The VigilanceVoice

July 20, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 311

The Duty Of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 20--Duty!   It's a big word.
       It implies, no, it demands a service beyond one's self.
       It requires one to think of others first, to put the self in the copilot's seat.  Or, way back in the passenger section.
       Duty is a word lost in a world of selfish demands--the "me first" theory overwhelms the one of "duty," which puts "you" or "us" or "we" or "them" first.
       The executives at Enron, WorldCom, Imclone forgot about their fiduciary duty to their stockholders, to their employees, to the children who admire business and stuffed their pockets with the gold of others.
       The Terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the thwarted flight heading for Washington D.C. forgot their duty to civilization, to the evolution of peace and security for the children.     

      Parents who have little time to sit with their children and find out  their Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies, and are too concerned with their own "problems" to help their children overcome the struggles of self worth, have forgotten their duty to not only their children, but their children's children's children.
       Priests who molest the young abandon their duty to stand as spiritual icons.   Police who brutalize prisoners with broomsticks demean the duty to hold the color of blue in a higher order, to protect it from soil.
       The men or women walking down the street, engaging in loud conversation, and throwing around the "F" word as though they were in a locker room, neglecting the fact their language falls upon the children's ears nearby, or the other citizens who may be offended by their language, forget their duty of respect.
        The clerk at the store who frowns and doesn't smile or wish the customer a good day despite the aching feet, tired back, and weary, endless lines of people forgets the "duty of service," the opportunity to express appreciation for the spending of one's hard-earned money in a particular store.
        The woman who seeks an abortion denies the duty of motherhood.   The man who agrees to it, perverts his duty as a father.

        It is such a massive undertaking, almost onerous for some who have no training in its meaning, have not tested its endurance in their lives, does not know the joy of its fruition.
       Years ago when I joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a young, idealistic man, I sought the meaning of duty.   I was trained to give my life for others, to believe the highest duty I could render was dying for my country, for the preservation of a slippery ideal so often twisted and convoluted by the critics.   That ideal was "freedom," the ultimate right of choice over one's destiny, not dictated by others, but a guarantee given to all who live within a structure that fosters free choice, free speech, free enterprise.
        My duty was measured by my willingness to die for my comrades--to crawl into a hail of bullets and drag a dead wounded Marine to safety, even if it meant giving up my own life.   I understand that duty well.  I performed it more than once.   I know the sound of its calling, and the elation of my willingness to sacrifice myself for its honor.

       That's why I understand the duty of those bold and courageous men and women on September 11 who rushed into the burning World Trade Center to save others.    The thought of self came second to the security of others.
       It is hard to explain.   It is even harder to endure sometimes when selfishness grips ones soul, and survival drives one to run from the responsibility of duty.
       Vigilance is all about duty.
       That's why it is hard for many to comprehend it.
       It is about acting in ways that protect the children's children's children.   It is generational in shape and form, extending beyond the scope of one's own well being, larger than one's own character defects.

       The young girl who was abducted, raped and killed in Stanton, California knew her duty.  At five years old, she knew enough to scream and kick and bite and kick as the stranger grabbed her from the front yard and dragged her into his car.    She fought for her life and lost as the other children looked on.  She was Vigilant to her death, a tribute to her understanding of the duty of protection.   No one knows for sure, but her screaming and kicking and biting the abductor might have saved the other children, warned them, driven them away from the abductor who might have taken another child.  One thing is for sure, Samantha knew her duty--to fight for her life.
       Duty is not an acquired trait.   It is part of our gene pool.   It makes us able to give our lives so others might live.
       My older daughter a few years ago was in El Salvador, living with peasants near a river.  She was part of a group of people who had come to live with the villagers so the El Salvadorian government wouldn't massacre them.    The villagers wanted their land back and squatted on it as part of a "land take" where by possessing their former lands taken from them, they might reclaim them.   
      El Salvadorian army units surrounded the villagers and arrested all the observers, five of them, from different countries.   They put them in trucks and hauled them away.   They tried to grab my daughter, but the village women formed a circle around her, concerned she would be victimized by the machine-gun carrying soldiers whose reputation for rape, torture and killing sent chills through everyone.

     They created a knot of human bodies around her in the middle of the jungle, protecting her from arms reaching in to grab her, staring down the barrels of pistols and rifles pointing at them.  They were the Mothers of Vigilance that day, risking their lives for a girl not part of their family, but who had become as important to them as their own children.
     It comes to life under pressure, but it sits at the ready like an eagle hovering high in the sky, ready to swoop down whenever it is needed.    Those who understand Vigilance understand duty.    They are those who willing to risk their personal selfishness for the safety and security of others, especially for the children.   They do not set off bombs that kill innocent people, they do not fly airplanes into buildings intending to massacre the population.   Those who think killing the innocent act out of some "duty" pervert the principle of duty.   They use it as an excuse to justify their own selfish quest for glory.   A suicide bomber, for example, seeks glorification for his or her actions, and operates not out of duty but out of greed.  
      That's why I fell in love with the movie, K-19.
      It was a movie about "duty."
     Peeling back the onion, the film showed the relationship of men under pressure when their submarine encountered a deadly radiation leak.

      It has taken nearly three decades for the story to come to the surface, but the power of the story is timeless.  It will survive through eons, for it an odyssey of human responsibility to one another and to the world.
      The main character of the story is duty itself--duty to politics, to a nation, to the world, to a team, to each other.
      If every parent took his or her children to see the movie and then discussed the principles of duty that are revealed in the film, a powerful result would occur.   Everyone would learn about the principle of "sacrifice."
      In the final analysis, the Russian crew faced many dilemmas.   One was their crippled submarine could set off a thermonuclear war.   The result would be devastating not only for Russia, but for the entire globe.   The decisions they make are selfless decisions, dutiful decisions that transcend politics and human differences, and spread over the generations.
      Another critical point was the duty to one's country.   The tension created in the film was so powerful one could do nothing but salute both the scripting and direction of the decisions made in this respect--for the commander was caught in a vice, squeezed between the choice of saving his crew and surrendering his highly secret, advanced warship to the "enemy."
      Then there was the duty to each other, to the whole of the crew.   This is where the movie shined the brightest.    The power of its message was incredible.   Parents sitting through the film with their children would find hours of discussions about the duty to one's "family" an insatiable topic.    How the crew resolves the question of duty, and the Fears, Intimidation and Complacencies they face are outstanding.
      I found K-19 a Film of Vigilance.
      There are no words I could write that would honor it.  It is something one must see and think through to appreciate.
      In a world that seems so selfish to a child, with all the seeming horror and devastation going on, K-19 refreshes one's sense of human qualities.   It makes the spine of humanity stand taller and prouder. Another reason to be proud of the making of such a movie is that one percent of the box office proceeds is designated to be given to the widows and survivor's families.

       If Vigilance is what I propose--the sum of Courage, Conviction and Right Action--then the movie K-19 is perhaps the best visual presentation of Vigilance I have ever seen.  And if Terrorism is the sum of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency, then one won't be disappointed for the lack of it.   The film is full of Terrorism, of both the Emotional and Physical variety.   It is how these men overcome the Terror of their situation that makes the movie a masterful study of Vigilance.
        If you wonder why the world is in trouble, consider this.   Perhaps we all need to reinforce the principles of duty in our minds, and share them with our children.  If we do, and we use K-19 as a model, the world may change from one of Terrorism to one of Vigilance.
      See K-19 for the best definition of it.

Go To July 19--The "V" Of Vigilance

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