It’s an awesome day in paradise. Perfect pool weather but not so hot that I’m melting in front of the computer. While the rest of the country has been sweltering, we’ve had a relatively mild summer in Southern California: mostly too cool to ’que, until recently. And now, today, awesome, a word that is largely overused but that sometimes hits the nail on the head. Just ask my neighbors, who are downstairs frolicking—or playing Dungeons & Dragons, which I perceive is a specialized form of frolicking. These days there are often multiple computing devices being deployed in the courtyard. I would join them, but I am currently without a wireless device—basically laptopless for the first time almost since laptops were invented. Feels like being naked, technologically speaking. A new one is coming but maybe not before I give in to temptation. Those iPads look mighty appealing.
This week as I watched, live, the last brigade of combat troops rolling out of Iraq, I was not prepared for the intensity of my reaction. Tears of disbelieve as much as joy poured down my cheeks—I cried like it was the last scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Something that had gone on so long, cost so many lives and so much money and that we so didn’t want was over, if only symbolically, and it sent chills. It felt a lot like the end of the War in Vietnam but anticlimactic. I connected with a couple of friends from the old days and was reassured that people cared, but otherwise, no one seemed to be paying much attention (besides MSNBC and the Los Angeles Times; thanks for that).
Considering that Operation Iraqi Freedom had touched my everyday life very little, my response was puzzling. Perhaps I’d suppressed it so deeply, I didn’t actually know how angry I was regarding the war and how we came to be fighting it. Self-preservation. Otherwise you can choose to walk around pissed all the time and court high blood pressure. Times have certainly changed in that respect. We are busy and practical, and we are ever hopeful that we can make a change at the ballot box. This time it appears we did. Chalk one up for President Obama.
Sure, I know we’re not really out—50,000 personnel remaining for the new (noncombat) mission plus gosh knows how many contractors—but only the most peevish of pessimists could fail to see this week’s troop withdrawal as a Stryker ride in the right direction.
Yesterday I spoke with a friend who’s a photographer working for the Air Force in Delaware. He was headed out to shoot a dignified transfer at Dover AFB, the ceremony that takes place when a serviceperson’s remains come home. My friend, who is retired from the Air Force, has been on many such assignments since President Obama lifted the ban on photography and videos of “D.T.s” at Dover last year. It’s a tough assignment—the ability to focus on the work and not what it all means is key.
Suddenly, I remembered that the war was at least one degree of separation closer than I thought. “Soon you’ll be going to photograph the troops coming home, like they’re doing at Fort Lewis in Washington,” I said.
“I hope so,” he replied.