Last Saturday author Lilas Taha published a short interview with me on her blog. I posted a short interview with her last week. Lilas and I have NOTHING in common; she’s a liberal Muslim from the Middle East, I’m a conservative agnostic Texan who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we got to know each other at critique circles while we were both struggling to finish novels and find agents. And for whatever reason, we get along great.
Neither of us found an agent, but we both found small independent publishers who liked our work. As of last week, we’re both published authors. And while we recognize we’re not going to kick Stephen King off his throne anytime soon, we’re still pretty stoked at our success. Lots of good, hardworking writers never even get this far.
So this week I thought I’d share her interview with me, just in case anyone’s interested. Hope you guys enjoy it, and please drop by Lilas’ blog.
FROM LILAS’ BLOG:
Chatting with Author Chris Hernandez
Now that my book is published, and part of my dream came true, it’s time to bring down the jubilation and reflect on my writing journey.
For over two years, I have struggled with this task, fumbled with prose and did away with most adjectives, swallowed my pride in face of honest critique – brutal at times, and somewhat isolated myself professionally and socially to get to this point. I relied heavily on the unwavering support of my family and friends, and the genuine feedback from fellow writers. Among them, author Chris Hernandez, who allowed me to dig deeper into the mindset of an American veteran. Despite the fact that we don’t agree on many issues, and are actually at opposite ends on some, we shared a common ground when it came to writing.
Chris Hernandez’s books are military fiction, and although that’s not usually my cup-of-tea when it comes to choosing a book to read, I learned a lot from his first novel Proof of Our Resolve, and had the opportunity to read ahead of time his recently released novel Line in the Valley. Chris’s books shed a light on the world of war I am not familiar with, or let’s say the world across the isle to the side I know. I had the chance to chat with Chris about his new book release and his writing.
Please introduce us to Chris Hernandez, the author: Background and a little history.
I’m a husband, daddy, granddaddy, former Marine and U.S. Army combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m also an almost 20 year cop. I’ve got no degrees and no formal writing training. When I was in Afghanistan I got an idea for a story, and once I started writing it I was obsessed with finishing it. That story has now turned into three novels. Proof of Our Resolve was the first part, Line in the Valley is actually part 3, but has been published second.
Give us a short synopsis or a blurb about Line In The Valley.
Line In The Valley is about a battle on the Texas border. Unknown attackers take over eight small towns, infantry sergeant Jerry Nunez and his soldiers are ordered to take one of the towns back. And everything goes wrong. Nunez and his men find themselves in a worse situation than any of them ever imagined.
Line In The Valley is your second published novel. Why did you write this story? And in your heart, how does it compare to your first novel Proof Of Our Resolve?
I wrote this story to answer a question: what’s the worst thing a soldier can face in combat? And I came up with an idea. It was inspired by the no-win wars we’ve fought since 9/11, and the endless moral quagmires they generate. Proof is very close to my heart because it so closely mirrors my wartime experience, but Line In The Valley is a better book.
How would you describe your journey into the publishing world?
Oh, geez. In a word? Frustration, anger, determination, fury, resignation, compulsion, and finally, limited success. I pitched to many agents at conferences, sent queries, and kept looking into literary agencies. I had several close calls with success, but nothing worked out. Then one day I was watching Fox News with my wife, and Tactical16 CEO Erik Shaw was being interviewed about their search for veteran writers. I immediately looked them up and sent an email. Less than a month later I had a contract for Proof. I still tried to get LITV published through the mainstream literary world, but a conversation at my last writers conference convinced me it’s not even worth trying. A very honest agent talked to me about LITV, told me it sounded extremely interesting and that he’d love to read it, but he was sure his agency wouldn’t be interested. Because literary agencies are looking for stories that appeal to the average book buyer: a liberal, educated woman. My subject matter wasn’t right for the target audience.
At a conference I met an agent who expressed a lot of interest in my story and background, praised my writing sample, gave me their personal email addresses, asked for my full manuscript, promised they’d be in touch as soon as possible, and then I never heard from them again. I had another agent tell me the dialogue in LITV was wrong; cops and soldiers don’t talk like that. I’m a longtime street cop, a two-time war vet, and this agent tells me I don’t know how cop and soldiers talk. She also told me to remove the entire first third of the story. Another agent told me LITV was too unrealistic, and that I should make Jerry Nunez more like James Bond. Because James Bond is such a realistic character.
After that, I quit wasting time with the publishing industry. If I have any success, it will come from independent publishers like Tactical16, and word of mouth.
What advice can you give a writer who wants to get his or her work published?
If they just want to get published, write about zombies, vampires, young adult fantasy or a combination of all three. Or self-publish. But if they have principles, if they have a story in their heart that they want to stay true to, then they need to dig in and prepare for a long, painful road. Give up any stupid fantasies about overnight success, go to critique circles, go to conferences, get as many test readers as possible, and dedicate years to getting it right. And even then, there’s no guarantee of success.
