The 4th of July

July 02, 2015 5 min read

I’ve lived a fortunate life during fortunate times. Many who know my story would probably say otherwise, but I’ve been blessed to live in the greatest nation the world has known. I joined the U.S. Army after high school, and served nearly four years with two tours in Iraq. I am proud that my family has served in basically every war since the American Revolution. After I finished hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2012, I skimmed through a folder of my family history and discovered we have been a military family since the founding of the U.S.A.
 
When you join the military, the government owns you; it’s a fact. Your body, time, and life belong to the government. Furthermore, if you serve in the infantry as I did, or take extra leaps to join the special ops community, the amount of physical, mental, and spiritual torture often reach levels of extreme agony. Most of my time in the Army was grueling and seemed never ending. Pain has no concept of time and hope teases those in agony, deployments can last a lifetime. The dreams and fantasies that kept my feet moving, loads of gear on my back and my eyes open after thirty hour missions, turned into nightmares after I left the military, but I fought through mundane niceties and mannerisms of the newfound technological 21st Century.
           
I spent two years of my life after my undergraduate studies working for one of the top corporations in the world. The pay was good, and I led a team out of Atlanta, flying across the south 3-4 weeks a month. I am a traveller. I enjoy new places and breaking the norm, but racing around the country and working sixty plus hours soon made me realize I was in bondage to my employers. I don’t know if it is in my blood to keep my life my own, or if I just cannot stand the corporate lifestyle and submitting to a nice and comfortable existence. I turned down an opportunity to work in California, and people tell me all the time I was stupid to do so, but I felt compelled to return to college. Basically, I feel that working for hourly wages is a form of slave labor unless one truly enjoys their occupation, or one feels they are contributing to a greater overall cause.
Why am I saying all this? The events over the past few weeks have our nation in an uproar. The psychopath who murdered church members in South Carolina is wrong on every level. I don’t understand why the guy who committed the atrocious crime is not taken behind a barn to dig his own grave. I suppose our leaders find it better to spend millions of dollars on his trial, and squeeze all the political leverage possible out of the racially charged shooting.
           
Some of my ancestors fought for the confederacy during the Civil War. I have never flown a confederate flag. I have always sported the red, white, and blue. One of my older brothers has always been a history buff, and when we were young he had a subscription to Civil War magazine. He knows everything about that war, and being from the South, we always admired the southern soldier and brilliant tacticians such as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Also, we grew up in the one state that was purposefully burnt to the ground. War is nasty. Both sides always commit horrible acts. I’m quite sure there was plenty of pillaging, murdering, and rape occurring during Sherman’s march to the sea. Did Georgia deserve it?
Does anybody deserve anything? Do people get what they deserve? Yes and no. It’s a complex world.
Ironically, I always felt a bond to the Union soldier when I was a kid. I don’t know if it was because the North won, because I knew slavery was wrong, I was secretly fighting my brother, or if in a past life I may have fought alongside the Yanks. Who knows such things? I remember vivid images, playing imaginary war on brown autumn grasses, pretending I was fighting with the Union Army. In my mind, bodies scattered the yard and pasture of my childhood in a savage and bloody mess, but I brandished my whiffle ball bat, pretending it was a musket, and fought through the cannon fire and screams before my mother called me in to supper.
           
What’s the point of saying all of this? I suppose to get some thoughts off my chest. The plight that African-Americans had to suffer through in our nation’s history is horrible. It is amazing how far we as a society have progressed in such a short time. African-Americans, just like all Americans, and all people on the planet, deserve a decent life. No one should be forced to work under torturous conditions.
           
Here’s some food for thought, instead of trying to recreate dissension, how about focusing on the injustices currently taking place? I’d like to know how many movie stars or rappers wear blood diamonds everyday. Coltan, one of the key materials used to make cell phones, is mined in the Congo through slave labor. Think about how many products we use daily that are made in China, and think about how those workers live. Basically, if you currently live in the United States of America, you are funding slavery in one way or another.
           
I’ve drifted a bit during this one, but the 4th of July always does it to me. The 4th is probably my favorite holiday other than Christmas. I saw a statistic today: Since 1999 roughly 6,000 U.S. servicemen have been killed while 128,000 have killed themselves. Our soldiers, whether they’re black, white, brown, pink, or whatever, willingly sacrifice their lives so others may live in peace. They deserve a better life, or at least the hope of a better life, without reverting to suicide. If we could join together as we have done in the past, perhaps our soldiers would be allowed to conquer the slave labor still occurring across the globe and rise above the societal demons that haunt them.
           
Remember, we are blessed to live in the greatest nation ever. Let’s make sure it is not lost to mob mentality and the lies streaming through our phones, laptops, television, and so forth. Get outside. Talk to people without typing to them. Be prejudice against nothing except ignorance and injustice. I know the people of the United States will prevail and hold strong together.  Shoot some guns and fireworks this weekend. First and foremost, watch after the children. Take time to remember all the men and women who have lost their lives in support of our country, through the dark times and good.
God Bless America.
 
 -Tater

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