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One of my favorite standup comics, Aziz Ansari said during one of his monologues circa 2013 that a lot of people asked him if South Carolina was racist. He explained that in the South, no matter a person’s race someone of a different race will think that the person is racist. White people, black people, Indian people, it doesn’t matter. But then he responded that people only think South Carolina is racist until they try the food. One bite of Southern fried chicken, and people are like, “Mmm this is good. What kind of spice do you put on this?” And immediately the conversation is changed to a common ground of human necessity: the food that gives us all life.

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If there is one thing in life that is the lifeblood of all humans, it is food. Food is what enables us to grow, it enhances our worldly experiences, it cleanses feelings of anxiety and frustration, and it is ultimately a necessity for survival. When you go to a different country and learn a new language, the first words that you learn are the ones you will need to order food. When you meet with an official, a business partner, or a potential date, the activity you usually engage in is sharing a meal together.  People and places are defined by their food. Fort Collins, a town that I love was defined by its food culture; so many places to eat, and so many varieties of food. Plus you can take a simple kind of food and spice it up with some ingredients to make it a brand new creation.  Food is without a doubt a universal language. And by reading this far, you are probably getting hungry…

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In the most dire of circumstances, food can play a role in conflict resolution and nation building. While writing my thesis in grad school on the Occupy Movement, I had the opportunity to interview Corey Donahue, one of the first Occupiers from Denver.  He had been jailed at least four times while dedicating his life to social justice for impoverished populations worldwide. Some people loved him, while others hated him.  As I talked with him on Skype, he shared one of his initiatives in Denver, which was the creation of the “Thunderdome” in the center of downtown. This was a place where Occupiers donated food from around the state and gathered for a potluck dinner that culminated into an open forum discussing socioeconomic issues.  At the end of the interview, although I disagreed with 70% of his politics, I did dig the idea of bringing people together over food to solve problems.  He explained it,”Everyone deserves to have a meal, because if you’re on an empty stomach, there’s no way that you can intelligently talk about politics and those issues.”

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Why am I talking about food right now?  I’m talking about it because our world is in trouble. People are waging war with each other over their petty differences, when in fact many of these problems that degenerate into violence could be solved over a home-cooked dinner.  And it’s not just having a meal together.  There are the “haves” taking food away from the “have-nots” in order to amplify their power over the world. First world populations stuff their faces while indigenous tribes starve to death. It is not a matter of there not being enough food in the world, but hunger is being used as a weapon everywhere to commit genocide.  The principles that Ansari and Donahue speak about are indeed valid: people change for the better when they have a meal in their stomach. To put it humorously, like they say on the Snickers commercials you are not yourself when you’re hungry. So imagine if more people in the world had the food they needed and did not suffer from hunger. How would our world look?  What would we be able to accomplish?  Would we look at food as simply fuel or an extension of our existence?

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How can you use food to make the world a better place?  It’s really not that hard. Take anyone in your life and invite them over for dinner. Or suggest to try a new restaurant in town.  Start out with people you know well.  Then very soon afterwards, expand your invitation list to include people that you don’t know well, and even people that you don’t get along with.  You’d be surprised that with a few bites of delicious food, everything gets better. The problems that you thought were a big deal become smaller and more rational to tackle.  In a world on the brink of collapse, food might be the only chance for humanity to not only survive but to unite.

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The current generation of veterans who are leaving the service and reentering civilian society are undoubtedly a “scene.” Like the Brit punk scene and the skinhead reggae scene before it, the veterans are now forming cliques based on common interest and are repping their hoods across America. And like most scenes, these common interest groups usually become rivals amongst each other. Here are the most prominent groups that currently saturate the veteran scene:

The Legacy Legion

This is the most traditional group of veterans among the pack.  They hold memberships in long-renowned Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) such as The American Legion, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. They stand for veterans rights on may occasions, often taking a conservative approach towards peaceful assembly and lobbying by gathering on the Capitol steps.  While they have made great strides in some areas, they are often criticized by the current generation of veterans as being “behind the times” and often too indulgent in the old ways of drinking with the old boys clubs.  Innovative thinkers often have a hard time breaking into these camps, and female veterans are often placed in the Women’s Auxillary with the spouses, even though they are actually veterans.  And there is corruption among a select few, with some Vietnam era veterans spending donation money on personal rent payments. Those who continue to try to keep the legacy intact often become forgotten by time and are in danger of dying out, just the same way that the grunge scene did in ’98.

