Monday, August 13, 2007

An Anecdote

When I left the Army the first time around, I said my farewell to my army colleagues at a traditional Army get together appropriately named a "Hail and Farewell". Most units have one of these parties every 2 or 3 months to welcome newcomers and send old friends on their way.

At such events departing officers typically get the chance to make a little speech to the crowd. As those of you who know me well can attest, I enjoy giving little speeches.

For example: When I was promoted to first lieutenant--another speech worthy event in the Army's eyes--I asked my fellow lieutenants up in Alaska to give me a list of 5 words that I would have to incorporate into the speech. The catch? I wouldn't look at the list until I was in front of the battalion and it was my turn to speak. True to my word, I improvised the promotion speech on the spot, and I used all 5 of those words in the process. To tell you the truth, I can't remember a single one of those words now--but I do still remember the stifled laughs of my peers, and the befuddled look of my battalion commander.

Back to the speech I gave when I left the Army the first time. It was nothing so flashy or outrageous as the promotion speech. I don't remember much of what I said in this speech either, other than thanking everyone I'd worked with, and Lauren, who was in attendance that afternoon. But as I concluded the speech, I ended on a little line that I had prepared.

"Peace in the middle east, no blood for oil, I'm out!"

This line drew hoots and applause. Soldiers who knew me, and my sense of humor, appreciated the irony of these statements. I shook hands on my way out, and I listened politely to the speeches of the other departing officers.

I found out about 6 months later that at least one wife in the crowd was deeply offended by my remarks. In her mind, I was making light of the danger that her husband had faced in Iraq. And of course, she was right. I was making a joke about the situation, which is and was as big part of my leadership style.

Aunt Terry, I think, is reacting to my general tone in much the same way as that Army wife. I haven't said anything that is specifically negative about Iraq--about the situation there, about military and political progress, etc. I think opinions on those matters are for each of us to figure out on our own. What I do, however, is make snide remarks using made-up phrases like "neo-global islamo-fascism". Does this humor betray my underlying views on the efficacy of our nation's current strategy? Or of the underlying premise/justification of a Long War to end/mitigate global terrorism's impact? I imagine that it might. But more than that, such language pokes fun at the propaganda and sloganeering that so often serves to replace popular dialogue about the situation in the middle east.

Because really, what's more absurd--that we're waging a war to end "neo-global islamo-fascism" or that what we're doing in Iraq is somehow related to trading blood for oil? Each phrase represents a gross simplification and (in my opinion) misrepresentation of the actual situation in the middle east.


Christopher said...

I remember two of the words -
"flamer" for sure, cause that's what you called me, and I'm still offended haha. And I think "tea bag" was another one. I might be wrong.
I'm enjoying your blog, dude! Keep it up.

Jason Goldman said...

Thanks so much for articulating some of the thinking behind your blog. Getting to see parts of your individual experience has really helped me understand how at least one person in the military feels about the war.

Those of us without a personal connection to the war are surrounded by generalizations that make it understandable only in aggregate facts. I'm very thankful to have your point of view.

Mark said...

Andrew, In response to your Aunt's comments. As a parent I would have to say the feelings are far deeper than the writings on your blog. (which are amusing and thoughtful) here's one of my old stories to explain;
As a young YMCA director I was asked to provide information to parents about how we provided swiming lessons, Well upon seeing what I produced my boss laughed and told me that once I was a parent I would "get it". Of course I rejected that idea at once, BUT as a parent I can tell you time and time again he was right. Everything is different once they are your children. So perhaps her comments are really less about you and more about her son. Just a thought, as I do not know your Aunt Terry, (but she has great judgement since she said Lauren is a wonderful girl!)
Keep up the Blog and your spirits, you have already shown your character by showing up, while others sit it out.
how does one sign these things??

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