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March 25, 2005
I got up earlier than I wanted and walked the dogs. Big dogs, unruly dogs, so even I at six-four-two-twenty take them one at a time into the woods, der Grauerhawkwald, so they can smell things and do things and investigate. So they can patrol. For who knows what might have happened in the woods overnight, or who or what might have passed through. So wake up, sleepy human, and let's go and see if the hundred acre woods still stands.
Ahhh yes, here it is. But what's that scent? And that one? And that one, and this... wait, wait here a minute by this tree... okay done, that's mine, let's move on, quickly - I smell something just up ahead, something that might need growled at, hurry let's go there - no wait let's go here... never mind that, come here... wait, what was that sound?
That sound was bells. Church bells in the town below, Catholic and Protestant, noting the death of a Jew. One of the few such ever mourned here in Europe, even if mourned only by a few. But although today is a German holiday I doubt many will spend it in church, and even fewer will find time to contemplate theology or the grander things in life, or the wonder of it all. But this morning how those bells did ring, filling the air with sound as I walked the second of the big unruly dogs through the otherwise quiet isolation of the forest. The bells tolled as they had for hundreds of years, since long before the dawn of the age of reason, marking a moment in history two thousand years before.
And I heard it in the setting of the woods, walking a dog, and wondering if perhaps 500 years ago someone was doing the same thing in the same spot at the same early hour - still working out the stiffness of sleep, the slowness of mind and body and spirit. For the air is a bit cold, if not enough to quicken the pace at least enough to keep the jacket on, and the ground and other earthen things are damp. Spring is still a promise held in smallish buds that can only be seen by those looking for them. But today my spirit was warmed and lifted by the unexpected tolling of the carillons for one transcendent moment. Ahhh yes?, it's that day.
Calendar-wise, Spring began this past week.
Now it?s Spring, but the snow is still heavy on the ground, a wet sodden mass that weighs on the world like a sopped quilt. Winter is the only season we?re glad to see go, and it knows it. Winter always leaves with spite and sneers. And still every year it comes back after fall, and we think: how lovely it is.
Aren't we silly people then? Certainly unpredictable. Welcome winter! Then, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas we grow tired of it. The odd thing is that winter doesn't start 'til just a few days prior to December 25. Just about the time we've had enough of it, thank you very much, we have our big pagan Winter festival. Then we focus on survival for a few cold months. We forget to allow time to scrape car windows. We curse the empty reservoir of washer fluid in the rush hour traffic over freshly salted slush. Then we come home from long day's work to a setting sun - and shovel snow.
But now we're putting winter in the rear-view; spring is coming. Those buds will soon open. Soon enough the pretty girls will be unencumbered by those bulky coats and hats and scarves and mittens...
Speaking of pretty girls, do you recognize this one? She's pretty, though she seems stuck in time, trapped in amber in permanent transition between the 80's big hair and '90's natural look. What should we do with someone who refuses to stay currently coiffed?
According to ABC News over half of all Americans want her dead. That's increasingly less believable, in light of recent stories about a certain memo. What seems more likely now is that ABC wants her dead. Or at least wants to profit from the drama for a while longer. (Memo to ABC/WaPo: no, you really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really (times infinity) can't manufacture news stories any more. Okay, just kidding. Really you can, but there will be ramifications if you want them. But have you selected someone to fire yet, "just in case"? A great opportunity for corporate housekeeping might briefly be made available to you, if you want it. It is a Holiday weekend though, so it's just an option.)
We pause now for this public service announcement. Proposed:
No one is allowed to seriously discuss Terri Shiavo without first drafting a living will. The wife and I updated all that just before I went to Iraq. Anyone without such document doesn't get to join the conversation. After all, we'll be discussing you soon enough. By then the option of ultimately snuffing you will be a no-brainer. The question will be how long can we keep you artificially alive while we harvest your organs for auction on ebay? (Maybe Michael Jackson will buy you for Neverland.) Don't worry though - I'm with the government - I've got your best interests at heart.
Far fetched? Here's an old joke: "What's the State vegetable of New Jersey?"
Those who know the answer will recall an earlier tragic case of a patient in similar circumstances. We used to joke about such things. We humans are strange imperfect creatures after all. Now we know this is no laughing matter, we're getting ready to kill someone, and she has the right to die with dignity.
For those who didn't get the joke, here's how far we've come. One night in 1975, 21-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan collapsed after mixing alcohol and Valium at a party. Doctors saved her life, but she suffered brain damage and lapsed into a persistent vegetative state. Her family sued for the right to remove her from life support. Though many would now consider it an 'unenlightened' response to such a situation, the doctor originally declined to take Karen off the respirator due to moral reasons.
At trial, her father requested status as Karen's legal guardian (she was 21). Right to privacy and cruel and unusual punishment issues were also raised. (The claim being that it was cruel and unusual to keep her on a respirator.) The judge ruled against him, but on appeal the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Quinlan?s argument. However, after the respirator was removed Karen continued breathing on her own. The Quinlans placed their daughter in a long-term care facility where she was fed and given antibiotics to fight off infections. She remained comatose for nearly 10 years and passed away in 1985. I don't recall any discussion of withholding food and water. Back in those old days it would have been seen as the same as withholding air, for Pete's sake. The question was never raised. We didn't know any better, you see. Hence the horrible jokes.
Twenty years ago.
Made that appointment to establish the living will yet?
Sorry, I got sidetracked, we were talking about bells. After tolling for quite a long while most of the bells went silent, save for one. It rang three more times, at succeedingly longer intervals. A lone voice through the either, reaching my ears in the wilderness.
Then it fell silent too.
Now the dogs need walked again. We'll have to continue this discussion later. For now, be careful, please.
Posted by Greyhawk / March 25, 2005 4:00 PM | Permalink
I'm still emotionally caught up in the Theresa Schiavo situation, now more likely than not, a death watch, and ended up with my post today being once again, political. So I'm checking in with several of the bloggers that I read regularly to see what ... Read More
To me, Terri Schiavo is caught in a downward slide, where justice has been repeatedly denied in the name of the law ... through a sequence of actions that leave reasonable people viewing the "husband" (in quotes, because the conflict of interest of h... Read More
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.
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