Monday, August 29, 2011

September 2011

My last post was of found memories from just after 9/11/01. This post takes up the newspaperman's question ten years on:

When you think of 9/11's psychic effects on Hawai`i, what do you think?

I think of a conversation at the playground, not long after 9/11. Two mothers and their kids, Bryant and I and our son. “We've got to get Saddam Hussein,” they said. “Watching too much Fox,” Bryant responded, later on.

I think of my husband hanging up loudly on one of his oldest friends. “He's been drinking the right wing cool-aid.” That was not long after 9/11. They've never spoken since, though I'm distant facebook friends with the man's wife.

I think of the story a graduate student told me, of how he moved to a hostel when he first came to Hawai`i. His two roommates were both vets in treatment for PTSD. One told him simply, "don't startle me." The other one slept in his keflar vest every night.

I think of the graduate student I saw weeping in the hallway, how I thought perhaps she'd broken up with a boyfriend. Later, someone said her best high school friend had been killed in Iraq.

I think of my older students and parents of soccer teammates of my daughter whose spouses are far away and who are doing their best to keep things together.

I think of the obligation to send these men and women off well. “Cheer for Lauren's dad,” the soccer players are told.

I think of the day I approached the cashier at Times Supermarket and she asked if I “wanted to support the troops” by buying a yellow ribbon magnet for my car.

I think of a friend who stole such ribbons off other peoples' cars and made a Lynndie England silhouette out of them. Thumbs up!

I think I first notice Fox News on at Kaiser when I take Sangha in for his check-ups. I keep noticing Fox, ask them to turn to another station. When the World Cup is on, I ask to see that instead.

I think of the air shows over Kane`ohe, the Thunderbirds coming in low over Kahekili as I drive my car home, the jets shaking our townhouse in Ahuimanu, the neighbors coming out to watch. I hear myself saying “I hate them,” as I lift my chin to watch.

I think of a former neighbor, Intel officer with several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt. We'd talked easily about politics. On his return from Afghanistan he told us a story as we walked back from our kids' school; he's ordered an Afghan man shot (“he wasn't acting like a friend”). The man survived. He was a “friend.”

I think of another morning when he and I walked back from the school and I started talking to him about politics. His face looked different from before. He turned to look at me, said: “that would mean talking about politics, and I can't (or was it “won't”?) do that any more.”

I think of a colleague asking me if this meant the world would be forever different. Not a question, really, but a wry wondering remark.

I think it's hard to talk to people who don't agree about politics. I remember my mother's neighbor telling me we can only talk about my mother now.

I think of how my mother would cut people off if their politics got too right-wing. I think about how her wings began to change oddly when she got Alzheimer's.

I think about how, when I travel, active military are asked to get in line first. Why not teachers, electricians, plumbers, poets, physicists?

I think of how I think about “correcting” student work when they write about “defending our freedom.” “Cliche,” I write in the margin, but that doesn't quite cover it.

My son, Sangha, is now 12 years old. He loves Airsoft battles and sometimes his friend (who left Hawai`i with his parents when the economy went south) brought over the Playstation and they play hours of Halo.

I think of the effects of all these separations and losses on all of us. There is a lot of grief out there. And it cannot be compensated for through the phrases I sometimes hear, like "fighting/dying for our freedom." Abstractions simply cannot bear the weight of so much loss.

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