October 17, 2004

DEDICATED

There's a new website dedicated to SGT Prewitt if you'd like to pay your respects to one of our fallen Soldiers.

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STRESSFUL DINING

I've talked to Europeans in the States who hate feeling rushed at American restaurants. I'm so deeply American that I can't really feel their pain, because I really don't like lounging around in restaurants all night. Even people here will applaud the slow pace at German restaurants and say that they enjoy not being rushed out the door right after dinner, but I still haven't gotten over the feeling of "wasting time" during a German meal.

I read, with intense envy, Varifrank's details of his weekend. I was beside myself as I imagined an evening of a Mexican restaurant, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and a grocery store. All after 1800 -- that's madness. But the timeline for his dinner struck me. They arrived at 1830 and got out of there at 2100, and because they had to wait so long, their dinner was free. Hoo boy. I go to dinner here every Friday night at about 1830, and we never get out of there before 2100. Usually there's only one or two other tables occupied there, and there's never a rush. Except for on my part: I usually get up and go get the menus myself.

Now before Oda Mae feels slighted, since she's one of the people I eat with every week, I must say that it's not that I don't mind the company. I enjoy talking with friends I only see once a week. But I always feel this feeling of stress about wasting time. I feel like we're waiting too long in between Necessary Dinner Actions.

Back in the States, I have on occasion paid the bill and sat there for a while longer. That's enjoyable, because you're done with all Dinner Actions, but you've decided you're not ready to leave yet. Here, as soon as we pay the bill, it's like I can't get out of the building fast enough, because we've already waited about 45 minutes to pay the bill. I feel like we wait an eternity to Get Menus, Place Orders, and Pay the Bill. I'm constantly trying to flag the waiter down so we can pay. It's not relaxing for me. I don't feel like we are in charge of our eating pace, the restaurant is, and so I feel enslaved to the waiter's time schedule. (The word "enslaved" sounds pretty intense, but I can't think of a better way to express the feeling of impatience and frustration I feel trying to get a German waiter to notice me.)

I know there are plenty of Americans who enjoy this type of eating experience, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But it drives me crazy. One night my mom suggested we go "grab a bite to eat" when she was visiting, and I cracked up. There's no such thing here, and I always feel stressed when we spend hours at the dinner table.

And don't even get me started on Varifrank's midnight trip to the grocery store...sigh.

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FRAG

Deskmerc also has a problem with people whose only knowledge of the military comes from movies. He comments on the absurdity -- both militarily and socially -- of the following nutjob quote:

Next group will be smarter, don't go to jail for 5 years, just take out the lieutenant

Boy howdy. Soldiers are requesting spots in my husband's platoon, which must mean they like their PL and PSG. But anyone who took out my lieutenant would have to answer to me after he answered to the Army.

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October 15, 2004

SARAH

My friend just emailed me and pointed out that one of the Team America characters is named Sarah.
Excellent. Thank you, Matt and Trey!

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October 14, 2004

FEAR

Whittle and Green both have important thoughts to share today about fears for our future.

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PEACE OF MIND

Paranoid as I am, I called to see if our absentee ballots have made it to Missouri. Mine is there safe and sound; the husband's is not there yet, but it has further to travel. I'll call back next week for another update.

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COMMON MAN

I'd give anything to go to a Wal-Mart.

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HA

The digs on everybody had me laughing on the Onion this week. Especially John Edward's enthusiasm. (Thanks, fad)

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PURCHASES

We often get soldiers from different countries around here because of the training area. Right now there are a bunch of Belgians here on our post. I was surprised to hear French in line behind me at the commissary, but I wasn't surprised at their purchase; they were stocking up on the two things you can't get in Belgium: peanut butter and barbecue sauce. Hilarious.

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MASS GRAVE

Mr Kehoe said that work to uncover graves around Iraq, where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, was slow as experienced European investigators were not taking part.

The Europeans, he said, were staying away as the evidence might be used eventually to put Saddam Hussein to death.

"We're trying to meet international standards that have been accepted by courts throughout the world," he added.

These are the people we're supposed to worry don't support us? I would be ashamed if they did approve of us.

Toddlers clutching toys. We did the right thing.

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October 13, 2004

INDEED

I've you've ever had a conversation with a European, you'll appreciate reading The Secret Weapon.

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POSER

I'm not in the military myself, but at least I know how to talk about it like I'm a normal person. Twice in the past 24 hours, I've found myself laughing at perceptions of the military.

