Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Country First

To be honest, I'm a bit in awe of Governor Palin's ability to field-dress a Moose. I imagine her as vice-president reaching up with a survival knife inside the still warm body of a placid animal, shot with a high-powered rifle that was, moments before, standing knee-deep in a lake munching on plants; reaching up to sever its trachea and spill its guts on the ground --and simultaneously with a satellite phone in the other hand, conducting intricate foreign policy negotiations that affect the future of mankind-- and there is a certain awful poetry to this image. Having grown up in rural America, I am privy to the practice of "meat processing" (that is, watching the trusting look in the cow's eyes being replaced by fear, being replaced by eyes rolled up in the head, with the sound of the substantial body falling to the ground). I cannot look in a cow's eyes and do that, hence, my vegetarianism. It takes a certain type of person who can put all empathy aside and make the killing cut.

While watching the Republican convention coverage, I could not help thinking of the VFW post in Solon, Iowa. Solon is a small midwestern town like so many others. The names of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country are engraved on a concrete monument in the center of town, and their names are familiar. In the VFW post, there is a photographic mural that covers one wall. It shows a deer (actually a prime buck) silhouetted in a misty forest. We, as viewers, are the first-person-shooters in this picture. It is not the misty forest, but stalking and killing that buck that matters. Surrounding me in the VFW post are ghosts from wars that were fought, purposes unclear, for which youth and dreams and bodies were sacrificed. They are drawn here by the light of the fluorescent sign outside, to drink and smoke and talk of other days. Theirs is a commonality of experience that excludes all others. They pull themselves from their chairs and into the bright sunshine to march in the Independence Day and Memorial Day parades, carrying flags and guns that shoot only blanks. And I am left with the with the feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with the slogan "Country First." Countries have neither reverence for life nor empathy for those that they roll over.

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