Memorial Day is Too Depressing. Efforts Now Underway to Make it Fun Again.

To combat a recent downturn to consumer spending and overall citizen satisfaction surrounding the late May holiday season, the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization has been working round the clock to figure out how to get folks back at the malls this Memorial Day and back on the lakes with overpriced boat rentals celebrating again as usual.

We met up with one such potential shopper, a teenager, avoiding the mall and instead, on her way to visit a local cemetery.

“Well, it’s important, you know? I mean, I used to go hang out and party and all, but then I read this thing that Memorial Day is actually about remembering soldiers who died and stuff and I just didn’t feel like partying anymore. Now, my friends and I go with those old guys from the Legion to put flags out and they tell stories to us and stuff.”

“It’s a major problem.” Says one local mother.

“I didn’t raise my kids to spend their whole lives thinking about things that make people sad and that I nobody really understands anyway. I mean, I know service people do stuff that is important and all, and that we should thank them for it, I guess, but they already get Veteran’s Day right? Isn’t it a bit selfish that we should give them a second day too?

Look, the wars are all over right? I mean we defeated the terrorists didn’t we? So it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. I just want my kids to be happy and not worry about sad things that don’t matter anymore. Isn’t that what every mother wants, for her kids to be happy?

Online activists are also going on the offensive, fighting back against the attack on their favorite Summer day off from work. They’ve taken to social media to showcase their disdain towards the desecration of what they say the spirit of the holiday is all about.

“I personally don’t support war. I’m a pacifist. I think people who like war are just stupid. Don’t they know that war kills people and stuff? That’s why I think we should just stop glorifying soldiers and war with their own holidays. That’s why I want to see Memorial Day go back to what it was, about peace and happiness with friends. That’s something we should remember, right? I mean, aren’t I right?

Besides that, what exactly are all those kids doing with all those old men and war vets at cemeteries? Don’t they all have PTSD and stuff? Is that even safe? Doesn’t that sound creepy to you? It sounds like some weird death cult. Do we want our kids to be allowed to join a militant death cult? I mean, how much of this are we going to allow?

Relatedly, the sudden onset of awareness has had a drastic downturn in consumer participation in recent years. This is mostly thought to be due to bloggers and individuals sharing stories about their thoughts over social media, careless to the ramifications. In response to this devastating turn of events one local department store chain manager offered this response..

You know the annual Memorial Day Madness sale used to be one of our biggest days, next to Thanksgiving, I mean, Black Friday. This year, though, we’ve spent loads on marketing and even tried to hired some real soldiers to serve as models and to hold signs to get people to come shop with us. We’ve put a lot into making sure to hire veterans, you know. But none of it was working, so we had to resort to dressing our employees up in holiday camo as well, to help encourage more shoppers. All of it has just done nothing to help our sales. All the customers just aren’t coming to the malls anymore. They are all off sitting alone in quiet meditation, being thankful for what they have, like freedom and opportunity. That is exactly what we don’t want. How is anyone supposed to sell people on things they need like clothes and TVs when they are busy being thankful for things that are basically for free?

The issue of consumer apathy has grown so out of hand, the President of the United States, himself, has even weighed in, giving a special speech on this rain soaked afternoon.

I, ah, just want to begin with saying that I deeply respect all the troops out there and their families. That’s why I want to start off today by thanking all the troops and their families for that effort. Today is dedicated to you and America hopes you enjoy it.

That said, ah, it’s also come to my attention that a lot of people are upset that so many young men and women have died fighting in American wars. I can understand this. After a recent golfing trip, I recently read a report that said that over the last fourteen years, we, as Americans, have lost something like six or seven thousand service people, the largest number since any American war since Vietnam.

Now, I know that I didn’t serve myself, but believe me that no one has more respect for these people than me. Now, understand this, I’ve known many a veteran, particularly since taking office, and from them, I feel I can safely say this: abandoning our cherished traditions is not what these proud warriors would want. They wouldn’t want you to mourn their deaths; they would would want all of us to celebrate by getting out and enjoying life and encouraging our local economies with our business. That’s why I’ve given my support to the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization towards a campaign for rebranding what has become a day which was once looked forward to by millions, but is now mired in the memory of unpleasant events.

