The VigilanceVoice

July 17, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 308

The Spine Of Vigilance

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 17--Terrorism comes in the shape of a crooked spine.  The picture of your spine, crushed down by gravity and years of physical activity, reminds you of your limited nature, of the end of an era of physical agility.
        I recently had two MRI's on my back, the result of a herniated disc, between the 4th and 5th lumbar, basically down near the small of my back.    And, to top it off, there was a big glob of tissue, "more than likely benign," shoved up against it.

        MRI showing neurofibroma

        My doctor is a humorous guy.  One that goes to the bottom line.  "I've never seen one as big as this--you get the prize, Cliff."
        He was talking about the lump, the big glob on the MRI about the size of six pieces of chewed bubble gum--an alien piece of material roosting next to my spine.
        As a cancer survivor (colon) I am wary of any "lumps" or "masses" that cohere to parts of  my body.   Cancer to me is physical internal Terrorism, little cells that like to eat good cells.   I find it ironic that Terrorists work in cells, just like cancer.   They seek to destroy the good and replace it with the bad.
        Big guys like me, 6-4, 270 pounds, who have been active all their lives, tend to damage their backs, compress the discs, weaken their ability to serve as shock absorbers.   I've done a lot of things--climbed mountains, fought in wars, lifted weights far greater than I should, high dived yet I never gave much of a second thought about the infrastructure of my body, the spans of the bridge that supports my ability to stand tall, to assume an imposing figure of bone, muscle, and (sigh) yes, some fat.
       But looking at the pictures of my spine, seeing the damage that time and gravity and weight has done, was shocking.   It tells me I am degenerating.  All of us degenerate, but we don't pay much attention to anyone else's degeneration.    It's our own that haunts us.

     In Pakistan, for example, tribal leaders retaliated against another tribe by brutally raping a young school teacher.   It was their way of preserving "honor," compensating for one of their tribe's arrest for brutalizing a young 11-year-old boy.
      I read the story this morning and thought how, in the 21st Century, such civil cruelty can exist.   It was a story of spinal degeneration, of how modern man and modern woman has hardly inched forward from the caves and gnawing on bones.    After the press got hold of the story, four tribal leaders were arrested for the rape.  The Pakistani government sent the victim, a young woman who teaches school in the village, $8,000 for compensation, and promised to build a school and pave the roads in her village.    The spine of society has its flaws too.
      Then I read about the Terrorists in Spain who were arrested with video films of various American structures such as the World Trade Center, Brooklyn Bridge, and Golden Gate Bridge.    The article noted how the pillars of the Golden Gate Bridge were the focus of one film, taken from all angles, as though the lens of the camera was searching for some way to put a "cancer cell" into the pillar, to weaken the bridge's spine, to herniate its discs with explosives.
      Then there was the trial of Charles Schwarz, the police officer accused of assisting in the broomstick sodomy of Abner Louima five years ago.  He was found guilty of perjury, and the jury deadlocked on the other counts.   Far from Pakistan, New York City, the hub of civilization, is not that far removed from the caves of human degeneration.  

             Schwartz in center

       The spine of America's financial structure is also herniated.   The robber barons of Wall Street raked in millions by selling stock before their companies were exposed for juggling the books, cooking them, as the lingo goes.   WorldCom, Enron, Martha Stewart, all fall into the same pot as the Pakistani tribal leaders who made up their own laws, who carried the weight of righteousness on their shoulders, and were crushed by its weight--their spines also herniated by the theft of honesty, the stealing of integrity from the skeleton of big business.

      How about hormones?   All over the country women who have relied on the faith and confidence of a little pill to help them live a more gracious and worthy life, free from the emotional Terrorism of menopause, now face the dilemma of its side effects.   Do they continue to take the pills or stop?   Do they go back to the caves of emotional dysfunction or risk their health and life by continuing?
        Finally, there is the big flap about the lionization of Adolph Hitler by CBS as it prepares a miniseries called "Young Hitler," focusing on him from age 18-34.   Jewish spokespeople of the Anti-Defamation League are up in arms that the film preens the young Hitler, perhaps creating an idol for those fringe personalities who gravitate toward the obscenities of human nature.  The Jewish forces claim the production is "vulgar and exploitive."

 Robert Downey, Jr.- possible Hitler role

       CBS president, Leslie Moonves, said he thought Hitler was a "fascinating character."
       So I got to thinking about my country's backbone.   I thought about how, as a young nation, we started off with Puritanical principles.  These led to witch hunts, and prosecutions not unlike those in Pakistan where instead of raping women, we burned them at the stake.

     We moved slowly through different eras, each one seeking to shore up our spine, to give us strength to carry any weight.   We ended up in a liberal state, able to say anything, to abort our babies at will, to make Young Hitler films to sate the public's thirst to look at the "dark side."
      Now, we have to look at our spine.   We have to look at the herniated discs of civilization, not only here, but abroad, and ask ourselves how far out of the caves we have crawled since the dawn of human existence.

                  caves near the city of Jericho

        When I was looking at my spine, I saw the history of mankind.   It was worn and fragile, vulnerable to future damage, riddled with pain and caution.    No longer could I walk or lift or carelessly act without suffering the consequences of destroying my infrastructure.  I would have to become more Vigilant.  I would have to reduce my Fear of hurting myself with the Courage to live within the limitations of my spine.  I would have to conjure the Conviction to not try and be what I was and to not be Intimidated by what I had become.   And, I would be forced to take Right Action rather than become Complacent that I was decaying, and apply variations to my life style that would lengthen my mobility and not expand the pain.

         Modern society, I believe, is in the same fix.
         The spine of our culture as civilized beings is under attack.   It is time to take a look at our MRIs.   It is time to ask ourselves how important Vigilance is to combating the Terrorism of cultural spinal degeneration.
         If we are concerned about the future of our society, our civilization, there is a back brace we can wear that will keep our spines from unnecessary damage.  It is the Pledge of Vigilance.    When we take the Pledge, and use its foundations to support our evolution as an individual, a parent, a citizen of our society and the world, we are forced to stop and think about whether the actions we are going to take are in the best interests not just of ourselves, but for the children in the world, our own first, and others secondly.
        The young woman who was gang raped in Pakistan thought deeply about killing herself after the ordeal.   The shame she suffered was oppressive.   But she has chosen to live.  She has chosen to watch the Terrorists brought to justice.  And then to go on and teach the children of her village about Courage, Conviction and Right Action.

       She has braced her spine with the Pledge of Vigilance, in her own way, despite the crushing of all her beliefs in others.   She sees the responsibility to giving the children the treasures of her broken spine, so they might not be victims of a similar barbaric attack, and if they are, that they might chose to live to teach the principles of Vigilance rather than fall victim to the Terror of Complacency.

       My back?   It is a symbol of how precious time is.   It tells me that I must fight harder for Vigilance and not surrender to the Complacency of pain and suffering, so easily sought when the Terrorism of gravity and age sets itself upon one's shoulders.
       I will think of the young woman in the Pakistani  village when I fill myself with self pity.  I will make her my symbol of Vigilance.
       My point?   Take a look at your spine.  See if you need a brace.   And if you do, take the Pledge of Vigilance.   And, if you think you don't, take it anyway.   You never know when you're going to trip and fall.



Go To July 16--Dust-to-Dust, Ashes-to-Ashes--The End Of Vigilance?

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