How do you handle negative criticism, feedback and peer critique?
I welcome all of it. For a short time after I started writing, I had the “my writing is great and if you don’t think so then you’re wrong” attitude, which I think most new writers have. Fortunately, I’m a pretty humble guy, so that attitude didn’t last long. Plenty of peer readers, volunteer test readers and critique circle members have torn my writing apart, and I’ve made lots of changes based on their (and your) feedback. I’ve had some criticism I didn’t agree with, but when I see four out of five readers saying the same thing, they’re right and I’m wrong. I’ve also had some great critique from my blog readers, and my stories are better because of everyone who has taken the time to help me become a better writer. Thanks to all of them, and to you.
Thank you, Chris for sharing your thoughts.
Just as a side note, I was surprised to hear Lilas got some hate mail for posting her interview with me. Apparently, some people don’t like soldiers.
Guys, please check out Lilas’ book Shadows of Damascus. It’s a romance novel, but even an old soldier like me will enjoy it. I’ve read it twice.
Filed under: Writing | 7 Comments
Tags: Chris Hernandez, lilas taha, Line in the Valley
One thing about us aspiring writers: we like to band together and complain incessantly about the misery inflicted on us by the publishing industry. Lilas Taha and I have suffered much misery and complained a LOT over the past couple of years. Despite the fact that Lilas and I are political and religious opposites, we’re bonded by our shared hatred of book agents and our passion for writing.
Just kidding about the book agents. Lilas doesn’t hate agents. I don’t…exactly…hate agents either. Really.
After years of trying and failing to catch an agent’s or publisher’s interest, I got lucky and found Tactical16 in 2012. I’ve finally (I hope) begun my climb out of the Frustrated Anonymous Aspiring Writer pit. And as of yesterday, Lilas is working her way out of the pit as well.
Lilas’ new novel, Shadows of Damascus, was just released yesterday. It’s technically a romance, but it’s also a rich, deep story that will appeal even to knuckle-dragging’ military guys like me.
Here’s the book summary:
“Bullet wounds, torture and oppression aren’t the only things that keep a man—or a woman—from being whole.
Debt. Honor. Pain. Solitude. These are things wounded war veteran Adam Wegener knows all about. Love—now, that he is not good at, not when love equals a closed fist, burns, and suicide attempts. But Adam is one who keeps his word. He owes the man who saved his life in Iraq. And he doesn’t question the measure of the debt, even when it is in the form of an emotionally distant, beautiful woman.
Yasmeen agreed to become the wife of an American veteran so she could flee persecution in war-torn Syria. She counted on being in the United States for a short stay until she could return home. There was one thing she did not count on: wanting more.
Is it too late for Adam and Yasmeen?”
You know why it appeals to me? Because the male protagonist, Adam, is a very believable Iraq veteran. And the Syrian Civil War is the backdrop for the story.
When it comes to Syria, Lilas knows whereof she speaks. Her book, which I’ve read a couple of times, is an eye-opening and humanizing look at a war that often looks inhuman on television. I recently talked with Lilas about her book (and her background, which is just as interesting).
Please tell us about your family background, roots and how you wound up living in Texas.
My roots spread deep in the Middle East. My father is from Palestine, my mother is from Syria, and I was born in Kuwait. I spent most of my schooling years in Kuwait, almost all of my summers in Syria, and some time in Europe. I graduated from Kuwait University with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, and stepped into the working force with a job as a scientific researcher. How I ended up in Texas is a long story. But I will tell it anyway.
Summer of 1990, I took my first 3-week vacation and traveled to Sweden to visit an uncle, my father’s brother, who I had not met before. It is important for me to connect with all my relatives as much as possible, specifically because they are scattered all over the world as refugees. At the time, my only older brother was studying for his doctorate degree in the United States, and I had not seen him in a year. While I was in Sweden, he called and encouraged me to get a tourist visa to go visit him for a week. I had crossed half the distance, he had said, and all was left was to cross the ocean. I was young and adventurous, loved to see new places, had another uncle in the States I could connect with, and I missed my brother. So I got a tourist visa stamped on my passport, packed a week-long carryon bag, leaving most of my clothes in my suitcase in Sweden to pick up on my way back, and traveled to Madison, Wisconsin where my brother lived.
A few days after I arrived in Madison, Saddam Husain invaded Kuwait. The world I knew fell apart. My brother and I had no news of my parents and other family members who were in Kuwait at the time. We had no idea what was happening, what to do and how to go about finding out. My brother was a working student living on a very tight budget, and I had very little vacation money left to spend. Several days passed in shock, trying to swallow panic, making expensive phone calls to try to locate my parents, until finally, they were able to flee Kuwait through Iraq, through Jordan, and into Syria. They were safe. This was the second time my father had to flee war, the first in 1948, when he was displaced by the establishment of the state of Israel.
