duality of man

I was vacuuming out my car at the car wash a few days ago, dumping all my empty Dunkin Donuts cups into the trash can when I saw a few rubber stretchy bracelets on top of the pile. Garbage-picker that I am, I reached down and put one on. It was black with bright yellow lettering that read GOARMY.COM on one side, and gave the 800 number for the Army on the other. The bracelet fit snugly on my wrist, and I liked the way it looked, despite the message. I’m always trying to find the right piece of body adornment. I used to wear a yellow Livestrong bracelet (which I also found discarded, on the ground) until my son, who was one at the time, ripped it in half. Among other things, I’ve worn prayer beads, magnetized golf bracelets, and those smelly things made from nautical rope around my wrist at various times in my life. So I kept the black Army bracelet on because I liked the way it felt on my wrist and because my children, who were with me at the car wash that day, thought it was funny that dad was wearing something he found in a trash can. But as the days since my discovery progressed, the bracelet has taken on a much different meaning. I was watching the Daily Show with John Stewart two nights ago, and he showed a clip of Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary, explaining quite smugly I thought, that the Iraqi Parliament was taking the entire month of August off because “it was 130 degrees in Baghdad.” I started thinking about all our troops over there, standing on street corners in Baghdad or Fallujah, wearing 30 pounds of gear in that 130 degree heat, unable to take the month of August off. I have always felt, and continue to believe that the invasion of Iraq was the worst foreign policy decision this country has ever made. I hope someday I’m proved wrong. But even though I might be against the war, I do feel solidarity with the troops. Here we are, leisurely enjoying our summer, swimming and picnicking with our families, but the fact is that we are at war. We shouldn’t ever forget that, as much as we would like to push it out of our minds and think it’s happening “over there.” It’s not much, but my salvaged bracelet helps me remember those men and women standing on those blazing hot corners. I’m reminded of Matthew Modine’s character, Private Joker, in Full Metal Jacket, who has “Born To Kill” written on one side of his helmet and a peace symbol on the other. When a general asks him if it’s his idea of a sick joke, Joker responds that he is expressing “the duality of man, sir.” The general, uncomprehending, asks “Whose side are you on, son?” Maybe I’m on both sides.


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