The Bureau’s chief consumer analysts have been busy working on their “rebranding strategy” for months, with the mission directed by POTUS to hopeful have a much more productive and successful Memorial Day Weekend.

Our first plan revolved around making the holiday something everyone could enjoy. We also wanted to pull the focus away from the morbid reality of the day. So, to do that, we wanted to bring in a mascot. In much the same way that Easter and Christmas were rebranded to serve a larger, consumer oriented approach, we think that Memorial Day can be something fun for the whole family, as well. I mean think of how terrible life would be if women weren’t made to feel special on Valentine’s Day with expensive chocolates and jewelry, if children couldn’t look forward to mountains of presents to honor the birth of Jesus, or… oh wow, if we didn’t have the Easter Bunny and baskets filled with toys to water down what has to be the most depressing holiday in the history of religion. Honestly, it took a marketing genius to monetize deicide.

That’s why we’ve partnered with ad agencies to create Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard.

The marketing executive who is credited with inventing Marvin offered his thoughts on the newest holiday family icon.

Marvin is freakin’ sweet. Everyone loves ducks and mallards are, like, really American and stuff. We wanted to go with M’s because it’s an alliteration with Memorial Day, and buyers are so into alliteration. We also wanted an animal, because kids are into those, and also environmentalists. Since most of both of those groups are, like, against war and stuff, we thought that might increase our base of early adapters too.

We were originally going to go with “Milty the Mallard”, or “Milton”, because they sounded like a good old, like 1950’s name, like from when the big war was happening, or whatever. Then we were like, ‘Whoa, Milty sounds a lot like, ‘Military.” and we are trying to pull the focus away from that sort of business. Marvin is a funny name and we want Marvin to be about fun, not sad stuff like war and death. The holiday is still going to be about remembering and stuff, but instead of, you know, thinking about dead soldiers, we will just remember happy things. That’s really what we think Memorial Day was meant to be about in the first place, you know?

The inclusion of the flag was also kind of a big deal. We were thinking that if we are lucky, this thing might go international, like Santa, but that the flag would sort of ruin that if it turns out to offend too many people. Either way, we are looking forward to setting up Marvin in malls so that kids can get their picture with him, buy Marvin the Mallard dolls and toys, there is even talk of a cartoon series. It’s going to be epic.

Hopefully, these new initiatives can be taken and accepted by the broken people of the United States in moving on from their recent losses. Everyone is looking forward to a day when our shopping malls and beaches are back to the way they were before people started worrying so much about things that just don’t matter, not nearly as much anyway, as things like the security of our economy, the happiness of our children, and the freedom to shop. So in the words of Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard:

Marvin 3

Thank you all for enjoying this cathartic piece of satire nearly as much as its given me in remedying my veteran rage. Those who have followed me long enough know that every year I put out a special message reminding everyone to take a moment, that’s it, just a moment, to think about the real meaning behind Memorial Day. Yes, I want you to enjoy your time with family and friends, and yes, I even want you to barbeque, but we do need to have a national conversation about what the meaning of the day is all about. For those interested, here is this year’s message, available through one of my other blogs, shared with many other veterans, The Defense Quorum.

Jon’s Memorial Day Message 2015

I fulfilled my obligation this year and was proud of what I considered my best message yet. Having done that, I went on about my day. It wasn’t until I saw a facebook post from a friend, that my vet rage began to flare up. Having no other course to remedy myself than the exercising of my cherished First Amendment rights, I set towards creating the absolute most “passive aggressive post about how Memorial Day is not about cookouts but dead soldiers” ever. So, in that spirit, sorry to ruin everybody’s holiday buzz, but yes, indeed, Memorial Day is about more than you. It’s about all of us and what matters most, or should matter most, to all of us. That is the commitment and willingness of those who would sacrifice themselves throughout the generations, if for no other reason, than to allow us to be as stupid as we please on social media.

