Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Flag Drooped--Again

I wrote the following piece a few years ago, and the situation has not improved regarding knowledge of flag etiquette in our country. The Volo Auto Museum showed the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine and the Bugs Bunny car in the Fox Lake, Illinois, Santa Parade yesterday. My kids and grandkids walked along side handing out candy and coupons to the spectators. When the Colors passed, only about half the people saluted. And when the Flag passed again later in the parade, no one saluted. They treated it like another float.

I also wish that people would look up proper ettitiquette when they fly the Flag outside their homes or businesses. The Flag should not be flown in the dark. If it is flown after sunset, it should be spot-lighted. If you cannot afford a spotlight, you should take the Flag down before you close or at sunset. It does not cost anything to send someone outside twice a day to raise and lower the Colors. That should be a priviledge, not overtime. Nor was the Flag meant to be a garden border. It is the symbol of our freedom and should be respected as such. People have died to protect us and our symbol. We need to respect it when we display it and when it passes us.

I told one of the Marines in the Color Guard that I would post this. I won a bronze medal in the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition with this essay.

The Flag Drooped

One day the circus came to town. It was the Greatest Show on Earth and we had tickets. We piled into the minivan and headed downtown to a great stadium. Somehow, we got separated. Being disabled, I took the elevator to the third floor where my son-in-law said our seats were. But when I got off the elevator, there was no sign of the kids and they had my ticket. While I was waiting in the lobby, the announcer’s voice came over the speaker system. “Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth! Please rise for our National Anthem!”

As the music began I came to attention and saluted with my hand over my heart. I was the only one in the lobby who did. Vendors continued to sell popcorn and drinks. People checked their tickets and scurried toward doorways, urging each other to “Walk faster, we’re missing the start!”

The Flag drooped that day.

When I came home, I checked my e-mail. There was a message from my sister. You know, one of those things that get circulated. It was about the way terrorists are being treated. It was called “I Don’t Care…” It said “I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was ‘desecrated’ when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet? Well, I don't. I don't care at all. When I hear a story about a Marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care. When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college hazing incident, rest assured that I don't care.”

Again, the flag drooped.

Because you see, I do care. I do care when my fellow citizens ignore the Flag or the National Anthem. I do care when our country sinks to the level of the terrorists who attacked us. I DO care when the Bill of Rights is set aside. I do care when our soldiers act like criminals and do not represent our country with honor. I am ashamed of the atrocities our country has committed in the name of “the war against terror.” I don't think that Al Quaeda represents all people of Islamic belief anymore than the Ku Klux Klan represents all Americans.

This is not to say that I don't support our troops. I support those who represent the ideals of our country and serve with honor. I support those who protect and defend the Constitution as they have taken an oath to do. And I still salute when the flag passes by or when the National Anthem is played.

Yes, the Flag drooped that day. But there are still those of us who wave it high—with pride—and defend it with honor, as did our fathers and mothers and their fathers and mothers. God bless our Flag. God bless our country. God bless America.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Copyright Alliance Blog Day

Recently, a magazine called Cook’s Source pilfered a woman’s article from the internet. After telling her that publishing the article on line put it into the “public domain,” the editor claimed that she had to practically rewrite the piece and that the writer should thank her or even pay her for the work she did to make the article “print-worthy.” The editor went on to say that she had a stable of young writers who were quite grateful to write free articles for her because of the exposure she gave them. This sounds a lot like my last publisher who always seemed to disappear when it was time to produce royalty statements, and had a lot of loopholes written into our contracts that enabled her to continue selling our books long after our contracts expired. She claimed we should be grateful she gave us a chance to be published. Grateful is one thing, hearing her brag that she made seventy thousand last year while she was telling me I didn't made enough to earn a lousy twenty dollar royalty check didn't make me that "grateful."

I will admit I’m guilty of buying books at used bookstores, passing books I’ve read to family and friends, and donating used books to hospital libraries—especially Veteran’s hospitals. Technically that could probably be considered a violation of copyright laws. People are reading author’s books without paying for them and the authors are missing out on those royalties. No, I don’t buy them if the cover’s been removed. I have some principles. I’m on a fixed income and I save money where I can.

But I know what it’s like to put a year or more of my heart and soul into a book and not see any money in return. I’ve seen one publisher go out of business due to financial problems, and I’ve been ripped off by another. I have not seen my work on any pirate sites yet, but I’m sure that will happen eventually unless we convince the world that the internet is not the public domain. Yes, I am repeating that with Patrick Ross of the Copyright Alliance said on their blog, “When a Writer is Pilfered,” which you can read at:

So—if you believe a person should get paid for the work he/she does, then you should support copyright laws. Buy a new book every once in awhile. Give Grandma a new book for Christmas or her birthday. I know one grandma who would love an e-book reader, hint, hint. That laptop is awfully heavy to schlep to the VA, and new e-books are much less expensive than new paperbacks. Where was I? Oh, yeah. How long would you last if you worked for free? Maybe Tom Clancy or J. K. Rowling can afford to have their books go through a few hands without collecting royalties, but I once heard a statistic that out of the many thousands of writers in this country, only about eighteen hundred actually earn enough money to make a full-time living as writers. That doesn’t count those who take other jobs in the industry such as editors, administrative assistants, slush readers, book store clerks—anything to be near our beloved books. I’m not even writing about the musicians, artists, photographers or other people who rely on copyrights to protect their work and livelihoods. And I heard that statistic several years ago when I was in college. I’m not sure what it is now. I certainly could not afford to write if I did not live on Social Security and I could not afford to keep my car if I did not live with my daughter. But that’s a whole other blog.