The visa I had was about to expire, and my return date back to Sweden passed. I had none of my education or work documents, summer clothes in an increasingly cold place, no money to buy anything or another airplane ticket, and no place to go. My uncle went about asking for help from the U.S. government, which gave us the option to send me back to my place of residence, Kuwait, an active war zone. Buying a ticket to go to Syria meant borrowing money, no way I was going to put my brother or my uncle through a debt like that.
So I made the decision to try to secure a future. Try my hardest, and if I failed, then I would accept my fate. Every problem had a solution, I was taught. And I set on finding mine. During the remaining time before my tourist visa expired, I went everyday to the University, talked to professors, trying to convince at least one that I had a degree, and asking to give me a chance. My plan was to get accepted into the Master’s program and get a student visa that would allow me legal stay and a decent future. However, I couldn’t get any of my papers from Kuwait University, the whole country was locked in war.
Though not in my field of study, one professor in the Industrial Engineering department graciously listened to me and asked if I was willing to take exams to prove I had a degree in Engineering. I eagerly agreed, sat in his classes for a couple of weeks, and did well on every exam he gave me. Two days before my visa expired, as I was resigning myself to the fact that I had to leave the country to the unknown, the professor called me into the department head’s office and informed me I was accepted into the Human Factor’s Engineering Master’s program on the condition I would present my university degree documents from Kuwait when circumstances allowed it. I was also hired into a research position with another wonderful professor.
I was set. I had lost my past and security, but I gained an opportunity to make a future. My student visa granted me legal stay. I started regular classes, worked in the research lab and had money to live off. That wasn’t enough fortune bestowed on me. I fell in love and was loved back. Eighteen months later, I married my brother’s amazingly wonderful best friend, who became my best friend too, graduated, and moved with my husband to Texas to start a family.
The backdrop of your novel is the Syrian civil war. How has that war personally affected you?
Having roots in Syria from my mother’s side, I have deep ties to the country and its culture. Furthermore, my father’s family also lived in Syria as Palestinian refugees. Every chance my parents had, they took us to Syria to connect with family members on both sides. As an American, I culturally identify myself to have a mix of Syrian and Palestinian background.
Emotionally, I grew up in Damascus, even though I lived in Kuwait. My time in Syria was the backdrop for my social development into adulthood. When the uprising started in March of 2011, I understood the initial peaceful movement. I understood the driving force behind it, the desire to live free of oppression and with dignity. But when it quickly spiraled into full civil war, every thought and emotion left me, replaced by fear. Family, loved ones, friends and acquaintances are caught by the incomprehensible violence. And I know death does not discriminate when it sweeps in with bombs, bullets and destruction.
Some family members and friends were able to flee to neighboring countries; Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. So many are still trapped in Syria. Some I have mourned already.
Your story definitely added a human face to the conflict in Syria for me. Was that one of your goals, or is it just a byproduct of the story?
Absolutely my goal. I didn’t just set out to write a story. I had a deep desire to catch part of the struggles survivors go through by no means, giving their agony its due rights. Although my characters are completely fictional, I drew on my own experiences to express the jumble of emotions involved.
My aim was not to describe a political climate that was, and still is, too volatile and complicated to explain without delving in history lessons. I wanted to write about emotions, about the people who have to endure the rest of their lives with unusually heavy loads on their backs. I wanted to write about life, rather than death and destruction. But how could I do that when the premise of the plot is set in two still active wars?
I am constantly aware of the heavy price any meaningful success requires of people. When I worked with domestic abuse victims, I saw a different kind of survival; people escaping the wars they carry within. I also became aware of an alternate burden carried by some American soldiers who were involved in Iraq. I wanted to bring the two worlds together. The hopeful dreamer that I am, I wanted my hero and heroine, two destroyed souls by completely different wars, to have a chance in life. And so the story of Yasmeen and Adam began.
Readers of my blog are going to be very interested in your depiction of Adam, the Iraq War veteran and male protagonist. What was your inspiration for the way you wrote him?
I had a very specific vision of Adam’s character from the start. I didn’t want to invent a hero who was too far from reality. No one is perfect, no one is invincible, and no one is courageous, charming and wonderful all the time. I wanted my hero to be real, to have issues, to be close and reachable to readers. I don’t know if I managed to do that, but I wrote the character with the idea that he could be the guy sitting next to a reader on a bench in a park, bus, or airplane. I read a lot of books, and saw many movies depicting soldiers. I always felt something was missing with the way most characters were designed, lacking steadiness and credibility.
