Friday, May 22, 2009

Be the Chipmunk

Last night in my ritual excursion to local chatrooms looking to find Connecticut folk who may have jobs in their offices, I stumbled upon a singular human being. I rapidly became involved in a serendipitous hour long debate (part of which involved how maple candy tasted much like a combination of maple syrup and the "aww" sound you make when you see a very cute baby). After a discussion of the exact placement of the chipmunk in the ecological life- cycle (somewhere between nuts and leaves, and everything else), I discovered that I have altogether let down my defenses and not even asked his name, age, location, or any of my usual screening questions.

After admitting to being won over instantly by his charm, wit and charisma, we fell into a conversation about his time overseas. We compared stories of living in predominantly Muslim societies and how it shaped our views on religion. We also discussed the hardships of returning home after such an experience. We spoke about how he looks at Muslim Americans after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. How he knows they think differently than the people in the places he was fighting, but has trouble shaking the immediate gut reaction. Which leads me to my FIRST This American Life shout-out!!!! woo! Episode 359: Life After Death about how after returning from Iraq a man joins a Muslim Student's Association at his college, first story.

While I in NO WAY want to say my own comparatively paltry six combined months in Kenya and month in Morocco is even near his three tours in the Middle East, I do hope this helped me, at least on some low level, connect with him. As most of you know, I have the utmost respect for men and women who serve in the armed forces, and despite my personal sentiments about how the war was started (yes I protested. Whatever free speech, check that constitution before you criticize.), now that we're there, my opinion is the following: "Supporting the troops" means giving them EVERY SINGLE ADVANTAGE and protection, and getting them out of harm's way as soon as possible by taking economically and politically rational and reasonable steps for stabilization.

We clear? You're allowed to disagree. But you'd be wrong. And it's my blog. (burn)

I truly wish I had his full permission to talk about this more than vaguely, because it was a fascinating conversation, especially to someone who has always found the connection between the U.S. armed services and religion fascinating while we claim to have a separation of church and state. His assertion that religion and the belief in a god was strengthening the resolve of both sides in this war was far more pivotal to the debate than perhaps he realized. He spoke eloquently about such a dark subject. Without knowing it he brought me to tears, not because I was upset or anything he said was sad or scary but because I felt so... it felt wrong that such a beautiful person should be forced to go through such a horrible travesty as war. Especially a war that is being ignored and forgotten at home.

And if he finds this, which I'm sure he might, I want him to know that for the brief time that our world's collided, we had passionate, moving, and intellectual exchanges, and he touched my reality and shifted my perceptions. And I'm thankful for that.

Thanks for reading and best regards,