Birthday Tribute: Thomas J. Nigro, Late but Never Forgotten

Today is rather special, but strictly for a personal reason. As I noted on a previous blog entry, my grandfather, Thomas J. Nigro, passed on a few days before Halloween of ’12. In that special R.I.P. entry, I mentioned several things about the rocky relationship we had for so many years, but also the many good memories we shared, my own regrets about the various issues we had, and ultimately, why I am glad that the venerable Thomas J. was my grandfather.

This brings us to today: It would have been my grandfather’s 90th birthday had he lived another half a year. I feel sad and a bit teary-eyed as I type these words, not only because I miss him as much as I do, but also because of the typical dwelling on all the might-have-beens that come to mind on a day like this. Why couldn’t I have been more patient and understanding with him before his physical decline began several years prior to his passing? For all the years he let me reside with him, why couldn’t I have tried harder during that time to get along better with him? Why couldn’t I have realized sooner that wallowing in resentment is not healthy for you or anyone else around you? Yanno, those kinds of questions.

Alas, one of the traits I inherited from Thomas J.–other than the obnoxious sense of humor and love of “putting one over” on others, I should add–has to be a resolute stubbornness to bend when it comes to my personal boundaries. It’s one of the ways we were too much alike that exacerbated the problems related to the many ways we were so different, if that makes sense. The house we shared was simply too small for that many people living in it, if one of those people happened to be one who greatly valued their privacy and another was a person who felt privacy should be a non-issue (growing up in a modest-sized house with 11 siblings will do that to a person, yanno?). As a result…well, you can imagine, so no need to belabor with the stories.

But I don’t want to focus on our differences today. Or my many regrets, for that manner. Instead, I want to focus on the legacy that Thomas J. left behind, and how I’m determined to carry it on as best I can. Barely being aware of what cyberspace was, or having any interest in learning more about it, during the 20 years his life overlapped with the home computer revolution is no reason why his name and what he meant to those he left behind should be restricted to the print medium alone. A commemoration for him is certainly there today in the local papers (yes, treeware continues to exist!), courtesy of his son. But I think his grandson more than owed it to him to see that his name and life is remembered in the digital medium as well, even if it was a creature he paid scant attention to.

Since I can’t change the past, nor could I cure the ailments that afflicted him during his last years of life (all related to old age), I believe I should instead concentrate on doing my best to honor his memory in the future. Despite the differences we had, and the epic conflicts that resulted, never did he waver in taking care of his family, or providing a father figure to a grandson who never had one living with him.

I publicly apologize to him here for being as difficult to deal with as I so often was during our years together. just as I did in front of those assembled at his memorial service. I’m glad he lived to see his grandson become a published author, and I appreciate the supportive words he gave me for that accomplishment, a lifetime in the making. I may not be able to be exactly the type of grandson he wanted, but I can strive to be the best person I can possibly be, and in honor of his memory, I will always endeavor to live up to that lofty goal.

Happy Birthday, Thomas J. Your family and many friends all wish you were still here to celebrate it, telling more of your hilarious stories of the many classic incidents you experienced in life and being the very life and heart of our family get-togethers. And in spirit, you always will be there with us.

Thomas J. Nigro – 1923-2012

Why We Must Stop Tolerating U.S. Drone Attacks on Innocent People in the Middle East

military_drone_attacks
“Are you sure you programmed that thing to hit the right neighborhood, dude?”
“Of course I did! I think so, anyway. But look, even if I made a mistake and hit a wedding ceremony by accident, that’s what happens in war, okay? And it’s not like there’s any Americans down there or anything! Now stop worrying, get off my ass, and let’s finish this hand of cards before lunch break. Your whining is beginnin’ to irritate me now!”

Two Obamas, Two Classes of Children by Ralph Nader for CounterPunch

First, note the above link to an important article by Ralph Nader that was published in the April 12-14 weekend edition of CounterPunch. Now, please indulge me just a bit (it will be less of an ordeal for you than the people in the Middle East who are routinely enduring drone strikes on their families and property in the Middle East) by listening to my plea in response to Nader’s article.

These senseless killings of innocent citizens – including many children – by drone strikes authorized by President Obama in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) need to stop. The American people who act as cheerleaders for anything American soldiers do as long as the orders were granted by a high-ranking American politician or military general need to put their foot down and stop considering soldiers “heroes” as long as what they do is brave, with no consideration taken as to who they are ordered to fire upon (and btw, cold mechanical killing by computer-controlled, unmanned drone aircraft can hardly be considered an act of “bravery,” but simply a mindless machine carrying out pre-programmed orders).

We need to stop placing less value upon the lives of innocent non-Americans than we do the lives of people who so happen to share a legal citizenship with us. The lives of these people from foreign nations mean as much to their families as our own mean to us, and we need to realize this if we truly want to establish peace in this world and qualify as a decent society of people. We need to stop this incessant nationalistic and tribalistic chauvinism that encourages us to distance ourselves from the concerns of innocent people who live in other countries, and whose government may have an adversarial position to our government (usually meaning, it refuses to do business the way the U.S. and its close allies consider lucrative for them).

We need to start putting our foot down when the President needlessly imperils the lives of soldiers who are ostensibly fighting for this country, and to only use their armed might on obvious military targets that pose a proven, imminent threat to our shores or those of our allies–but without considering everyone who happens to have a citizenship of that country as “the enemy.” The average working class person of every nation, despite differences in culture or common form of religion from America, have no concern with war or the dirty political dealings of their government, and simply want to live their lives and raise their families with as much stability and safety as possible. Sound familiar?

