::keep your war on.

19 03 2008

Five years of war in Iraq.

I remember very clearly watching the start of the war on television. Seeing infra-red footage from the hotel balconies of the hundreds of journalists in Baghdad, seeing the bombs explode and hearing unconfirmed reports of civilians dieing. Excited updates from the embedded reporters, talking about leads on hard targets and troops carrying playing cards with the most-wanted memebers of the Iraqi government on their faces.

My son Liam was a week out from being born. I remember the apprehension I felt wondering how this would change his life, and the lives of so many other children born during this time. I feared the world we would give him, invading and occupying two Middle-Eastern countries at the dawn of the 21st century.

The war has been in his reality his whole life. His uncle spent a year in Iraq, served with honor and came back unsure how to cope with domestic bliss. His grandmother, a Major in the Air Force Reserves, spent 6 months in Afghanistan. She wrote out greeting cards in advance to all of her children and grandchildren, for all the birthdays and holidays, and instructed her husband on when they were to be sent. She also served with honor, and came home with inexplicable crying fits and a distance between herself and everyone around her that, nearly a year later, is wider than ever.

He takes notice of it on the news now, as well, and has questions about the war and what it means. Sometimes he reminds me of that old commericial for the Time-Life books on the Vietnam War.

“…Not a child’s question, but a question a child might ask…”

Maybe we’ll be able to order books or DVDs or some shit for them on the subject some day, paying for it all in easy monthly payments.

Speaking of paying for it all, according to NationalPriorities.org, California residents alone have spent over 66 billion dollars on the war since it started. To give an example of how the money could be otherwise spent, that could send 9,947,258 students in college to California for free. Maybe more, since one of the other costs of the war has been the tanking of the US and world economy. Then again, maybe less, because as I’m sure our fine President would point out, that kind of money poured into education would only make the US more appealing to all those illegal immigrants who sneak across the border and steal our best jobs.

Zachary, my oldest, turns 13 on Easter Sunday. He’s always been aware of the war. He has played games at school reliving the invasion and the capture of Saddam Hussein. In between making jokes about our Lord and Savior turning into a brain-eating zombie for his birthday, and jokes about bacon crucifix and scone effigy centerpieces, he has asked how old he will be when he has to go off to war. The answer is one I’m not ashamed to tell him.

If McCain is elected, he won’t turn 15 as a US resident.

It is a luxury I realize I’m very lucky to have. How many Iraqi children have died instead of turning 5? How many have experienced the terror of soldiers bursting into their homes and shoving rifles in their faces? How many have lost their brothers and fathers and uncles to shouting monsters who steal them away in the middle of the night?

So happy birthday, America. And happy birthday, Iraq.

Make a wish.



p.s. – To the five or so of you wondering where the fuck I’ve been? Got hit by a truck, laid off, into therapy, looking for a job, loving my kids, rebuilding my marriage.

It was a wee bit overwhelming, so the blog fell by the wayside.


::9/11 Remodeled

11 09 2007

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to write for this September 11th for a week or so now. I’m sick to death of politics lately, though, and I really didn’t care to have an entry centered around the Surge or the Senate hearings with General Petraeus, or the latest stupid thing Dubya’s handlers are shaking their heads over.

You can’t talk about September 11th, 2001 without talking about Iraq, no matter how linked they aren’t, and I think anyone who’s read more than two entries is probably pretty clear on how I feel about George dubya.

And what if we disregard Iraq completely and force it out of the conversation like the redheaded stepchild that it is? Then we are left with talking about the new fascism: wiretaps, detainments, deportations, Gitmo, no-fly lists, and whether or not breast milk is a dangerous liquid that should be banned from flights.


So yeah, trying to think of something to say about 9/11 without talking about all that bullshit. Hadn’t really thought of anything.

I thought also about writing about how September 11th really effected me more than I thought it would in the months after that day. Like how every time I happen to look at the clock and see 9:11, I tense up and I feel a lump in my stomach. I don’t know the story behind that one.

I watched Flight 93 on cable the other night. I haven’t cried during a movie in years. Years, I tell you. And not because I try to be some tough guy jagoff who claims to not cry in movies, either. Wanna know something? I cry during TV weddings. Real weddings, too. Even if I don’t like one or more of the people doing the deed. But TV weddings get me too, every time. I don’t have to like them either.

Anyway, Flight 93. I cried, and I really, really didn’t expect to. I didn’t expect there to be such a portrayal of the fear and bravery and simple humanity of those people. I didn’t expect the terrorists to be somewhat human, and they were. To see their own fear of what they were doing was as painful as it was to see everyone else’s fear of what was being done.

I’ve rambled this far and all I’ve really said is that I can’t think of what to say and terrorism is bad.

So anyway.

I got home from work, and went out into the front yard with the two little boys to give The Missus a break for a little while, and all of a sudden Liam decided he wanted to ride his bike. We got him a bike back in March for his 4th birthday, and he’s been a little intimidated by it. He’s only ridden it 2 or 3 times. I don’t want to force the issue and make him learn to ride it. There’s no fun in that. And learning to ride your bike should be fun, so he’ll do it as his own pace.