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The Rockstars

This clique is a diverse one, full of independent entrepreneurs, actors, musicians and politicians. They often have a cult following among them who wears velcro hats with IR flags, with social media being much of their method of engaging with the world.  Veterans clothing and arts are seen far and wide thanks to this group, which include organizations such as RangerUp, Nine Line Apparel, Veterans in Film and Television, and Sword and Plough. One of the most notorious of the veteran rockstars is the tongue-in-cheek humored Mat Best, the former Army Ranger turned DIY actor/director and CEO of Article 15 Clothing. The rockstars are by no means perfect.  They have their tendencies to show their aggressive, alpha stereotype by sporting overly proud apparel proclaiming their veteran-ness and sometimes end up saying things that should just be left unsaid.  At times they become the target of other less-successful veterans who accuse them of “selling out,” just like Blink 182 and Green Day.

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The Freedom Fighters

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Even more aggressive than the Rockstars are the often contested collection of freedom fighters.  Depending on who you talk to and what side of the political spectrum they are on, they will tell you that in one way or another your freedom is under attack by the corrupt system of corporate-owned politicians in Washington.  They will march in the streets of New York and at Walmart protesting for veterans rights to benefits, waging war on the Islamic State, or defending everyone’s entitlement to bear arms.  They will even tell average joes that they [veterans] are in the best position to talk about freedom because they spent their “whole lives” defending it and that the average joe who works at McDonalds is worthless. Despite their passion to stand up to the “Man,” these veterans are for the most part a confused bunch, who often become divided while trying to get everyone united. When asked to describe the issues they are protesting against in detail, they often need to turn to Google on the spot to do their research. Their emotions degenerate into violence, which leads to jail time. Sounds a lot like the crust/street/hardcore punk scene to me, all of which eventually ended up dying after the kids graduated from college.

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A smaller, more daring clique among the crowd includes a few warriors taking their military tactical skills into post-military life and looking to change the world. Unlike most other veterans who just talk about it on Youtube, these veterans take dangerous steps into the worst parts of the world in order to liberate indigenous populations and bring order to war-torn communities. Although some Americans might gawk at them as being crazy, the work that these veterans are doing is very bold in many aspects. Kinessa Johnson has been leading an armed rebellion against animal poachers in Africa for a few years now.  And Peter Kassig took a very brave journey into an expedition to bring peace to the Middle East, converting to Islam and building communities among Muslim populations. Tragically, it cost him his life at the hands of Daesh. No matter what the cost, these veterans continue their oath towards bringing peace to America and the Earth. Unfortunately, very few normal people have the same kind of courage these veterans have, which is the same reason why the xCourageCrewx Brotherhood is such a small community.

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The Transformers

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A newer group that has emerged from the shadows in recent years, these veterans are breaking boundaries of what we as society know as the norm. They may have lived their lives in a traditional way in the former, but they are now stepping out and showing their true colors among a majority who must learn to accept them. Of all the veteran cliques in the scene, they perhaps face the most hostility from within the veteran community, let alone society as a whole given that “transition” is an uncomfortable subject for so many normal people. However, a deeper look into the service records of these veterans reveals that many of them served honorably, some of which came from the Special Operations Forces community, and many continue to serve. They didn’t transition to make a statement or rebel against society; they made the transition because that’s who they really were inside, and by fully becoming themselves they could serve their country with greater integrity. Like Laura Jane Grace (formerly Thomas James Gabel) of Against Me! put it, “The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple. It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it’s shitty, man.”

So what’s the point?

