Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Thought on Postwar

The Vietnam War fascinates me.  It classified a generation as either patriots who went (or tried to go) or protesters who stayed (or went out of cowardice).  More than that, it delineated the soldiers' lives into pre-war and post-war.  These young men, most younger than me, were a thousand miles from home, fighting a war, trying to deal with the reality that their lives could end at any moment.  And for what?  They hoped they were fighting for a good cause.  But back home, like Colonel Jessup says, civilians couldn't handle the truth of Vietnam.  So they protested.  These young men, some probably as (physically) young as 19 years old when they came back, were called baby killers and war criminals, maybe even terrorists.  All the while thinking, "I didn't really want to go.  I got drafted.  A man goes when he's called."

But I had never thought about the impact of the war on the Vietnamese.  While our returning soldiers play tragic heroes shafted by the hand life dealt them, the Vietnamese play the role of the unseen housemaid, cleaning up our messes without recognition or apology.  As Paul Theroux writes in To the Ends of the Earth:

From the train, I could turn my eyes to the mountains and almost forget the country's name, but the truth was closer and cruel: the Vietnamese had been damaged and then abandoned, almost as if, dressed in our clothes, they had been mistaken for us and shot at; as if, just when they had come to believe that we were identified with them, we had bolted.  It was not that simple, but it was nearer to describing that sad history than the urgent opinions of anguished Americans who, stropping Occam's Razor, classified the war as a string of atrocities, a series of purely political errors, or a piece of interrupted heroism.  The tragedy was that we had come, and, from the beginning, had not planned to stay: Danang was to be proof of that.

*  *  *

In a sense . . . all that remained of the American stake in the war [is] degenerate sentiment, boozy fears, and simplifications.

I don't have strong opinions about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, and I'm not trying to say that we should make foreign policy based solely on the impact of that policy on others.  But I think the contrast is telling.  While the Vietnamese try to rebuild their literally war-torn country, we Americans drive in our air-conditioned cars down our only occasionally potholed streets, trying not to think about it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ian "Rickey Henderson" Kinsler

I like Ian Kinsler more and more every day:

Ian Kinsler homered on the first pitch he saw from Rays starter Edwin Jackson (9-8), who lost for the first time in five starts.

I love leadoff home runs, and I love the Rangers winning.  I think that's all that needs to be said.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rangers (and their fans) Are Awesome

Fascinating.  Yahoo! published a Forbes article describing a study that shows that:

Cubs fans are some of the most loyal in baseball.

But they’re no Texas Rangers fans, who flock to the Arlington ballpark through last place finishes and playoff runs alike. The Ranger faithful don’t care if the team trades away its best players or spends $252 million to sign an MVP-caliber batter like Alex Rodriguez. No team’s attendance is less tied to its on the field performance than the Rangers’, and nowhere else in the country do fans peel off at a slower rate when the club has thin years.

Bam.  Just so my fellow Rangers fans can brag, the ranking was about like this:

  1. 1.  Rangers
  2. 2.  Red Sox
  3. 3.  Braves
  4. 4.  Cubs
  5. 5.  Pirates
  6. 6.  Blue Jays
  7. 7.  Brewers
  8. 8.  Cardinals
  9. 9.  Orioles
  10. 10.  Padres
  11. [unknown, but includes the Dodgers, Giants, Royals, White Sox, Reds]
  12. 16.  Marines
  13. 17.  Mets
  14. 18.  Indians
  15. 19.  Astros
  16. 20.  Yankees
  17. 21.  Phillies
  18. 22.  Twins
  19. 23.  A's
  20. 24.  Tigers
  21. 25.  Angels
  22. The Expos/Nationals, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays, and Rockies were ignored for insufficient data.

You see---it takes a real baseball fan to love the Rangers.  The rest of you are fair weather fans.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Genesis of a Weekend

It's funny how sometimes life feels like a movie written by some really fantastic director.  Friday, I walked out the doors at work into a light, drizzly, showery rain that felt too cold for early August.  It was the kind of rain where it's too wet to put up your umbrella, but you feel foolish holding it over your head.  Even when you open it, you still get wet from about your shoulders down.  The sky was grey and the wind was chilly.

I walked the block-and-a-half to the Metro stop, trying to decide whether to open my umbrella or not.  At the top of the escalators that go down to the platform, the homeless man with eight phonebooks (as a bed?) was covering himself in a trash bag cut like a poncho.  That stop doesn't have any kind of a portico, so the early August sleet didn't stop until I reached the platform.  By then, I was damp enough to be slightly miserable.  I boarded the train a few minutes later, and read a paragraph or two in my too-hard-to-read-on-the-train book.  I got off at my stop twenty minutes later, and climbed up the escalator to my neighborhood.

And the sky was a deep oceanic blue.  A few pretty clouds dotted the sky like South Pacific islands.  The wind blew warm.  The people around me smiled at nothing.  My steps got lighter, and my weekend began.