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Tuesday, April 21 2015 @ 02:46 AM PDT

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Policy Amok

General NewsFort Hood Shooting Victim Denied Benefits Despite Purple Heart Decision

I read this 24 hrs ago and I still can't wrap my head around it. I can only hope that it's a case of policy-in-progress and not a final decision. What possible logic could support this?

The most recent document cited in the article states, "Nowhere in the act, however, does it offer combat benefits for service members permanently disabled in attacks inspired or motivated by foreign terrorist organizations. Although subsequent legislation and guidance may change, currently, the Board has no authority to award V1/V3 (service related) designation to soldiers disabled during the Fort Hood attack."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we provide full benefits to those injured at the Pentagon on 9/11?

Also from the article: It [2012 statement] went on to state Manning’s injuries were not caused by an “instrumentality of war” because Hasan’s “weapon was a private semi-automatic pistol. The army did not issue this weapons to the soldier.”

757s aren't Army-issued either.

I never thought I'd miss 2002 this much. Can somebody please find a presidential candidate who can fix this mess of a government?

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Friday Scramble

Scrambles3 Foot World

22 Things I Learned About Myself After Leaving the Marines Then Living in Kenya

My Address to a Middle School Class on Veterans Day 2014

Younger Women Hesitate to Say They're Having a Heart Attack

The Atlas Generation

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Friday Scramble

ScramblesThe World War Inside Islam

The West Doesn't Understand Russians

When I Questioned the History of Muhammad

Woman Orders Pizza from 911 to Save Her from Domestic Abuse

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The problem of the victim-hero

General Newshttp://www.jpost.com/International/IS...lot-390949

A discussion of the reactions to Kayla Mueller's death by the Jerusalem Post recently gave me a bad few hours. Amidst the feel-good commentary we all know, there were also statements amounting to "she got what she deserved" because of her Palestinian sympathies, "cultural marxism" and past activities with a nonviolent group that "interfered with Israeli soldiers." Let's break that down. The blogger in question cites 1) Beliefs 2) Feelings of guilt over blessings, and 3) participation in noviolent protests.

The devaluation of human life due to an individual's beliefs Must. Stop. Now.

The story and the criticisms of Kyla Mueller hit hard, because it so easily could have been me years ago. I saw injustice in the Middle East and I considered working for a similar organization. I said and wrote things which I regret. My peers did the same, and some did go on to do the same kind of things Kayla Mueller did. Their intentions were and are good. Yet the push for cultural understanding often overrode critical thinking. How does one prepare for hearing a mother scream that it's American money that paid for the bombs that leveled her home and left her children as refugees? Where is the balance between compassion and critical thinking when blood spills? It took me years to unpack the realization that guest speakers had lied to us.

I remember hearing that one of our government agencies didn't like it when people learned the language in country, because it often created sympathies for the host country. I thought it was moronic at the time, but now I'm not so sure. My experience with international programs says that counter-American opinions are always rewarded, while opinions which are in line with American politics are punished as narrow and unenlightened. It reminds me of Stockholm Syndrome; one assimilates to avoid a psychological crisis. But foreign affairs ARE a psychological crisis of hard choices for the welfare of a specific group. It is to our shame that we produce so few people who can wisely operate at that level.

Kayla Mueller will remain controversial, as any person who dies for a cause is controversial. I don't ask you to like her. I don't even know if I would have liked her. I don't think I like the person I was in the Middle East years ago. But she could have been your sister or neighbor or classmate. She was a victim of terrorism and of human frailty.

We preserve our humanity with our recognition of others', regardless of their fate.


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Allons Enfants de la Liberte

“This was the work of insecure cowards who apparently fear their religion is so weak that it can’t withstand criticism, and who must fear the God they purport to worship isn’t big enough, strong enough, or wise enough to take a joke.” –National Cartoonist Society

First we thought it was a workplace shooting. A gunman in an office building. To such news, awful though it was, I permitted myself a small smirk at the European country with a gun incident. I shouldn’t have, I know, but I've listened to too many Europeans telling me why America should change our gun laws. The destruction of life always unmasks our reality, no matter how common. We live in a world of inevitable tragedy and there’s an ugly temptation to score whatever points we may.

Then the details of the Charlie Hebdo massacre trickled down like the bloody ebb of life. Twelve victims tried, convicted and executed for their free expression by the egotistical, fearful followers of an easily insulted prophet. The twelve. A motley crew of wavering faith persecuted for truth. Who are the martyrs here?

As the story of the world unfolds it seems to me that Islam has good individuals but no saints. For it is the saints who are God’s hands to turn us from paths of destruction. The ever-growing company of saints build the momentum for faith, freedom and victory in the face of overwhelming evil. Tell me, where is the good that Islam built? Oh, they will say that Mohammed stopped the murder of female infants, but they conveniently omit the subsequent life of subjugation. They omit Islam’s degradation and deprivation of humanity and its ultimate denial of our identity as BELOVED children of God.

Je suis Charlie, though my voice be small and my pen faltering. Vive la Resistance.

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World building

General NewsLast night was a short night, with long conversations about the future that lingered long past the final goodnight.
Today I woke up to the news of the shooting rampage in Paris.