Through my work as a domestic abuse victims advocate, I mainly dealt with women and children. Very rarely did I have contact with abusers. I saw the devastating effect of abuse on children, and how it destroys their lives in adulthood. On occasion, I saw a glimpse of how strong human spirits triumphed in the face of such cruelty. I admired that struggle and wanted to write about it. And so Adam’s character became clearer in my head.
I’ve mentioned several times on my blog how infuriating the process of getting a book published is. How difficult was it for you to get this book published?
Knowing nothing about the writing world, and the publishing field in general, I had no idea what to do. It was my first attempt at writing a novel in English, so my confidence and self-esteem didn’t match my ambition to get published, didn’t even come close.
Like every problem I faced in my life, I set on finding a solution – you see a trend here, don’t you? I joined a writers critique group, took in valuable feedback, and learned about the craft from fellow writers like yourself – thank you so much by the way. I knew I had a good story that was bound to catch the eye of an agent or a publisher’s acquirer, but I really didn’t register the magnitude of the difficult process of actually finding one. Ignorance is bliss, they say. I plunged forward, sending query letters, fumbling with synopsis, going to conferences, and meeting agents – some I’d rather never have come across, and some I respected and appreciated.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. After setting on my writing journey by just two years, my book was acquired by a magnificently accomplished editor at Soul Mate Publishing, who guided me through the maze until the book is released. Listening to struggles of fellow authors and writers, I would have to say my journey into publication was not that difficult, though highly frustrating at times. My ultimate dream is for this story to catch the attention of a movie producer.
What’s next for you as an author?
I’m working on my second novel, tentative title is “Voices from Jerusalem”. The plot is set mostly in the Middle East, and it involves a different war – so many to choose from, unfortunately. It follows the life of a young man who is raised in unusual and unconventional circumstances. Again, I draw on my background to create the events, though it is fiction. This time, I am using my father’s background to set the plot. My aim is to shed new light on human relations under a different conflict. A love story blossoms in a volatile environment. I hope it would appeal to readers who enjoyed Shadows of Damascus.
Guys, I hope you enjoyed the interview. And I hope you check out Shadows of Damascus, and do Lilas the honor of leaving a review. Thanks,
Filed under: Writing | 15 Comments
Tags: lilas taha, romance, syria
This coming Saturday, January 18th, barring any unforeseen circumstances, my new novel Line in the Valley will be released by Tactical16 Publishing. As with my last book, it will first be an eBook only and will be available in print later. The more people buy and review it, the sooner it’ll be in print (hint hint nudge nudge). It will be offered on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and iBooks.
I think you’ll like this book. It’s about a war on the Texas border. And what else does a story need? If you need convincing, please check out the sample chapters listed in the “Line in the Valley” category. If you do buy and read it, please feel free to leave a brutally honest review.
On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HW1MA2G
On Saturday January 18th I’ll be at Barnes and Noble at The Woodlands mall in The Woodlands, Texas from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. I’ll be signing copies of Proof of Our Resolve, shaking hands, kissing babies, telling war and cop stories that may or may not be true, and just generally winning friends and influencing people. If you’re in the area come on out and say hello, even if you don’t buy a copy of my novel.
This is my first appearance in a major bookstore, and I really hope I don’t wind up standing there all alone for two hours. The blow to my self esteem would be fatal. And trust me, you don’t want to be responsible for the lonely, embarrassing death I’ll suffer if nobody shows up.
To everyone who has supported my writing, read and commented on my blog, or engaged me in vicious, hand to hand debates over my opinions, thank you! I hope you guys read and enjoy my book.
Filed under: Line in the Valley, Writing | 20 Comments
Tags: cartels, Line in the Valley, Texas border, veteran writers
Fair warning: the following story contains crude, juvenile military humor. I regret nothing.
No joke, there I was, asleep in bed in my barracks at a small National Guard base. I was in week 7 or so of a 10 week course. My roommate and one of my best friends, “Doc Shelby”, was asleep in his bed a few feet away.
I had recruited Doc into the National Guard to be my Cavalry platoon’s medic. Then as soon as he finished basic and medic school I gave him the great news that I was leaving the unit. But I wasn’t being a Blue Falcon (look it up if you don’t know the term), there was a good reason for it.
A few months earlier, our squadron commander had visited my Scout Troop at drill. As we stood in formation, he gave us news we thought was great, though the average person would probably have found it terrifying.
“Men, we’re going to Afghanistan. And we’re not going to escort convoys or guard gates. We’re going to own an area, do all the patrolling and kick in whatever doors we need to.”
We were ecstatic. None of the typical National Guard missions for us, we were going to be in combat. Then next drill the commander came back with an update.
“Well men, the mission has changed. It’s still a great mission, though. Now we’re going to Iraq to guard prisoners.”