Respect copyrights. Buy a book. And don’t publish our work without our permission or without compensating us. For any authors out there who are having problems with less than honest publishers, we have a group for you called Bogus Publishers Beware. The link is:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Veteran's Day

My engagment photo in 1972 (black and white for our hometown newspapers).

My two youngest granddaughters. Beth, 12, is on the left; and Presley, 8, is on the right. They're displaying my birthday gift to Beth.

Even though I’m a Navy Veteran, left to my own devices I don’t usually observe Veteran’s Day. When I participated in music therapy in Chicago and Danville, I sang in Veteran’s Day observances at the hospitals as part of a chorus and as a soloist. We usually sang the Service Medley and members of each branch would stand when we sang their anthem, including the Coast Guard. I would sing “WAVES of the Navy” in harmony to “Anchors Aweigh.” I would also sing “Women on the Wall,” a tribute to women who died in Viet Nam, and other patriotic songs. I always felt good about those Veteran’s Day celebrations, because I was giving something back to the people who served in harm’s way and came home wounded physically or emotionally.

This year, however, was somewhat different. On Wednesday, I attended a luncheon for women vets at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. They merged Great Lakes Naval Hospital with the North Chicago VAMC. Only a few women at the luncheon had seen combat, and I was not part of the entertainment. Most of the women there had served in safe places, like me. When I left the luncheon, I drove downstate. My middle granddaughter, Beth, is in sixth grade and she hugged me and said, “Grandma, were you actually in the Navy?”

“Yes, I was.”

“Well…I was gonna call you tomorrow to thank you for serving, but I guess I don’t have to now that you’re here.”

“That’s nice, Sweetie.”

“There’s a ceremony at the Court House tomorrow. I get extra credit if I go. Do you wanna come along?”

When I said yes, she tried to salute, and I gave the kids lessons in the proper way to do so.

And that’s how I ended up attending a small-town-USA Veteran’s Day memorial service with my granddaughter. It was surprisingly short—introductions of the dignitaries, opening and closing prayers by the VFW Chaplain, a speech by the oldest veteran (a World War II Navy officer), a twenty-one gun salute and Taps. We saluted with our hands over our hearts during presentation of the Colors, the National Anthem (sung a-capella by the high school chorus), and during Taps. Afterward, we met Beth’s teacher so she could get her extra credit, and I assured her that Beth had, indeed, thanked me for my service. I think it was the nicest Veteran’s Day I’ve ever had.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

It's Gonna Get Ugly

I’m getting back on the political soapbox again. The elections are over and if I could afford to, I’d move out of the country.

I’m a Navy veteran with bi-polar disorder and other disabilities, none of which are a result of my military service. The Republicans are interested in lining their own pockets and those of Big Business. They are not interested in helping people, so they will probably repeal what small steps we’ve taken toward affordable health care. They don’t believe the planet is really in trouble, but they do believe in letting their Big Business cronies do whatever they want to pollute the water, air, and earth. I predict that the price of gas will rise even more and then, when the price of transporting goods goes up, the price of food and everything else will rise. There’s a bank that claims to help small businesses. Their tips for providing health insurance to employees? Buy insurance with a higher deductible. In other words, buy insurance your employees can’t afford to use.

It’s gonna get ugly before people realize that the Republicans’ fear-mongering was because the Democrats were beginning to turn things around and make life better for real people. During the first Bush administration, I was “sofa-surfing” and the VA had me listed as homeless because I was living out of a suitcase and wasn’t in any one place long enough to have my meds mailed there. I hadn’t burned the last of my bridges and didn’t have to move into a box, but if I hadn’t found a job when I did, that was the next place I would have had to go, because I was running out of friends willing to put me up. During the last so-called Bush administration, I was turned down everywhere I inquired about dental care and ended up pulling my own teeth with a string and a doorknob. I don’t want to go back to that, but I fear that’s where we’re headed. I’m afraid that since my medical problems are not the result of combat I will no longer qualify for VA medical treatment and that the government will cut Social Security and Medicare, as well. I don’t want to be another toothless, raving, maniac veteran on the street. And my kids work hard and shouldn’t have to support me. I live with my daughter, but I pay rent to help her, and I buy my own $5.00-a-loaf gluten-free bread.

During the last so-called Administration, I joined an organization called Move On and I signed every petition that came my way calling for impeachment, etc. I picketed for the health care bill, and environmental measures. Every few days I’d add a PS to my e-mails saying “Hi NSA! Have a nice watch, guys!” Then, my VA chorus won two gold medals and were invited to sing at the National Veterans’ Creative Arts Festival in Oklahoma. I was worried we’d get to the airport and they’d tell me I was on the “no fly” list. I would have been so embarrassed. But I never advocated anything illegal, although I referred to "the man who cheated and is not our duly elected President," “the so-called President,” and “the Usurper in the White House.”

Most of the info I have comes from books like Richard Clark’s “Against All Enemies.” The rest of that line is “domestic and foreign.” It is part of the oath one takes when enlisting in the military or assuming public office. These days, I’m afraid that some of our worst domestic enemies work in those large chambers on the Hill or are their best friends.

PS: Hi NSA. Have a nice watch, guys!