Colonel

Colonel: (n) an army officer of high rank

Many, many years ago, my younger brother decided to join the Army.

It was a split-second option that popped into his mind based on the fact that he discovered that he was out of money, his transmission was
going out and his prospects with females seemed dreary.

Of course, in his mind the logical thing was to join the military and bivouac himself with thousands of other confused young studly types.

I tried to talk him out of it. He insisted I was against the country and had no patriotism.

Now, I knew my little brother real well. For example, he was not only afraid of spiders, but once peed himself when the word was mentioned–no actual hairy-legged threat nearby.

So in my mind’s eye, the possibility of him becoming a killer infantryman or a marauding marine was not only implausible, but a threat to our nation.

He mocked me. He rejected my counsel. Off he went.

In forty-eight hours–nay, forty-six hours later–I received a phone call from Oklahoma. A desperate wisp of a voice gasping through the receiver, “Get me out of here!”

“Here,” of course, was basic training. And the reason they call it basic training is that you are going to train, and basically, that’s the end of the discussion.

The worst part was that he threatened suicide.

Now, I’ve always heard through the clumps of wisdom that come from the grapevine that you should take it seriously when someone threatens to do himself in.

So I got on the phone. I called the base.

I was connected with a colonel. I shall leave his actual name out of this essay due to respect for his service to the country, and also the fact that he was being harassed by an older brother who had no idea of protocol.

I shall therefore refer to him as “Colonel What the Hell Are You Talking About?” or “Colonel Please Don’t Call Me Again,” or my favorite–“Colonel We Are Going to Come and Arrest You.”

Apparently, by some rule of his job or position, it turned out that he had to take my calls. He was not permitted to dodge them. Therefore, we got to know each other real well. (He has a dachshund named “Scottie.” His wife likes tulips but doesn’t think the word fits them.)

After he interviewed my younger brother, who had huddled himself in one of the bathroom stalls in the barracks, he agreed with me that this young man had no business being in the Man’s Army whatsoever. Matter of fact, we agreed that he had no business being in the Women’s Army.

But the Colonel insisted that his “hands were tied.” I must have heard this phrase a thousand times.

I did not know when to stop. It seemed to me that the only time to cease and desist was when my little brother was back at home, trying to figure out how to borrow money for repair on his beat-up car.

For after all, he was a young, confused fellow whose main concern should have been his frequency of masturbation.

Suddenly something changed.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t believe it was anything I said, but “Colonel I’m Sick of This and Ready to Move On” started to work with me instead of against me.

Two weeks later, my brother was standing back at home, wearing his army greens, sitting around a table of fried chicken, trying to tell his “war stories.”

I took in a deep breath, smiled inwardly, looked over at him and thought to myself, “Thank God you’re home, you miserable little twerp.”

 

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Coexist

Coexist: (v) to exist at the same time or in the same place

It’s stuck right there in the middle. I’m talking about the word “coexist.”

In the chain of understanding that links us together as human beings, coexist perches on the fifty-yard line.

When we don’t respect one another, we look at other humans as “occupying space.” They are occupiers. Therefore they can be bumped, shoved and pushed around to get out of our more important way.

On the other side of coexist is “include.” This is when we realize that our space on Earth is our space on Earth, and is linked equally to every other compartment.

But somewhere along the line, in order to move away from occupying, where we disdain the value of other souls–toward including, where we not only respect but also grant dignity to the lives of others–is this neutrality of coexist.

In other words: “You have every right to be here, just like me, whether I feel that way today or not.”

That’s coexist.

  • Coexist gets rid of racism.
  • Coexist removes hyper-culturalism.
  • Coexist also demands that we cease waving our flag, ignoring the patriotism of others.
  • Coexist is a journey we take, where we lose our ignorance on our way to kindness.

Let’s learn to coexist.

Maybe we won’t get any further than that–but it’s enough to keep us from killing each other each and every day.

 

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Citizen

Citizen: (n) a legal personage of a country

He loves his country but not to the exclusion of others.

She salutes the flag but well knows the weaknesses of her government.

He is offended but doesn’t become offensive by dishonoring the nation.

She works very hard to overcome her prejudiced training, to welcome those from all colors and walks of life.

He learns from the past, to bless the present, to set in motion a better future.

She weeps over those who have been wounded by history and joins them hand-in-hand to make sure it never happens that way again.

He doesn’t demand that everybody do things his way, but instead, tries to understand their journey, their perspective and their patriotism.

She stops complaining about inequality and every day proves through her life that she is equal to the challenge.

He freely admits where his homeland has failed.

She celebrates the times when common sense overcame political patronage.

They joined together to believe in a country that has heart and soul, and not just mind and strength.

They are citizens.

They make us great.

They make our country possible.

They are the currency of this nation’s wealth.

 

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Brouhaha

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Brouhaha: (n) a noisy and over-excited reaction or response

In a grocery store that only offers vanilla ice cream, strawberry seems radical. So for a brief season, the introduction of this particular flavor stimulates great interest and conversation.Dictionary B

But the human race, being what it is, soon tires of two flavors. So here comes peppermint, followed a few days later by Rocky Road, then Caramel Twist and Bubblegum, as the progression of varieties increases at a furious rate.

