Friday, March 27, 2009

It's the journey!

I can fly to any corner of the country within a few hours time. With a few days off work I can visit with any of my kids and grandkids. But, something is missing. I'm going to my destination, but I'm bypassing the journey. Clearly we have gained something with the ability to get to our destinations quickly. What I want to do is look at what we have lost. What are we missing while we make a leap over to our destination?

With each increase in the speed of travel, our range of travel increases. But, with each increase we see less along the way. Before there were trains and cars people rarely traveled far from their community. The only window I have into what their journeys were like is my experiences walking or bike riding as my transportation.

There was a time when I didn't have a car, but rode a bike 14 miles each way to and from work. The goal was to get to work as a grounds person in a mobile home park. I remember the job, but I also remember the ride to and from work. I started out in the city, then out to miles of road going through hay fields and pasture land. With destination in mind I rode thought the smell of dry California grass. The fresh air was made more obvious by the occasional smell of exhaust. Bad smells such as dead skunks or dairy farms slowly overpowered other smells, then slowly diminished. I saw miles of barb wire fences with their rust and zinc coatings. This commute and other slow travels have taught me that trash can be beautiful. An old newspaper in the ditch turns earth brown as it returns to soil. Some tin cans had faded commercial artwork slowly turning a red-brown.

Given a choice I would have driven. I like driving. I like watching the road pass under my car, and the scenery zipping by the windows. The fences become a rhythm with the beat provided by the posts, and the barbs smoothed by the speed. The color of the barb wire is lost, and it becomes a pencil line across from post to post. At the speed of a car there is little pretty about an old tin can. Driving lets me get past the dead skunk or the dairy farm faster, but the costs are the details. Moments of smell, are now blended into a stew of exhaust, grass, and car upholstery.

As a child we did a lot of travel. I remember traveling by car. I couldn't read in a moving car. I slept, looked out the window, discussed things with the family, avoided the science questions my father would ask, and bugged my older brothers and sister. I watched the other cars. Except for sleeping (and for others, reading) everyone was living in the present. The past was in our memory, or in the rear view mirror. The future: the dotted white line and our plans. Fiction was in our dreams.

I like driving. I like the excitement of the freshly packed car and anticipation of the journey. Dianne and I took one of these trips in December, driving down to Santa Fe New Mexico for a few days. The destination was important. We zipped down on I25, wind buffeting the car. We almost ran out of gas. We picked up a hitchhiker who wasn't as lucky. We gassed at a truck stop that had classic cars. Then after a great visit, (excluding my driving one day) we drove much of the way back on 2-lane roads. I enjoyed the trip down, but high speeds and the multiple lanes made the scenery more distant than on our journey home. Taos was part of the journey home. We drove through the high flat valley between Taos and San Luis, Colorado, then through a mountain cut back to I-25. The slower travel allowed us to see the houses and ranches.

Journeys by car are not always pleasant. As a kid I remember getting car sick. A few years ago we drove the Blue Heron home from California. It broke down outside of Kingman AZ. Even being stuck there, and with the tension of hoping the car made it the rest of the way home, I remember the trip fondly. I could write a complete post about breakdowns during road trips. But, in most cases it was like riding the bike past a dead skunk. It wasn't pleasant, it took away from the total enjoyment, but it was only a part of the journey.

As a kid cars and bikes were not our only transport. There were a few boats and trains, but more often, planes. As a child we flew places, our 32 lbs of luggage below our feet. I remember looking out the window at the engine as it cranked to life. I remember the spew of exhaust of the newly started engines disappearing as the sound evened out. We would take off and fly over the distant scenery. The forests became a field of green spikes. The cars, little bugs, moved along their paths. I could see the toy towns, and mountains rose up below me trying to touch the bottom of the plane. We had to land for fuel and a chance to stretch our legs.

There are many beautiful pictures existing of the scenery below, looking through the translucent spinning propellers. There is enough detail to see the beauty. When I looked out I could see a clue as to what I was missing by being a few thousand feet a way.