Oh, hell no, I thought. I had already been a Tanker Without A Tank, and you can guess what everyone called us, in Iraq. I had zero interest in being a Cavalry Scout working as a jail guard.
Fortunately for me, another unit was spinning up for Afghanistan and looking for volunteers. I threw my name in the hat. Several of my soldiers volunteered with me, either because I was such a good leader or, more likely, due to their disgust at the thought of guarding prisoners.
So a couple weeks after he finished months of training, I called Doc and asked him to come with us to Afghanistan. He’d have to attend another 10-week training course if he said yes. He wearily answered, “What the hell, I go whichever way the wind blows,” and agreed.
Doc and I had shared the small room since day one of the training course. We knew each other pretty well and got along great. We still do.
Doc was an experienced civilian paramedic and always gave good health advice. I had a minor concern about an occasional faint cramp in my calf. I should have mentioned it to him, but never did.
So that night, around 3 am, I suddenly woke up. My left calf muscles felt like they were twisting. I knew from experience that a bad cramp, not a minor one, was coming. I sprang up and reached for my calf. Too late. Before I could grab my calf, the cramp hit.
I shuddered in agony. Despite my attempts to muffle it, a loud “Grrrrrrr!” escaped my lips. I clutched my twitching calf and desperately tried to squeeze the pain out of it. Nothing worked.
About twenty excruciating seconds later, the pain started to subside. The spasm stopped, I laid back and breathed deeply in relief. For a moment I wondered if I had woken Doc, but he was still and silent. I forced myself to relax, and eventually went back to sleep.
Weeks passed. Doc and I graduated from the course, briefly visited home and then headed to Afghanistan. After roughly a year of trials and adventures, we came home and went back to drills with our Guard unit.
Fast forward to mid-2013. Almost five years had passed since my epic late night calf cramp. I was at drill, hanging out with Doc and several other soldiers during down time. The conversation turned to exercise, and the physical problems that come from pushing yourself too far. Someone brought up leg cramps, and I mentioned the one that almost killed me at the training course.
An expression of shocked surprise popped onto Doc’s face. With eyes wide he asked, “That’s what happened that night? You had a cramp?”
I was a little confused by his response. “You remember that? I didn’t even know I woke you up. What did you think happened?”
Doc isn’t the shyest guy, but he kind of blushed, smiled and looked away. Then he told me a secret he had been holding for almost five years.
“Actually, I thought you were jerking off. That’s why I never said anything about it.”
Freaking Doc. All those years he stayed quiet and maybe a little uncomfortable about the night he thought I cranked one off just a few feet away. Maybe, if anything like that ever happens again, he’ll just ask me what’s going on.
And hopefully he never asks me about that unusual stain he found on his pillow. But that’s a whole other story.
Filed under: Writing | 17 Comments
Tags: army, secrets
This essay was published yesterday by BreachBangClear.
When I was a UN cop in Kosovo, I read Serbian literature about the war. The Serbs sometimes referred to the Albanian resistance as an intifada, a Muslim uprising. This was right after the Palestinian intifada began in 2000, when the West was becoming increasingly concerned with Islamic terrorism. The Arabic word intifada fit the view we had of Muslim extremism.
But the word didn’t make sense. Albanians never referred to their resistance as an intifiada. Almost none speak Arabic. Their war was NOT “Islam vs. Christian”, it was Albanian vs. Serb. One Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army leader even rejected the services of experienced mujahedin volunteers, and proclaimed “This is not a religious war”. About 10% of Albanians are Catholic, and all Albanians seemed proud of their Catholic monastery in the city of Peja. Some Albanians I knew outright rejected religion, and most who professed faith in Islam still drank alcohol, didn’t fast during Ramadan, had sex before marriage and never went to a mosque. Pakistani police officers went nuts because Albanians routinely ignored prayer call. It’s not an exaggeration to say Albanians are the least devout Muslims in the world.
There was no intifada. There was a vicious, brutal war between two ethnic groups with a long history of mutual hatred and abuse. But by using the word intifada, Serbs were making a deliberate (and transparent) attempt to link Albanian resistance with Muslim extremism. Intifada defined the war in a specific way: Muslim terrorists against brave, righteous Christians.
Thirteen years later, as controversy swirls around anti-gay comments made by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, I see liberals making use of the same tactic. But their word isn’t intifada. It’s “phobia”.
A recent Huffington Post article was titled “Phil Robertson Homophobic Past Resurfaces In 2010 Sermon”. Us magazine published “Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty Makes Homophobic Remarks, Groups Gays With ‘Terrorists’ and ‘Drunkards’”. Eonline.com has an article titled “Clay Aiken on Phil Robertson’s Anti-Gay Controversy: Society Still Accepts Homophobia”, in which Aiken is quoted as saying, “Homophobia, racism, all of it’s built out of fear, and if you grow up in an area like Louisiana and you’re not exposed to diversity, then you can be afraid of things.”
