Growing up Paranoid

Where do I begin? Well, I guess it starts all the way back when I was preoccupied with airplanes as a child (6-7-8 years old, somewhere there). That preoccupation would lead to hobbies and spin-off decisions like wishful notions of entering the aeronautical field in those early years. As a boy, I was not immune from “boy’s toys” and running around with toy guns, toy cars and—yes—toy airplanes; it was aviation that was the centerpiece. Guns were merely peripherals of warplanes (or accessories of the pilots) and cars were needed to drive to the imaginary airfield.

By the time I graduate college, I would possess encyclopedic knowledge of all the warplanes built up until career and calling would distract me in 1985 (for reference the United States was bickering over the cost overruns of the F/A-18 Hornet and Top Gun would be released the following year).

The era of aviation ‘adolescence’ was World War II. You might say that the birth pangs in the early 20th century led to the childhood in World War I and the jet age was when aviation came of age into adulthood—to use that metaphor. I devoured anything an 8 year old can read about the Messerschmitt Bf109, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the North American P51 Mustang and the different variants of the Supermarine Spitfire. Those where only the stars; there is an even bigger supporting cast of attack planes, bombers and lesser known fighters.

Reading about the stories associated with them, as well as technical information would lead me to understanding World War II history in detail. The by-product of this preoccupation was historical and political. Before I came out of grade school I knew the places and dates which battle took place in the world between 1939 and 1945. That in turn coalesced with another hobby—reading (well, reading about airplanes and World War II history is one thing but I also began to read for the sake of reading other stuff). My mom had an intact collection of Reader’s Digest (RD) dating back from 1937 which I devoured during the summers in the years before high school.

It was that past time that introduced me to something—I have learned about World War II history after the fact—yet at the same time, I was reading old Reader’s Digest which contained stuff that was being released ‘real-time’ during World War II. RD is not a newspaper or is into news reporting (I was aware of that) but contained personal anecdotes and stories. When I picked up any given RD, I would naturally gravitate to either the war stories or the humor section before I would scan the rest of that edition I was reading. Given the way things flowed then, stories about certain events came months after the fact, say Pearl Harbor was December 1941 so stories about it begins to emerge in the subsequent months.

I began to realize that the anecdotes were ‘a bit’ off reality or historical facts. Factor in the ‘fog of war’ and the narrative of an individual soldier sitting inside a foxhole, the perspective will be very different from historical data after the fact. My yet my immature instinct tells me that something else was behind those differing perspectives of a foxhole and a history book. Those nuances in the difference gave me my introductory lessons in Propaganda 101. What to feed the general public as the world is slaughtering their men and boys and sometimes for inane reasons like the ego of a general who is so full of himself or a stupid politician.

The world was not as simple as I thought.

I learned all that before I graduated elementary or grade school, which was convenient because Ferdinand Marcos would declare Martial Law when I was the sixth grade (1972). That year was the perfect practicum to Propaganda 101 because my dad happened to be a Marcos Loyalist.

I was not neutral in perspective. I somehow saw things from a Kennedy/Democrat/Camelotesque ideal of a better world through some form of social transformation (think Peace Corps). That somehow connected to my aircraft preoccupation to favorite naval aviation (so Top Gun was the ultimate thrill). There was a more ‘neutral’ politics behind the United States Navy as opposed to a definitive Republican ethos that is apparent in the United States Air Force.

I was now entering high school, Nixon was trying to get out of Vietnam and Marcos was invoking the communist scare to justify martial law and my dad was defending all that. That combination made me very worried: the world was screwed up. I retreated to either the past (preoccupation with World War II where things were clearer: i.e., the United States were the ‘good guys’) or to a more ‘normal’ present dominated by adolescence angst (1974 was when Miss Universe was held in the Philippines and I had a crush on Miss Guam…).

That retreat paved the way for me to concentrate on photography as aviation became more and more complicated (another story) and my dreams began to come down more to earth. That episode never ends, as Filipino politics stayed on as an ever present reality that hits you with the morning papers. Consider me now a very paranoid person.

Entering ministry where love and grace should dominate initially gave me this sense of security where nothing was hidden. Then after 20 years in the Christian ministry I would come out as paranoid as I am with the rest of the world as the institutionalized church invoking ‘confidentiality’ or ‘covering’ (christianese for protecting the integrity of an individual whose reputation may be at stake) has become its excuse for double talk.

Of course, it is not merely conjecture as I have sat in various boards of demons, I mean, deacons (whew…!) to know well enough how things works including wording of ‘press releases’ which would be the envy of many spin doctors. This had made me cynical of highly organized churches leaving me to favor small house fellowships as a venue of community and worship.

The problem, however, is that most small house fellowships want to grow up and become mega churches (or alternately, merge or become swallowed up by the big denominations).

Oh to be a kid again. In my case that may mean being 3 years old…


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