If you’ve made it all the way down to this paragraph, you are probably wondering why I am calling out all of these different cliques and why I am making references to all of these obscure punk scene personalities. My point with this is that yes, today’s veterans are all unique and have their differences, some of which are more drastic than others.  However, it doesn’t mean that all veterans need to stay among only one group that looks, talks and acts all the same way and doesn’t associate with other veterans not the same as them. That’s how the punk scene ended up, and let’s face it: the punk scene is dead. We as veterans, on the other hand, don’t have to let our scene die the same way over petty differences. Instead of criticizing those who still take part in VSOs, why not find ways to inject new characteristics into those organizations, kind of like how VFW Post 1 in Denver is leading the way in innovative things for veterans to do?  How about invite the protestors to a fundraiser dinner where they can talk intelligently about politics while giving proceeds to homeless veterans who could actually benefit from it?  What about using your skills in the arts to make a documentary about LGBTQ veterans for the world to see, and invite former members of the SOF community to be in it?  After all, hanging out with a bunch of guys who all wear the same ballcaps all the time gets a little boring after a while. There are so many ways we can accept our differences and engage in healthy debate and fellowship so that the veteran scene doesn’t go away.  We all have the same values and share a common thread of service to our nation. Now more than ever, we need to bring that same spirit to the larger American community.

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With the recent shootings involving police and African Americans across the United States from Baton Rouge and Minnesota to Dallas, there is total chaos everywhere. People are voicing their outrage. Those sympathetic to destroying police, those sympathetic to defending gun rights, those sympathetic to #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, #alllivesmatter, black nationalism, white supremacy, police brutality, the list goes on. Again our nation is in a state of unrest. Murder has been committed, and rather than work towards love and compassion, political views continue to divide society.

As with millions of other Americans, there are so many thoughts that have gone through my head. What did the victims do wrong? Were the police in danger? Did the race of the victims matter?  Were the killings justified?  But as I reflect, there is one thought that comes to my mind. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Blane Salamoni, Howie Lake, Jeronimo Yanez, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Micah Johnson…any one of those men could have been one of my Soldiers.

As an officer who has served in the United States Army and the Army National Guard, I have had the honor of working in some of the most diverse organizations in our nation. I have served side by side with Soldiers who are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, among many other races. Very few of them are purely one race or ethnicity. What bonds us together is that no matter what color our skin is, we are all Soldiers. We all have the same opportunities to serve and to achieve excellence through the quality of our performance. There is no such thing as White Soldiers or Black Soldiers; there are only Soldiers.

When I first saw the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile dying in a pool of blood and published all over social media, I immediately felt uneasy and haunted. I watched each of the videos only once, and as I lied in my bed that night, I thought…could this have happened to one of my Soldiers? In the Army, a Soldier who is Black, Hispanic, or any other minority is treated with the same respect as any other Soldier. He/she is held to the same standards and enjoys the same benefits. When off duty, they are still protected under the Constitutional rights for which they defend. This includes the right to freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.

My concern is that in the wake of these shootings, there is still a significant percentage of Americans who do not see American society the same way. Stereotypes, profiling, racism, and extremism all still exist among our streets.  A Soldier who experiences respect in uniform might not experience the same reception when out of uniform and away from the military community. I have Soldiers who are minorities and own firearms because they enjoy activities such as hunting, competitive shooting and marksmanship while off duty – not because they want to kill people or start trouble. It haunts me that in the video of Philando Castile in particular, he was killed in front of his family even after he stated that he had a concealed carry license. What if Castile was a Soldier? Would the policeman who shot him have reacted any differently?

It is not only the Black men who were killed that troubles me; it is also the police in Dallas who were killed. The Dallas Police were doing exactly what the city had hired them to do – protecting those engaged in peaceful assembly. Five of them were killed for no good reason, thus bringing terror to a gathering for healing. Four of those killed were white, one of them was Hispanic. Additionally, two of them were veterans – one from the Navy and one from the Army. To many veterans, a career in law enforcement is an honorable one. It is a chance to continue your service to your country and to protect all Americans. In the National Guard and Reserves, it is very common for Soldiers to also serve as police officers in their civilian professions. And it pains me to think…those officers who were killed in the line of duty could have also been my Soldiers. Rather than being looked at with respect, the police are looked at by some Americans with anguish, resentment and hatred. Do the actions of a few police officers justify the killing of any police officers?

