May 31, 2005

COOL

Via RWN I found an interesting calculator that shows you how you'd fare under President Bush's Social Security reforms.

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May 30, 2005

BRICK

I had the chance to briefly instant message with Mrs. Sims today. She sent me the most wonderful Memorial Day photo of her son and his father's memorial brick at Texas A&M.

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I think about Mrs. Sims all the time. She and I weren't even that close; we went to dinner a few times together, but that's about the extent of our friendship. I hesitate to write about how much she is constantly in my thoughts because I'm certain there are people on this post she was closer to. I don't want her to think that I've become some zany stalker who's deified her into everything that Memorial Day stands for...but I guess I have.

Mrs. Sims is absolutely everything that an Army wife should be: gracious, humble, and dedicated. She remains optimistic and proud in the face of the worst experience anyone could ever have. And she's always on my mind. She's the first person I think of when I feel down or grumpy. She was the first person my husband and I thought of when our cruise tablemates were being obtuse. And she was the first person I thought of when I woke up this Memorial Day.

You see, the Memorial Day post I wanted to write is how much the Sims family is always present in our household. It took that photo of their son to get the words to come out.

I'm sure Mrs. Sims feels weird about the pedestal I've put her on. She's just a regular person dealing with an extraordinary challenge. I hesitated to write the post I wanted to because I don't want to exacerbate her pain. But I want her to know how I really feel, that to me she's everything that Memorial Day represents: the day when we remember those who gave up everything for our country. And I am keenly aware, every day, that CPT Sims gave his life for the very freedom I enjoy. I want her to know that I will never forget that, as long as I live. I never knew her husband, but I will never forget him. Even if she and I drift apart, I will remember the Sims family on Memorial Day and every other day for the rest of my life.

I will remember.

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May 29, 2005

MEMORIAL

There's a fundamental difference between last year's Memorial Day and this one, a difference that I have been dwelling on all weekend: last year I didn't have any veterans to mourn.

I've thought all weekend about what I wanted to say today, but in the end, my heart just doesn't want to articulate the words. I'm thinking them though, and I'm remembering today. And I'm grateful for every day I have with my own soldier.

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This is a memorial to every soldier our post lost last year. I will never forget any of them.

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AWASH

Smash's story, though creepy, is vaguely familiar:

JANUARY 2003 – It’s been couple of weeks since my reserve unit arrived in Kuwait, and we’ve just finished negotiating with the port authority to take over an abandoned building to serve as the administrative headquarters for our harbor security operation.

The building hasn’t been used in several years, so before we can move in we have a lot of cleaning and repairing to do. Everyone pitches in – soldiers and sailors, officers and enlisted work side-by-side to clean up over a decade’s worth of dust, grime, and general neglect. But despite all the activity, the hallways remain strangely quiet.

A yeoman is on her knees, scrubbing a particularly difficult stain in the stairwell. She decides to break the uncomfortable silence with a little bit of small talk. “Whoever worked in this building before sure was lazy,” she sighs. “Who would spill a whole pot of coffee on the stairs, and not clean it up?”

Everyone stops working, and stares at her.

“What?” she asks, looking around. “What did I say?”

“That’s not coffee,” one of her co-workers whispers.

“It’s not? What is it?”

“Blood.”

Apparently the room my husband used to email me from, the room I stared at whenever we had the chance to webcam, was awash in blood when the first American soldiers got there. My husband's camp in Iraq was an old Fedayeen camp.

We can hardly fathom things outside of our experience. A young American in the Navy would never imagine that she was cleaning up after a slaughter. I can't even begin to picture what a room covered in blood would look like. It's so beyond anything I've ever dealt with.

But it's so outside all of our realms. That's why when you do a Google Images search of Saddam+torture, you end up with photos of Lynndie England on the same page as a photo of "Saddam's henchmen amputating fingers". Torture is so far out of our realm that we conflate dog leashes and finger vises; most of us can't really imagine true torture. The Abu Ghraib thing is as bad as we get, but it's nowhere near as bad as things can get.

It's good that we live in a society where we don't have to regularly clean blood off of the stairs. But it sometimes prevents us from imagining that other cultures don't live with the naivete that we do.

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SIGACTS

Make sure you read Michael Yon's post on how the media get their news in Iraq (via LGF). Remember it the next time you read an article about "what's going on" in Iraq.

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MOVIES

Hud writes about the death of the movie theater. My husband and I went to the movies twice while we were home, but it's eight bucks a pop these days! For the price of the two of us, we can buy the movie instead and watch it as many times as we want. I much prefer going here on post, where the price is cheap and the National Anthem is rockin'.

