A clean, well-lit place to vent
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Sunday's "Are we still there?" strip expresses the lack of interest among most of us for the fate of our military. Do we all have something more important to do? Someone else can face the danger, someone else can feel the pain, someone else can volunteer to sleep out in the rain. Someone else can face the bullets, someone else can face the bombs, someone else can do the dying like they did in Vietnam.
I returned from Vietnam in '69. I recieved my first "Thank You" in 2004 from someone other than my immediate family. However, as with most Vietnam vets (and, I think, current vets) I rarely mentioned that I was a vet. I'm glad to see the gratitude and appreciation for those who are currently serving or recently served their country.
As a Vietnam veteran I am always honored to meet the young men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have as a group been the most gracious when meeting those from my war. Not a phony moment passes when anyone from these two eras meet. That they are my heroes goes without saying.
The British used to fight their colonial wars with an army made up of men that the public could get sentimental about but didn't really care about. That's what Nixon had in mind when he ended the draft 40 years ago, and it's worked out pretty much the way he figured it would.
Maybe it's where I live, maybe it's from raising chickens. The term I use is "flustercluck."
Being of the Viet Nam Vet generation (I didn't receive a "Welcome Home" until 1999) I applaud the honesty of this strip. I wonder what we have learned about the service member we send so far from home, placed in harm's way and then promptly relegated to the back burner of our attention. Politics of this conflict aside, these are our children, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, classmates, students, teachers that are facing hardship, danger, and loneliness in a scary place because we asked them to do it! Please remember what they are giving us.
In comparing public attitudes toward the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam keep in mind that the press had a much freer hand in Vietnam, so the public was far more informed. It was Poppy Bush who first decided we should be protected from seeing the Gulf War as anything but a video game, and Shrub didn't want us to see bodies coming home. The public chooses the leaders, but we don't choose what they let us know.
What kept support for the Afghanistan war up was not the lack of a draft (we had one during Vietnam, and that war lasted ten years), but the lack of a dead Osama bin Laden. Ever since OBL was killed, support has dropped dramatically, to the point where the "Get out now" vote is louder than ever. Also, whatever perceived good might come out of a draft doesn't make up for the injustice of coercing young men to kill or be killed in a war of choice. It is a categorical evil to do so, whatever the intended results. It is no different than putting a gun to someone's head to get what you want.
There is a good lesson in the subtext of Sunday's strip. When I was in the Army stationed in Korea and Germany, I loved to hear something, anything, from home. We all lived for that. Even the most mundane news was welcome. So if you know a service member in Afghanistan, send him or her a card or letter or e-mail, or give them a call. They will be thrilled with anything they get.
As a Viet Nam vet I think it's ironic that returning Iraq and Afghan vets receive so much attention and big welcome ceremonies -- well deserved mind you -- and yet the general public, as so well pointed out in today's strip, remain basically ignorant of what's happening over there. The public seemed much better informed back in '69 when I came home to a group of protesters spitting at us and calling us baby killers. That unpopular war was on everybody's mind. The only ones to greet me were my mother and father.
Mel's story today is heartbreaking, but as a Viet Nam vet, I can relate: it was 20 years after I came home from Quang Tri before anybody actually said "Thank you," and that was my company commander at a unit reunion at Camp Lejeune. I've had two people say that to me since then. But in the 60s, at least people acknowledged that there actually was a war going on. Not now. It's just a vague annoyance while our guys still are dying or trying to recover and get a job. Shameful.
Wow. Today's strip hit home like a ton of bricks. The youngest is still at it, has been since 2005. He is raising his hand to take the oath again this August. I could count on one fingerless hand the number of times anyone has asked about him. I did have one 'friend' inform me that she knew just how I felt, as her son had served during the the first Gulf War -- all ten days of it. Thank you GBT and crew so much for reminding folks that America still has skin in the game. Too bad that skin belongs to a small group of us. As to the rest of the general populace, that final panel nailed it.
"Wait, we're still there?" Classic, GBT. I heard that when I was on leave from Afghanistan in 2005, and then heard it twice again when I was about to head to Iraq in 2009 and then 2010. It's troubling enough in that it indicates a lack of understanding of US foreign policy, but there's more. Americans continue to use "we" when referring to US military deployments despite general disinterest in the continuing policies that send the All Volunteer Force overseas. If it was truly "we", with shared societal stake and interest in these deployments, I can't imagine that the war in Afghanistan would have continued this long.
The call for the passport is a bigger issue than son over father. it's the direction the country is headed.
I wonder how long Mr. Trudeau will be writing the strip. It will take Jeff at least twenty years to grow up at the rate he's going. It would be easier to kill him. That shouldn't be hard. I have some really good ideas.
Jeff takes some pretty hard hits on this forum, but in a larger sense, he has done what we always hope for our children: that they surpass their parents. So what if it's based on a fiction, and that in only a few cycles Jeff will be back playing video games at home?
Jeff has all the humanity of a ferret. Regardless of his noble fantasies, he is, in practice, just a self-serving animal. But as much as I'd like to see him flop on his belly and crawl into a hole, he just may be succeeding. There are quite a few actual people, some well-known in the arts, who, like Jeff, lack emotional depth and complexity, functional human compassion, breadth of experience and understanding, who nonetheless manage to secure a gold pile by their singular wits, certain luck, and a bold sense that their most infantile fantasies may be shamelessly articulated. Others, likewise regressed but not so bold, will identify with them, with those dreams, and pay good money to share in the glow. And God help the woman who should fall for such a load!
It's a little mind-blowing to see how much emotion and empathy is invested in these fictional characters. Having said that, I find myself feeling very sad for the toxic build-up that is Rick's and Jeff's relationship. I've seen that father/son dynamic way too much -- there's no real communication there, just a poisonous, passive-aggressive competition that, while depicted with a wicked wit, is damn near tragic. This whole story arc depresses the hell out of me. (Alex and Leo, on the other hand, I cannot get enough of! Please can we have some more?)
Wake up, Rick. Your grown son wants to spend time with you doing something that you both love, together. Put aside the mutual condescension. When your young man says "Hey Dad, wanna hang out and write?" the answer is "Yes, Son."
Jeff turns his Sorkh Razil fantasy into a paying proposition? Fine. Why not? Accept it as justification for blind, fatuous arrogance? Gedoutahere!
Many of the responses to Jeff's financial success are founded in a desire to see "good" rewarded and "bad" punished. Where justice is discussed, a judgement is usually made. I prefer to take the stance of Clint Eastwood's character in "The Unforgiven." He is about to gun down the bad sherriff, who pleads "I dont deserve to die!" Clint's response: "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."