What’s striking about these articles is their unanimous voice. No question seems to exist in the writers’ minds about Robertson’s alleged “phobia”. His fear is an article of their faith.
Recently I had a discussion with a very liberal, intelligent and reasonable friend. We discussed several conservative concerns: illegal immigration, political correctness, the War on Terror, etc. My friend insisted all those concerns were rooted in some type of fear. Fear of change, fear of harm, fear of “others”. None of our concerns were rational.
Fear. Phil Robertson, possibly the most self-assured born-again Christian in America, is really just terrified of homosexuals. When a gay man comes within a mile of Robertson, he panics worse than a cartoon elephant running from a mouse. And if anyone shares Phil’s incredulity at gay male desire, or repeats their religion’s prohibition on homosexuality, it’s not because they simply disagree with homosexuality. It’s because they’re “afraid”.
The discussion has been engineered thusly: if you object to anything homosexual, you’re afraid. Scared people aren’t rational. If you don’t support gay marriage, or you think homosexuality is a sin, you can’t possibly be an intelligent, reasonable person. You’re scared. You’re defensive. You needn’t be listened to. Your opinion means nothing. In a debate your only worth is as a target of derision, an example of how fear makes us animalistic idiots. The very term “phobic” is a pejorative, a way to paint us as lesser beings than elitist progressives.
I’m not anti-gay, although I generally oppose gay marriage (and at least one gay writer, Brandon Ambrosino, recently wrote in Time magazine, “It’s quite possible to throw one’s political support behind traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted”). I don’t have an issue with homosexuals. I’ve studied, lived and served with them. I thought gays should have been allowed to serve openly in the military even before President Clinton passed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I’m devoutly agnostic and don’t view homosexuality as a sin. I think Robertson’s religiously-based comments were stupider than they were offensive.
I have no qualms with gays in American society. But I have a big problem with anyone who defines me as afraid just because I disagree with them.
This is, of course, not the first time progressives have tried to define their way to moral victory. They also labeled anyone legitimately concerned with Islamic terrorism as an “Islamophobe”. Progressives painted themselves almost as modern-day Dr. Frankensteins, kind-hearted and intelligent, defending the innocent-yet-misunderstood against a terrified mass of uneducated, pitchfork-wielding peasants.
I lived and worked with Muslims in Kosovo. I repeatedly put my life in Muslim soldiers’ hands in Afghanistan. I still maintain contact with Muslim friends overseas. I recently helped a Muslim woman write her first novel. And I’m extremely concerned about the long history of Muslim terrorism against my country.
What does that make me? An “Islamophobe”. I’m not a reasonable guy who spent years comfortably living and working with Muslims. I’m actually scared of them. Really.
Likewise, my years of hanging out with gay friends mean nothing. I have no problem with “civil unions”, I think those unions should be legally the same as marriages, but I believe “marriage” should be between a man and woman. That makes me “homophobic”. The gay soldiers and police officers I’ve befriended and sometimes risked my life with aren’t actual friends. I’m afraid of them. My beliefs are driven by fear, not reason. Really.
Progressives, please read the following. I’m going to make a probably-vain attempt to reason with you. I expect most of you to dismiss it because I’m a “[insert progressive sacred cow]-phobe”. But anyway, here goes:
When I hear Westboro Baptist Church members spout their hateful nonsense, I hope someone beats them all senseless. But I’m not being Westborophobic. I just don’t like them.
When I see Code Pink protestors on TV dancing and singing while blocking the doors of military recruiting offices, I consider them stupid fools who are all show and feelings but no real action. But I’m not being CodePinkophobic. I just don’t like Code Pink.
When I hear gangster rappers preaching murder, robbery, drug use and misogyny to their own race, I blame them for doing more damage to the black community than the Klan ever even tried to. But I’m not being gangstarapophobic. I just detest gangster rappers.
When I see a Muslim man wearing western clothes in downtown Austin followed by a wife covered head to toe in black as if she was in the Saudi desert, I get angry because I think female subservience is completely counter to American ideals and freedom. But I’m not being Islamophobic. I just don’t like the way some people practice Islam.
When Stephen King insulted soldiers by suggesting the Army and wartime service are only for illiterates, I decided never to read another King novel. But I’m not being StephenKingophobic. I just think he’s a jerk.
I’ve never watched an episode of Duck Dynasty and have no plans to. When Duck Dynasty comes on, I change the channel because I have zero interest in a scripted reality show about self-described bible-thumping rednecks. But I’m not DuckDynastyophobic. I just don’t like Duck Dynasty.
When the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) reinforces stereotypes of hysterical, hypersensitive gays by shrieking in protest until a deeply religious man is fired for honestly answering a question about his beliefs, I think GLAAD is desperately trying to bully all of us into agreeing with them. But no, I’m not being GLAADophobic. I just think GLAAD sucks.
