The Cost Of Freedom

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Today several friends were upset that the Pride flag was flown at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in Rockville Maryland. Some didn’t read the article (I can’t deny I’m not guilty of that at times) and didn’t realize that it wasn’t the national flag that was replace, but another commemorating POW’s and MIA’s. Never the less, I can understand the discomfort. They replace the POW/MIA flag with the rainbow flag, and without further examination, it doesn’t make sense. By the next day they had both flags flying.

But there is good cause to fly the Rainbow, if just for a little while.

At the end of my high school career, I got more than a few phone calls from recruiters. That doesn’t make me special… Everyone did. When the calls came, I did not enlist in the military. I had no desire to. I never felt it was a direction I should got in my life. Never had that calling. Even if I wanted to, I was (am) short and my eyesight is crap, so I doubt I would have ever gotten in. And then there was the though of the harassing and hazing. I already had amazingly low self esteem and got picked on enough throughout my teens. Why would I want to volunteer for more of that? But that was not the main reason. I’m gay, and in the early 80’s, if I was found out, it would have led to a dishonorable discharge, and something like a McCarthy type interrogation along the way. Then the hostile world would know my secret and life would be ruined. That was my thinking, and from stories I’d hear later from those gay men I would come to know in San Diego who were either serving, or those who had left the service one way or the other, what could happen was worse than I thought. I had one friend who was gay and in the military in the early 90’s.

This brings me to the story of the day. Gays and lesbians who served in the military carried an extra burden. By policy, they were barred from doing so, but they did anyway. They put their lives on the line, and also put their personal lives in jeopardy. There were other bans of course, age being one. But we celebrate those that lied about their age to get in. We admire, and rightfully so, those Japanese soldiers who fought for our country even as others were placed in concentration camps in the country they were fighting for. But no one seems to recognize that closeted gay or lesbian soldiers have a history of serving, and at great potential cost due to unfair and unjustified prejudices and policies. But they chose to serve anyway.

And that’s the point. By serving, even if it was involuntary from the draft, they laid more on the line for their country than many realize. By raising the flag at that memorial, if even for just a little while, those soldier get a little long deserved recognition.

And this is a perfect reminder to get in touch with my cousin Eddy, a Viet Nam vet who came home in 1973 at the very end of the war. And yes, he was a gay soldier.

Learning The Drums: Part 1

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I haven’t blogged consistently in a long long while. Facebook took the place of blogging some time ago. But I’m embarking on an adventure that needs to be archived, and my blog is just the thing! I’ve been meaning to blog again and this gives me the perfect reason to do so.

Mike’s new mission: Drums.

This is the start of my quest to be a good drummer. As a kid I never thought of learning drums because my younger brother had taken the drummer position in the Alexander sibling hierarchy. He was playing air drums to Neil Peart by the time he was ten. He did become a fine drummer. I started writing songs when I was 13. Started playing bass when I was about 22. The thought of learning drums didn’t cross my mind at all then, and wouldn’t for a long time. I eventually learned guitar and a few more things (spoons is a fave). I had a short career as a teacher, eight years worth. I taught history, but had my guitar with me a lot in the classroom. Sometimes if a lot of students did well on a test, I would play a song as a reward. If students asked me about starting to learn to play, and wasn’t sure what instrument to start on, I would ask them when they listened to music, what was the instrument they noticed most. If they really hear guitar. If it’s bass, do that. If keyboard, if drums, etc. At some point I realized that, for the longest time, even when I was learning bass, or maybe because I was learning that instrument, I was really focusing on the drums and percussion, and I absolutely LOVE what they do. Again, I never though about learning them, because well, my little brother and all. But the more I gave my advise to my students, the more my own words would echo in my head. So at some point, I decided I must learn to play the drums.

A few years ago, I did pick up a used electric drum kit from a musician friend for real cheap, but it never worked all that great. It was an old outdated thing I thought I could live with, but I was never interested in playing it. I finally went out and got a new electric kit, the Alesys Mesh Nitro electric drum kit. It’s perfect for my needs.

I thought it be fun to post an update at least once a month to document my progress on drums. Here is the first video. I can do “something”, but I have so far to go.