Sunday, March 09, 2008

PHANTOM EDIFICE SYNDROME by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"


John Hathaway of Clark, NJ, a member of our Army Security Agency Kagnew Station Guard Group, recently posted photos he had taken at Ground Zero, site of the 9-11 World Trade Center Disaster.

Viewing John's Ground Zero Photos has triggered a nostalgia within me that's been buried for more than 20 years. Seeing those photos, and the noticeable absence of what had been a major part of my life for so many years, has made me realize that I'm suffering from repressed "Phantom Edifice Syndrome."

I lived in Jersey City, NJ, from Christmas Eve 1982 until August 1988. From the window of my third floor apartment, I had a direct, uninterrupted view of World Trade Center One where it majestically dominated the New York City skyline. It was also my daily destination.

Each morning I would strap on a 40 pound backpack (my office in a bag), run one and one-half miles, dodging heavy morning traffic, to the Journal Square PATH train station to enter one of the commuter-jammed trains destined for the WTC subterranean grotto, seven stories below ground level.

The moment the train doors opened, like racetrack starting gates, tens of hundreds of us would stream out onto the Lower Level to race toward the steep-inclined escalators that would carry us seven stories up to the Main Concourse that appeared to be miles above us.

A few of us who had, by then, become familiar faces to one another, would opt to run up the stairs, two and three at a time, in a daily race whose sole prize was to be First to the Top of the Stairs.

The return home, at day's end, provided a much more formidable challenge. It was easier, by far, to run up seven stories of stairs than to run down them, especially when sprinting at top speed with a 40 pound backpack affecting my center of gravity and balance.

On this run, I had no challengers; I ran alone.

The World Trade Center was, for me, my personal playground, unlike any other. The excitement, exhiliration, and euphoria of that daily challenge, during that wonderful era of my life, remains with me to this day as kinesthetic memories that are indelibly etched within the essence of my being.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hubris, We Thought You Were Our Friend?

Col. Charles F. Hurlbut II (photo), is a former U.S. Army Security Agency Provost Marshal. He and his lovely wife, Ida, reside in Virginia in active retirement. From the vantage point of his distinguished career,and high-level duty assignments, which allowed him to observe, first-hand, the genesis of the myriad problems that beset America today, Col. Hurlbut speaks to us with the authority of one who has "been there, done that." - Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"
"My views as expressed here may not square with those of many of you, which is okay, for they may not be how many Americans see our country's situation today, but they honestly reflect my views at this time."

Chuck Hurlbut

Most people agree that America is in a terrible funk: our standing in the world is the lowest ever; the economy is tanking; governments, at all levels, seem incapable of effectively dealing with the challenges they face; the war in Iraq which most Americans do not support is costing us dearly in the lives of our young and billions of dollars of borrowed money; people, along with businesses and governments, are behaving irresponsibly by spending more money than they have; and rising energy prices conflict with our predisposition for gluttony. How can this all be? How is it that the most powerful and prosperous country ever on the face of the earth can be confronted by such a perfect storm of adverse circumstances?

Can't we easily, with our extraordinary American know-how, overcome any obstacle in our path? After all, we are the country that invented powered flight, the atomic bomb, the microchip, the Internet, the hoola hoop and the drive-in root beer stand. We won World War II and then revitalized and resurrected Europe with the Marshall Plan. After the War, we refocused our energies and talents on improving the standard of living for all Americans, and when some Americans were left behind and didn't share in the prosperity we introduced Great Society programs to economically and educationally uplift them and bring them into society's mainstream. Aren't we, after all, the chosen ones like our politicians like to remind us? Why, then, are we beset with the problems we have today?

Prior to World War II, America wasn't the supremely confident nation that she became and remained until very recently. We thought it was entirely possible that the war might be lost and our way of life unalterably changed. We were not at all confident and didn't take success for granted. We, therefore, channeled our energies in a highly focused manner and worked as one to assure success and the preservation of our American way of life. However, our greatest accomplishment, winning the war, also placed us on the path that's led us to where we are today. Our success in World War II, that came at an enormous personal and economic price with over 400,000 Americans dead and millions of others wounded, led us to believe in our own invincibility and infallibility.

Each of the past three generations, following the one we call the "Greatest Generation," has become increasingly convinced of America's moral and spiritual superiority and rectitude. To be sure, there have always been the sane and wise among us who have counseled us against our imprudent and self-destructive ways, but they've been relatively small in number and easily ignored and dismissed.

Ominous storm clouds first began to gather when we ignored the lessons of the Korean conflict. Limits to our military power became evident then, our perceived omnipotence constrained by the fact that we were not the only holders of the atomic trump card.

We continued our inclination to underestimate and under assess our adversary in the Vietnam war. We looked upon them as a nation of rice farmers and tree dwellers who would be awed by our superior power and intellect and would see the wisdom of following our guidance. Of course, we subsequently learned the error of our thinking when the sons and daughters of those who escaped from Vietnam in 1975 and settled in the U.S. went on to become the valedictorians of their high school classes.

We learned the hard way that the North Vietnamese were a far more resourceful, resilient, capable and sophisticated foe than we had any idea. Their abilities to intercept, decode and then act upon our tactical and strategic communications always exceeded our assessment of them and left us astounded when we ultimately learned of their capabilities.

There are countless other examples of our exuberant hubris, but I think the point has been made.

The American public is only partly to blame for all the problems stemming from this affliction. Our political leaders, not many of distinction, have fostered and cultivated this mentality for decades, but those presently in power are the worst offenders.

It's easy for the privileged and comfortable to see themselves and the country as an island of paradise amongst an archipelago of barren waste. Unfortunately, their lack of intellect, judgment, and common sense, are driving this country at an increasing
speed over a cliff that is coming closer and closer.

Those of us who are fond of studying Abraham Lincoln yearn for the day when another leader of his caliber will step forth and lead us in a positive direction. It had best happen soon, for there's precious little time to waste.