I saw most of Smallville Season 2 when it was on AFN last year, but I borrowed the DVDs from the library and have been filling in the gaps. One character joined the Marines, and they've woven that storyline into the regular Smallville stuff. In this one episode, he came back and entered Smallville High in his uniform. He walked down the hallway, slow-mo style, in his Marine uniform and dramatically took off his cover right as Lana Lang threw her arms around him. I literally laughed out loud. It was the cheesiest thing ever. He got deployed to Indonesia? What is that about? What a silly storyline.

I think it's hilarious that I can completely accept that a girl could have meteor rocks on her spine that make her able to transform into other people's body shapes, but the fact that a Marine enters a building and doesn't remove his cover makes me seethe with anger at how unrealistic it is. How come when TV shows have a military theme, it's always over-the-top generic? "Whitney is missing in action!" "He got shipped out this morning." "I can't believe he just finished Basic Training and then got shipped off to war." It all sounds so cheesy and irritating.

Then today I made the time-wasting mistake of reading Hud's link to who certain novelists are voting for. What a bunch of rambling nonsense. My favorite came from someone named David Amsden. No wonder he's voting for Kerry; they both confuse the heck out of me!

I'm voting for John Kerry. This will be my first foray into the voting booth, actually—for the most part I find politics alienating, difficult to process. I'll save the bulk of my anti-Bush rant for late-night bar chatter, and simply say that a cousin of mine spent a year fighting with the Army in Iraq. He was a harder man when he returned, tweaked, difficult to relate to. His stories were crushing—did you know that there are giant spiders that creep up on sleeping soliders at night? That this is the sort of thing that causes nightmares, even more than random mortar fire?—and didn't exactly bring hope that anyone understands what's going on over there. Does Bush care about any of this, the nuanced ways his global policies affect individuals—how this, really, in the end, is what politics is all about? Yeah, I believe he does, but I don't think he's got the gumption to talk about it—or, for that matter, anything—honestly. For all his swaggering bravado, the guy has no real backbone, no confidence in anything but his squinty little grin, which is frightening.

But why Kerry, aside from his status as Democratic Other Guy, which, frankly, would be enough for me this year? Well, I like his stoicism—he seems smart, and serious, and sort of boring, and exactly like the kind of man I can't relate to, which is what I want from a leader. I don't understand why we're so keen on having someone who seems cool and perfectly personable—I have friends for that, late-night TV, strangers in parks. Really, though, the clincher came when I stumbled across some excerpts of Kerry's Vietnam journals. I couldn't help but think: the writing, the writing, the writing. It was hard and real and surprisingly beautiful, which, for me, was something I could believe in.

Um, what? Bush doesn't care about these people, well ok maybe he does. Maybe he cared for them before he didn't care for them. I love the plug for Kerry: Vote for Kerry! He's boring! And you can't relate to him either!

The stuff about the spider killed me though. That's the kind of stuff that someone who is completely out of touch with what's going on downrange gets worked up about. Did you hear the Soldiers are changed when they get home? No, man, they have to deal with spiders. Real big ones. It's like life-changing, man. At least that's what my cousin told me. Yeah, when he shipped out.

Most of the time I feel like a poser when I talk about the military, but when a novelist who writes about cokeheads and Playmates weighs in on the military, it makes me laugh.

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October 12, 2004

NEW DEMOCRACY

I'm having computer problems, so I might be offline for a day or two. However, if you want to see what freedom looks like, if you want to see the most exciting photo I've seen in a long time, visit Smash.

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October 11, 2004

NUISANCE

A nuisance? A nuisance? Terrorism is a nuisance?
How could anyone in this country vote for this man?

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SUPERMAN

I wanted him to walk again someday. And I really believed he would.

I think it's extraordinarily weird when people develop strong emotional ties to celebrities. There are actors I think are really talented, and there are celeb crushes I had when I was a kid, but no celebrity could really hit me on an emotional level.

Well, except for one.

Many of you already know my family's fascination with Superman. We watched all of the movies when I was a kid, and Superman was our hero. We had Superman birthday cakes and Superman pajamas. And we loved Superman because he reminded us of our father. My dad doesn't look exactly like Christopher Reeve, but the resemblance was striking enough. My father also alternated between glasses and contacts, so we called him Clark Kent and we bought him a SuperDad shirt.

Superman stands for everything that I think is good: truth, justice, and the American way. He represents integrity, fortitude, and honor. Lois Lane was the ambulance chaser; Clark was the honest and respectful one. Superman embodied all that I admire in a man.

When Christopher Reeve was injured in 1995, he worried that people would laugh: Superman was now paralyzed. But he never stopped being my Superman. I looked at him in that wheelchair and I saw a father-figure, someone we had idolized as children who now had to put all of his Superman qualities to the test. And I truly believed he would walk again. I knew he had it in his heart. And I'm crushed that he ran out of time.

