Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good day at Work

My brother Ray did a nice bit (no pun intended) about this weekend's fishing trip with our old man.

It was a glorious weekend in Egg Harbor Township, hot without being humid. The water in the English creek and in the ocean itself was comfortably warm, but refreshing. Still, I was in a funk, melancholy thoughts surfing through my mind as we drifted in the little boat, lines cast, a few miles off the Ocean City shore. From where we sat, bobbing on the waves, the ferris wheel towered above the crowds of beachgoers on the sand just behind the shore houses and pastel pink high rise condos.

Last week, you may recall, I had a series of emails with a young conservative blogger. At the time I refused to link to her page or even to name it, but upon reflection I am so disgusted with her point of view that it is impossible for me to whitewash her site. The site in question is blondesagacity, but while I will name it, I will not link to it. As I've detailed in previous posts, I find the young woman's writing to be atrocious and her perspective, particularly on the war, to be nauseating and indefensible. Her site is a miasma of what can only be described as military porn, photos of soldiers with enormous guns, each labeled "In the Sandbox" as if the War in Iraq, responsible thus far for over 1700 US deaths (possibly more), untold US casualties, and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis who were guilty of nothing, was nothing more than children at play.

The woman who runs this site, who does not disclose her true name, is 33 years old, able-bodied, and quite fit for duty in iraq. She defends her stateside position in her comments to at least one person saying "the troops actually prefer it that I am here in Philadelphia, because I send them care packages filled with Tasty Kakes, news from home, blah blah blah." There is the standard contempt for the left (which I expect from a right-wing blog) and the equally standard contempt for anyone that doesn't agree with her point of view. To my mind, it is her site that is contemptible, exemplifed by her unwillingness to serve in the war she supports. In a time of recruitment shortfalls, this is no longer a cheap shot.

The day I left for my parents' house in New Jersey, I came upon the following article in the New York Times, All Quiet on the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why.

From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?

There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.

There are not even concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past.

"Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us," said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq, voicing a frustration now drawing the attention of academic specialists in military sociology.

And thus I was on the boat, enjoying leisure time our troops deserve far more than I do, looking out over the teems of swimmers and suntanners laid out on the sparkiling sand, and I was overcome by a wave of guilt and melancholia, by the all-encompassing surreality of our times. "You wouldn't even think there was a war going on," I said, shaking my head. "You wouldn't even think, to look at the people on shore going about their fun-in-the-sun, that we're spending piles of money on this war, that people are coming home in body bags, quietly, uncounted. Coming homes with missing arms, legs, and faces, psychotics. You wouldn't think that any of this is happening.

"It is as if we have abdicated any notion of responsibility, like the country was being run by teenagers."

Later on in the weekend, Ray, Dreya, and my nephew Floyd spent the day at Strathmere, a lovely ribbon of beach on Ocean City,free to the public, unpatrolled by lifeguards. Young couples wandered through the surf holding hands, the sun beaming down on kayakers and jetskiers. I jumped though the waves and plunged into the murky green brine. I love the way my back feels after a day in the ocean, salty and crisp, and I love the smell of ocean air. I felt alienated from everyone. Who ARE these people, I wondered. Do they feel like I do? Do they sit in bed next to their wives, girlfriends, children, worrying what tomorrow will bring? Or do they just keep on keepin' on, refusing to acknowledge the disaster that's unfolding under their chins?

I have felt, for months now, that those of us on the left who are against this pointless, wasteful war were shouting into the wind. Mainstream outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post sold us this war, and not only refuse to take responsibility, but give short shrift to those of us who have been proved correct.

I was heartened to see the following editorials, Uniform Sacrifice and The Best Army We Can Buy, both of which detail the stunning lack of sacrfice from ordinary Americans and our cavalier attitude toward the war itself.

From the former: His tomorrow and mine were born in an America that has now almost vanished. During our widely separated but shared wartime years, we were led by presidents of Olympian eloquence (Roosevelt during World War II) and almost brutal bluntness (Truman during the Korean War), yet, on their own terms, they spoke with clarity, conviction and honesty about our national threats, challenges, sacrifices. And the price of peace was high.

Today, in Iraq, where nearly every dawn is lacerated by mounting carnage - local and foreign - American troops are hemorrhaging among the wounded and the dead, pawns in an unspeakable farce, for the United States of America is not at war.

Only 135,000 men and women in American uniform are fighting - volunteers, members of the National Guard, reservists. There is no draft. No threat of a uniform hangs over the citizens of a nation of nearly 300 million who, in polls, support the invasion of a remote country upon whom our government would pin guilt of 9/11 ... and then attack. An invasion that was ordered by an expertly trained but combat-innocent fighter pilot and a draft-deferred character with "other priorities" during the Vietnam War.

And for daring to point this out, young men and women like blondesagacity will impugn my love of country, will call me a traitor for pointing out the obvious, will mock me for my left-wing leanings, without daring to consider my arguments on their merits, without daring to admit their own cowardice and complicity.

From the latter: Since the time of the ancient Greeks through the American Revolutionary War and well into the 20th century, the obligation to bear arms and the privileges of citizenship have been intimately linked. It was for the sake of that link between service and a full place in society that the founders were so invested in militias and so worried about standing armies, which Samuel Adams warned were "always dangerous to the liberties of the people."

When asked if they will serve, the hawks of both the left and right, from Jonah Goldberg to Peter Beinart, will look at you as if you're some kind of asshole for suggesting they leave their families and handsome salaries to fight for what they claim to believe in. It's disgusting, it's hypocritical, and it is so damn predictable that I have to spin, reel, and fall to the mat when this existential haymaker comes slamming into my jaw.

I sat on the boat, and later on my parents back porch, enjoying a cold beer that even the laziest soldier deserves more than I do, watching a sunset from the comfort and safety of my parents backyard, strumming my guitar, and saying these words, which amount to nothing more than just words.
I was embarrassed and depressed.


Post a Comment

<< Home