I'm proud, of course, of my brother, and my father, and all the generations of military men before them. I know they served out of love for this country, and they did so with courage and dedication- and my brother, of course, still does so.
Sibling spent a year and four months in Iraq, but there's an entire decade of our lives I associate with the war. We watched it begin, and then we waited before his deployment, and then there was that, and then the aftermath... And sometimes the aftermath creeps back into my day to day life- as I'm sure it does, far more often, into his- and that's something I don't think I'll be able to write about properly for a long time.
My NaNoWriMo novel is based on part of our shared experience of the war- his deployed, mine on the homefront- and it's... cathartic. It's also reminding me of things I hadn't thought about in ages. Like I went and found Jay's old blog on the wayback machine to check a particular sequence of events. He deployed for the second time shortly after Sibling came home, which was also around the time we could barely be civil to one another, but I could at least read what he had to say and know that he was all right.
Rereading those entries is a trip. I'd like to excerpt one from December 14, 2007 here because Jay had a philosopher's mind, and he used it to write a rather fascinating reflection on our generation at war:
It's a bizzare thing, to be a member of the Army that bombs the base first, then stays on for years to finance and construct and improve a newer and (hopefully) better one: new sites built right next to the old sites that we destroyed, sometimes on the same foundations with similar materials. We're not the first to do it, of course. The greatest empires of the past had the same policy: subdue, destroy, build, incorporate. We're just the first to do it while being surprised that it's not cheap or easy.
Or maybe it's not that; maybe it's rather that we don't like being an empire and doing imperial things. It sounds very un-American, and I guess until recently it was. Past generations could excuse it if it was necessary to fight evil people who were stronger than we were, but ours will have to decide whether we want to do it just out of principle. I think about this a lot, because one on hand I have great firsthand faith in the goodness of America, and believe that even at our worst we are still at our best. We take responsibility for fixing everything, and feel guilty for doing it at the same time. It's kind of endearing, like King Kong trying to fall in love and rebuild Tokyo all at once, while unfailingly stubbing his toes on the skyscrapers. Thus, AIDS in Africa is our problem, and we're not doing enough, and hunger in Asia is our problem, and we're not doing enough, and then there's Darfur and Tibet and Kyoto and all the angry people who hate us for being us, and somehow, it all must come back to us, because it must. Because we have so much, and others have so little, and fundamentally that's just not alright with us.
On the other hand, though, I think because of all this I have a growing suspicion that my generation really doesn't want to be a superpower. We have been raised with a vague notion that America is sort of a bad country that does sort of bad things, and that people sort of don't like us, and we are a generation that really wants to be liked. So much so that we would rather try to be liked and fail and be insignificant, than not try at all. When people my age ask how Iraq is going, I detect an unspoken wince in the question: how bad are we really screwing up the world? But at the same time, I think they know we're not a bad people. We have good hearts. They just need to believe it, and I don't know if that belief will win out in the end. It seems too much to risk, at times, and we'd rather everyone spend Christmas at home every year, and not be responsible for killing anyone, even bad people, and at the end of the day be able to say that for all the problems in the world, at least we never claimed to have the answers. Because once you say that you think you do, you can be judged for your performance. But no one judges the country that doesn't try. It's a page of history that no one will ever write.
Someone will write about us, though, if not by name. I wrote earlier that I'm still sorting out what it means for me to have come from a family of soldiers, but there's a broader sorting out that will have to happen for everyone in my generation. Someday- maybe not soon, but someday- we will all have to look back and come to terms with who we were during the war.