Sunday, August 13, 2006
From Hell to Paradise
The day before I flew back to Canada I went for a long walk on the lonely beach where I spent so much time as a boy. I was feeling pretty good about my exciting little adventure. But I had just heard about that bloody week in Afghanistan, so I was feeling sad as well. One thought led to another, and before I knew it I was thinking about my American cousin Jack. The golden boy who died in Vietnam.
I never met him. But I've heard so much about him over the years. His pictures are all over my aunt's house. He was a tall good looking guy with freckles and curly red hair. They say he was a model student, a football star, a high school hearthrob, pursued by legions of girls. He was planning to be an engineer. But his dad was a U.S. Marine who had slogged ashore at Iwo Jima. So when Vietnam came around Jack didn't wait to be drafted, he enlisted. My favourite picture of him is one where he's sitting on the floor of a Huey, his long legs hanging over the side. He's wearing his flak jacket over his bare chest, and grinning like an idiot kid at Disneyland as the chopper lifts off. A few weeks later he jumped out of another chopper and stepped on a mine. He died screaming in agony, drowning in his own blood. He was only nineteen.
Whenever I visit my aunt in Boston, I try to visit him as well. His tomb in the little graveyard is now older than he was when he died. It's a beautiful quiet place to spend eternity. But it still seems like such a waste. I always feel like whispering something like this:
"Jack I don't know how to say this but they fooled you. Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City, but the dominoes didn't fall.
"Even some of the gungho generals and chickenhawk politicians now agree it was a terrible mistake. They never should have sent you off to fight a war you couldn't win."
"But that doesn't do you much good Jack. Does it golden boy? You're still dead. You died for nothing. And all anyone can say is sorry."
I feel like saying that but I never do. I would rather bite my tongue off. Even if its true.
I hope what happened to Jack never happens to any of our soldiers. But you never know. War is full of surprises. Especially when you fight the kind of wars you can't ever really win. The Israelis vowed to destroy Hezbollah before they found out about the kinds of weapons and training the enemy had. We sent our troops into a combat mission in Afghanistan without the right kind of helicopters. And we won't get them for another four years. Now we're both paying the price. War is like that.
As for me I was just reminded again that there are a lot of heroes out there who don't carry guns. Who risk their lives to help the wounded, or bring food to hungry people, or little sugar packets that can bring dying children back to life. Or help bring democracy to a place recovering from the deadliest war the world forgot. By shlepping ballot boxes and ballots around instead of bullets and bombs.
Here's to the heroes of the United Nations. The neocons like to dump on them. But when the shit really hits the fan, they're the only ones who can do the job.
Besides the way I figure it, if you work for a group like that, and you ever get shot down like this poor little drone was. (I can hardly wait for the full report...) Or mistake a jungle mountain for a cloud. You won't get much glory. But at least you're covered for all time. Nobody will ever have to stand in front of your tomb and say sorry.
But enough of that morbid stuff. I'm back in my beautiful Canada (smooch) (smooch) (Kiss the ground.) Even with a chi hua hua as a Prime Minister, or under temporary ReformCon occupation, it's still a great place to call home. Talk about falling out of hell and ending up in paradise. Hallelujah! What a difference a beach makes!
Oh yeah. I want to thank the boys in the house for taking care of business while I was away. They were terrific. They took care of my dog. They surprised me with a late birthday party. Calum built me a beautiful bookcase. Sebastien fixed my motorbike. And now all I need is somebody to fix my other problem...
I've had my starbucks fix. I'm back to smoking Du Maurier's instead of Gitanes. (ugh) Oh sure I know that's really bad for me. But more than three weeks of chastity I'm sure is even worse. I hear it can cause prostate cancer. Or turn you into a pervert priest or some other kind of clammy life denying religious fanatic.
So I'm not taking any chances.... Anyone wanna come up and see my African etchings? Or my new Celtic tattoo?
You might as well live it up. You never know what might happen in this crazy world. Summer is so short. And so is life.
Just ask my cousin Jack...