So from Jon’s Deep Thoughts to all of you, have a safe, refreshing, and thoughtful #MemorialDayWeekend.


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Jon’s Memorial Day Message 2015

I hope everyone has plans of enjoying this long awaited Memorial Day. As a first year teacher, the beginning of Summer is a long anticipated reprieve for a year of trials. My hopes are that, for all you, this holiday brings you rest and rejuvenation, a chance to relax to unwind, as well. Hopefully, you have some intent to spend time with your family and friends. Hopefully you enjoy a cookout, a day at the beach or just a day to sleep in.  Before we do all of these things, though, I hope that we take a few moments to think about the day and, in particular, what it should mean to all Americans.

I remember one Memorial Day Weekend, not long after my service of enlistment ended with the United States Marine Corps, watching the news as the reporter visited people enjoying the break from rhythm and routine. I found myself being very annoyed by much of what I saw. That afternoon the anchors gave reports of the day for boating and the activities which citizens could partake in. They gave a weather report for the lake and reminded boaters to drink responsibly. Reporters were out interviewing revelers. There were interviews of people at the parks, the lake or movie theater and asking them what they were doing for the holiday, as if it wasn’t obvious enough. On Facebook it was much of the same. My friends were visiting the lake and enjoying a day to party. These things in and of themselves are fine. Everyone should embrace the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones away from work, school and embrace the moments of bliss which are, from time to time afforded to us. I was annoyed, but not so much as to distract me from my own activities.

But when an area high school student responded to the question of what Memorial Day meant to her, she delivered this profound reply, which moved me to the very core of my being:

To party and get out of school.”

As a teacher and husband of a teacher, I understand her feeling better than she does. For those who have not yet released, they have a grueling year behind them and any break is welcomed. As a family of teachers, we fully intended to enjoy our summer, as well. As a former Marine Corps Sergeant, honorably discharged in 2008, and having served two tours in Iraq, however, I felt the need to make sure that the people within my reach were afforded my perspective on what the day means to me.

Memorial Day, in the United States, is meant to be a day of reflection and somber dignity, where we are freed from the burdens of work to consider the cost of such prosperity we enjoy throughout the year. I could bore you with the history, but suffice it to say that it is meant to be a day where we think about what we have and what was given to attain it, as well as to preserve it. Memorial Day is a very special day where it is asked that everyone take a moment to consider the great costs of living in our country that enjoys so many luxuries. Those costs, on this particular occasion, are measured in the lives of men and women who have fallen and died in the service of our nation.

To be clear, it isn’t really about the day off. It isn’t about time with your friends or even your family. It isn’t to remember just anyone who died, like your grandma or Uncle Milty, which many do. It isn’t even about the veterans, those who have served or are serving now. I served with Marines and took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and I can tell you, it absolutely isn’t about us. That’s what Veteran’s Day is all about. This day is something different, unique, and special, different from any other national holiday our nation celebrates. This time, the day off is meant to serve a purpose.

Instead, Memorial Day is about a very special few American warriors. It is about those warriors who died in service of the country. Memorial Day is about thinking about them, considering the value of their persons, and the loss to society they represent. More so than this, it is a reflection of our value as individuals to what they believed in. In realizing this, an acknowledgement is made to the debt we who prosper owe to those who have given up the joys entailed in the pursuit of happiness, so that our quest continues.

Memorial Day is about acknowledging the individual Revolutionary soldier, all but forgotten, who fought to give this nation independence. It is about the soldier in the Civil War, who died liberating those who couldn’t fight for themselves and struggling to keep a desperate nation, and the ideals it stood for, together. It is to seek remembrance of the fields of white in quiet meadows of Europe and on tiny islands dotting the distant waters of the Pacific. It is a day where we remember the men who died on beaches, in forests, jungles, on mountains and deserts; in rain, snow and heat in places far, far away. Memorial Day is a day where, if even only for a moment, we consider the world we would have if no one placed themselves in Harm’s way, and we realize the necessity of terrible sacrifice. They fought tyranny and terror, faced aggression, hate and horror and chased it across the globe in the hopes that for one more generation, we might never face it here at home.

