You’re Not Clever, Just Ignorant

I am tired of seeing posts/memes/cartoons portraying gun owners as ignorant racist rednecks who support the killing of children. This installment is aimed directly at those who post such garbage. I am sick of the condescension of people who call for “responsible gun ownership” but don’t even own guns. You think if gun ownership isn’t done by your idea of what the rules ought to be, it’s irresponsible. You could at least be honest about what you want, but few of you have the guts. I’ve pretty much adopted a policy of just scrolling by after taking into account the source, and I’ll probably continue to do the same. But I’m going to lay some facts on you anti-gun folks so you won’t have any excuse the next time you decide to post some leftist crap about us.

I was thinking about this recently during a pistol match. The folks in my squad included me (an archaeologist with 3 degrees), a civil engineer, a data architect, a chemical worker, a federal law enforcement officer, and other professionals. In the larger qroup of shooters at these matches you will find blue collar workers, construction contractors, environmental scientists, engineers, lawyers, and a wide variety of other professionals. In my shooting career, I have competed with men and women of various ancestry and background. I’ve never seen anyone treated any different based on the color of their skin or any other factor, for that matter. Some of us are members of the NRA and others are not. We’re all equal at the line.

When we get together, sure, we talk a lot about guns and shooting. Sometimes we talk about politics. But we also talk about our families, our jobs, how life is going, and lots of other topics. I have never once heard anyone talk about how anxious they are to shoot anyone else. In fact, we often discuss the weight of the responsibility of protecting our loved ones. We know our choices may not be the same as yours, which is fine. But we are sick of you telling us how evil we are for making the considered decision to take our safety and that of our family and friends as a personal responsibility.  If you are willing to stand by and watch something horrible happen to an innocent person, possibly someone you love, while you wait for the police or wish you could do something, that’s on you. I’m not wired in such a way. The next-to-last thing I ever want to do is point a firearm at another human being, much less shoot anyone. But the absolute last thing I want to do is have to live with someone in my life suffering serious injury or death because I didn’t have a firearm.

I know there are exceptions. I’m sure there are a few shooters who match all your stereotypes exactly. There are people out there who don’t behave in a responsible manner in any aspect of their lives, much less with a firearm. There are idiots, criminals, racists, and generally horrible people who own firearms. But they are clearly, statistically, demonstrably the exception. And I know you have every right to post whatever you want on your page. But here’s what you need to know: when you post these clever lines about how evil and stupid gun owners are, you are wrong and showing your ignorance. It is frustrating because I know many of you are highly intelligent. Why do you continue to be willfully ignorant when it comes to gun-related issues? Why do you continue to parrot the bald-faced lies fed to you by the media?  I don’t get it.

Please continue to post your ignorant, narrow-minded, mainstream media-provided nonsense if you like. Or, if you would really like to know about gun owners, why not talk to one? I’m always willing to discuss why I have made the choices I have and why I believe the way I do about the issue. But if all you’ve got is tired old fertilizer you learned on the news or Huffington Post, don’t bother. I don’t have time to talk to bleating sheep.

Feel free to comment if you like, but I’m not looking to start a debate. This is my opinion, which is based on research and experience, not my feelings or anything I’ve been told to think. I don’t care if you don’t like it. You are not going to change it.

Little Help for a Big Problem

I like to spend part of my lunch hour every day walking. It gets me out of the office, allows my head to clear, and gets me a little exercise. My walk takes me through the Old City in downtown Knoxville, which is a place of interesting architecture and even more interesting people. The area is frequented by suit-clad professionals, families, and more hipsters than you can shake an ironic t-shirt at! Sadly, it is also an area where many of Knoxville’s homeless can be found. I’ve had many encounters with them over the years. Most are friendly enough, ask for some money, and go about their business when you turn them down. I never give them money, but will offer to buy food for them occasionally. Most turn me down, but every so often, someone will take me up on the offer. I figure these folks truly are in trouble and I don’t mind buying them lunch.

A few days ago, an older gentleman stopped me on my walk and asked if I could help him out. He said he was a veteran and was broke. I have an especially soft spot for veterans in this condition, so I told him I would buy him something to eat if he was hungry. I didn’t really expect him to accept, but he did, so we headed off to a nearby Subway. It was a few blocks to the restaurant and he walked with a cane, so the trip took a few minutes. We had time to chat while we walked. I don’t instantly believe people when they claim to be a veteran. I usually ask what branch they were in, when they served, and where they served. A faker will have a hard time answering those questions. This gentleman convinced me pretty quickly as he rattled off his unit number without hesitation. He was a Marine, who did his basic training at Parris Island in the 1980s. I thought he was older than that, but he’s had a tough life. I’m pretty sure he was the genuine article.

