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November 23, 2003
LONDON CALLING II: THE OTHER SIDE OF TRAFALGARBy Greyhawk
Meet Colin Gregory Palmer:
After graduating from high school, I enrolled at SUNY Geneseo, in upstate New York.
A nice young man, and humble in not outright including himself as one of the intelligent, for from his writing one gets the impression he would be justified to do so. Let's learn more:
I eventually added a second major in sociology, and it was the best decision I made in college. It helped me better understand the environment I grew up in and to see the larger picture of the world. My political views on many subjects did a complete reversal. I've been unable to watch television since. It's great.
Indoctrination, anyone? Really, when I was in my late teens/early twenties, in post-draft, post-Vietnam America "cults" were the great threat to youth; young disaffected people much too savvy to be swayed by foolish ideas who 10-20 years earlier would have joined the hippies in San Fran were being snapped up by "religious" leaders who would "help them better understand the environment they grew up in and to see the larger picture of the world. Their political views on many subjects did a complete reversal." Echoes of such statements always set the alarm buzz off in the back of my mind.
Continuing, Colin tells us
I moved to London to attend the London Metropolitan University to obtain a masters in international economics and trade. It sounds like a plan, but I really have no idea what I want to do with my life. Sometimes I worry about the future, but I try not to. As Oscar Wilde says: Life is too important to be taken seriously.
We can check back with Colin in 20 years as to that last line, but for now let's assume his motivation is something other then to emulate a former president, that he is not a brainwashed product of lefty sociology professors desperately trying to re-ignite the passions of their youths, and instead is merely a young man on a voyage of discovery, out to broaden his horizons and see the wide, wide world.
Including the "big" anti-American demonstrations coinciding with his president's visit to London:
George Bush made me do it.
Young Colin is going to provide a participant's viewpoint into the demonstrations for us. I will tell you right away that his report is characterized by thoughtful commentary and his personal views are not unusual for someone young and in his position. He is candid and without guile, thus he does not even realize those passages in his story that strip bare the ludicrous position of the left and give insight into the motivations that really drive their 'movement':
We rounded the first street corner, and there was the media. Dozens of video cameras were carefully aligned an the same side of the street so as not to film each other. I'm used to watching events unfold on television - not being part of them.
Disappointed, Colin? It's because you passed the moment the parade was designed for without fully realizing it. That stumbling lock-step pass before the cameras was the sole reason the various fringe groups had you in the streets that day.
Overcoming his dismay, Colin presses on and even manages to inject some humor into his account:
I wandered off, and noticed that the fountains at Trafalgar Square were turning a deep, blood red. I went over to investigate. When I reached the edge of the pools it seemed that someone dumped a large amount of red powder in the water. I got some of it on my hands.
I'm sure the painted fountain won't be the only mess left by the "friends of the working class" for them to clean. But I told you this was a sharp young man, so now see how he turned his misfortune to a positive experience. Returning to Trafalgar our hero obtains a piece of chalk:
I picked out a clean spot on the ground and scrawled in large, capital letters: "I am American. Bush has covered my hands with blood." I removed my gloves and sat behind the words in had written.
Iraqis dipped into shredders this week: 0. Does the Left have a definition of "evil"? Most lefties I know choose to deny the inconvenient existence of absolute good and evil. Once he approaches realization that good has triumphed over evil in Iraq I'm worried Colin may choose to deny the existence of evil too. No doubt his sociology profs will explain it too him.
Of course that was the small protest; the next day brought the real deal; "The Mother of All Bush Bashings":
At 12:00 I went to Russell Square to meet with the American expatriates against Bush. I went for two reasons: I didn't want to be the only American in what I anticipated would be a vast crowd of people; and, I heard that we were to be one of the groups leading the protest. I figured, if I'm going to do this, I might as well go all the way and be front and center.
"Here are ze approved signs. Verily thou shalt hold no others. Swap amongst yourselves until you feel validated"
... Among us was as US World War II veteran in full uniform. In his old, knobby hand, he strongly held a sign denouncing the war. We stood ready to march with the London Muslim Organization, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and many others.
I feel your pride!
I marched with the other Americans that I could find after the initial chaos. On television, marches look like a single, cohesive unit. They aren't. While all the participating groups may agree on ending the war, they don't necessarily agree with each other.
