CD 11-26-24

The VigilanceVoice   

November 26, Monday - - Ground Zero Plus 76

On Sunday night, I took a quiet moment to think back to September 11 as the Thanksgiving weekend came to an end.   I had neglected to honor them on Thanksgiving Thursday.  I was Complacent.  I was neglectful. 
             Last night I  thought  back about the horror of being at Ground Zero, of watching bodies falling from the burning building, about the shock of fear and horror on peoples faces, the fear of death when the ground erupted and a great black cloud of destruction swallowed me and thousands of others.
            Then, I thought of the bravery, the courage, the fearlessness of the firemen, police and emergency workers who rushed into the burning holocaust to save the helpless, the victims of Terrorism.   I thought of my daughter, a federal law enforcement officer, crawling through the rubble in search of comrades, seeing death at its worst—and wondering if the impact of September 11 would change forever the innocence of her being, as Vietnam had done mine, as the children of September 11 will forever be changed.

            I thought about the Thanksgiving Dinner I enjoyed with family members, and realized we did not say a prayer for the lost souls, the tortured families of the victims, or the children who have been left with scars on their hearts and souls from Terrorism’s first assault from without on the heartland of America.
            How complacent, I thought, of myself, to forget to clink my glass and take a moment to say a prayer, or enjoy a moment of silence in remembrance of those fallen heroes, those tragic victims, those glorious Sentinels of Vigilance I have conjured who watch over my children, my grandchildren, all children.
            I felt a bit ashamed as I remembered my neglect, my Complacency to remember, to salute the heroes of the Second Tuesday of September.    I wondered if I, like so many others, wanted to “forget” and “move on.”   I wondered if the pain of recalling the past was so powerful we buried it—or, perhaps, more cruelly, if we just didn’t care that much because we were safe, because none of our children suffered a loss of life?
            Deep inside, as I sat remembering those fallen heroes, I knew the families who had lost children, grandchildren, husbands, wives, cousins, uncles, aunts and loved ones—I knew they didn’t forget.   I knew they said something at Thanksgiving—or, perhaps just let the power of silence say words that could not be spoken.
            But I didn’t offer a prayer at Thanksgiving.   I didn’t say:  “I survived September 11.”  Or, “I honor the fallen of September 11.”  Or, “I salute the heroes of September 11.”

Entrance to Penn Station

Ashamedly, I said nothing.   It was like any other Thanksgiving.   Well, almost.  Until Sunday night when I sat up in bed in the middle of the night, something gnawing at my guts, reminding me that I had “turned my back” on my friends, my heroes, my allies of Vigilance.  
            They weren’t mad at me.  Their Voices just whispered, as memories do, “Don’t forget us, Cliff.   Don’t forget how easy it is to forget.   We’re here, even if you forget.  Fight the desire to forget, to become Complacent.   We’re rooting for you.”
            At least, I thought, I remembered.   Perhaps a moment or two too late.   But, I remembered.  For that I was grateful.
            So I wish to salute the heroes of September 11 now.   I stand at attention, my eyes toward the shadowy imagine where the Twin Towers once stood.  I see 25,000 people escaping, and 5,000 dying—giving their lives so that we might not ever forget to be Semper Vigilantes—Always Vigilant.  
            I salute you, Sentinels of Vigilance, for protecting my children and grandchildren.  For setting an example of Courage, Conviction and Action in the face of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
            Help me, Sentinels of Vigilance, become the Parent of Vigilance I need to be.   Help me never forget Terrorism cannot be killed.   It can only be stopped at the gate with Vigilance. 

 Respectfully, In Remembrance And Appreciation--
Cliff McKenzie,
Parent of Vigilance, Grandparent of Vigilance, Citizen of Vigilance

Nov. 25, Sunday--Ground Zero Plus 75

            I carved a Magic Wand last night—specifically to ward off Terrorism in all its forms. 
            It has been years since I put a sharp blade against a twig of wood, and bared the beauty of the grain laying just beneath the rough and rugged bark.   But I was compelled to do it, as though I had reverted back to those years when, sitting by the Columbia River in Hood River, Oregon, I would whip out my pocket knife and turn a stick or broken portion of a branch into some divine instrument of magic that would turn the forest into a playground, trees into Knights of the Round Table, flowers into beautiful Princesses waiting to be saved, and craggy boulders into Monsters and Dragons I must slay to bring peace and harmony back to the land.

