November 30, 2006

TWO STEPS BACK

Dear Michael Richards,

This letter will remind you of the letter I wrote to the Abu Ghraib jerks. That's because I realized today that we've got ourselves an analogy here. Remember the SAT? Here's a good one for you:

Abu Ghraib soldiers : Iraq :: Michael Richards : race relations

Yes, Kramer, you're the Lynnie England of race.

The rest of us work hard to heal the wounds of yesteryear. We try to treat people fairly, we make sure we never say something that could offend, and we work to keep our country moving forward towards harmony between the races. And you come along and yell at someone about lynching.

What in the holy hell were you thinking?

When I first heard this story, I thought it was weird and dumb. But I really didn't think it mattered in the long run. Then I read this sentence in a completely unrelated article today:

If blacks are to fight the plague that is racial ugliness -- and racism remains one of the great threats to the Republic, no question about it, just ask that Seinfeld loser or Mel Gibson -- then we have to be honest with ourselves.

So now, thanks to you, people with an agenda can hold you up as the Paragon of Racism. See, white people are racist deep down: that Kramer guy called people the n-word. Just like how the Abu Ghraib soldiers destroyed the reputation of all the other honorable and admirable soldiers in Iraq, you have destroyed whatever credibility we white people have when we claim that racism isn't nearly as bad as some people let on.

Now my college roommate, who was afraid of walking across campus for fear of being lynched, will have more of a reason to think all white people really are out to get her. Now when some loser celeb says that the president hates black people, someone might honestly think that a tirade about lynching could just as easily come out of Bush's mouth as it did out of yours.

Black people everywhere will be waiting for the racist shoe to drop, thanks to you.

Most of us are not racist. We don't think lynchings are funny. We have enough of a moral or societal compass to know that what you did was completely out of line. And weird. Most of us don't have that crap bubbling right below the surface. Slight provocation won't give us n-word diarrhea of the mouth. We look at what you did as the strangest and most horrifying thing you can think of.

But to the black author of that article, it was just proof that "racism remains one of the great threats to the Republic."

Thanks a lot. All the progress that we white people have made to try to prove that we judge on the content of character: gone.

I hate you for that.
Sarah

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COOL

I'll be interested in reading Bjorn Lomborg's new book when it comes out. Check out this interview with him.

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AWESOME DAY

Charlie was beside himself with excitement yesterday because the house was full of people and puppies. Guess who he got to play with? The sweetest puppy on the planet...

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Tim is in town for job training, so Patti came over to hang out all day yesterday and brought their brand new puppy. Charlie had so much fun, and we had fun watching them. Charlie would pounce on the puppy and then roll over on his back and pull the puppy on top of him. Hilarious. Also, he'd steal a toy from the puppy and run away with it, and then walk back up to the puppy and let her steal the toy back from him. They were too cute. And the puppy was drenched by the end of the night because Charlie kept licking her head.

And Patti learned to knit! I love teaching people to knit, especially people who get all gung-ho about it. She was very excited and plans to crank out a baby blanket before Christmas!

It was so nice to have friends over. I've been a tad lonely here since I don't have any human contact except with my husband. Patti kept apologizing for monopolizing my afternoon, as if I were pining for my normal afternoon of Law & Order reruns. It was great to have someone to hang out with, and even better to have Tim and Patti for dinner. How fun to have your dinner guest begin the meal with "So, what do you think of Amadinejad's letter?"

I wish we were moving southwesterly instead of northeasterly, because our move will only take us further from these good friends.

Whose head will Charlie lick when we leave?

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November 27, 2006

THE CHANGING HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

When I got those used books at Goodwill, I got an old copy of A Pocket History of the United States. Since I had been looking for a refresher, how could I pass up one for 50 cents? But there was another interesting aspect to this book: it was written in 1942. Before the PC era. So it's un-PC without specifically trying to be un-PC like more recently written books do. It's both strangely refreshing and extremely jarring to read things like "It was fortunate for the white settlers that the Indians of North America were too few and too backward to be a grave impediment to colonization. ... Armed only with the bow and arrow, the tomohawk, and the war club, and ignorant of any military art save the ambush, they were ordinarily no match for well-accoutured and vigilent bodies of whites." No one talks like that anymore! It's an interesting way to read history.

