Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's Always 'Over There'

I was browsing through the US History section in the local Barnes and Noble bookstore in search of books on the American Civil War. Couldn't find any. A bit perplexed, I asked the store attendant who happened to be nearby. She told me to look up. Turns out that the American Civil War enjoys its own section with an extensive collection of books under its own sign.

According to Barnes and Noble, there are two facets of American history:  the Civil War and everything else.


Thanks to Amber, I have been following this blog kept by a soldier named Nate currently on a tour in Iraq.

You should really read it.

His tone and outlook have grown increasingly dark and somber with time, but he somehow has managed to philosophize the madness around him and expresses quite eloquently the pervasive sense of powerlessness.

This excerpt from his most recent entry caught my attention. Please do not skimp over it as we tend to do with extensive quotes.

When we return, we will attempt to fit back into a world nearly as fast paced as the one we currently inhabit, back into commercial America, the world of malls, fashions, parties and stock markets; back into the world of unlimited prosperity. We will attempt to go back to church, wondering if the preacher in the pulpit talking about poverty in some far country has ever smelled the stench of human feces in open trenches, or seen the look of hopelessness in the eyes of black-clad women walking war-rubbled streets;

The world Nate gives us a quick glimpse into has gotten me to think about what most of us as American civilians have never experienced.

Think about it.

America stands practically alone in the world as a nation whose living citizens have never seen a war ravage their own homeland. The last war on US soil took place 150 years ago. In contrast, the rest of the world saw two epic world wars, and countless bloody conflicts in the last century.

It's always over there.

Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on the Iraq war, don't you think that grossly distorts our thinking?

Our soldiers will return with harrowing stories of courage and survival in the coming years. We will thank them and listen to their stories. After all, they are our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends and fellow Americans.

But how about the civilians caught in the war and their stories? What will come of the black-clad women Nate saw walking war-rubbled streets? What will come of their look of hopelessness? One day the war will end, and we will assume that they will picked up the pieces and moved on.

And get over it.

Well, how well have we gotten over the last war to ravage American soil? The bitter legacy of the Civil War still lives on. The rancorous debate over the Confederate flag still touches raw nerves. The names of the Northern generals still invoke strong emotions in many parts of the South. And according to Barnes and Noble, the prominence of the Civil War in our history demands its own corner.

And that war ended nearly 150 years ago.


At July 12, 2007 5:33 AM, Blogger Bruce said...

Good thoughts David. Well said.


At July 12, 2007 6:56 AM, Blogger Mike Y said...

Powerful imagery from Nate.

With respect to the Civil War, I think it seems so foreign for so many reasons. It's the epitome of revisionist history. The whys and hows have been so re-written that it's very difficult to sort out what the war was truly about.

At July 12, 2007 7:40 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Thanks Bruce.

Mike, I agree. We know that the winner always gets to write history which is why it seems that the good guys always win.

At July 12, 2007 8:21 AM, Blogger Amber said...

Good point David. I have never thought about it like that, but I think you are absolutely right.

At July 12, 2007 9:52 AM, Blogger Barbara (aka Layla) said...

This is a perspective I never thought of either. Thanks for this thought provoking post. What a reminder of how blessed we are...and of the pettiness of some of our concerns here.

At July 12, 2007 10:15 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Thanks Barbara and Amber.

My own parents lived through the Korean war as children, and it was one thing that they would rather not talk about. I learned early on that there is nothing to romanticize about war.

At July 12, 2007 3:40 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

I am not saying this is unique to America. It's the exact opposite.

Here we are, still licking wounds from a 150 year old war, but somehow we expect that people we go to war with to just move on.

So no, I don't think we disagree.

At July 13, 2007 11:11 AM, Blogger J.OTIS MERSTER said...

Thank you for sharing those profound thoughts with us.

At July 13, 2007 11:36 AM, Blogger L-girl said...

Thanks for this, David.