            A half-century later, in a small, compact apartment in the East Village of New York City, protected by fifty-nine winding steps leading to my “castle keep,” I was rushed back to the years of lore as I whittled away at the broken branch my five-year-old grandson had found on Thanksgiving to turn its gnarled shape into a work of magical protection.
            Most young boys, like Harry Potter, savor the idea of being able to wave a magic wand and change the world.   President Bush has his “magic wand,” and is waving it over the Middle East in an attempt to rid the “evil ones” from our land.   The “magic wand” the President has is the idea of “executive war power,” where the Constitution of the United States is put in the back seat while the acts of the “Imperial Wizard” can be performed without the consent or decree of the people or their representatives.  

           When the dragon is breathing down your neck, you don’t vote on which Knight in Shining Armor you’re going to approve to ward him off.
            Despite how my grandson intended to use the “magic wand” I was making for him, I was creating it to protect him from the Terrorisms Within the Kingdom, not those from the Dragon’s Breath.   I knew that sometimes the Dragon Eats The Knight.    My experience told me that “absolute power corrupts,” and often turns a Knight In Shining Armor into the Dragon.   I wanted Matt’s “magic wand” to not just bestow powers of protection from without, but mostly, to protect his rights within.
             I carefully sharpened my knives.   As a young man I worked in the woods in Oregon.  I spent my summers on survey crews trekking deep into the forests to survey future logging roads.   It was very primitive, and we often forayed deep in the womb of Nature for ten to twelve days living off the land as well as our dwindling supplies.
            Back in those days there were no radios or helicopter drops.   We became the forest, and the forest became our supermarket.   Toward the end of the deep survey treks, we ate lots of fish caught in the streams wending their way through the mountains. 

          Trees became both our ally and our adversary.   We carefully set up camp away from dead three-hundred-foot Douglas Firs because in the middle of the night you could hear the creaking and groaning of the great monster trees starting to fall.  They would roar and rumble as though the beasts of the night were awakening, and then begin to fall, crashing slowly through the stillness of the night, crushing everything in their path.  It was often like a bomb being dropped, and if you were in the path of the dead tree’s fall, you would be crushed.  Fear was fought with Vigilance.
            I remember awakening in the pitch dark of night, frozen, hoping that the falling tree would not find its way toward our camp--but never sure since the shroud of darkness masked danger's presence and its destination.  Magic helped.   You hoped and prayed a dead tree wouldn’t fall near or on you, and held your breath until the earth shook with a great thud as the tree came to rest to become a deadfall--mulch for the forest floor.
          Sometimes I would carve an amulet, just for fun, and tuck it under my bedroll at night, my primal symbol to the forest to seek protection from its magic.    For when you are in the forest of darkness, you must ask it to protect you from all the harm that befalls your smallness as a human

  being walking through giant Douglas Fir tops that seem to tickle the belly of heaven above.
            I recalled those moments as I carved Matt’s magic wand.   I knew the wood held in its marrow, magic beyond the imagination.  
            Finished carving it, I began to sand my work of magical art.   I brought the rough edges to a smooth, safe state.   No splinters would spear into my grandson’s hands!   I deftly carved a handle, with small rings so that his fingers could easily grip the magic wand, and give him a sense of personal power to protect himself from the “evils without.”
            I had been to the movie 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'.   While not overly impressed, I realized the power of magic for the imagination of young and old.  I wanted my grandson’s magic wand to rival the one Harry Potter had; perhaps, even outdo his.

            Once I had all the wood ready, I rubbed olive oil over it, darkening the grain slightly, and sealing it.   Then I took some Old English furniture wax, and deepened the color.  Finally, to protect it from any damage, I rubbed neutral shoe polish over it, working my hands over the wood rapidly until it heated up so the pores of the wood would open and seal the polish in.
            It was a magical “Shield Of Vigilance,” I thought.   I held it up and admired it.   But it wasn’t finished.   It needed something.   It needed a crown and a face, something to personalize it, authenticate it as being a tool of “vigilance.”
            When my wife came home I displayed my handiwork.  She was generous enough not to admonish me for having whittle and sandpaper remnants in the living room where they had missed landing in the towel I placed in my lap as I worked feverishly over the anti-Terrorism wand.
            “Hmmmm…” she sighed, examining my work.   “I have an idea for the face."

