This is Sean. My blogs are usually just plain out rants, shit-talking fast food menus, making fun of movies, and generally being an ass for kicks. I hope it’s okay if I drift from that just for tonight.
Although a large part of my social life, and Ian’s for that matter, are the people who went to the University of North Carolina with us, the fact is that I didn’t get there until I was well into my twenties. Before going there, I was a public high school drop out that was taking advantage of the incredible Junior College system in California. I was living in South El Monte, which, for those of you unfamiliar with Los Angeles geography, was just north and east of “South Central”.
I was the only guy in my neighborhood who had no involvement whatsoever with the drug trade, so I was adopted by my neighbors like an exotic pet. I was this goofy white kid that spent hours singing show tunes in his house and had friends over who like to play Dungeons and Dragons well past adolescence. I had a run down two story townhouse that I payed $450 a month for. The laundry machines cost a quarter, and they were outside under a lean-to.
Most of my friends were other public school flunkies, and some of us had decided that, instead of going to Ju-Co, we would join the military. I was heavily recruited. I think the military must have known I was failing out of school, because they thought I was a prime candidate for some toughening up. In my case, this didn’t happen, but I did have some friends who went that route. This was 1989-1990.
When Iraq One broke out, the guys I knew were really excited to go but I was terrified. It turned out that no-one I knew ended up fighting in Iraq One, but there was still this impending sense that they wanted to go, they wanted to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. I was ambivalent, but my extended family, (aunts and uncles, not the lefties that post on this blog) were thrilled, convinced that Hussein was our generation’s Hitler.
The military gave my friends a sense of purpose that they were lacking. These men were not animals, not violent men. These guys weren’t the types of people who wanted to shoot other people. These were strong smart men with a lack of direction and a poetic dedication to their country. I teased them, as I’m sure anyone who knows me can imagine, for their belief in “America”, for their dedication to Bush I, for their willingness to run a 10k wearing 150 pounds of equipment just to prove they could.
This morning, I was watching the morning shows, and they did a story on a young man who was shot in the stomach trying to save a fellow soldier. He was willing to give up his life for his fellow man, for his friend, and it is a miracle that he has lived. He’s been in the hospital longer than any other soldier in this war. The administration found out about his heroics, and he was featured on all the morning shows this morning.
I mean, I know how that works, you don’t get on the morning shows unless you have a publicist, and you don’t have a publicist unless you have a story, and someone’s getting that story out. And this kid saved a life by giving up his own, no matter how you slice it, he is a hero.
I was undecided about this war, and I did a lot of research during the build-up. I believed that Hussein had the ability to traffic in arms, and I knew he was capable of killing his own people in large numbers. I listened carefully to the case made before the war and was frustrated with my knee-jerk liberal friends who dismissed the information as lies. How could people like Colin Powell *lie* to the Congress? These weren’t crazies saying this stuff, this was Colin Powell, these were rational smart people who said the war was necessary.
I was lied to, and I believed it because I couldn’t believe that so much lying was possible. The level of dishonesty was astonishing. When people like John Kerry voted for the war, and then against it, they were voting first on a lie and then on the truth. My knee-jerk liberal friends are still jerks, but this war has no justification, and they were right.
So, when I say I support the soldiers but do not support the war, it means something different than you might think. It’s the junior college dudes, the ROTC scholarship guys, the blue collar underacheivers who are fighting this war, and those are my friends. We’re all in our thirties now, none of them is in the military, but the completely random luck of my birth year doesn’t remove me from the friends I would have had. Those friends who conflated their sense of honor with their ache for a life rich with poetry, and found meaning in being a soldier equal to the meaning I found being an artist, who are fighting and dying for the lies this administration told.
This morning, the father of that wounded soldier started to cry on TV and said, “I wish he had gone to college.” And that’s the worst thing. For many of us, the military is a chance at being a person with dignity, with a paycheck, with a life. And there is a war going on, a war between, on one side, zealotry and fear and, one the other, true democracy and freedom. But those zealots are in Darfur, in Africa, in Iran and Saudi Arabia, in North Korea. Our soldiers should be dying for this cause, but not in Iraq. And fathers, who should be proud, are wishing their sons were sitting this one out.
A soldier has to march into the face of an enemy, he has to put his life down for his country, that’s part of the deal. The military is not a works program, it isn’t there to provide jobs or welfare for young poor men and women, they are there to serve the country, the country is not there to serve them. The fact that it is an option for building character is one of the benefits to the soldier, the life you are willing to lay down is the benefit for the country.
But dying for your country, or laying your life down and surviving by a miracle, in a capricious struggle built on a foundation of lies devalues the soldiers. They shouldn’t ask the questions, they shouldn’t speak out, if they did they would be bad soldiers, they have to have blind dedication to their superiors and they have to be willing to give the ultimate sacrifice willingly and free of second guesses. But we can ask the questions. We can demand that the conversation not end with this election in Iraq. And we have to hold this administration accountable for sending our friends needlessly into harm’s way.