UNIT 2067
APO AP 96278-2067

2 MARCH 2004

FROM: 1LT Akbar Lightning


A2.1. General Information Concerning Applicant:
A2.1.1. Full name:

Akbar Lightning

A2.1.2. Social Security number (SSN):


A2.1.3. Selective Service number (if applicable):


A2.1.4. Service address:

PSC 3 BOX 4286
APO AP 96266-0042

A2.1.5. Permanent home address:



A2.1.6. Name and address of each school and college attended (after age 16), dates of attendance, and the type of school (public, church, military, commercial, etc.):

JUNE 1996-JUNE 2000

01 MARCH 2003-13 OCTOBER 2003

A2.1.7. A chronological list of all occupations, positions, jobs, or types of work (other than work
after age 16 performed while in school or college) whether for monetary compensation or not.
Include the type of work, name of employer, address of employer, and the "from" and "to" date for each position or job held.



A2.1.8. All former addresses (after age 16) and dates of residence at those addresses.


A2.1.9. Parents’ names and addresses. Indicate whether they are living or deceased.


A2.1.10. The religious denomination or sect of both parents.


A2.1.11. Was application made to the Selective Service System (local board) for classification as a conscientious objector before entry into the Air Force:


A2.1.12. When the applicant has served fewer than 180 days in the military service:


A2.2. Training and Belief:
A2.2.1. A description of the nature of the belief that requires the applicant to seek separation from the military service or assignment to noncombatant training and duty for reasons of conscience:



A2.2.2. An explanation as to how the beliefs changed or developed, to include an explanation of the factors (how, when, from whom, or from what source applicant received training or acquired belief) contributing to conscientious objection beliefs.


The truth shall set you free. Well, here it comes, because I desperately want to be free. And my intuition tells me that I’m not the only one. The point I will try to make in this “explanation of beliefs” is that I’ve been deluded by ego and pride into thinking that killing for freedom is necessary. A friend recently explained to me that in her mind, freedom is a matter of perspective. I couldn’t agree more:

Therefore, if perspective is our apparent view of the world, then I am here to confess that in scaling the mountains of ideology, my view has changed. My beliefs changed as a result of an evolution in my understanding the nature of our world. It is tremendously difficult to cover all aspects of this evolution (as impossible as it is to define every shade of color in the visible spectrum of light). However, I will attempt to point out the highlights that revealed themselves through introspection. I will try to proceed chronologically to the maximum extent possible in order to make this review more expedient. Please be patient with me, as I am only a human being trying to convey the purpose behind his thoughts, words, and actions. At times you may ask, “What does this have to do with objection to killing?” When you feel the mental block of a new idea, please try to climb the moral mountain with me to change your perspective. At times you may see self-righteousness, arrogance, egotism, greed, violence, or bigotry in my words and stories. That is precisely the point I must make with you. Those imperfections in me are precisely what clouded my perspective. Ultimately, I want you to understand that I’m a human being in all of the ugliness, beauty, filth, perfection, strength, and weakness that that represents. And in identifying my own weaknesses, I’ve come to realize, I have no basis for making the ultimate judgment on another human being’s life. Let’s climb…

The Trailhead Before Dawn

When I was in grade school, I was awed by the possibilities of space travel—the ultimate in perspective. Sometime around the second grade, I joined the Young Astronauts Club so that I could learn more about the vast expanse of the heavens. I remember a NASA astronaut visiting my elementary school (Martin Park), and telling us about his adventures. He signed a picture of a space station with something to the effect of, “Akbar Lightning, see you in space.” When asked what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to be, I was hooked. I was going to become an astronaut. I just needed to know the path. In those early days I was searching for anything to climb out of the monotony and suffering that was my life.

I was told that proficiency in math and science was extremely important. So that is precisely where I focused my energy. I worked hard in school to learn everything I could. I raised money by collecting cans, delivering newspapers, and mowing lawns. I used this money and the match of half-funding from my mother and frequent flier miles from my sister (who had to donate in order to get me a plane ticket when the airline on which I was originally booked went bankrupt and I lost my fare) to go to Space Camp in Florida. I felt like Charlie in “Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory” with that new ticket…I had found a “golden ticket!” I didn’t see any Umpa-Lumpas though. There is no way our family could afford to pay for airfare again…my step-father, Alan, was trying to get an infantile construction company off of the ground. When the four of us, Mom, Alan, and Jessica, first moved to Boulder, Colorado from Rye, we were so poor that we rented out the third room of a 3-room house to another woman for added income. You could say we didn’t have a pot to piss in, but we did have pots, and pans, and food, and I never went hungry.

Our House in Boulder…Nice Glasses!

That first trip south to Florida, I was awarded “The Right Stuff,” for being “the most likely to become an astronaut,” on Cape Canaveral when I was in about the 4th grade. That was all I needed to reassure me that I had a chance. It gave a poor (in money and in spirit) child hope for the future. I could BE something special. What a tremendous boost in EGO (for better or for worse) to be recognized. In talking to students, teachers, and professionals about the requirements of becoming an astronaut, I was told that historically, military pilots and specifically test pilots were usually the “chosen few.” When my parents picked me up, to take me home we toured Space Port together and my mother bought me a “University of Mars” T-shirt. I still have it. I still wear it. And now more than ever I feel like a Martian in the military establishment. We drove through the deep South on our way home as my ticket was one-way. We stopped at my grandparent’s house. Alan, my stepfather, dropped my sister and I off to see and talk to Ed and Betty (Grandpa Ed just passed away from Pneumonia on 14 January—God rest his soul, he was a veteran). They weren’t his parents, they were John’s…my biological father. We didn’t see John. He was “dangerous” and better left alone. In reality, he was a man suffering just as much as the rest of us. Perhaps a little misguided, but through his own admission and my acceptance not a bad man. We all make mistakes. After all, we’re only HUMAN!

Driving through the South we stopped at boiled peanut stands, fruit stands, and one restaurant I will never forget. This tiny restaurant must have had the best catfish and hushpuppies around, because the place was packed. There was even a picnic table set outside for people to wait for takeout since getting a table was pretty tricky…or so we assumed. It didn’t take long to see that there WERE tables inside. We were seated quickly and with a smile. We also noticed that we fit right in with the people on the inside. We were white…and the people waiting for take-out outside were black. We left. On that trip, we drove through a small town in Georgia called “Holly.” We had been talking of getting a dog…I guess I had really been begging, and I suggested Holly be her name. Adjust the pack straps, drink water, and conserve energy!

A Pre-Dawn Sky

In the 5th grade, I was part of a teacher-student team competing for a Ball Aerospace grant to witness a space shuttle launch in Florida. Our space-related lesson plan, “Choose Your Own Adventure to Mars,” won a slot in the trip to see a launch (I think I still have the Atlantis launch T-shirt—it’s about the size of a washcloth, but so was I). The teacher I teamed with was one of my third grade teachers. She attended my graduation from the Air Force Academy with her son and daughter. I think they managed to nab a parade cap. Around the same time (5th grade, not 3rd), I was teamed with a school friend and a local rocket scientist to learn everything there was to know about designing rockets—yeah right. He introduced us to the math involved in calculating escape velocities and specific impulses to overcome the pull of gravity (as though my tiny brain could assemble all those equations into something useful). It was fun though, and inspired me to try to escape gravity with my own impulse. In the 6th grade, I went to Space Academy (this time in Huntsville, Alabama).

I tried to read The Red Badge of Courage, but it was too boring to finish. I cried at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows, and I would grind my teeth in my sleep. Holly had to be put to sleep when she fell out of the back of the truck as my dad swerved to avoid a collision with a man rounding a corner in his lane. The other driver was in a hurry. She broke her back against a tree and was paralyzed in 2/3 of her body. When we picked her up from the breeder as a puppy, she was the largest in the bunch, and she immediately crawled into my lap. Love at first sight.

I participated in a number of after school activities that were a welcome distraction from a stressful home life. In short, I was raised by my stepfather, Alan (you just saw a picture of him on the motorcycle). He married my natural mother and then adopted my sister and I. My mother and sister are two of the most wonderful women in the world. The adoption was a formality that gave us all the same name. My biological father was a distant memory until I talked to him on the telephone for the first time in 20 years just last December. He’s “maintaining” as a tool and die maker in Daytona. I assured him the call was about love and forgiveness.

I wasn’t a superb student through elementary school, but I swore to turn my attitude and performance around in junior high, because that is where things started to matter, right? Junior high classes set you up for high school and high school set you up for college, and I HAD to go to the Air Force Academy if I was to become a pilot and then an astronaut! Shoot for the stars, or Aim High as it were!

A Steep Slope

So far, I had no objection to military service. War was the furthest thing from my mind…end of discussion. Sure, people died, but people were suffering everywhere. Keep your eyes on the prize! In junior high I was introduced to an organization called the Civil Air Patrol. CAP is an auxiliary of the Air Force with ties in search and rescue. CAP beat the pants off of scouts…we got to wear Air Force uniforms! We flew, we marched, and we learned about aviation history. Moreover, we shot M-16’s at THE Academy in Colorado Springs (enter operant conditioning). In retrospect, the whole thing smacks a little of Hitler’s Youth or Sadam’s miniature martyrs, but hell, this is the USA. We’re the GOOD guys!

I rose quickly through the ranks in CAP. I was good at close order drill; I could follow orders; and I could see myself in my spit-shined shoes. A typical effort was 1-1.5 hours of dip and rub. At one point, I asked my mother to send me to military school. Her guidance, when she knew how to positively direct her spiritual energy, was the most perfect in every respect. She said no. “I’m keeping you as long as I can.” My dad, Alan, (step-dad became “Dad” when there was no other and he took the prize as greatest man on earth by saving my mother’s life from John and his shotgun) was always a kind and gentle man. He understood toleration and honest character. Eventually I became the Boulder Composite Squadron’s Cadet Commander! Wow, must have been my command voice! Even on a 100 lb frame, I could bark orders like the best of them.

We learned a lot of other things in CAP. We learned jodies:

Well he was just a rookie trooper, surely shook with fright, as he checked all his equipment and made sure his pack was tight. He had to sit and listen to those awful engines roar, and he ain’t gonna jump no more! Gory, gory, what a hell-of-a way to die… with a rifle on your back and your falling from the sky!

