I will never forget seeing the burning on the horizon as I drove down the road. The Pentagon had just been hit. The plane had flown right over the road as I was driving. I had just returned to the Washington DC area, where I lived, from visiting New York City and seeing the Twin Towers in person. I was currently working on a HIDTA money laundering task force with local police, DEA, and IRS agents. I was severely underemployed in the position, but I had dreams of working for the CIA one day and, as is my nature, would not stop trying.
The people in the DC area were mostly a miserable, angry bunch. But after the attacks, I noticed an extreme change. People were suddenly being much kinder to each other. People were letting other people in front of them in the gridlock traffic that makes up the Washington DC area. People were courteous, helpful and respectful.
These days, we have gotten so far away from that. We are back to being angry and hostile. Jumping to conclusions about people we don’t even know. Not listening to one another. Making personal attacks simply because we think we know where a person stands on an issue, mostly based on a social media post. We have family interactions through social media, which is sometimes fake and phony and easily misinterpreted.
I will never forget September 11th and neither will my children.
I recently posted a series of flashback excerpts from my first book, Single in the CIA. I’d like to think my writing has improved dramatically since writing that book. I now have seven published books under my belt (four are part of a short story series). As I’ve written each one, I feel my writing has become more creative. My writing now has evolved from the robotic style of CIA cable writing (also, for much of the time I was writing Single in the CIA I had a newborn sleeping on my lap). As much as I sometimes want to cringe when I read segments of Single in the CIA, I wouldn’t change the voice or what I said. I wanted it to be a sort of purging of memories, without much – if any – commentary about the events I described. I think I succeeded in my wish.
Four years later I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write for OpsLens Media Group. It’s a very different type of writing, but it has definitely helped me to improve further.
As this is my first experience as a news contributor, writing for OpsLens has been quite an eye-opener. I write a series called Underground California in which I highlight issues in the state and try to give a voice to those who do not have one. I try to paint a picture with my writing – to use my creativity to share experiences I’ve had and images I’ve seen.
The staff of contributors at OpsLens is comprised of former intelligence, law enforcement and military. They each offer print and video commentary through the lens of someone who has been there, done that. I truly have friends from all walks of life and I can say that most people who come from those lines of work tend to have fairly conservative views; “Conservative” meaning free-thinking, experience-based opinions. These people don’t get their news from memes on Facebook!
I’ve noticed something lately, and it seems to be getting worse. People seem to be offended and outraged by everything! I’ve seen it in just about every aspect of my life. These days I have been deleted, unfriended, blocked, unfollowed, called nasty names, trolled, misunderstood and just plain treated badly. And it’s not just on social media (I use the pop-in-pop-out strategy on social media as it is a necessary evil for me as a small businessperson). I have had family members, blood and otherwise, treat me with disrespect and misplaced anger. I have had old friends distance themselves from me and even call me a farm animal (huh?). It used to be we could discuss differing views and opinions and accept each other as independently thinking individuals. Now, most people can’t even bother to be civil.
A few weeks ago I made a positive, supportive comment on a fellow contributor’s article. Weeks later (did I mention I pop in and pop out?) I noticed he had responded, and not in a pleasant manner. It appeared that he was so mad at the world that he twisted my complimentary words into something to be mocked. He recently apologized for jumping to conclusions, but the lesson is still there.
And the list goes on. On another social media channel I was called a “bleached blonde hag”, “Russian bot” and told I was a “lonely and desperate” old lady by various trolls. The name-calling is rampant. On yet another channel I was contacted out of the blue after one of my articles was posted that happened to mention our president. The person decided that because I had mentioned my country’s president in a non-negative way (this reader is from another country) that he could not be connected with me on social media any more. Mind you, I don’t personally know these people, I just want them to buy my books and products. Just like everyone else, I am trying to make a living.
Oh – before I receive emails from well-meaning family members trying to give advice on how to handle these things – please, just realize I have an online persona and I do not take these things seriously. Most of my writing is done in a joking tone, playing to the fact that most people put me in the “dumb blonde” category.
Really who cares what I think? Who cares what anyone thinks? Does it really matter? It’s not all about you. Most people are only thinking about themselves and the worries they have from day to day.
Now, this is not to say that I am immune to getting sucked in to the social media rubbish – I am human. I remember back in 1995 when my best friend and I used to fire up that dial-up service, listening anxiously while a noise akin to a robot being strangled filled our ears. We would get into those chat rooms titled “hot-tub” and stir up some shit! But it was more along the lines of “I have big melons” and people knew how to laugh back then. It was fun, it was harmless.
I suppose you could say I was a troll. But a happy-go-lucky troll… With big melons.
