Of Critical Mass and Open Borders

Critical mass and open borders are not terms you might expect to see paired as they are here.  After all, critical mass is a term customarily related to nuclear bombs.  No! I am not proposing nuking the borders or caravans. I am, however, about to argue the situation at the border is a societal problem that could be as devastating in some ways as nuclear war.

If you are still reading, there are likely one of two reasons. First, you may be wanting to see if I can support my last statement.  Second, you are waiting to see how big a fool or nut case I am.  Either way, thanks for sticking around.

At one time, I could assume most people reading this would understand the term critical mass.  Unfortunately, that is not the case today.  Whether one blames the lack of knowledge on changes in educational emphasis or the amount of time students today spend on social media, an understanding of science is not a high priority in the modern world.

The term critical mass came from the world of physics and was first used, according to one source, in 1945.  At that point, it referred to the amount of nuclear material needed to begin the process of nuclear fission. Then, scientists were talking about the tipping point beyond which an atomic reaction became uncontrollable. In other words, when an atomic bomb might go boom. In less explosive terms, it is the point at which one kind of matter or another overcomes the constraints placed upon it by other forces.

For instance, think of a dam, levee, waterway or flood control channel. Anyone living near or downstream from something of this nature should understand they are designed to control a particular kind of matter; water. The residents in those areas should also understand the possibility of the water achieving critical mass is real. If that happens, the results can be catastrophic.

A dam can fail, the levee can break, or the flood channel can overflow.  The result, as many discovered during Hurricane Harvey and the massive flooding in other parts of the country this past winter, can be devastating.

Even if the dam or other barrier is not allowed to fail, the necessity of keeping the amount of water below the point of critical mass can wreak havoc.  Just ask the folks living downstream from the Lake Conroe dam outside of Houston. There, officials were forced to open floodgates in the dam to avoid it collapsing due to the mass of water behind it.

So, you say, what do nuclear material or water have to do with the border? I am so glad you asked.

In their natural state, uranium and water are merely part of the environment in which we live. Both can be dangerous in some circumstances, but, for the most part, every human on this planet is exposed to these elements daily, with no ill effects.  They are only dangerous under specific circumstances, concentrations or amounts (masses), which brings me back to the border.

Immigration, legal, illegal, intentional, accidental, or whatever, is not necessarily dangerous in the short term.  However, as with water and uranium, as the mass (of immigrants) increases the more unstable the situation (society) can become.

Think back to the question of the water behind a dam.  The dam has no problem holding the water back daily.  Even when it rains for a few days, most such barriers continue to function normally.  The problem arises when a deluge comes and continues.  Eventually, water will need to be released in quantities so large homes, and land below the dam are endangered or damaged. Worse, in spite of the efforts to control the mass, the dam may collapse, and everything below it is swept away.

As with any simile or allegory, the water and uranium comparison begins to break down at some point.  The border, walled or otherwise, is not a dam.  The immigrants are not water or nuclear material.  On the other hand, the impact the immigrants will eventually have on the United States unless something is done will be just as damaging to the economy, society, and to the lives of all who live in this country as flood waters and explosions are to the physical world.

Critical mass as it applies to immigration will be when the number of people entering the country, legally or illegally, is so high, they can lawfully or unlawfully control the civil processes driving society. Public school systems and publicly supported health care are already challenged by the needs of the resident population.  Adding hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of immigrants who, in many cases, cannot support themselves to the mix will make the challenges even more significant.

Yes, the country as it exists today would not exist if it had not been for immigration. From the original immigrants to those forced to immigrate against their will to those who fled the horrors of two world wars, immigrants played an integral part in the development of the United States. With that said, believing current and future immigration will play a similar role in the country is unrealistic.

In past generations, immigrants could be self-sufficient much more quickly than today.  A farmer from Russia, a cobbler from Europe, a seamstress from France, a baker from Germany, a butcher from Poland, or an artisan from Spain could find work or start a business. The country was growing, needs were expanding, and land was plentiful. From sharecroppers to wheelwrights, it was possible for an immigrant to provide for a family, and survive. Today that is not the case.