Memorial Day is for remembering the people, not as soldiers, and not as numbers or justification for agendas, but as people. Only then do we truly honor the selflessness and love they bore for others and why such virtues are necessary for a world such as ours. We thank all those who will never return to the beaches and the barbecues, the movies and Friday nights that we enjoy so much.

So, if you will please forgive my somber little post, please at some time during the day, do your solemn duty as free citizens of the United States. Take a moment to reflect in silence, say a small prayer, or give some thought to those who gave us our freedom with theirs. Ask yourselves what makes them worth a nation stopping to stand for what they did.

You may not agree that you should be asked to do this. You may not agree with or support the military at all. You may not support the government or what it stands for. You may be confused, disheartened, or angered by the wars we have been a part of and the state of our affairs, both foreign and domestic. By all means, disagree. Disagree and do nothing. Or disagree and do what you can to change these things in a peaceful and civilized manner, so that others may live well. You can do that. These are your rights. Just remember that to secure such rights there are those who gave them up. Whether or not you agree with them and what they stood for, please show them your appreciation and respect on this day. This Memorial Day weekend, please give up just a few moments of your time before you go off to the lake, the cookout, the parade or just when you’re relaxing on the couch. Think about those men and women who gave up all of their tomorrows so that you and I could enjoy the rest of our todays.

If you agree and liked what I have to say, please upvote, promote or share in whatever social network you like. I appreciate it. With that said, you have my deepest sincerity in wishing you a very Happy Memorial Day.

Thank you and Semper fi,
Jon

In memory of those I knew:
Lance Corporal Hatak Yearby – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2006

Master Sergeant Brett Angus – Marine Corps,  Killed in Action, Iraq 2005

Staff Sgt. William Douglas Richardson – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2005


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What is the logic behind making military boot camps intensive?

My next piece focuses on the questions that often come up among people who haven’t been a part of the military experience concerning our indoctrination process into that life, i.e., boot camp. Even though boot camp is one of the few commonalities among all veterans, it is still completely misunderstood by those who haven’t experienced. It’s often portrayed methodologically in media as a place that transforms young boys into warrior robots, where lifelong brotherhoods are forged because they have to go through “hell” together, or worse, as an institution for the brainwashing of children into killers.

Since leaving the Corps in 2008, I’ve been fascinated in seeing how boot camp is able to do what it does,namely, by taking kids like me, at the ages of 17, 18, and 19, from a society which prides itself on the values of individualism, self-preservation, personal liberties and personal satisfaction and turning them into a force of warriors willing to run towards the sound of gunfire, danger, and suffer innumerable indignities and sufferings along the way. Once you get through the surface, which is actually quite terrible, you’ll begin to see the place for the marvel of psychological engineering that is.

Hopefully, throughout the next series, you as civilian readers or just nostalgic veterans can read through and gain a deeper appreciation for the foundational training that sets apart the world’s greatest warrior class from everyone else.

Who Does It Really Hurt When People Fake Military Service? – Veterans – What to Do About It

Veterans – What to Do About It

Every month or so, I’ll see in my feeds a new person “Getting put on blast” for getting caught faking military service. That’s what we call it when a faker is caught red handed and a photo or video gets posted to social media. It’s sort of the holy grail for many vets and active duty service members to find some guy pretending to be a SEAL at the bar, or a soldier in cammies at the airport, or a Marine in dress blues. They all want to be that guy who catches them on camera and for it go viral as they are humiliated for thousands… millions to see. We want to deliver that divine sense of justice to teach those nasty liars a lesson.

To all the veterans out there, I really want you to take a look at this person. Please take a good, hard look at him. Not his uniform, but the man standing there.