He had moments of clarity and moments of confusion. I could tell he had some mental troubles, but he was mostly coherent. He said he came from Long Island, New York, but couldn’t really articulate how he came to be in Knoxville. He talked of an ex-wife who he caught cheating on him with his best friend, and how he could have killed the man but didn’t. He spoke about it like it had just happened, but then told me he had been in Knoxville for 6 weeks. In his mind, I think it did just happen. He had been a medic in the Marines, then came home to work construction. I asked if he was staying at the nearby mission, and he said he had been told to leave for some reason. He said he was on the streets and someone had stolen his jacket yesterday. He said he had no blanket or extra clothes. As I stood there and listened to his story and his lapses into confusion, I thought about how big this man’s problems were. Yeah, I fed him a meal. One meal. Where will his next one come from? When will he have another one? Where is he spending this cold, rainy night? How long can he survive on the street with winter coming? Questions to which I’ll never know the answers, but questions which trouble me.

Here’s a bigger question: how on earth is it possible for a person to serve this country and end up alone on the streets of Knoxville, Tennessee? How can this nation turn its back on these men? There is just no excuse for it. There are an estimated 40,000 homeless veterans in the US at any given time. Unacceptable. Our government has failed those who have risked everything to protect us! Many veterans are dependent on the Veterans Administration (VA) for medical and mental health services they desperately need. In many cases, they spend years waiting on treatment which they need immediately. This is just wrong and it needs to stop.

I’m not an expert on this issue, but I have a couple of ideas on how to make it better. Every person who is honorably discharged from the military should receive a card entitling them to free medical and mental health care at the doctor of their choice for life. Period. There needs to be a nationwide network of short-term housing options funded by the military for them and longer term where necessary. How can we afford this? How can we not? How can we justify sending billions of dollars to countries who openly hate us when American veterans are dying while waiting for care? How can we provide endless benefits to people who snuck into this country while those who have served it are homeless and starving? The money is there. It just needs to be put where it will do the most good, where it will allow us, as a nation, to do the right thing.

Until there is a leader in a place of sufficient power to make some hard decisions and get things done, I doubt much will happen. As is often the case, it’s up to us to do what we can to help these folks out. If you know a veteran who is at risk, be there for them. Talk to them. Find out what they need and help them figure out how to get it. Remember it is reported 22 veterans commit suicide every day. If you can afford to donate to a veteran’s organization, please consider it. If nothing else, buy a meal for homeless vet. It’s a small gesture in the face of a big problem, but the person you feed will appreciate it.

First Amendment Foolishness

The completely ridiculous attention paid to recent behavior exhibited by some NFL players has touched a nerve of mine. First of all, I am not addressing the players, their actions, nor their motivations; that has been more than amply discussed by many, and rather eloquently by both my co-conspirator Paul and our guest contributor Robert Kirby. Both of whom, I might add, have expressed feelings very similar to my own, and likely in a far more civilized fashion than I would have. What I am concerned about is the continued defense of these particular controversial actions by proclaiming them to be an issue of First Amendment rights. To those who hold that opinion, especially those who do so with an upturned nose and haughty air of condescension, I have two words:

You’re wrong.

In all honesty, that’s my sanitized response. What I’m actually thinking while you wax verbose from the pedestal you placed yourself upon is more like this:

(insert your favorite personally-insulting adjective here), please…

…followed by an eye-roll, of course. Why, you ask? Because it is contributing the the Constitutional illiteracy which in my opinion plagues our nation to a frightening degree. Here is the full text of the amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”

Let’s go back to the function the Bill of Rights. If you didn’t know this, know it now – the Bill of Rights does not, I repeat, does NOT list rights given to the citizens of the United States by the government. It recognizes rights our Founders felt were inherently held by the people, and specifically limits the federal government from violating them. There’s a huge difference between the two. The Bill of Rights exists to limit government power, not give the people power. One cannot give what one does not have, correct? To paraphrase, the entire document is essentially saying “…you have these rights, you’ve always had these rights, they are not ours to give, but yours, given to you by God, and we’re formally documenting this for all time in order to specifically limit the power of the government”.

