Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Place In History

Several days ago a few discerning citizens noticed that, on the White House site, somebody had inserted Barack Obama into the biographies of 13 of our past presidents. Following the example of his glorious majesty, Caesar Barackus Obamas, I have decided to place myself into several historical events. The difference is that I will attempt to not go back before the year of my birth in doing so.

I was part of the first moon landing. It's true, I was. We had an old black and white television. I sat there, on my parents laps, and watched the news coverage of those famous words uttered the day before my first birthday: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". I was an almost one-year-old man. So I was part of that "mankind" that joined in that "giant leap". Throughout my life, I have had some strange attachment to the moon. Moon-bat astrologists will tell you it is because I am a Sun-Cancer and Moon-Leo. I blame my parents' for the early indoctrination.

I was part of the Watergate Scandal. I was a sentient almost four-year old in June 1972 when the break-in took place. My parents watched the news intently, turning the TV from Doctor Who, Star Trek re-runs, or whatever kids' show I watched and subjected me to the newscasts as the investigation played out on mass-media. I was part of Nixon's biography as I was a young man watching our president resigned. Hearing about Nixon's habit of recording conversations and keeping notes most likely helped form my general aversion to being photographed or recorded unless I am doing so myself. On the flip-side, I do have the means to record phone conversations. I also keep chat files from IRC, G-Chat, and other platforms archived and backed-up in several locations. Did I get this from Nixon?

I was part of the Ford Administration. July, the month of my birth, has always been special to me. It is also the month of the birth of our great nation. So, at almost 8 years old, I joined President Ford (and the rest of the nation) in celebrating our republic's 200th year. I marched in front of our suburban Chicago home with a flag waving high. I sang out the Star-Spangled Banner, My Country 'Tis of Thee, and God Bless America all day long, at the top of my little lungs. Oh, I also developed an interest in playing golf. (I still find it boring to watch, on TV.)

I was part of the Carter Administration. In 1976, when he was running against Gerald Ford, I was quick to start "peanut jokes". I was also one of the first to point out that Carter was nowhere near as intelligent or handsome as George Washington Carver who did so much work and research on the benefits of the peanut. Shortly after his inauguration, I developed a strong dislike for peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. To this day I cannot stand the combination. I blame President Carter.

I also remember this as my first Presidential Race where I was somewhat active. I asked my parents to vote for Ford. It is where I first learned about voting against the greater "evil" as they explained that they were doing so not to be "For Ford" but "Against Carter". I was determined to support the individual right to not have to eat peanut-butter and jelly mixed together.

I also decided that Ford was better than Chrysler during that time. I wasn't "for Ford". I was "against Chrysler".  (A couple of years later, this was further strengthened. The catalytic converter and medieval computer caused my mother's 1979 Cordoba to spend more time not working than being driven.) 

Later in his administration, I would turn on the news, despite my parents' desires, and keep abreast of those people held hostage in Tehran. I watched the newscasts of the failed rescue attempt. I started digging into why the mission failed, as far as my young mind and limited research outlets allowed. I was angry about the drastic cuts to the military budget and saw them as one of the major causes of the failed rescue attempt.

I also saw the rise in gasoline prices to well over $1 a gallon for the first time in history. Even gasoline with an increased ethanol content was expensive. I remember the problems it caused my father's car. I also remember that trips to see my grandparents became a little less frequent. The bonus was that they increased in duration. I also remember the prices of automobiles increasing, causing my father to seek more used cars than new cars for several years. The main reason was that "regular gasoline" was cheaper than "unleaded".

In 1980, I read my first economics books. I was 12. So, there was a lot of terminology and math that was a little over my head. But it appeared to me that the price-caps and consumer or demand-side Keynesian economics employed by, first Nixon then further exacerbated by Carter, were failures. Listening to debates, it clicked to me. It made sense to me that one is less likely to produce if they have to give the merits of their hard work to somebody else against their will. I told my parents I would be very upset if they just voted "Against Carter" again. I told them they should be "For Ronald Reagan".

I further bolstered my stance against peanuts by acquiring a taste for pistachios. However, I rejected the red-dyed pistachios as those were rumored to be from countries that support Iran. The rumors I heard, at the time, were that the pistachios with the non-dyed shells were from the US or US allies. Yummy!

