Or, “How I came to have cyber egg all over my face”
Confessions of someone who posts on Facebook before sitting on hands and engaging brain.
VICTOR HUGO said, “History has its truth, and so has legend. Legendary truth is of another nature than historical truth. Legendary truth is invention whose result is reality. Furthermore, history and legend have the same goal; to depict eternal man beneath momentary man.”
When it comes to figures of the past, time has a way of mediating the negative and positive snapshots of a person’s character and life to give us a fairly accurate portrait of what and who he or she was; to give as honest a portrayal as possible of the “eternal man beneath the momentary man”.
I am neck deep in alligators right now with just such a project: sorting through the good, the bad and the ugly of people who lived over 400 years ago and hopefully coming up with an interesting yet accurate final portrait. Multiple hours of research went into delving deeply into source material, reading long passages of tedious and quite frankly boring 16th Century prose and reading some good and some painfully biased biographies before ever writing one word.
The point is that I have taken great pains to ensure my account is well researched and free from the bias of a 21st Century man looking backwards at someone lost in the mist of the 16th Century. So one would think I could do an even better job speaking of someone who is a contemporary, of someone whose portrait is still being painted with their own living words and actions.
One would think.
But when I posted a link to a story at National Review, titled Air Force Chaplain Awarded Bronze Star for PowerPoint Teaching Proper Sensitivity for the Koran, I failed to look beyond the momentary man to find the eternal man. In my best military dad’s righteous anger I read the article in about 60 seconds and then posted what I thought about it on Facebook 10 seconds after that.
After all, our youngest son was awarded the bronze star for valor in combat. As a convoy commander in Iraq a few years ago he was involved in a deadly firefight and nearly lost his life. That’s what soldiers get bronze stars for, not PowerPoint presentations. How dare this Lt. Colonel accept such an award for punching some keys on a computer?
So I sat down to write this post and give vent to my impressions of such a travesty. Thankfully I took a breath and paused to do a little more research and fact checking. Only then did I realize that, to my shame, the snapshot of Lt Colonel Jon Trainer offered in the National Review and repeated by a myriad of copycats including yours truly on Facebook did not offer the whole picture.
And then I read this:
I contacted LTC Jon Trainer Tuesday afternoon, something no other policy analysts or commentators had done, to discuss the matter with him directly. I also contacted field commanders in Afghanistan for comment on the PowerPoint he developed. …. continue reading
My opinion hasn’t changed about the way our government is devaluing acts of true heroism but I am slapping my own hand for raising it before I knew what I was talking about. This age of cyber everything has created an avalanche of words, the majority of which are worse than useless. Shame on me for adding to this mountain of garbage that passes for meaningful commentary.
I am once again reminded of C.S. Lewis admonition to writers: know exactly what you want to say and be sure you say exactly that. Anyone else care to confess to speaking before you were sure of all the facts in a matter? Please, I really don’t want to sit here all by myself in the time-out corner.