But today he wanted to ride his bike. So we got it out and washed off the dust and cobwebs, cleaned the helmet and pumped up the tires. Off we went down the street and around the block.

He was very tentative at first, not wanting me to take my hands off the handlebars, and letting out a little whimper with each teeter onto the training wheels. I convinced him he needed to take his eyes off his feet and look where he was going shortly before we got to the corner. Which, being able to see it, he rounded like a pro.

He got a little further, sped up to the point where I let go but stuck close, and then suddenly shouted out, “Yeah for me! I’m doing it! I’m steering!”

I gave him some encouragement of some kind, and then, he said it.

What did he say, you ask?

Almost shaking on the bike with excitement and frothing at the mouth, Liam said:


And I’ll be damned if he’s wrong.

We continue loops around the block for over an hour, with him sometimes having as much as half a block lead on me on looking back.

So fuck September 11th, 2001 and all of it’s tragedy and fascism and machismo and death.

September 11, 2007 is the day my kid decided to learn how to ride his bike.


the best day ever.



::have you ever been convicted of a felony? If no, please explain.

17 08 2007

So, justice has been served once again, kiddies, and we can all rest easier.

Jose Padilla was convicted yesterday of supporting terrorism. The main piece of evidence against him was apparently a job application he filled out for attending an al-Qaida training camp.

What does a terrorist application look like?



::five years on

11 09 2006

The thing I remember most strikingly about September 11th, 2001 and the days that immediately followed is the silence of the sky.  US air space was closed to all traffic on the morning of September 11th, and the ban held for something like a week.  It left the night sky eerily empty quiet.  Quiet in the way a person in shock is quiet.  The way a person will sit in stunned silence trying to wrap their minds around what their eyes are telling them as they stare a gaping whole in their body or the empty space where a limb used to be.

At the time, we lived just a few miles from a moderately busy regional airport, and regularly could see larger planes flying over on their way to or from Sacramento International Airport.  Sometimes we would even see training flights from the former Mather Air Force Base, which still had a sizable amount of military activity despite the majority of the base being closed and turned over to civilian activities. 

I sat outside that night smoking and looking to that pitch black night sky, and wondering if there would be some semblance of hope in the stars that had not yet emerged to poke through the glow of the city.  I mourned for my country–something I hadn’t really ever done before–and I mourned for the innocence lost and the terrible hatred brewing out of it.

There used to be a guy from the Nation of Islam who would stand outside the door to the supermarket up the road from me on Tuesdays.  He’d hand out his paper and talk to whoever wanted to talk to him, though he kept conversation with non-blacks to a minimum.  I’d waive at him whenever I saw him, which was often.  I went to the supermarket late on that afternoon to get a bottle of wine.  I remember how much I wanted to have a drink and just get some  of the tension out of my neck.  He was there, standing behind his table with his news papers spread out, rigid and defiant.  Maybe a little scared.  I’d already heard reports on the news of people who appeared to be middle-eastern getting jumped, shop owners running out and buying every American flag they could get their hands on.  One Sikh convenience store owner in Arizona or New Mexico had already been beaten to death, and the sun hadn’t even gone down yet. 

I walked up and told him that he needed to pack up and get out of here as fast as he could.  He stared at me for a second, trying to read me and trying to decide which rehearsed response he would use.  He started to say something and I cut him off.  People are going crazy with rage, I remember telling him.  They are looking to avenge thousands of deaths, and right now every Muslim on the planet is responsible for those deaths.  Today is not the day to be out here.  Today is not the day to fight this fight.  I went inside before he had a chance to say anything, and he was gone when I came out 10 minutes later. 

Two more years I lived there, and I never saw him again.

My semblance of hope came two and half years later with the birth of our second son, Liam.  He was born two days after the Iraq war started.  Talking to my wife on the couch in the early morning on the day he was born, we wondered what we were bringing him into.  Wondered how we would protect him from it and not allow him to be tainted by it.  We are still trying to do that, every day.  Not just with him, but his older brother Zachary, and their baby brother Elliot.  

Zachary has now lived half of his life under the shadow of war–he’s got an uncle who spent a year in combat in Iraq and he hears every single day about death and destruction and mayhem.  He doesn’t understand it, and he asks questions often.  Sometimes they are very detailed questions about very specific things–strategy or weaponry or some such thing.  Sometimes the questions are much more general and impossible to really answer.  Questions like, Who is actually stupid enough to think that any good will ever come from a war?  When he asks these questions, he is pissed off, and the edge in his voice is sharp.

I used to try and defend the last resort of war in some way.  I would remind him of our trip to Germany in the winter of 2003, and of our trip to Dachau.  I would point out the millions who died in the Holocaust, and that millions more would have died–could maybe still be dying today–if war had not liberated the camps. 

The last time I used this argument, he was disgusted with me, and it showed. 

“That is a fluke and a cop out,” he said, almost spitting, he was so mad. 

“You’re right, at some level.”

I don’t try to answer the questions anymore when they come so angrily.  I just hope for him and the others that war doesn’t forever silence and darken their skies.