“Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth.” - Ludwig Borne
This particular date on the calendar always brings about that special kind of morbid nostalgia in my life. Every year, I’m taken back to a special yet terrifying point in my life. A point that led to a few of the beliefs to which I currently cling. I was just a kid so a lot of the grown-up world was confusing and left up to my own interpretation. Those interpretations were often made through the lenses of youthful innocence.
1979 was a confusing year for a curious six year old kid. What the heck is inflation and why are so many people obsessed with it? It’s all I heard on the TV. I saw the word on the front of those fake newspapers they sold at the checkout lines in the local Albertson’s grocery store. I heard grown-ups complaining about the price of gas and the fact that we seem to be running out of it. Why can’t we get more gas? My parents assumed I was ignoring the stories I heard as they watched the news because I sure as heck ignored their instructions to do my chores on a regular basis. The truth is that I heard all those stories, I just preferred to interpret them on my terms.
I remember Three Mile Island. I couldn’t comprehend the concept of radiation, but I did understand the fact that there had been an accident at a place with the word “nuclear” in it’s title. To me…..”nuclear” meant “blowing up the world” so I just assumed it was time to make peace with those I had wronged. At dinner that night, I ate my vegetables without being told to do so. Another frequent topic in the news those days was President Carter. The man seemed to invoke facial ticks in my father. Despite my young age, I too believed that Jimmy Carter was a wimp. He used that southern charm to convince people bad was good. He sounded like Huckleberry Hound but in reality, he was just a big old bushel of weakness. The President was supposed to be strong, powerful, and able to defeat all enemies. Everything I knew about kings, leaders, and great military men of history was that they had all performed some kind of heroic deed. My dad was the benchmark as he had just finished flying fighter jets for the Air Force. Heroes were men who had fought wars, won fights, explored uncharted lands, or defeated a determined enemy. Carter was none of those things. When the story of Jimmy Carter and the Swamp Rabbit hit the airwaves, all hope was lost. The man was a wimp.
America needed a leader. They needed a man who would lead, not follow. They needed a man who was slowly but surely starting to make waves on the campaign trail. I got my first taste of what leadership really means on this date in 1979. It was mid-afternoon in Wichita Falls, Texas and my Mom was two and a half hours away in Dallas for a class. My grandparents were coming into town the next day, so my Dad had run up to the bakery at the end of Fairway Boulevard to get some of the Cinnamon Raisin Bread my GrandBob loved so much. My brother and I were watching Popeye and eating a TV dinner when the programming was interrupted.
The sky was black. Not black like it is at night, but black like it would be if someone threw a thick blanket over the sun. There was a certain hue of temporary to the odd colors surrounding our house. A grayish luminescence alerting me to the fact that the calm afternoon I had been enjoying at recess earlier that day was long gone. The trees were bowing to the incoming force and all their leaves were turned over exposing their lighter colored underbellies as if shielding against an attack. As I stood looking out our sliding glass door into the back yard, the landscape was completely unfamiliar. I watched a large bird struggling to fly against the force of the wind. I remember wondering why the bird didn’t land and protect itself……and then BAM…..something big struck the bird and abruptly ended its ill-advised flight. Then it stopped. The debris dropped from the sky and there was an eerie calm in the air. The wind stopped. The hail stopped. The sirens stopped. It seemed like any other day except for the fact that every hair on my arm and neck were standing at rigorous attention. Goosebumps covered my flesh. This was the kind of calm a convicted killer feels in the seconds before the switch is thrown. A tornado was coming.
My little brother Ryan and I had been taught early and often in the Texas School System that preparation saves lives. We had dragged our mattresses into the hallway just as we had been instructed to do. We were under them but staring down the hallway at the TV. Woody Woodpecker had just started but its flickering images provided only a focal point to keep us distracted during the terror. The sounds that followed will never be forgotten. I hugged Ryan tightly as what sounded like a fleet of runaway locomotives hovered over our heads. The electricity went out and Ryan began to cry. He was only 3 at the time and this was one of the few times in his life where he ever shown fear. It was the first time in my life I ever felt like Ryan’s protector. The glass around the house began to shatter and sounds I hope to never hear again began to fill my ears just as Dad came bursting through the front door. He ran immediately into his own bedroom and dragged his own king sized mattress into the hallway. It was then that I noticed the two strangers he had brought with him. Two strangers that needed shelter and were offered such by my father when it would have been just as easy to fly past them and worry only about his own safety. They survived an ordeal that would have most assuredly ended their lives had it not been for the budding Giles family. Dad’s presence and enveloping arms allowed me to cry and panic like the terrified six year old I truly was. All hell officially broke loose in those moments. It wasn’t like it is often portrayed in the movies. There were no distant screams from unfamiliar throats. There were horrific, indescribable sounds. The sounds of brick, metal, glass, and wood being ripped apart by an unstoppable force. It was horrifying.