An even more terrible part of all this is the man who killed the Dallas Police Officers. He was also a Soldier. I do not know much about his military career other than that he was in the Army Reserve and deployed to Afghanistan. I have read reports that he was investigated for sexual harassment and the character of his discharge is unclear. However, what I do know is that he was radicalized by extremists who swayed him towards committing violence upon other human beings. He took the training and responsibility that the US Army gave him and turned it against his own countrymen. An article in The Daily Beast stated that the victim involved in the sexual harassment investigation said she wished that Johnson would “receive mental help.” This opens up another closet of demons that still affects Soldiers and veterans: mental and behavioral health issues. Be it anxiety, depression, or PTSD, these issues run deep among the military community, with many service members not receiving the help they need. It is an understatement to say that Johnson did not get the necessary help for his mental issues. But how many more Soldiers are going through the exact same things, and how many could be radicalized the way he was? Will other Soldiers die because of this extremism?

I do not write these words to formulate a solution to the problem, but perhaps there is a way to integrate the values of the military to work towards a better country. As I stated before, in the Army we look at ourselves as Soldiers, no matter our sex, gender, race, religion, ethnicity or national origin. What if the rest of Americans could do the same thing? We don’t have to look at ourselves as separate groups based on outward appearance. We can all consider ourselves Americans. Perhaps then we can work towards a greater unity of effort, and someday we won’t need the hashtags of #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, etc anymore. We will just live our lives together.

Just as 3D was making it’s comeback into the 21st Century, a new viewing experience has taken Point Of View (POV) videography into a new realm. 360 video recently made its way onto YouTube and other streaming sites, and for all intents and purposes it is possibly the most realistic viewing method that is not virtual reality. Ironically, some people are even dubbing it the truest form of virtual reality.

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Many YouTubers might have already seen the viral video taken by the Mythbusters showing a sunken ship surrounded by hordes of sharks (see below). In this video, the divers capture the underwater scene using POV cameras. As the video rolls, the controls on the YouTube viewer allow the user to move the camera angle 360 degrees.  You can count all the sharks for yourself!

The viewing experience is probably best viewed on mobile devices. When viewing the same video on a smartphone, the user not only change the point of view using the touch of a finger but can also change the angle by physically moving the phone around. Just type in 360 video on Youtube and try it our yourself…

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Since early this year, many videographers worldwide have embraced this new form of capturing real life experiences, from adventure seekers to bands and artists. A balloon ride becomes an all inclusive world tour in the palm of your hand.  Fort Minor (remember the rapper from Linkin Park?) gives a 360 degree glimpse into the boardwalk of Venice Beach.  Even a few Star Wars fans have created 360 trailers for The Force Awakens, which might not be a “real” world, but to Star Wars fans it is.

How is 360 video made? The method is similar to panoramic methods used for still photographs, except in this case the cameras are HD POV cameras. An improvised frame is built to hold multiple tiny POV cameras, creating a device that looks like a pine comb.  The lenses on each POV camera are very wide, allowing a great depth of field for intersecting one another. The video is recorded, downloaded and then combined to interlock the footage from each camera, creating a seamless streaming video that can be viewed from any angle.

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So is 360 video really that awesome of an experience? I will say that there are some flubs that need to be worked out. For one thing, most 360 videos tend to create a very dizzy experience. When you’re trying to watch a fast moving motorbike while looking up, down, left and right, you’re bound to be puking by the end of the ride. As if GoPro didn’t already create a movement of dizziness, now with 360 video there is no focal point to set your eyes to. With this I don’t see any major motion picture directors embracing 360 video in the near term, as virtually everyone who views it would have a different viewing experience based on what they chose to view.

Additionally, 360 video is pretty big byte-wise. Most videos that are shot in HD can’t be viewed the same way on certain devices, thus degrading the quality of the experience. It’d be wonderful to view the world in virtual HD all the time, but not everyone can have their way.

360 video might have its usefulness in practical situations. I see a lot of potential for this in research studies, law enforcement and military operations. Even if audiences are separated geographically, they can have a window to see distant locations via 360 video.  Imagine if the President had this kind of technology during the raid on Osama Bin Laden…

All in all, I think 360 video is pretty cool, but I don’t think I can watch more than 2:00 minutes of it at a time.