           She went to the bedroom and rummaged through her things, then came back with a lion earring she didn’t wear anymore, and I excitedly placed it on the top of the wand.  It was perfect.    Then I went about looking for a bauble, a piece of costume jewelry that would adorn the wand, give it that magical peak from which the power would spear out to protect the weak, the innocent, the underprivileged, the complacent, the intimidated, the fearful with its security and safety.
            Nothing in her “bauble collection” seemed to fit.   So we decided we could hunt one down the next day.
            My next step was to show Matt’s parents the magic wand.   I knew it wasn’t appropriate for me to give something as powerful as a magic wand to child without the endorsement of his parents.    They liked it.   I was in.  There was only one more hurdle—would Matt like it?   Would Matt see the magic in it?
            He had seen it in the rough form, when he found the stick.  But, I had transformed it into a work of art, and perhaps he might see more magic in its raw nature than its refined appearance.   Plus, perhaps my idea of a magic wand and his was different.   We would see.

           Then I thought about how I was going to present the wand to him.   I wanted to tell him it was an anti-Terrorist tool, carved with the power to stave off the “evil ones” who might threaten his safety, his security and his rights as an American citizen.   But that was all too complicated for a five-year-old.
            I decided to simply tell him it was a Wand Of Vigilance.   It was to protect him from harm, and his family from harm, and all other children from harm.
            I would tell him that it contained the three powers of Vigilance—Courage, Conviction and Action.   And, to engage the magic wand, all he would have to do is say the two magic words:  “Semper Vigilantes!”
            I would tell him that he must keep a close eye open for the “evil ones,” who might try to take away his freedoms as well as threaten his security.   And that often the “evil ones” appeared to be dressed in friendly, helpful clothing, but deep down, they might wish to create harm.   And, if he was ever threatened with  fear, intimidation or complacency (a feeling of not being able to do anything to fight back), he could call out the magic words:  “Semper Vigilantes,” and the Wizards of Vigilance would come to his rescue.

           Then I put the magic wand under my pillow, and went to sleep.   And I dreamt of Knights and Princesses and a land free from Terrorism for my children, their children, and their children’s children children.

           Semper Vigilantes--Always Vigilant
           Cliff McKenzie

Nov. 24, Saturday--Ground Zero Plus 74

           I wasn’t really paying much attention to the story unfolding on the ice arena at the     Meadowlands as Walt Disney’s production of Toy Story was being played out to the delight of thousands of children and parents by fabulously costumed ice skaters, dramatic music, and lots of cotton candy and popcorn being sold to hungry youngsters and gravity-challenged parents and grandparents (of which I am one.)

           I was busy taking pictures with my digital camera, half listening and half detached from the story being told.   Then I heard the Sentinels of Vigilance speaking through the mouth of Buzz Lightyear when he said the words that drilled me to my seat, and caused all my antennae to peak to the message the children were hearing:
            “Without the love of a child, life has no value.   That’s the message I’ve come here to tell you.”
            Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger, was telling Sheriff Woody why he should go back to Andy, the little boy who loved him, rather than go to Japan and live in a museum with all his sidekicks.   The dilemma was, if Sheriff Woody didn’t go with them, the Japanese wouldn’t buy all the other toys, and his friends would be stuffed in storage and rot away in a dusty corner.   Woody had to choose between his love for his friends, and the love of a little boy named, Andy.

           Terrorism comes in many forms.   Sheriff Woody was terrorized by the thought that one day Andy would grow up and not love him any more, and he would be alone, unloved.   Stinky Prospector, the antagonist in the story, was afraid that if Woody didn’t go, then they would all “die a dusty death” on some dark corner of a toy store.  He tried to force Woody to go, constantly reminding him that if he didn’t, all his friends would “die” a sad death. 
            Disney added a great monster (symbol of Terror) who came out on the ice with yellow eyes and ominous dark clothing, threatening them all.
            I began to realize that the message of Vigilance is all around us.   When Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger, risked his life to tell Andy the “message of Vigilance,” I glued myself to my seat.  My ears cocked.  I listened as a child might listen.
            What happens to us when we “grow up?”  What happens when we “stop believing” in the magic of a child’s love?  
             Obviously, a Terrorist has long forgotten that feeling of a child’s love, or he wouldn’t maim and murder and terrorize indiscriminately.   True love for a child means protecting that child from all forms of Terrorism—both the physical as well as the emotional.