Today, immigrants and refugees can find themselves dependent on government and charitable support for survival. As more and more arrive, the number depending on government assistance becomes greater. At some point, the socio-economic imbalance will overwhelm the systems, and implosion will occur.

At that point, as with the dam simile, it will make little difference which side of the issue one finds him or herself. Chaos and disaster will be just one mistake, one unexpected problem away.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Politics, National Defense, Daily Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Just for the fun of it: A Battle Revisited!

The fun thing about pretending to be a writer is the various ways one can say I’m sorry, thank you, or way to go scout. Today I am altering my publication schedule to do all three. First, an apology for not sending a happy birthday message to my Austin grandson, Ryan, on his birthday.

Happy Birthday Ryan, a day late.  And, while I am at it, thank you for putting up with us when Gram and I kick you out of your game room to visit.  Also, way to go scout! At your age, I was working part-time in a warehouse, and here you are a successful entrepreneur with some of your buddies working for you.  Finally, you’ve proved more than once you have the will to succeed, even when the odds are stacked against you!

So, there is my mia culpa. Now, on to one of the privileges of being a grandfather, embarrassing the grandkids.  Accordingly, the link below will take you to one of my early posts on this site.  It is the riveting tale of all-out war between a bunch of preteen boys, and some old geezers who should have known better.

The Battle of Dripping Springs

Posted in Daily Life, Family Vaules, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An Unexpected Reunion

Run Silent, Run Deep” was a Veteran’s Day homage of sorts to those who served and their families. Using the stories of my father and brother as examples, I hoped to raise awareness of the problems veterans and their families sometimes face.  Their stories played into that piece perfectly, and I thought that would be the last time they would appear together in An Old Cop’s Place.  It turned out, I was mistaken.

The problem was my failure to factor in the Jackson family phenomenon. We, past, present, and likely future tend to complicate everything beyond the norm. For us, matters which are already confusing, divorce, new relationships, building futures, can become ridiculously convoluted. Consider what should have been a rather ordinary ending for the first Jackson family.

Initially, it seemed to be a straightforward middle-age crisis story.  A husband becomes infatuated with a younger woman and fantasizes about starting a new family.  One thing leads to another, a divorce ensues, and the middle-aged Romeo heads off to begin his new life. Sound familiar?  Well, that scenario was way too commonplace for the Jackson clan.

Technically and legally, the original Jackson family dissolved in the manner noted above.   The reality, however, was messy and confusing to all involved. Thankfully, the details of the saga are unimportant. I bring the matter up merely to lay a bit of groundwork for how the story played out. For example, when the dust settled, mom and I were still in Texas, while my younger brother was in Indiana with dad and his new wife.

In most families, the future relationships of the people involved follow fairly standard paths. The former spouses might have a somewhat cordial relationship, the children would remain connected, the new wife and new siblings would be integrated into the lineage in some fashion and life would go on.  Again, not for this family.

First, dear old dad and the first Mrs. Jackson never wholly separated. They maintained an under the radar relationship for years. Dad kept mom informed about his life, his new kids, and just about everything else. He resisted any effort mom made to move on, especially if another man was involved. Thank goodness they were separated by 900 or so miles.  Otherwise, the matter might have become even more complex and disturbing.

Looking back from today, the situation is somewhat amusing. In fact, it could be the basis for a heck of a sitcom on one of the subscription television services. Still, there was one aspect of it that was not in the least amusing, regardless of one’s sense of humor.  The day David, his new stepmother, and our father left Texas for Indiana was the last time I saw my brother alive, which brings me back to the primary reason for sharing this.

David Charles Marshall Jackson died February 26, 1969, as the result of hostile action in Vietnam.  Our father, Ralph Marshall Jackson, died in McAllen, Texas of multiple health-related issues almost two decades later, February 23, 1987. I cannot swear there is any significance to dad passing nearly eighteen years to the day from David becoming a casualty of the war.  I can say, my brothers from Ralph’s second family feel our dad never forgave himself for encouraging David to enlist in the army.  Perhaps his failed second marriage, his failing health, and survivor’s guilt finally got the best of him.  Whatever the reality, some might consider it more than a coincidence.

