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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

two conversations, two veterans

At work today we needed it dark inside the office building we were working in...so I climbed a ladder and twisted off by hand each of the motion-sensor-triggered floursescent tubes that kept turning on and brightening things up on our photo shoot.

At the end of the day, after I'd gone and hurriedly tried to screw them all back in...leaving some not too well seated, and some not at all...I told the janitor who was coming up to lock the door about this state of affairs.

"Don't ask me what I think of you...but I'm glad you told me," he said.

"I knew you wouldn't like it, but I thought you'd rather know. Sorry about that." I replied.

"Ah, you gotta remove the grid to put 'em back in the right way...you can't just fake it...but what do I care, I've been shot at, this is nothing."

He didn't say much. There was a pause. And then he went on.

"I've got five kids, I've been married four times, and my daughter's husband is a Marine who just got back from Iraq, they're living with me, she's pregnant, and he's not doing so hot, you're the least of my problems."

"Was he injured?" I asked.

"No, he's in one piece, he's just got it bad. PTSD. Doesn't sleep, behaviour problems. I had it for ten years after Viet Nam, but nobody knew about it then. They know about it now, but they don't do shit."

"There's no follow through? I thought there was follow through." I said.

"Nothing. Zero. You're on your own. Let me tell you something, this war is the biggest mistake I've ever seen, and I was in one. I've had a "Bring 'em Home Now, George" sign up in my tree for months, and they tore it down three times. Even after I put up that I was a veteran, Viet Nam '66-'69. This woman, Cindy Sheehan, it serves Bush right. Not that I agree with her supporters or anything, bunch of ACLU far-left manipulators....but Sheehan, she's got a point.

Bush...Kerry...they're all the same to me. Yale guys. But Iraq...we shouldn't be there. For what? We won WWII faster than this.

On the BART ride home I talked to my co-worker, who'd overheard all this. He's a veteran of the first Gulf War who is training to be a firefighter, partly out of service, partly out of the fact that it's the only way he knows he can buy a house in the Bay Area. I asked him what he thinks of the war and politics.

"You know, I don't see anybody who really reflects me. Probably the person who most reflects me is Colin Powell. I've got alot of respect for him....I know he's a Republican, but I don't really care about that. I'm not into labels. I actually liked Bill Clinton. Even though I think a President should have served...you see, I don't think you can send people to battle if you don't know what that's like. But Clinton, he stuck to it, and he didn't demonize the other side. They tried to knock him down for eight years and he just kept at it. You see, with a Democrat, you know they got a heart, with the Republicans...a lot of times they don't."

To this, I asked, "What do you think of Bush appearing in front of guys in uniform, in front of the military all the time?"

"You know what, when I look at those guys, I see me. That's me up there. I'm from a small town. I was young, like they are. There is such a thing as being too patriotic. They don't know that yet. I didn't either. They're there because they're behind the president. It doesn't matter who he is. They love the country, yes. But they are being used, and they don't know it, and it's stupid."

Soon after this, we arrived at my stop, and I got off the BART and walked home. I had a lot to think about.



  • Both these conversations were triply richer than I can convey here. But, what the heck...these were the parts I couldn't get out of my head.

    Speaking of which, it's good to get my head out of the blogs sometimes.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:48 PM  

  • "Pass over the worst and, only to elucidate, let an item or two of these be cited. The dress so precise and costly, worn by him on the day whose events have been narrated, had not willingly been put on. And that silver-mounted sword, apparent symbol of despotic command, was not, indeed, a sword, but the ghost of one. The scabbard, artificially stiffened, was empty."
    -- Melville, Benito Cereno

    I'd been thinking about this quotation anyway (for Bush's flight suit and Navy deck appearances) but these comments that you transcribed brought it back to mind. . . .

    By Blogger awol, at 3:28 AM  

  • I lie awake
    Rigid, like a body stiffened by death
    You knuckle your eyes and yawn
    Are you all right?

    Woman, do not ask me for my nightmares
    To tender away
    They slither from a black hole in my conscience
    You cannot fill the hole with love
    It is bottomless

    I fumble for my mask
    It is nothing

    By Blogger leftvet, at 2:32 PM  

  • Thanks for that, leftvet.

    It's appreciated, and gives a picture of what that kid is going through...

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 8:29 PM  

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