Now, please return to the the text of the amendment and read the first five words again. Once again, even – read the first five words. Let them sink in.

“Congress shall make no law…”

Who does this limit? Congress. Who or what else is mentioned in the remainder of the text to indicate what follows also applies to others? Nothing. No one. Zero. Zip. Nada. All the nopes. Every single thing mentioned after those first five words only applies to Congress. What does that mean? It means if you are suffering consequences due to your words and/or actions, and those consequences are not being placed upon you by Congress, then claiming your First Amendment rights are being violated is absolutely incorrect. Doing so while holding it up like it is a holy relic which shields you from all criticism while you act as if anyone who disagrees with you is a heretical simpleton just makes you look foolish.

I expect many to disagree with my assessment. I invite your comments and discussion. For brevity’s sake I will include only one reference for those who wish to look elsewhere. The whole world is at your fingertips if you wish to seek further knowledge. Take a look at this article, which gives examples of various situations and how they would typically relate to the first amendment. Please note the first cited example perfectly describes the current situation involving the NFL and its ability to place limits on the behavior of players. Secondly, I would add this article was posted by a well-known bastion of leftist ideology, which certainly begs the question; If that “news” outlet doesn’t support your position on Constitutional grounds, do you really have a leg upon which to stand?

Please, I beg you, do not contribute to the continued dumbing-down of our society by jumping on this bandwagon! Learn what the Constitution actually states and means, do not buy into fallacies such as this. In my opinion, for decades now there have been those who have perverted the meaning of many Constitutional amendments through artifice and corruption, and they will continue to do so unless we educate ourselves and take corrective action. With that, I leave you with the words of one of my favorite Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson:

“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit of the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Football, Free Speech, and Reality

For the second time, I am glad to share a guest contribution to The Frustrated Americans. Please read, comment and share Rob Kirby’s thoughts on the current situation with the NFL.

Recently, I’ve seen blurbs on the news and posts on Facebook referencing the newest sports-related drama involving the NFL. Lots of folks are upset athletes are kneeling during the National Anthem rather than standing respectfully at attention with their hands over their hearts. Even our president has been caught up in the theatrics, stating players who kneel should be fired. Many fans are saying they will boycott the games because of the players’ behavior. Other fans are defending the rights of the players to express themselves freely as a Constitutional right. Still, others enjoy the games and say they will continue to watch… and they really don’t care whether the players kneel, stand, or dance a jig for matter. I have friends from all three categories on Facebook, and the debates concerning the topic are entertaining to say the least.

As for me, I’m not watching NFL games this year. To be honest, I’ve never watched the NFL much in the first place. I’ve watched a couple of Super Bowls and a few games on Thanksgiving here and there, but I’ve never been much of a fan. I personally don’t want to waste my time or money watching grown men dress up in a suit of plastic armor, stretch a pair of tights over it, and beat the ever-living hell out of each other whilst chasing an oblong ball around the field. I can appreciate their talent, but I’ll never be able to stomach the amount of money they make to do these things, and anyone who calls them “heroes” is, in my opinion, being very generous to say the least. They are, at best, entertainers, just like actors and singers. Now, if one of them donates part of their fortune to cure cancer, or to feed the hungry, I might consider them heroes. Otherwise, they are just performing on a big green stage with white stripes and getting overpaid to do it. So I can’t blame my non-viewing on players kneeling.

That being said, I believe if an individual wants to kneel during the National Anthem, they have every right to do it! For that matter, they have the right to throw an American flag down on the ground and stomp all over it if that’s what they want to do (as long as it doesn’t belong to someone else). This is all part of free speech, so I say have at it! And just like these individuals have the right to do it, I have the right to call them moronic jackasses for doing it, because I also have the freedom of speech.

I believe the problem here isn’t really the behavior – it’s the arena these individuals have chosen to exercise their freedom of speech. Rather than setting up a march or a rally, they’ve chosen to subject all of their customers (that’s right… CUSTOMERS!) to their politics. For a long time, their customer base has been diverse… all socioeconomic statuses, all races, all religions, all political affiliations. And now these individuals have decided their right to express themselves is much more important than keeping a nonpartisan atmosphere so all customers can feel welcome. I’m guessing a lump sum of the NFL’s profits come from ticket sales and advertising. Apparently, the individual athletes aren’t worried about pissing off half their customers – thereby cutting their ticket sales in half and causing half of their TV audience to change the channel. I think that’s eventually going to sting a little.