Even within the first 18 months of Reagan's first Administration, I was victim to Carter's policies. My father lost his job (he did win his suit for wrongful termination later on). We had blocks of orange colored wax  that were passed off as "cheese". I remember shopping carts full of "generics" instead of name-brand groceries. Though "unemployed", my father worked and still had his own business, which he was liquidating in order to have the capital to start another business. Eventually, Reagan's policies took hold, my father started that new business, and was very successful for many years.

I spent my teen years under Ronald Reagan's administration. During my "tween" years, I developed a liking of punk rock, metal, and "glam rock". Despite my father banning "those vulgar Brits" (the Sex Pistols) from his house, I still managed to get in a listen. I also listened to KISS, Ted Nugent, The Ramones, and The Stray Cats (among many others). I also furthered my interest in economics. The TV Show, Family Ties, introduced me to Milton Friedman. The character "Alex" was a huge Reagan fan, as well.

My involvement in Reagan's presidency started on his inauguration day. I cheered loudly when Iran announced they were releasing the hostages. I made sure my left-leaning cousin understood that I knew it was because Carter was a wimp and Iran was afraid of Reagan.

I listened to Reagan's speech "tear down this wall". In 1987, while Reagan was still in office, I joined the National Guard and entered the Cold War. I rejoiced when, on November 9, 1989, my brother's 17th birthday, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, a legacy to Reagan's presidency though during Bush Sr.'s administration.

I still have a piece of that wall proudly displayed on my mantle. 

Being in the National Guard, I served during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, though I did not deploy. I served in Operation Just Cause, attached to a unit in the fight. So, I was directly involved in Bush Sr.'s Administration.

When I transferred into the active duty Army, my first duty station was Berlin Germany. I discovered that "ein Berliner" was a tasty type of German doughnut. I witnessed, first-hand, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. I as part of the Clinton Administration as his cuts to defense and draw-down policies cut our funding. I was directly impacted by the reduction in training assets. I was there when he killed the Berlin Brigade and shut us down. So you can pin me to three Presidents in direct reference to my having been stationed in Berlin Germany. JFK's famous speech about being a tasty pastry, Reagan's "tear it down" speech, and Clinton's "You're Evicted" speech.

I was part of the Clinton Administration in 1994 when he deployed my unit to Panama to deal with the rioting Cuban Refugees that were, at that time, denied entrance to the US (Operation Safe Haven).

I also developed a strong appreciation of the band Warrant who scribed a song entitled "Ode to Tipper Gore". It is an anti-censorship bit of cacophony that seemed to lean a little right. Of note, Tipper is a die-hard leftist. To this day, if enjoy the irony of outcries against the right for "censorship" when the greatest advocates of censorship have come from and generously support the tyrannic left. 

I was part of the Clinton Administration when he vetoed the budget several times over and there was a scare we would not receive out paychecks. I remember his propaganda accusing Newt Gingrich and other conservatives of attempting to "shut down the government". I driving to work on Fort Lewis during a severe snowstorm that had closed most of the post. I remember thinking "we're going through this, and we may not even get paid". My buddy Rick Bise even went into a little satirical rant about it. To this day, I find it ironic that it was Clinton who was vetoing the budget. He wanted further defense cuts but increases in other spending. That seemed in direct opposition to the US Constitution to me. 

In 1996, I joined the Intelligence Community. I saw Clinton's lack of decisive action regarding the first World Trade Center (1993), Khobar Towers (1996), African Embassies (1998), and USS Cole bombings. We knew who was responsible. It made no sense to me that we didn't take action. I also knew of the Oil-for-Food program, and how it was failing. Still, Clinton supported it. I knew of the other embargo and resolution violations in Iraq. Why we took only ineffective actions such as "Desert Fox" eludes me to this day. Clinton was more interested in tying the military's hands and sending us to Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo.

I documented more about my place in history in the Clinton and G.W. Bush presidencies in an earlier article. 16 of my 24 years of total military service (20 active duty) were under these two presidents. The morale and apparent dedication of those in uniform was like night and day.

Of note, I still have, sealed and preserved, a box of Peanut M&Ms that was autographed by President G. W. Bush. The box is unique as it has the Air Force One logo and Presidential Seal instead of the normal M&Ms packaging. 

President Obama tries to implant himself in the histories and biographies of 13 presidents though only having been alive for 10 of them, one more than I have lived under. (I was born in 1968. Johnson was president.) So, will I be added to the bios of these 9 presidents as well?  After all, it's "only fair".