I'm not eighteen or twenty five or even thirty any more. I'm a wife and mom with a smattering of health issues and I can't just hop on a plane to apply at INTERPOL or any of the other "usual suspects" that come to mind when there's an insidious enemy to fight.

Many of you who have been on this blogging journey with me through the years are facing similar changes. Both abilities and priorities shift, but these terror attacks bring a sting of the old callings.

Now what?

Now, we build. Our fight is not in destroying what is evil, but in strengthening what is good. Our mission is promoting health and creating beauty and raising the next generation of builders. We are made in the image of God and as such, we are meant to create new things.

We will build faster and stronger than our enemies can destroy.
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So this is Christmas (Eve)

General NewsI've written before about spending Christmas in foreign lands, about the meaning of Christmas, and of course remembering those who can't be home for Christmas.

Today, though, has the ache of death nearby. I'm grieving my own losses, and wishing I knew a way to send flowers to a particular Gold Star mom. Moreover, my last remaining grandparent is in the hospital, and while treatment is progressing well, the concept of "borrowed time" is quite apparent.

So this ain't Pinterest.

This is more like the cold, painful, frightening journey to Bethlehem.

Christmas is faith that God shows up.
Christmas means that death may surround us but it doesn't defeat us.
And the only truly empty hands are the ones that are clenched too tight to allow anything or anyone in.

Christmas says that everyone on the naughty list gets the most extraordinary gift known: God with us.
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Friday Scramble

General NewsWar Clouds on the Horizon?

The Irish Slaves: What They Will Never Tell You in History

The Scientific Evidence Against Spanking, Timeouts and Sleep Training (The core science is quite interesting, although I'm not sure about how they're applying it. But a good, mind-bending read.)

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A Grateful Nation, a Grateful Family

General NewsWe buried my grandfather yesterday.

We buried my grandmother at the same national cemetery years ago, but that was different. I was running late that day, so I barely spoke to the staffers, and since she was "just" a spouse there of course were no military honors. But yesterday is forever etched in my memory, not only for our own loss, but because of walking the same path as the Gold Star families.

The VA administration is profoundly screwed up, but the people working at the national cemetery were wonderful. When we arrived we discovered that multiple issues had been mishandled by the funeral home. On a half hour's notice, they got 3 National Guardsmen and 6 VFW Marines to perform full military honors, including a bugler and rifle volley. Words cannot convey the depths of my gratitude that we could give my grandfather his proper sendoff.

Yet it was also a stark reminder of the road other families must walk. We knew my grandfather's death was coming. But how does someone stumble through it all when the death is a shock? How do you keep the scream from bursting out of your chest when the last salute is fired?

I've been to a lot of funerals. The worst ones are the structureless ones, where the people present are left to the sum of their emotions. Grief needs structure. It needs familiar words and days off work and black clothes to tell the world to back off. My family hasn't been able to take time away from other responsibilities, and that has taken a terrible toll over the last two weeks. But at the cemetery they reminded us to silence our phones, effectively shutting out the rest of the world for a time. It was a time for honor, a time for grief. We shut out the world but connected with the unique brotherhood of all who grieve there.

The gift of the national cemeteries is the reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our immediate families. Every time I visit, I enter in grief but leave in gratitude.

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Ferguson

General NewsThere are times when I understand why certain governments control their media. I would love to squelch ours right now. I would love it if no news story included information on race. It's not that I don't think that racism is a problem still. I don't often see it in front of me, but I'm a white gal in a liberal northern state. Yet what I hear from my "non-white" friends tells me that there's more work to be done.

But trial-by-media does nothing but fan the flames of hatred on all sides.

What I've read of the grand jury transcripts is a far cry from the street narrative. Here we see two critical issues: 1) The media's disregard for truth in their pursuit of sensation, and 2) people's belief in the media above the judicial system.

It's hard to do anything about either issue when whites and blacks still harbor suspicion about each other.

I have a friend, a middle-aged black writer, who has done a great job of sharing her experiences without lapsing into hatred. I've written before about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues that arise when an entire community has been scarred by mistreatment, and I believe that there are parallels. Yes, "reverse racism" is a problem. My friend admits it. But affirmative action won't fix this. More legislation won't fix this. It is a social problem and it needs a social solution.

It needs invitations to coffee.
It needs doors held open.
It needs less edginess and more laughter in the checkout line.

There are different cultures and different struggles, and deep resentments on both sides. Much will not be understood without active engagement. We've lost the ability to draw out the opposing side; we're so busy proclaiming that we're right that we don't bother to find out why someone thinks we're wrong. There's no harm in asking, "Why don't you trust the police? Why don't you trust the judicial system?" The answers might surprise you. I have a personal reason to distrust the judicial system, but I don't let it end there because I recognize it is the best of the options. We need to encourage each other to work for solutions rather than just complain about other people's behavior.

Blame begets hatred. Compassion paired with clear thinking stops the cycle.

Here's the thing: I posted "Pray for Ferguson" on my Facebook wall and did not get a single "like." I have both liberal and conservative friends on FB. What is wrong with us if we cannot even agree to pray for a place that is getting sucked into hatred and violence?

You might start by looking someone of the other "color" in the eye and saying hello.