In my unnamed job, I am occasionally required to salute the flag as it passes or when it is posted or raised. Don’t get me wrong… I would do it even if my job didn’t require it, because I have great respect for my country, for my freedom, and for my forefathers who died defending those things. It’s not about the flag… it’s about what the flag represents. But my job does require me to salute on occasion. Now if someone who works with me decides to take a knee in public instead of saluting, my guess is that it wouldn’t work out well for them. An individual has the right to free speech and expression. That person does not, however, have the right to a job. Having a job is a privilege – not a right. The problem with the NFL, a very large business, is that by allowing individuals the freedom to express whatever the hell they want to while they are on the clock and in an NFL uniform, the entire business appears to have embraced the same view. Hell, the team owners have even taken to the field to kneel with the players in a “show of solidarity” against Trump – who, by the way, is neither the American flag nor what it represents. When your corporation gets involved in politics to this level, you can expect to create a divide between yourself and a large percentage of your customer base. It would be like going shopping at Walmart and the entire time you are in the store, somebody is talking over the intercom telling you over and over how sorry your political party is. Sooner or later, a crapload of folks are going to get tired of hearing it and stop shopping at Walmart.

The NFL could have told its players to kneel on their own time. Instead, they allowed it to not only continue, but to grow to what it has become. I stopped reading most news articles and watching most news channels because of slanted politics. Since I’ve never really watched professional football, I guess I can’t boycott it. But I’m sure as hell not going to start watching it! It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. If everybody who says they aren’t watching anymore really stops watching, the NFL might just get a lesson in the importance of customer service.

An Open Letter to White Supremacists

Hate mongering jerks,

I can’t stand racists and hate-mongers, regardless of their skin tone.  I don’t care if you’re Klan, neo-Nazi, Antifa, BLM, Nation of Islam, or a solo on-line hater. If you hate people because of their skin color, religion, lifestyle, what they eat, for whom they voted, or whatever other stupid reason you can think of, you need to stop, or at least shut up. We’re all weary of your crap. Hate groups like you are trying to become relevant again.  The media is happy to help you by showing you behaving badly on the news. Most people with two functioning brain cells know very well you are completely irrelevant to the world today and have no place in modern culture. Unfortunately, there are too many in this country who lack that second brain cell, so you keep existing and keep being displayed by the media. The rest of us, however, have moved beyond hating each other.

I am writing specifically today to the white supremacists out there to tell you to remove yourself from the debate concerning statues and monuments to Confederate soldiers and leaders, as well as other symbols, such as the flag bearing the St. Andrew’s Cross. There is such widespread ignorance of history and so many knees ready to jerk, it is difficult enough to fight to preserve my history from the other idiots trying to make a political point by hiding it. You do not represent me or my ancestors and I resent the fact you have adopted these symbols as your own. Each time I see you marching in public, ostensibly in defense of a Confederate monument or with the flag, I am offended and angered. Placing a swastika on a Confederate flag is an abomination and insults the memory of thousands of men who died for it. The thing is, you don’t care about history. You’re just using statues as an excuse to cause trouble and get a little press. If this were actually about the statues, why were your minions yelling about Jews while marching toward a statue of Robert E. Lee?  That makes no sense.  Men like Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet would have nothing but contempt for you. Of course, you don’t know anything about them, so you wouldn’t understand.

All you have accomplished is to allow the media to lump those of us who are proud of our Confederate ancestors but hate no one in with the likes of you. Yes, this is stupid and no, it isn’t fair, but regardless, that is what has happened. Just so we’re clear, even though I vehemently condemn the removal of Confederate statues and memorials, we are NOT on the same side in this. In no way do I support your twisted cause. You are more of a threat to my heritage than those who are actively trying to erase it. In addition, you are creating an environment where violence is inevitable.  Yes, it has tragically already claimed one life, but it can get worse.  I’m sure some of you think you want it that way. We’ll see when you’re the one who gets hit by a car.  This debate will not be settled through violence, but violence may well be what drives it.  I hope that is not the case.

My advice to you is crawl back into your mom’s basement, take off your little Halloween costume, unplug your computer, and maybe read a book. Even better, read one written by a historian.  Otherwise, I hope your hood catches on fire and your jackboots hurt your feet. If you can’t make yourself withdraw from this losing battle, I hope you and Antifa or whatever group of thugs are sent in to escalate the situation wipe each other out next time.  Just leave innocent citizens and those of us who truly do respect our heritage out of it.

