Posted tagged ‘Fort Hood’


November 11, 2009

It’s Veteran’s Day.

To regular readers of this blog, I  suggest that you might skip the last post.  (It was done just past midnight this morning,  yes, about Robsten, I couldn’t resist.)

Go instead to the post immediately before about Fort Hood and the internal distance from the military felt especially in those formed by the 60s/early 70’s:…fter-fort-hood/

Thanks for reading.

Somehow Less Far After Fort Hood

November 10, 2009

Listening to Obama at Ford Hood, I am struck by his praise for all those soldiers who willingly put themselves in harm’s way.   Of course, I’ve heard it before, but the tragedy and the sheer length of our continuing conflicts, put it in a different light.

I am a child of the 60s (even more than Obama.  He was simply born in the 60’s;  I could walk and talk throughout that whole decade.)  I was a teen of the 70’s.  I remember Kent State well.  I was actually present when Nixon’s helicopter took off from the South Lawn.  My brother had a lottery number and, though my father was a veteran of two wars, Sweden was not an absolutely unthinkable option.

As a result of these factors, and despite spending a significant and very pleasant part of my childhood recreational life at officer’s club pools, a discomfort with the military runs deep in me.

I’ll add, in my personal defense, (i) that I’ve frequently been impressed by individual soldiers;  (ii) that I deeply loved the stiff attention of  checkpoint guards at air force bases, and the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  I also feel great sympathy for the economic and human strain felt by military families.

But there’s always been this 60’s thing going on in the back of my head.  Distance.  Discomfort.   The praise of politicians for our men and women in uniform sounded artificial to me.  I’ve felt, or imagined, the distance in many of those politicians too, both conservative and liberal ones.

Reading and thinking about the Fort Hood victims has brought me up short.

For one thing, it’s made me remember a couple of busloads of GIs we ran into in Chinatown (NYC) a few months after 9/11.  It was late on a Friday night, and a great line of very young men and women in combat fatigues, with a large automatic weapon slung on each back, trooped down the stairs of each bus, and continued on down the stairwell of the Canal Street subway stop.

We had been about to say good night to a ninth grade friend of my daughter’s who had planned to take the train at that same station.  But, hey, I’m a New Yorker.   So I  stopped one of the soldiers, and asked why they were there.

“We’re here to keep you safe,” she said, without missing a beat.

We walked our young friend to the next station on that line.  Not exactly because I doubted the soldiers, but because I didn’t feel great about putting our young friend in a train car in which every other passenger carried an M-16.   But what I worry that I truly wanted was to put more distance between him and them, between me and them.

I’m still not convinced of the helpfulness of a bunch of M-16s on a subway car.  But tonight I feel a much more present and intense gratitude to those soldiers.  I doubt if many were New Yorkers;  the subway system alone must have felt alien to them, and, after both 9/11 and the anthrax scare,  threatening.

But there they were, trooping earnestly down the stairs.  Some, I’m sure, trooped on to Afghanistan, Iraq.  Some may still be there; or some remnant of them may be.

Putting aside questions of policy—it makes me sorely regret my distance, and theirs.

Context – World Series, Fort Hood, Obama’s Remarks

November 5, 2009

The effect of context.   As some ManicDDaily readers may recall, I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to Game 1 of the World Series last week.  As grateful as I was, the combination of Cliff Lee (the Phillie’s amazing pitcher), a wet, cold night, and the materialism and misogyny of a small set of other Yankees’ fans, made the evening a bit of a bummer.

What amazed me this morning was how much better that Game 1 experience felt in light of the Yankees’ overall Series’ triumph.  It was like the Yankees had once more pulled a difficult game out of the hat, only this time it was a game that they had actually lost, and the “pulling” was all done retrospectively.  Now, Game 1 feels simply like one more step on the Yankees’ journey towards victory—a lesson of, and for, New York–a lesson in resilience.

Since thinking all these grandiose thoughts about the Yankees, the horrible events at Fort Hood, Texas have taken place. Sport seems trivial compared to loss of life.  Nearly everything seems trivial when compared to terrible events of this kind, which, unfortunately, are all too common in today’s world.

Obama spoke about the tragedy in the context of a planned speech at a conference concerning Native Americans.   I had not seen Obama’s remarks earlier in the day,  so looked for them this evening online.  What was (sort of) amazing to me is that on youtube, at least, there was already a fair amount of negative commentary about Obama’s sober words, mainly because, since they were given in the midst of a planned speech, they followed introductory thanks to conference organizers and attendees, including a special acknowledgement (“shout-out”) to  one Congressional medal of honor winner.    The negative internet commentary viewed this introductory “shout-out” to the medal of honor winner (who I presume was at one time a soldier) as disrespectful to the current soldiers who were today’s victims.

I admit that the term “shout-out” was not a good choice.  (I’m guessing that part had been planned, like my Yankees’ bit, before the Fort Hood events transpired, and that Obama simply wanted not to forget to acknowledge the medal of honor winner.) However, Obama’s actual remarks, which immediately followed his introductory thanks, were grave and prayerful.  Which again brings up the issue of context.  Viewers expect that Obama is addressing everything he says to the world of TV.  But in this case, the guy is also speaking to a live audience.  People actually sitting in front of him, who have come with a detailed and specific agenda.   The fact that Obama politely acknowledged and thanked these people, before turning to the events at Fort Hood, seems to be a product of a methodical and polite nature, and not reflective of any lack of concern or gravity.  Certainly, this type of polite remark seems trivial in the face of the terrible events of earlier in the day;  just as tomorrow’s parade for the Yankees will seem ridiculous in the context of such horrible events.   It is just this shifting context of the horrible and wonderful, tragic and trivial, extraordinary and commonplace, polite and brutal, that makes up our lives.    Nothing just stops.

I’m guessing that we will hear more about Obama’s speech.   In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible event, and their grieving families.