Coincidence or not, their deaths and the handling of their deaths relate back to what I said above. Jackson’s never do anything the easy way.  For example, David’s death in combat set the military’s notification protocols into motion.  Of course, good old dad could not let things play out for us as they did for the tens of thousands of other families losing loved ones during Vietnam.  Somehow, he got a jump on the process, leading to an uncomfortable situation.

The usual process is for parents and other family members to be advised of a military death by members of the military. These men and women are trained, to a degree at least, to make such notifications.  Their job is to officially notify the family members, then advise them of options, plans, assistance available, and help the family deal with the shock of the moment. Again, that was not good enough for our crew.

Instead, my father called me at work. I knew immediately it was something unusual, as he and I never talked in those days.  He brought me up to speed and told me I needed to get to mom before the notification team. He wanted me to tell her what happened, not a couple of soldiers.

I realize he was trying to make certain mom was not alone with a couple of folks she did not know when she received horrific news.  Still, asking me to break the news to her was a bit much.  David was her baby! She’d lost him a few years earlier due to her husband’s infidelity and manipulative behavior. Now, he was dead!

Later in life, as a police officer, I notified many parents or other loved ones about a death. In “Ghosts of Christmas Past,” I told the tale of a family attempting to pick up grandma on the way to a family Christmas gathering.  When she did not answer the door, the fire department and I forced our way into the house to check on her.  If you think walking back outside and confirming to a family their grandma had passed was uncomfortable, imagine what it was like to walk into my mother’s home and drop the bombshell her baby was killed in Vietnam.  I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

Thankfully, that was the only unusual aspect of dealing with David’s death. His body made it safely home and he received a property military funeral. Our dad, on the other hand, had anything but a routine transition from life to afterlife.

His death was not totally unexpected.  He’d been in poor health for some time.  Then, he and my oldest younger brother almost died in a severe traffic accident.  Given his already poor health, I don’t know if dad ever fully recovered from the wreck. If that were not enough, he’d lost his second wife and daughter to divorce, and his younger son had moved away to go to school. No, his death was not that unexpected or unusual. The aftermath, on the other hand, was vintage Jackson.

There was no service, at least as far as I know.  He was cremated, and as far as I could tell there were no plans on what to do with his ashes.  In fact, when I inquired about his cremains later, I was told they were misplaced.  I have no idea how this happened, but to me, it was merely another example of what one might call the Jackson phenomenon.  At some point in the process of moving on with their lives, someone packed the urn and stored it. To be fair the family was going in three different directions, and dad apparently got lost in the shuffle.

I am happy to say the urn was relocated in a few years.  Unfortunately, all the paperwork relating to his death had disappeared, and it is not possible to legally bury someone’s cremains without the proper documentation.  Eventually, we secured the proper documentation through the Texas Department of Vital Statistics.

Monday, April 8, 2019, on the 99th anniversary of his birth, Ralph Marshall Jackson was finally laid to rest. Of course, in keeping with the Jackson phenomenon, his burial was not without its own head-scratching aspects.

First, dad is sharing David’s gravesite. Second, he and David are immediately adjacent to the first Mrs. Jackson’s grave and I will eventually be buried in the next plot over. So, fifty years or so after bugging out, he is back with us. Second, some religious traditions hold one’s soul is trapped on earth or someplace between heaven and earth until the body is properly buried. I have no idea if there is any validity to such a claim.  If there is, however, dad has or will check in somewhere in the afterlife. If mom is nearby, he may get an earful.

At some point in the future, perhaps I’ll be joining them. If so, I may have a couple of things to say, and I’ll be interested in knowing how the reunion went.

Until then, may they rest in peace.

© onoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Daily Life, Family Vaules, infidelity, Morality, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Incoming!

“INCOMING!” is the last thing anyone wants to hear in a war zone. It means you have seconds to find cover before the stuff hits the fan. In the modern world, outside of the numerous battle zones spread across the globe, incoming, as it is used here, means something a bit less dangerous, but in some ways almost as concerning.

