Monday, September 25, 2006

September 25 Musings from Shouz, all points on the spectrum.

Furry animals: Some are really great; some are really not so great. These puppies are about 8 weeks old I think, they have been adopted by some of the cooks, and spend the day around my building as it has a fence. They are way cute, and I of course find myself playing with them, cutting up meat for them, and bringing them more food from dinner. They are awesome.

Mice unfortunately while cute, are a hazard that needs to be dealt with. We have one mouse trap on the post that I have found; here is a thought for you. When a mouse gets hit by the trap, at most it lives for a few moments, some are lucky enough not to even know what happens they just reach for the cheese, and find themselves talking to 72 virgins, or the mice equivalent. Glue boards have become popular, I am not sure why, but I can tell you they are not humane. The mouse doesn’t come close to dying instantly, or at all, and you have no idea how long he may have been stuck there when you find him. From a marketing perspective of course, they are great, buy stock in them, it is a one use and dispose of product. If I were a mouse I would rather get the trap then the glue board.

Okay, this is too funny; I was going to take this whole part out as to morbid, and besides, what would you think of how I spend my time. But then I read the back of a glue trap, tell me this is not humorous.

“HUMANE CONCERNS: Animals may be freed as follows: Release animals approximately one mile from home to prevent re-entry. Check traps daily or when noise is noted. Use heavy duty industrial rubber gloves to remove animals from traps, using vegetable or mineral oil and hold trap upside down over a 5 gallon bucket. With a pencil, apply light pressure to animal and release into bucket. For additional information please contact…..” Okay, that is a direct quote, I didn’t make it up. I am not naming the company because then they might get irritated. Please, really. Buy an 89 cent glue board, a 4 dollar- 5 gallon bucket, 2 dollars worth of industrial heavy duty rubber gloves, and a pencil; I think eraser end would be better by the way. Use some of your vegetable oil. Then take said mouse 1 mile from home. (You may find yourself near another home, but that will be on your conscience not theirs.) Release. Wow, if that is not priceless, I just don’t know what is.

Today started at 0300, That is “oh my goodness it is early” for most of you, myself included; when I have to wake up that early, I end up waking up at 0130, then 0200, then 0245. I really don’t think I need an alarm, but I have a cool one that works on my computer; there is nothing quite like waking up to Guns N Roses “Civil War”. We moved out and cordoned off the southern sector of a little town where a bad dude has one of his homes, another unit searched the compounds, and we did not turn him up. There wasn’t a huge expectation that we would, but I am sure he will get the message that about a hundred guys were in the neighborhood looking for him. I am sure that will raise his popularity with his neighbors.

I found out I might be moving back to Shindand, nothing for sure yet, but it is a possibility. That led me to reflect on how I felt when I found out I was coming here; I was apprehensive, there was no real intelligence about the area, and most of what there was I have found to be overblown if not out right wrong. It may have been correct when it was developed, but over time things change and it didn’t appear to hold true when I arrived. We started out with two officers here, and that changed almost a month ago, and now they correctly believe it can be done with one. So, when the next company rotates down I expect I will rotate up. That has its positives and negatives, the gym up there is much better, but here I was the guy in charge, things change, and I wasn’t really in charge down here anyway, just the one to be held responsible for actions down here. But you know I have an ego, and I did enjoy it while it lasted.

In its own little way, this experience has been much like life in general; facing new unknown situations, with eagerness for the challenge and apprehension of the unknown; developing information through experience, and forming a new understanding of life, which mostly means seeing how the tools you already had, fit the problems you didn’t know you had. I can’t speak for the soldiers, who are mortared and rocketed on a regular basis, but I have read some of their letters and notes, and frankly, we are not really good at living in perpetual fear of the possibility of dying unpleasantly. No one in the city on a motor cycle fears getting spread out on the pavement on a daily basis; if they did they would ride the bus. Soldiers become somewhat matter of fact about the risks inherent in dealing with their situation, I read one soldiers letter that basically could set her time by mortars in Iraq, and the biggest issue with them was that they interrupted a meal. That isn’t of course the entire spectrum of emotions, but you get the point.

I am too moderate a person( I can hear you laughing) to have long conversations anymore with people who have taken the extreme positions, particularly the “These people are _____ “fill in your own adjective here, extremes. Unfortunately our collective toleration for cultures other than our own is not particularly high. I have taken to discussing records with some of my soldiers, you know, the old 45’s and 78’s. I asked a couple what a 78 was and what a 45 was, and they had no clue at all; I asked them if they were insane, how could they not know what it was, it was so basic. Then I tried to get them to understand the parallels between their lack of knowledge of that aspect of music, which is just a generation or two behind them, and develop an understanding of how the people from this culture would have a completely different frame of reference. For those of you who have had to listen to me talk about budgets, or other things I get agitated about, you can feel the appropriate amount of sympathy for the poor unfortunates.
I don’t know if they get it, but I do know I think it is my job to challenge the narrow mindedness that can all too easily slip into bigotry.

Mostly these people have the same hopes and desires as we do, with a different set of circumstances to deal with. That doesn’t mean that they want to go on a cruise and will be dreadfully disappointed if they don’t get to. It means they want their families healthy and strong, their future clearly laid out as best as it can be, and they want to enjoy life. Many of these people would be ecstatic if one of their children made it all the way through the 12th grade. That would be a modern miracle. Some would be happy if the school was close enough that their child could darken its door.

Okay, I started short and ended long, and as Robin Williams would say, "thats good if your in Vietnam in the jungle, but not when your rambiling on".


Jeff said...

"Unfortunately our collective toleration for cultures other than our own is not particularly high."


As I've said many, many time, I don't care what you do until what you're doing interferes with my life. Period.

If you ask for help, then I can be a very generous person. But then, I don't recall the Afghan's or the Iragi's asking for our "help". They seem to think that they're life is just peachy and we're trying to force our un-holy lifestyle on them. That's certainly a reason that I'm not all gung ho about troops in the middle east....

Alice Widman said...

Hi Keith,
Alice here.I don't know Jeff, but I do disagree with him. I taught Critical Thinking for the last 10 years, and I spent most of my time trying to "open" the minds of my adult students (a lot of them military). It's still amazing to me how many hold such narrow ideas of other kinds of lives and cultures. I can't imagine how we get that way, so complacent with our (the only) way of life! I applaud what you're doing and I support you completely. I'll keep up the work here to help you along.
Keep Safe! Love, Alice

winesaavy said...

You may be happy to know that my son Sgt Thomason USMC is there even as I type. He is continuing the education and training of Afghani police. I, as most people, had no clue that your training was anything other than military. How I learned it is quite the opposite! God Bless and thank you for your service. I too am a northwesterner. Walla Walla to be exact. If you happen to ever check this can rest assured that your foundations laid in Shouz as been expanded and they have air conditioning now! Larry