None of the aforementioned people or activities should be restricted. Westboro morons have every right to keep being morons. Rappers can keep encouraging the destruction of their own communities. Stephen King can go on insulting guys like me. Muslims can dress however they want. Duck Dynasty can keep pretending it’s a reality show. GLAAD can keep throwing tantrums. Nobody deserves to be fired just because I don’t like their opinions. I have no fear of anything these people say or do, even if I don’t like them.
Maybe progressives needs to abandon their intifada. Because conservatives aren’t acting scared. But progressives, by trying to silence dissenting voices, and by falsely painting their opponents as “phobic”, certainly are.
Filed under: Writing | 28 Comments
Tags: GLAAD, homophobia, Phil Robertson
So there I was, minding my own business, on night shift patrol in a deserted, half-industrial half-residential area. This was around 2 a.m. on a boring weeknight. The area I was patrolling was full of illegal aliens, drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes (both voluntary and trafficked), gangsters and stolen cars. But this was a quiet night.
Because it was so quiet and had been for hours, I decided to check a reported trouble spot. Some residents said a group of rowdy gangster types were hanging out at a particular house, drinking, partying and making noise all hours of the night. I had checked that spot several times and seen nothing, but since I really had nothing else to do I headed that way again.
I turned my patrol car’s headlights off before I reached the street. When I turned the corner, I saw several young men in the street on the next block. Even from a distance I could see that they wore baggy t-shirts with sagging pants, the standard gangster uniform. They weren’t doing anything obviously wrong, but my gut reaction was that they were up to no good.
As I got closer I saw more of them in the problem house’s front yard. They weren’t doing anything either, just watching me. Beer cans and bottles were scattered around the yard, but nobody was making noise. In fact, everyone got real quiet, real fast.
Ahead of me several guys quietly slipped out of the street into the front yard. One man, however, didn’t move. He had his back to me, hands out of view in front of his torso, standing almost directly in the middle of the street. I watched the other men scoot away as I crept closer to their friend. Everybody but him was watching me intently.
The saggy-pants man in the street was almost but not quite in the way. I’d have to swerve just slightly so I wouldn’t hit him with my mirror. I kept coasting down the street, and figured he’d see me and move. But he kept standing with his back to me, hands in front, not budging. The bumper of my car slowly passed the man, but he still didn’t move. He was only about a foot away from my fender. When my side mirror was just about even with him, he suddenly realized I was there.
He spun violently toward me. Liquid splashed on my window. I recoiled and jammed on the brakes in surprise. A shocked look crossed his face as he realized I was a cop. And that he had just peed on a police car.
He spun back the way he had been facing, and kept peeing. I put the car in park. He shot quick sideways glances at me as I waited for him to finish. He had drunk a lot of beer, so it took some time. Or maybe having a cop car parked beside him gave him stage fright. Whatever the reason, it seemed like he peed for five minutes. At one point he casually gave a manly nod, as if we were two strangers passing on the sidewalk. Eventually he ran dry, fumbled around trying to put everything away and zipped his pants.
You might not believe this, but I actually thought this was funny. I didn’t think the guy meant to pee on my car, it was an honest accident. Sure, he shouldn’t have been peeing in the street, but no little old ladies were around to get offended. Fortunately my window had been almost all the way up, so I didn’t get sprinkled. I expected the guy to apologize like crazy, then we’d laugh it off and I’d leave him with a warning. No harm, no party foul, no jail.
I popped my door, made sure I wasn’t about to step in a yellow puddle, got out of my car and asked the guy, “Man, are you finally done?”
The guy glared at me like I had just fondled his mother. “What the f**k, man? Why you f**king with me?”
No harm. Major party foul. He went to jail.
And I still think the whole thing was funny as hell.
Filed under: Cops, What Police Work is Really Like | 8 Comments
Tags: police, police work, veteran writers
What happens when a brave, dedicated, armed citizen fights back against an untrained, unskilled, pathetic coward bent on murdering helpless innocents? The coward surrenders or winds up dead, and the killing is either stopped quickly or never has a chance to start.
Last week at the Arapahoe High School in Colorado a student named Karl Pierson walked into school and opened fire with a shotgun. He fired five rounds, badly wounding a beautiful young girl, before he saw a campus police officer advancing toward him. Pierson killed himself with his sixth round. The incident was captured on video, and lasted approximately 80 seconds from first shot to last.
80 seconds. And the mere presence of an armed “good guy” forced Pierson to stop targeting victims, and shoot himself instead.