Is this not a pathetic looking human being? When you look into his eyes, I mean really look at them, does your sense of anger not subside when you realize just how miserable he had to be to do this? Does it not appear obvious that he, himself, is aware of how pathetic he is to attempt this stunt? What hole must exist in his life that he would try so desperately, so failingly, to fill it like this? How angry can you really be at a person like this?

Angry enough to ruin the rest of his life? Do you think this picture is going anywhere? Do you think his name won’t forever be attached to it? Should one incredibly stupid, incredibly insensitive act of jackassery, one mistake, define a person’s entire life from then on? Think back on your time in service. I’ve drug many a drunken Lance Corporal through the parking lots of Camp Pendleton, CA, some covered in vomit, some in their own urine. These people are now all proud veterans, but each have made incredibly stupid mistakes, all of which have been forgiven. But do we forgive others? No, we don’t. Finding them out and making a public spectacle of them is sort of our thing now that the wars are over.

It’s gotten so bad that Terminal Lance, the online comic strip put out by Marine Corps veteran Max Uriante, famed for its abrasive, sometimes caustic satire on military and veteran life, even did a strip on how vehement we can be in this regard. It demonstrates “that guy”, one we all know, making a royal jackass of himself that I would like all veterans to really think about.

I’ll be honest, when all of us turn into that guy, we are making a bigger show of what the military isn’t than anything most of these guys have achieved. We come off as petty and self-righteous which is against our proud and humble heritage. Most of the guys who would do this are just losers who aren’t worthy of our blood pressure (which, face facts, is a problem for most of us.) Putting someone on blast for being stupid isn’t the answer, and in the end, only ends up doubling the number jerks in the room. To be honest, that moment of self-satisfaction isn’t worth it when you come to find out you lost that poor loser his job, or maybe that, in his shame, he ate a bullet. At the very least, no mistake should last forever, which is exactly what happens when you immortalize someone’s mistake online.

Seriously though, it’s getting to be a problem, such a problem that many of us are nervous about speaking out online for the threat of being called out for Stolen Valor incorrectly. It happened to one Army Captain, Lindsay Lowery, who was humiliated after being called out for pretending that she took part in more action than she really did. She faced numerous insults, both as a person faking their service and, simply, for being a woman in the military. As the truth turned out, everything she said was the absolute truth and even her commissioning officer vouched to make that point known. Sadly, once the truth came out, the rebuttal didn’t go nearly as viral as did the initial onslaught of hate directed her way unjustly. People like me, people who write extensively online about military experiences we’ve had, have taken the lesson to heart, “Perception is Reality.” I keep a blacked-out DD-214, the form pretty much validating anything I need to prove, available upon request for whenever someone finally makes that jump of doubting anything I have to say to the point that I need to prove myself, before the lie goes viral. It’s a sad truth, but this is what our culture, the veteran culture, is turning into.

Instead, I wish more people would make fun of it. Seriously, make people aware of the phenomena in a way that educates people while not looking like a self-important jerk about it. These guys at Ranger Up, a YouTube channel put out by some Army veterans, did a great job of it. Very funny.

Where it happens online, somewhere it is way too easy to fake military knowledge and experience, I think we have a case study on how to handle it.Tymon Kapelski, one of the newest contributors to The Defense Quorum, Quora’s military interests blog, recently posted a piece showcasing a military faker here on Quora. This person fabricated a special operations story that showcased the beauty of the human condition to come together in a time of common human suffering. The problem? It could never have possibly happened. The time tables made no sense and there has never be a conflict where these combatants would have been that close to one another for this story to have taken place. It was complete fiction. The bigger problem? It had already been upvoted more than 1,400 times and seen by many thousands of people.

