We are nothing but a bunch of Amish buggies and tractors out here. No one would care. (Brian Lehman, whose business, Amish City Popcorn, is on a government list of potential terror targets, as quoted in the New York Times)
From the Archives. (31 July 2006) Hmm. Wonder if his business is located beside a secret missile silo?
It’s Monday, 24 July 2006, and I am in the oh so progressive state of South Carolina, home of confederate flags and mustard-based barbecue and “100% Redneck” T-shirts and “Save the Males” bumperstickers and fundamentalist Baptist schools that place razor-wire atop their fences in an effort to keep the wicked out.
Or maybe it’s there to keep the Baptists’ rebellious children in; otherwise they might be smart like me and make a fast escape from this hell hole.
The place feels so hopeless and Faulknerian and sad to me but, at the same time, I’m hyperaware of how many of “God’s good people” here are eager to pass Bible-based laws that would see me stoned.
(Monday) And now I’m in the small Missouri town of St. Robert with my niece, hanging out in a nearly empty cinderblock Budget Inn behind a Waffle House and gas station where my sister reserved a room. We are currently the only occupied room on the back wing and our door faces an abandoned carwash and Electra’s, a seedy topless bar that is frequented by soldiers.
I’ll write more later but, right now we have to go pick my little sister up at her Army base.
(Tuesday night) Spent last night at Ft. Leonard Wood, where my niece was reunited with her soldier mother, who let her eat four helpings of frosted yellow cake as she listened to her mother explain that she joined the Army because she couldn’t find another way for the two of them to have a better future.
Hope it’s not at too high a price ...
... and yes I did manage to hold my tongue during the prayer invoking God’s favoritism of US troops because, frankly, if there is a god, then I hope she is powerful enough to keep my little sister out of harm’s way (this harm including the all-American soldiers who are raping their female peers with alarming regularity over in Iraq).
My biggest impression of the graduation banquet was that these rows and rows of newly minted soldiers are far too young to be heading off to war. And no big surprise that they are mostly from the poorest states in our union (and mostly from the deep south).
We watched jingoistic slide shows in which the soldiers demonstrated how to use an overstuffed Q-Tip-looking thing to fight another soldier; how to throw a rope over a wall and climb up the knots; how to slide on your stomach through a mud puddle; how to shout “Yes drill sergeant!” on queue and do whatever your drill sergeant tells you to do just because he says to do it.
Hard to see how this prepares anyone for real-time battle, much less for the sight of the dismembered arms and legs that are supposed to prove our country’s superpower status.
I managed to hold my tongue during these slide shows, even though they might as well have been campaign footage for the president.
I didn’t barf when they played a country song about the Statue of Liberty turning her welcoming hand into a fist after 9/11 so she could kick some Iraqi ass either.
Nor did I point out that the suicide bombers were not even Iraqi and that those weapons of mass destruction are still missing.
Then, finally, all the flag-waving was over and my sister was officially on leave for 10 days, so we piled her duffel bags into the rental car and went swimming at the seedy cinderblock hotel.
Tomorrow we rise at 5 AM and drive 3 hours to St. Louis—a city that is experiencing power outages—on our trek back to South Carolina.
And then I high-tail it out of there as fast as my lesbian “life style” legs will carry me.
BEST-OF SPAM: We never repent of having eaten too little.