself for my bad behavior by forcing myself to buy them if I get pregnant instead of taking any of them for free; that's how ashamed I am at my entitlement mentality. And I think I have a pretty hefty libertarian streak in me; I can only imagine what other people think the government owes them.

OK, so let's expand out to something less trivial than vitamins. My husband went in the field this past week. He needed certain gear from CIF, but they didn't have everything he needed. So he was in a bind: he had to have it for the field, but he couldn't get it from the Army at that moment. So he had to buy his own gear, stuff he could've gotten for free if the supply sergeant hadn't been on leave when my husband inprocessed. Stuff like a pistol holster, magazine pouches, etc. It was infuriating to spend all that money on stuff he's entitled to. But it made me think about Kim du Toit's Walter-Adam Fund. His readers raised money to buy things that the Army was theoretically supposed to provide for soldiers, like scopes or rangefinders. But the du Toits insisted that soldiers who fought in our Revolutionary War fought with the guns they owned and shirts on their backs. That our nation was founded on people providing for themselves instead of waiting for the government to hand them what they need. And, the du Toits continued, that if some were willing to go fight, we should be willing to back them financially, and not just through our taxes. That we have a duty to go above and beyond what the government does for our troops.

Kim du Toit rephrased this very old and lost-in-cyberspace post when he wrote about renewing the Walter-Adam Fund.

I know, I know: the Army should be getting them this stuff, not private individuals. That’s the ideal. But anyone who’s ever been exposed to the .mil knows that this doesn’t always happen—and in fact it can’t always happen. That’s where we step in. It’s not the government’s Army—it’s our Army. The Army is supposed to feed and support these kids at all times, and they do a pretty good job of it. Yet, if they were fighting on our soil, and during a lull in the fighting a soldier came to your door and asked for some food and drink, would you turn him away with the words: “The Army is supposed to give you food and drink”? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d empty out your pantry, or take food off your own plate if you had to.

In keeping with the NoR’s motto of “One Citizen At A Time”, therefore, these funds are run on pretty much the “One Soldier At A Time” philosophy too. I can’t get a regiment new tanks or Bradleys, but I can help improve the lives of a few soldiers, actual breathing individuals to whom I can write and speak, and then share that with all of you.

And if we can get them gear rather than just care packages, stuff which will help them kill enemy bastards, then so much the better. We are the Nation of Riflemen, after all, not the Red Cross.

This has stuck with me for the years, years, since I donated to the original Walter-Adam Fund. The du Toits believe so much in having the government stay out of our affairs that they're willing to put their money where their mouth is and spend their own money -- after they've already provided for our nation's defense via taxes -- to provide gear for the soldiers at war. I am humbled to write on the same internet as such people.

And it's a swift kick in the rear when I think that I've gotten hung up on vitamins.

The thing is, I don't like the feeling that I am entitled to anything, be it vitamins or a pistol holster. In the end, I am responsible for the baby I may have, and my husband is responsible for his own safety. If we waited for the government to do these things for us, they might not get done, even if it's the government's job to do it. They're supposed to give my husband the gear he needs. Well, what if they can't? Ultimately, we need to step up to the plate and assume the cost.

I'm rambling worse than Sis B thought she was. In the end, what I am trying to say is this: If something needs to get done, I need to do it. If my baby didn't get enough folic acid and then had problems, how could I possibly have the nerve to blame the government for not letting me have free vitamins. If my husband doesn't have enough rounds to be safe because he doesn't have magazine pouches on his body armor, we can't blame the supply sergeant for that. It's our lives and we're in control.

So what happens when we move to a society where everyone is getting more and more things for free? What happens when every woman gets free prenatal vitamins? I am certain that most of them won't have the same moral dilemma I have with receiving them. And what happens when the government says that everyone is entitled to affordable college or health care or social security? And then they run out of social security like they ran out of pistol holsters? Few people are gonna suck it up and go out and buy their own like we did. There's only so much social security money to go around, and what happens when people start screaming to get theirs?

Entitlement isn't just about welfare or government housing. It's about expecting the government to do anything for you, including things they're supposed to do (like pistol holsters). The only person you should count on is yourself. Buy your own vitamins, get your own magazine pouches, and plan for your own college or retirement.

If more people lived as if there were no safety net, we sure wouldn't have this safety hammock.

Posted by: Sarah at 08:08 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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March 26, 2008

FRED SMITH RALLY

Last night I went to my first political rally, to support Fred Smith for governor. I met him last fall when I was invited with other bloggers to his home. And since our state primary is approaching in about five weeks (lordy loo, we still haven't gotten anywhere near voting here), Fred Smith is out and about, again with his good friend Lee Greenwood.

