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.