A poignant, pensive day
Today started with my normal run- started here, went around the stadium and down to Gate 1 of USNA, then back around the stadium and back home (about 4 miles total). I quickly showered and set out again to the stadium to watch the start of the Ripley Race, a 5k run in honor of those who have been injured (some killed) in the last 11 yrs of continuous US combat. The pre-race pep talk was hard to take in: I'm not one for the kind of 'rah-rah' talk that seems to get others excited (much preferring instead to appeal to my intellect, reason, and argument -particularly when it comes to issues of social justice- to get me on board for a cause). That, and I'm also not in favor of mhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifany of the actions of the US military abroad (the incredible irony of "compassionate conservatism" comes to mind here- how little compassion was truly shown during the 8 yrs of George W. Bush)... I imagine this exact dilemma I've just described was one of the primary problems upon the conclusion of the Vietnam conflict: that normal citizens, not being in favor of the military action, had a hard time supporting the people involved in those actions. Plus, since the role of today's soldier (sailor, airman, etc.) is a paying one (quite well-paying, at that) - provoking mental imagery of a mercenary - I personally wrestle with bestowing the title of "hero" on the guys. This country loves that narrative, though, and it is way over-used.
However, watching the runners go by, I'm still able to quickly recall the image of one of the last 'runners' - a young guy, probably about my age, walking with two prostetic legs, being accompanied by two other young guys. I found out later that the 3 are (were) Marines, and the guy without legs was injured recently in Iraq. That's a hard image to pack away succinctly- even with some thought. Is he (the amputee) a hero? I can't help thinking "what a waste" - that his sacrifice of his legs was in vain, for a country that viewed him as an occupying force and for his own country that might be worse off in the near future (via both stirring up of additional anti-west sentiment and the huge economic deficits incurred) by his presence there. That he might not be a hero isn't an opinion very popular- but maybe if we stoped idolizing the war narrative, we'd not get in so many damn wars!
Ok, anyway, I took a few pictures of the race (attached), then came on back home. The rest of the morning and early afternoon passed uneventfully. But now I'm in a pensive mood again, spurred by 2 powerful editorials in today's New York Times. The first was written by Sarah Shourd, who recounted in vivid detail her suffering in Iran primarily through months-long periods of solitary confinement. The next recounted, again in vivid detail, the suffering of school children in Alabama who are being bullied and discriminiated against because of their immigration status (something they had nothing to do with!). Both pieces illustrate the still-ongoing depravity of mankind, and are exactly the types of intellectual appeals to my sense of justice that get me 'riled up'.
For inspiration, I got the idea to find President John Kennedy's inaugural address online and listen/read it, and just finished leading up to the typing of this post. In the address, Kennedy didn't back down from being strong militarily, but he held a powerfully nuanced view of it: (1) that the world's collective military power had the potential to wipe out humanity (Kennedy used language like "the final war", perhaps invoking WWI's "the war to end all wars", except this time nuclear war would indeed do it, b/c the species that survived it wouldn't be advanced enough to carry out any more wars), and (2) the overall vision of seguring human rights for everyone across the globe trumps everything, including our own nation's prosperity.