Sometimes life offers perfect examples of juxtaposition—gut-grabbing juxtaposition. I was sitting in Borders and reading the latest edition of Newsweek, Voices of the Fallen: The Iraq War in the Words of the Dead, when in walked a perfectly-uniformed Marine recruiter with a 17 or 18 year-old pimply-faced kid.
So I listened to the recruiter’s spiel as I read accounts from fallen soldiers and cried. (I’ve taken to wondering what the Borders people think of me, what with tears in my eyes nearly every day from what I read!)
With great style, Smith described his life in Iraq:
Hot. Overworked. Temper Short. Iraqis stupid. Hajji trying to blow me up. Insert new date and repeat.
Mundell talked about morale and attitude of the troops:
It’s just that things look a lot different down here at the point of “W”’s spear. The ones at home rattling the loudest saber aren’t here helping load dead kids into an ambulance. WE are. And that just sucks, I gotta tell you.
And here’s one of the many that made me choke up:
I’m going to need a lot of support from you guys when I get home. I have accepted the fact that any day I’m here could be the day I die. That doesn’t bother me anymore… I’ve had RPGs fly within inches of me. I’ve seen the guys they’ve hit. It blew them to pieces. We literally had to move rocks and debris to find hands, legs and other parts so we could send them home.
Anna Quindlen also has a fantastic essay in this edition of Newsweek, too, called The Weight of What-If, which talks about the effects of war on people, families, countries, the world.
From the snug harbor of their settled lives, people like to torture themselves a little with the specter of what-ifs, which is why so many still watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every year at Christmastime. A different school, a different job, a different town, a different choice. One brick out of the wall, and the whole thing tumbles. The randomness of life is disconcerting.
I haven't bought a magazine in years. I bought this one.
The pimply-faced kid seemed excited, albeit so damn young. But war has always been fought by the young, and I’m not in the mood to talk about whether or not we should be there. The views of the soldiers range just as much as the views here at home.
My point is, I feel like I often lose perspective of the world, like “my” world gets real small and the little annoyances in “my” world get really big. And then I blink and look outside my circle and feel really stupid. Just really dumb.
How do you maintain perspective?