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Commentary: Posturepedic Mourning

By Tom Dodge, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX –

I've seen the war photos making the rounds via e-mail. They are not the hideous images of Fahrenheit 9/11, those considered by the media too "graphic" for our pampered sensibilities. These are rather American soldiers in Iraq, in full fatigues and weaponry, trying desperately to sleep in ditches, gullies, on hillsides, on piles of rocks, in the sand. They look miserable and forlorn.

The caption is, "How was your sleep last night?"

I was saddened by the photos, not just for the soldiers, but for America. These soldiers have not been maimed or killed, but are experiencing a life without the luxuries we take for granted. Their reward for enduring such hardship, if they return home alive, will not be money or even medical benefits, for, as one general has said, "The military is not a charitable organization." There will be little money and less medical care. Their reward will be, ironically, something greater. Their war experience will enable them to endure any hardships that civilian life might throw at them. They will return home to beds too soft, food too rich, and the room temperature too cold. Many will view with disdain our obsession with gay nuptials, the Ten Commandments, and the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance.

We ourselves, on the other hand, those of us who have not lost children, friends, or relatives over there, will have learned nothing from this war and will be no more equipped to prevent future ones or endure hardship than before. We have not experienced it, even in the minutest fashion as did, say, those on the "home front" of World War II. There is no home front, no rationing of food and gasoline. There are no night blackouts, no volunteers folding bandages, no Victory Gardens, no War Bonds, no long lines of young draftees in every county seat boarding buses bound for boot camp.

Except for the latter, these efforts were mostly symbolic. The tin cans and empty toothpaste tubes collected, the bandages rolled, newspapers bundled and recycled, padlocks collected and melted down, and vegetables harvested mainly gave civilians a small sense of participation. But it wasn't the clubwomen's home-cooked gingerbread that saved Tibet, suggested Alistair Cooke wryly.

No, it was the taxpayers, as it is in all wars, who financed every beachhead and every hill taken. These symbolic efforts were rather designed to help ease the guilt of those at home for living so well while their children died and those who survived did so with such terrible deprivation. Other than display American flags, made in Taiwan, more than likely, on our cars, maybe made in Japan, we do little today even symbolically to give of ourselves in any concerted way. And our taxes, we are now told, may have been used to blow up the wrong country.

Is this any way to wage war? Those at home always need ways to allay survivor's guilt. Yet, today, as soldiers die we grow so fat that we need SUVs to carry us around. Shoppers, some of them weighing hundreds of pounds, trample one another in stores in order to buy a CD player for fifty dollars. These shoppers may be seen in the market pushing grocery carts so laden with cases of Cokes and Dr Peppers that you expect the stores to soon be providing motorized carts to accommodate such tonnage. Some states have summer brownouts because we must have cold air at all times to prevent a single drop of perspiration from showing up anywhere on our tender bodies.

So, how are we sleeping? With the weight of unrequited guilt, I would think.


Tom Dodge is a writer from Midlothian. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.