(Born into an automotive fortune), Erik Prince, with three older sisters, was a hardworking boy, an athlete whose straight-arrow ways amazed classmates. Even at Holland Christian High, he stood out. He neither drank nor smoked. While friends flashed new-wave haircuts or mullets in the 1980s, he was one of two boys pictured in his senior yearbook with a crew cut.
…After graduating, Prince headed to the U.S. Naval Academy, only to quit after three semesters. He told friends he was disappointed in the maturity and morality of his fellow midshipmen.
“I know when he got back, he said that he thought everybody at the academy would just bleed red, white and blue like he did,” the former coach, Heethuis said. “But he found out some people were just there for a free education.”
Prince landed an internship in the early 1990s in the White House under then-President George Bush. Again, he was disappointed.
He later told the Grand Rapids Press: “I saw a lot of things I didn’t agree with — homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kinds of bills.”
I have a mantra that I use sometimes; I devised it when I was living in Indiana, and had to keep a straight face when, for instance, my neighbor said he was moving to the suburbs so his children wouldn’t be subjected to “outcome-based education” in Fort Wayne schools. I’d say to myself: “Everyone travels a different path to this moment in time. People see different things along the way, which may lead them to different conclusions about how the world works. Their path is not my path, and I respect their right to travel it and make up their own minds.”
Repeated inside one’s head, perhaps with a nod and smile, it makes for far smoother relations in life than going with a knee-jerk, “God, you are so full of shit.” And the thing is, I really believe it. I know some of you who disagree with me might believe I tip a little too far into the you-are-so-full-of-shit direction, but in my heart of hearts, I think this country is big enough for all of us, and is, in fact, better for it. Viva diversity, all diversity. Honest: I don’t want to live in a world where everyone agrees with me.
Only sometimes do I despair. The profile of Erik Prince quoted above was one such moment. I had to sit for a long time digesting it before I came up with something good to say about this son of privilege who grew up to be some sort of patriotic robo-monster, a boy who scorned his Naval Academy classmates for being there for “the free education” — It’s always the rich ones who don’t know what education is worth, isn’t it? — who then went on to raise a mercenary army where the warriors are paid in the neighborhood of $100K (but aren’t in it for the money, “just loyal Americans who ‘bleed red, white and blue.'”). And it was this: Well, at least he didn’t go the George Bush route.
If Erik Prince’s private jet — I’m assuming Blackwater has one — went down today, his obituaries would be respectful and, in some circles anyway, even reverent. A son of privilege who nevertheless worked hard, achieved much, gave much back, he’d be lionized as the best America has to give to the world. Even though, for all his fine qualities, he seems to have developed ideas that are nothing short of un-American.
That America should fight wars with soldiers for hire, for starters. There’s a reason our professional soldier class is small, and works for respect and glory, not money. There’s a reason mercenaries get the same respect as prostitutes. There’s a reason “war profiteer” isn’t a term of endearment.
That making policy means getting your way, every time. I love these guys, the sorts who carry a copy of the Constitution in their back pockets, and forget what it took to write the thing, i.e., compromise. Then it meant fighting over a bicameral legislature. Today it means meeting with gay-rights groups and crafting budget deals. Same idea — consensus. Winning an election doesn’t mean ignoring the people in the country who didn’t vote for your guy.
Among other things.
I notice the Freep reader comments quickly turned up a you-can’t-HANDLE-the-truth contingent, which may be about the only defense of this outfit one can make. Dream of an America that takes its warmaking seriously enough to ask sacrifice from everyone, of one that doesn’t torture or tolerate civilian “contractors” who shoot civilians, and you get a sneer and a wave-off.
Everyone travels a different path to this moment in time. People see different things along the way, which may lead them to different conclusions about how the world works. Their path is not my path, and I respect their right to travel it and make up their own minds.
Eh. It was that kind of morning. The Prince story was the first thing I read. The second was on Page One of the NYT, about the puzzling, seemingly inexplicable rise of rape as a weapon of terror in eastern Congo. Warning: Do not read after a recent breakfast. And why is it happening? Well, shit happens, and then it happens again:
Many Congolese aid workers denied that the problem was cultural and insisted that the widespread rapes were not the product of something ingrained in the way men treated women in Congolese society. “If that were the case, this would have showed up long ago,” said Wilhelmine Ntakebuka, who coordinates a sexual violence program in Bukavu.
Instead, she said, the epidemic of rapes seems to have started in the mid-1990s. That coincides with the waves of Hutu militiamen who escaped into Congo’s forests after exterminating 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during Rwanda’s genocide 13 years ago.
Mr. Holmes said that while government troops might have raped thousands of women, the most vicious attacks had been carried out by Hutu militias.
“These are people who were involved with the genocide and have been psychologically destroyed by it,” he said.
Mr. Bourque called this phenomenon “reversed values” and said it could develop in heavily traumatized areas that had been steeped in conflict for many years, like eastern Congo.
After this, I was tempted to go back to bed. But then I read this story, which made me no more optimistic about the state of the world, but at least had an element of grim humor in it. Only in Ann Arbor:
Last month, about 1,100 members of the (People’s Food Co-op) voted on a proposal that, if approved, would ban the store from selling goods from Israel. The results are to be released Thursday after a year of debate across metro Detroit. The co-op has many members in the tri-country area who have closely followed the controversy.
I love Ann Arbor, I loved living there, it’s the only place I’ve lived where I felt really and truly at home, at one with my people. But even I have my limits, and I think it’s right around the Palestine: Peace not Couscous zone:
The controversy started when a shopper got upset after seeing that the store was selling Israeli couscous. A petition drive was launched, and a group called Boycott Israeli Goods garnered enough signatures to get a ballot proposal on which the co-op’s roughly 6,000 members could vote. Two previous co-op boycotts involved tuna that harmed dolphins and grapes, in support of farm workers. Both boycotts ended years ago.
Last month, members cast ballots on the Israeli-products boycott. At times, the arguments involved anti-Semitic sentiments. Some boycott supporters held up Nazi swastikas outside the store, concerning many shoppers.
OK, anti-Semitism and swastikas = not funny. I did indicate the humor was grim.
It’s this heat that’s making me crabby. I went to a high-school football game Friday — half of it, anyway — and sat in the stands in sheer misery, feeling my styling products melt down my neck in a slimy trail. We raked leaves on Saturday at the lake cottage in shorts and T-shirts, and the fire afterward, always a pleasant ritual of fall, was sheer misery. You read about the Chicago Marathon, surely. And yesterday I did the unthinkable — turned on the air conditioning. In October.
Well, by Wednesday the temperature will be back into the 50s, and I’ll have something new to bitch about.
Have a groovy Monday.