With no respect whatsoever,



Preserve History and Reject Racism

I read with horror today about the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is incredible to me to see this in 2017. I know racism has always existed and always will, but it is still difficult to see. I do not know what groups were involved in the initial protest, but the media indicates they were ‘white nationalists’.  I’ll go with that for now as I have no way to independently verify it.  It also seems that Black Lives Matter and Antifa were represented, so there were all sorts of racist idiots in Charlottesville today.  Supposedly, all of this started over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I have written about this recently, as I feel very strongly the removal of all things “Confederate” is very disrespectful to those of us with Southern roots and shows a profound level of ignorance.  I think proposing to take down the statue was a mistake, but I do not believe all of this violence is about a statue.

No, I think this was an excuse for racist groups to start trouble. They wanted a fight and they wanted the press coverage they knew would come with it. The media was only too happy oblige, somehow lumping white nationalists with conservatives.  They act like racism began right after the election in November, but I digress.  In my opinion, the proper reaction to the planned protest would have been to ignore it. They want attention? Well, let’s give them none. I remember seeing two Klan idiots on the steps of the courthouse in my home town in Georgia. There was not one reporter, counter-protestor, or onlooker.  Everyone just went about their business like the pointy hat-wearers weren’t there.  Unfortunately, the maturity level required for that response is sadly lacking in the modern world, so enter Antifa and BLM, two groups every bit as hateful as the white nationalists.  The resulting chaos was sadly predictable and resulted in the murder of one person and injury to many others.  To be clear, I understand that none of this would have happened if the white nationalists had stayed home. The responsibility for the murder of one person, the deaths of two Virginia State Patrolmen, injuries to dozens, and the general pain in the butt created for the citizens of Charlottesville lies squarely on the shoulders of the white supremacists. Personally, I’d be fine if we could lock all these groups into an arena and let them fight it out.  It is time for this country to get past letting these irresponsible, hateful children drive the conversation. My history and the unity of this nation is more important than all of them.

For those of us who are proud of our Southern heritage and feel it is worthy of remembrance, we must reject those who persist in hateful rhetoric and actions.  They are not our allies. We must speak out against them whenever they rear their ugly heads. We need to fight against the erasure of our history using intelligence, logic, and facts, not violence. We must acknowledge that our ancestors were flawed human beings, just like every human in history. In spite of their flaws, they deserve to be remembered and in many cases, honored. Trying to erase my history is disrespectful and offensive.  It is time for everyone to accept that we can disagree and still respect each other.  To do otherwise is to expand the ever-growing divide between people which could actually threaten our culture.  There is simply no room for racism in the conversation. If the racists become the representatives of Southern history, we will most assuredly lose it.  How long will it be, then, before we repeat it?

The Rise of the Obliviots!

You’ve seen them. They walk among us every day. The person who leaves their cart in a parking space at the grocery store.  The driver who switches lanes with no signal. They are obliviots. I can’t take credit for the term, an honor that goes to my co-contributor here at TFA. Obliviots are those who are oblivious to what is going on around them and do stupid things because of it.  They drive me crazy!

I think they must use Walmart as a gathering place, sort of a home base or nest.  It doesn’t matter where the Walmart happens to be, there are probably more obliviots there per capita than anywhere else in that town (unless you’re in Washington, D.C., of course).  They’re in the parking lot, walking down the middle of the space between rows of parking spaces, or leaving their cart in a parking space, often within a few feet of the cart corral.  They’re all over the interior of the store.  You’ll recognize them by their carts parked in the center of the aisle while they study the ketchup.  You often see them in packs, parked side by side in the aisle to have a family reunion.  Their young are easily spotted as the obnoxious kid running loose in the store with no responsible adult within sight.  They are generally not dangerous in this environment, but care should be taken as they usually don’t pay attention when going from aisle to aisle and can run over you.