If you think that's bad imagine the challenge of the seating arrangements at the nominees' section for the annual Darwin Awards Banquet; all the same groups are there too. I'd imagine in America the Democratic National Convention will be similarly conflicted.
Seriously though, please consider: you can't tolerate the groups that support you? Wasn't it Marx himself who said "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."? Yes, it was Groucho Marx.
From bad to worse for those concerned with the social niceties of protest:
At this point, the dreaded hippy-mobile came up behind the American expatriates. The hippy-mobile was a psychedelic construction. Bicycles, wagons, and carts connected together in a train, painted green, with a windmill on top and lots of speakers blaring music. Hippies with fairy wings and dressed in animal costumes maneuvered it through the crowed.
"Damn! The dreaded hippy-mobile approaches! Nothing kills a party like the dreaded hippy-mobile. What would you do if you're marching along, full of Bush-hate and carrying a fully approved sign and suddenly the hippy-mobile shows up?
I suggested to a no-nonsence-take-charge woman with the Wesley Clark 2004 campaign that we should make a break for the front and get away from the hippies. She agreed. We then led a mad dash through the crowd, dodging and weaving around hundreds of protesters and police. The rest of the Americans followed as best they could.
No mention of whether the general's people had a big Cheney puppet on a stick or not. I'd have to think not; too hard to "mad dash" with one.
We approached Parliament. There were so many police in fluorescent uniforms that dusk turned yellow from the reflection. All the police in London had their leave removed for the three days Bush was in town, so all the cops, from the grizzled veterans to the guys who just got their billyclub issued yesterday, were out in force. Faced with a wall of stern faces, I tried to get the young girl cops to smile back at me, but was not very successful.
Note to all young idealistic protestors: The police are not happy to see you. You are the reason they lost their days off, and they know it. Again: your leaders are not "friends of the working class."
I was especially uncomfortable when we stopped in front of Whitehall, and I looked to the top of the building and into the eyes of a police sniper scanning the crowd. This was not a time for sudden movements. My life was within a twitchy finger of ending. I know that my chances of being killed crossing the street in my everyday life are many orders of magnitude greater than being killed a sniper. But the street is so mundane, I cross it all the time. Being in the sights of a sniper was a new experience for me. At least, I think it was.
It's not fun for the soldiers you're protesting in Iraq either, Colin. There's a fine line between youthful fun and the serious business of my world; you caught a glimpse of the line. Walk away and pretend it isn't there, kid.
As we marched along, a group of 16-year-old teenage girls were singing "George Bush is a prick, Tony Blair sucks his ----!" I couldn't help but laugh. However, an older woman in front of them didn't find it funny. I didn't hear what she said, but a yelling match ensued between her and the girls.
Harmony. Many voices raised as one... respect for your elders is so outdated. Those aging 60's radicals should so stay home, shouldn't they Colin? Senile old bat probably helped build the hippy-mobile. Do you think the witty young lassies could have made that old WWII vet blush too?
At last, Trafalgar!
I've never seen so many people in one place. The whole square was filled, and all the streets leading into it were clogged with people. As I angled for a good spot (very difficult in the tightly packed area) an announcement came over the speakers "We estimate there are 200,000 to 400,000 protesters in the streets of London today. We shut the city down."
I bet Colin felt just like the soldiers who've lost legs in freeing Iraq, there on the ground and unable to stand after all that mad dashing. But eventually Colin regained his strength, repainted his hands and spoke ill of America to all who would listen. Then the supreme leaders of the movement apparently went away...
Now that the leaders of the rally were no longer in charge, things got a little scary. Huge bonfires lit the square. Smoke filled the air, and it was difficult to breath, but I wanted to stay and see what happened.
Who are these leaders with such powerful control of the masses, that their absence is cause for deep concern? Why are "peace activists" so willing to submit to control of some small group? Did Colin expect Trafalgar to be similar to Iraq without the control of Saddam?
Eventually, the crowd began to thin, and I remembered I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. It was time to go, and I headed to a Chinese take-out in Leicester Square to get food.
And at that same time, somewhere in Iraq, a young GI who may never see home again ate what may be his last meal, an MRE.
And at that same time, gathered around the glow of a TV set in Tikrit, the Baathist secret police group that plans to kill him cheered with you as that statue fell.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 23, 2003 8:46 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com