These planes were not without detraction. I had older brothers to remind me of the danger of landing, something I remember to this day. The C-47, converted for passenger traffic had the ability to fly as high as 24,000 feet, easily clearing mountain tops. But the air would get thin in unpressurized cabins at a much lower altitude. Travel was tiring, but that was part of the journey.

Compared to the jet it took a lot longer to get places; 15 hours and three hops for a west coast to the east coast trip. In 1960 my family flew to Europe in a Boeing 707. No longer did the plane rise slowly up a ramp of air. Instead I became heavy as we were thrust upward. The scenery was even more distant. As time went on the planes flew higher. Rows of seat became wider so most people can't even see out. If I get a window, often the only view is the clouds below us. When I see the land I can tell little more than if it is flat or hilly. Farm irrigation can make circles. One range of mountain looks very much like another range. I look out the window trying to see landmarks, but it is my memory of when I passed there by car, or where we are on a map that brings significance to what I see from 35,000 feet.

Plane travel has become a wait for security, a trip over a map, and the destination. The journey is gone. It is now about the destination. Yes there can be a journey at the destination, but what am I missing? I miss the amber waves of grain and the purple mountains. I miss the plains. I get to my destination, but I have bypassed America.
This is a beautiful country. Not only are our mountains, coasts, and other destinations beautiful, but the travel to these places are beautiful. While driving the panhandle of Oklahoma there is beauty in the approaching storm. The rugged washes of the South West reveal millions of years of earths history. The art deco buildings of small towns bypassed are beautiful and disappearing. Not many people have experienced the friendly farmer loaning a tool to fix a car, and telling you to put the tool under a designated rock when you are done. That is now bypassed. Without the speed of the modern plane, it might be a decade between visits to my kids and grandkids. But, because of the speed my grandkids might never see much of America's beauty.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I get, send, and respond to political emails from several people. We cover the political spectrum, and sometimes have extended discussions. I sent the following email, titled "I'm trying to understand.

This is an honest question. I truly don’t understand why this country is not outraged over this. I am trying to write this in a factual manner without political overtones.

After 9/11, and stopping in 2002 the CIA videotaped some interrogations. They did this to analyze the information provided.
In 2003 the House Intelligence Committee learned of 1 of the tapes. Rep. Jane Harman (CA) ordered the CIA not to destroy that tape.
On Sept. 15, 2004 the CIA was ordered to “produce or identify” all documents involving interrogation.
In late 2005 the CIA ordered the tapes destroyed.
In 2007 the CIA stated that it had destroyed two tapes related directly related to the 2004 order.
Recently it has been released that the CIA has destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations, some or all might be covered by the 2004 court order.

On the surface this looks like the CIA has violated both a congressional and a court order. In my lifetime I have seen the citizens get outraged when the government went too far. Be it a president lying about an affair, 18 minutes of tape missing, or congressional hearings into communist activities, when the truth was revealed Americans spoke up. Can someone explain to me why not now?

I will read your answer(s), but this time I will not argue with you. I’m just trying to understand.

Stanford Smith

I got these responses without comment in the order they responded. I found their responses fascinating and eye opening. I have not edited them. I have removed the name of the sender.

Response 1:


I feel the exact same way about this issue, as well as a others that the Bush Administration initiated or took part in.

Before I give my opinion did you hear the recent news this week that some guy named Seymour Hersh (sp) spoke of the "Bush/Cheney Assissination Team," that went around taking out various people in areas around the world. Apparently this team; military unit or whatever you want to call it doesn't have any oversight other than in the last Administration from Cheney and if true they still exist but no one knows to what extent. I'm curious to hear more about this, as this just adds to the many arguments that Bush and Cheney should have long ago been brought up on War Crime charges. I however will not be surprised if this just goes away like some of the others have.