One of the things that has struck me most about this book so far is the preface. Written in 1942, it rings of patriotism and pride. It's worth it to me to type the whole thing out because rarely do we get to read something like this about our own country. (Please stick with me; I know big blocks of quoted text can make my eyes swim too):

America emerged out of obscurity into history only some four centuries ago. It is the newest of great nations, yet it is in many respects the most interesting. It is interesting because its history recapitulates the history of the race, telescopes the development of social and economic and political institutions. It is interesting because upon it have played most of this great historical forces and factors that have molded the modern world: imperialism, nationalism, immigration, industrialism, science, religion, democracy, and liberty, and because the impact of these forces upon society is more clearly revealed in its history than in the history of other nations. It is interesting because, from its earliest beginnings, its people have been conscious of a peculiar destiny, because upon it have been fastened the hopes and aspirations of the human race, and because it has not failed to fulfill that destiny or to justify those hopes.

The story of America is the story of the interaction of an Old World culture and a New World environment, the early modification of the culture by environment, and the subsequent modification of the environment by the culture. The first European settlers in America were not primitive men, but highly civilized, and they transplanted from their homeland a culture centuries old. Yet the United States was never merely an extension of the Old World: it was, what its first settlers anticipated and its founding fathers consciously planned, something new in history. The unconquered wilderness confronting the pioneer from the Atlantic to the Pacific profoundly modified inherited institutions and gave rise to wholly new institutions, and the intermixture of peoples and races modified inherited cultures and created, in a sense, a completely new culture. The new United States became the most ambitious experiment ever undertaken in the deliberate intermingling of people, in religious toleration, economic opportunity, and political democracy--an experiment perhaps still under way.

European historians and commentators, admitting readily enough the substantial virtues of the American people and the value of their political experiments, long asserted that American history was nevertheless colorless and prosaic. It is, on the contrary, dramatic and picturesque, and cast in heroic mold. There are few parallels in modern history to the drama of the swift expansion of small and scattered groups of people across a giant continent, the growth of a few struggling colonies into a continental nation of fifty states, or the spread of a new culture and of new social and economic practices so swiftly to the four quarters of the globe.

Makes your heart swell, huh? That was written by Nevins and Commager, the authors of the book. That was the United States in 1942. And then something happened, something that changed our nation forever. I don't exactly know what it is. My husband and I wonder about it often, why it is that WWII was the last justified war, why the Greatest Generation receives a praise no longer given to men, why no one speaks of the United States being "cast in heroic mold" any longer.

Nevins passed away before the updated edition of the book, so Commager wrote the preface alone in 1976. See for yourself what happened to the United States between these editions.

The first edition of this history was written at the beginning of World War II and was designed to present and interpret the American historical record not only to the English-speaking world, but also to the peoples of all nations who were interested in the evolution of the first constitutional and first democratic society at a time when both constitutionalism and democracy were in mortal peril. In the thirty-five years since its preparation, it has gone through five revisions and enlargements and has been published in most of the languages of the world.

This sixth edition appears as the United States celebrates or recalls two hundred years of independence. The decade since the last edition has been the most challenging, and perhaps the most sobering, since that of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In its preoccupation with war, its succeptibility to large-scale corruption, and its attack upon the integrity of the constitutional system, it discloses interesting analogies to that earlier decade. Thus, this last decade, too, has been a time of trial and disillusionment. It witnessed on the world stage a meaningless and futile war that did infinite damage to a distant people with whom we had no legitimate quarrel, and did irreparable damage to the social, economic, and moral fabric of our society. It witnessed on the domestic stage the ignominy of Watergate and all its attendant evils. It marked, in a sense, the real end of American innocence--the end of that long era that stretched from the Declaration and the Constitution to the Marshall Plan and the launching of the United Nations, when Americans could consider themselves as in some sense exempt from the truth of History and when they could take for granted that Nature and History permitted them to enjoy higher standards of conduct and of morals than the nations of the Old World could afford to indulge. It marked the end, too, on both the domestic and the international scene, of those concepts of an infinity of land and resources, of geographical and moral isolation, and of a special destiny and a special mission, which had bemused the American mind from Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Whether a United States chastened by experience and matured by failure can adapt herself in the third century of her existence to a new position in the world remains for the future to discover. Clearly she has the capacity to do so: immense natural resources, sound institutions, a proud heritage, and a people as competent to meet challenges and overcome trials as any in the world. There is no reason why she should not emerge from the current crisis more dedicated to the values and potentialities of her Constitution, more ardent in her response to her obligations to be vigilant against usurpations of power, more intelligent in setting the limits on that power, and more magnanimous in its exercise.

