Tuesday, July 31, 2007

War Babies

As I’ve said before, I’m often beset with a sense of great failure as I try to lay down the tenor, tone, and timbre of these times.

Truthfully, hardly any of my fellow citizens thinks a whole lot about this war, although the polls are showing that when such thoughts as there are get polled the overwhelming sentiment is that we are accomplishing nothing and need to get out of Iraq (and with the varying resurgences of the Taliban in Afghanistan it begins to seem we are engaged in a fool’s game there, too). Cherub (George W. Bush to my blog mates), however, as lame and vicious a duck as ever occupied the White House, simply ignores these sentiments. He has the ex-boozer’s tenacity: when a good part of your life has been wasted, you brook no compromise on those things sobriety brings you, regardless of whether those things are right, wrong, prudent, foolish, heinous, deadly, naïve, hopeless, or sound.

So we worry instead about gas prices ($3.06 a gallon), the sagging housing market, the marvelous corn crop, a good portion of which is slated to be turned into ethanol because we simply will not seriously explore alternative transportation beyond our huge cars; the slumping summer movie industry which has managed to avoid having a true blockbuster hit. I’d like to, but won’t, discuss the current fiction bestseller list, loaded with mindless pap, giggly tomes of the young life, or things having to do with New York City.

We talk a lot about global warming which is generally easier to do in the summer than the winter. Still, there are droughts in the west, southwest, and southeast, and places as far north as Boise and Fargo have been baking in hundred degree heat. We have had a mild hurricane season so far, but tornadoes have wreaked their havoc from Kansas to Tennessee with lots of random stops all over the place.

Childhood obesity has gained a foothold in our attention span, probably because we are justifiably worried about our adult portions. Advertisements for food and medicine are everywhere, though we seem reluctant to admit there might be a connection between the two commodities.

On any given night on TV I can see commercials offering me a pill for my headaches; offering me a pill for my osteoarthritis; offering me a pill for my rheumatoid arthritis; offering me a pill for my sleeping; offering me a pill for my erections; offering me a pill for my restless legs; offering me a pill for my heartburn; offering me a pill for my osteoporosis; offering me a pill for my nail fungus; offering me a pill to prevent heart attacks; and offering me a pill for my depression. The beauty in all of this, of course, is that if I don’t have all or any of these ailments, it becomes increasingly difficult not to believe that I might and, thus, to seek treatment from a health professional with, hopefully, a prescription the result.

We have begun, as well, to embrace a medicinal model of food, viewing nearly everything we eat as either bad for us (i.e., causing disease) or good for us (i.e., preventing disease). Gone are the days when we simply chowed down at breakfast so as to have the energy to begin our day, or chowed down at lunch so that we might continue the day. The evening meal, too, once a time of conversation and praise and remonstrance as a family added countless increments to those steps of getting to know each other – that has given way to late hours at work, sometimes for both parents, or trips to and from soccer practice, music lessons, tennis practice, computer tutoring, SAT prep classes, and dance lessons.

Our meals now are lessons in avoiding trans fats and cholesterol-laden foods because they clog the arteries – thus, fast food is out. If I embrace a glass of red wine with my meal because it’s good for the heart (as is even the occasional cocktail), I must do so within the storm of stories about addictions of all sorts (many, though, just waiting Big Pharma’s ministrations). If a recent study says that higher doses of vitamin D can prevent multiple sclerosis, I still have to worry that my ingestion of fresh fruits and vegetables may well expose me to the horrors of E.coli.

Slim down, we’re told, excessive weight causes Type -2 diabetes, but stay away from the margarine. If I thought I found good news in that fish are low in fat and high in (good) Omega-3 fatty acids, my joy must be tempered by the fact that most fish, even farm-raised fish, tend to be horribly polluted.

So this nation at war has more stories about Rosy the Riveter’s thong panties and push-up bra from Victoria’s Secret than it does about her and her sisters marching off to Pratt and Whitney to make aircraft engines. No car tires have been sacrificed to keep this war going, and the only stamp in the news is not a ration stamp, but a “Forever” stamp guaranteed to be good no matter how much postal rates rise in the future. Our electronic devices obsess us, although the brand new iPhone from Apple has disappointed with its initial sales.

Our children during these long, hot summer days no longer play outside. It may be they are hooked on air conditioning, or it may be that the hundred and fifty million (or so) of our parents are simply terrified to let their seventy-five million (or so) children run free in their neighborhoods. Clearly, we think, a pedophile lurks behind every bush, a kidnapper behind every tree, and cars on the street are eager to find a child as target.

I am reminded of these words by D. H. Lawrence on the first page of Lady Chatterley’s Lover:

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

(from, Cherub: An Iraqi War Diary, © G. K. Wuori)


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