Happy Thanksgiving (in the Ville talking to soldiers about Iraq)
Michael T. McPhearson
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was awesome. I feel blessed to have spent time with my family, relatively safe with plenty of food to eat and a warm place to sleep. I have much for which to be thankful. Of course there was the usual family stuff that reminds you that being with your family can be hard work. But it seems to me that work is the key factor to any healthy and successful relationship. I think family is the most deserving of all relationships, plus I like hanging out with my family, and most important, I hung-out with my son.
It’s been a year since I last saw him. I can’t express how happy it made me feel. He went in the Army in January (basic training) and to AIT (Advance Individual Training) in March. I think he reached his duty station in June and is scheduled to go to Fallujah in
Iraq in about 6 to 8 months. I say scheduled because I and millions of others are working to END THE OCCUPATION and BRING THEM HOME NOW! Not to mention the Iraqi people who have the ultimate say. So one never knows what can happen in 6 to 8 months. Anyway, it was great seeing him and talking.
Talking to Soldiers
One thing about visiting Fayetteville NC, one gets a feel for what is happening in soldiers’ lives. Most everyday the local paper, the Fayetteville Observer, carried front page stories about soldiers. One example is a story about Michael Jordan’s (the retired basketball superstar) brother, a Command Sergeant Major (CSM) in the Army who has decided to delay his retirement. This is one story that gained national notice. CSM Jordan has reached the highest enlisted rank achievable. He is stationed at Fort Bragg and after 30 years is scheduled to retire. But he has asked to put off his retirement so that he can continue to serve during this stressful time when he believes he is most needed. No matter how I feel about our current actions in Iraq and other places across the globe, I respect his dedication and thoughtfulness. Especially since young soldiers like my son need the wisdom and guidance of old hands like CSM Jordan. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/J/JORDANS_BROTHER_IRAQ?SITE=NCFAY&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
Of course another thing about going home, one can easily find soldiers with whom to talk. That’s because soldiers are your friends and family. I talked to two soldiers who are scheduled to go to the Iraqi theatre. One left Friday to serve in Kuwait and the other will leave within the year to serve in what is referred to as the “Sunni Triangle.” The young Private heading to the “Triangle,” when explaining to me how he would use one of his assigned weapons, described “mowing people down” moving his hands across his chest as if he were firing a machine gun. I asked, “What people.”
He said, “You know the enemy. The people we are trying to kill.”
No longer being used to discussing killing people so easily I answered, “Why are you talking about it like that?”
He replied, “That’s how you have to be.”
I immediately realized my foolishness and replied, “You’re right. That is how you have to be.” A soldier must be ready to kill. A soldier must be fired up to kill. Soldiers who go to war want to return home. So when the time comes to kill or be killed, well there is no time for hesitation. The bravado this young soldier displayed and the anticipation of the adventure and danger is part of the deadly serious game of war. I was once that soldier. I know how you have to be. I was ready to kill. Or so I thought.
While watching a football game the soldier heading to Kuwait and I briefly discussed the war. It’s tough on soldier to leave for war no matter the date, but especially during the holiday season. He has a beautiful 3-year-old daughter and loving wife. Being a bit older and wiser than the Private, the Chief Warrant Office commented on how this war is about the “American way of life.” I immediately thought about the propaganda and appeal to nationalism fed to us by our national leaders. As Howard Zinn comments in his book A People’s History of the United States, such words are used to have us believe in the “pretense that there really is such thing as the United States, subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interest. It is as if there really is a ‘national interest.'” But I was quiet and did not interrupt his thoughts. He went on to say that we want to control the oil because we need it.
Howard maybe right about the pretense of the united national community, but the soldier is also right about the common interest of oil and the economy represented by the way we live here in the U.S. This is why the innocent is not so innocent (of course unless you are talking about children, who are always innocent).
It appears clear to me that our nation is morally bankrupt
I case in point. I went to Wal-Mart several times while home. Being the beginning of the Christmas shopping season there were tons of toys out on display throughout the store to catch the attention of parents and of course children. A large display of stacked boxes containing giant sized toy SUVs stood in the front aisle of the store. These toy trucks were about 3 feet long by 2 foot high or so (perhaps a bit smaller or larger). The point is they were BIG trucks. Of course any kid would love to get one of these. What struck me about them other than the fact that they were big is that they were Escalades. I really found this a bit disturbing and pondered the significance of children playing with huge toy Escalades. It came clear to me the second time I saw them and had time to mull over it.
First, I think in some way large or small it shows a definitive change in our self-perception and values. When growing up I would have loved to have a huge truck, and I had a few good size ones, but they were dump trucks or some kind of work truck to haul things or pull things or do something like that. Not a luxury truck to chill in. What value does a toy Escalade represent?
Second, with our soldiers dying for our way of life in a foreign land we are allowing our kids to be brainwashed into wanting the kinds of products that have led to our dependence on foreign oil. This dependence more than any other factor makes the “Middle East” of strategic importance and vital to our “national interest.” Our sons and daughters, mother and fathers, sister and brothers, friends and relatives are dying so that we may have access to this oil. Instead of changing our habits so that we do not have to send people into harms way in the future, we are continuing with our same old ways as if our overly comfortable way of life is more important than the lives of our troops. Not just the lives lost, but the lives shattered by the mental and physical cost of war. Equally important are the country and people who we are bombing, maiming, and killing in the name of democracy when it is really so that we can drive Escalades and the like.
It appears clear to me that our nation is morally bankrupt as blood for oil is just fine as long as it is either Americans who volunteer to protect us (who we martyr) or people who do not call themselves Americans are the ones spilling their blood. It is clear that our moral center has been compromised by our chase for products and material gain. While many will blame this on corporate greed, I blame it on each of us as individuals. Sure, in pursuit of profits corporations play on our hopes, fears, needs, wants and desires. But each of us has the power to make decisions for ourselves. I expect it from myself and I expect no less from most everyone else.
As a Christian I was taught about sin. Sinning is about making the wrong choices. The imagery of the original sins depicts a process of Adam and Eve making choices. Without choices there can be no sin. If Goddess says we have the ability to make choices, then hey I believe it. Change begins with the choices we make. It begins within each of us.
Well enough about that. I do have one other story to tell about my Thanksgiving 04 experience, but I will save it for another time. Take care and blog you soon.