So I spent the first few hours of my birthday crying for a celebrity. Ridiculous, I know, but he's the only one who mattered to me. Throughout my childhood, he represented everything that was perfect in man; throughout my adulthood, he represented struggling with imperfection. I cared very deeply for this man, and my heart is aching.

In his book Still Me, he laid out perfectly how I felt about him:

During my stay in Hollywood I entered hotels and buildings through garages, kitchens, and service elevators, and met cooks, waiters, chambermaids, and maintenance crews. Many of them said that they were praying for me. Others looked me right in the eye and said, "We love you, Superman. You're our hero." At first I couldn't believe they meant it. Then I realized they were looking past the chair and honoring me for a role that obviously had real meaning for them. I didn't feel patronized in any way. Clearly a part I had played twenty years before was still valued. The fact that I was in a wheelchair, unable to move below my shoulders, and dependent on the support of others for almost every aspect of my daily life had not diminished the fact that I was--and always would be--their Superman.

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DEMEANING

One unfortunate side effect of the Bush=Hitler meme is that we can no longer look at Hitler without comparing him to Bush. We can't read about WWII and think of the horrors of those years without the knee-jerk satisfaction of how not-Hitler Bush really is. Lileks did it today:

In Klemperer’s book there’s an anecdote about a professor who is talking with some colleagues, telling jokes. Hitler goes to heaven. He talks to Moses, and says so, you can tell me. You set the bush on fire yourself, didn’t you?

He’s reported. He goes to prison for ten months.

And, as Klemperer notes, he was “an Aryan.”

Ah, but don’t we have the Big Lie? The WMD debacle? This is one of those things that makes me just turn off the radio or TV or hit the back button or whatever it takes to decamp.

I did it with Stalin back when I was reading The Gulag Archipelago:

I dare anyone who thinks the Patriot Act is killing democracy to read this book, where the first person to stop clapping at a tribute to Comrade Stalin, after 11 minutes of straight clapping, was sent to the gulag. Or the woman who happened to walk past a truck full of bodies. Or the man who had doodled on a newspaper photo of Stalin. All of them gone.

It's a crying shame that I can't visit a concentration camp without the smug satisfaction that today's Bush-haters have no idea what they're talking about. I don't want to think about Bush at a concentration camp. I don't even want the Bush=Hitler thought anywhere near my head, because it's completely demeaning to the real people of that era who died for nothing. I've seen a lamp made out of Jewish skin; how DARE anyone make that comparison to President Bush.

It's disgusting, and I'm disgusted that every time Hitler comes up, we find mental ways to disassociate him with Bush. I think that's revolting.

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FIT

My mother-in-law is right; this doesn't really go anywhere. I figured it doesn't fit sandwiched between two memorials, but since when do our ups and downs every fit nicely? Here's the comment she left:

I was not sure where to insert this but for all of you out there who follow Sarah, October 11 is her birthday. A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Hopefully the next one will be with your special someone.

MORE TO GROK:

You know what's a good surprise? When the phone rings and you hear that long delay that only comes from Iraq. Only it's not your husband; it's one of the Soldiers you write letters to, your best friend's husband, calling to wish you a happy birthday. Wonderful surprise.

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October 10, 2004

SGT PREWITT

It seems I'm still getting visitors looking for information about SGT Tyler Prewitt. If you are a friend of his, you can read about how I knew him, my thoughts on his memorial, and the Stars and Stripes newspaper coverage of his memorial. He will not be forgotten.

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GREEN WITH ENVY

Oh MAN am I jealous! Hud got to see Team America! Many soldiers down in Iraq have been going nuts buying bootleg DVDs, but my husband and I haven't gotten into that. However, I told him that he must buy Team America if he sees it because I'm afraid I might not see it here otherwise. Of course I'll buy the official copy when it comes out, since I'm a firm believer in putting as much money as possible into Parker and Stone's pockets, but I don't want to have to wait until next year to see it. I can barely wait as it is!

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DREAM ON

As I was reading VDH's blurb about the debate, I had a thought. Kerry keeps repeating "I have a plan..."; I think he should switch over and go with "I have a dream...". Think about it: it's catchy, it's chock-full of symbolism, and it much better fits his ridiculous theories and vague projections about how the world would work under his presidency.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Paris the sons of former neo-cons and the sons of former Iranian nuclear bomb makers will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood filled with allies from all different nations, and by all different nations I mean France and Germany. I have a dream that one day even the United States, a police state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice, not unlike North Vietnam was when I met with the Vietcong in 1971. I have a dream that my two children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the orangey color of their skin but by the content of their briefcases, which is where they keep their lucky hats. I have a dream today.

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