If we only react emotionally to senseless attacks on innocent American citizens or American soil, is this truly out of genuine love and concern for our fellow human–or is it because our precious, pampered egos were insulted? You know, sort of like the ire the “honkeys” show when an “uppity nigger” hauls off and slaps a white person for no good reason, but it’s viewed as perfectly okay – or at least not nearly as big a deal – for a white slavemaster to do whatever he or she pleases to their “subhuman” chattel. Our fellow human beings do not include only those who share our citizenship, or who command the military forces supposedly representing our indigenous political territory–they include everyone who shares this planet with us. We need to show empathy for the losses and well-being of people all over the world, and to take responsibility for what this government and its Armed Forces do in our “good” name. Otherwise, we are no better than the common sociopath who lacks a conscience and possesses an easy ability to devalue the humanity of anyone other than themselves.

If we Americans do not practice the lofty ideals we commonly preach, or only apply them to fellow Americans, then those pronouncements are nothing more than empty platitudes we say to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. Citizens of this country like to say that the U.S. is a “great” nation, but in order for that to be true, we have to equate greatness with decency and tolerance, not with tremendous economic and military power over others–or a position of privilege and special deference in the world.

No one person–or society of people–who devalues the humanity of others are ever “great” in the favorable context of the word. In such an instance, they are simply “great” in terms of the size of the problem they present to the world.

military_drone

See this funky-looking aircraft? Well, it’s not from John Carter’s Barsoom, but the very planet we live on. If you happen to live in the Middle East and the U.S. isn’t on good business terms with your government, you may have the opportunity to see one or more flying over your neighborhood some day soon, if you haven’t already.

If so, you may also have the opportunity to find out how good you are at running around and dodging a hail of cluster bombs as your family members, friends, and everything you own blows up around you. That’s because you had the misfortune of living in a broad area where “signature strike” targets are believed to be hiding out (in other words, a lone individual or a few people whom the U.S. government has declared to be a “terrorist,” or “enemy combatant,” or whatever the latest politically popular, press-savvy term happens to be).

It may or may not be true. If it is, then you have regrettably become known as what politicians like to call “collateral damage.” If it isn’t true, then, “oops, sorry, but mistakes do happen, and you just have to expect them in war (but don’t worry, we’ll give our sponsors at Haliburton a fat exclusive contract to go over there and rebuild for you).”

If you escape reasonably intact, you can expect to be so embittered that you will develop a profound, vengeful hatred for the United States and everyone who lives in that country, rather than the small number of people who were actually behind the order that annihilated everything within a quarter mile of where you were standing. This is because you will be conditioned to consider all American citizens to be complicit with what their government does, just as Americans are conditioned to similarly dehumanize all of your fellow Middle Easterners for the irrational, abhorrent decisions that just a few of your citizens make.

Of course, that’s assuming it was actually made by a few people who share citizenship with you; the United States government tends to play favorites and pass the buck of blame depending on what Middle Eastern nation is good for business, and which isn’t, regardless of the citizenship of any given lunatic jihadists who attacked U.S. citizens or “interests.” After all, let’s not forget that the U.S. rationalized attacking and occupying Iraq in retaliation for the 9/11 tragedy while turning a blind eye towards its totally fascistic but good business partner Saudi Arabia when most of the Twin Tower destroyers were of Saudi citizenship, but none whatsoever were Iraqi. And yes, you can expect many of the American citizens to go along with it, because they feel it’s their quasi-divine responsibility to get all patriotic whenever their country goes to war, with no questions asked and any expressed opposition to be considered disrespectful & traitorous to the country and the troops.

You may then find yourself attracted to radical, fringe fundamentalist religious ideology that tries to recruit you for its own insane attacks on innocent foreign targets that you no longer value as human lives. That fascist, authoritarian fundamentalist religion is remarkably similar to its great rival, America’s home-grown fundamentalist Christianity, in the policies and attitudes it encourages, btw. So try to be mindful of those symptoms, okay?

You will then be involved in a holy crusade fought between two police state ideologies posing as religion, with each using the usual metaphysical, “it’s in the scriptures!” rhetoric to justify why all the people on one side deserves to live and the other side doesn’t, and why God has chosen you over them and vice versa, yadda yadda yadda, ad infinitum.

If you come out reasonably intact from the cluster bomb dodging game, that is; I didn’t make any promises! After all, it’s hard to go all medieval on “the enemy” in the name of glorious vengeance and mindless fervor for violence against “Them” when you’re missing three limbs and have to receive your dinner through an I.V. tube for the rest of your life (yanno, because the major portion of your bowels were lost when a few shards of shrapnel from the bomb salvo eviscerated you).

Just sayin’.

BELLOWS OF THE BONE BOX — the newest horror anthology to feature a short story by yours truly — is now available

Bellows of the Bone Box is a new horror anthology by Sirens Call Publications that combines the horror and steampunk genres. I am pleased to announce that one of the 12 stories featured in this anthology is from yours truly. It was a major honor to get my story accepted for this anthology by the great crew at Sirens Call, and to share the book with the bylines of many great writers. The other writers in this anthology are:

Brad Bass, Paul Boulet, Laura Brown, Vivian Caethe, Alex Chase, Megan Dorei, O.M. Grey, Tarl Hoch, Gavin Ireland, Kirk Jones, and Kate Monroe.

This is my first foray into the growing popularity of steam punk sci-fi – though combined with strong horror elements – so I’m rather stoked. My own short story, “Rip Me a New One, Jack!”, features an alternate reality London circa 1880s where the computer revolution took place in the 19th century based upon the cultural design aesthetics and steam-powered technology of that era, and where the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper operates (and I do mean operates) within that particular milieu. Here the horrific murderer makes use of technology the real Jack the Ripper never had available to him to take his madness and hideous agenda well beyond the mere butchering of prostitutes.

BellowsoftheBoneBox_FrontCover

You can purchase the book online from:

AMAZON
AMAZON UK
CREATESPACE
SMASHWORDS