Friday 14 March 2008

Junk Food for our Minds

Yesterday I saw an article in a newspaper about a 19 year old Texas teenager who will become only the second female soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest medal for valor. She saved the lives of fellow soldiers after a roadside bomb tore through a convoy of trucks. After the explosion, which wounded five soldiers in her unit, she ran through insurgent gunfire and used her body to shield wounded comrades as mortars fell less than 100 yards away.

That's brave I thought before my eyes quickly glanced at the next headline about whether 26 year old Britney had split from her latest paparazzi boyfriend or how 48 year old Spitzer's downfall was creating a music career upswing for the call girl involved. All of it disposable news. All replaced by some other headlines in a few hours time. None of it I am sad to say meant a great deal to me. I feel numb to any news reports as though I am somehow removed from it all.

Late last night I thought some more about that young girl laying her body over wounded soldiers to protect them from gun fire. She is 19. That is heroic indeed. Not long finished high school. I thought about what I was doing when I was 19. The worst part of my day may have been that a finger nail broke, I had to study for a college exam or I didn't have a thing to wear out. Life was pretty carefree. This soldier is younger than my daughter.

Why do we become immune to the bad stuff? I know I have. Why aren't we marching in the streets given we know there was no valid reason to go to war and the world was lied to? A US military study has just officially acknowledged for the first time yesterday that Saddam Hussein had no direct ties to al-Qaida, undercutting the Bush administration's central case for war with Iraq. Why do we accept thousands of human beings with beating hearts just like ours are being used as cannon fodder, five years on? Are we just so over it all that familiarity breeds contempt?

I also just saw an email from a soldier in Iraq (although the internet has just been cut off so things can't be good there at the moment...),who cannot believe the range of food on offer in the camps. This is a war where soldiers get to eat Burger King, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Many soldiers gain more than 15 pounds on a deployment apparently. They are also seeing soldiers return from Iraq with higher cholesterol, mostly due to their eating habits. This is aside from any emotional issues they may have to deal with. How awfully civilised and well planned for the long haul it all seems. Seems like we are caring for them in every way we can. It is surreal. If the bullets don't kill them the junk food may. How disposable life is.

We live, to a large extent cocooned within our own worlds where all the hard facts are obscured, outsourced, offshored, prettied up or hidden away and locked down. Think about it. We fight all our wars over the horizon. We even tow our prisoners or even our refugees offshore. We outsource the care of our aged, frail and mentally ill. We do death and bereavement at a distance. We dispose of our waste where it's out of sight and hopefully out of mind. Then we get told what those in power want us to hear. And we believe it because we don't feel we have any options.

Then, when the truth is staring us in the face, we choose to make comfortable abstractions about all these tough facts of life, so they never really touch us. Well it's not ok to be comfortable and to rewrite history to help us sleep better at night. As my friend says, if you bury your head in the sand all others will see is an arse. We need to feel uncomfortable about what is going on around us. We need to clean up the junk we see, hear and taste.

This 19 year old teenager has really given me food for thought. Perhaps we all need to be just that much braver. It reminds me of a song I used to like in the 80s, I was only 19 by Aussie band Redgum. It's about the Vietnam War. No winners, ever.

What were you doing when you were 19? What are you going to do now?


  1. Very thought provoking article. When I was 19 I was in the U.S.M.C. Perhaps this is why I have a very different take on the war than do you. I support it and feel it was absolutely necessary.

    I wanted to point out what the article did say about the Pentagon study. Here is a quote.

    "The Pentagon study based on more than 600,000 documents recovered after US and UK troops toppled Hussein in 2003, discovered "no 'smoking gun' (ie, direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaida", its authors wrote."

    It is important to remember one crucial fact about each of these entities. First, Al Qaeda isn't a country. Hence, there is much less documentation as to what they do. The second applies to both. Saddam and Al Qaeda were both very secretive. So should we be surprised that no smoking gun exists?

    We live in a society where you have to sign to buy a pack of gum with a credit card. Many countries don't have this high level of documentation... especially when they don't want information becoming public.

    My point is, the fact that nothing was found doesn't mean that nothing was there.

    But I do greatly appreciate the article. Nice to see someone giving recognition to the troops who fight the war, without regard to one's personal opinion about the war. Good post.

  2. Thanks Steve. I am sure with your experience you would have a different take than me. Its important that everyone talks about the issues and we all listen
    I know that decisions have to be made quickly but I dont think that excuses the 900 plus lies told by the administration to the public about the war. This war was not recommended by the Generals who are the 'war professionals' but by politicians with other things on their mind. I would not hang a man based on what I think is the right thing, I would have to be sure I had the evidence. Its not like Hussein just started up his little killing machine. The issue is the Coalitionof countries have started something they cannot stop now, they cannot just pull out and leave the death and destruction behind. We are all touched by this war in ways some of us may not even comprehend yet. You may know about war but I know about oil. This war was about oil and greed and nothing more. It's the soldiers who are indeed the brave ones and who will carry the can. I love your blog by the way!


Thanks for your comments.