This is the same man who wrote the first preface. What happened? What turned him from pride in the greatest nation on earth to words like "meaningless and futile", "irreparable damage", and "chastened by experience and matured by failure"? The first half of our history contained slavery and a Civil War, yet there was no talk in that preface of "attendant evils" or "the end of American innocence." I wasn't alive, I don't understand; what happened to our country in the second half of the last century to make us so ashamed of ourselves?

Why do we measure the greatness of the US from the "Constitution to the Marshall Plan" and resent everything that came after?

The United States is the only place on this forsaken planet I would ever want to live, but we have some serious problems. Why can we no longer see our greatness?

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BATTLE BUDDIES

My friend Angie had her third boy this year. Since they're an Army family through and through, I made her newest addition a camouflage teddy bear. But apparently I ushered an era of fighting into her home. Her oldest stole the bear from the baby.

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So adorable. Except for the constant fighting. Apparently the boys fight over who gets to sleep with the bear every night. I feel so bad that I did something to contribute to discord in their house. So the Army teddy is getting some friends.

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Now they have their own little multicultural squad. (I should make one more so they'd have a whole tank, but then they might fight over the extra bear!) Hopefully this helps lessen Angie's stress. And I learned a valuable knitter's lesson: never make something for one kid in a family.

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LINK

Read Flopping Aces' Getting the News from the Enemy. He wonders why the media is running stories based on hearsay and rumors. And he's got a lot of info on it.

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November 26, 2006

BEATING MY HEAD AGAINST THE WALL AGAIN

A few weeks ago I asked what was wrong with our country that women were encouraged to covet Gucci luggage and expensive suits. Today I ask again. I just saw a segment on Fox where they talked about the worst possible Christmas gifts. I watched an "expert" say that the worst thing you can buy for your spouse is something practical. An appliance, something for the house, or even a foot massage bath? All wrong. Jewelry, that's the ticket. No wonder Americans' financial priorities are all out of whack. You know what I'm getting for Christmas? A washer. And my husband's getting a dryer. No jewelry, no gadgets, not even used paperbacks. We're getting practical things because we're adults and we don't need to spend money frivolously just to prove that we're in love. I must be the most horrible wife in the world because I give my husband what he wants for holidays: a contribution to his Roth IRA. I didn't realize that I had to throw money down a hole in order to show my love for him.

Where do they come up with these people who dole out this absurd advice? No wonder everyone in this country is drowning in consumer debt.

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November 25, 2006

WTF?

I have no idea what happened or why this groom was shot at his bachelor party by the police. The only people interviewed in this article are friends of the groom and Al Sharpton. There's no official word out yet, it seems. But what in the hell is up with the last two paragraphs of the article? Let's throw in two other completely unrelated incidents where police shot black people. What does that have to do with anything? And why does the AP do this all the time, tack on unrelated crap at the end of articles? Those two paragraphs have no business being in that article, other than to lead readers to assume that cops repeatedly shoot black people for no reason whatsoever. Shame on you, AP.

MORE:

Since MSNBC changed their link, I had to find the original article elsewhere. I found it here, but I'll copy the end of the article before it disappears again.

"I still don't want to believe it," Porter said, "a beautiful day like this, and he was going to have a beautiful wedding, he was going to live forever with his wife and children. And this happened."

In 1999, police killed Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who was shot 19 times in the Bronx. The four officers in that case were acquitted of criminal charges.

And in 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 43, a native of the western African country of Burkina Faso who repaired art and musical instruments in a Manhattan warehouse, was shot to death during a police raid. Zongo was hit four times, twice in the back.

See what I mean? Talk about inflammatory. And completely unrelated.

