It’s time for this civilian who’s never been a member of America’s military family to do a much-needed arrogance check. Among the hundreds of images that I had forgotten until a couple of hours ago were still in my WordPress media file but which I’ve now deleted, are far too many images that tell me this arrogance check is long overdue.
How in Hell could I have thought, and seriously proposed, that my life’s left me with “scars in just the right places” when I don’t even know where those places are? Or how many of those places there are? Or how deep those wounds cut into a soldier’s soul? Or into the souls of those who love that soldier and who 24/7 – 365 utter fear-soaked prayers for a safe return?
From where did I conjure up the bizarre idea that skill set + desire gives me a right to write anything about these people?
I have no such right.
It’s their choice whether I’m to continue this work.
I explained to a warrior a couple of days ago that what I’ve learned over the last 18 months about my own grandfather has proved transformative. It has. But tonight, as I prepare for this arrogance check, I fear that I’ve brought dishonor to his name. A name that my dad – whom a career soldier from Queens NYC adopted and brought up right – thought he could trust me with. A soldier in whose face, tonight, I see nothing but disappointment.
The image example that I’ve chosen to demonstrate why I should have done this long ago, is one that leaves me profoundly ashamed. It’s an image that I wish I had never created and which I wish I could erase from our collective memory. It’s a swift, single, and effortless cut and paste job. And it’s one that I’d forgotten about until I spoke honestly about the photograph in the way that it should be seen and considered. In a way that stops us and forces us to reflect on its brutal candor not just about the past. But about what it says of the lives of men and women who walk among us now but who may not live until tomorrow.
But this image, which I so carelessly seized for what is – if I’m to be honest about it – a selfish, calloused, and dishonorable purpose, demands nothing less from me than I man up about what I did. It’s an image that demands that I stop everything until I dig as deep as I have to in order to find and drain the wretched well from which I drew that idea in the first place.
So, in fewer than 18 hours, I’m going to remove from public access this website, as well as my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts. I don’t know tech worth shit, but I understand that it takes Google 48 + hours to update new information.
Since Tuesday, I’ve permanently deleted – rough guess? 17,000 – originals, re-branded versions, and duplicates of my social media content and photo images, as well as hand-shredded at least one dresser drawer worth of paper versions of the same stuff, with another two drawers to go in my effort to permanently eliminate very nearly everything I’ve got that the lawyers would need were I to sue any of my known and unknown adversaries.
As I’ve done this, I’ve encountered other stuff that I’ve created but which I’m not proud of. None of these creations demands my personal confession of sin like this one does.
I hope that it doesn’t take me long to find the source I’m looking for and drain it. But this task is nothing like reaching down and pulling weeds from a garden. It’s going to require a lot more personal reflection and blunt honesty with myself, than I’ve already done. I don’t want to produce anything else that’s relevant to our past and present military personnel and their families until I can in good faith assure myself that I’m not going to post anything until I’ve asked and answered whether it would make my grandad proud.
But that’s not enough. Going forward, I’m going to have to stay alert to anything I might create that could dishonor those men and women whose names are enshrined in this sobering place but whose families will never be able to fill the void left by their sacrifice.