I think I was about 13 when I learned that one. We also learned about commitment, duty, honor, and country. What a glorious high to feel among the righteous! We learned about searching for and rescuing crashed airplanes and lost hikers. I obviously showed some aptitude for SAR because I soon was named “Junior Ranger Team Commander.” We never were used on a real mission, but we trained a lot. I learned how to “ruck” and how to start fires in a survival situation, how to carry a litter and how to splint. Man, this beat the pants off of scouts! AND IT WAS CHEAP TOO! We only paid about $75 a year to be a member. We were issued REAL combat boots and battle dress uniforms. Take in the mountain air!

Breaking Through Above the Treeline—Bracing Against Cold and Winds

A junior high counselor helped me pave my path for THE Academy. She handed me an admission booklet and pointed out the key admission points. Good grades, good extracurricular activities, good scores, good GOD it’s FREE! Hell yeah, college, a job, and a COMMITMENT? Who cares! I’m in. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sell your soul to the devil? Try a 10 yr active duty service commitment for the FREEDOM to fly.

Between CAP encampments at THE Academy and driving past the North and South gate with my dad on our way to the big game hunt in Southern Colorado, I developed a real attachment to the place. I was hypnotized by the gleaming chapel in front of the Colorado Foothills. I told my parents and grandparents one day while touring the campus during noon-meal formation, “this place was meant for me.” I was a bit of an arrogant ass. Just ask one of my high school science teachers: “He’s really a bright kid, but a real smart aleck,” was what this one, a lesbian, reported at conferences. It didn’t surprise my mother. She was a teacher’s aide at Martin Park when I spent many of my days in the second grade in front of the principal’s office for mouthing off. But I made good grades, so what if I had a bad attitude? Who cares where it came from, the kid performs! Let’s rest for spell to button up our jackets and put on our gloves…to take in the view from above the pine trees.

Unpacking The Ropes for Technical Ascent

My mother found me in my room one day, sawing fruitlessly on my wrist with a pair of dull scissors. My parents had gay friends. Kids were cruel to homosexuals even in Boulder. I had a shallow perspective of what it meant to be gay. My mom took the scissors from my hand and held me crying…we were both crying. “I don’t want to be gay, “ I sobbed. Being an outcast in some other way was the last thing this Martian needed. Anyway, it’s my story, and the scissors seemed relevant. Even though I wasn’t successful (I didn’t even draw blood) and haven’t made an attempt since, it was both a significant emotional event and an event that the psychologist would probably drag out anyway in search of the TRUTH. That’s all I was ever really after…the truth about my real dad, the truth about Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, Krsna, war, poverty, suffering, sin, evil, anger…love.

I’m sure by this point you’re thinking, “OKAY, ham it up MR. CO, (CO is an acronym for conscientious objector—I didn’t know they had an acronym for that until last week) play the ‘gay’ card too while you’re at it.” So, let’s pause for a moment to reflect. Given my confession that I am willing to die for what I’ve done and what I believe to be true (see the “Dear Sir, 25 February 2004” letter to my commander below), my intent should be clear:

25 February 2004
Dear Sir,

Please accept my most sincere apology. I have made a mistake, and for that, I am deeply sorry. I have committed the most heinous of crimes…I have committed treason. Where treason is defined as the “betrayal of trust,” I am guilty. Where betrayal means “to lead astray,” I have done just that by living and working under now false pretenses. Where trust means an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone in which confidence is placed,” I have failed. An action that I once thought was justified and righteous; I can no longer defend in my own heart. My regret is that my search for truth did not turn up substantial evidence until now. You might say I was living a lie, but I would suggest more accurately that my sight was clouded by my own pride and damaging ego. Only now, my fragile integrity is aiming to correct the mistakes I’ve made. If “mess up, fess up” is the expectation, I am here to complete my duty.

I was proud to claim the title of American, soldier, airman, and Air Force officer employed in the defense of our nation and way of life. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I willfully live by a Code of Conduct that demands my preparation to give my life in the defense of the American way of life. What I cannot do is TAKE life for the OFFENSIVE gains of a nation that I believe to be overcome by fear and greed, nor can I support anyone who would do the same for me. My pride clouded my thoughts with promise of glory, belonging, and righteousness.

My ego persuaded me that belonging to the group was the most important thing; that survival alone was impossible. Certainly, part of that is still true. I very much depend on others for my survival, and I am inextricably connected to the human community. But, I cannot rationalize anymore that belonging to a group that represents the Dogs of War, an arguably lesser evil than those we’re commissioned to destroy, is necessary for humanity to reach its fullest potential—to be free. I am sorry to report that I am watching my path diverge from the expectations of my colleagues, friends, and countrymen. I wanted very much to believe that our job was not “to kill people and break things,” but apparently, my delusion, knows no boundaries. Ego told me that it was macho and brave to kill. It told me that taking life was necessary for the greater good. It told me that freedom was only possible through violence and death. This is the mantra I was asked to internalize (one that I’m sure you will recognize) and that I used frequently to defend my position as a soldier:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decay and degraded state
of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
--John Stuart Mills, Thoughts on War—

Another mantra I’ve internalized, this one from my own mother, “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution,” feeds my will now better than the first. I have come to understand that the anger I hold inside; the anger that fuels my ability to bring death to another human being is very much part of the problem. I’ve focused diligently through study, discussion, thought, and meditation to prove that MY ego was misleading ME. I am prepared to give my life in the defense of ANY being that suffers. But, I will not take life with any measure of intent.

Integrity to me is consistency in thought, word, and action. Now that I am unable to convince myself that killing another person is just under any circumstances, it’s my duty to reveal that thought to those that count on me to act through these words to you. I believe that my exposure of this issue is better revealed now than when the stress of combat begins to bond the brotherhood of war. I love all those I work with and would fight with like brothers; and I would happily give my life in their defense. But I will not kill for the brotherhood.

My greatest fear now is that the operant conditioning of a life dedicated to destruction in the name of freedom will allow me to commit what I have now determined for myself to be a regrettable act. I cannot sacrifice my integrity or the integrity of this organization by pretending that these discoveries don’t matter to me, and that “going with the flow” is the approved solution. I’ve recruited the help of documents, books, experienced warriors, and learned teachers to answer my questions. I would happily recreate discussions with leaders, peers, and teachers to reveal the path I’ve walked. I would gladly hand over my written thoughts as evidence of my intent. I am sorry, I apparently made a wrong turn!

I will not take the life of another person. My resolve on this issue extends to the point where I am willing to accept deportation to another country or physical debilitation in order to prevent myself from committing a regrettable act. I am prepared to give my life to explaining my thoughts, words, and actions if that is necessary to prove the truth of my intent. I am prepared to give my life paying for any perceived deception I have maintained. I am prepared to give my life to learning the error of my ways in order that I may readjust my moral compass if it is faulty or misleading. I am prepared to give my life to understanding and employing defense without destruction. But as the tattoo on my chest burns, I am not prepared to sacrifice my integrity; I am not prepared to kill for freedom; and I could never ask another to kill for mine.


Akbar Lightning

Lt Col Thomas Deale has the signed original. He escorted me out of the entry control point that night when my line badge and security clearance were confiscated. He’s a good man with a good heart…always putting people before the mission ;) This is not about escaping reprisal; it’s about finding the path of truth. I feel nothing but the most sincere compassion for homosexuals in this age where they are forced to deal with so much ignorance and bigotry.

I don’t place a lot of faith in the institution of marriage in the first place, because I have truly come to believe that commitment can rob the breath from your lungs faster than a jog uphill at 13,000ft. If you ever commit your life to a single route of ascent on a mountain, it may lead to your demise. Sometimes we must step back, regain our perspective, and choose a new route. But if the comfort of predictability in marriage and in commitment is what people want, damn it, let them! Let gays marry, let dogs marry, let people and cats marry…what is marriage but a spiritual connection between two souls? What the hell do you care if your feelings for your husband or wife are true and passionate? I sympathize and have the utmost compassion for anyone victim of unnecessary suffering just for their sexual preference or the WAY THEY THINK.

I was hit-on by a gay man at a dance club in Fort Collins. I never really thought I was that sexy to begin with, so at least men were noticing. I jest, but honestly, all that that situation did for me was allow me to appreciate the frustration that women must feel when men will not leave them alone. It gave me a wider perspective: women are not sex objects, and I learned a valuable lesson in sympathy…Which would soon bloom into compassion. In reality, while we’re on the subject, the sacred feminine is precisely what this country needs more of (ref. The Da Vinci Code). There need to be more “womyn” politicians that can rule with a “what’s best for my child” instinct than men’s “what’s best for my image.” Bottom line, am I a homosexual? What do you think? As singer and song artist, Jewel, sang in “Pieces of You:”

You say he’s a ‘faggot,’ does it make you want to hurt him?/You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?/You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to your stomach?/You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same? Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him/’Cause he’s pieces of you?

Jewel, you are one of the most genuine human beings in the world! Let’s talk about animals while we’re at it. What’s wrong with someone seeking love with a dog, cat, or horse? We’ll look for love anywhere we can find it—animal or person. I probably was a dog in a past life. Even better, perhaps I could evolve INTO a dog. Their loyalty far surpasses that of many human’s. The point being that this declaration is about truth and honesty. I lay down my faults, and maybe we make some progress toward our goal—the summit of moral understanding.

Let’s talk about my apology for a moment. I’ll explain a little more about my intent. “Give my life,” does not imply TAKE my life…apparently subtle, but important difference. “Deportation:” I’ve already been deported from Thailand. “Physical debilitation.” Okay, this needs some explaining. I just finished reading I Know This Much is True and was amazed at the dedication of Thomas (a schizophrenic twin). He cut off his own hand in order to try to stop the first Gulf War (fictional novel). Now, I’m not advocating dismemberment, but if integrity of purpose is what I’m trying to prove here…”And if the right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell,” in Matthew 5:29. More background is needed here.

I volunteered for an operational Battalion Air Liaison Officer assignment to go fight “the war on terror,” because I needed to see for myself the real front line. In preparing for this assignment I worked hard at improving my small arms accuracy in order that I might target a leg, shoulder, or arm of an attacking “terrorist.” Spare the man and take away his will to fight. While I was home on leave (this is where the deportation fits in but much too long a story to fit here) I spent some time working on rapid fire 9mm “tactical scenarios” where I could accurately target something other than “center of mass” (man shaped target on range). Interestingly, that same night, the Director of Operations from Korea called to tell me the deployment was off. Bummer, but I guess I wouldn’t have the chance to defile my soul. To make my point, I planned to fight the war with an unloaded gun. Should I be forced to load it, I would leave it on safe. Should I be forced to engage the enemy, I would try to engage “no kill zones” of his body. Should I be unable to accomplish this through stress or strain, I was prepared to cut the first pad of my index finger off (personal debilitation—if thy index finger offend thee). Make sense now? I hope you brought snowshoes.

Post-holing Through the Snow

I KNOW that the death penalty is reserved for people that are convicted of treason (at least still in Illinois I think—send me there to fry—that’s where I was born anyway). If the evidence I provide here isn’t enough, then I’m really at a loss to understand the purpose of our laws.
906a. ART. 106a. ESPIONAGE
(A) (1) Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any entity described in paragraph (2), either directly or indirectly, any thing described in paragraph (3) shall be punished as a court-martial may direct, except that if the accused is found guilty of an offense that directly concerns (A) nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large scale attack, (B) war plans, (C) communications intelligence or cryptographic information, or (D) any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy, the accused shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court- martial may direct.
(2) An entity referred to in paragraph (1) is--
(A) a foreign government;
(B) a faction or party or military force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States
(C) a representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen of such government, faction, party, or force.
(3) A thing refereed to in paragraph (1) is a document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance or information relating to the national defense.
(b) (1) No person may be sentenced by court-martial to suffer death for an offense under this section (article) unless--
(A) the members of the court-martial unanimously find at least one of the aggravating factors set out in subsection (c); and
(B) the members unanimously determine that any extenuating or mitigating circumstances are substantially outweighed by any aggravating circumstances, including the aggravating factors set out under subsection (c).
(2) Findings under this subsection may be based on--
(A) evidence introduced on the issue of guilt or innocence;
(B) evidence introduced during the sentencing proceeding; or
(C) all such evidence.
(3) The accused shall be given broad latitude to present matters in extenuation and mitigation.
(c) A sentence of death may be adjudged by a court-martial for an offense under this section (article) only if the members unanimously find, beyond a reasonable doubt, one or more of the following aggravating factors:
(1) The accused has been convicted of another offense involving espionage or treason for which either a sentence of death or imprisonment for life was authorized by statute.

Perhaps this next essay for print in a publication in New York written by a close friend will tip the scales. I didn’t write this piece, but I agree with a lot of what she is saying. Therefore, since, at the time of this writing, I’m still a member of the US military and I intend to send this document to everyone I know, I suppose this falls under collusion for a revolt—my comments are in red:

Sailing the Seas of American Cheese (fabulous title) Samantha Bankston
What is America but an image of freedom? And what is a dream but an unrealitythe illusion of reality? Appropriately, the American dream persists as the horizon like a point perspective cartoon infinitely receding through where a landscape of strip malls, Home Depots, and mercury haze file past the drugged viewer as an infinite horizon. What was initially seen as a blank canvas for liberty is now the calculator of capital gain, as emotional life is another offshoot of consumerism. Somewhere along the way material became a placeholder for freedom, and the proletariat work ethic began to drive became focused on driving a BMW and staringe lazily into a prism of mindless commercials. As liberty further eludes the corporate mindset of our country, the nostalgic sense of home intensifies as one walks through the doors of Walmart. Under the obscenely (albeit, supposedly “efficient”) bright fluorescent lights, America is illuminated as a land sedated by MasterCard (who keeps ironically reminding us that there are some things in life that money can’t buy), masquerading as an affluent bourgeoisie, though working endless hours indebted to slaving in cubicles or offices, pushing paper for some deceptively rich handful of men. Despite the ill manifestations of such a corporate funded dominated country, things could be worse. We OUR beautiful house could be in Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other country that has not experienced the sweet smell of democracy. And while the social diseases of America seep out of the cracks of capitalism (the destruction of the rainforests at the hands of the McDonalds of the land; the refusal to replace the oil industry with more advanced, renewable, cleaner energy; the scalping practices of HMOs; the disintegration of the public education system; the democratic tyrannizing of other nations; the corporate puppetry of politicians; the perpetual objectification of women, and on and on) it is time to reevaluate the meaning of progress, and we must ask ourselves, “Are we free?” Perhaps before that even, what is freedom but a state of mind rather than a status of forces, state of the Union, or state of our checking account?
The resounding answer is no. American democracy, which has long been the promise for freedom is no more than a breeding ground for dualistic thinking, illusory claims to truth and falsity, and the dissolution of autonomous thought. That promise is vaporous illusion given that we don’t even know what freedom is! How can we preach it from the mosques of Baghdad or through the tunnels of the Hindu Kush when we’ve really only succeeded in fouling our own spiritual and mental nests!? The spurious tendency of separating life into two camps of either “cause” or “effect” has infiltrated the corporate-political system and has diverted the individual’s potential for autonomy via mental compartmentalization. The events in our country are perceived as an overly simplistic duality of right or wrong, good or evil, true or false, rather than snapshots of the organic whole that constitutes the flux of experience (GOOD—LOVE IT!). The media spearheads the act designating cause as being exclusive of effect, and does not consider the web of experience that unifies what appears to be a cause and effect. Doctor Bronner of “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps: 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint PURE-CASTILE SOAP” bleeds on his package labels, “WE’RE ALL ONE OR NONE…whatever unites mankind is better than whatever divides us!” Henri Bergson, in analyzing the intellect explains the erroneous act of understanding change in terms of the immobile. This is precisely the practice that has become the malady of the American people. The cause is the desire for success, or the American dream, and the effect is a materialistic country that is characterized by the immobility of objects and unflagging, artificially constructed categories of the mind (I weep L). However, this cause and its effect are not opposed to one another, are not separate from one another, but are different manifestations of the indoctrination of repressive thought. The first error is the mistaken identity of wealth for freedom. The second error is the assumption that cause and effect are two distinct moments of life, independent of one another. And these impediments of to? autonomous thought are embedded into the capitalist striations (beautiful word!) that are never questioned in our democratic system. America is the grand illusionist, and the average American is the prolonged proletarian trading his existence for an image of wealth. The decadence of material objects tranquilizes and preoccupies the faculties of critical thought, while autonomous thought slowly disappears into the patterns and compartments constructed by American society. It is the duty of the educated people to take back the country and reverse the corporate structures within (duty? Take back? The truth needs no defense). The educated are also victim to these mental patterns, but have the ability to see through and around them (Allegory of the Cave). The average American holds an illusion of happiness and success, and does not wish to disrupt this functional establishment. Most likely because she does not even know that things CAN be better. It is more difficult for those who pursue knowledge to understand the corporate mental patterns and continue to follow them, particularly when this path creates such injustice (by what standard…what is justice?) in the world and within the individual. Only the educated can shake the masses out of their comas of consumer bliss by ascetic example…and even if this can’t be done, the educated people of America owe it to themselves to destroy let the foundations which are robbing our being atrophy from disuse. The intellectual community, though affected by consumerism, has isolated itself from the great albatross that pervades every step in society. It is important to pull Husserl’s epoche out from under the microscope and collapse the walls that have captured our freedom. Although we academics don’t subscribe to this way of life in content, we do so in form, and every day is the corporation’s day. And you may ask yourself, “How did I get here?” This mental imprisonment experienced in our society is anchored by the dualism of cause and effect, therefore the best way to subvert the capitalist structures is through a temporal revolution started by the enlightened through the guiding of the blind. Using Being and Time as a model of the inexorability of ontology and temporality, it is clear that the America we know, so dominated by the world-time of the inauthentic, requires revolution rooted in time. The day when time no longer equals money, the capitalist structures patterned on cause and effect will fall away (the biological clock ticks on though). There still exists an America, miles beyond the malls and the suburbs that still moves dust under the echo of the City of New Orleans, and it is time to take it back (sorry, don’t get it…I like New Orleans though…not the garbage or debauchery J…the feather boas maybe ;) ).

This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife…
In a work criticizing universal toleration, Herbert Marcuse warns us that in order to be capable of rational choice, one must possess autonomous thought. However, this is not the case in our society. With the merging of politics, economics, and media, we are raised in an atmosphere proclaiming the knowledge of truth and fallacy, that there exist actual opposites, and that democracy is a servant of the people. It is evident that capitalism is the religion of today, and it is driven deep into the American’s consciousness from birth. We have become so divorced from our spirituality that we find comfort in the void of its stead. Consumerism has infected the way in which we are educated, the way we experience politics, and our emotional sense of freedom. Take for example W. Bush’s nearly immediate response to the attacks on the World Trade Center: “Go shopping or the terrorists win.” I think the terrorists have already won, or we’ve simply failed (shout it!). 9-11 (if you separate it, you illiterate the compartmentalization problem) was an event that shook many Americans into what was likely the first, albeit short-lived, existential crises of their lives. Go shopping? This pinpoints the ridiculousness that has become our country. This very reliance on consumerism is how the government keeps the public busy and contented and undisturbed from wandering thoughts involving freedom like crazy cows chewing cud. As long as the average American remains convinced that s/he/it (henceforth written shite) is living the American dream, s/he will not be troubled by ideas of dissidence. This is linked so profoundly into the American psyche that affective life reflects the materialism that is purported to be liberty (nice). If one is bored or sad, the typical response is to head to a record shop, or bookstore, or coffee shop and stave off the emptiness with the act of purchase. This act of consumerism has been so conditioned, and when the feeling of emptiness returns, one is often conflicted with guilt, but repeats the process again and again like a heroine adict. While the clerk double bags your cup of coffee again ask yourself, “Is this system one of freedom?” Most Americans are following a path that they did not navigate themselves, and seldom do they realize this fact. The American consciousness is sedated by capital, which uses the conflation between material and liberty as its hook. And Americans bite it every time.
When asking oneself what lies at the epicenter of all this consumer madness, the mental compartments that restrict the flow of life begin to appear. Bergson describes the malfunction of the intellect in terms of a cinematographic model. In Creative Evolution, he writes,
“Instead of attaching ourselves to the inner becoming of things, we place ourselves outside them in order to recompose their becoming artificially. We take snapshots, as it were, of passing reality, we have only to string them on a becoming, abstract, uniform and invisible, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself.”
If life flows like a river and one is to grab two successive handfuls, it is inaccurate to reconstruct this movement artificially in terms of causality (wow…nice). Each of these moments is experienced as a static state, which distorts the current of history. This is Bergson’s criticism, that in the name of causality, we take snapshots of reality and run them back to back to create the semblance of motion (devolution from the analog to digital world). This process is the unquestioned practice of daily life in America, and while the American dream flows through this river, material wealth becomes caught in the filter and time is mistaken for pictures of success (poetry!). We often forget that the opposite of an event is that initial event transformed, and it is incorrect to hold two moments apart from one another, as separate entities. The reduction of reality to cause and effect inhibits the individual from seeking evolutionary paths within these two points, and the gradations of life are ignored (would you like that 28kBps or 128? You won’t even notice the gaps!). It is essential for autonomous thought that one’s mind not be contained to dualistic categories. As Nietzsche notes, we have no right to assume there exists a truth or falsity- that every event must fall into some form of a lost and found box. The corporate standard of money equaling good, all non-moneypoverty equaling bad, has forced the American consciousness into categories of good and bad, right and wrong, where capital is the scale and time is a bystander. Therefore choices in life are aimed at this standard, while the system itself never goes into question. Through the corporate-political-media structures that support American life, it is difficult to see outside the walls, much less know that they exist. The average American is so busy chasing after the evasive allusive American dream that s/he ignores the possibility that s/he is following a contingent model constructed by someone else. The Galapagos art space in Williamsburg reflects the American dream beautifully. The entryway appears to be a huge, dimly lit basement at first glance, then movement results in rippling water just below foot level and the basement now appears to be a frightfully deep pool with lights illuminating the side and into the bottom. The truthtrue image, however, is that there is no pool at all, but a shallow layer of water covering a black surface that reflects the lofty ceiling lights. And like the space at Galapagos, American life appears deep into the realms of success and happiness, but each American should be required to swim in the pool that has become his/her life. Eventually, after the completion of a “successful” business life, the average American, if only momentarily, experiences the aching feeling that perhaps this was not what the s/he wanted from life, is struck with the loneliness of material objects and wonders if there might have been some other way (wonderful insight and example). The very system named for freedom, democracy, has effectively indoctrinated the American people into constructing the meaning of liberty through dualistic categories, and in the process has made free thought an virtual anomaly.

