I didn’t write about Veteran’s Day on Veteran’s Day. I wanted to make sure that whatever I wrote truly was sincere. And, please, I have written something like this sentence about five times trying to find the least “foot in the mouth” method for this. I am NOT attacking anyone. I am NOT saying that any person was lacking in sincerity. This is just me and my stupid foibles.
All right. If anyone is still offended, you need a shoe thrown at you. And here they are.
Now that we are past the point where people might be having hangnail Is she talking about me? moment, let’s get to the meat of this blog post.
I was not a nice teenager daughter to my father. I’ve written about this before, but in case you need a reminder, here it is (and if you didn’t feel free to skim or ignore). My dad was in the military. And I, being incredibly stupid and narcissistic, called my dad “Warmonger.” Not knowing what it is but figuring that it was a pretty hefty insult to toss at my dad who was doing nothing more than trying to keep the country safe during the Cold War. I said this to him about fifteen years after he spent a year in Thailand during the end of the Vietnam War. I said this to him not knowing how horrible the Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned from the war. Because, hey, Freedom of Insults is a good thing, right?
I believe in Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Press. I do not believe in Freedom of Cruelty and Freedom of Saying-Mean-Things-And-Using-the-Constitution-to-Defend-Myself. I do not believe in ad hominem attacks. The My Lai massacre was horrible. I teach it as a reminder to students that we must think before we act or attack. I do not condone the atrocities committed against innocent civilians.
But I do not condone the massive outpouring of hatred against men and women who had served our country and were innocent of the crimes against humanity that had been committed by others. Furthermore, let’s scratch the history lens a little and remember that actions had been committed which had led to other actions.
But I’m getting away from myself. I’m soapboxing and I don’t want to cause pain or hurt. I want to say thank you.
I’m not good at writing thank you cards. Sometimes, I worry that I’m writing a formula message which will not convey the depths of my emotions (and I seem to have a very deep reservoir of emotions which makes me seem over-dramatic and insincere which really frustrates me).
I had done a lot of damage to my relationship with my father. And I didn’t know how to get past it. And then I met Dave, my Big Daddy.
I had read and started teaching Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and my eyes were ripped open. I saw, finally what had happened and I saw, finally, the impact of words and animosity. I saw that I was wrong and that I was stupid.
I met a Vietnam Veteran in Florida and asked him if he thought that veterans would be willing to talk to my students. And he nearly jumped out of his skin with enthusiasm (see….over-dramatic). So I followed his suggestions and I contacted the local chapter of the Vietnam Veteran’s Association of America. And a lovely gentleman came to my trailer and talked. And talked. And talked.
He has been coming to my classroom, every year, for a decade. He has brought his brothers in arms. He has taken my family and me on a journey to see the Seabees memorial and the Vietnam Memorial in DC. He has given me gifts more precious than any financial measurement. He gave me my relationship with my father.
A week ago, my Big Daddy invited me to hear him speak at his church. He compared and contrasted the service of the military to serving the Lord. He talked about the armor of God. He talked about the soldier’s interpretation of the 23rd Psalm. He talked about the sound of bees flying past his head only to realize that they were bullets.
He wept once, twice, maybe more. I forced myself to keep strong, to keep stoic.
Two days ago, I was watching the news and watched the breaking coverage of the attacks in Paris. I have been to Paris once. I don’t remember much about it. But I know that it is a city that is intended to a sanctuary of peace, of art, of culture and life. Not a mortuary. Not a place where temporary morgues are set up on the street.
Possibly as the attacks were happening, the BBC reporters in their home stations were talking live (via phones) to people, asking them about what it looked like. Asking them to count the bodies on the street.
What the hell? The man’s voice (the man in Paris on the phone) was trembling. He and his wife had narrowly escaped being gunned down. And they were asked to do a body count? Not to help with the investigation. But for….information? For ratings?
The next morning, Saturday in my world dawned with brilliant sunlight and cool temperatures. Saturday morning in my world was peaceful and quiet and uninterrupted by grieving and mourning. And as I logged on to the internet, my homepage was NPR and was filled with reports about Paris. About the body count which had surged from 10 the night before to 127 people. To descriptions of the attacks at a rock concert and hostages who were mowed down.
These details were in counter point to an NPR study about fifteen year-old girls living in different parts of the world. This study was to break down the stereotypes that exist about young women living in third-world countries. At least one was married. At least one slept in a hut during her menstrual cycle. Others discussed how they were not obligated to live by societal standards that were considered to be barbaric by the rest of the world.
Right now, my daughter is sitting in my office with me. She’s going through a cookbook, finding recipes for our dinners this week. She’s wearing her wookie pajamas and mis-matched socks. I’m writing this blog and soon I’ll be publishing it. The only anxiety I have about writing this is that someone is going to misunderstand what I’m writing and will be angry and will write something ugly to me. Yes, I have that anxiety. Judge me.
But I’m not afraid of people storming my house to kill me. I recently read reports about a blogger in Bangladesh (please, I hope I’m right) who was killed because people didn’t like what he was writing.
I’m living in a country where the last real terrorist attack on our soil was….fourteen years ago. And my memories are still brilliant and poignant. My children have no understanding. And I’m grateful for their emotional naiveté.
The attacks in Paris were barbaric. They are also similar to the attacks that have been happening in Jordan. They are also similar to the suicide bombing attacks that have been happening in other parts of the world. By the way, I haven’t had a chance to fact-check so please don’t get mad at me if my information is all messed up.
Because what I’m trying to say is “Thank you Dad.” “Thank you Big Daddy.” Thank you for giving me a world in which I can live without fear. A world that is quiet and peaceful. Thank you.