Not My Problem

I’ve been lazy and have not replaced my bedroom’s busted ceiling fan and I prefer having a constant airflow while I fall asleep. I need to replace my sheets because the current set is just plain old and worn out. Down the hall from me, one of my roommates and his girlfriend digested TV in his room all evening. I had been sitting in bed for several hours studying managerial accounting and thinking about my relationship situation. Several topics were bouncing around in my head:

  • Cleaning the cat litter box
  • Hoping the $650 I gave my neighbor will help fix her roof after one of the trees in my yard hit her house
  • Filling up the Golf’s tank soon
  • What the hell I’ll do when I finally graduate college and leave my current job
  • A public speaking presentation on Andrew Bird for one of my classes
  • Editing and posting at least 300 pictures I took over the last few months
  • Juggling bills and my income
  • What I’ll be wearing at a theme party next weekend
  • What the deal was with the two gunshots I heard that evening

So last night I honestly had trouble sleeping. I wasn’t physically or mentally relaxed.

And what is the very first e-mail in my inbox at work this morning?

Please read and pass on

This came from a Marine unit over in Iraq … Their wish is to send it

to as many people in the country as possible.

(Be sure to read their note at the end of the e-mail).. Hopefully we can help them achieve their goal.

This is a ribbon for
soldiers fighting in Iraq . Pass it on to everyone
and pray.
Bed a
little lumpy…
Toss and
turn any….
Wish the heat was higher…
Maybe the a/c !
Wasn’t on…
Had to go to the john……
Need a drink of

troops03 troops02 troops01

Yes.. It is like that!
Count your blessings, pray for them,
Talk to your Creator
The next time when…
The other car cuts you off and you must hit the brakes,
Or you have to park a little further from Walmart than you want to be,
you’re served slightly warm food at the restaurant,
Or you’re sitting and cursing the traffic in front of you,
the shower runs out of hot water, Think of them…

Protecting your freedom!

I wrote about the total monkey-shit-flinging nonsense of soldiers protecting our freedom overseas when I discovered this most excellent Russmo cartoon a while back. The contents in the speech bubbles succinctly capture the complete absurdity of this argument in the form of a father’s letter to his son in the military:

Dear Jimmy,Hope all is well in Iraq. We are so proud of you for going over there to fight for our freedom. A lot has happened since you left…

Our home was taken by the feds for back taxes we owed, and then the family business was condemned by the city so they could build a football stadium.

Mom was arrested for carrying a gun in her purse and your brother is in prison for smoking a joint. At least your sister is okay, though she has to go to court for not wearing a seatbelt.

We wish you were here to help pay for all the legal fees, but just knowing you are over there fighting for the liberties we cherish makes it all worthwhile.

Love, Dad

In case you can’t tell, that’s the bitter sting of sarcasm, not the happy thoughts of a flag-waver. I once believed invading Iraq and Afghanistan would ultimately protect my freedom at home and I regret the public advocacy I committed for those causes. There is simply no contest between the threat American governments present to me and the threat some theocratic Muslims and totalitarian Arabs present to me. American governments actively trample basic freedoms of association and exchange as a matter of routine public policy.

It was bad enough being told from all kinds of earnest, well-meaning people that I should be grateful that tens of thousands of soldiers are risking their lives to save mine…but apparently that simply is not good enough.

I now have to stop whining about my own personal displeasures because those soldiers are stuck in conditions far shittier than mine. Stubbing my toe pales in comparison to walking ten miles in filthy boots filled with sand and sweat. Finding a decent place to eat is nothing compared to Day #274 of MREs. Trouble sleeping in a house with central air but a bedroom without a ceiling fan is a joke when people sleep in spite of mortar attacks, sunburns, the aforementioned boots, vast distances between you and loved ones, the nightmares of your friends dying in front of you, knowing your mission is tossed around like a toy in partisan pissing matches, and in spite of the fact that perhaps you only joined the Army because you wanted help paying for college. Now, you’ve lost a girlfriend, your high school crew is moving on with their lives, and you don’t trust the interpreter for your platoon.

I get all that. I get that it sucks and it’s hot and it’s dusty and it’s fucking depressing and some assholes keep planting bombs that blow sanity and bodies apart. For all those reasons and a lot more, I want those people home. I’ve wanted them home for several years, withdrawn “precipitously” and post-gawddamn-haste. The sooner the better. I’d much rather they not have to deal with post-traumatic stress and fucking amputations and arrogant officers and loser noncoms and the idea of a “vacation” neutered down to a few weeks back home before getting sent out into the shit again. For the third time.

But I refuse to abstain from dwelling on my own very present problems simply because there are others in the world who are worse off than me…and I particularly refuse to temper acknowledging my own problems on the morally fallacious grounds that unwanted sacrifice demands my humility and thanks. Sacrifice – the act of giving up something of value in exchange for an even lesser value – is rotten enough. Don’t make it worse by asserting that I ought to embrace sacrifice done in my name long after I’ve withdrawn my sanction.