They are far more dangerous on the road.  I’m on the road a lot and there are days where there must be an obliviot migration going on! The texting-while-driving subspecies is the most dangerous.  You’ll see them up ahead, going 10 miles an hour slower than everyone else and barely staying in their lane.  I try to pass these people as quickly as possible. Invariably, I look over and the driver is looking at a device instead of the road ahead.  They’ll often speed up and pass you again after they’re done with whatever vital business distracted them from all that annoying driving. They also like to put themselves in the left lane and cruise along at their preferred speed, which is usually the speed limit or less.  The lane to the right of them is open, but that doesn’t matter.  The left lane is theirs and they’ll set the speed for everyone! I’ve seen them exit the interstate from the left lane.  They’ll also run up to where the lane is closed and expect you to let them in.  You really have to watch them!

Another sort of obliviot is what I’ll call the offended obliviot.  This one is offended by your religion, what you eat, your opinion, where you live, how you raise your kids, your holidays, how you choose to keep your family safe, the car you drive, who you voted for, and an endless list of other things which he finds disagreeable.  These people don’t realize that differing opinions are just as valid as their own.  Those with whom they disagree are described in any number of negative ways, usually racist, homophobe, bigot, etc.  They are consistently intolerant in the guise of promoting tolerance.

Without question, the most annoying obliviots are those elected to office.  They pass laws and make policies which affect us all, without any real knowledge of how most of us live our daily lives. They follow party lines and vote based on agendas serving only them.  They pass bills they haven’t read. They ignore their constituents.  And yet, more obliviots elect them into office over and over again.

The rise of the obliviot is upon us. They are the inevitable result of our lack of respect for anyone but ourselves.  It is the result of our focus on having an attitude rather than being polite to those with whom we interact.  It’s a simple thing to pay attention to what is going on around you and react in a proper manner.  It takes no extra time or energy to say “excuse me” or “please” or “thank you”.  How hard is it to watch your rear view mirrors or anticipate where your turns will be?  Unfortunately, it is less simple to deal with the elected obliviots.  All too often, our only choices are obliviots, but we have to keep working to find people who are paying attention and honestly care about the lives of their constituents.

In closing, I’ll just say that we all need to remember we are not the only person on the planet and we have no idea what the person next to us is dealing with.  We can all take steps to avoid being an obliviot and making a nuisance of ourselves.  We’re all going to fail occasionally, but it isn’t that hard to avoid most of the time.  Just pay attention and try to be a decent human being.  Don’t be an obliviot!

Dunkirk: A Different Sort of War Movie

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with World War II.  I’m reasonably sure I read every book on the war in the library of every school I attended.  Some of them multiple times!  The aviation of World War II has always been my focus, but I find it all interesting.  I suppose it is just natural for me to love World War II movies!  I grew up watching the likes of John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Lee Marvin save the world from the dastardly Nazis and Japanese and preserve democracy for us all.  Those movies were great, full of patriotic themes and unbridled pride in America and the American soldier.  In my opinion, the release of Saving Private Ryan in 1998 changed the war movie genre.  This movie certainly had its moments of pure I-love-America goodness, but it made the soldiers human.  It showed you their stress and their fear.  It showed you the moral dilemmas faced by soldiers in combat, who often had to make agonizing decisions as they tried to survive on the battlefield.  It was emotional, gritty, and at times, hard to watch.  In my opinion, Saving Private Ryan is the pinnacle of the World War II movie.  It was soon followed by Band of Brothers and The Pacific, both epic series which further humanized our heroes, making them that much more heroic.

Dunkirk is the newest movie set during World War II.  It is a different sort of movie.  The movie is set during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in late May and early June 1940.  Over 300,000 British and Allied troops were pushed to the French port town of Dunkirk by the advancing German army.  Boats ranging from Royal Navy destroyers to private fishing vessels were used to pull the troops off the beach and the breakwaters at Dunkirk to transport them back to England.  The troops were subjected to constant air raids by the Luftwaffe while totally exposed on the beach or crammed onto the decks of ships.  It was a desperate time, and it is no stretch to say had the Germans been able to wipe out the British, the war in Europe would have turned out differently.

The film focuses on three separate groups of people over different, but converging, periods of time.  A pair of soldiers trapped on the beach are the central characters.  Over the course of a week, it follows their herculean efforts to get on a boat and survive.  In order to get as many men off the beach as quickly as possible, the British government put out a call for civilian boat owners to travel across the English Channel and pick up as many as possible.  Dunkirk features the owner of a small yacht as he and his son make their way toward Dunkirk over the course of one day.  The third set of characters are two Royal Air Force Spitfire pilots who are trying to protect the ships in the harbor and the men on the beach.  Their story covers one hour.  The non-linear timeline takes a bit to grasp, but it plays out well and comes together nicely in the end.

