By lex, on January 19th, 2007
This weekend. I will catch up with emails this weekend. I promise.
Class today – it was Friday, wasn’t it? – and the course was Operations Analysis/Research, OR. Which as I might have mentioned is a kind of cult at the Naval Postgraduate School. Reminds me of all those L. Ron Hubbard books. People believe. They want you to believe.
None moreso than my current professor, whom I regret to add, is battling stage 4 cancer. Which I looked up, only to find that there isn’t any stage 5. So it’s the real deal. With chemo and painkilling drugs and the occasional stab that causes him to wince and moan aloud in class, when it isn’t dropping him off to sleep. Each week we are happily surprised to see him at the other end of the video-teleconference.
In his shoes I think I might cash in all my chips and stroll the beach, but he’s not that kind of guy. He loves to teach – it is no stretch at this point to say that he literally “lives” for it – and we might very well be the last class he ever evangelizes teaches. Which, God love him and keep him close, puts a bit of pressure on we few, we studious few, we band of plodders.
And it’s not like that stuff is easy.
But neither is it like having stage 4 cancer, which puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?
I was surfing somewhere last week, or maybe the week prior and ran across one of those threads wherein the tech cognoscenti write in disparaging tones about, well: Pretty much everything. One of them was writing about his MP3 player, which, he hastened to add, was NOT an iPod. Because in that particular stratum apparently, having an iPod is an admission that you just don’t get it. Or something. Because of the teraflops per dollar, or summat. Or maybe it’s the whole, “sucked into the Man’s closed-source music retailing scheme through the horrible convenience, elegance and inexpensive access that’s in it.
Apart from the new shuffle – which I seek in vain for reasons to buy – I have bought, was gifted or currently own every kind of iPod ever manufactured.
I think they’re OK.
The administration’s row-back from previous and vigorously enunciated of claims to Constitutional privilege on the NSA surveillance program is a bit of a disappointment to those of us who thought it was a good idea for a wartime president not to yield his official prerogatives as an elected official to unelected and unaccoutable jurists. But perhaps, like the ingratious exit of the former Secretary of Defense, this was thought to be a kind of wisdom, a pragmatic accomodation to the New Reality. Not every fight is winnable, and not every fight you win is worth the cost incurred in fighting it. The smart political brawler chooses his battles wisely.
Which is why I think this concession – such as it is, the details are an enigma enshrouded in a mystery – is a mistake. I for one, wouldn’t have minded watching Al Gonzales take questions from folks in Congress who think that al Qaeda conversations are legally protected from military surveillance in a time of open conflict. That might have been fun. After all, there’s a world of legal distinction between intel gathered in pursuit of criminal prosecution, and that gathered against belligerents during wartime. The latter are unprotected, yea, even unto death.
In other news, the administration – wisely in my view – has elected to acknowledge the Way the World Now Is by taking Iraq war costs off the supplemental table, and treating them instead as embedded DoD costs in the President’s budget submission. Senior members of Congress – who have recently been making noise about grilling DoD officials over the supplementals as a way of attacking the President’s policy in Iraq – have long complained that the war costs have been too long treated as “emergency” legislation, since this tends to hide their effect from inclusion in deficit calculations. Prolly they’re happier now.
And, three times more Democrats than Republicans hope that the President’s new plan for stabilizing Iraq fails.
As do words, at this point.
Today was graduation day at MCRD, and I happened to be over there to get some gas and shop for the odd sundry or two. Ruffles and flourishes I heard in the distance, and soon there was a commotion in the middle distance. First came the DI’s not participating directly in the ceremonies, strapping young men with hard eyes and brass voices, wearing their signature Smokey the Bear covers. Not much after came the new Marines themselves, but freshly recruits and now part of the brotherhood.
I was struck by several things. They are painfully young of course, mere boys in man suits. They have been whittled down by their recent experiences into their essential selves – nothing else beside remains but whipcord muscles and right angles, there was not one solitary ounce of fat. Tall and lean and hard, by God. Marines.
I noticed something else, as well: They had families there with them, proud mothers and fathers, sisters in dresses, brothers looking up as though in awe at the young man they had spent a lifetime with grown into something new and suddenly unfamiliar. This is not so odd, you say, we all of us have families.
True. But some of these family members were brown, and some were black and some were yellow – they were as diverse as we ourselves are. But not their young men, not anymore. There were no African Americans or Hispanics or Asians in that crowd of green-clad graduates. There were only Marines.
Maybe you had to see it, but it was striking.
As was the image I saw of an aging, pony-tailed father buying odds and ends for his newly graduated Marine son up in the exchange. He shopped as though making up for lost time, as though warding away the future with his purchases: A combat knife, some socks, a digital cammy clothing bag. Did he need anything else? the old man asked his son – a young man who was at once both proud and slightly embarrassed.
No, Dad. That’ll be fine.
The old man nodded, thoughtfully. As did I myself.
What can we possibly buy for these young men now, after all that we have asked of them, after all that we will ask of them? What can we purchase for them that will repay in any measure what they have offered up for us?
Not much. I suppose you do what you can.
Have a good weekend.