Serving them wrong; serving them right; Minnesota and the homeless vet; a son, a father, and a secret; art and junk.
1) SERVING THEM WRONG
The two American hikers — one of whom has Minnesota roots — who’ve been held in an Iranian prison for two years, are being released today. They, along with a third companion, were arrested while traveling in Iraq, accused and convicted by Iran of spying and entering the country illegally. Good for them, good for their families who have had to live two years wondering about their children and siblings. Surely, any parent can understand.
And yet, this comment, posted recently on Huffington Post, is fairly typical of many that have accompanied this story:
They had teaching jobs in an Arab country. IMHO anyone stupid enough to teach in an Arab country and go sightseeing is not the brightest bulb in the box. I heard for their next vacation they were going to the border of N.Korea to find a Korean take out, and after that going to Mexico to take pictures of the drug cartel.
“Good. Maybe it’ll knock some sense into them,” a NewsCut reader said when the pair was sentenced to 8 years in prison, apparently unaware of the irony.
True, young people — and an old one or two — do some pretty dumb things, but 8 years in one of the world’s most despicable prisons is a poor parenting technique.
We hear this “serves them right” mentality often when someone is stranded in the wilderness. “Serves them right,” for going there in the first place, the charge goes.
We heard it when young people were dying in the streets in violence in Washington, DC years ago, we heard it when homeowners in the Red River Valley valiantly struggled against the river for several springs.
Nancy Eshelman, who writes a column for the Harrisburg Patriot-News, wrote a 2010 article about the cancer death of her son, acknowledging he’d served time in prison for a motorcycle DUI that a left a man dead.
But he was my son, my baby, and I treasure every minute of these past months. After 56 days in a hospital, he spent his remaining time in a hospital bed in my living room. We reminisced. We watched mindless TV; celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas. We said, “I love you.” He said “thank you” more times than I can remember.
Car crash? Why was the victim on the road at 1 a.m.? Bet the driver was drunk. Oh, it was a woman. Probably texting.
Mayor makes an announcement on the city’s finances? Did you see her hair-do? Her brother’s a criminal, you know.
Someone murdered in the streets? Well, he shouldn’t have been out there. Probably buying drugs. Serves him right for living in Harrisburg.
House flooded? Well what kind of idiot buys a house in a flood plain?
Some time today or tomorrow, some mother is going to be able to hug a son she hasn’t seen for two years. A father is going to try not to cry, and fail miserably.
Just for today or tomorrow, that humanity ought to be good enough for all of us, if only to remind us that we still have some.
2) SERVING THEM RIGHT?
Tom Cabral is a Yankees fan in Massachusetts whose job is serving court papers. This week his love of the Yankees, hatred for the Red Sox, and his day job combined. He served child support papers on the pitcher who was starting that night for the Red Sox.
Cabral didn’t bother to hide the fact he is a Yankees fan. In fact, he proudly wore a Yankees shirt while he served (Erik) Bedard the papers.
“When I walked in I was like, I’m a Yankees fan, but I’m not trying to (give you a hard time),” Cabral said. “I told him that and said, sorry, I’ve got to do this. But he said it was no problem. I handed him the copies of all the documents and he signed them.
“(The Red Sox) legal department was joking with me about it … they were saying, ‘That’s why you’re so adamant about doing it today … you’re a Yankees fan.'”
The starting pitcher lasted only 2.1 innings in a Red Sox loss last night.
3) MINNESOTA AND THE HOMELESS VET
Veterans account for about 8 percent of the U.S. population. Twelve percent of those who are homeless in this country are veterans. In St. Cloud yesterday, officials met to try to figure out how to solve the problem in Minnesota. And it’s a heck of a problem.
“We’ve had more than a 300 percent increase over the last four years of new veterans that identify themselves as ‘homeless’ or ‘at-risk of homelessness,’ ” Health Care for Homeless Veterans Coordinator Ellen Dinsmore said in today’s St. Cloud Times.
“It took a near-death experience for me to get some mental health (care), which I did through a private organization, and eventually I was funneled into the VA,” said (Tim)Gordon, a Vietnam veteran.
Gordon told the audience at Thursday’s community meeting that he “self-medicated” for 35 years, which led to his homelessness. James Leach shared a similar story; he was addicted to pain pills, which he said led to him becoming homeless.
“Pain pills led to other things like alcohol and cocaine and marijuana — anything I could pretty much get my hands on,” said Leach, an Army veteran who became estranged from his wife and children.
“I may be clean for four or five months and then I’d fall off the wagon. And then finally one day, it took my own daughter to say to me, ‘You will never see your granddaughter until you clean yourself up.'”
Minnesota is also having a difficult time finding jobs for returning vets, the Star Tribune reports today. The unemployment rate for vets here is twice the national average, a statistic somewhat more shocking because Minnesota’s unemployment rate overall is below the national average.
“You run into sergeant majors and lieutenant colonels who did 26 years in the military and have college educations, but yet you see them at a job fair looking for work,” said Jeff Holmstrom, a 33-year-old staff sergeant in the Minnesota National Guard who spent months job hunting after returning more than a year ago from his second deployment. He had volunteered for that tour in Kuwait because he couldn’t find work. “That’s how bad it is out there.”
State officials can’t explain why the unemployment is so high for veterans in Minnesota, although one expert in the story says it may be the Minnesota’s National Guard units are mostly infantry units rather than logistical units. There aren’t a lot of private sector infantry jobs.
4) A SON, A FATHER, AND A SECRET
For the last few months, a gay soldier has been posting videos on YouTube about his life in the military as the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell neared. He didn’t show his face or reveal his identity. Yesterday, the policy was eliminated, so the airman, now revealed as Randy Phillips, called his father to reveal he’s gay.
The video is now posted on the It Gets Better website. So is this one, made by 14-year-old Jamey Rodermeyer of Buffalo, NY.
The young man started high school three weeks ago. He killed himself on Monday.
5) ART AND JUNK
Isn’t this a lovely piece of artwork that was unveiled in southern California to promote a film that opened there yesterday?
Here’s how it was made…
Bonus: It’s all becoming clear, the Netflix-apologizes-by-splitting-in-two announcement was actually the work of cartoonists:
(h/t: Greg Walz)
World leaders are gathering this week at the United Nations, where the General Assembly is in session from now until December. Today’s Question: How should the United Nations change to become more effective in promoting international peace?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: President Obama is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly today. We look at what to expect from his speech and discuss some of the top items on the agenda for the annual meeting.
Second hour: Christians, scientists debate the existence of Adam and Eve. The show is based on this NPR story from last month.
Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: International relations professor Michael Barnett discusses the United Nations controversy over Palestinian recognition.
Second hour: A Chautauqua Lecture about the economy, by David Brancaccio of APM’s Marketplace.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: President Obama and Speaker Boehner retreat to their corners. Tommy Thompson comes out swinging in Wisconsin. A new book takes shots at Sarah Palin. And Pennsylvania Republicans propose to reshape the arithmetic of the electoral college The Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins host Neal Conan.
Second hour: The military after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”