I won’t go into specific scenes as I’m sure many of you have yet to see the movie.  I don’t want to be the spoiler!  I will tell you, however, there were numerous times when I found myself holding my breath!  The movie is tense throughout, but that is appropriate and accurate.  Put yourself in the boots of a young British soldier at Dunkirk.  You’ve been beaten back by the German army, which seemed unstoppable at that point in time.  You’re hungry, exhausted, and stuck on a beach in full view of marauding Luftwaffe bombers.  You expect the Germans to arrive at any time.  Your only hope of seeing home again is getting on a ship or a boat which could still be sunk by a u-boat or bomber.  The movie captures that stress as much as any movie could.  The soundtrack plays a large part in conveying the tension, both with music and sound effects.  At times, the music is a heart beat.  At other times, it is a clock ticking.  It is always effective.  The terrifying shriek of the siren on the Stuka dive bomber added a satisfying realism and convinced me that the director and his staff did their homework.

This brings me to the technical aspects of the movie.  One of the things I really hate is when the wrong equipment and machines are used for a movie set at a specific time.  It would be like watching a western with the hero carrying the latest polymer frame semi auto pistol! Anachronisms make it very hard for me to enjoy a movie.  Dunkirk avoided this as near as I can tell.  I’m no expert on early war British equipment, but they were all shown carrying proper Enfield rifles, their helmets were correct, and their kits at least looked appropriate.  Another thing which displeases me is when aircraft are portrayed breaking the laws of physics.  High performance aircraft such as the British Spitfire were capable of amazing things in the hands of a skilled pilot, but some things are just not possible.  For example, watch Red Tails sometime (if you can stand it) and you’ll see what I mean.  In contrast, the flight sequences in Dunkirk were extremely well done.  It appeared they were able to use real aircraft rather than computer generated ones.  I suppose it is harder to make a real aircraft do impossible things than a computer generated one!

As you have probably determined by now, I think Dunkirk is an excellent movie.  It is entertaining, compelling, and tells the story of human beings doing heroic things.  The characters are not flawless or larger than life, but they are relatable and believable.  Given the political climate in Hollywood these days, I am always concerned when a new war movie comes out.  There was no need to worry about Dunkirk.  It tells the story with obvious respect for those who were there.  I detected no effort to revise the history or insert any particular agenda, which is as it should be.  If you are a fan of war movies in general, you will definitely like this movie.  Even if you’re not, you will still enjoy it.  Go see it on the big screen.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Two types…

 Copied below is a “note” I published on social media a few years ago, with a link to the original post.  After being reminded of it recently, I decided to bring it here with minor revisions and invite discussion. What are your thoughts?

July 31, 2011 at 7:11pm

 The more I think about it, the more I feel there are two basic types of people when it comes to the concept of government. Apart, of course, from those who feel themselves to be the elite who must stand in control of us poor intellectually-challenged souls desperately needing their benevolence lest we plunge headlong into barbarism and anarchy (ahem — Washington D.C., cough, cough). Furthermore, I grow to feel that coexistence may not entirely be possible for these two types. At this point in time, I’m not sure what to call them; Victor/Victim, Contributor/Drain, Independent/Dependent, or something else entirely. Ask yourself these few questions, and decide for yourself where you may lie. Decidedly on one side, or somewhere in the very narrow space between. Is there a space between?

Life is tough — upon whom do you rely?

Do you stand resolute that through your work, your faith, and your determination you can live a successful life? Do you feel solving your problems should first be done by you? Are you eager to stand on your own two feet, beholden to no person or institution? Do you find it offensive when others insist they know best how to spend your money and live your life? Do you take the concept of personal responsibility seriously, and feel it is becoming far too rare? Do you find the thought of NOT doing what you can to provide for you and yours abhorrent and irresponsible? Do you find being forced to contribute to that which you do not agree to be robbery? Do you feel your safety and security is primarily your responsibility?

Does a just government grant rights or acknowledge them? Do you know the difference?

Do you feel it is the responsibility of others to assure you a certain minimum level of provision? Do you look to society to right the wrongs which may have befallen you? Do you think because others may have much, they somehow owe some of it to others and should be forced to do so? Do you think your personal safety and security is primarily the government’s responsibility? Can you allow another to live in a way you find disagreeable as long as they do you no harm? Do you feel others must be controlled by force of law because of what they MIGHT do? Have you ever uttered the phrase “…there ought to be a law!” ? Have you ever thought “I am (fill-in-the-blank), so I should receive special treatment”? Do you look to others to solve your problems?