…Suddenly, she pulled back and lurched forward somewhat violently all at the same time, and Jay was covered in a very warm liquid. She collapsed on his chest in a heap of brown hair and vomit. The stench was more than he could take and he felt himself gagging as he pushed her off of him on the bed, where her vomit began to blend in with the floral pattern on the comforter…
…During his early days in Konigstan, Jay had toyed with the idea of adopting a dog. Konigstan was not a particularly dog-friendly environment and stray dogs were often shot on sight or killed in very inhumane ways. One morning, Winston had spent an entire car ride complaining about how his daughter wanted a pet dog, but religious leaders claimed that dog ownership was , or forbidden . Winston, a doting father, had explained to his tearful daughter that dog walking had been prohibited, and it would not be fair to keep a dog cooped up in their small apartment. He had told Jay about a rare dog shelter just outside of Furstville and on one exceptionally long day of waiting for Headquarters to acknowledge Jay’s existence, Jay had asked Winston to take him to the shelter.
Pulling up outside of the desolate building that housed the shelter, Jay had recalled a dark memory from his childhood. One afternoon, woken from a drunken slumber, Uncle had become enraged by the persistent barking of a neighborhood stray. Jay watched in horror as his uncle produced a switchblade, and trapping the dog under his legs, had begun slicing the dog’s flesh as it screamed in pain and tried to wriggle free of grasp. At five years old, Jay watched in shock as left the dog, still alive but cut in pieces, to die a slow death in the dirt outside of their house. The dog had been one of Jay’s favorites, and he had often smuggled table scraps out to the dog…
…Jay was drained. He patiently explained what the box was, while Andrew and Grover looked out the window and exclaimed excitedly about the gorgeous pool area view.
“Oh wow, okay. I don’t know anything about , but that sounds pretty cool,” the logistics officer commented, before heading over to the window to join Andrew and Grover in their people watching. Grover was just commenting on how large one woman’s breasts were.
Jay sat, defeated, on the sofa and stared at the television, where a daytime talk show was playing, and the man on the screen was denying the paternity of a sobbing woman’s child. The logistics officer suddenly realized what time it was, and broke away from the group, explaining that she needed to get back to the office. As she was leaving, she casually announced that she would ship out in the next few days, and it would take a few weeks to get up to Headquarters. With that, she hurried toward the door, dropping the bag on the marble floor as she hustled out.
“Oh gawd, I hope I didn’t just break it,” she giggled, looking at Jay and shrugging…
…The old door swung open to reveal a long table covered with machine guns. William began explaining where he had gotten them with Winston serving as a translator. Apparently the guns had been “discovered” along the border with Kriegland. They were American weapons, and Jay wondered what had happened to the soldiers that they had belonged to.
William was offering to sell the weapons to Jay. While he was sure that this had some sort of relevance to U.S. intelligence, Jay also knew that he would open a huge can of worms if he reported this to Headquarters. Not to mention, Headquarters would have a massive freak-out. He took note of some of the serial numbers, which he knew would soon be defaced, and tried to casually explain , and that he would have to pass. William did not want to let it go so easily, but Jay managed to convince him with a little bit of humor.
“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Jay explained, holding up his hands with a sheepish smile…
One of the reasons I went to work for the CIA was September 11th. I’ll never forget seeing the Pentagon burning on the horizon that day. I had just been in New York City looking at the Twin Towers a couple of weeks before. Typically, the Washington DC area was such a cutthroat, grouchy area, but after the attacks everyone came together, regardless of beliefs, and people were actually nice and respectful to each other – even while driving in the miserable traffic of the area.
…followed by an inevitable stay in Folter Prison.
Winston appeared in the doorway with his usual pained expression on his face.
“Uhhh… Sir. Uhhh, I have the car ready for you,” he mumbled, looking down at his hands.
Jay grabbed his briefcase and bustled past Winston into the hallway, giving him a hearty slap on the back.
“And how is your family? Your son is feeling better, no?” Jay asked, pretending he cared at all about the well-being of his driver and his family.
As Winston babbled on with his usual tales of life peppered with plenty of “uhhs”, Jay drifted off in thought about the tasks ahead of him. He was to , and Jay knew that Headquarters had no idea what they were looking for. This was all just a form of busy work, because they really did not expect Jay to be successful in his work in Konigstan. They needed to keep him busy, which translated in their minds to keeping him out of trouble…
Jay scowled at the words from Headquarters that were displayed across his screen. He winced internally at the knowledge that his cable documenting an uncharted area in northern Konigstan was completely ignored because Headquarters had only cared that Jay had taken a “date” on a day trip. A German citizen, no less. The next cable in his queue was brief, straight from the desk officer covering his account, directing him to complete the security forms pertaining to close and continuing contact with a foreign national. He slammed his laptop shut with a loud clap and looked out at the smoggy Furstville sky, wondering for the millionth time why he left his happy, to risk his life in this shithole.
A knock at the door brought him out of his self-pity. Knocks at his door never failed to elicit a bit of an adrenaline rush and visions of being taken away by the Secret Police for questioning, …
…He looked over at the heavyset man who had bumped into him, who was currently in the midst of a coughing fit and completely drenched in sweat. The chador-clad woman was now blocking the progress of the line as she attempted to control her toddler son, who had gotten loose from his stroller and was trying to grab onto Jay’s belt. The humor of the moment did not escape him, and he suddenly felt the insane urge to giggle…