People today are continually being bombarded in ways their parents, grandparents, even soldiers in a battle zone might find disconcerting. They are bombarded by telephone calls, text messages, alerts from their smart devices, motion alerts from their doorbells, security cameras, and their car’s lane departure alarm, just to name a few. If those are not bad enough, Siri, Alexa, Echo, and who knows what are listening to every sound, and may respond in distracting, even confusing ways.

Perhaps fortunately, the human mind is quite adaptable. I say perhaps fortunately because how the mind adapts may not always be positive. Take for example the lead character in the movie “The Hurt Locker.” He became so energized by the serious, and dangerous, nature of his work, it made the rest of life pale in comparison. Accordingly, he took chances he needn’t take, and when given the opportunity to live a normal life returned to the battlefield.

Yes, soldiers can become so attuned to the battlefield they find normal life almost unbearable. If anyone doubts that, do an internet search for suicide rates among veterans. No one can say for sure why it is high, but the odds are the transition to civilian life leaves them empty in a way most of us cannot imagine.

The rest of us, unfortunately, can suffer similar, if less serious issues. We can become so attuned to the constant barrage of distractions, disturbances, and opportunities to immerse ourselves in the plethora of stimuli surrounding us we lose touch with the more critical aspects of life. If we’re lucky, our reaction is not as dangerous as what veterans face, but the suicide rate among all age groups is increasing at what should be an alarming rate.

It would be appropriate now to wonder if this piece is another example of chicken-little syndrome. After all, depending on the so-called authority making the charge, everything we have taken for granted in years past is deadly. From climate change to vaccines, the world as we know it is in peril. At least, in the minds of many people.

Alarmism or fearmongering is a concern in the world of social media and twenty-four-hour news. Yet, all one needs to do is observe those around them to know there is reason for concern in the area of overstimulation. Consider the following bits of anecdotal data.

In the United States at least, we have become so comfortable with being overstimulated we have trouble relaxing. Otherwise normal adults will admit if pressed, they are not comfortable doing just one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has become the non-narcotic addiction of the modern era.

That is why movie theaters have rules and incentives to curtail the use of handheld devices during the feature. It is why some people will admit they cannot merely watch television. They must be playing a game on their computer as well. In some cases, if we are honest, we spend time with loved ones watching television while browsing the web, playing Free Cell, or researching the actors playing various roles in the program we are allegedly watching.

If spending time with another person while watching television and playing a computer game is not enough of a drain on our psyches, our environments offer other potential distractions or sensory overload possibilities. Imagine you are playing back one of your favorite television shows. Of course, you are keeping the remote handy, so you can fast forward through commercials.

Simultaneously, you are playing Texas Hold-em on your tablet. Additionally, your home monitoring system beeps, chimes or whatever any time a large vehicle drives down the street or the neighbor’s dog runs through your yard. If that were not enough, one of your AI devices or systems breaks in intermittently to announce “Invalid Number” is calling.

Whew! Just writing the last few paragraphs made me feel the need for some form of mood-altering medication. Or, it could be I am feeling a bit too focused at the moment. After all, it is hard, not impossible, but hard to multi-task while writing something like this. I did get a slight break a few paragraphs ago when I researched suicide rates to verify I was not off base in my assertions.

Oops, my phone just told me its time to take my medication.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Daily Life, Family Vaules, Progress, social media | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Once Upon a Time…the news

In spite of the title, this is not a fairy tale. Though, it might fall into the horror genre if it were a work of fiction. It begins with the tragic death of eighteen young servicemen in 1958 and ends with a sad commentary on the condition of the world in which we live.

It was Thursday, March 27, 1958, when the lives of eighteen members of the United States armed forces came to a horrifying end on Texas farmland. Reports concerning the incident indicate it was an overcast day with low hanging clouds and limited visibility. One of the planes reportedly deviated from its assigned altitude and collided with the second plane.

I remember this tragedy for various reasons. Most important, to me at least, my dad was the first television station reporter to make it to the crash site. His film of the incident was the first to be broadcast locally, and some of the story was sold to ABC television and Movietone News. Dad was sort of famous for a minute or two.

