There I was, waiting at our local Coffee joint extraordinaire – Holsteins – for a morning meeting to show up. It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was shining, and I was sharing the ambience with other patrons out of on deck outside the establishment. A woman, you know the type – mid 50’s, with every appearance that she had worked in an office all of her life, rode up on her Honda two -wheeler to grab a cup of joe. Not only was she dressed for success in her “I want to look like I might be a biker, maybe” garb, but she also had a twinge of “I want you to think I was at Woodstock and I can impart sacred knowledge to you” in her aura and demeanor. I found the study of her competing personas to be quite fascinating.
How is it that a person can have so many things that they are striving to be, or wish they would have been? Why could she not have fit one of a dozen molds for women that are in the majority in our society? Why could we not just have one or two molds for each gender? It would make for an easier plugging in of components into the economy (if we could only work out the kinks on the whole Soviety central planning process).
Anyway, I am sipping my house coffee, with half and half, watching this person between sips, when a rumbling starts from a few miles West, down Third Street. Having been back now from Iraq (or, “The Show” as some guys in my unit called it) for 5 years, the sound is like sweet music and rolling death. It is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. This is a 40 ton armored troop tranpsport, with a really big gun on the front that is a cross between a cannon and a machine gun. It is the one that rumbled up and down the streets of LSA Anaconda, the one that when you heard it it scares you at a very instictive level. I connect it with the pictures my boss showed me of the night the young Iraqi men chose to engage our guys in Bradleys. You can imagine what bullets the size of bananas will do to the human body…
Back to Holsteins! The rumbling is getting louder, and louder, and LOUDER. The woman who had the two or three, or five, competing thoughts of who she was, or wanted to be, has been standing, rooted in place, on the deck, for a minute. She does not twitch, look around, speak. She is frozen in a mix of curiosity, fear, and bewilderment. The rumble can be felt through the deck, emanating through the asphalt of the street before the Bradley rounds the corner into view. It bulls around the last store, it’s last piece of cover and concealment before it is full upon us. The woman’s face is now a mix of anger, fear, bewilderment. We watch, no, we FEEL, the vehicle rumble past us, the 20-something young man with his torso out of the hatch, looking like Caesar riding into town. Just as quickly, the Bradley is out of our sight, the rumble slowly subsides. The woman is still rooted in place, she cannot move, breathe, or think of something to say. She looks at me and is searching for a re-assurance that everything is ok. Her gaze wants to hear that this is America, that big killing machines do not rumble down our streets, that we should not have to look upon them, or think about them. They are meant for other people’s neighborhoods….
As I sit waiting for my meeting, the Hippie Wannabe Biker woman has gone, totally unsettled. We have been so blessed as Americans to not have had the large killing machines roll down our blocks, spewing forth death. We have not been torn apart by civil war for over 140 years. We live in peace (mostly), safe in the knowledge that wars are something that our young men and women take care of for us “over there”.
I reflect upon what keeps the fabric of the American Quilt together. What do we share that weaves us together as people, as human beings? I have witnessed what happens in villages when the fabric is weak to start with, and a foreign knife starts to cut into it – it falls apart. That is why the attorney who used to clean the base headquarters each day for $3 was burned alive in her bed by her son. That is why neighbors would turn each other in to our forces for acts they did not commit, or to the insurgents for the same thing. Their fabric had come undone.
What weaves us together, as a people, a nation, built upon freedom? Is it the mall, our love of sporting events, or our love of outdoor recreation? What are the compelling forces that keep us together? Where do we all (mostly) gather in our lifetimes, for a common experience? What if that common experience was magical, and asked for each person to give the utmost of their talents to help others? What if we asked for these “citizens” to become weavers of a more just and stronger blanket, or society? What if we gave public schools a new mission, to create connections? What if we focused on inclusion of all members of our communities, and school children and staff were at the “tip of the spear” in the effort? What if we could create a stronger society, a more resilient society? Should children not be engaged in the struggle to help to make society what it should be, or is it our job to sort them into groups and plug them in to what it is?