Monday, January 20, 2020

Podcast now Live!

A quick post to announce my podcast on the same topic as this blog - do visit and follow! Available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor.fm, and many others, Apple Podcast support coming soon!

https://open.spotify.com/show/7aRksqSD7hh4Ok4q5pBLVU

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Stuck in Time

In the dusty tent, which was our "office," I walked in for the night shift. The work was mostly done in another tent, but the office was our place to find any available computers and write out our reports and other paperwork. I distinctly remember a little yellow post-it note stuck onto a whiteboard that proclaimed "11 days left." Someone sadistic, someone in a high position of authority over us, had told us that we would leave Afghanistan in 11 days. That person, without informing anyone, restarted the countdown each morning and still continues to do so. The little post-it note is long destroyed, but we are stuck there 20 years later. My naive and idealistic self is still there, along with my brothers and sisters in arms. Lost. In the tents of sand, blood, and death.




Friday, November 29, 2019

You Want it Darker...

If you are the dealer, I'm out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I'm broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
Hineni*, hineni
I'm ready, my lord...

*Hineni in Hebrew is used to signify "Here I am"
Such meaningful lyrics by Leonard Cohen from his final album in 2016.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Go West!

The Pet Shop Boys' remake of the song "Go West" ended up somehow on my mp3 player (there were no iPods then.) It sounds like the old Soviet Union anthem with the powerful all-male chorus really. However, certain words got stuck in my otherwise "green" brain. Whenever there was time to go back to my tent and catch a few winks, I would put on my headphones and listen to a few songs - one of them would always be "Go West."

(Go West) Life is peaceful there
(Go West) In the open air
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) This is what we're gonna do

That concept quickly became a subconscious goal - something to look forward to once the War skull renounced its control on my brain and allowed the Stateside skull to take over (it turned out to be much more complicated than a simple swap, but I didn't know it then at least.) There would also be another song that would get stuck in my brain at a much later point in time, but I shall discuss that when required.

Brain Transmogrification

Let's face it: our brains are trying to pull off a gigantic balancing act, even in our regular civilian lives. But when they are taken from a set of circumstances which they have dealt with their entire existence and put into a brand new, unknown world, where all previous knowledge that enabled your comfortable life becomes quite meaningless, they become useless.

Take my brain, for example. It was sitting comfortably in my Stateside skull dealing with 20th-century problems such as phone bills and car maintenance or with saying goodbyes to friends and family, only a few hours before it flew into Kandahar. All of a sudden, it felt a hard Kevlar helmet bump its Stateside skull and convert it to a War skull.

Poor thing did not even have a chance to get any training for the severe changes the War skull would demand from it. And before you think it, no, Army Basic training is extremely superficial when dealing with mental and emotional preparedness. At least it used to be when I went through the physically austere and rigorous training back in the mid-90s.

Back to the brain on hand. As it dealt with the alien world of War zones while trying to apply its civilian prism to the strange events it was witnessing, it failed rather horribly. I immediately became what experienced folks call "green." Not physically, but as far as my knowledge went. I was like a five-year-old's brain in an adult human's body, which was holding a gun! It is as if someone naughty had pushed the brain unexpectedly down the side of Mazlow's pyramid, all the way down to raw survival, to the edge of humanity and civilization.

Kandahar, AFG

The loopy and eventful landing at an extremely high rate of speed in complete darkness followed by extreme braking brought forth a loud (and I mean loud) and long shriek from somewhere across the cargo area, as we landed. I thought the dude must have been shot somehow, or fell and broke an arm or something.

But it turns out it was just plain old fear. A fear of the unknown, which I have come to realize, is the worst (and only) kind of fear that is truly meaningful for us, in the human experience. Think about it: all your maladies, stresses, solicitudes, and uncertainties always relate back to the unknown, in one manner or another.

For example, whether we are sitting in a movie theater eating popcorn while watching a horror film, or facing a potential gunfight outside a just-landed plane door in mystical Kandahar, the cause of fear is the same. The unknown. Whether one is running in a race, or to fight back an incursion, the cause of anxiety is the same: Will I finish? The investment one makes in the resultant response to these situations is decidedly different in the two scenarios as one expects. This is a critical distinction, however.  

Monday, October 14, 2019

Own Your Color

This is a quick break from my PTSD posts -

After yet another confrontation caused by racists who harassed me (this time was at the airport), and the fact that the they are becoming more active with each passing minute, I have had a sort of an epiphany:

Own Your Color because that is all that the Racists see.

  • They do not care how "assimilated" you are.
  • They do not care how well you speak English.
  • They do not care how "well behaved" you are.
  • They do not care that you might be Christian.
  • They do not care how polite you act.
  • They do not care if you are heterosexual.
  • They do not care if you LOVE the 2nd Amendment.
  • They do not care if you served America (in the military or elsewhere).
  • They do not care how "polished" is your behavior.
  • They do not care about how entirely American sounding American English you speak.
  • They do not care if you show them respect.
  • They do not care if you try and avoid confrontations - They will find you.
  • They do not care if you dress in "western" clothes.
  • They do not care if your friends are White.
  • They do not care if your name is anglicized.
  • They do not care if you support their President.
  • They do not care if their President acts like he likes your kind.
  • And lastly, for my Hindu Trump supporters: they do not care if you are NOT Muslim [This is a whole another topic to consider, which I shall, separately].
They do not care about much. But the racists DO care about one thing:  Skin Color.

Non-white skin is the only factor that triggers their behavior on sight. The good thing about it is that victim-blaming becomes impossible for those who tend to blame victims of Racism or Crime. Thing is, when the Racists hate your very existence, there is not much you can do logically with them. Except,
Own Your Color. 
  • Be proud of your culture. 
  • Be proud of your languages. 
  • Be proud of your differences. 
  • Be proud of your clothes. 
  • Be proud of your religion (or lack thereof).
  • Be proud of your way of life.
  • Be proud of your skin.
  • So that when the Racists attack, you can correctly, in a measured, non-violent manner, DEFEND yourself. 
  • And DEFEND yourself, you should! Do not avoid, deflect, excuse, or ignore their racist behavior (unless there is clear and present danger of injury or death... like there was when I stopped for a gas station/restroom break in Texas. In that case, do as you must to get out of the situation.)
Where does Vedanta fit into all of this? More posts on that issue coming in the future.

Podcast now Live!

A quick post to announce my podcast on the same topic as this blog - do visit and follow! Available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor.fm,...