Take It For What It’s Worth
Thomas Calabrese –I’ve been writing for most of my life and I have always enjoyed creating a story or a poem in my mind and then putting those thoughts into words on a sheet of paper. It has been more of a way to release stress than it was to create a literary masterpiece or even earn a living from my endeavors. In fiction writing, everything turns out exactly the way I write it. It is almost like creating an alternate universe. The hero always gets the girl, the Marine fights against overwhelming odds and survives, a poor individual wins the lottery, the protagonist finds the cure for a terminal disease just in time to save his best friend, who is only moments away from certain death and most important of all, the bad guy always loses.
Unfortunately I do not have that same power over the reality of my own existence, that my imagination possesses over the plots of my stories. My father was an Italian immigrant who did not have a high school education, but had a work ethic that was second to none. He was relentless in his pursuit and attainment of gainful employment. As a young boy, I remember when some man insulted my dad about being a stupid foreigner and called him several ethnic slurs during the heated confrontation. When the man left, I noticed that my father wasn’t really that upset, so I asked, “Did that bother you?”
He responded calmly, “Never give anyone the power to make you feel bad about yourself, let alone a stranger.”
That was profound advice, and it went right over the head of a young boy. Luckily as I got older, there were occasions when I would remember those words. As the years passed, I came to realize that while my father wasn’t book smart, he had common sense and possessed a great understanding of human nature. The other advice that he gave me was that; No honest job was beneath me, it was the quality of my efforts, not the title of title of the position that mattered.
I was eager to leave my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri after graduating from high school and see the world. The best way for me to do that was join the Marine Corps. While in training at Camp Pendleton, I often said to myself, “I’m never coming back to Oceanside when I get out the Corps!” I would eventually learn the word ‘never’ isn’t quite as definite as it might seem, especially when it is spoken in frustration or stress.
The Vietnam War was a rude awakening for a naïve eighteen-year boy on his journey to manhood. There were a lot of things to be learned in a short amount of time; like how many ways there were to get killed on a daily basis, that every man is expendable and most important of all is that nobody goes to war to fight for their government, we go to war to defend our country and end up fighting for the guy next to you.
I was looking forward to coming back to the ‘world’ (United States) when my tour was up. To my surprise, I was very sad when I sat in the Danang Air Terminal when that day finally arrived. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that even when a situation isn’t all that great, maintaining the status quo is easier than dealing with the unknown. I was in Los Angeles International Airport in May 1970 on my way back to Kansas City for 30 days leave after leaving Nam’. I was walking toward the departure gate when a group of hippies confronted me and began calling me vile and vulgar names, like baby-killer and war-monger.
The words of my father about never letting a stranger affect how I feel about myself came back to me and gave me the strength and wisdom to continue on my way without getting in a fight.
After getting out of the Corps, I decided that I wanted to see the other side of the argument so I left for the bay area, established residency in California, and enrolled at U.C. Berkeley, the most radical school in the country at the time. I majored in Communications and Public Policy with the intention of getting all the pertinent information to make an informed decision about the Vietnam War and government policies.
What was the main thing that I learned during my time at the university? Like the hippies in Los Angeles who insulted me for serving in a controversial war, radical liberals aren’t just content to protest, they feel some kind of moral imperative to harm and insult anybody who represents a different point of view. Destroying property, looting and burning to emphasize their political platform also isn’t that unusual for them. This violent, hateful and intolerant behavior is still being exhibited for a variety of causes.
I worked on a couple of political campaigns after my graduation. A scam that is often used by unscrupulous politicians is releasing a fake story to the media, then referencing the story as true to substantiate the lie that was created by the politician or his staff in the first place. It is called the ‘wrap around smear’ and is still being used to this day. I could have made a lot of money making up stories (lies) for politicians, but my heart wasn’t in it. When I was offered a job in Carlsbad by a college friend, I left the Bay Area. That situation didn’t work out and from there I went to Africa on a writing assignment for several months. When that job was completed, I had the choice to return either to the Bay Area, Kansas City or Southern California. Remember what I wrote earlier about the word ‘never’? I rented a small room in Oceanside, a place I said I would never come back to and worked a variety of jobs. Since I had veteran’s preference, I applied for employment on Camp Pendleton, another place that I thought I’d never go back to.
