Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day thought

A lot of people see today as a day for nonstop somber reflection

But I think back to my grandfather, who served in World War II, who spent most Memorial Day weekends barbecuing and having a good time.

Pop would talk about the war from time to time (he was a Navy Seabee who walked through Nagasaki after the bomb dropped there and never saw combat). He retained his rifles and other military paraphernalia (including a big box of dynamite we found stored away after he died). He had a huge stash of photographs — and also some undeveloped rolls of film from the war that he took to Walmart in the mid-1990s to see what they could do with them. (They came out great and they didn't charge him for them.) We had a long conversation about his service when I was in high school. That era of his life was a big part of who he was, and we was never shy about saying so.

One thing he never, ever did was lord his service over anyone. I never heard him complain about people not deferring enough, or about observing holidays in a certain manner. He never implied that enlisted people were better than civilians. He avidly supported our family members in the military, but never came off as hawkish. His attitude in general seemed to be that we fight, when we need to, so that we can continue to live the way we do. So we should live it up.

I saw a cartoon a few years ago that showed a man and his WWII-vet father talking as a young child played. The man said something like, "That kid has no concept of what you went through." And the vet replied, "That's the idea." That was Pop. Ever so humble.

Though he died several decades after the war, I remember him today. And everyone else.

And now I go off to enjoy what they've defended for us, just like Pop would want.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Today in "freedom"

I'm no lawyer (unlike the man who created these signs), but it seems to me that the notion of implied consent would render such signs moot.

When anyone drives on a public roadway in any state, the implication is that they consent to the rules of the road, which includes taking a sobriety test if officers have deemed it necessary. DUI checkpoints are often set up during times when police reasonably assume that a large number of drunken drivers might be on the road, such as on weekend nights during big events.

Personally, I have no problem with this. Intoxicated drivers imperil us all, and everyone is aware of the dangers of engaging in drunken driving. I don't find it a victory for "freedom" when people get wind of where a checkpoint might be (though if that information deters someone from driving, it might be useful). 

I also don't see the virtue in not cooperating. I've been through several checkpoints — including one that was set up near my home one night, which I turned just in front of to go to the store, hoping that the officers wouldn't take that as a sign I was avoiding them (I wasn't; I was stone sober and straight from work). All these times, it never occurred to me not to cooperate (then again, I was always sober), and I have a hard time understanding why someone with nothing to hide wouldn't. (Again, we're talking about the public roadways. I might feel differently in other situations.)

So I know checkpoints are a hassle. I know that like with anything law enforcement-related, there is potential for abuse. But all in all, I think checkpoints are an asset.

Traffic can be a dangerous proposition — drinking, gabbing, texting, fatigue, car trouble, general distraction — and the mistakes others make can be life-altering or fatal to themselves and to others. Because of this, I support the fair enforcement of traffic laws. Not abuse, mind you, but neither will I equate "freedom" with the "right" to avoid responsibility.

I hope everyone who shares the road with me feels the same way.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A lesson in schooling

Ronald Nelson is getting a free ride at the University of Alabama, itself no slouch in the academic department, and he can start saving up for medical school. He is doing this instead of incurring immediate, explosive debt for a name that may or may not hold the cache it once did.

He still gets to tell everyone for the rest of his life that all eight Ivy League universities accepted him — but that he made his own, prudent way. And he can rest assured that his case has further sparked national conversation about money as a barrier to higher education (and debt as a barrier to an entire generation's well-being).

Smart dude.

We can all learn from him.