My dad’s short-lived, local fame is not the important part of this story. The servicemen killed in the crash were important, especially to their families, but even they are not the important part of this story. The important part is what did not happen as a result of this incident.

Two military aircraft collided over a north Texas town with debris almost killing a local farmer while he was plowing a field. Eighteen young men in various branches of the service were killed, and the incident made the national, possibly world, news as Movietone was shown all over the world in those days. It was a big deal in some ways, but once the news footage had been seen, the story went away.

There were no congressional committees. There was no continuous coverage of grieving parents demanding answers from authorities. There were no tabloid stories of foreign plots, suicidal pilots, or conspiracy theories. There was simply a news report, with the facts of what happened. There was no ill-conceived late night comedy skit about the tragedy, and no op-ed pieces seeking to blame one political group or another for the event.

With that said, let me move to 2019. This tragedy, and resulting lack of hubbub at the time, all came back to me the other day during my treadmill time. As is my practice, I was watching several morning “news” programs while working out. During a commercial break, an ad I ignored in the past caught my attention. The actors in the ad were touting the fact this was a new form of news delivery and was news from all sides.

I have no idea why I flashed back to the 1958 airplane crash. For whatever reason I did, and it was, in my mind at least, a stark comparison to what passes for news today. Added to the idea, that an online news source is claiming to provide news from all sides, one should be able to see the problem the United States and the world face today.

As a tweet I noticed while researching this piece stated, “News has no sides.” Ideally, news should be the accurate reporting of what happened. That is no longer the case. I can only imagine what the coverage of the crash above might have sounded like if it had occurred today.

One reporter would comment that the racial and gender imbalance of the victims was likely due to unpopular policies established by a fascist command structure. Another might have noted the C124 was built by Douglas Aircraft Company, which had an ongoing dispute with its unions. Someone else would pick up that bit of information, and postulate the dispute might have led to sabotage or shoddy work.

Another might report the builder of the C119, Fairchild Aircraft, was possibly being investigated for supplying substandard electronics to repair facilities. Of course, someone would have pointed out the weather was sub-optimal and the planes were only being flown in such conditions to support the military-industrial complex which was orchestrating the unrest in certain parts of the world.

We live in a world today where journalism is simply another form of creative writing. Instead of reporting the facts of a matter, journalists now tell stories that may include factual data, but also include their analyses and unconfirmed information from third-party sources. Additionally, as we now know from the confession of more than one writer or source, some so-called news is almost completely fabricated.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Journalism, Politics, social media, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living With the Past?

On this date fifty years ago, David Charles Marshall Jackson took his last breath. He was one of thirteen men who lost their lives on that nasty February night.1

For most of the country, they are a handful of names among the more than 58,000 inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial, soldiers only a few remember. For a few others, including this writer, they are more.

Those thirteen men included brothers, sons, friends, drinking buddies, and maybe fathers. The oldest was thirty-one, the youngest eighteen. It is certain they all looked forward to life after Vietnam.

Whether they looked forward to seeing loved ones, starting careers, a career in the Army, starting families, or just hanging out at the local bar having a cold one, they had dreams. Those dreams and the dreams of the those they left at home died that night. I know. David was my little brother.

David dreamed of coming home and starting a family. His mom dreamed of having her younger son back in the United States and not fearing every unexpected knock at the door.  I dreamed of getting to know the man my snot-nosed kid brother grew into after moving with our dad years before.

I am confident the others who died that night, as well as the ones they left behind, had similar dreams. However, this piece is not being written exclusively in memory of David, his fallen comrades, or the loss their families suffered. This piece is being written for the veterans who made it home and may still be dealing with the loss of the thirteen remembered here or some of the other 52,000 names on that wall.

Many of the names on the Vietnam memorial are little more than fading or faded memories. Friends have moved on, parents have died, siblings have allowed their memories to disappear because they are painful or were replaced by other losses and challenges.

