Thursday, August 28, 2014

Social Commentary- Semper Fidelis, Aliquando Insipiens

Semper Fidelis, Aliquando Insipiens
by Rob Cottignies

            Firstly, that is Latin for 'Always Loyal, Sometimes Foolish'.
            Secondly, read this article.

            To start with the obvious, this incident was not news-worthy, but was certainly Fox News-worthy. Now, I'm not someone who automatically hates Fox News, and the first person to call me a lefty libby (or whatever people say) will receive a prompt boot to the face, but this news source is definitely skewed. The article is a great example of this slant because of how it presents the situation. 'Marine Vet' and 'A Marine Veteran' begin its title and the article itself, respectively. The reader is already supposed to be on this guy's side. The next three paragraphs, in order, mention both Father's Day and a kid's birthday, the Fourth of July and a military charity, and how long Alejandro served in the Marines and the fact that he was discharged due to disabilities.
            After the article refers to the incident as 'outrageous', it finally tells the story, from Alejandro's perspective (and from another news source). After informing Six Flags security that his shirt was not offensive and stating that he served in Iraq, Alejandro was asked to leave the park so his wife and kid started crying.
            Veteran, holidays, family, tears: How are you NOT on this guy's side against the unpatriotic meanie-heads at Six Flags?
            Well I am not, and it's for one simple reason- he thought the rules didn't apply to him. Six Flags is a private business which allows it to create its own rules, such as dress code. As written on their website under Park Policies, 'Clothing with rude, vulgar or offensive language or graphics is not permitted ... Park admission may be denied if clothing is deemed by management to be inappropriate.' Oh, wah wah, who takes the time to read a theme park's clothing policy? It doesn't matter how practical that is. I found it in less than ten seconds, just as anybody else could. Regardless, I say that 'vulgar' and 'offensive' are up to interpretation, and it WAS just a cheeky T-shirt, but it clearly promoted violence. Because of this, he was told to change the shirt or leave. My initial thought was that Alejandro should have turned the shirt inside-out, thus saving time and money, but this is apparently not an acceptable solution according to the company.
            The way I see it, he had these options:
            Option A: Go home to change the shirt and come back, allowing everyone to have a wonderful day as intended.
            Option B: Purchase and change into a Six Flags shirt, allowing everyone to have a wonderful day as intended. If my memory serves me, they have some excellent Bugs Bunny merchandise.
            If he was still upset about the situation after choosing either of these reasonable solutions, he could have written letters, made phone calls, or asked specifically to speak with the 'women in white shirts'.
            Option F: Dispute Six Flags security, throw a fit, attract attention, confuse and fluster his family, and do his best to ensure that no one will have a wonderful day as intended.
            You read the article. You know which option he chose. And I labeled it as Option F because it was an extreme Failure on his part. The fact that he is a veteran had nothing to do with the situation. The fact that proceeds from the shirt meant a military charity would get some money had nothing to do with the situation.
            The situation was simply this: Mario Alejandro not only wanted to break a rule, but had the idea that the rule did not apply to him. He thought he was exempt and special. This makes me wonder, as I often do, if he enlisted in the military for his country or himself, knowing that the general public is all-to-eager to laud praise on soldiers. I may be wrong because I don't personally know from experience, but doesn't the military teach people to not act unnecessarily privileged but to follow established orders and rules for the greater good? It's a shame that nobody spoke up to take Alejandro down a peg during his rant.
            The military is (unfortunately) a necessary entity which should be honored and respected, but when soldiers act the way Mario Alejandro did, it poses the question, 'Do we give them too much?' There are probably thousands of military-related charities out there. I'm not saying they are bad but surely part of their money-raising marketing plans involve tugging at the public's heart strings. To be fair, the same could be said about many charities. Nowadays, one cannot attend a sports event without the military being honored during the National Anthem or simply by pointing out a group of veterans to applaud. And yes, not applauding has gotten me some funky looks from some funky folks. Living near New York, I have seen women throw themselves at Navy sailors during Fleet Week. And I can't help but wonder why members of the military wear their fatigues in public when not on active duty. My guess is it's an established rule, but why is it in place? Representation? Or some kind of need to show off?
            One of the saddest displays I've seen was when Chris Rock hosted the Academy Awards. This was in 2005, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He opened by saying that the show was dedicated to the troops. A bunch of celebrities stood up to applaud, but this "dedication" ultimately meant nothing. How did a gathering that makes rich people richer honor soldiers away from home fighting a war that most people didn't understand?
            And, for the record, slapping a yellow ribbon sticker on the back of your car does absolutely nothing to 'Support The Troops'. If you really want to help them, donate money and/or time. Send care packages. Join a rally to bring the troops home safely. Just don't make a spectacle of yourself in the process, or you'll be no better than Mario Alejandro.
            To close, another article. This one is lengthy and intense but well-worth the read. I especially like what he says in point number one. Check it here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fiction- The Path Goes Around

The Path Goes Around
by Rob Cottignies

It started with a lie.
While jogging around the park, I saw her walking next to an elderly man. Probably her grandfather; he could have instead been her husband.
“Why did you do that?” she asks me.
“It was the best I could think up,” I say.
What happened was this- my girlfriend and I broke up because I realized having a constant headache was unpleasant. Five days later, I never thought I’d meet anyone that beautiful. Five days later, I was proven wrong.
“Oh, you’re just saying that,” she playfully accuses me.
I thought there would be no others. But there she was, walking in her gray tank top and black pants with her fair skin and brownish-red hair, clueless of her indirect actions. By doing nothing, she showed me that others were out there. By doing nothing, she saved my life.
“I was going to kill myself.”
“When?” What a perfectly interesting response.
“When I got home, about ten minutes after I first saw you.”
I had always been awkward when it came to approaching women, meaning that I’d never approached a woman before without an excuse. I made one up this time. I did not allow myself to return home without even a mild conversation. I just had to; she was that stunning.
“Excuse me, sir.” My opening line wasn’t even directed at her. I told the old man, who thankfully turned out to be her grandfather, that I was writing a paper on war veterans. I had assumed he had been in at least one war. He had, so it worked. I made up and blurted out a series of questions which ended up being relevant instead of terrible.
“Did you believe in our country’s involvement?”
“Did you lose any close friends in combat?”
“What did you do when you got scared?”
I never even asked which war he’d been in. His answers were probably genuine and wonderful but I didn’t really listen. I feigned mental notes while lovestruck by his granddaughter.
“Is that when you asked me out?” she asks with equal parts frustration and romantic longing.
The smoothest segue I could think of was this- “Well, your grandfather has done a marvelous job in answering my questions. Perhaps you would like to answer some also… over dinner.”
My underestimated charm can be quite convincing. She agreed, and here we are. I simply had to tell her that whatever we were to become began with a lie. I was writing no paper on war veterans. My sole interest was talking to her. Goal achieved.
The most appropriate thing to do is apologize to her grandfather. I used the old man for personal gain. “Also,” I add, “I will write a legitimate paper on your grandfather’s experiences in the war.”
"And do what with it?"
She'd caught me. I hesitated. "Scream it up to the heavens!"
“This is the strangest first date I’ve ever had.” I believe her.
“I can understand that. Will there be a second?”
"No. How can I trust you when the first thing you did was lie to me?"
It started with a lie and ended because of the truth...