What Tymon, among others, did was to confront the individual separately and politely, in the comments section. They said that there were some problems with the answer that they wanted to know about the event and more about the individual in question. Receiving push-back from the author, and eventually seeing challenging comments get deleted. Some went on the investigation and dug up evidence that this individual not only couldn’t have been in the battle he said happened, but had he been, he would have been 14 at the time. Seeing that the individual wasn’t budging, he made his concern public to the veteran community at  The Defense Quorum. From there, the concern was posted to the Top Writer’s board on Facebook and the admins took care of making sure that the answer disappears forever, as has the author who fabricated it. Nice job Tymon and the DQ. This is the second such Quora Stolen Valor case I’ve been a part of, the other with the help of Sam Morningstar which went pretty much the same way. Both of these cases, I would urge others to take up as examples of civil confrontations between potentially stolen valor cases and the rest of the community.

As for what to do if you see someone out in town doing something stupid? For all the rest of us, when and if we see one, I wish that instead of grabbing a buddy with a camera, we would instead pull the dude over (perhaps assertively so) and just say to the guy.

“Look, we know what you’re doing and you need to stop. It is against the law to claim some of things you’ve done and you need to stop. Go away now or we will make it clear to everyone here that you are lying about your military service.”

If they fight you or resist your warning… whatever. Do what you gotta do.


To read the full story click here.

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Who Does It Really Hurt When People Fake Military Service? Part IV – Loss to the Citizens

Lastly, the citizens themselves suffer when someone falsely wears a uniform that they didn’t earn. As I mentioned earlier, they are the ones whose opinions are being formed by these people, rather than real warriors. In some cases, this in the forming of negative stereotypes because of nasty individuals trying to pick up girls of loose morals and poor judgment. In other cases, however, it is people who tell the greatest stories. These people can tell you of the battles they have fought and the lives they lost. They tell you the story every man wants to be a part of and of their great, though humble, heroism. These people push the limits of what is humanly achievable. Yes, while there are truly heroic cases that exist of great valor in the armed services, there is also a flood of people who have completely blown the common understanding of what it means to be a warrior. Civilians will ask questions like “did you kill anybody?” and be disappointed when you tell them “No.” Many people have no understanding of the real lives of warriors because the fakers have led them to believe in myth over reality. This robs the civilian listener more than the veteran in my opinion, because they miss out on the value of real veterans. Real ones will never live up to the legend created by the guys who just made it up.

Perhaps more importantly though, is the real heart of the matter and why the Stolen Valor Act was passed, not once, but twice.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (Pub.L. 113–12; H.R. 258) is a United States federal law that was passed by the 113th United States Congress. The law amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for a person to fraudulently claim having received any of a series of particular military decorations with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit from convincing someone that he or she rightfully did receive that award.

The commonly held belief is that people dressed as military people just walk around all day and collect thank yous. While this happens, as I have shown often, the majority of problems dealing with fakers surrounds people fraudulently filing for benefits they do not rate. These aren’t people who ever go out in public. They are simply con-artists. Consider the state of disability among military veterans. To get a grip on how much is at stake here, in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2009, President George W. Bush requested $38.7 billion for veteran medical care alone. Most of us who were deployed rate something. I rate 10% disability for service connected back injury and hearing loss from working around guns, which gives me a small stipend every month to pay for medical care. While this is small in my case, it can be grievous in the case of others. For example, if you can produce evidence of 100% disability and that you have three dependents in your care, your compensation from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs can reach $3,447.72 a month. I am not saying that is a good thing. That level of injury is staggering, but if all you have to do is fake the paperwork… that is a free ride for life. One case I have heard of involved a Vietnam Era “Colonel” Hamilton receiving over $30,000 in undeserved VA disability compensation. It seems that he never actually served at all. This doesn’t even include getting paid to receive a college education, guaranteed housing and business loans, as well as receiving discounts to various businesses and services for being a veteran. Frankly, if all you have to do is fill out the paperwork the right way, there is a lot of money to be had and that poses a tempting target for scammers. I’d like to know the exact figures, but given the bloated VA backlog and the poor resources to investigate such abuses, we are looking at a multi-billion dollar fraud industry.

I’m sure at this point, I don’t have to make it clearer how this hurts all of us. While somewhere around eight years ago I used to be just a lowly Corporal, mucking it up in Al Anbar Province Iraq, now my day job is as a teacher in one of the poorest regions of the country. Every day I see good kids who don’t have enough books to take home and study. I see buses and facilities in disrepair and not enough teachers to cover all the classes. Leave the school and you have roads that haven’t been properly repaired in years and a hospital you are afraid to go to because you might die. It isn’t that anyone in the town isn’t doing a good job, it is simply that we could use help. As I drive home down Main Street and look at its decay, I think about how we will never get that help because there are so many out there getting by simply from doing nothing, living off government payouts such as those I have listed. While I know that all the problems of a small town won’t be solved by cutting entitlement benefits to freeloaders, and while I know that fraudulent veteran payouts only account for a small percentage of the total entitlements being paid out, there are people who need and deserve it more. I think most people, even non-veterans can see this, but many veterans especially, having already made great sacrifices for their country, view the freeloader mentality, and especially the scam artists, as a particularly abhorrent form of vermin.

To read the full story click here.

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ISIS attacks Muhammad Themed Art Show in Texas – Then They Died.

A recent news event from yesterday centers around a few jihadists’ hapless attack in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. So far, there are reports that at least one of the attackers were on the FBI terror watch list and that he wanted to join jihadist forces, Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The second man is reported as his roommate.

The attack took place on a political protest on Islamic fundamentalism and art show awarding prizes for the best depiction of Muhammad. The show was put together by Pamela Geller. Geller and other organizers are stating the intended purpose of the event is to bring attention to the Islam’s growth in the United States and Europe as well as and the violent nature within large segments of its population. The organizers also have considered the event one demonstrating their rights afforded to them to do so by First Amendment protections and Free Speech privileges. Geller and others also reported that the contest was a response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in which numerous employees of the often offensive magazine were murdered for similar works.

While I would like to agree that this sort of display is religionist by nature, it would take a strong will to not call it embarrassingly prophetic for the religion of peace. Quite honestly, there was nothing stopping the Islamists from mounting a counter-protest at the door with signs instead of guns. It would have done a lot more good. That hasn’t stopped sites like Vox from blaming Geller and the other participants of the protest for provoking their attempted murder. I’m pretty sure that women’s rights activists call that “blaming the victim”… something about short skirts. So, while I will agree that the show was without some degree of taste, it proved a lot more points than the jihadists did. Then again, so was Charlie Hebdo, but that magazine has been heralded for its dedication to free speech and spreading the truth, at least by their standards. Throw an American face on it though and you have a racist. Ironic. Food for thought, the picture above, that’s the first place winner.

Oh well, oddly enough for once, American racism isn’t the main story here. The main story is the attack itself. There are reports that precipitating the attack, one of the shooters announced his intentions on Twitter, which was retweeted by various ISIS accounts, in effect, taking responsibility for it and showing some degree of foreknowledge. During that assault, one police officer was shot in the ankle. He has since been released from the hospital with no further injuries. The two shooters though, both armed with rifles and explosives, were shot and killed by police not long after the attack began. In a powerful show of force, the Garland, TX art show proved to be one of the first times when a premeditated terror attack on a civilian center was prevented with no loss of life (for the good guys anyway) and the terrorists involved (everywhere) thoroughly humiliated in their worthless martyrdom.

Well, Texas police had a response of their own. It sounded something like “Come at me, Bro.”

Whatever your stance on the protest, or whatever your stance on the attack, yesterday was a massive victory against jihadist forces worldwide. They offered a humiliating first strike by ISIS in America, while giving American defense and intelligence agencies much to research in preparation for future attacks. Even more so than this, it showcased the true incompetence of ISIS outside the Middle East while showing the world a humiliating display of terrorist nincompoopery, the jackasses. It also did a great job proving all of us who predicted this sort of thing right, only I could not have hoped for a first blood nearly this good.  Basically, we all need to say to ourselves that it is a good day, for whatever the reason, when 10,000 jihadists simultaneously face palm for the terror attack they were too stupid not to claim as their own.

