Fiery the Angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll'd
Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc
- William Blake, America A prophecy.

Confessions of an Ex-Soldier, Ex-Cop and Ex-Con

Idealism

Saturday, August 22, 2019

I started this journal for a number of reasons.

One, because I felt I needed a form of confession. Truthfully, in the last two weeks, I’ve come to see that this was probably somewhat misguided on my part, I find that knowing others are actually reading my words, tempers what I say. I didn’t know if I could be completely truthful, and I still don’t. Confession requires a particular kind of self-honesty, which is why it is done in private to an anonymous father-confessor. Confession requires humility, something that I struggle with. I’ve tried over the last ten years to be honest with myself, but it is a painful experience and one that I’m not very good at (see? I’m trying to be honest with you here). Re-reading what I have written, I see that I have been avoiding certain things. As I get more comfortable with this process, I hope that I may be able to write more than just observations on the world around me, instead I hope to be able to put into words the things that I feel – and do it honestly.

And two, because a prison psychologist once recommended that I keep a journal. She said, if I remember right, that by putting my thoughts and experiences down on paper I would have to examine each one – and that self-examination is the beginning of self-healing. I don’t know, at the time it sounded pretty ‘new age’ to me. And putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper in prison creates vulnerability. Both your fellow inmates and the guards always have reason to use your words against you, so you learn damned quick to keep your mouth shut.

Yesterday, someone named Elizabeth left a comment. This is the first time that I realized that people may actually be reading what I write and it has made me think a bit more about myself. Last night, for the first time, I really started to think about how I got here, and what I am trying to do with this journal. And I have sat up all night thinking about it, and thinking about what’s going on in the world right now. I can’t see the comet, the sky is hazy and there is too much light, but I know it’s up there. Scientists are saying that it’s not a material object at all, definitely not a comet, but I don’t know what else to call it. ‘The Big Blue Fuzzy Light in the Sky” seems a little clunky. The best I can gather from what I’ve read is that they seem to think it has something to do with ‘tearing superstrings and the gravitational manifestation of a Dark Matter collapse.” I have absolutely no idea what that means, and I can find a dozen other interpretations including a number of mainstream news organizations that have reports taken directly from Revelations. Biblical or scientific, both seem to agree that there is a significant danger to Earth and there doesn’t seem much we can do about it either way – other than to pray I guess. Maybe it’s just me, but it truly does seem as if the world is on the edge of an abyss.

And so, I will try to be honest with you, Elizabeth.

I said that people seem to find it funny that not so long ago politicians and Soldiers swore an oath of service to a piece of paper. Kids today seem to find that kind of idealism amusing. I guess I never realized that doctors swear an oath too, an oath to an ideal. Your comment made me think about my own ideals – and I realized that for the most part I just don’t have much in the way of passionate ideals anymore. I did once; I joined the military and went off to war because I believed that it was the right thing to do. Oh sure, like most young kids who volunteered in those days, it wasn’t entirely about idealism, maybe not even mostly about idealism. My mom used to say that I was full of wind, shit, and excitement, and truthfully I saw the Army as a way to raise hell and bust heads without having to suffer the consequences. Combat didn’t much change that. But the Army did instill in me a strong sense of idealism by introducing me to the concepts of Honor and Duty and Patriotism. Later after I had returned home and become a cop, I clung to those ideals. In those days, it was not illegal to publically disagree with the President, and there were many who did just that. And it infuriated me, I had fought for this country and somehow seeing those protestors felt like a slap in the face. And so my misplaced idealism led me to join Shelly Watson and her band of vigilantes - and ultimately to the murder of people we saw as unpatriotic. It was only after we were caught and brought up on charges of domestic terrorism and I had to look the families of those we killed in the eye, that I began to have doubts. And by then it was too late. You know, of course, that Shelly was convicted and went to Gitmo and died there a year later of a heart attack during “questioning”. I don’t know if she regretted the path that her life took, I never spoke to her again after we were arrested. But I damned sure regretted it, and yes, to be perfectly honest with you, at first I only regretted that I had been caught. I still thought that what we were doing was right, but maybe we hadn’t gone about it in the right way. Shelly’s conviction made me realize that people, even those that maybe held the same views we did, saw us as terrorists. And, now, I realize that many people still see us as no better than the Jihadists who destroyed the first Washington Monument. Eventually, of course, they let the rest of us ‘co-conspirators’ plead to murder and conspiracy charges and Feds dropped the domestic terrorism rap and turned the whole mess over to the state – they had Shelly and they didn’t need us any more.

In prison I met a lot of people who were there because they’d spent their whole lives making excuses, and rationalizing that their situation was somebody else’s fault. They spent their whole lives blaming society, or poverty, or their parents, or something for their situation. I once had a cellee who was in for killing his girlfriend, and he said over and over again, “Bitch had it coming, I’d do it again – only next time I do it right.” At first, I felt a sense of smug superiority to those convicts. I’d been a soldier, a cop. But after a while, I started to realize that I wasn’t any different at all – in fact I was probably worse, because I should have known better. I did a lot of soul searching, and despite all my rationalizations, I began to realize that what we did was dishonorable and that I had never really understood what duty meant.

Nowadays military men swear allegiance to the President. There is no room for ambiguity; it isn’t left up to Soldiers to determine what the Constitution means. And I guess that’s a good thing.

And me? I guess I’ve left idealism behind. Idealism is a young man’s passion. I’m just trying to get by.

Posted by VanDerDecken at 05:32 AM

4 comments:

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD said...

I can certainly appreciate your desire to achieve some level of self-honesty in your life. If my "presence" on your blog helps you to achieve that goal, so much the better. I'm not here to judge, and like every veteran, I have demons to contend with, too. So I'll use my own nom de guerre, and hope that our virtual presence in each other's lives will help both of us achieve some level of peace.

I can see the "comet" from here (Kansas) as well. I don't have the math, science, or theology to even speculate on its origin, so like the rest of the world, I'm watching and waiting. Prayer meetings are being held most every night in the churches around here, but I'm pretty close to the Bible Belt, so it may just be us.

Javert said...

A little self-examination might be a nice change for you, VanDerDecken.

Yes, I know who you are.

Anon Y. Mous said...

My dad was idealistic, too, before you killed him in Cold Blood. Ten years in Jail wasn't near long enough; I hope you BURN for all eternity.

A Friend said...

VanDerDecken. I was wondering when you would turn up on the net. It’s been awhile. I’ve been reading your journal. How…interesting. But you’re mis-remembering my advice to you. Self examination is the beginning of self-healing...and understanding. You remembered most of my advice and you seem to be adjusting to your current situation, but it’s the “and understanding” part of the message that was most important.

And…really…”I got six months off for good behavior.” You couldn’t possibly believe that?! You’ll have to do better than that, Van. But it’s ok; I have faith. I’m not like the others.

They’ll be coming for you soon, you know. Be prepared.