For some, that is the only way to deal with the loss. They hide it or stuff it in the back of the mind to be remembered once a year, if that often. For others, those names and faces may never really fade. For them, a regular everyday activity may bring back the memory of a smiling face in a faded photograph hidden away in the attic. In some cases, those memories are a comfort. In others, they bring guilt, loss, or emptiness.

Over the years I have been honored to work with or know many combat veterans. Over that time, I have come to know their stories, their challenges, and the pain some carry with them decades later. I have written about this before, most recently in One Day at a Time, and today I feel the need to make one more point.

If David and many others on that wall, could talk to us today they would say something short and to the point. They would appreciate being remembered, but they might be concerned if their loss was still causing feelings of guilt and pain after all these years.

David and the others on the wall would tell friends and family to quit remembering what happened to them. Instead, remember them the way they were the last time they shared drinks, swapped lies, or made jokes about some hotshot young officer.

 


  1. For more about that night, see Lest We Forget and Run Silent, Run Deep

 

© OneOldCop.com – 2019

Posted in National Defense, Patriotism, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , ,

Holy (sounding) Crap!

One of my former theology professors might take umbrage at the title of this piece. As I wrote some time ago, the professor had a problem with slang and euphemisms. Still, there are times when one needs to make a point, and this is one of those times.

Both of my writing personas are a bit put out with the pious, judgmental online finger pointing by some who call themselves Christian. To be specific, these are the folks who post or share memes, snarky comments, and outright criticism of other Christians who disagree with them over social and political issues. While this is in no way a new phenomenon, it is frustrating. In fact, I touched on this matter some years ago in a piece dealing with taxes.

That piece was inspired by people accusing Christians of being hypocrites or worse if they objected to the government taxing them to “help the poor and needy.” A later post, comparing Jesus to middle eastern refugees was inspired by similar attacks on Christians opposed to open borders, chain migration, and accepting asylum seekers who could not be vetted.

Today, some on the left are again attacking Christians who oppose the open borders philosophy being pushed by many so-called progressives. In this case, the critics are using the crisis caused by thousands of Central Americans attempting to force their way into the United States along our southern border. Those in favor of such uncontrolled immigration, or just opposed to anything one might consider conservative, are once again distorting scripture and casting stones at those who believe borders should be secure.

Usually, the best way to deal with such social media criticism is to ignore it. Or, as a last resort, quit following or unfriend the offending source. In this case, it seems ignoring the catcalls and derision is not an adequate way to address the issue.

To be clear, the Bible states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV) That can mean one should simply turn the other cheek to such attacks, simply walk away, or click the “unfriend” icon. In the cases inspiring this piece, that does not seem appropriate.

Many of those attacking opponents to open immigration are claiming to be Christian. Not only are they claiming to be, or implying they are, Christians, some are members of the clergy in one form or another. With that said, this writer has no problem with someone standing in his or her pulpit stating an opinion on an issue that might be considered political.

Pastors regularly stand up against abortion, and that, to much of the world, is a political or societal issue, not a religious issue. On the other hand, a pastor, lay or ordained, a priest, or theologian saying or posting remarks questioning another’s faith over a political issue such as immigration is a bit much. No! It is more than just a bit much. It is a bit of holy sounding crap.

Take for example one of the posts that was the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back and inspiring this piece. “Real Christians would be waiting for the caravan with food, water, clothing, and offering any help needed.” This post, by someone who apparently spends more time on social media than most people spend at their jobs, was shared over 100K times and garnered more than 800 comments. A sampling of the comments seemed to indicate most were just as mocking of Christians as the author intended. Funny though. None of the comments and nothing else one can find on social media suggests anyone in this gaggle of trolls packed up and headed to the border, with or without food and water.

My rather long-winded point is this. The author of this comment, the person who brought his post to my attention, and many others are quick to condemn anyone thinking open borders is a problem. If the person in favor of controlled immigration is a Christian, open border advocates are quick to label the Christian a hypocrite or worse. Yet, as far as it is possible to determine in this situation, they do little more than share inflammatory posts, push their particular view of Scripture, and look down their noses at anyone who disagrees with them.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

Posted in Christianity, Civility, Daily Life, Politics, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments