I had known full well the taste of failure; I was no Navy SEAL, but an underdog soldier: a sand-sailor with a mediocre performance record at best, who knew more about how to jump from a burning building than he did about any technical part of a ship. This particular building was a hotel in Bahrain, one of countless around, and I stood on its flat roof with my harness hooked and smoke in my lungs. Though, despite the doubt that marred my confidence, I remained an idealist; my life may not have turned out to be the war-hero's dream that I originally wanted, but I still believed in some part of humanity worth fighting for—the parts of humanity that rarely make it to TV. There could have been someone inside; if there was, I wanted to save them. But the team and I were ordered to stand down; my superiors didn't believe in taking the risk of trading an American life for a native's. That day, I disobeyed a direct order, and rebelled by jumping from the rooftop, anyway. I'm glad that I rebelled because I stood by what I believed was right despite fear of legal consequences, demonstrated that not every American is selfish, bigoted, and blindly patriotic...and learned the difference between looking like a hero, and actually being one.
"A king may move a man, a father may claim a son. But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power: your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God, you cannot say 'but I was told by others to do thus' or that 'virtue was not convenient at the time'. This will not suffice." -King Baldwin IV (Kingdom Of Heaven, 2005)
It takes courage to live purely by conscience; we live in a world where we've become controlled by our fears of those with political power over us, the ones who control our paychecks, careers, and judicial freedom. We become distracted by materialism, patriotism, ego, and self-destructive thoughts, desires and habits...all the while forgetting the original truth—that all men are cut from the same cloth, bleed the same color, breathe the same air, and hold no more cosmic value than another...regardless of rank, ethnicity, position, or the size of one's bank account. To live consciously is to stay true to what you believe is right, noble, selfless, and moral...even if doing so means to go against all of what society has programmed us to do, to act like, and brands us with the false tag of criminality. As our final breaths escape our body in the twilight moments of our life, when we look back upon our lives and replay everything we've ever done in an instant before our mind's eye, can we answer the question to ourselves: was any punishment we would have gone through worth selling our souls to those who aim to dictate what we say and do for the greater good of their own selfish needs? There is no punishment in the world that can diminish the truest part of who we are, unless we allow them...and even then, they would have needed our permission, first. So long as we are brave enough to accept the consequences of our actions, no one can take your freedom of choice away from you.
There are two sides to every coin, every story, every war. What the military fears most is the disapproval of the public eye, and therefore would do everything in its power to curve what the camera depicts for the unenlightened masses at home. The false projections of the military depict that the American government is righteous to all. But off-camera, such nobility is casted to the wind—discarded like a cheap dollar-store halloween mask. To ensure that this image is upheld, it'll remind us of subtle threats of legalities within the wording of its enlistment contracts, playing upon the fears spawned by the very materialism, bigotry, and selfishness that we allow to control ourselves. But the military cannot control he who remembers the original truth, he who dares to suggest that regardless of whatever flag he may have been born under, he is still a part of the same decaying organic matter as everything else; he is no better than any other person from any other country, for we all share this world, together.
“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.” -François Fénelon
When I busted through the window to find that no one was inside of the building, I knew that I had risked my life, and my naval career on a whim, but my conscience was clear. Explaining my justifications for rebellion to my chain-of-command wouldn't save me the punishment that was to come; to them, I had showed complete immaturity, lack of respect for authority, and downright stupidity...but I knew that I could die a happy man; I knew that there was no punishment they could administer that I couldn't overcome in the end. Later, I would find that in contrast to the military's disapproval, I had consequentially gained the respect of every native who'd heard the story; I was remembered by name and face, and enjoyed many free courtesy meals as gifts, cooked exactly to my liking...without me even having to ask. I accepted the gifts out of respect for the people, but I never felt that their courtesies were necessary. My payment was in knowing that I broke the stereotype of the arrogant American, the American who forces his way into the borders of others' countries and pays no attention to the respect of the indigenous culture. An American who worries about lives other than his own. From the opposing opinions of my superiors versus the natives, I learned that there is no such thing as a hero, only an idiot who does something stupid at the right time; honor, like all concepts, are a matter of perspective.
John F. Kennedy once said, “...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This way of thinking promotes war through patriotism, and indirectly leads to a contradiction of the original truth that all men, regardless of their country, have equal right to live, to be heard, and helped during times of need. Ascending from notions of patriotism to adopting the awareness of cosmic equality is the way to world peace, not the arrogant pride of a single country. It is not what you can do for your country, but what you can do for all mankind.Mike Norton