Which paragraph describes you more accurately? Which type do you think makes for a stronger society?

An Open Letter to Police Officers


I’m writing this post for you today because I am tired of hearing about your brothers and sisters in blue being killed simply for doing your job. I’m tired of the disrespect and suspicion shown you by the press and some members of the public. I want you to know they don’t speak for the majority of us, and certainly not for me.

I read with horror the story about New York City Police Officer Miosoti Familia’s death on Wednesday. She was stationed in a mobile command center on a dangerous street in the Bronx when a recent parolee walked up to her window and shot her in the head. Thankfully for the tax payers of New York, he was shot and killed later as other officers tried to apprehend him.  Officer Familia was 48 years old and had been on the force for 12 years. She left behind a 20 year old daughter, 12 year old twins, and an elderly mother for whom she cared. She was not involved in a felony arrest or even a traffic stop.  She was simply monitoring a street, trying to keep local citizens safe. She had no connection to the parolee. Her only transgression was wearing the uniform and being on duty at that particular time and place.

Crimes like Officer Familia’s assassination have become far too common.  Already in 2017, 28 officers have died due to violence in the line of duty.  That figure represents 41.8 percent of the 67 officers which have died this year. But more seriously, it represents a trend toward the targeting of officers for no other reason than they represent the police. Last year saw several attacks on officers, most notably the sniper attack in Dallas which killed five officers and wounded seven more, as well as a similar incident in Baton Rouge which left three officers dead. Both shooters claimed to be angry about the treatment of black people by white police officers. That’s an odd motive since slain Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson happened to be black. I think the more important color in both cases was blue. Police blue.

Officers, I was raised to respect you and to seek you out in times of need. I was raised to be respectful of you regardless of the nature of our interaction.  I’ve had positive and negative interactions over the years, but I’ve always tried my best to show you respect. Today, it has become acceptable to hate, and even attack, police officers as a form of protest over perceived abuses. This was inevitable, given a national administration prone to instantly and publicly blame you after any instance where an officer killed a suspect. It didn’t matter the facts were yet to be known about the case. It didn’t matter that the involved officer’s life, as far he knew it, was about to be over. It didn’t matter that he might have been saving the lives of others as well as his own. All that mattered was making political hay out if it by fanning the flames of divisiveness and racial hatred. Of course, the true believers in the press were perfectly happy to assist by showing partial cell phone videos, interviews with crying relatives, and cherubic photographs of the smiling victim. Never mind that smiling kid had just tried to take the officer’s gun. All of this then became the constant news cycle loop for days, followed by detailed coverage of the protests and statements by Eric Holder condemning the police. Miosoti Familia got press coverage for one day. All of these ingredients have created a fetid stew of hatred which is now being acted out in violence toward all of you.

I’m sure your work is very satisfying. Helping people, protecting them everyday must be fulfilling and why most of you do it. I can think of no higher calling. But it comes at a high cost. Every day when you put on your badge, you know today could be your last day, your end of watch. That’s true for all of us, but your odds are higher when you run toward the gunfire instead of away from it. The courage it takes to do your job leaves me in awe. Every day, you see people on their very worst day. You are expected to maintain a level of professionalism in the face of everything from disrespect to homicidal rage few can muster and you are not allowed to make a mistake. Not one. Every action will be critiqued, second-guessed, and likely tried in the court of public opinion if not a court of law. Even when it is proven you acted properly, your career could still be over. And, you do all of this for meager pay and very little appreciation from those you protect.

I want you to know there are many, many of us who have the utmost respect for you and appreciate the sacrifices  you and your families make to keep our streets safe. I want you to know what is shown on cable news is not representative of how most of us feel. Most of us are more likely to buy you a cup of coffee or pay for your lunch than to swing a fist at you. I know you make mistakes. I know you accept the fact that if you make a mistake which costs someone their life, you are held accountable. But you deserve justice, just like anyone else. It is a sad state of affairs that finds us at time where the badge makes you a target. Please keep your head on a swivel, be safe, and know you are appreciated and respected.  If necessary, I and many others have your back. Thank you!

Paul G. Avery

The Frustrated Americans