The only position available was cleaning boilers in the buildings on base. I would crawl inside the large metal cylinders and clean them with a steel brush, then vacuum out the oily dust with an industrial vacuum cleaner. It was dirty work, but I kind of like the simplicity of my tasks because it allowed my mind to drift off and nobody was looking over my shoulder. I carelessly mentioned one day to my supervisor that I had a college education and before I knew it I was told that I was over-qualified and could not continue. My response was, ‘what difference does it make as long as I’m doing the job.’ What I didn’t realize at the time was it didn’t matter if I was doing the job, having someone with too much education was a threat to my supervisor. I applied for another position in base housing and stayed there for the next 18 years. I learned very quickly that many people are more comfortable working in a broken system than fixing it. There were a lot of sleepless nights for me during my career about which things to ignore and which things to report. There are a lot of people in the federal bureaucracy that I wouldn’t trust to pick up dog droppings, but the government sees fit to entrust them with millions in our taxpayer money.
I was asked by someone on what was the best way to report wrongdoings and I answered, “If you want to keep your job then you either do it anonymously or when you’re ready to retire, but if you plan on staying in federal service, you’ll just put a target on your back.” Eventually there came a time when a combination of unfortunate events made it clear to me that it was time for my federal career to come to a conclusion. One more chapter in my book of life was now closed.
Over the years I have seen numerous incidents of hypocrisy. When I started doing research on Global Warming, I wasn’t thoroughly convinced one way or another, but I thought I should take some personal responsibility for my carbon footprint. I went to the Center of Sustainable Energy in San Diego for a one-day seminar on solar panels for my house. After careful deliberation I became one of the first people in our neighborhood to have solar power. I also leased an electric car and purchased my wife a hybrid vehicle. I’ve encountered people who are very passionate about the effects of Global Warming, but have done nothing on their own, choosing instead to wait for the government to tell them what to do. These are the same people who were more upset that our country pulled out of the Paris Climate Initiative than holding countries like China and India accountable for their massive pollution of the environment.
I believe it is better to have one per cent effort of a hundred million people than one hundred per cent effort from one million people. Most important of all, don’t whine and complain about a problem when you have the ability to do something, no matter how minor it may be and do nothing.
Then there’s the issue of income inequality. I remember when I growing up, there was a boy who worked all through high school. After graduation, he went to trade school to become an electrician. By the time he was twenty-four years of age, he was a journeyman. He worked seven days a week, he also renovated houses and sold them for profit. He leveraged one property against another, bought commercial and rental properties, then started his own construction company and property management firm. By the time he was in his mid-forties, he was a very wealthy man. While people like me were playing sports and traveling around the world in search of a pot of gold under a rainbow, this man was filling his pot one coin at a time. He made a lot a sacrifices and gave up a lot to accomplish what he did. What kind of distorted thinking does a person need to possess to believe that it would be right to take what he earned through blood, sweat and risk, then give it to another who didn’t want to make the same sacrifices or do the same hard work.
This is a capitalistic society with opportunities where people are allowed to make decisions based on those options. Some people make right choices, others not so much. In America there is no guaranteed outcome for anyone. Life isn’t always fair, but God gave man free will to choose how to lead our lives. I’ve come to the realization that we all have two lives. The one we actually live and the one we wished we had lived when we look back. If those two lives are not drastically different, then I guess you could say, you’ve had a pretty good life. Some good advice was given to me and I’ll pass it along, you can take it what it is worth; stop worrying about what other people have and focus on being the best that you can be. Your life will be a lot happier.
Health care is a hot topic, while I believe that everyone should have access to medical treatment, the issue of personal responsibility is also important. Some people take care of themselves, eat right, drink alcohol in moderation, don’t smoke and exercise. Other people show a total disregard for their own health until their bodies break down, then expect medical care. Once they are well, they return to their self-destructive behavior. In a free society, we have to allow people to make bad decisions, but we can’t punish those who make the right ones either.
The political leadership of California is regularly spouting off about taxing the rich to help the poor, but they had no problem putting the gas tax initiative on the ballot. When foolish voters passed this tax, it punished the poorest people in the state. Working people that are living paycheck to paycheck saw an increase of almost 2,000 dollars for their gasoline and car registration during the year. Of course, the income inequality advocates were silent about this abuse. If successful people make money then raise their taxes, but the government takes your money to lower your quality of life, then that’s entirely acceptable. This is what I call selective outrage. If you think about it, lower gas prices help the poor and middle class residents of California the most…why is that so complicated to comprehend?