The way to undoue the system that is destroying autonomous thought is to stage a temporal revolution. In Being and Time, Heidegger outlines the temporal misconceptions of the masses, and understanding this error is essential to releasing America from its detrimental structures. Das Man fails to live resolutely in the face of death and in doing so distorts temporality. The non-choice of das Man, the illusion of infinite existence, transforms each new potential day into the former day. For das Man, temporality is similar to the Kantian idea of a number without the schemata. Just as the individual representations produced by the spontaneity of the imagination are connected in retention through time, the future of das Man replaces the present, therefore disconnecting the relationship between the present (which is necessarily the past) and the potential of the future (catch me, I’m dizzy). The motivation for this reversal of temporality is the attempt to negate the nothingness of the ultimate non-choice of death and transform it into infinity. Therefore, in pretending that death is never one’s true possibility, the masses live as if each day is no different, nor separate, from the last day. The masses take the non-choice of death and implant it into a continual non-choice of the future, and thereby the present (is there any way to dumb this down with “like” or “as”? I’m feeling lost L the cruise ship is sailing and I’m chasing it along the dock).
The result of this temporal reversal is not one of a projected past into the future that we see with authentic Dasein, but it’s the opposite: a retrograded future that manifests itself as an eternal past in the present. By making the non-choice of the future understood through death an actuality of the present, each moment of the present becomes a non-choice, which is identical with absorbing oneself in the past. Abstracting the separate form of the past and attempting to live through it is the denial of change. When one focuses on the past, the future passes by without notice (live truly in the present, unconflicted?). And this is precisely the phenomenon we see in the temporal conception held by the public. The present becomes fixed like objects in the present (making them the real past). It is the view that everything is given, and nothing is to be realized in the future. By saying, “They say that there’s nothing of interest in New York,” the implication is a world-view that nothing is to be discovered, or changed within experience, that the present is a living past absent of potential and possibility. In contradistinction to the idea that Dasein is its past and thus projects itself into the future, das Man holds that future is a past, and there is not anything to project, because the future is folded into the past through the present. This “ordinary” conception of time is that of average everydayness, and Heidegger implies the inauthenticity involved in this infinite understanding of time. The understanding of time is not only inauthentic because it ignores the temporal structure of finitude that is hidden within Dasein, but it is inauthentic on the grounds that it is the average everyday interpretation of temporality (did you take this section from an old paper?).
Correlatively, Dasein is the sight for all ontologies of the world and is equally the source for all temporality. Following the political implications of Being and Time, one realizes that to continue to live in a society that is defined by vulgar time is to level down one’s potential for being. Furthermore, it is impossible to have a temporal revolt without the revolution working itself out in an existential context. The revolution takes shape in terms of a social revolution. Society is the ontological cesspool of world-time where material objects act as permanence in this seemingly infinite existence by representing the past. The focus is on “now”, and the fact that one works every day like the last day, indicates the misunderstanding of the finitude of existence (groundhog day).
World-time has become the framework that gives meaning to existence, and, as such, is completely devoid of meaning. The nothingness that plagues the present of das Man, due to the reversal of authentic temporality, spreads into the lifestyle of the American people. The ontological implications of das Man are wired to the fundamental temporal structure of world-time. And as ontology is intimately connected to temporality, a temporal revolution requires a social revolution as an existential counterpart.
It is up to the educated citizens of this country to take back America from the greasy grips of consumerism. Those whom are educated possess the ability to not only see the structures destroying America, but can subvert them. It is time to stop acting like intellectuals and start being free thinkers- to get out of the concept laboratories and start taking risks, being creative. Academia has too long abstracted itself into linguistic nonsense, and we don’t need more Nietzsche scholars, we need more Nietzsches. The masses would not seek revolution unless it was dipped in ranch dressing. It is up to those who can see the faulty structures, see through and beyond them, and this is the task of the educated person. We must remember that we possess the freedom to reject the temporal structure of society, along with the dualistic corporate values that stagnate life, and demand an existence that values individual time (excellent call for action—integrity is consistency in thought, word, and ACTION). Once broken free from the indoctrination performed in America, the educated individual has the capacity to make an autonomous, rational decision. We must reject the political/corporate mental sedation that accompanies consumer life and see the American dream for what it is: the transposition of freedom and material. Let us no longer consent to America being just a colony of Walmart, but a land truly free and not dictated by the meaningless 40 hour work week of the masses! If you want a revolution, you have to give the key of understanding to the masses…speak TO them, not through, over, around, or behind J Great insight!

I guess you could say this is my face-off with the law. National and international laws are written by humans. Therefore, having already expressed my own failings, at least we know that this fallible human being should not be allowed to legislate. “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them,” from Luke 11:46.

More about spirituality: I was born Jewish. In fact, it was my grandfather’s death wish (on my mother’s side—his name was Emanuel Skolnik and he was an otolaryngologist) that at least one of his grandchildren experience a bar/bat mitzvah. The burden landed on my shoulders. It taught me a lot, but I still have no idea what the backward read, all caps, no vowel language means. Even with the English translation on the opposite page, it seemed so distant. It just goes to show that A LOT can be lost in translation (i.e., the bible). I could make the sounds though. It gave me a profound respect for heritage. So, babble is what I did for over 2 hours during a Saturday morning service in front of friends and family.

Later in life, two high school bullies reminded me daily of the putrid that the Jewish faith represented. They would kick me in the back, tug on their noses, and chant “Yoodeh, yoodeh, your buddy’s a jew!” NOTE: Jude, pronounced “yoodeh” was what the SS called the jews as the gathered them in the concentration camps to be systematically killed with bullets, gas, starvation, and overwork. I visited Dacau with my family at the end of high school…we saw the ovens. I’m sorry, but I have to make a bit of a chronological leap from junior high to college, because it seems most appropriately placed here. This is a speech I wrote on the subject of bullying for an English class at the Academy (I took the names out because those people mentioned were really some of the finest teachers of compassion and patience I’ve ever had):

The coming holiday season prompted me to discuss this topic—it took some digging though because you see, this is very personal issue. Well, what I mean to say is, I am a…, I am a…, I am a Jew. Well I was born that way at least. I remember growing up that way too. School is were it mattered though because I was different. In the first grade, during this same holiday season, I remember the raindeer and santa Claus and angels on our December calendar. We cut out snowflakes and made Christmas trees. In the second grade we talked about visiting family and tradition. As I went through school, sometimes the teacher would ask, “who celebrates Haunukah?” My hand would dart—it was the only one so often. More often. “Akbar Lightning is Jewish,” the other children would whisper.

In fourth grade my teacher asked why people celebrate Christmas. We talked about Haunuka a little too. But we sang Christmas songs in music class like Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer, Santa Claus is coming to town, and even Jesus Christ Superstar. “Who celebrates Haunuka?” my teachers sometimes asked. I raised my hand just a little slower in the fifth grade. I was the only one again. “He must be Jewish,” the whispers went. Was that bad, I wondered. No one else seemed to do it. Sixth grade was the same but people knew by then that I was a Jew. I started Hebrew school. It seemed right. My mom said it was. My friends went to Sunday school and confirmation school and Sunday Church services, it seemed like I should do something like that too. I met more kids like me at the synagogue. We played games, learned about Moses, and Jacob, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jerusalem, and it was nice.

Then I went to junior high at Southern Hills. Before school started, I saw [a girl I knew], one of my Hebrew school friends. She was in the hall on our tour day with our sixth grade classes. She pretended not to know me. Why? We were friends every Wednesday and Sunday for 3 hours, why not now. It later started to make sense, being Jewish wasn’t cool. People asked me why I had to leave early during wrestling practice, baseball practice, or football practice every Wednesday. “I have a kind-of-Sunday-School-thing to go to,” I said. I couldn’t really explain what we did there. When I said “we discuss the Torah and learn to read Hebrew and” well I lost them. During the High Holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah about this time each year people would ask, “Why did you miss class those two days, were you sick?” “It was a holiday,” I would reply, again unable to explain really what went on. It started to become different though. Things started to happen for the worse.

[Another teacher] and I went to elementary school together and sometimes hung out. One day after lunch we planned to play basketball. All of the students were gathered outside of the gym waiting to be let in after lunch to play ball because it was too cold outside. Rich was always an entertainer, he could really make people laugh, “How do you pick a Jew out of a crowd,” he chided. “Drop a nickel.” Everyone laughed except me. “I am a …” I started to say, but the words wouldn’t come out. I just stared at him. That was not nice I thought.

