Friday, April 22, 2005

Gone to soldiers

I got a letter back from Afghanistan indicating that at least one of the DVD movies I sent to the troops via the AnySoldier site did get through. I've gotten more response than I expected, for trivial things, like a magazine or a letter. But no feedback on the DVDs. I thought maybe someone along the way was stealing them, or maybe they were being detected by scanners and not delivered. I started hiding them unannounced inside magazine, in packages labeled 'magazines.' But you can still tell that something is there when you bend the envelope.

At last, though, good to know that one got through.

A friend of ours seemed shocked to learn that I was sending things to the troops. I tried to explain that these kids are just kids, lonely and shocked. I talked about the response from the 18-year-old PFC in Afghanistan, who said he wondered if the world had forgotten about the guys there. Then I framed it in the true context, which is that, in war, civilians suffer the most. If we were to direct our aid to the most deserving, it would probably be a child starving somewhere. But I'm not trying to be perfect, and I'm showing support to these guys. Nothing is wrong with that.

Our friend, however, seemed to react as if I'd contributed money to a fund to defend Catholic priests from child abuse charges. She seemed to think that supporting the troops was aid and comfort to the inept and dangerous Bush administration, and an endorsement of their foolish foreign policy.


My parents grew up in the Depression and my father served in Europe in WWII. I somehow came to identify with that period as the core of modern history, and somehow felt that everything afterwards was in some way mere consequence.

I've read a lot about WWII. Nonfiction as well as fiction. My appreciation of the blessings of my current circumstances derives in part from knowledge of some baselines of the human condition. Starving children, the Warsaw ghetto, and the cycle of doom in Russia are a few of these baseline points. Somewhere a few steps above these is the boy who had the privilege of being well-fed and raised in America, who steps off the assault boat onto the beach on D-Day in 1944 and who takes a bunch of shrapnel in the guts and gets to spend the next half hour dying in agony. And so you can see then that way, way up there among the sunshine and greenery of a spring paradise is me: filling watering cans for my kids in the back yard as they run around watering things.

The private who went from high school to Afghanistan is not the baseline of suffering, but I never claimed to be perfect, and I admit I have sympathy for him, and gratitude, despite that most likely his suffering is a wasted byproduct of the plans of reckless, irresponsible men.

Recently I've been going through a healthy grieving cycle regarding my ALS. I mean, being happy and grateful all the time is good, but if you don't take time out to be sad, then something's gonna blow. I cried over that song that I downloaded, about missing the dead. I rented and watched 'Saving Private Ryan.' To make myself feel good, and go through some more grieving, and stress. Without the absurdity of comparing, or differentiating, I do extract from this movie the accompaniment of watching others face death, though of an entirely different nature and fairness.

It's a very good movie. The whole premise of the movie is absurd, though. It's a really awkward bit that they have an actual historical figure, George Marshall, spending so much time making the unwise decision to send a rescue mission for the paratrooper. The better thing to do would be to send a bulletin where possible to units in the area to send the private back. But then, you don't get a Hollywood movie. Still, with better concept and better writing, you could have done the exact same movie, played all the same themes, and not had the embarrassment.

Anyway, the feel-good factors of this film include not only seeing people facing death, but patriotism of the not-cheap-and-easy kind. The patriotism in Independence Day is cheap and easy (and fun!), but in Ryan, it's deeper. One thing I particularly like about this movie is that our guys are not just white-hat boy scouts. They get scared, get mad, fight each other, and shoot prisoners. I also like that this movie does not make war look clean and crisp like a football game. Instead, it portrays chaos, wastage, and suffering. A good flick.

I also bought a history of the Roman Empire. I hope it is goodly, and not junk. Even if it is junk, I think I will enjoy reading it. I am blessed that, as Johnny Rotten put it, I know what I want and I know how to get it.

Left grip is 40 pounds (40, 39, 40), right grip is 94 pounds (94, 90, 89), left leg balance is 17 seconds, and inhale volume is 4550 mL.

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