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September 17, 2009
Where men win gloryBy Greyhawk
Ironic last words:
"I began to pray out loud," he said. "I was sure I was going to die.... Pat then asked me why I was praying, he asked me what it could do for me."
- as related by the man who survived, in the new best-seller, "Where Men Win Glory".
There's much irony in the release of a book on Pat Tillman at the beginning of a new NFL season, though maybe the publishers never considered that as a publicity boost. Fall is a time for the release of best-sellers, after all, and perhaps any time is the right time to feed a hungry public this message:
Damn - now you know how it ends.
Perhaps Pat Tillman was an idealistic young man lacking in experience who didn't know that the glory he was signing up for wasn't the equal of what he left behind, that whatever rewards he was seeking wouldn't come at any cost that he could ever call worthwhile.
Perhaps the young fool didn't know that glory is what men win on stages, on screens, and in stadiums - and if they're big enough and quick enough and good enough to convince other Americans to pay them money to watch them play football on weekends that glory has no bounds. To me that sort of thing seems obvious, as obvious as the lack of same in the life of a soldier. And I'm not old but it seems one of those things I've always known. I'm certain the number of people who don't know that is lower than that of those who believe that this sort of simple truth is actually some astounding earned wisdom that the foolish masses lack. I think Pat Tillman knew that, too.
If the book somehow makes clear that stadiums - not battlefields - are where America seeks its heroes, it isn't apparent from Dexter Filkins' New York Times review - but he finds other failures in the tale:
In short, it is too long. "Unfortunately, too many of the details of Tillman's life recounted here are mostly banal and inconsequential..." - and we are given a brief list of some of Tillman's high school antics, apparently explained in depth on some of the superfluous pages. It seems he got "drunk and threw up", "beat up a guy", etc.
It feels like padding, and so do Krakauer's long digressions about Afghanistan and Iraq and the Bush administration, most of which are only tangentially related to his subject's life (and some of which are inaccurate: Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, was not a major mujahedeen commander during the war against the Soviets; Ismail Khan is not a leader of the Hazaras). This would have been a better book had it been a hundred pages shorter."Once Tillman lands in Afghanistan, though, Krakauer's narrative lifts off." That probably seems so, for those who weren't actually there - but Andrew Exum was, and his review appears in the Washington Post. "The personal stories about Tillman in high school or struggling to make it as a collegiate Division I and NFL football player are fascinating." Writes Andrew (who acknowledges he didn't vote for Bush), but "Why, I wondered during one maddening passage, was Krakauer spending four whole pages complaining about Bush v. Gore?"
In fact, you can read the final military review of all that right here, or a much shorter (but certainly bleak) account of Tillman's experience (and that of his friends and family) from Sports Illustrated here.
So what have we here? It would seem we have an account of the life of Pat Tillman, riddled with errors and inaccuracies and released for profit - cash and otherwise:
But the story here isn't Tillman's unexceptional death, or exceptional life for that matter, but what Krakauer sees as a political crime committed by the Bush administration's propaganda machine...
Perhaps, then, with a bit more time and effort he could have gotten his facts right. Or perhaps facts don't matter - none of that has kept the book from being a top ten best seller.
It is football season, after all, a time of year when men win glory.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 17, 2009 11:05 AM | Permalink
Kudos to the Fox NFL team for their coverage from Afghanistan last weekend, including this report: Video: NFL on FOX: Remembering Tillman The initial response to the death of Pat Tillman is long forgotten - but for many it was fear that the former Ariz... 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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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.
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