Got up this morning with a sensation somewhat akin to a spur under the saddle and then I realized that it was the 4th of July. Decided to ride to the National Cemetery in Bushnell which is about 100 miles to the south. Why not hop on and ride with me. There will be no deep overarching themes. Just a kaleidoscope of unrelated thoughts as they come to my mind. Much like the billboards we see on the highways and byways of the nation. They jump from suntan lotion to the bible without any linkage.
(Note: You can click on the photos and they truely grow in size)
The Dragon Princes is truly all gussied up with stickers and flags for this ride on the 4th. She runs like an old war horse up and down the Interstates with nowhere to go and no deadlines to me. She was built for the long haul and is just shy of 65,000 miles. She hits her stride at 70 and looks for a challenge. Not often does she like to carry more than one but this is a special day..
One of the stickers she is wearing today is the unit crest of Special Forces. On one of the first days that I checked into the 8th Group as a young lieutenant, an old seargent who had lines on his face from Korea and Vietnam as well as who knew where else asked me if I knew and understood what the motto was. DE OPPRESSO LIBER which translate to ‘free the oppressed.’ He said this is not a job but a life calling. For who knows what reason that has stayed with me my entire life and in one form or another I have gravitated towards those arenas.
I always thought the oppressor was communism or some other totalitarian regime. But that is not true. We, the United States of America are the single largest oppressor in the world. We live off of the blood like leaches of those we throw in prison and going to prison is a life sentence that haunts you in every way till you go to your grave.
The state of Florida does the best job of this than any state in the nation. It has a higher incarceration rate than the US as a whole which has the highest incarceration in the world. No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, our country has less than 5 percent of the worlds population with about 25 percent of the incarcerated.
However, it gets better. When a woman goes to prison, the statistics are that she is the primary caregiver with an average of 2.43 kids of which 50 percent will be under 10 years of age. Statically, 70 percent of those kids will go to prison. That means there are thousands of kids being born into this the ‘home of the free in the land of the brave’ headed to prison. Not because they are bad but because that is the destiny we have carved out for them.
So, you think everyone sent to prison deserves to be there. No question that there are some that do and for sure I am glad that they are but contemplate this. According to the Innocence Project, as of 2003, 132 people sentenced to death had been exonerated. Now, we are talking of men and women sentenced to death for murder. This is where the criminal justice system is at its best. Just think of how many are in prison where the criminal justice system is not at its best.
The last thought I had along this line was also one of sparks that ignited the revolution. In Florida, ex-offenders are denied the privilege of voting yet they have to pay taxes. As I remember the Boston Tea Party, this was a big issue. What Florida has done is to regulate over one million men and women to a life of servitude once they leave prison. We are not counting the 100,000 plus that are still in prison and getting used to the idea of a life time of servitude.
Needless to say, I was as hot as the Dragon Princess’s tail pipes when approaching the national cematary in Bushnell. Nothing will bring you back to reality as fast has having to switch to the reserve fuel supply on the motorcycle. This I did as we approached the entrance to the cematary.
For me, a National Cemetery is a place to rest the mind. Time stops for an eternity. It is the place the horror and trauma that lead to so many deaths of those that believed they were fighting for a country that was the ‘home of the free and the land of the brave.’ A land where everyone has an equal chance in the pursuit of happiness. Where mistakes are not a life sentence.
While resting on a bench in the shade had the opportunity to witness one of the most touching scenes of my life. It was of an old woman who was getting out of her car assisted by what appeared to be her daughter. She was having a hard time walking the walker through the grass to a grave of someone that must have been very important to them. When they got there, she sat on the walker while the daughter put flowers and a flag on the grave. Felt like an intruder on someone’s grief. Then I looked around again with new eyes and saw so few that had come to render homage to those that that had died so that they may live freely in the Home of the Free and Land of the Brave.
As I was pulling out of the shade and leaving the cemetery, noticed that of the maybe 20 cars of visitors, there was only one that had Florida tags. It hit me that the state of Florida will never have the equivalent of Ladies of Arlington Never Miss Final Salute . I guess is there is a final consolation; it would be that these men and women have found a peaceful resting place here for an eternity that they never knew in the last moments of their life.
On leaving the cemetery, my mind was jerked back to a reality. If I did not get gas and get it soon, I would be hoofing it to a gas station not only to buy gas but buy a container to carry it in. Came upon a Wal-Mart gas station and a piece of my world got clarity. I now know why Wal-Mart could never get a gas station in Gainesville. They would drive a host of local gas stations out of business. In fact, across the street, there was a BP station that had closed shop and if memory serves me correct, there was another that was advertising regular at $3.01 a gallon without a car in the pump line.
PS: There is a sort of surreal atmosphere in a town where the economic engines are education, medicine and government. The price of a gallon of gas was $3.41 when I returned. Needless to say, the last thing I do prior to any trip out of Gainesville is fill up my tank prior to entering what I call an island of price gauging.
As I was filling my gas tank, my stomach started rumbling and remembered there was an IHOP in a couple of exits north. The one thing I could count on is that no matter where you are in the nation, there is a tolerable hamburger and coffee to be had there. My custom is never to go into an eatery in a strange town without a local paper. The headlines were: Council members vote to cut pay by 10 percent. It was just a couple of days ago that I saw another headline: White House payroll grown since last year. Of course this was released after 1600 on a Friday. Talk about being out of touch with the nation. Both the state and national legislatures will get their bumps and perks as well. It appears as if our future is about to tank with such thoughtful exploitation by our leaders.
Once back in Gainesville, stopped by Panera for a mango smoothie. As I was sitting under the shade outside watching the college kids come and go, a thought came into my head while the guys with attitude walked in and out. Gen. Patton’s speech that I have seen and heard many but many times while it was being shown to recruits back in the 70s. Wondered how these kids that had never known adversity would hold up when the chips were down. Then no sooner than the thought occurred to me that I wished they would never have to find out: .Patton’s speech given to the 3rd army
The Gainesville VA is one of the largest in the county. Off and on for maybe a decade plus I have been teaching there. Walking in the halls is like walking in a tumb watching the ghosts from wars gone by like The Hollow Men . We are so quick to give them the way when the bullets are beating on the green but let the bullets stop and we regulate them to the trash heaps with substandard care.
There have been enough dead and they are still dying in parts of the world most American’s have never heard of and could care less about. Without a doubt, there is an Angel Flight coming home as the picnics, beer and fireworks flow today.