Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 1-20-08
Jeff Gill

Looking To a Wider View

One of the advantages of this generally harsh time of year outdoors is the view.

To take advantage of it, you have to bundle up and go for a walk, but you can catch enough of a hint through car windows to get the motivation you may need to do that.

The last of the dried leaves have fallen away from the trees, shrubs and taller grasses are now bent and broken, and even evergreen boughs are lifted a bit, reaching for what light the short days bring.

From all this, you see the land and the horizon and the undulations of the terrain in ways you don’t normally, at least for nine or ten months of the year. Walks that are shrouded by overhanging green canopies or walled in by undergrowth higher than your head are now strolls through vast halls and open arenas of nature.

Taking a number of classes from OSU-N out to Octagon State Memorial, hiking about (with care to avoid the greens of the warmer weather golf course, now approaching its own century mark), I found that you could easily see, from near the center of these 2000 year old marvels, the entire circumference of the 50 plus acre enclosure.

Strolling up the “causeway” connecting the Octagon Mounds to the Observatory Circle, the same was true in the 1054 foot diameter circle. Perspective and view was enhanced, and it almost seemed as if the cold air magnified my distance vision. If I recall my meteorology classes correctly, it is moisture that magnifies as storms in summer come along, but the dryness of the air must add clarity.

Walking along some local park trails, I see down into ravines and drainages, and up along slopes or tree trunks that are usually invisible to me. Add to all this the effect of a light fall of snow to accent elevation and angle like a topographic map, and you find yourself simply aware of a larger space even when you’re just walking along noodling at other thoughts.

After those peaceful thoughts, if you’re still with me, I ask your forebearance as I offer a small rant. Last weekend, the New York Times ran an absolutely appalling cover story that went on to receive more column inches than anything I’ve seen in their pages for many a moon, including lack of health insurance among the poor and the foreclosure crisis in the banking industry.

Does anyone in the Big Apple care what’s said about them in a free weekly paper in Ohio? Likely not. Should you care about what they said? Well, yes, because what the NYT says on a Sunday is often what local news and magazines say the next couple weeks. Respect them or not, they set the tone for national media and debate.

Their major story was that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have committed murder on returning home, often against family members. Story after painful story was told in the lengthy piece, seemingly almost a bit about all 121 murders that were committed by returning service members since the conflicts began, from the start of 2003 to the end of 2007.

I don’t subscribe, but for the reasons noted above, I often buy a copy on Sunday. Seeing the “vets run amok” story, I read, flipping forward impatiently to see if they got to the comparison.

What comparison? Oh, just the fact that 18 to 34 year olds commit most of the murders in this country as it is, so how did veterans compare to their population? Sadly, tragically, I would say almost viciously, the comparison was never made.

Let me make it here. Returning veterans were FIVE TIMES LESS likely to commit murder than their age cohort. And don’t tell me New York Times reporters are less able to get Justice Department numbers from their website and do simple math than freelance columnists in Ohio.

In the service of what I’m sure they think is an honorable anti-war agenda, the Old Grey Lady of journalism defamed and slimed our nation’s servicemembers, tarring them with the “they come back crazy killers” brush. Someone should be ashamed; I know I am.

A returning vet is five times more likely to have more self-control, better self-knowledge, and improved problem solving skills than their peers. Should we get our troops home soon? Yes we should, and I’ll have something more to say about that next week.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he enlisted when he was seventeen, and if he’s crazy it has little to do with his brief period in the service. You can tell him he’s crazy at knapsack77@gmail.com.

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