Saturday, November 14, 2009

Journal #3 for Saturday Nov. 14--We've Lost a Common History

Rambles....we all need to clear our heads....leave a comment and do the same:

--The US is mired in Afghanistan.  We can't expect fast and easy answers from the current administration.  But we can't ignore the fact that we are in a Vietnam-like bog there, and it will need more resources to finally get us out without a tragic collapse.  I've heard said that we can't step in the same river twice....that Afghanistan is NOT Vietnam....I prefer to think that the river always flows in the same direction, even if what we "step in" is different "water".

--It's ominous to consider how to send tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan, and maintain a presence in Iraq and other parts of the world, without a draft.  The Head of Veterans affairs, Eric Shinseki, gave a compelling interview on NPR in which he applied the physical phenomenon of the delta of resilience to multiple deployments:
 "Since 2001, more than 1 million new veterans have come into a system that is being stretched thin. And one thing they'll need a lot of help with is their own peace of mind.
In particular, Shinseki has been concerned with what he calls "resilience." Shinseki, a former engineering student, describes what happens when a ball is suspended in air and then dropped. The ball will bounce, he said — but it will not rise to the same height from which it was dropped. And if the ball continues to bounce, it progressively gets lower and lower. "This also describes the multiple deployments" that American soldiers have experienced in the past eight years on tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Shinseki said. "Quality of resilience is affected."

--We have done a poor job learning from our own history. Young people especially are not active or vocal in protest against our military actions, because unless they are among the military volunteers, nothing is at stake for them. There would have been no anti-Vietnam War movement among students in the '60's and '70's had there not been a draft.

--Anecdote: in conversation with a young friend of mine at the college in which I'm employed, I dropped the title of the movie "The Deer Hunter" to illustrate a point.  He never heard of it. The Vietnam War was such a troubling part of the American psyche, and the film, a Best Picture Oscar-winner (1978), was so controversial for years that it is unfathomable to think it may have slipped out of the national consciousness.   In itself, that doesn't mean this very articulate young man is willfully ignorant. I happen to believe that, ironically, with so much communication gadgetry at our disposal, we have fragmented ourselves, and no longer seem to share a common culture.  And we seem not to share a common history either.

--History is most often written by those who were not around to experience the period about which they study and write.  We accept it, though, as gospel.  Today, more than at any time in history, provocative, persuasive, wonderful ideas are expressed by the millions, in writing published over the internet and elsewhere every day.  Will it do some good?  Can a piece of writing still change the world?  Can such writing be recognized among the millions of others? Historians will have a monumental amount of firsthand information and will they possibly interpret all of it, and by extension, interpret us and how we lived? Will future historians see us as concerned and active? Or will we be characterized as having too much to say and no time to do anything?

--The stories that could be covered in the news, that may outrage us enough to take some positive action, are glossed over (bad for ratings?  people might become activists?) while we distract ourselves with our games and music and sports and entertainment, and corruption runs amok around us.  Drones are killing innocent people in a classified CIA program with no restraint from the military.  Films showing the horribly tragic human aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been hidden for decades. The Goldstone Report meets with vitriol from the UN and garners little support from the current administration, ignoring the role that Israel may have played in possible war crimes in Gaza last January.  Lawmakers thoughtlessly delay any meaningful action on health care, choosing instead to compromise it into impotence; what's more, the  RNC wants to block any plan that covers abortion, even though the Republican insurance plan covers it.  Amusingly, a lot of resources are committed to prove that the 1969 Apollo moon landing was a hoax.  Meanwhile we have yet to put enough people to work to improve our infrastructure and give the economy a natural "stimulus".

--A manual by the general Services Administration shows that of the top 10 Government Agencies by annual spending, the Department of Defense, at #1, spends over 160 Billion Dollars a year.  The Department of Education, at number 10, spends only 3 billion.  Wow.  What more can one say about the character of the country, our priorities, and where we may be headed? 


  1. I feel compassion for our soldiers in Afghanistan. Much different circumstances than my father faced when he fought in WW2. As I reflect on Veterans Day, I appreciate the sacrifices all our soldiers make -- but it's all for naught today in Afghanistan ... much the same as Vietnam.

  2. I'd think you'd do well writing about the things your love.

  3. Wow, very interesting article! I don't think I've read a more compelling rambling until now. Always a pleasure to read your blogs, Tom, because like this one, you touch on so many topics that are dear to so many readers. And for the record, I don't think the moon landing was a hoax. How else would they have been able to spot the alien bases? Well done my friend!

  4. I appreciate the number of comments on this posting. Although some of these topics are outside my normal comfort zone, I felt they needed some attention, and I wanted to clear these nagging current-events cobwebs in order to see more clearly the value of writing about arts, dogs, and personal journeys. Thank you!