Also, I'm a nerd, and I prefer to watch movies at home because I can knit.

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May 28, 2005

HMMM

An interesting comparison in Orson Scott Card's latest:

Why, just a few weeks ago a CBS television show (Cold Case Files) ran an episode that made an outrageous attack on my church, in which items as sacred to us as the Quran is to Muslims were openly displayed and mocked on national television.

But you didn't see Mormons rioting over it. Oh, we were angry enough-- it was infuriating to be treated with such contempt, as CBS, without a second thought, turned its airwaves over to some Mormon-hating writer who reveled in having the power to get at us with impunity.

But you see, we Mormons are very much aware of being in the minority. The memory of "Christian" mobs and state militias murdering helpless Mormon men, women and children, and then betraying and assassinating our leaders while they were in government custody, is still keen within our culture. It didn't happen far away, it happened in Missouri and Illinois. And it has continued in the years since then, in isolated incidents of murder and expulsion throughout the world, not least in America.

We remember our forebears leaving their homes again and again to get away from an oppressive majority. We remember our haven being invaded by the United States Army; we remember being prepared to burn our homes and crops and flee again, leaving our homeland a desert rather than submit to oppression again.

But in the years afterward, we learned something else, too: How to get along. How to avoid making waves. How to blend in. How to make a moral stand when it matters, without alienating those who might stand with us and without (usually) provoking those who stand against us.

That's what you learn when you're in a perpetual minority.

When would Muslims in the Middle East have learned lessons like that?

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May 26, 2005

MOVIES

CaliValleyGirl hit me up with this blog forward...

1) Total number of films I own on DVD/video:
I just went and counted: 222. (Holy crap, I just thought of all the money I've spent on movies.)

2) The last film I bought:
Ordered Team America yesterday.

3) The last film I watched:
Actually we went to see Be Cool tonight. I liked it, but my husband thought it was too close to Get Shorty.

4) Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):
Well, that's hard. How 'bout I name some movies that I never get tired of no matter how many times I watch them, like Raising Arizona, The Royal Tenenbaums, True Romance, Joe Dirt, Ocean's Eleven, Superman II, and Smokey and the Bandit.

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OH, HUSH

Bunker heard another ridiculous statement about how someone's freedom of speech was being trampled. Seriously, do people even know what that means? Have we become so comfortable in our Sanctuary that we can't even discern real oppression, real torture, or real human rights violations? Remember when I was reading The Gulag Archipelago? Remember how 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 was in the wrong place at the wrong time and 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. Disappeared. Dead. That's a freaking example of not having freedom of speech. Heck, even Europe's closer than we are, where Oriana Fallaci can be prosecuted for being "offensive to Islam" in her book.

Anyone in the US who barks "freedom of speech" doesn't even know the meaning of the term. They live to see another day, don't they? They don't go to trial for the things they've said, do they?

They need a civics lesson.

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May 24, 2005

SWEET

(via Bunker) Bush Country: The Middle East embraces democracy--and the American president by Fouad Ajami

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DEWEY'S CIVILITY

I was thinking about civility again this morning and I remembered Den Beste's post on Thomas Dewey. It's worth reading again.

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May 23, 2005

DEATH OF CIVILITY

When Tim left blogging, he did so because of what he calls "death of civility". Perhaps I am not old enough to notice any trends over time, but I have noticed people acting far differently than I would.

On our cruise we participated in an organized game of Scattergories. We split into five teams of six players and went to work. One of our categories was "foreign cities", which was a cinch for us. We used the name of a German city near us, knowing that it would never be a duplicate. Well, my husband and I got accused of cheating; the other teams refused to accept the name of a city they'd never heard of, saying that we must have made it up. We were steaming mad because to us our honor and integrity had been called into question, military values we take quite seriously. Our teammates were the oldest players in the room, two couples who were roughly 40 and 60 years old. The older gentleman threw a fit on our behalf, saying it was disgraceful that the other players in the room distrusted our word when we lived in Germany with the military. But in the end the young people in the room were not to be swayed. The six of us on our team left the game disgusted: twenty people thought that we cared more about winning a game than truth and honor. Twenty people thought that we were either too stupid to know the names of real German cities or too deceitful to be trusted. Twenty people thought that our accepting another team's word that avocado is a real ice cream flavor in Colorado was more natural than their accepting the name of a city that can be confirmed by any map. It was the death of civility.

I was reminded of that Scattergories incident and Tim's values when I read this exchange between a reporter and a Bush spokesman today. You don't speak like this to people in public. You don't accuse people of lying unless you have good reason to. And when you're a reporter, you really shouldn't let your complete distaste for the administration show like this.