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November 24, 2006

FYI

P.S. Gravy has always been the bane of my roasted bird existence, but this year we tried Alton Brown's version, made from a white roux instead of just stirring in cornstarch and hoping for the best. I used white wine, stock, and the turkey drippings, and it was wonderful.

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THANKS

Yesterday we did the whole shebang, a turkey and all the fixins, for just the two of us. On one hand it seemed sad not to have a real Thanksgiving, but on the other hand it felt a bit silly to do the whole deal just for two. In the end, it was really nice. Three years ago I got scolded in my comments section for complaining about slaving over an entire dinner for six people. Last year was wonderful fun, but I think we made entirely too much food and stressed ourselves out a bit getting everything coordinated in the oven. But this year was nice in its own way. We cooked everything as time permitted, and it didn't matter if half the pecan goo spilled over the edge of the pie or the turkey took longer than expected. There was no one to impress, nor was there anyone asking when it would be done. We just ate when we were ready. It was very relaxing and nice.

And Charlie took an extreme liking to turkey. He followed us everywhere and cried all evening long as he tried desperately to knock over the trash can and get at the carcass.

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(image cropped so you can't see the messy kitchen and laundry room)

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November 22, 2006

THANKFUL

The fur and the wet nose, and the dimples and the freckles.
This is what I'm thankful for.

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RIPPED FROM THE BLOGLINES

I recorded CSI last week and we just watched it last night. I guess no one else in the blogosphere watches that show, because someone would've mentioned that the episode "Happenstance" was about "fake but accurate"! The killer was a photographer who had gone to Iraq and then photoshopped a couple of photos together to make a more poignant visual. And his boss found out and was going to bust him so he killed her. I'm quoting from memory here, but at the end in his confession, he said something to the effect of

There's nothing worth photographing in Iraq. Insurgents shoot their AKs and run away. We raid houses at night and all they say is "Ali Baba not here." And the soldiers just get pumped up on caffeine and rock music waiting for something to happen. You end up praying for a roadside bomb, but even then you can't photograph the smell of gasoline. All you get is a photo of smoke. So I started playing around with the photos, and some soldiers saw me and said, "Yeah, yeah, that's exactly what it's like." So yes, I told a lie, to tell the truth.

The motive for his murder was "fake but accurate"! This CSI was ripped straight from blogs.

Moreover, that's probably the most accurate description of life in Iraq that's ever been uttered on TV. My husband said that's exactly what it's like. There's usually not something to photograph.

MORE:

I was just going to go email Charles Johnson to let him know, but someone beat me to it yesterday: Art imitates life. So much for my big scoop.

MORE:

Actually, HeatherRadish liveblogged it during the episode, so nevermind. I'll just go play last week's game.

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November 21, 2006

ALL IS WELL

For those of you who used to follow the adventures at Armor Geddon, I thought I'd let you know that Red6 and his wife are home safe from their year in Iraq.

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LINK

Read this too: An Honest Confession by an American Coward by Pat Conroy (via Cold Fury)

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November 20, 2006

GO

Read this.

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November 18, 2006

HEADSTONE

I just came across photos of PFC Gunnar Becker's headstone. It's beautiful, and so fitting. I love it, Debey. The tank is so cool. And I'd like to think that his friends are leaving him Mt. Dew and whiskey...maybe to wash down that bug he ate!

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LINK

Greyhawk has a lengthy and thorough analysis of the damage the Abu Ghraib scandal did to the war effort. It's posted in two parts: A Combination of Blurring and Smearing Part 1 and Part 2 (the internal links are busted, but you can figure it out).

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LINK

Let Them Eat Bullets

A nation that's defended Europe from aggression in the 60 years since World War II is asking why Iraq can't defend itself. The fact is, Iraqis risk their lives for their country every day.

Clearly the days when Democrats warned of a long twilight struggle and pledged to pay any price and bear any burden to ensure the success and survival of liberty are over, judging from remarks by Carl Levin, incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

"We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves," Levin opined Wednesday at a Capitol Hill press conference. "The only way for Iraqi leaders to squarely face that reality is for President Bush to tell them that the United States will begin a phased redeployment of our forces within four to six months."

"We cannot be their security blanket," he added. But why not, if it's in our best long-term security interest?