In no time at all, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins get together and say, “If 10 flavors tweak their fancy, just think what 31 would do…”

Pretty soon we have more flavors of ice cream than we could ever experience, and spend much time defending our own personal predilection.

So what was once a snack, or even a delicacy, becomes a source of conflict as people argue furiously in favor of their favored concoction.

Soon we forget it’s just ice cream.

It becomes an issue of pride–maybe even a symbol of patriotism or eternal salvation.

Once matters are blown out of proportion, we need to continue to blow into them to justify why they became so large in the first place.

In no time we find ourselves arguing over the art of debate, exchanging facts based upon our interpretation of available statistics.

We might even conjure a lie or two, suggesting that Devil’s Food Cake ice cream literally is.

I seriously doubt if anyone would disagree that we have become a nation which favors the brouhaha over consolation.

It should be no surprise that this has occurred–considering we are also a country that thinks judging people is religion, dieting is nutrition, reading books is education … and watching a football game is exercise. 

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Broad

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Broad: (adj) an ample distance from side to side; wide.

We are a peculiar people.Dictionary B

Every July 3rd in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we commemorate Pickett’s Charge, where thousands of Southern gentlemen attacked a wall of cannon at the bequest of an aging general who was in the midst of having a minor heart attack due to the summer’s heat.

But for some reason we call that brave.

We paint the picture of humanity with broad strokes.

We weep over acts of patriotism or occasions in which hundreds of thousands of us merge into a common trough.

But I am personally stalled by the warning from a Nazarene from two thousand years ago, who stated, “Broad is the way to destruction.”

It is shoulder-to-shoulder that we march to hell–unaware of our destination, but satisfied that we are right…because we are not alone.

What foolishness.

The best decisions of my life always happen absent human hovering.

When I’m on the “strait and narrow” of my passion, angels of authenticity are prompted to whisper in my ear.

If not, I am inundated by the bad breath of baffled Bohemians.

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Brigadier

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Brigadier: (n) a rank of officer in the army, above colonel and below major general.

Sometimes foolishness gets a pass, but it has to be legitimate foolishness. Dictionary BI’m talking about that fresh kind that just slipped out of your stupid brain because of your ignorance. If you’ve done foolishness before, you can’t claim that it’s “innocent foolishness.”

I did a foolish thing.

I was so young, self-inspired and full of false confidence that life decided not to punish me for my presumption.

My younger brother decided to join the army. Considering he had never even played with army men and walked with the sensitivity of a marshmallow, the idea was ludicrous. But it was in full swing before any of us realized that he had sauntered off to be a soldier.

The first we knew of it was upon receiving a call from basic training, where he pleaded for us to “get him out of there”–or he was going to commit suicide.

Now, I can discuss with you the unfairness of him placing me in that situation, but instead, I will tell you that in an attempt to be a good big brother, I called the army base where he was doing his imitation of G.I. Joe, and talked to a Brigadier General. Now, I don’t know exactly what a Brigadier General is, but it sounds a whole lot more important than me.

For some reason, he took my call. I don’t know why. Maybe he was just a nice guy. Maybe he couldn’t believe that someone was asking for his younger brother to be released from basic training.

His first inclination was to laugh at me. After all, you can’t maintain a volunteer army while promising a money-back guarantee. If everyone who was displeased with the accommodations at “Fort Kick Your Ass” was released immediately, we wouldn’t have enough soldiers to march in a small-town parade.

So on the first call he chuckled.

On my second call, he took the fatherly approach, explaining how the military works.

On the third call he appealed to my patriotism.

On call 54, he asked me if I knew how powerful he was.

But somewhere along the line, on the 93rd call, he paused. This is what the Brigadier asked me:

“You’re going to keep calling me until we release him, aren’t you?”

I replied, “You can just stop taking my calls.”

“Then I would have a suicidal assistant to deal with,” he presented.

I really don’t know what happened.

I don’t know if what I said made any difference at all.

But this fine Brigadier General realized that I was sincere and that my brother was not even suited to the rigors of being a back-up in the chorus line.

They released him.

It was a miracle.

But actually, it was an expansive piece of grace … granted by a man who was trained to be ruthless.

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Blather

Blather: (v) to talk long-windedly without making very much sense.

Dictionary B

There are certain words that are talked about way too much.

I’m not saying they are unimportant–I’m not even connoting they’re overused in their value to our life experience.

It’s just that when you allow foolish people to pontificate on serious matters, you end up creating an audience that is both unimpressed and unwilling to hear any more.

Just so much blather.

May I give you five of these words?

  • God
  • Love
  • Hope
  • Patriotism
  • Education

Even though the absence of any one of these pearls from our purse would be devastating, it is treacherous when the ignorant decide to offer their views like grunting pigs and barking dogs.

Just make sure if you bring up any one of these five treasures that you’re prepared to be well-spoken, briefly spoken and truthfully spoken. 

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