Later I would hear more jokes so I learned to laugh along and not take it personally. It really is no big deal I thought. It was a big deal though. From Southern Hills Junior High most of us went to high school together at Fairview. Even [one of my best teachers]. I should mention that I never forgot the names of these people and probably never will. Just as vivid as the memories of embarassment and seclusion, so too are their names and faces. Anyway, *** had a friend named *** *** and they were both from German ancestry. ***’s dad told him about the days of Nazi Germany and explained how good it was that all those Jews had gone to hell. *** would make the most jokes, especially when I was around. He would imitate the long noses that he thought all Jews had. We had an assembly one afternoon in the gymnasium and while walking there I could hear *** and *** singing some sort of song with the word Jew in it. They kept singing until we all sat down where they took up seats behind me. There they whispered “Jude” in my ear and kicked their feet into my back. I had many in-school suspensions in elementary school for getting into fights and I didn’t want to have to face my dad if I did it again besides what good would it have done anyway?

Reflecting back on that day in the gymnasium I’m reminded of the words to the song Pieces of You by the artist Jewel. “You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he is tight?/ You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?/ You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again./ You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.” I ignored the taunts behind me from *** and ***. They never stopped, they still haven’t. Since high school I have added three more names to the list of those that hurt me. I won’t mention them only because I’d bet some of you know them. Well, that’s too bad I’m sure you’re thinking, but who cares, right. You are right, at in-processing I claimed no religious preference. I no longer raise my hand when teachers ask the question “who is jewish or who celebrates Hanukah”…it’s not worth it. My lesson: learn to live with hatred and ignorance of other people, my message, enjoy your Christmas’s and Easters and other holidays, but be careful what you say, there is always someone listening and it does make a difference.

The ignorance that I hated so much about those Nazi bullies in high school was just as rampant in me. Their ignorance led to fear and as Yoda said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” which is what we’re all trying to bloody prevent anyway! SUFFERING!

The first of the four noble truths of the Buddhist faith: ALL OF LIFE IS SUFFERING, THERE IS A CAUSE, IT CAN STOP, and THERE IS A PATH! A path to end suffering…thank you JESUS! Show me the path so that I can end the suffering. Looking back on that situation, I know those guys were struggling with some pretty tough shit. I hold no ill regard. In fact, I’d like to buy them a beer one day and laugh about the nonsense of the whole thing. I don’t embrace any particular religious dogma, because the fundamental tenants of all of them seem to make so much sense! Love your neighbor, thou shalt not kill, peace be unto you, you reap what you sow, ask and you shall receive, turn the other cheek, narrow is the path…that’s all I want is peace, love, and happiness. After all, I am my own worst enemy. The Smashing Pumpkins have a great line: “the killer in me is the killer in you,” it’s the killer in all of us really.

My biological dad (not to be confused with my current father, Alan, the greatest man on earth) held a gun to my mother’s head and threatened to kill her. You want to talk about “stop the violence?” Holy shit…do you have any idea what that must have done to my sister? She’s 4 years older and has dedicated a large part of her being to protecting me from all things bad. She also intervened on more than one occasion with girls, “that one’s not good enough for you, “ she’d say. Hell, “any is good enough for me,” I thought. Anyway, I don’t remember the whole shit storm (I was too young), but I suspect it might have a link to my “intensity” and why I still grind my teeth in my sleep…thanks to the dentist for the fillings.

Through junior high AND high school I made 1 “B” in Mr Okolowicz’s Algebra class. HE, Mr “O,” was a Holocaust survivor. I heard some story about him escaping execution by the Nazi’s by lieing perfectly still under a pile of bodies until the soldiers left. I really liked that guy, in spite of the damned “B,” because we had something in common…I was Jewish too! I really got the sense that he suffered more than most did or ever should. He was just a kid when it happened. But he wasn’t the only refugee I knew. Boulder was full of refugees. Just read the bumper stickers: “FREE TIBET,” “CONTRA COCAINE,” “IMPEACH REGAN…” the call for peace and ACTION just roll out the back like the smog of the cars.

In junior high and high school I was into stealing, vandalism, pranks…blowing up mailboxes…just about anything you can think of. Add those charges to the rap sheet, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering,” from Luke 11:52. The universal law is like breathing. It is breathing in the love of all sentient creatures, great and small. Ultimately I was trying to fill a void in my heart with material objects that I could never afford. That void was the one left empty of love. I stole from department stores. I stole hood ornaments. I stole life from animals. One particularly emotional incident I had while hunting geese with my dad.

I was finally able to hit one of the trailers in a formation in the wing. It fell out of formation onto a berm surrounding a lake. The area where it fell was private property, so the guns weren’t allowed. We had permission to retrieve “game” we had “bagged” (desensitizing techniques for saying “life” we “destroyed”). So, my dad held my gun and told me to “grab it.” “Then what?” I asked. “Wring its neck.” Okay, sure…shouldn’t be tough. I hunted back and forth along the berm looking for feathers and blood. When I picked up the trail, I quickly found the animal, shocked and frightened along the bank. It ran as fast as its peddling legs could carry it, trying desperately to fly while I was in hot pursuit.

A Lone Canadian on the Front Range Migration Route

The poor animal gave up the chase by trying to hide, quivering, under a bush. That beautiful bird looked at me with wide, panic stricken eyes, and asked, “why?” No matter. I had a job to do…a MISSION to accomplish. I picked up the shaking avian and held it under my right arm like a football. With my left arm, I tried to pinch its neck like a rubber hose. It really took to flailing now. I dropped the weight of the animal out of my right arm to take a better grip with both hands on its silky neck. Once I had a good hold, I bent it over like a garden hose and squeezed for all I was worth. It was like trying to wring a wet noodle. The Canadian just thrashed and gargled a plea for mercy. Letting go with my right hand, I wrestled in my pocket for my pocketknife with the right. I put the bird down on the ground and held it fast under my boot while I opened the blade. When I picked it back up again and began sawing into the warm flesh of its chin until its arterial blood sprayed out and splashed my face. It gave up the ghost, and I cried. They mate for life. Me, big hunter, me provide food! FUCK THAT! I never goose hunted again. Something died in me that day.

Glacier Field

One of my neighbors was a political refugee. She was a Burmese Princess…wrote a book on the experience, Twilight Over Burma by Inge Sergeant. I used to pick Inge’s raspberries through the holes in our fence. She tutored me in German, because she was from Austrian descent and a good, albeit retired, German teacher from Fairview High school. That was after the wall fell. She helped me get ahead. I needed to get ahead to be competitive. Danke, Frau Sergeant! She’s fighting (non-violently of course—look into what it REALLY means to be a warrior in In Search of the Warrior Spirit by Richard Strozzi-Heckler) for a truly great cause. If the US Government would back her in that cause, a difference could really be made.

So, where are we? Let’s recap the achievements and failings. I made nearly perfect grades and was involved in nearly every school activity there was. “With that kind of FOCUS, there’s no limit to his ability,” people would say; I had a FOCUS so intense, perhaps I couldn’t SEE anything else going on. THE Academy was the goal, and I needed everything wrapped up tightly. EVERYTHING, to include my anger with my mother for screwing up my life (which isn’t really true…she was dealing with her own struggles as best she could, but I would project onto anything), my anger with my father for abandoning my sister and I, my anger with the bullies that made fun of me…GIVE ME A GUN! GIVE ME THE United States Air Force “flame from under” to rain destruction on anything and anyone in my path. I will be FREE from this suffering if I have to kill to get it, was what I thought.

What is freedom but a state of mind? Do we have to kill for a state of mind? Sure, we have to kill our ego, our pride, and our self-absorption. Why should anyone else have to die for my insecurities, for my problems, for my despair? They shouldn’t, and they won’t, because violence only begets more violence; an eye for an eye leaves two people with poor depth perception; and the root is failure of humanity to LOVE. LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE! It’s as simple as breathing. WE ALL NEED IT TO SURVIVE! You want to know why I won’t kill? LOVE. Anytime someone is afraid for their life, because they don’t know what hell I might rain down on them with 30mm depleted uranium shells, they can’t feel loved. In that sense, we have evolved no further from the “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life of the field mouse. Have we ever really tried the path that Jesus DIED for? Have we ever really committed to Peace, Love, and Happiness? NO! Why? SLOTH, ENVY, GREED, LUST…the seven “deadly” sins. I’ll tell you this much, the “100th Monkey” effect is a pretty profound phenomenon. We may even be at the threshold. Will you be the 100th monkey? If we all start willing it, it will be. “If you will it, it is no dream.”

The Meditative March Up the Ridge—One Foot in Front of the Other

I went to the summer scientific seminar and fell in love with the life of a cadet, the campus, and the IDEALS! I felt at home. I loved the regimentation, the camaraderie, the feeling of righteousness (a SUPER evil if I ever saw one)! It wasn’t long before I secured a nomination from Senator Hank Brown and an appointment to THE CLASS OF 2000! “Bring Me Men,” was the sign above the ramp. That was the funniest part since my class had somewhere in the vicinity of 17% WOmen. Just up the ramp from the parade grounds our class was greeted by another sign: “WE WILL NOT LIE STEAL OR CHEAT, NOR TOLERATE AMONG US ANYONE WHO DOES.” I was intoxicated by the possibility that code implied.

I was scared as hell, but prepared. I had been jogging up to 15 miles a week in my combat boots; I had prepared myself for the AFT, PFT, and swim tests. I shaved my head. I even tried to get a copy of Contrails, the first year Cadet’s pocket bible, early, so I could start studying! I was going to bust my ass all summer while my “hippie, tree-hugging” friends, the one’s with which I graduated, went on and partied, traveled…and worked at summer jobs (I know it wasn’t all fun and games). I was going to learn discipline. I was going to learn integrity. And I was going to train to defend my country (patriotism is some evil shit too—I suppose a lot of “isms” are). Side note while we’re on this subject:

Each nation is thought of as supreme. So if two nations disagree, in the end, there is nothing for it but war. Nationalism makes brutal and destructive wars inevitable. The idea of peace between nations is meaningless. The very existence of a nation implies a state of mind that makes war unavoidable in the long run. And politicians, along with their followers, are like drunken people, whose minds are befuddled with clouds of illusions. They don’t see what they are doing.

Wrote Physicist David Bohm to his brother-in-law Yitzhak Woolfson. They don’t SEE what it is they are doing! Why not? We’re all too busy trying to play each other’s game to realize we’re really just destroying ourselves.