This Arapahoe incident, among others, reinforced a belief I already had. My belief didn’t come from watching TV or reading articles. I’m a 19 year police officer and former active shooter instructor. I’ve attended advanced active shooter training, helped train many officers, and played the role of an active shooter in numerous high stress, extremely realistic simulation exercises. I’m also a 24-year Marine and Soldier, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. I ain’t no expert on nuthin’, but I have a much better understanding of the active shooter threat than the average person. My years of training and experience helped me form this belief. This belief is so amazing, so earth-shattering, that I expect millions of people to read this, gasp, and tumble over in shock.
Prepare yourselves. Here it comes.
“When a coward is trying to shoot up a school, at least one person already at the school should have a gun and shoot back.”
I know, I know. Pure heresy. I have to be wrong on this. Those who don’t want armed teachers or even armed police in schools must be right. Some of them, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, insist that having armed police on school grounds doesn’t make schools safer (http://wvmetronews.com/2012/12/27/no-guns-in-schools/). After the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre made his infamous “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” claim, a veritable human wave of legislators and celebrities mounted ceaseless attacks against him and his simplistic belief that armed good guys actually protect the innocent.
Ms. Weingarten and many of those legislators and celebrities must understand this problem better than me. They must understand better than Wayne LaPierre. Weingarten and her allies apparently have vast knowledge of and experience with gun violence.
They have vast knowledge and experience because they went to college. Then when they were done, they went to college. Then after that, they went to college. Some of them were so dedicated that between college semesters, they went to college. In college, they talked a lot. They talked to other people in college, and to college professors. They undoubtedly had many interesting conversations with other insulated idealists, who repeated the same uninformed opinions everyone else had. Then, when these people graduated from college, they went into the academic world, or politics, or acting.
And by golly, their opinions about armed good guys in schools count more than mine. Because they’re educated. And they’re academics. Or politicians. Or actors.
I, on the other hand, foolishly wasted my entire adult life serving my community as a cop and my country as a Marine and Soldier. I spent countless hours on ranges and in training exercises. I wandered deserted streets late at night looking for crimes in progress, and found a LOT. And I spent almost two years at war.
None of this taught me anything, of course.
My worthless, unqualified opinion is obviously insignificant in the face of mighty academics, politicians and actors who fired a gun once on a movie set. If I was more educated, maybe I’d see the ridiculous fallacy of, oh, putting armed and trained good guys in all schools to defend our children. If I had taken statistics, I’m sure I’d realize that the murders of 20 children and 6 educators in a school with no armed guards, during a massacre that went on for several minutes, is a better outcome than one wounded student in a shooting that an armed police officer ended in 80 seconds.
I should actually apologize for the tone of this post. I try not to be snarky, sarcastic or insulting toward my ideological opponents. I’m not a member of the NRA, nor am I an ultraconservative (I’m agnostic and support drug legalization, so how conservative can I be?). I’m definitely not anti-education. And I like to think I’m a pretty reasonable guy. But I get frustrated at people who absolutely refuse to accept reality. Sorry guys, but in this case Wayne LaPierre was right.
Those who oppose allowing armed teachers or police officers in schools tend to be the same people who think we conservatives are the mental equivalent of “flat earthers”. They seem to view us as ignorant hicks with no understanding of the real world. Then they turn around and insist that the best way to protect our children from school shooters is to make our schools more attractive targets. They think it’s better for a murderer to kill helpless victims for several minutes until police show up, than to have an armed teacher or police officer already there stop the killing as quickly as possible. They advocate policies that make more Sandy Hooks and oppose policies that make Arapahoes. They honestly believe the best way to keep my children safe is to turn them into helpless victims.
Remember that knuckle-dragging conservatives like me are evil morons who want children to die. But liberals who don’t want guns in schools are geniuses who love children. That’s why my fellow knuckle-draggers and I strongly support the policies that saved children’s lives at Arapahoe, while our super-genius child-loving opponents so ardently support the stupid rules that helped kill 20 defenseless children at Sandy Hook.
The Arapahoe shooter had a shotgun, 125 rounds, three Molotov cocktails and a machete. He had plans to attack people in several locations at the school. Had my opponents had their way, he could have shot many more innocent people, burned them alive, or hacked them to death. Instead, one good guy with a gun on campus ended the threat in 80 seconds.
Shucks, maybe I’m one o’ them thar conservative country bumpkins who ain’t never learnt much. But it certainly seems to me that the result produced by one armed good guy at Arapahoe High School was better than the result of having no armed good guys at Sandy Hook. So instead of spending years in college learning the wrong answer, maybe some people need to spend about 80 seconds learning that armed good guys in schools really are the best way to stop armed bad guys in schools.
UPDATE 12/22/13: Claire Davis died of her injuries yesterday. Rest in peace, Ms. Davis.
Filed under: Cops | 28 Comments
Tags: active shooters, arapahoe high school, karl pierson, school shooters, veteran writers