I do think that a big reason Americans can be so nonchalant about war is that they don't experience it. That's one reason the veterans against the war movement is so powerful.

It's no coincidence that after 9/11, the rest of the country was all hot to run off to war - but New Yorkers were almost unanimously against the war. Living with the destruction and devastation caused by just one day is enough. As we used to say, in Iraq, every day is 9/11.

At July 13, 2007 11:37 AM, Blogger L-girl said...

There are many great blogs from Iraq, by the way. The best I've seen is Baghdad Burning.

At July 13, 2007 11:48 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Great point about New York, Laura.

When North Korea was mouthing off, it was interesting to contrast the insane war talk from the US with South Korea and Japan's push for diplomacy.

The fact is, SK and Japan were more in danger than the States, but the Bush administration knew better, obviously.

At July 13, 2007 7:40 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

That's why people say the only way to stop the US from invading is to actually have nuclear weapons. Clearly they don't want to tangle with North Korea.

No oil there, anyway.

At July 13, 2007 7:43 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

I have posed this question to my pro-Iraq war friends.

If we had the equal chance of coming under attack when we invaded Iraq (and I am not talking about random terrorist attacks), would you have supported the war?

That Hussein had no chance of retaliating on US soil was a huge factor whether people want to admit it or not.

At July 13, 2007 7:45 PM, Anonymous Susanna said...

Yeah. That. Good point, David.

'Nuff said.

At July 15, 2007 9:13 PM, Blogger Gary Means said...

Perhaps more Americans will have firsthand experience with the death and destruction of war if Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff's "gut feeling" about the strong possibility ofAl-Qaeda attacks this summer turns out to be based on hard evidence. But he hasn't provided an explanation for his gut feeling to Representative Thompson, the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Some on the far right contend that there are 7 cities targeted: New York, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, Boston, Houston, and Los Angeles. They also purport that the Saudi intelligence service believes that Osama has between 40 and 70 former Soviet tactical nukes, and that 12 to 15 of them are fully assembled. Most terrorist experts affiliated with the Democrats and Republicans discount these claims. But then again, Bill Clinton and George Bush didn't believe (based on their response) the reports they received about Bin Laden either. At least not until 9/11.

I hope that Chertoff's gut feeling is just something dietary.

At July 15, 2007 9:39 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Gary, this sounds terrible, but all the cities you mention including Houston are libural meccas, and their destruction is the far right's dream. So what are they so worried about?

At July 16, 2007 9:19 AM, Blogger wagamama said...

My cousin joined the Army a few weeks ago. I must admit, I was shocked at first, but I am very proud of him and admire him!

At July 16, 2007 9:47 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Your cousin or "cousin"?

Yeah, that kids still sign up is very shocking in light of what is going on, and I am proud of them too. I can only hope the government take better care of them.

At July 16, 2007 1:57 PM, Blogger SUPER said...

So I shouldn't have read this today...because today..."over there" relates to Africa...since Amy left for "over there" today.

I'll have to come back and reread this later!

At July 17, 2007 9:39 AM, Blogger John Hubers said...

Brilliantly said, David. Being untouched by war means it has an illusory quality to it enhanced by the fact that most Americans experience reality less as a tangible encounter than as fictionalized narrative on screens. What is happening to the Iraqis is filtered through this illusory reality.

If it doesn't happen on CNN does it happen?

At July 17, 2007 8:11 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Hey John, great to hear from you.

And a fantastic parody of the CNN motto.

At July 19, 2007 7:50 PM, Blogger Friar Tuck said...

This is why I sometimes say that 9-11 is so overdone and overrated. We are spoiled rotten, and what we experienced on September 11, many nations experience once or several times each year.

At July 20, 2007 8:47 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said...

Awesome post.

At August 06, 2007 6:22 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

Hey David, you still blogging?

Friar Tuck, excellent comment. In fact, for many people (in Iraq, for example), 9/11 is every day.


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