Now, all I really needed to know about this candidate is that Lorie Byrd is working for him. That's pretty much a good enough endorsement for me, and I probably would've voted for him just based on that knowledge. But I really like Fred Smith's stuff, and I hope he makes it all the way to the top. Most of my friends are internet-based, but if any of you reading this live and vote in the same state as I do, please consider reading about Fred Smith and voting for him in May.

So I got all pumped up on patriotism again last night, my drug of choice. Of course Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA" again, which brings the house down. And I can't get enough of the song he wrote for Fred Smith's campaign:

But honestly, the thing that touched me the most last night was something so small, so unnoticed. The stage in the auditorium had two flags on it, the US flag and the state flag. And before the rally got started, I noticed some men from Fred Smith's staff fussing around the US flag. They left and came back with a cinder block and lifted the flag stand up onto the block. A lady sitting behind me asked her husband why they were bothering with that silly brick.

The American flag was bigger than the state flag and was too big for its stand. It was dragging on the ground, and these men had set to work getting that flag off the floor.

My heart grew three sizes.

That's a heck of a campaign staff. No Che flags in this bunch.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:34 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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March 25, 2008

IF YOU MAKE IT GOOD, THEY WILL COME

The Washington Post put out an article on why the recent crop of Iraq war movies aren't doing so well. What's their take?

For now, Kuntz agrees with Bochco: "We're bombarded by information about [Iraq] 24 hours a day," he says. "We already know plenty about it. We don't need to learn more about it from the movies. Right now, it's something people want to forget and escape from. I speak for the American public when I say, 'What a bummer.' "

I speak for my blog when I say, "What a jackass."

They go through this huge list of anti-war movies and wonder why the public isn't interested. Hmmm, let me take a stab at it: Make a movie like 300, and people will flock to the theater. Make the soldiers the freaking good guys, and you've got yourself a hit; make them rapists or dupes or Tools of the Bushitler Oil Junta, and no one wants to see your damn movie.

Maybe dumb people think the Iraq war is a "bummer" because all your movies present it that way.

You know, Neil tried to shop his blog Armor Geddon around as a book. No one wanted to buy it. They told him it needed more inner-angst. He needed to be more conflicted about his role in the war. He needed to not rejoice when they blew up a house full of terrorists. Eventually he gave up, because they weren't buying what he was selling: a book about a soldier who was proud of his platoon and proud to support the mission.

But I bet people would've bought his book. Regular, average, everyday Americans want patriotism, heroes, and victory. They don't want inner-angst and movies about soldiers who got stop-lossed and don't really want to be there.

Sheesh, any waitress or truck driver could figure this out. But apparently journalists from The Washington Post think it's a mystery.

Posted by: Sarah at 09:03 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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March 21, 2008

SLICE OF LIFE

I read an article in The Australian the other day that begins like this:

A few years ago I joined some colleagues on an academic conference jaunt to a large private university in the American northeast. The approved conference itinerary was to take us directly from our swish Chicago hotel to the campus gates, in the hygienic manner of the modern business traveller.

For reasons too complicated to retell, on the return trip we found ourselves becalmed in a village in the backwaters of rural Indiana, in the old American heartland. The streets we strolled down were lined with wooden bungalows, and there was a flagstaff with the Stars and Stripes in every other front yard. We ate in rural diners by the highway with orange-tinted windows, stained wooden cubicles and waitresses with chequered aprons.

Much like Columbus, we had voyaged in search of streets paved with gold, and instead we had accidentally discovered America.

I remembered this article this morning as my husband and I ate breakfast at the Waffle House. If I knew a foreign visitor who needed to see a slice of the USA, I'd seriously make a stop at the greasy spoon. All walks of life, all races, all ages at the Waffle House, crammed into a smokey, loud, friendly place. And the work ethic at the Waffle House! Those cooks and waitresses move fast. None of this we'll-cook-your-schnitzel-when-we-damn-well-get-around-to-it business at the Waffle House, nosiree. The manager's washing dishes, six waffle irons are going, and waitresses are waiting in line to bark words like "scattered" and "smothered."

At the Waffle House, America is a spectator sport.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:45 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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March 01, 2008

FLYING PIG MOMENT

My apologies to LGF for stealing his flying pig, but dang...

flying-pig.jpg

Angelina Jolie wrote approvingly about the progress in Iraq:

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?
...
As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

(Via Insty, via Taranto)

Frank J wrote a funny post the other day about Obama called "My Solution to Iraq Is to Never Have Gone There." It was funny because it felt all too true; many people talk about fixing Iraq in the past tense, as if "we shouldn't be there in the first place" is an actual solution. So -- and I can't believe I'm typing this -- kudos to Angelina Jolie for dealing with the actual situation as it stands today and not wishing for some utopian non-invasion that doesn't exist. And kudos to her for reporting what she saw on the ground, despite the fact that (I'm guessing) it doesn't jibe with her preconceptions.

So, yeah, pigs fly.

Posted by: Sarah at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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