Living the dream…
Living The Dream…
Out here in the world trying to recover from the holiday season, which at my work is better known as Peak. Thanks in large part to career choices (chasing seniority and quality of life over money), I survived Peak relatively unscathed. I worked three weeks consecutively but was able to be home for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. All is quite well.
Over the past three weeks, I ran across a news story and a video that I wanted to share with you today. We will go serious first and end in a positive, upbeat, humorous place.
In March 2003, I was lying in a tent waiting for the Iraq War to kick off. My crew and I were talking because there was nothing else to do. I had slept until I was hungry and eaten MREs until my colon was locked up tighter than Fort Knox. The only thing left to do was to muse about every topic under the sun. The topic of why we were over there preparing to kick the ever living snot out of the Iraqi people came up. My Flight Engineer, Paul S. who is by far the smartest person I have ever known, explained it easily. Saddam pissed off the Saudis.
“So, why do they care? Is it a religious thing?” I asked.
“No, they are both Sunni. He is a Baathist. They are Wahhabi.”
“I don’t know what any of that means.”
“Pretend they are all Baptists. One is Southern Baptist and the other is Missionary Baptists. They just have a disagreement over the tenants of their faith.”
“So we are going to kill them all, just because they don’t believe in water immersion?”
“Well it is more about oil and power than religion. The religion aspect comes into play when you compare the Sunni and Shia.” Paul said.
“I don’t know what that means either.”
“Very basically, it all goes back to after the Prophet Mohammad died and who would become the next Caliph…”
“What is a Caliph?”
“Prophet, their spiritual leader.”
“Like the Pope?”
“Yes, kind of like that.” Paul said.
Paul pulled himself out of the folding chair and went into the tent. He came back with a book and tossed it in my lap. Read this then we will talk some more. A few hours later, I was able to have a slightly more intellectual discussion about the intricacies of the Muslim faith with Paul. It was refreshing to read and learn about a group of people that represent about 1/3rd of the world’s population. If a dummy like me could have a basic grasp of a major religion and how it factors into international politics, then I naively believed that all the smart people that serve in the government and news media would have an even deeper understanding of the religion and what role the United States should play in navigating the complexities of the world.
I don’t watch the news very often and when I do, I am constantly amazed at our lack of understanding of the religion. To lump all Muslims into the same boat is like trying to lump all Christians under the same tent. As you drive down your street, you will see about ten different demonization of Churches. If you were able to select the same topic for the ten different preachers to talk about in their sermon on Sunday morning at the same time, you would get about ten different experiences. There would be a common theme but the ending would vary greatly depending on how they view their faith. The exact same thing is true of the Muslim religion, they all have a different perspective on their faith.
What I am about to say is overly simplified for the ease of your understanding. Under the Muslim religion there are two major beliefs. Sunni and Shia. It goes back to the proper successor following the death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Sunni believed the next Caliph should have been the most capable student of the prophet. The Shia believed that the bloodline of the Prophet should be the deciding factor in choosing the next successor. You and I might not think it is a big deal, but we know what happens when you lock a Southern Baptist Pastor and a Northern Methodist Minister in a room telling them to work out a plan of salvation.
Right now, the Sunni and Shia are in an open, shooting war. This war is taking place between two nation states in the countries of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. This war extends to economics, politics, religion, and all aspects of their society. The principal players in this war are Saudi Araba and Iran. The Saudi’s are Sunni and the Iranians are Shia. It is hard to understand who, what, when, where, and why of the Middle East until you view it through the lens of Sunni and Shia. Then the picture is quite clear. ISIS is Shia. The rebel forces in Syria are largely Shia. The rebel forces in Yemen are Shia. Contrastingly in Iraq, the rebel forces are Sunni.
If you want to know why the United States is having a difficult time navigating the political nightmare in the Middle East. Read this article and look at the map. The USA approaches each nation as an individual, separate nation and in each case our national policy approach ends at the border. In the neighboring country we take a totally opposite approach. We do not approach the Middle East in a coordinated manner and we are seeing the fruits of our schizophrenic national policy. It drives me crazy when the potential Presidential candidates can’t figure this out. The media doesn’t have a clue about any of this and I wish someone would ask the simple question of the candidates. What is the difference between the Sunni and Shia?
Now, that you are armed with some knowledge. Take three minutes and read this article from the website Zerohedge. It is a great website because it dives behind the curtain of information and gets to the fundamentals of what is really going on. To be fair, some of it is black helicopter, conspiracy type stuff about the economy and government. But I promise you that you will not get any of this on CNN or FOX News. By the way, I was told about this site by my good friend and still smartest guy I have ever known. Paul S.
I promised you a humorous story to end the article. When I first started working for my current company, I was a Flight Engineer on the 727. That means that I was the lowest ranking crew member on the airplane. I was much younger and hardly had any gray hair. A few years ago, I picked up the phrase “Living The Dream” when I was asked how I have been doing. I don’t know where I picked it up or how long I have been saying it but it has been a while.
So as new crew member, I was in Providence, Rhode Island. I know it was there because I have only been there once in my airline career. I don’t like the trip because it is a long flight, less than desirable hotel with nothing close by to walk and get food. Anyway, I was standing outside under the covered parking area talking to the valet when he got called inside. He said good bye and went in.
I continued to stand there next to valet podium waiting on the other two crew members so we could go to work. I have my dark pants, starched white shirt, dark stripped tie, Identification badge around my neck and epaulets on my shoulders. I did my best to enjoy the crisp, autumn night when a guy in his Mustang pulled up.
He parked right in the middle of the breezeway, hopped out leaving the car running. “Do you mind if I park here for a few minutes?” He asked.
I looked around to make sure if he was talking to me. I was still alone next to the podium. “I don’t care. Take your time.” I replied.
He passed the other two crew guys in the hallway and we got on the shuttle and left. I have no idea what happened when the real valet came back out to find the car running in his parking area but I still chuckle when I think of that thirty seconds of my life. The other night, a friend showed me this video about “Living the Dream.” It is about four minutes long and if you want to know about the life of an airline pilot, I can’t think of a better example. If this had come out before that Topgun movie, I might have a different career.
Until next time, keep on rockin.