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Veterans are in high demand – at least that’s the word on the street. Everywhere there are hundreds of job fairs, websites and organizations stating that there are hundreds or thousands of jobs out there for veterans. Small businesses to corporations pride themselves on being “military friendly” by appearing in a major magazine, hiring a fraction of veterans into their workforce and having a veteran transition program – which could be many different things. People in every corner of America are thanking veterans for their service and telling them how marketable they are.  With all of these great qualities, you’d think that getting hired into a job would be a piece of cake for a veteran, right?

The truth of the matter is that things are not as easy as the general public make them out to be.  Believe it or not, civilian employment can be intimidating to veterans. They are out of their comfort zone of the uniform and are now in a world of uncertainty. They are being courted by companies that say they need their military skills and experience for positions that are sometimes completely unrelated. Something that most veterans don’t know is that the results of landing a dream job right away are not typical. Veterans may spend hours each night on job boards, even military-specific ones, shooting out resumes and not hearing anything at all. Only 5% of veterans might find themselves in a job interview. And when the interview leads to a rejection phone call, it can leave the veteran feeling less and less confident about their choice to seek civilian employment. But what is the most disconcerting aspect about all this is that some employers who reject the veteran still claim to be “military friendly.” It seems like a slap in the face to a person whose service was once praised but is not even worth a job offer by the ones s/he served. In an essence, most veterans find themselves in a position of weakness when it comes to job seeking.

I definitely felt the resentment a few times in my life. Left active duty, went back to school, got a job but continued to look for one closer to home, went to job boards and heard nothing, went to job fairs and heard nothing, interviewed with military-friendly employers and got no results, then ended up working for the military again. Even at a job fair that was specifically for veterans, I left with a bad taste in my mouth because I couldn’t imagine myself working for those kinds of companies. It did, however, land me a few interviews afterwards. I’ve been told that just getting to the interview stage is a great opportunity in itself, and looking back at that experience I now realize how important the part of the interview is when they ask you, “what questions do you have for us?” Knowing what I know now, I would ask this question to a military-friendly employer out of general interest:

“What does your company offer that the military doesn’t offer?”

With this simple yet bold question, the tables are turned in the job seeking process. In an instant, I as a veteran no longer feel as if I am the one proving myself to a giant organization – it is now their turn. Too often people forget that part of the interview process is for the company to sell itself to the job seeker with hopes of “buying” or investing in his/her talents. If a question such as this is asked in the right context to a military-friendly employer, a whole new set of possible talking points opens up.  What really makes your company “military friendly?” What specific military skills are you looking for? What kinds of opportunities are you offering specifically to veterans? Does your benefits package include comprehensive health care, tuition assistance or retirement? Can I achieve the same camaraderie from your company as I did in the military? How is your company serving our country? Does the job offer anything more exciting than jumping out of an airplane or firing rockets (probably shouldn’t ask this one)?  The list goes on.

An important point that I believe companies should remember is that when courting veterans to fulfill employment goals, not all veterans are being forced out of the military. In fact, a small percentage are involuntarily separated against their will – many more leave the service because they have seen enough, be it combat, bureaucracy or hardships on family and quality of life. As they search for something better, they do not necessarily need a civilian employer to fulfill that dream. Many veterans participate in non-profits or start their own companies. If it came to it, they could turn right around and jump back into the military very easily, whether it be active or reserve duty. Disability also won’t stop many veterans from staying in the service – take a look at Master Sgt (ret) Leroy Petry of the 75th Ranger Regiment, who served for several more years even after losing his hand in combat.

Bottom line is that veterans are not dependent on any company, no matter how military friendly they might claim to be. However, that doesn’t mean that veterans aren’t willing to create friendly, positive relationships with employers. Not everyone is desperate – they are simply looking for something that could be as fulfilling as their military service once was. If a military-friendly company is truly able to offer that kind of environment in return for a diverse set of skills developed from the military, both elements will have achieved their goals.

