Life in Wartime

State of the Union was pretty good tonight. (Oh, I might as well mention it, Crowley is going to just HAVE to write something shitty about Obama in the comments anyway.) But there was one part where Obama lost me. When he started going on about Iran … sigh. The money you want to take from the defense budget to fund clean energy resources isn’t going to be there if you get us further into the Middle East. Further into another unwinnable war.

My friend, John, and SEVERAL of my young, male compadres are all about Ron Paul (I never hear women championing Ron Paul’s cause). Oh, dear lord. It’s like they’ve found a new religion. Their savior has come, and he can be yours too, if you’ll let him. I won’t let him, but I would love if I could cut out the rest of the crazy and go with his plan just to fuck off of all the wars. I don’t know where we get off thinking we’re so much more awesome than all of the other countries who went to Afghanistan and came back home whipped, with their tails between their legs. And you’d *think* maybe Vietnam would have given us some recent lessons in such matters, to boot. But, we just don’t seem to be very good at history.  It’s like we’re alcoholic when it comes to war. There’s some strange mental blank spot that prevents us from remembering the suffering and humiliation (and death and horror) of even a year or a decade or a generation ago.

And I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a huge percent of the population that can go by, willfully ignorant to it all, if we so desire. If you have no one enlisted, and you want to turn a blind eye, you can. There’s no draft. No rations. No victory gardens. No working together to help the troops. In fact, I don’t really even see those overblown dramatic commercials for the military anymore, either (I’m not exactly sad about that, but that’s one less reminder of what’s going on). There’s no personal toll or loss for most of us to be in these wars; our gas is a little more expensive, but just like the alcoholic and the person addicted to cigarettes, it’s not stopping anyone from buying those SUVs and driving them everywhere. Or continuing to drink and buy cigarettes (“When they get to $5.00 a pack, I’ll definitely quit!).

But someone’s paying a toll. Someone’s losing. Families are losing daughters, aunts, wives, mothers —  brothers, uncles, sons, fathers. American and all over the world. Men and women are losing limbs, memories and the ability to come home to a normal way of life. Communities are being torn apart with families grieving and people struggling to make a living and wondering how they will make their mortgage, even *after* they return home with a hero’s welcome. Veterans are left with scars that no one else can see and desperately fight to assimilate into their old world while still trying to make sense of memories and events they’ll never quite leave behind.  I don’t know that we’re doing any better of a job of helping these men and women now than we ever have.

I talk about this because I was trying to get rid of some things in my inbox and I came across a draft of something I had written when I was still working for the apartment finding service. I think it was the Saturday before I was let go.  I had written down some notes about a man who had come in to get an apartment. He was somewhat handicapped. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on. He seemed a little physically disabled, but there also seemed to be some mental struggle as well. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but one of the managers was helping him out. When people couldn’t take the stairs, they would always just take care of them downstairs. I was happy to see that he was being so well taken care of.

He was filling out some paperwork, and he started telling his story. He was in the military. He was on a personnel carrier. When he said that, I was thinking aircraft carrier at first, so I wasn’t really expecting the rest of the story. But it makes sense once I think about the words … it’s a *personnel* carrier. They’re the ones that are like the fast tanks. They’re the ones you can climb out of the back and shoot and fight. He was in one, and they got hit.  There were three of them — him and two of his friends, two of his brothers in arms, and he was the only one who came out alive. It took him a whole year to learn how to walk and talk again.

He told us that he can’t remember things. That he couldn’t remember having conversations an hour later. Or how much money he has with him or how to buy a soda. That it’s very easy to get lost. If he has to go into buildings, he’s not going to have very good luck. I remember that we (do you like how I instantly co-opted him? I wanted him to do well) needed to find him a place that was going to be a straight shot, bus route wise, to where he was getting help — some place related to the VA or something. The military was going to pay for his housing and such; a landlord really should have no problem accepting any application we turned in. It was guaranteed money.

Just like I’m sitting here, crying now, I just remember thinking that here is a guy who now has physical and mental disabilities — who KNOWS he has them — who was previously fully functioning. We might not have agreed on politics, I don’t even know. He could have been a right-wing, gun loving Republican, for all I know.  But now, because of a war that is so needless, he is irreparably damaged. And two of his friends? They’re not even here to tell the tale. So, he’s got that on top of it all. Broke my heart.

I know that it’s a speech. But I just don’t want any more war, Mr. President. It’s good for absolutely nothing.

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9 thoughts on “Life in Wartime

  1. Nothing new. If you like Obama you liked the speech. Same rhetoric. Blame everyone else and promise the moon. Some real numbers that everone agree exist. 40% of all people pay no income tax and a good % of them get federal $. The top 10% pay 70% of all federal tax. If you think they should pay more than so be it but those are the numbers. When would you support the US defending itself? If you are a real pacifist I can respect that, but that means we would probably all be wearing swastikas now. Paul? He is no hypocrite and that is his real charm. With Solyndra, Fast and Furious among others big ears has proven to be just another politician

  2. Oh, defending itself against …. what? Bin Laden’s dead. Gkhaddafiyai (I figure I’d get all of the spellings in there) is dead. Saddam is dead. We’re just going to occupy the Middle East indefinitely and get our asses kicked? Or, would you rather we just go and bomb another country outright right now and get it over with? But that doesn’t really look like democracy, does it? It kind of looks like Imperialism. Something. Not democracy. Not freedom.

