March 25, 2008

i tried to think of a title, but i’m drawing a blank

Posted in miscellany at 3:48 am by squishy

I guess it’s only fair that I warn you that this is not like the other posts. Like others, it is lengthy, pointless and completely gratuitous, but it is not particularly light hearted, considering the fact that it was triggered by the constant, relentless coverage of the 5th anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

* * *

The World Trade Center came down as I was suffering through what seemed like weeks of freshman orientation. The first few days were amazing, but by the 6th day or so, I no longer gave a shit. When news first broke, it sounded so surreal, so much like a horribly tasteless joke. And then we saw the infinite loop of video footage (“Oh my god! Oh my god!”) on 8 consecutive channels. You know you watch too many movies when the first time you saw that now-infamous clip, you can name 5 other scenes with planes flying into buildings. In contrast to the Hollywood slickness of computer graphics and stylized realism, the grainy video seemed so cheap in comparison. I guess it’s easier to cope if you trivialize. I certainly tried to do so. All I really remember is feeling numb.

I didn’t know anyone in Manhattan, and no one I actually knew would be affected. Along with millions of others, I had yet to fully assess the degree and magnitude of this attack.

* * *

Crisis has a distinct effect on group dynamics. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard hundreds of people crying, but if you have, you’d agree with me that it is something you hope you never experience again. I had contemplated going to my bare dorm room that still reeked of fresh paint, to my suitcases that had yet to be unpacked, but in retrospect, being alone would’ve been a terrible idea. I already felt isolated enough.

I remember clutching a skinny 18 year old boy from Connecticut whose name and face I have long forgotten, who was sobbing in shock and terror and homesickness and god knows what else. I felt an obligation to shed tears, but I was too anxious and petrified to do much else but sit, slack-jawed, while patting a stranger on the back.

I wonder where he is and what he’s doing now.

* * *

While I was enjoying my newfound freedom, sleeping through classes, Red Bulling my way through midterms, and testing the boundaries of my alcoholic tolerance and intestinal fortitude, I was vaguely aware of what the fuck Bush was doing. People seemed to like what he was doing. People seemed to be comforted by what he was saying. I was too busy, too absorbed with my own little life to pay enough attention. The daily college paper had features on each alumni that lost his/her life in the attack. I made sure I got a copy each morning, not because of these articles, but because I needed the crossword to keep me awake in class. I was in college. It was almost easy to forget what had happened in September, 2001. What did I know?

* * *

Nine eleven was George’s carte blanche, and soon, he forged ahead with the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. By this time, I was on spring break painting houses and planting trees for Habitat for Humanity in the south. We spent the morning and afternoons trying to change the world, the evenings being entertained by the charming older volunteers (who could be our grandparents), and the nights watching news coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There were about 15 of us. We didn’t know each other before the trip; perhaps that made it easier to talk politics without offending each other. One of the guys, a fourth year history major, insisted on watching Fox News (“It’s fair and unbiased!”). I think someone pelted him with mud caked shoes. That might’ve been me.

I didn’t and still don’t know enough about the war. But very few of us could’ve known it would become a bloated, aimless fuckfest of a disaster.

Then a year later, four Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah. Their bodies were burned, dragged through the streets and hung on a bridge spanning the Euphrates for public display. Someone had the foresight to videotape the killings. Media outlets prefaced photographic and video evidence with feigned agony in deciding whether or not to air the footage. The families of the four slain men sued Blackwater USA; Blackwater countersued for $10 million. Both lawsuits are outstanding.

* * *

My first presidential election was in 2004. I voted for John Edwards. And then I voted for John Kerry. I was working a double shift – the night and graveyard doozy – that Tuesday in November, and my boss had agreed to let me divide my breaks into 10 minute chunks so I could check on CNN’s coverage of the election. Every time I checked back, another state would turn red. It looked like America was hemorrhaging from the inside out.

* * *

In the four years in between, a lot has happened, but little has changed. Four thousand American soldiers have died. According to the controversial and much maligned Lancet study, over 650,000 Iraqi civilians have died. There have been multiple personnel casualties in Bush’s government. And the War still wages on.

Bush is as lame as a duck can be, whatever the hell that means. Due to, among other things, his misleading reasons for going to war, responses to the 2003 Iran earthquake and the 2004 Indian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, the US attorney dismissal kerfuffle, the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson, questionable political appointments (greatest hits include: Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, FEMA Director Michael Brown, and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers), support for the Federal Marriage Amendment and a ban on stem cell research, stubborn insistence on abstinence-only policies, excessive use of signing statements, refusal to disentangle his religion from his politics, and general inability to adapt to new situations, it’s hard for me to not think of his presidency as a relative failure. Whatever achievements he has made are far eclipsed by his downfalls. So it comes as no surprise that his approval ratings are lower than that of genital warts.  I just wonder what took us so goddamn long to come to this consensus.

His name is invoked, quite effectively, to sully the 2008 presidential candidates’ names by association. Foreign politicians have been elected into office, into presidencies, based largely on anti-American platforms.

* * *

My recollection is no doubt flawed and incomprehensive. This is not so much a historical account, but just how I remember the events and how they affected my life.

So what? What now?

So much of my adult life is intertwined with Bush, his administration and his policies. He is one of two presidents I didn’t learn about through textbooks and lectures, and he is the only president I have really known. Soon, it will be someone else. I’ve heard many, many people say any of the three candidates would do a better job. They often don’t finish the phrase because it goes without saying: “… than Bush.” It’s a sad state of affairs when the bar is set so low that one has to make a concerted effort to fail.

* * *

What now?

Here I am, up late enough to watch the BOS/OAK season opener in Tokyo, trying but failing to get 6 hours of sleep before another day at work, and all I can think about is: I wonder what it’s like to be represented by a person you voted into office, and how it feels to be proud of your president.

I’m a fucking fool, but insomnia is a son of a bitch.

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3 Comments »

  1. Jo said,

    oh my god

  2. Tina said,

    You’re not a fool. You think for yourself and thank god more people are doing it today. I remember telling my parents that Bush was going to attack Iraq and he was psycho babbling his way into their brains by mentioning Saddam every five minutes instead of Osama Bin Laden. They thought I was crazy.

    I also remember being pissed off (sometimes I still am) at the Dems in Congress for giving Bush a blank check. If I could see his idiocy, why not them when they are definitely more in the know than I am? Sheep.

    I’m putting my faith in yet another Dem. I hope he doesn’t break my heart.

  3. Brian said,

    I read your site every day, but never commented. I just want to say Amen.


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