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Metal sucks. It is without a doubt an opinion held by most normal music listeners AND metalheads alike in one form or another. In fact, there is an entire website dedicated to that opinion. A band can have 20-string guitars or 300 bpm blast beats in their songs, but to most people around the world the thing that drives the “sucking” status of metal nowadays is always the ever-annoying vocals. Whether its power-melodic, Dio-esque opera belting or Godzilla-soundtrack-goes-live growling, the vocalist of a metal band is often the deciding factor that makes or breaks a band, and in the current metal scene most metal vocalists seem to be breaking down all too much.

With the status of metal on a gradual decline, metal musicians everywhere are looking to bend the horizons while staying relevant and respectable in an ever-changing music scene. There is no shortage of talent among metalheads, many of whom are classically trained musicians. However, composing metal tracks that are technical, listenable, and enjoyable all in one is a great challenge, especially when seeking to reach a diverse audience worldwide. And lets face it – a very small population would immediately embrace a band fronted by a tough guy yelling unintelligible words about pushing the world away.  To overcome this hump, a collection of metal musicians are taking a simple yet dramatic approach: ditch the vocalists and go instrumental.

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A couple of years ago, I played in a band known as Goatstorm. While we really didn’t take our name that seriously, our music was a serious set of technical, progressive instrumental compositions. The songs were solid metal and highly expressive in their own way without being oversalted with solos or other wankery. Plus, none of them had any vocals whatsoever. Goatstorm still plays shows as a four-piece instrumental band to this day, with some of the members taking on other instrumental side projects. And not one of them has had the need for a singer…

Why are bands opting to ditch the vocals? Many reasons: less drama, no egocentric frontman, shitty lyrics, etc. Most vocalists who scream can only hold it out for about 5 years, then must undergo surgery for severe vocal strain.  Many of these vocalists have to resort to singing melodically from that point on, and if they’re not willing to learn to sing then they can kiss their career good What made Goatstorm decide to go vocal-less? To be honest, the original singer stopped showing up to practice, a simple reason to drop one member from the band. In the longer run, the band decided that the music was strong enough to stand on its own, so why spoil it with a crappy vocal track?

 

“Instrumetal” as some might call it is becoming its own scene in many ways among the larger metal crowd. True, instrumental metal has been around for decades with even the biggest metal acts dedicating one or two 10-minute tracks of nothing but powerful, vocal-less thrash.  Even sludge and doom metal bands that feature vocalists might only have a few seconds of vocals followed by 5 minutes of slow, death rock. However, at today’s metal shows instrumental acts are becoming headliners of their own. Bands such as Russian Circles, Animals as Leaders and The Algorithm are a few of those currently leading this growing scene. These bands offer not only brutally technical metal but other styles such as classical, ambient, techno, fusion and jazz to entice the non-metal audience.

 

Even musicians who were part of other established bands have broken away to pursue solo careers that feature instrument-only tracks that test the barriers of metal composition. 9-string guitarist Mike Gianelli of Dissipate/Bermuda impresses tech metalheads with his of his own brand of instrumental djent.

 

For the metal bass players out there, Evan Brewer of Animosity and The Faceless has been a pioneer for stretching the limits of bass techniques in metal music, demonstrating skill and precision to generate sounds that very few bass players out there could even imagine creating.

 

The instrumetal scene will undoubtedly keep growing for years to come and will continue to combine styles from other musical genres to hopefully keep expanding the horizons of what metal music will sound like. If there is any criticism at all of this developing scene of metal musicians, it is that instrumetal doesn’t actually have much to “say.” After all, how can a band that doesn’t have any lyrics possibly be memorable to fans or change society or bring people together? What will this music mean to people looking for the meaning of life? A noteworthy response to this is that there are vocals among the instrumetal scene, but rather than being created on stage they are created among the audience that is listening. A highly technical composition of riffs and shreds can spark a conversation full of interpretations and commentary even long after the show is over. Perhaps through this type of creativity can the metal scene pick itself back up and be a respectable art form once again.