Sorry, back on track…first I had to figure out how to properly speak to the upper class cadets in order to properly play their game. It was really pretty easy once I got it down (you could say I was a “double plus good duck speaker”—1984):

Yes, Sir/Ma’am.
No, Sir/Ma’am.
Sir/Ma’am, may I ask a question.
Sir/Ma’am, may I make a statement.
Sir/Ma’am, the answer is…
Sir/Ma’am, I do not know.
No excuse, Sir/Ma’am.

Seven basic responses—there’s that number again.

I graduated basic training in the top of my flight. I already knew how to shine shoes, make hospital corners, iron a uniform, and take orders. I was good at taking orders. I would go anywhere and do anything I was told. I strained for everything I was worth those first several months. I was totally committed to being the best cadet I could be. Then I went home for Winter Break (it’s Christmas Break to all those too insensitive to realize that perhaps there are other belief systems in the world—that, by the way, are pretty much saying the same damned things). On Christmas Break that first year, my friends at CU Boulder, showed me the life I had been missing. Beer, girls, parties…yes, I was underage, I was drinking…add that to the list of interminable crimes I’ve committed. I’m sure that admission alone will incite even more administrative action, legislation, and regulation. How about fewer laws and more compassion, more love, and more interest in the lives of our youth—of ALL spirits. Taking the time to make the difference in a young person’s life could save more than just theirs (i.e., Columbine High school)!

I spent any free weekend I had at home. My parent’s house became a refuge for other cadets. I met my best friend’s new girlfriend on one of those weekends. She was a real anti-military type with a sharp mind for politics and social injustice. We argued for hours on end. I became at least a little disenchanted with the “system” while I was a cadet that first year in part, because I saw the emerald grass on the “outside.” In fact, at one point I approached my Air Officer Commanding about resigning. I was a performer though, so he worked hard to keep me where I was. I guess he was able to feed my ego enough for me to believe I had a purpose for being there. Who knows, perhaps he was right.

I walked onto the Junior Varsity Lacrosse team. Truly, I was a miserable player, but the coach kept me around because I made the other bros hustle (call me Rudy). I made good grades, and I worked hard at summer programs (I loved survival and evasion except for the wet, cold, and hungry part). I took soaring and vowed at the end of that program that if I didn’t get selected for the instructor upgrade that I would CERTAINLY quit this time. Low and behold, my name was on the selection list to become a soaring instructor. SALVATION AGAIN! Between flying, studying, and playing lacrosse, I was almost enjoying myself. I was learning tremendous things about myself everyday (and still am). An interesting story I heard about the soaring program though: Apparently, a few years previous, cadets were given rides in the backs of the tow planes. Oftentimes the tow pilots, who had more hours airborne than we had alive, and more combat time than we had since puberty, would let the budding aviators fly from the backseat. “Unsat!” said the Air Force, SO, the stick in the rear cockpit was removed until on one of these incentive flights, the veteran tow pilot died of a heart attack and the cadet in back died too because he had no way to control the airplane. I haven’t verified the source on that one though. But I can confirm the misguided intent of how the T-3 Firefly trainer program was run. A lacrosse player died in one of those death traps while I was at the zoo.

The View From on High

“Integrity is the fundamental premise for military service in a free society. Without integrity, the moral pillars of our military strength, public trust, and self-respect are lost,” was General Charles A. Gabriel’s proclamation. Hold up for a moment…starting now, I am going to dispense with the cumbersome documentation for some sage wisdom uttered from the lips of other humans. From here out, if you care so much who deserves the credit for the words I use (I will at least use quotations so you know it’s not my original thought—there really aren’t any original thoughts anyway, just inspiration) then YOU investigate the source. Here’s my blanket and most humble thanks for the vision and divine inspiration that those who have gone before me have spoken. “There’s no limit to the good you can do, if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Ultimately, we all stand on the shoulders of giants, and if we are to give credit to anyone, it should be the “Collective Conscience of All Beings.” So, when I site CCAB as my source…you get the picture.

Mount Elbert

Integrity. At the end of my second year, I threw my name in the hat for selection by my classmates to become an honor officer…to protect the sanctity of that aluminum code beside the chapel. My goal was to make the cadets with which I learned and to whom I taught as honest as they were hard working. I really enjoyed that job. Mostly because I had the opportunity to be on the front line, wrestling the tough issues. Honesty and Integrity pave the path of Truth. I started a program my last year at the academy to help cadets internalize the code:

Integrity is the first of our institutional core values. It stands for more than a simple mission statement or key to success. It is a keystone to life. As General Charles A. Gabriel eloquently stated, “Integrity is the fundamental premise for military service in a free society. Without integrity, the moral pillars of our military strength, public trust, and self-respect are lost.” What’s more, individual honesty is the necessary framework for such organizational integrity, and is a crucial foundation for officership. The search for understanding these truths, however, is your own. Have faith that they are in fact truths, and only you can build with them. Do your best with the tools and guidance given to you by those who have gone before you.
These are values of
character that can
only be achieved
through habit and
understanding. This
“Beam of Integrity”
will serve as a
constant reminder
of these things
that we hold dear
in the Cadet Wing
and the Air Force.
There is a great
deal of symbolism
tied to both the
form and function
of your beam.
It represents the
strength and
durability of the
timeless virtues of honesty and integrity. Furthermore, each section, having been cut from a single span, represents the link of teamwork that binds each class. When standing upright, the beam forms a capital letter “I” for “INTEGRITY.” On its side, the beam forms an “H” for “HONESTY.” It is crafted of corrosion resistant aluminum for superb durability. Take pride in your beam and use it as a tool for internalizing these values for now and a lifetime. Keep it on your desktop as a constant reminder of what should guide every action you take or decision you make. Then reflect by looking inside and asking yourself, “What do I stand for?”

I really believe that integrity is necessary to make the framework that PROTECTS peace, love, and happiness. Integrity became like a religion to me. It was my moral compass. OUT WITH THE TRUTH and all will be well. I guess that’s why I’m typing all this shit out in the first place.

Meanwhile, I was also training to become a SCUBA instructor. That job was probably the biggest perk of being at the Academy. We traveled, we taught, we learned, and we enjoyed the vast depths of the oceans and all of the life that thrived there (or didn’t thrive due to overfishing…we’ll address my vegetarianism in a bit). Speaking of thriving, there was a bit of debauchery to be had by all on these trips…me included. I’m tremendously ashamed, but the lesson learned about lust was invaluable. I let myself be tempted by the song of a Siren.

AFTER that episode, enter Annabel. She is truly the most angelic woman I have ever known. She gave me the biggest gift of my existence. She taught me how to love. She taught me how to forgive myself, and she introduced me to the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ. I met her directly at a Christmas party. She stole my heart in a moment and continues to be one of the most special people in my life. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock,” according to Matthew 7:24. My rock:

I knew I needed to change the direction my life was taking but I didn’t know how. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,” in John 4:18. “Follow your heart,” was the best advice I ever received.

A Fork in the Trail

BUT, let’s get back to the SCUBA club and its impact on my conscientious objection. It introduced me to a man that I developed tremendous respect for. Capt Mike Auclaire was the officer in charge of the SCUBA club and an ex-pararescue jumper. He was a man of strong character and moral value and a protector of life. I wanted to emulate him in every way. So I began to train. I swam, I did pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, walked underwater with a lead-belt, and practiced drown-proofing drills with the inspiration of a converted classmate (he left pararescue school to attend USAFA)…I wanted to become a pararescue jumper. It fit with my budding aversion to killing and aligned well with my past in the Civil Air Patrol. “That Others May Live.”

There was one problem though. At the time, there was no place in the career field for officers. I had already passed the point of no return in terms of getting out. I had already incurred a COMMITMENT. Therefore, I had two choices: 1. Resign my chance at a commission and hope that after a spell in security forces I would be given a shot at Indoctrination or 2. Try to compel the Air Force to open the career field to officers. I worked like a kid possessed at both. My plan in the first case was to finish my education, get my diploma, and resign my commission for a SHOT at PJ. In the second case, I argued the side of officer advocacy through a Military Arts and Science paper I wrote my junior year.

I trained to compete for a summer slot to go to Airborne static-line jump training at Fort Benning, GA. I earned that slot hands down. I was to go during the last summer period when an “issue” came up. Apparently, during cadet squadron commander interviews (two new squadron commanders had to be picked for our final year), the group command was not satisfied with the folks that stepped forward for interview—to make a long story short, I was “encouraged” by the leadership to put first “the needs of the Air Force” and take the position. I lost my shot at Airborne; there was a summer schedule conflict because of the new job.

The intent behind going to Georgia was to engage in some type of jump activity, in order to make sure I would get a realistic job preview of being a PJ. I also enrolled in a first responder course in order to get a feel for the medical aspect. Interestingly, as another aside (I’m sorry, everything just seems to be enfolded while I’m unfolding), I was in the First Response course with one of my own classmates that would become one of the first officers to enter the PJ pipeline…that was a sickening revelation many months later at an Independence Day party during pilot training. I had established my intent to leave the Academy in my final semester. Back on track…In addition, I had made arrangements to take the PAST (physical fitness test for combat control and pararescue) in New Mexico, and I had discussed the decision at length with my family.

I discussed the issue with my regional recruiter (the individual that helped me secure an appointment to USAFA ’00). She put me in touch with a fighter pilot and jump Air Liason Officer (ALO). The ALO explained the opportunities of being a pilot AND an ALO. All I had to do was secure a fighter out of pilot training. I also discussed the issue with a mentor appointed over me for leadership guidance. He was an F-15 pilot. I asked him if he had any aversion to killing? Nope. I told him I was struggling with the issue and explained my PJ passion. He asked me if ultimately, by doing the job of a rescue specialist, I wasn’t just taking the pilot and putting him right back in the cockpit to fight again? He had a point. Okay, I had better just go full bore then and stand at the tip of the spear. Between the sobbings of my sister and the reluctance of the people I respected most, I had to give up the PJ push.