Trust is earned, not given. Anytime someone, especially a politician makes the statement, ‘Trust me’ then immediately hold on to your wallet and put your head on a swivel. A trustworthy person will never say trust me, but what they will say is ‘Give me the opportunity to earn your trust.’
In the Vietnam War, I met a lot of different people. Sometimes an incident would come up and a Marine would rise to the occasion and perform some heroic act, not knowing exactly what motivated him, other than it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Then there was this rare breed of man who for lack of a better term, were angel warriors. These men lived hard, fought hard and more often than not, died hard. They would go into a North Vietnamese tunnel with nothing but a flashlight, a 45 caliber pistol and a K-Bar knife to face the unknown, not with fear, but with anticipation. No matter what the odds, they never felt outnumbered and the word defeat wasn’t in their dictionary. They were about as politically incorrect as anyone could be. Many a young man made it home to their families because of their valor and bravery. These men would walk into the bowels of hell and spit in the devil’s face if the mission called for it. If you who were lucky enough to serve with these warriors, you felt a sense of invulnerability because you knew they would never ask you to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. The election of Donald Trump and his re-election bid, in my perspective was about sending a warrior to do battle with an entrenched foe. This enemy is called ‘The Washington Swamp’, ‘The Deep State’ or ‘The Bureaucracy’. Not many have the personality or the fortitude for a never-ending battle against a relentless and unforgiving foe who is as dangerous in their own way as the North Vietnamese regular soldiers and the Viet Cong guerillas were in the Vietnam War.
Never let your outrage or compassion get in the way of your common sense. Performance should take precedence over personality and reality should be prioritized over perception. I want certain things for my country; a strong military because I believe in peace through strength. I support the police and first responders. I think that low taxes are good, because I believe people know better than the government on how to use their money.
I also want a secure border, good trade deals, low unemployment and low drug prices. I don’t want some sensitive snowflake in the oval office, I want a warrior to fight for this country. I looked at Donald Trump’s record and he kept his promises and delivered on what I wanted. I saw the facts and based my decision to vote for him again, based on his actions. He got the job done, period, end of story. I didn’t vote for political correctness or presidential behavior. What I wanted was results and I got them. The country is better off and I’m better off.
In almost every election and especially this one, fear, stupidity and apathy are factored into the process by strategists. Rival politicians used Corvid-19 to scare and manipulate a large segment of the population. They accused President Trump of the reckless endangerment of millions and the deaths of tens of thousands due to his handling of the crisis, while promising to rescue Americans from certain death. In reality, these individuals would have done nothing different, and probably less. Many devious bureaucrats live by the philosophy to, ‘Never let a crisis go to waste’.
When you hear politicians talk about voter suppression, what they are basically saying is; they want to make it easier for the uneducated and the uninformed to vote in elections. The most dangerous weapon against corruption in our government is an educated and well informed voter. As for the subject of apathy, politicians know that a lot of people just don’t care what happens to the country and do their best to keep them disillusioned and out of the system.
Joe Biden represents everything in American politics that I have grown to mistrust from my experiences in the military and federal employment. He is a career politician with a record of failures whose only major accomplishment has been to make himself and his family rich while in Washington. His unmitigated audacity is only exceeded by his detachment from reality. Only an entrenched bureaucrat would use his dismal 47 year record of failure in elected office as his resume to convince me that he’s the right man to lead our country, when he has been part of the problem for decades.
When politicians talk about unity, I’ll take freedom instead. I’ve spent a lot of years figuring out what is important to me and what and who I want in my life. Why would I want to be unified with anyone whose core values and beliefs are contrary to my own? That would be stupid, don’t you think? How about if I leave them alone and they show me the same courtesy? One of the rights given to us as American is called pursuit of happiness.
If Donald Trump walked up, looked me straight in the eyes and insulted me about my race, heritage, education or military service and then added. “I will make America strong, safe, prosperous and great.” I would respond without hesitation, “If you can do that, then you can insult me to the day I die.”
I don’t need the President to be my therapist, confidant, best friend, mentor or religious leader. When I voted for President Trump. I wanted a Commander-in-Chief who was a warrior. Someone to protect America from all foreign and domestic enemies, regardless of who got offended…including me.
We make our decisions based on what we’ve gone through in our lives. What I have written in this story is just one man’s perspective. It may mean nothing to you or have some value. As an American, you have the right to choose which…take it for it’s worth.