Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Funny the Way It Is

The world is full of very smart people and I'm lucky to bump into some of them from time to time who help me keep my perspective on the world in close to working order. Because of what I do, I know a not inconsiderable number of folks in audio-visual and creative arts fields, ranging from contemporaries and former colleagues like Lee, the Other Bill, and Rik to Grosse Patrick (as my son used to call him) to frighteningly talented, much younger professionals who still get very excited about their craft and are more energetic than us discouraged experts.

One of them, Jhi, posted an item Monday on one of the social networking sites that stopped me in my tracks because it was simple but profound, and completely true: "Lindsay Lohan, 24, is all over the news AGAIN because she's a celebrity drug addict. While Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Chase Stanley 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23,and Sheldon Tate 27 are all Marines that gave their lives this week, no media mention."

One of the reasons I think it hit me so hard wasn't because Lindsay Lohan was mentioned. She's a surrogate for whatever flavor of the week has called shotgun in the media clown car OJ Simpson was sitting in over a decade and a half ago as the magical misery tour unfolded on a California highway. I can think of the the names of three dozen empty mouths you can plug into that sentence and it's still true. No, what got me was that only two of the Marines killed in action were older than our son, Patrick Michael, and three of them were barely able to legally drink in these United States.

I've mentioned I subscribe to a service from the Department of Defense that reports every US military casualty not because I'm gung ho about war and the price we pay as a culture when we engage in one, but, because after the marching bands have turned the corner and the balloons and patriotic words from political leaders my age have all disappeared into the air, someone has to bear witness to those who sacrifice their lives so that we can engage in endless hours of stupid human tricks by pretending back here on the home front all is well. When we work as hard as we do to make sure no one sees the bodies unloaded at Dover Air Force Base or watches as 'walking wounded' struggle through rehabilitation at VA hospitals and elsewhere, maybe we've gotten too good at playing pretend.

The United States has been at war for nearly a decade and that length of time tends to drain all the color from the red, the white and the blue, leaving us only grey and a sense of foreboding as unending and forever become interchangeable (and nearly meaningless). I think one of the points Jhi was making in his post was that we, the living, owe those Marines, and their counterparts in all the other services who have died, more than just a moment of remembrance. We need to make our lives worth something so that they who gave theirs to protect us did not die in vain. Celebrities make headlines-heroes make a difference.
-bill kenny

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