The Descent

I went to Sheppard, AFB in Wichita Falls, TX for pilot training (some said it was a guaranteed fighter—I still had to work my ass off). What I discovered about pilot training is that the pace was much too fast to allow for any real reflection about what I was getting ready to do (for me that was the case at least). It was designed to make use of operant conditioning (reference On Killing by Lt Col Grossman) to turn us into automated flying machines. They’re getting pretty darned good at it over there. I struggled a bit in Tweets (T-37 trainer), but really had the knack of the UPT (undergraduate pilot training) game by the time I was flying T-38’s. I knew what to study, how to remember numbers, and how to conserve energy in the area between maneuvers. That’s really what it was about…what everything is about: ENERGY. Take John Boyd’s thoughts on Basic Fighter Maneuver energy for example, or Einstein’s E=mc^2, or the California power grid, or your Ford Excursion…Energy is the most precious commodity we have and we squander it. Okay, sorry, back to UPT.

So, I probe a couple of instructors about war and combat, but I don’t get any real good answers. Most guys just pushed off the inquiries and pointed out that we weren’t being made warfighters in UPT…that would come later in Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) and at the Formal Training Units (FTU). Okay, I can live with that. I focused on one thing at a time, and it turned out pretty well for me. I spent my free-time mountain biking, rock climbing, and playing with our adopted mutt “Deuce.”

Stevil, Deuce, and Akbar Lightning on Elk Slab in the Wichita Mountains

I still had questions about killing.
During pilot training, my father, Alan, came down with a serious colon problem. He had an infection in the polyps of his colon. It put him in the hospital for over 2 weeks. He had a large part of his colon removed, and was forced to energize with nothing but intravenous nutrients for those couple of weeks. I asked him what it was that he learned from his suffering. He said that his diet when he was my age was a leading cause. Just because you don’t run scissors over your wrist, or shoot yourself in the head, doesn’t mean you aren’t making a “passive aggressive” attempt at ending your life. I’ll introduce some short cuts that you probably already know: cigarettes, snuff, saturated fat (in excess), alcohol (in excess), car exhaust, jet fumes, animals treated with hormones, irradiated fruit, partially hydrogenated oils…if it seems too good to be true, it PROBABLY IS! So, I began reading 8 Weeks to Optimum Health and any natural healing books I could find. Between some wicked big game hunting fouls (the stiffened trophy head of a Grand Royal elk hangs in our garage as a reminder of my early propensity for destruction), the goose incident, and my dad in the hospital, I was ready to give up meat (Animal Liberation, Eating in the Light, The Newman’s Own Organics: Guide to a Good Life). I was particularly interested in natural stress reduction and depression control. I read what I could on both issues because I knew several people to be depressed…me included, but I’ve since come to realize that we’re all at least a little mentally ill. It’s a natural coping mechanism.

Okay, let’s do a recap of my guilt: treason, sodomy, theft, statutory rape, and vandalism…that should pretty well seal the deal I hope. I’ll tell you anything you need to know for a conviction. As for moral sin:

Arrogant: excessively (exceeding what is usual, necessary, or proper) and unpleasantly self-important; haughty; and excessively high opinion of one’s own importance;

Bigoted: intolerant (the incapacity for or malpractice of recognizing and respecting the opinions, practices, or behavior of others) of religion, race, or politics.

Cynical: belief that all people are motivated by selfishness

Deceitful: misrepresentative, deceptive; to delude; mislead; to lead in the wrong direction; to lead into error

Egotistical: the tendency to speak or write excessively about oneself; an exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit; too high an opinion of oneself; vanity

Flattering: insincere praise; compliment excessively

Greed: a selfish desire for more than one needs (a lack of something required) or deserves; avarice (extreme desire for wealth); desiring to accumulate great quantities of money or riches

Injustice: violation of another’s rights or of what is right (something that is morally (of or concerned with the discernment or instruction of what is good and evil; being or acting in accordance with established standards of good behavior; arising from conscience; having psychological rather than tangible effects; based on likelihood rather than evidence) and ethically proper, just, or good)

Jealousy: fearful of losing what one has to another, especially someone’s love or affection; resentful of another’s success, advantages; arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness

Grudging: to be reluctant to give or admit; a feeling of resentment or rancor (deep seated ill-will)

Lustful: intense, excessive, or unrestrained sexual desire; an overwhelming craving; to have an inordinate desire

Malicious: the desire to harm other or to see others suffer (to feel pain or distress; to tolerate or undergo damage or loss; to appear at a disadvantage; to endure or bear); spite;

Narrow-minded: lacking breadth of view or tolerance; bigoted

Ostentacious: pretentious (claiming or demanding distinction or merit; making an extravagant outward show) or excessive display

Pernicious: destructive; deadly
Quarrelsome: causing an angry dispute or argument; to find fault (a failing defect, or impairment; a mistake or minor transgression; responsibility for something wrong)

Rancorous: deep-seated ill will (the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action; volition; an instance of the exercising of the will; choice; self-control; self-discipline)

Violence: physical force exerted so as to cause damage, abuse, or injury; an act of instance of violent action or behavior

Yep, I’m guilty of all of those too. Wow! I wonder if there’s salvation for a person like me. If not, hopefully hell is warmer than the top of Long’s Peak in January. That is some serious fucking cold. Now I understand why molecular motion ceases at absolute zero…the molecules are too cold to move! It hurts! I wonder if that’s how the soul responds when it feels unloved?

My introduction to the fundamentals of warfighting was a series of 6 still photographs of the first attacks in Afghanistan. Post 9-11, there was a frenzy in the pilot ranks to “get out there and do the job.” The still photos depicted a bomb impact on an armored troop carrier and body parts flying to the edges of the frame. I remember a lot of the fellas at the desk being really amped about what they saw. It was a frenzy of machismo. The Captain that introduced us to the program said, “we’re here to kill people and break things, and if you have a problem with that, this is the wrong place for you.” Hmm? Is that really the stance of the US Air Force? I refused to believe it and passed it off as an aberration in an otherwise rational and spiritual group of warriors.

I continued to press forward into my career while trying to understand from firsthand experience what the true intent really was. Many of the flights I flew at the Warthog schoolhouse in Tucson were briefed to objectives and area activities such as this (understand that objectives and area activities are the purpose or intent of the mission—even for training):

Surface Attack Tactics Lineup Card

Find Things
Break and Kill Things



I chose Socrates’ flight with me as an example, because I thought he would understand the intent of my CO and concede to a little highlighting. He’s a great dude and one hell of a motorcycle rider. Certainly aircraft parameters (airspeed, dive angle, release altitudes), formation roles and positions, and valid hit criteria were ALSO objectives in most if not ALL flights. However, of the 33+ flights in the syllabus, I flew 9 with the aforementioned intent. It wasn’t just the new instructors either (the young, eager types like I met at IFF). No, it was a cross-section of the entire staff. Both combat veterans who have supposedly seen the horrors of war, and those who haven’t. Okay, I realized I had a lot to learn about employment in war. So, I suspended my internal conflict until I could see things from an operational perspective in South Korea. Flying with the Assam Draggins in Korea, I actually saw a lower percentage of “kill and break” motivated pilots than I did at the schoolhouse. I attribute that to a lower combat experience level, or perhaps it’s just the younger guys that are really making the evolutionary push. Perhaps fear of personal safety and xenophobia contributes to a higher desire to kill. We fear that which we do not understand, and it is a short drive from fear to anger…

The Narrow Valley

I still wasn’t satisfied so I began probing for answers again. I engaged flightleads, wingmen, weapons officers, and lawyers. I argued for hours with bros at the bar about the intent of war. This letter to a tactics expert in the 25th Fighter Squadron, Osan AB, ROK reflects the TRUTH that I was after and needed to confront for myself:

Dear Sir,

It’s now obvious to me that probing you with questions about the Law of Armed Conflict, Just War Theory, and “swordlessness” in CAS [close air support] tactics is not appropriate minutes prior to a flight brief. Nor does the jocularity of the bar scene allow for any real assessment of the issue that I’m trying to resolve. I approached you of all people, but not only you, with the issue of destroying the will to fight, because you seem to me to be a tactics expert. Your experience makes you a bit of a sage in the Air to Ground employment world. I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to learn from you.

We seemed to agree that the true intent of warfare is not to “kill people and break things” as many instructors would jestingly have me believe in the past. But rather it is to destroy the mechanism of warfare (i.e., tanks, trucks, guns, missiles…) and not the man. We have truly done our job as implements for National Policy if we are able to get the enemy to agree to our terms without any loss of life from either side. I’m not so ignorant that I won’t admit that some death is an unfortunate consequence of imposing our (arguably just) will on others. Our weapons are still cumbersome and imperfect. Given that, collateral damage will occur whenever they are employed. HOWEVER, what I expect to gain from your experience, is that we can do better…I can train better, and we can fight better if we all agree on the true intent of our duty.

To the point! What tactics were you a witness to, either by accident or by intent, where you saw the enemy give up and were able to then employ against a machine, instead of the man? More specifically, I heard a story from an IFF instructor where he employed against a convoy of trucks in Iraq. After missing the first vehicle, the flight wheeled around to employ again…BUT, by missing, the drivers were warned of the presence of the circling hawgs [A-10 Thunderbolt II—nicknamed Warthog or just hog/hawg for short] and opted to ABANDON their vehicles. The flight was then able to destroy the now halted column with little or no loss of life! What other situations like this did you see a “shot across the bow” as either being effective or ineffective at destroying the will to fight?

I understand that precision and accuracy can be very intimidating in and of themselves. Where did you see such “show of force” being wholly or partially effective at destroying the will to fight? How was your own will to fight rusted or inhibited by situations that seemed disproportionate? Do you see, in the future of warfare, the possibility that we could ever have a bloodless war? If so, what tactics do you imagine would be employed? Also, what emphasis would you relay to your own wingman regarding your intent in the target area?

I recognize that I have thrown some flaming arrows your way. If you choose to ignore my questions, I can’t fault you in any way. But, please understand that my only intent is to learn as much about the intent and then application of force as I possibly can. As proof of that, I will reveal my own deepest feelings on the issue, and you can stand as judge of my fitness to fight: I believe there is nothing worth taking the life of another; I believe that the intent of warfare is to engage the mechanism of war from power grids to combat boots while sparing the man at all costs; I believe that we are entering an age where a bloodless war is not impossible with the correct focus and motivation.

Last question, and perhaps easiest of all, why don’t we engage man-sized/shaped targets on a tactical range (i.e., Pilsung, AZ tac ranges…) but we do on the small arms ranges? It seems as often as we talk about Troops in Contact, we should practice to the situation. I can’t imagine it would be difficult to place troops dug in or troops on assault as plywood cutouts on a range…why don’t we?