    And the fucked up thing is … if we start doing that, well … we’d better watch out for N. Korea, and well, the actual real problem, China. Cause when push comes to shove, we lose that push every single time. Best not to act like a bully when your bluff can eventually be called.

    And, for the record, I am a real pacifist. 🙂

  3. Believe it or not i really don’t disagree, but in typical leftberal fashio you never answered the question. If a country attacks us, and it is clear like Pearl Harbor would you support retaliation? This is where the pure pacifists lose me when they say “no”.

  4. Well, I guess I didn’t answer the question because let’s be real here. For real for real, and for pacifist for real. Yes, as a pure pacifist, I really honestly believe we could just stop it all. Everyone could just figure it out, go love style and we could end all wars, feed all people and shit would get awesome. No joke.

    However, the other “real” thing is that our country makes bank off of war. That’s the sad, sad truth. Big politicians and their buddies make a lot of money off of the military-industrial complex. So, while Pearl Harbor was *indeed* American soil, I’d say the majority of Americans (including myself) would have to refresh their memories to even point it out on a map, given it’s not in the contiguous. The next time we were attacked in place people could actually identify, it was BAM! New York! The Pentagon! Holy shit. That *was* pretty insane, wasn’t it? You’d think that would have been enough to get things started. But no. They needed something better and bigger. Because let’s face it. They had NO FUCKING CLUE WHERE HE WAS. Where any of them were.

    So, they made up a bunch of shit about Iraq and nuclear weapons and Saddam and all that shit. They’re all Arabian fucks, right? They all hate America, right? Lucky for them, everyone was mad hatin’ on *anything* (cause they were just objects to be hated, right?) even remotely looking Middle Eastern at that point, so people were like “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!”

    They didn’t think about their sons and daughters. And the fact that they’d just keep recycling them back, over and over again. The other thing no one thought about was the fact that a lot of people already couldn’t afford college by this point and that a lot of small towns already didn’t have industry anymore and that a disproportionate percentage of the people that would have to go fight those wars were the young men and women from small towns, rural towns, poor towns and poor neighborhoods from urban areas. Not everyone was going to get some great scholarship from West Point. A lot of people were just going to be infantry, left to be fodder for the front line.

    SO. After all the pieces were picked up back here at home and the hate and vitriol began its slow creep; the theater of the “war on terror” clamped down with its iron grip; and everyone signed up for how fast they could prove they were a “patriot” by wearing flag pins and signing away our freedoms with an Act of the same name; we continued on our merry way.

    Fact of the matter is, we’ve always been defending ourselves against ourselves. We killed more of ourselves in the Civil War than any war since. And the way we needlessly send our children off to war — Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the latest Gulf Wars — we don’t need to worry about people attacking us here. We just let them kill us somewhere else.

    Of course Hitler needed to be stopped. But we sure waited an *awful* long time to suss that one out, didn’t we? It’s not like we saw what a terrible dick he was and went right over there with all assurance and righteously kicked his ass. So let’s be real about all of this. We’re not fighting any of these wars out of the goodness of our heart. It’s for oil and it’s because men who aren’t fighting these wars are getting rich off of other people’s misery and death. It’s not because we’re being attacked.

    ****I guess that just should have been a blog post. Sorry.

  5. Again I’m not that far away from your thinking on this. There is a boat load of credible evidence that FDR knew about Pearl and let it happen to justify our jumping in to the war when most of Americans thought it didn’t concern us. I wrote a paper on it and was told by a historian to write a book on it. Much like you the book never came. But what if you were a Colonist? Would you have just pulled the Italian salute out of the hat?

  6. Iran is a big deal. Bad guys with nukes who actively want to destroy us and our allies (Israel) is a big threat and we need to be prepared to eliminate this threat with the minimum amount of force and the maximum amount of speed which will get the job done.

    Iranians have pretty good historical reasons to distrust/hate us. Their government and religious leaders can whip up a tremendous amount of anti-USA sentiment without a lot of heavy lifting.

    Forget (for a moment) how you feel about Afghanistan or Iraq. Forget (for a moment) that most Persians are perfectly wonderful folks. The fact is that the country of Iran is rattling a huge saber right now and we need to be listening and ready to act quickly.

    We need to do everything in our power to prevent a nuclear conflict, up to and including engaging in conventional conflict proactively. We’re not talking vague “weapons of mass destruction.” We’re talking thermonuclear fucking war.

    September 11th was a driveby by a bunch of gang-bangers. A nuclear bomb detonated in Tel Aviv will start World War III.

  7. This is one of your better essays. You might send a version to NPR or another pub. It makes me indignant that you should be writing. Please write and publish a book already.

  8. Why thank you Alexis, oh you were probably talking about Smuss. And Journeyis correct, which has been my point for years. How do you negotiate with a regime who’s whole goal is total destruction of another country and its people?

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