             “Life without the love of a child has no value.   That’s the message I came here to deliver.”
             Buzz Lightyear and his band of Toys of Vigilance—Slinky the Dog, Mr. Potato Head, and Rex, the dinosaur—fought the fear and intimidation and complacency with courage, conviction and action.    Buzz wasn’t afraid to brave the dangers of Terror to tell his buddy Andy that he “belonged” with Andy.   And, ultimately, Andy wasn’t afraid to realize his job was to love Andy more than he loved himself and his friends    After all, he was a toy!
             Today, combating Terrorism is measured by the amount of bombs and missiles we drop or shoot, and whether or not we have “killed” bin Laden and all his “evil doers.”    To children, the art of eliminating Terrorism in our current situation comes down to “killing” not “loving.”  In contrast, Toy Story’s message was: “love overpowers fear of death.”
          I saw Buzz Lightyear as a Sentinel of Vigilance for children.   I saw him as a symbol of what Parents of Vigilance should be telling their children—that “fear” twists ones thoughts back to self-protection.  It tends to make one selfish in his or her decisions, and, it intimidates the real value of life which is “love” not “hate.”
            Today, American children are being told by many sources that “killing the enemy” is the way to avenge an injustice.   Unless a Parents of Vigilance step into the middle of this message and block it with the kind of loving understanding and explanation that deals with alternatives to violence as a solution to fear, intimidation and complacency, children risk the danger of “authorizing” violence as a means to resolve any dispute with “fear.”

             I take issue with the government’s lack of concern for children in this “war against terrorism.”  I believe the government should be issuing warnings to children, as we do with cigarettes, that “violence may be dangerous to your health.”   Instead, I see a rubber stamping of violence as the ultimate solution.   I see it on the news.  I read it in the paper.  I hear it blasting out of the President of the United States’ mouth.
            I find my grandchildren not exempt from the message of violence.   If you listen to children carefully, you can hear the formation of “violence as a solution to Terrorism” hardening their vulnerable arteries.   It comes out in “hitting,” and “taking,” and “selfishness,” and “refusal to listen,” and “stories,” and, in their “dreams.”   But it requires a Parent of Vigilance to “listen” to the “heart” of the child.  It requires a Parent of Vigilance to be “vigilant” about watching for the dangers that can grow within a child’s feelings toward “evil.”
           For the first twenty or thirty minutes of the Toy Story Ice Show I was complacent.  I wasn’t listening to the story.  I was “beyond the story.”  I was busy taking pictures.  I was an “adult.”
          But then Buzz Lightyear’s words startled me into a state of Vigilance: “Life without the love of a child has no value.   That’s the message I came here to deliver.”
          At that point, I realized the message Walt Disney was delivering to the children was to find solutions to “fear,” “intimidation,” and “complacency.”   Woody’s fears he would be “left alone,” were overpowered by the responsibility he had to be a “toy,”—to be there to be loved by Andy.

          I believe we, as Parents of Vigilance, have the same duty and responsibility to “be there for Andy.”   If we are true Parents of Vigilance, we will not let our children live as adults in their minds with Terrorism.  We will look inside their feelings, and realize, as Andy did, that we are toys.  We are there with a child to “be loved” by that child.   We are there to make that child “feel safe” and “secure,” at the expense of our adult desires.
            Parents often get so “busy” with “life” they forget to read their children stories of “good versus evil” and instead buy them toys of violence, reinforcing the solution to aggression is more aggression.  Any adult who has tried to get revenge upon another for a wrongdoing has experienced not the joy of success, but the pain of defeat.   Trying to “get back at another” is a violent waste of time.   In the end, you become the “creature” you tried to “eliminate,” or “repay.”  You become “evil” by trying to avenge “evil.”
           A child’s mind processes things in simple terms.   “Tit for Tat!”   That’s the message being delivered regarding Terrorism.   But in Toy Story, the message was:  “You have a choice.  You can be Terrorized by fear of loneliness and abandonment at some time in the future, or, you can love Andy one-day-at-a-time as is your duty as a toy.”

          My grandchildren, and the thousands of other kids there that day, saw Terrorism defeated by Courage, Conviction and Action.   Buzz Lightyear, and his band of Toys of Vigilance, brought the message to Woody.  Woody chose the answer.
              Our children can chose the right answer also. 
               All we have to do is bring our child the message—that the way to fight Terrorism is not with Terrorism—but with Courage, Conviction and Action. 
               We just need to imagine we are Buzz Lightyear on a mission of Vigilance.

Go To: "Shifting The Paradigm Of 'Parents of Neglect To Parents Of Vigilance"

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