A few years ago (nearly 10), I had a rather nasty break-up. I found myself engaging in and fascinated by rock climbing, rappelling, free climbing, and hiking. I became obsessed by it, it occupied most of my waking moments when I wasn’t at work. I trained for it when I exercised, pull-ups, abdominals, squats, running for cardio vascular endurance. I lived to climb, my fingers had muscles, I particularly enjoyed free climbing. It was like a physical logic problem to me. It was not that I was trying to die, quite the contrary. I was remembering what it means to be alive. I remember being stuck on a physical logic problem and hanging there about 45 meters above the ground. I clung to an outcropping about half an inch thick, four fingers kept me glued to life. To lose my grip meant a quick trip to what lies beyond. I remember how much my middle finger mattered; there was a small pebble under the very tip of my finger and it became the center of my universe. To me it was all that was of consequence in my life. Not the nasty break-up (with Pi), not the betrayal of a dear friend, not my own shallow immaturity, none of that mattered to me, the only thing that mattered was that damned pebble under my finger. I couldn’t move my fingers at all, I was stuck there for about 2 minutes, deciding what to do. It seemed like forever, then the simplicity of it all hit me as I heard a falcon over head. The only way out is through. Simple to think, and easier to say, yet to survive this I had to go up, over and through. I have come to understand that life is not nearly as simple as that. Yet, isn’t it? Why are things needlessly complicated in life, in society, in all aspects of the human endeavor?
The only way out is through, that means forward. In our absence these many months, our lives here in Baghdad have been simple. It can be summed up in a sentence; Do your job, if you make it home alive never forget, ever. Yet we watch the news here and read of dissention in our cities, people protesting against the war, calling the President of the United States names. “Dude where’s my country?” JFK starred down the barrel of nuclear war, and he didn’t even blink. FDR faced the possibility of losing to the Nazi’s and the forces of darkness, and he didn’t flinch. What happened to us, have we gotten so pampered, so soft that “hope” has replaced determination to persevere? Has, naiveté replaced understanding that the world is full of darkness and unless you stand up to it, you will be trampled by it. It is not for me to say that this war is wrong or right. I am here and despite my feelings I serve with men and women who face this emptiness, this decaying of the soul daily with a fortitude that has kept our nation free for 230 years. If the best that America has to offer is here, then what is there now? What home do we have to come home to?
Forgive the drama, it is purely perceptual. I don’t see my Grandmother on the news telling me she misses me, I see the honorable Mrs. or Mr. accusing the President and his administration of this or that, I see the sacrifices of men and women here in Iraq and Afghanistan being used as a maneuver piece on the chess board of the American political landscape. Each time I watch the news, and see what is going on in my country, it saddens me. I have spent 17 years (nearly) in service to this nation, and for me my return signifies nothing. For my job won’t be done. Service is sacrifice. Yes, yes now I see that clearly. Love is sacrifice, and I do so love my country. But the lines of division grow wider by the day, and that cannot stand. We are all children of the framers, and united by their revolution. A liberal is not the opposite of a conservative, and vice versa. It is possible to live in both of those worlds and be reasonable. It is more apropos to say that reason is the opposite of extremism on either side of the isle. If so, where are the reasonable?