Now I am beginning to wonder who is really running and controlling this country. I am really getting concerned about how we as citizens seem to just accept things without researching, questioning or as you say expressing outrage over acts such as this one committed by the CIA. There seems to be a lot of (complacency) similar to what I witnessed in the late 80's early 90's as the crips and the bloods gangs, started taking over certain parts of Norheast Denver; in that people saw things and knew things but stopped getting involved to stop these things out of fear of being attacked and/or killed for speaking out. Contrast that to the 60's and 70's where everyone in those same neighborhoods took pride in the areas where they lived and quietly expected the same of the rest of those that resided in the area. If no one is prosecuted and convicted for taking part in the destruction of those tapes after being ordered not to do so, I'm afraid its already too late and there may be nothing anyone can do. These guys who are doing this stuff blatantly like this carry on the same as Gangsters, where they are basically daring us to stand up and be outraged for the crap that they do and in the end this mentality will certainly be the demise of the US. It will not be a Terrorist from the mid-east but our own from within that destroys the US. They laughed and poo-poo'd Barack for being a Community activist during the campaign, but its going to take a lot of those same types to help get this country back on the right track.

Just my opinion.

Response 2:

Citizens should be outraged if that were the job of congress. I submit it is not. For too long congress has been overstepping its' bounds and taking on issues that they have no reason to investigate. The far left would love to have the CIA disbanded and all prosecuted, but the more rational amongst us understand that while the CIA has some ugly attributes, they have a purpose of keeping us safe. They do not work for congress, they report to the President.

Congress should praise God every day that they don't have to be involved with the CIA and understand that some necessary things are sometimes not pretty. Maybe they should stick to the steroid in baseball issue. Oh wait, that's nothing to do with them either.

Some people do not understand the importance and inherent danger in National Security. Just because you think you are important because you are in congress does not give you any reason to know every little thing that is being done in the name of National Security. That would make it less secure. Congress wants sensitive information when they can't keep their mouths shut to save their lives over anything sensitive.

I don't mean to seem bitter, but I blame the media. Always claiming that the public has a "right to know". No they don't. Secrets are kept for a reason. The media wants to know when a secret operation is starting because they can't even fathom the concept of Operational Security. If anyone wants to know why we have OpSec, it's so CNN doesn't show up on a beach where Navy Seals are supposed to be inserting on a covert mission, blowing their cover of darkness, element of surprise and getting 14 of them killed.

Americans should not be outraged at the CIA, they should thank God that there are people out there willing to put themselves in harms' way and do the dirty little thing that people don't really want to know about, so they can go about their business with a sense of security and not a care in the world other than "what group should we interfere with today" or "which hooker?"

So sayeth the shepherd, so sayeth the flock. Sermon over.

Response 3:

Congress in my opinion has turned into a circus as of late. It’s ironic that in the 1940’s during World War II that the attitude of interrogation was swift and done on the battle field mostly. I have compassion for those having to sit for years on end waiting for a verdict and don’t think that any of the detainees should have been held this long. If they were guilty then execute them if not send them home be done with it. In my humble opinion of the matter though Media is way too involved in military actions and we have become horribly soft in our actions of war. This is something our enemies play into along with our gallivanting politicians that seem more to show boat than to actually function. I think the CIA has a job to do and need to do it. They need to stop trying to cover the crap and do the job of protecting America. Congress needs to figure out other problems like real issues like immigration and the drug war in Mexico crossing into the US instead of trying to show boat for the baseball committee and hanging the people involved with detainments. We have now turned into the Stimulus show where the only thing I see getting stimulated is the ones that fudged it up and my internal BS meter.

I guess I look at the issue with the tapes and the rest of it as the left wing going after Bush and his presidency. Lately both the parties have been acting like school children trying to get each other prison sentences instead of trying to fix the cripple country. I don’t think either party is innocent and think them both totally to blame cause they making a mess of the place at the expense of America. Just me or do you see a midget called the American people getting anal pains from getting the shaft from the donkey and the elephant. With them going so far to their prospective proverbial sides they both are meeting at either fascism or socialism that the Americans are paying the bill. This also means the monkeys that got interrogated had to pay whether innocent cause as a whole government arm we don’t have our sh1t together anymore.

Maybe we need to send the politicians and have them interrogated for a couple years. Hell throw in the media while we at it cause their coverage is getting to the point that the stroke books produce better stories and at least they have pictures that actually stimulate the American public.

My 2 cents won’t be long that will be my whole check after taxes.