Yes, we should demand more of the Iraqis. But those who ask whether we can or should stop Iraqis from killing themselves forget that we're in this to stop others from killing us and using Iraq as a base camp from which to do it.

We've been Europe's security blanket for six decades. We are Japan's security blanket. We are South Korea's. It's been said that were it not for us, the French would be speaking German and the Germans would be speaking Russian. In 1938, the West decided it couldn't be Czechoslovakia's security blanket and sold out that country in Munich, Germany. The rest, as they say, is history.

Read the rest. Via Cold Fury and Instapundit, who says he'd like to see a phased redeployment from Europe. And how.

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November 17, 2006

COMPLEX EMOTIONS

CaliValleyGirl sent me an email today, asking me if we know anything else about the craziness that is my husband's next assignment. She said,

Man, you know, it's strange...part of me almost misses the deployment...don't get me wrong, it sucked...however, I felt like I was part of something bigger. You know? The ups and downs, but I was in it together with all these other families. I felt more a part of the military...I miss that.

I think that life during deployment feels more precious than life out of it. I didn't think OIF II was that bad for me. I have no memory of how I passed the time though; my husband's been in the field two days now and I'm bored out of my mind. But when we're facing deployment, I think we try to find the silver lining as best we can. We relish the tight community that develops between those on the homefront and feel a part of something big and meaningful. And, on a more practical level, we come up with all these things we will accomplish when they're gone: next year I'll lose weight because I won't cook as well, I'll make those two quilts I've been talking about for years, I'll read all those books, I'll fly to L.A. to visit CaliValleyGirl, and so on. We convince ourselves that the year will go by fast because we'll be so busy. And then, when he gets home, we'll start a family. Everything will be perfect, because we've convinced ourselves that it's all working out according to plan.

But that's not what's happening now. My husband found out that his switch went through. He originally had made a scratch-my-back deal with his branch manager that she'd let him leave if he took this slot in the deploying unit that no one else wanted. We were all set to do that, when he got word that he's going directly to Civil Affairs training. No more deployment for us.

ArmyWifeToddlerMom always says that when you're on the outside looking in, people think that reintegration is just jumping up and down with a handmade sign and life is all flowers and sausages. But for the people going through it, it's not always that simple. That's how I feel today about this non-deployment. I would never say that making a quilt or reading a book is better than (or even comparable to) having my husband living in the house with me, but I had psyched myself up with all the ways I would get through next year, and it's just strange to turn all those thoughts off all of a sudden.

And the family thing, the family thing is killing me.

I heard my husband tell his mom on the phone the other day that we just had our hearts set on having a baby "like a normal couple." The way he phrased it, "like a normal couple," broke my heart. I want that so bad, and I thought it was within reach. He'd come home from deployment and have time where he was stuck in school and not going anywhere. And we'd be together for the entire pregnancy and birth. Like a normal couple. Unlike nearly every other Army wife I know who has done it alone. We had found a way to control our destiny, if only for a while.

And now, now he starts training a year early. And we're not ready to be parents just yet. Our options have now become 1) go for it before we're ready, or 2) take the chance of doing it apart. I don't like either of those options.

Civil Affairs most likely means more deployments in our future. We're fine with that, but we just wanted to get a leg up on the Army, one last stint of normalcy before he gives his life over to the whims of current events. And I find myself extremely disappointed.

I'm disappointed that my husband isn't deploying. Try explaining that complex emotion to family and friends.

So I milked all that patriotic praise out of you guys earlier this month, and apparently we don't deserve it at this time. My husband isn't going anywhere just yet.

Which is a good thing. Just a different thing.

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FIELD

Deskmerc keeps asking what Finance officers could possibly be doing in the field. I ask the same question every time he goes. Seriously, they play with fake money and pretend to pay contractors and stuff, while getting "mortared." I know, I know.

The last time he went out, he told me a great story. They were getting "attacked" and he and another hooah guy ran out and started "shooting" at the enemy, hamming it up with some m-f words as they valiantly, and fakely, fought back. And the officer in charge of the exercise told them to watch their mouths.

Remember: Horrific, deplorable violence is OK, as long as people don't say any naughty words.

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