That said, results stand as followed: Garland Police – 2, Terrorist – 0.

For that, all of Texas earns an eagle.

Leadership Lessons From Barnabas and Shirtless Dancing Guy

Barnabas

Today in Sunday School, my group was discussing the role of Barnabas to the early Church as noted in the book of Acts. Barnabas is lesser known to most Christians, but one act in particular is remembered.  Early in our history, Barnabas welcomed a newcomer to the Church who others found difficult to accept. Before his conversion, this man was a former tax collector of Rome and a notorious persecutor of Christians. This individual was deeply feared and mistrusted by early Christians for his past sins and grievances against them. Barnabas, though, welcomed the man as an equal, encouraged him, and in time, became one of his first followers. Empowered by Barnabas’ encouragement, within this man’s lifetime, he would eventually become instrumental to spreading Christianity into modern day Turkey, Greece, North Africa, and even to the very steps of the Empire itself, in Rome. This man was the Apostle Paul. Without Paul, Christianity may have forever been viewed as just another sect of Judaism, and may have never reached outside of Israel in the way that it did. We certainly wouldn’t have the Christianity we do today without the acts of Paul, but perhaps more importantly, we wouldn’t have had Paul without the acts of Barnabas.

Speaking about how Barnabas encouraged Paul reminded me of a TED talk I once saw about the importance of the First Follower (in class I called it the Second Leader, but now we are just arguing about words.)

The video showed a goofy dude, we’ll call him Shirtless Dancing Guy, dancing wildly at a concert. For the longest time, he is just a weirdo dancing in a field. He gets weird looks and strange stares. Then someone joins in. It takes guts for someone to stand up and join in. You face the same scorn, shame, and stares of judgmental onlookers in the crowd. Green Shirt Dude bravely joins along, anyway. In doing so, he gives validity and acceptance to others of that leader’s effort. Shirtless Dancing Guy, like a good leader, welcomes him as an equal and with that, the first follower feels valued and appreciated, calling others to join the movement. In recognition of his good leadership, Green Shirt Dude calls up others and continues in the merriment, absent thought of all those staring. Through mutual encouragement, they endure the long and difficult times when they were just two weird guys dancing in a field, together but otherwise all alone. Then some special happens. A third comes along. Three’s a crowd, but soon, it goes from a few guys dancing in a field to a true movement where, in the matter of seconds, dozens are dancing, cheering, while hundreds flock to join in, and follow along. People look to people like Shirtless Dancing Guy for being a visionary, and a bold leader for standing up when no one else was, in spite of their eccentricities. We know, however, that without that first follower, the normal guy who decides to follow along, no one else would have given him a second thought. They wouldn’t have joined in and we wouldn’t be talking about either of them today.

It’s the same today as we see in the story of Barnabas. Barnabas was a necessary figure in the early Christian Church, but not like the other Apostles. Barnabas isn’t remembered like Paul is. Many can’t really place him in the historical record, but his purpose is crucial in the role he had in others’ stories. He was a respected member before Paul joined, but unlike others, he saw a leader in the repentant sinner others overlooked because of fear, mistrust, and apprehension. He welcomed Paul into the Church, allowing others to gain trust in him as well. He provided Paul encouragement during his early efforts. Because of this encouragement, Paul’s teachings were appreciated and he was empowered to go and become the most important single missionary in the history of Christianity. Today, we should observe to the overlooked leaders like Barnabas to serve as our role models. They teach us that, often, the most important leader to a movement isn’t the one on the pulpit, or the one holding the microphone, or the person in the corner office. Often it’s the supportive leader, the servant leader, the first follower who is the first to openly show support to that one with the vision and drive to the motivate the rest. Barnabas is a story of encouragement. It’s a story of people seeing the potential in others and being brave enough to be the first to innate action in others from the audience. Just like the story of Green Shirt Dude and Shirtless Dancing Guy – Barnabas teaches that the most important leaders to any movement, are really just the first people brave enough to follow.


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