Then, just as quickly as it started, it ended. The sounds could still be heard, but there was a saddening and yet comforting distance in their tones. The sounds were now being injected into the lives of people in distant, unfamiliar neighborhoods. We slowly emerged from the protection of our mattresses. I half expected to find open sky over my head, but our home was mostly intact. The rest of the town and even some of our direct neighbors didn’t fare so well. But we survived. The leadership came in the following days. By the way, we still have no idea who those strangers were.
Leadership came in the form of the people who weren’t afraid to face the task at hand. The sounds of chainsaws and hammers filled the air for weeks. With no power and the primitive communications systems of the late seventies, clean-up was difficult but hard work triumphed over tragedy as it so often does. Those who waited for someone else to come take care of them got back to normal at a much later date than those who were willing to get in there and get their hands dirty. Those who gathered in cowardly circles and leveled their collective blame against someone else for what nature had delivered missed some terrific life lessons. Until that storm hit, I had been under the delusion that my world was insulated from the horror I saw on the news. Suddenly, my world was the news. I saw the strength of men and women not ideology and charm. I saw the resolve of a community working together, not one suckling at the teat of handouts and unjustified expectations. I saw REAL hope and change on the horizon as our country waved goodbye to one of its weakest leaders and all of the broken promises, failed expectations, and empty facades of accomplishment he left in his wake. I cheered with all the understanding my youth would permit as the rebuilding of Wichita Falls, Texas coincided nicely with the rise of one of our country’s strongest leaders.
Flash forward to today: History truly has a way of repeating itself. I believe our current President is just as weak as Jimmy Carter, but the similarities don’t end there. The lessons I learned in the nightmare of Terrible Tuesday, as it has come to be known in Wichita Falls, reached far beyond the destruction of that powerful storm. Where I had interpreted weakness, Terrible Tuesday delivered examples of strength. Those who sat back and waited for someone else to fix the problems delivered by that storm are the ones who would vote for His Barackness in November. The people who climbed up on their roofs with a hammer and some shingles while waiting for the insurance company to get to them…..those were the ones with a clear vision of reality. Those were the ones with a sense of personal responsibility. Those were the people who realized that it is NOT the job of government to run their lives. Those people had no room for fairy tales…..they lived in reality.
Just this past Friday, while speaking at what the White House is calling the “Forum on Women and The Economy,” Obama stated that after his daughters were born, he and Michelle – both Harvard Law graduates – couldn’t afford the “luxury” of having her stay at home with the children. Just so we’re clear…..Michelle Obama made $316,000 per year in those days. Obama was earning $168,000 from the US Taxpayer. He went on to say that he knew Michelle “felt guilty” when she was at home with the girls because she wasn’t giving enough time to work. She had a heavy “burden” in those days because of the busy travel schedule of His Barackness.
Are you kidding me? Are we supposed to take this nonsense and believe that the life of a Senator and a highly paid University of Chicago Medical School “Executive Director of Community and External Affairs” somehow relate to the struggles of a normal family? Barack Hussein Obama is so far out of touch with reality, he reminds me of that bird I watched struggling against the wind as that tornado rolled into Wichita Falls 33 years ago today. He believes the nonsense that flows from his mouth just as much as that bird believed he would outrun the storm if he just flapped his wings hard and fast enough. He ignores the reality that surrounds him and believes his ideological instinct will overpower any opponent’s so called “logic.” In reality, the American people are heaving big old pieces of debris into the wind. Obama has skillfully avoided them thus far, but he has suffered some “structural damage” along the way. He’s bruised, but determined. We tossed the debris of his birth certificate into the air, but it only scratched him. We tossed Solyndra into the spiraling nightmare, but it only grazed his wing. We launched the Fast and Furious case, consistently “adjusted” jobs numbers, and the incineration prone Chevy Volt at him but he navigated his way through their debris trails with only superficial wounds. The Supreme Court may soon deliver a rather crippling blow if they strike down Obama’s legacy, but the big piece of flying debris that will knock His Barackness and his ideology out of the sky forever will be the will of the American people on November 6, 2012.
As always, thanks for playing!
J Robert Giles
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