I bum a light off this guy in
We grab a cup of coffee and split a pack of Marlboro No. 27s. This guy just wants somebody - anybody - to listen to what he has to say. The
And the view from
This former enlisted soldier has had to listen to people who want to let them know just what they think about Abu Gharib and Gitmo. He's had to deal with people who think they know what life in
There have also been folks who've bought him drinks and wanted to know how many Iraqis he killed, wanted to wrap themselves in the same flag that has covered the coffins of so many of his former comrades. There have been friends who've assumed his tour of duty somehow resembled Halo 2 or Doom III, assumed he somehow advanced video game levels while trying to stay alive in places like
Over coffee and cigarettes, he tells me about how he's sick and tired of whiny Liberals whining about how they have too much to whine about and batshit Conservatives spreading enough guano to choke the life out of anybody’s patriotism.
He tells me how he just wants to get on with his life and to be an American again. He wants to hit a club or two, try to get laid, one day settle down, maybe have a few kids. He wants the Oakland Athletics to win a World Series. He wants to go to college, become a school teacher or work in law enforcement. He wants to be free to do, think, and believe whatever the fuck he wants without having to worry about politics.
He tells me of how Michael Moore's rhetoric turned him overnight from a registered Democrat into an independent, how sickened he was when politicians lined up like vultures to dig the political meat out of Terry Schiavo to get a few votes. He tells me about how he decided voting for the lesser of two evils was something they’d been hoping to prevent in Iraq even though it remains an accepted practice in the U.S.
The guy just needed to vent. Regardless of my stance on the
The job of
The employer of the
But that mysterious employer isn't Donald Rumsfeld. It's not George Bush, either. It's not Congress, the Pentagon brass, MoveOn.Org, or the Christian Coalition for that matter. An American has to look no further than the goddamned mirror to see who’s in charge here.
That great employer, the People, has chosen to settle for playing American Idol with the fate of the world's most powerful nation, electing middle managers and entertainers instead of electing anybody resembling a real leader. We support the political equivalents of that Bill Lumburgh guy from Office Space, people more worried about getting the reports in on time and looking competent than about actually doing anything productive.
This guy asked what I thought about
The Idea of
This idea, of course, revolves around the notion that being an American means more than just the moving of widgets, the selling and consuming of some product called
. The Idea of America is as old as the America itself, yet has been painted over by politicians, repackaged by media outlets and lobbyists, conscripted and twisted by every political action committee and lobbyist group since the birth of the country. United States
Evidence of the American Idea is everywhere, despite the best efforts of American Product advocates, who have no use for the metaphysical ideas of liberty, freedom, and justice. It exists in everything, despite the best efforts of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum advocating different versions of the same old idea of censorship.
The American Idea is a diverse collection of underlying thoughts that reflects our diversity, not some random exercise in group-think but a truly marvelous combination of moral, ethical, and legal intangibles. It is through this filter of differences that we find the heartbeat of an entire nation. Every single American has an obligation to work towards translating those intangibles into something real and something beautiful, to interpret and to evaluate and to reevaluate, to cherish and debate and to work towards a better understanding of the what constitutes this thing called the United States.
Similar to the plot of the film National Treasure (one of the vet's favorite movies), the secret to the Idea of America lies buried beneath centuries of political bullshit, hidden in ancient language, like the phrase E. Pluribus Unum - the national motto many politicos would rather see driven from the face of the earth in favor of the catchy, vote-grabbing In God We Trust.
The Idea of America is hidden in phrases like Sic Semper Tyrannis (Thus Always to Tyrants), the
state motto adopted at the insistence of Founding Father George Mason. Sic Semper Tyrannis reflects the moral and ethical principle that defines tyranny as unacceptable. It is such a powerful, simple invocation. Virginia
's motto reflects part of the American Idea. Live Free or Die, attributed to a toast written by Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark, conveys, in four simple words, the dedication all lovers of independence must accept in order to maintain freedom. Living free requires sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice is paid in human blood. New Hampshire
Aside from the idea that freedom is something that requires, at times, human sacrifice, there is the idea of rule by the people hidden somewhere in the Idea of America - Missouri's Ciceroan salus populi suprema lex esto (roughly translated as "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law"), Wyoming's simple-yet-complex Equal Rights, and Hawaii's Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono (translates from the Hawaiian as "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.")
These ideas weren't meant to be hidden. But they are no longer taught in classrooms because the fighting man or woman's Employer would rather bicker over whether or not evolution is a valid theory, or whether putting condoms in school restrooms will damn us all to hell.
The Idea of America wasn't designed to hang from a $1.99 ribbon decal on the back of a car or on some silly silicone bracelet. The Idea of America was meant to be shared, over pints of beer and cups of coffee. The
United States of Americais not some phrase on a dollar bill or some elected manager; it is as grand as Los Angelesand New York Cityand as small as Ault, Colo., and . Meherrin, Virginia
has always represented something esoteric, something magical. It is not represented by its widgets or other junk but by the substance of its thought - and the sarifices required of its men, women, and children. The language of the States is but one reflection of the hidden face of this country, the part that hasn’t been twisted into political knots, sacrificed to the American ME. America
There are folks working constantly to strip everything down into Liberal and Conservative, into
Red Statesand , us and them. This is the mentality of those who see the American Idea as a product, a registered trademark to market, repackage, and manipulate to produce some measurable profit. Blue States
The American Idea is not meant to be earned; it is meant to be shared and harvested like Nebraskan corn,
North Carolinatobacco, and peppers. It is not all-or-nothing; it exists in the metaphysical mathematics of "all-as-something." Louisiana
Regardless of my personal views or my political ideology regarding Iraq, I owe it to the men and women who eat, breathe, and sleep in lands where they could die tomorrow to vote for the best person possible, to advocate the best possible course of action, even if that means compromise.
My job, as part of the body of the American Employer, is to select leadership that will make sure that ideas likes Live Free or Die don't become jingoistic catchphrases. My duty, as a citizen of
Oxford, Butler County, Ohio, and the United States, is to insure that I never promote a vision of that leaves a veteran feeling alone in the world or as a pawn in political chess games. America
My job is to insure that those we send out to bring death to tyranny are doing so not to fix the price of oil or to cover up mistakes made by the middle management or to protect those who don't have the guts to fight for what they hold dear. My responsibility to those fighting in
and elsewhere is to insure that their service represents a diverse set of ideas, to ensure their sacrifice is required only when necessary and that anything called the PATRIOT ACT sure as hell better reflect true patriotism. My duty is to make sure that We, The People never becomes We, the Party, We, The Police State, or We, the Regime. Iraq
The duty of all Americans is to make sure that the middle managers we've put into place are representing the best of the Idea of America and not their own version of the Product of America. Every American owes that to those they employ to fight their wars, to house and care for their sick and poor, to police their neighborhoods, to educate their children. And if you're unwilling to pay that debt, then get the hell out of the kitchen so others may continue to cook up new ways to contribute to the American Idea.
If you owe your allegiances to something as silly as that Impeach Bush or that Proud to Be a Republican bumper sticker, well...don't go crying to those who've fought for you to have that right. They probably could care less about what you think anyway.
I'm guessing this is along the lines of what the Iraq War vet wanted me to write. This was basically what he and I talked about, in between our gazing at the beautiful feminine scenery native to