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Since long before the Declaration of Independence, the National Guard of the United States has played a significant role in defense of the American people at the state and local levels. The earliest militia minutemen conducted day and night skirmishes to defend townspeople of the early colonies, paving the way for the training and formation of the First Continental Army prepared to take on British forces. Since then, National Guard troops have been a force multiplier for the Federal armed forces in nearly every conflict. Additionally, the Guard has provided civil and humanitarian aid in the midst of natural disasters in the continental United States and other territories.  And in times of irrational expressions of anger in the streets of American cities, Guardsmen have been there to keep the peace and protect the rights of American people.

The idea of National Guardsmen being directly involved in the resolution of civil unrest is a sensitive subject, given that US troops are put directly in the line of sight of Americans who may or may not obey the law. In certain eras, the Guard has been seen as a sometimes lethal enforcer of martial law, such as during the Colorado miner strikes of the early 1900s.  Guardsmen were considered the last resort in resolving labor disputes, which tragically ended in the massacre of two dozen civilians. 50 years later, the Guard answered a new call to duty during the Civil Rights movement in the southern United States. The mission of the Guard was to prevent civil and police brutality, and to protect the rights of Americans taking part in peaceful expressions of speech and assembly. Thus the Guard became an ally for the American people to exercise such Constitutional rights.

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The role of the Guard changed once again following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. They once again took on a law enforcement role, restoring peace in major cities struck by riots and rage. This kind of role continued for the Guard as the Vietnam War continued through the late 1960s and early 1970s, as Guardsmen were emplaced to protect the establishment of government from a frustrated American public. 20 years later, National Guardsmen once again took to protect the streets, but were instead welcomed by citizens looking to restore peace in Los Angeles following the Rodney King riots.

Today, the Guard has retained its role in protecting citizens during times of civil unrest, no matter how violent things might become. The rebuilding of New Orleans, LA following Hurricane Katrina saw one of the biggest domestic activations of the National Guard since the 9/11 attacks. The Occupy Movement saw much mass protest sweep the nation in 2011, but very little National Guard response was seen as it was considered to resemble too closely to martial law.  However, the peaceful-turned-violent demonstrations witnessed in Ferguson, MO and the Baltimore, MD saw the necessity for activating of the Guard to enforce law and order. In all cases, the restoration of peace to these parts of the United States could arguably be attributed to the work of the Guard.

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So why the Guard? The answer is simple: the American people respect the troops. We live in a time now when service members and veterans are respected by American citizens everywhere. People have a sense of pride when viewing troops in uniform, as these troops represent all the values that everyday people aspire America to be.  Gone are the days of protest and disrespect towards the troops witnessed during the Vietnam War; the troops now hold a status that commands respect among American citizens, and to disrespect a troop is viewed the same as treason against one’s country. When total chaos erupts in the streets of America, the only one who can physically and fundamentally restore order is an American Soldier.

Now an even bigger question: will the National Guard see more activations in response to civil unrest in American cities? Given the history of the Guard’s role in restoring the peace and comparing it to the recent events in the country, and the answer is most surely yes. Why? Looking at the biggest events in the past century, all of them, including Hurricane Katrina, have involved some form of racial tension. The recent events involving the shootings of African Americans and the riots thereafter, to the debates over the symbolism of the Confederate Flag and the arson of African American churches, it is clear that racial tension is indeed alive and breathing in the United States and will continue to burn in the hearts of Americans for years to come. It appears that our nation is coming to a culminating point in the struggle for civil rights, where opinions that were kept silent for a long time are now in the open. And it is not limited simply to black and white; the development of the Islamic State has brought new voices in racism and ethnic cleansing that threaten the people of the United States.

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Whether such violence as that witnessed during Baltimore will be seen in other American cities is unknown, but what is known is that the National Guard will most definitely need to be prepared to intervene. In conducting such duties, Guardsmen must remain impartial and must remember their oath of swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Their purpose is to protect the rights of citizens, no matter whether they agree with their points of view or not, and prevent anyone from infringing upon those rights. It will not be easy for Guardsmen to point their weapons against their own American brothers and sisters who disregard the rights of others, but ultimately in the current day and age, it is the American Soldier who stands the best chance of restoring order.