The death of civility is all around us.

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May 21, 2005

OUR PUPPY

We went back to the dog breeder to make the final decision today. It was a long battle between these two challengers

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but in the end, one of them was just too timid. Both of them were a little skeptical when we first got there, but one trembled when we held him and cried when we set him down. The other seemed more laid back: he took some time, but eventually he tested out his legs and came over to lick my husband's arm and make friends. In the end, we had found our puppy.

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It's going to be a long month until we can bring him home! Now we just have to fix on a name...

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May 20, 2005

TWIN TOWERS

My husband and I have said all along the same thing that Donald Trump is saying: we want the WTC back. Not a garden of peaceful tranquility, not a beam of light, but the same symbol of capitalism and prosperity that the WTC was. I wish it could happen.

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May 19, 2005

COLORS

Theresa's comment on the last post made me smile. I didn't care where we went on vacation, as long as we were together. It's funny because we came home from two and a half weeks at the beach without getting a tan! My husband and I aren't really beach people; we're definitely sunscreen people! This was the front yard of our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale...

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and we spent most of our time inside Arby's and the mall! The real vacation was just being in the US, getting to shop for clothes that we both needed and food that we both craved. On the cruise, we sometimes felt guilty about just hanging out in our room, but Theresa points out another military family perspective: all time spent together is time well spent. And we participated in plenty of cruise activities; we even won trophies for winning four of the six trivia contests.

To me, the highlight of the trip was the colors. I saw colors I had never seen before, shades of blue and green that photos can't really capture. The world was so bright we could barely keep our eyes open for the photos. The world looks a whole lot brighter here

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than it did here

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That's what this vacation was all about.

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May 18, 2005

PERSPECTIVE

I've heard several military families say that they prefer to live off-post because they don't want to feel the presence of the military 24 hours a day. I, however, have enjoyed living right in the thick of things ever since my husband began his military career. We've always been on-post, and we've lived in very isolated military settings, such as the Officer Basic Course and then Germany. I had never really thought about the omnipresence of the military until we went on this vacation. This was our first time away from the military, for every other time we've taken vacation, we've gone to visit family. It was our first experience being surrounded by civilian strangers, and I must say it was unnerving.

The first thing that happens when you meet someone on a cruise is that they ask where you're from. This is the most complicated question you can ask someone in the military. Where are we all from? We started trying to simplify things by just saying we're from Missouri, but then we often ended up having this conversation:

Strangers: So, where are you all from?
Groks: Um, Missouri.
Strangers: Great. What do you do there in Missouri?
Grok: Um, well, we don't actually live in Missouri; we live in Germany.
Strangers: Oh...well, what do you do there?
Grok: We're there with the military...

This either led to awkward silence or awkward questions. Maybe we were talking to all the wrong people, but we didn't get the sort of insightful or curious conversations I was expecting. When we told our dinner-tablemates on the cruise that we were living in Germany with the military, we didn't expect them to virtually ignore us. We talked at length about their jobs and backgrounds, but they didn't ask questions about Germany or Iraq. When the husband and I went back to our room, we discussed how we had braced ourselves to answer all sorts of questions about military life and deployment that never came.

The biggest thing that I learned about myself on our vacation was that I found I really missed the perspective that military life brings. We deal with things that are so far outside of the civilian experience that everything else seems trivial. A military family would never ask someone where he's from, because we know how often that changes. A military family would never say that it would be terrible to live on St. Maarten because we've seen that the poverty and problems of Iraq and Afghanistan far surpass those on Caribbean islands. A military family would never complain about a five-hour plane ride because we've all seen the mothers traveling alone with three kids, moving them across the Atlantic to meet up with their soldier. And a military family would never ever say that working on a cruise ship must be one of the hardest jobs out there because they work such long hours and don't get to have any fun. (Seriously, we had to bite our cheeks to keep from laughing out loud at that one. If we could be so lucky to get "deployed" to a cruise ship!)

And military couples share one suitcase when they go on a 7-day cruise. I've never seen so much excessive luggage.

I found myself quite the fish out of water on this trip, and I longed to go back to where everyone understood us. I never realized how much the Army has become my comfort zone, and I'm quite happy to be back to where everyone wears BDUs.

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May 04, 2005

AWESOME

We're having the time of our lives here, eating and shopping to our hearts' content. (And looking at alligators!) I can barely button my pants from all the cheeseburgers and milkshakes I've been having! The USA is a blast...

(And I just saw the heaps of spam I got delivered. Will fix when we return home.)

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