The impetus of my inquiry came from issues I saw raised in On Killing, by Lt Col Dave Grossman:

The good news is that the vast majority of soldiers are loath to kill in battle. Unfortunately, modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning [through the use of man-sized/shaped targets and group pressure], have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. The psychological cost for soldiers, as witnessed by the increase in post-traumatic stress, is devastating. The psychological cost for the rest of us is even more so…

Please help me to understand.

With Respect and Admiration,
Akbar Lightning

No response. Okay, I understand. These are some tough issues. I won’t deny that, but when are we going to stop and take notice that things can be different? I had seen the inside of a tank after it had been pierced by a sabot penetrator—the over pressurization, spalling, and fire that comes with it wreaks havoc on human flesh.

Fellow Hog Driver, Dan “Donnie” Patak Looking Through Sabot Hole

In my mind, it was no different to roll in on an occupied tank from 10,000ft for a strafe pass than it would be to climb inside the driving compartment and strangle each person…then perhaps tear their skin off and set them on fire.

Inside of Same Tank Above

I met a teenage American M-1 Abrams tank driver during an exercise near the DMZ. I was a Battalion Air Liaison Officer for the Draggins and spent 11 days exercising in the field with an Air Assault Battalion and this tank Battalion. One particularly exciting day on the range, the XO shouted at the staff meeting, “It’s a goddamned great day to be an American. If you didn’t love that shit out there today on the range, get out, just leave!” Yes, sir. The “evil” on the other side of the C-wire fences that line the DMZ is probably a teenager just as afraid (or ignorantly comforted by his metal skin) as the one I met. I’m sure he would be at least a little afraid if “silent death” were overhead (Iraqi’s called the A-10 silent death, because it could circle the battlefield at medium altitude and drive 30mm depleted uranium shells and drop Mk-82, 500lb bombs onto them without a sound).

Hog Loaded for Bear

I saw some pretty amazing things in Korea. I saw a country desperately afraid of the opposition to the north. National service is compulsory in the south just as it must be in the north under Kim Chong “the Chonger” Il. They value peace more than any civilization I have ever seen. No wonder it’s the “land of the morning calm.” What is the price though for that supposed peace?

Sign Outside Korean War Memorial In Seoul

I saw a lot more than this clinging to freedom at all costs. I also saw the command structure and tactical implications of using cluster munitions. I gave a briefing to the 25th Fighter Squadron on CBU-89 “Gator” where graphic photos, LOAC considerations, and public opinion that didn’t exactly extol the “virtues” of scatterable mines were censored. It was just another bump against the wall for me.

I floated on the issue for a couple of weeks until I couldn’t cope with my own lack of integrity anymore. I was in the prebrief for a 2-ship flight south of the Demilitarized Zone in support of an Air Forward Air Controller upgrade ride when my resistance manifested in scribbling notes on my lineup card. “I’m sorry. I’ve made a mistake. I can’t do this anymore: pretend that I’m willing to kill. I won’t kill,” was what I had jotted between confused stares from my flightlead. Just prior to stepping to fly I drafted the letter I would give to my commander explaining my refusal to perform. During the flight, my failure to roll-in on simulated human beings in a troops-in-contact situation proved my frustration had reached a head. I have a tape of the event. I couldn’t rationalize employing a 30mm round on a human body that would vaporize in front of my face. 2 days later I brought the letter to my boss.

Back at the Trailhead

That pretty well sums up my evolution. Why the painful detail you might ask? The devil lies in the details, and purification of any system is a painful process. I’m sure I disgusted most of you, but perhaps I reached a few with a glimmer of truth. I put forth my own example such that others may judge, criticize, and ultimately focus attention back on the issues affecting our humanity. It can be better. I don’t claim to know the way, but I know what feels true to me. I can’t go on with the dark blemish surrounding my soul, because I’m unable to commit to an absolute course of action. How can we “defend” a nation that was founded on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by offensively taking life? My sense is that most soldiers spend no more effort in deciding whether to kill or not to kill than they do in deciding what toothpaste to use. There has to be another way, “I was to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for that mission. It meant more to me than all the other awards. Unlike the others, this award was for not killing someone,” confided John Flanagan in Vietnam Above the Treetops: A Forward Air Controller Reports (sorry, I guess I’ve been conditioned to document). I cannot kill.

So what do you do with a guy like me? Do you put me on the row for lethal injection, in a mental hospital, somewhere I can’t infect the minds of others? If I had my dream, I’d be in a place where I could inspire as many to claim the moral high ground as I could…philosophy instructor at the Academy perhaps, or Park Ranger in the Rockies. Any high ground will do at this point.

Long’s Peak at Sunset

Here is a short summary of some media that have influenced my evolution. Certainly, everything a person perceives has an impact, but in an effort to wrap this proclamation up, I offer this short list of “favorites” if you will, to include the lyrics to a great song by The Offspring (Dexter Holland is a saint):
We certainly don’t need to kill the president. He’s a good man. BUT he probably does need to kill his pride and ego.

“11: Kill The President

In a world without leaders
Who'd start all the wars?
The world that you’re saving
Will always be yours

Kill the President
Listen to the voice of reason
Unify with that single line
Stop the man with the power
Of the government
A leader's not the center
Of democracy

In a world without leaders
Who'd make people starve?
The world that we're saving
Will always be ours

Everyone says
Well maybe I'll make a difference
Thinking they've got plenty of time
But you're squeezed
A little tighter everyday
Finished before you can commit a crime

In a world without leaders
Who'd start all the wars?
The world that you’re saving
Will always be yours

Kill the President
Listen to the voice of reason
Unify with that single line
Stop the man with the power
Of the government
A leader's not the center
Of democracy

All of your enemies
Come from within
But you lash out so
It is seen
Like some frightened child
In an angry world
Or the fall of Rome
Your demise comes
From your own hands

In a world without leaders
Who'd start all the wars?
The world that you’re saving
Will always be yours

In a world without leaders
We might have a chance
But we'll never see it
As long as there's.

-x- The End –x-“


In Search of the Warrior Spirit
The Da Vinci Code
Redeeming Love
Source (Michener)
Mission of Art
Animal Liberation
Grammy Nominees 2003
Eating in the Light: Making the Switch to Vegetarianism on Your Spiritual Path
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: The Spiritual Classic and International Bestseller
The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit
Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence
David Blaine-Fearless (dvd)
Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic
Holographic Universe
Yoga for Every Body (dvd)
The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
The Rocky Mountain Collection (John Denver, cd)
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
Ani DiFranco (cd)
Prevention Magazine’s Nutrition Advisor: The Ultimate Guide to Health-Boosting and Health-Harming Factors in Your Diet
Natural Health, Natural Medicine: A Comprehensive Manual for Wellness and Self-Care
Peak Performance Principles for High Achievers
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War: Boyd
Big Lebowski (dvd)
The Constitution of the United States of America
The Universe in a Nutshell
Mountain Flying Bible
The Holy Bible (NIV)
Vietnam Above the Treetops
The Essential David Bohm
Classics of Moral and Political Theory
Sun Tzu: Art of War
Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot
The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels
Colin Powell With Joseph E. Persico
Officers in Flight Suits
The Tragedy of Vietnam
My Lai
Gods and Generals
National Security and the Nuclear Dilemma
I Know This Much is True
Sacred Mirrors
There’s No Such Place as Far Away
Fighter Wing
Pay it Forward (movie)
Seven (movie)
Ice Age (movie)
Poltergeist (movie)
The Exorcist (movie)
Schindler’s List(movie)
Seven Years in Tibet (movie)
Three Men and a Baby (movie)
E-T (movie)
Steel Magnolias (movie)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (movie)
Mars Attacks (movie)
American Pie (movie)
There’s Something About Mary (movie)
Samurai (movie)
Dirty Dancing (movie)
Flashdance (movie)
Ghostbusters (movie)
Matrix (movie)
Castaway (movie)
Top Gun (movie)
Iron Eagle (movie)
Rocky 1-5000 J (movie)
Apollo 13 (movie)
The Right Stuff (movie and book)
Hoosiers (movie)
Up in Smoke (movie)
The Lorax
Oh the Places You’ll Go
Warthog: Flying the A-10 in the Gulf War


A2.2.3. An explanation as to when these beliefs became incompatible with military service, and why.

SEE A2.2.2

A2.2.4. An explanation as to the circumstances, if any, under which the applicant believes in the use of force, and to what extent, under any foreseeable circumstances.


A2.2.5. An explanation as to how the applicant’s daily life style has changed as a result of the beliefs and what future actions applicant plans to continue to support applicant’s beliefs.


A2.2.6. A description of what most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of the
beliefs that gave rise to the claim.

SEE A2.2.2

A2.3. Participation in Organizations:
A2.3.1. Information as to whether applicant has ever been a member of any military organization or establishment before entering present term of service. If so, applicant must give the name and address of such organization along with the reasons why applicant was a member.

SEE A2.2.2

A2.3.2. A statement as to whether applicant is a member of a religious sect or organization. If so, the statement must show:
• The name of the sect and the name and location of its governing body or head.
• When, where, and how the applicant became a member of said sect or organization.
• The name and location of any church, congregation, or meeting that the applicant customarily
attends and the extent of the applicant's active participation.
• The name, title, and present address of the pastor or leader of such church, congregation, or
• A description of the organization's or sect's creed or official statements, if any, and if known,
any statements of the religious sect or organization regarding participation in war.


A2.3.3. A description of applicant's relationships with and activities in all organizations with which
applicant is or has been affiliated, other than military, political, or labor organizations.

SEE A2.2.2

A2.4. References. Any additional information, such as letters of reference or official statements of organizations to which the applicant belongs or refers to in the application, that the applicant wishes the Air Force authority reviewing the application to consider. The burden is on the applicant to obtain and forward such information.


AUTHORITY: Title 50, App U.S.C., Section 456(j), 10 U.S.C. 8013, and Executive Order 9397.
PURPOSE: Used by member to apply for conscientious objector status.
ROUTINE USE: Reviewing authorities use the recorded information to make a decision to grant or deny the requested conscientious objector status. Appropriate organizations also use the information, when appropriate, to withhold promotion, remove members from flying status, and affect members utilization.
DISCLOSURE IS VOLUNTARY: If applicant does not furnish the information, applicant may not
receive the requested conscientious objector status.
PRIVACY ACT STATEMENT: Applicant must supply this required information for discharge or noncombatant service (this attachment).

Akbar Lightning, 1LT, USAF