Garcia reports on his travels with the military in Afghanistan @ Superstition Review.
We prepare to go out on a night patrol.
The captain however must pick up an Afghan policeman first. On paper, the American and European soldiers of the international security forces provide a “supportive role” only to the central Afghan government. Therefore, protocols require an Afghan police officer to lead patrols, the captain explains to me, an embedded reporter. He calls me by my last name as he does his soldiers, and tells me to ride with him.
We leave Camp Julien in south Kabul for the District Four police station in a convoy of four Humvees, six soldiers in each vehicle. The dawn light rinses the sky with an umbrella of pink light, and then the light fades almost instantly and the sky darkens to an impenetrable depth without stars. Kids wave to us from the shadows as they always do when we go out on a night patrol, but it seems to me they also have one hand behind their back, and sometimes I’m right because I’ll hear the rocks they throw ding against our doors.
“Last week on our way out, this kid was throwing rocks at me,” a soldier tells me. “In Iraq, parents’d beat the shit out of their kids for doing that. This kid didn’t look slow. It’s not like he’s a retard. If that’s how a kid thinks about us what about his dad?”
“It’s a game dude,” another soldier says. “How many rocks do they have to throw to make a gunner duck.”
“They need to start a baseball league here then. He was whizzing them.”
The dirt road we follow climbs a hill. A stone castle swarmed by birds circling its broken towers overlooks our progress.
Image: Lalage Snow
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Nicole Oquendo on the urns we live with @ Hippocampus Magazine.
There’s not much about my father that I actually know. What I think I know now is that he’s getting skinnier by the year and old enough to stop doing things as he used to. Until the last few years or so, my father, in his sixties, passed for forty to strangers. He’s been shaving his head for years to erase any grey, which is only now starting to come through into his goatee. You used to be able to see the muscles in his arms through his shirts. He used to lift weights in our garage.
My mother’s apartment is small, with a few prints covering the otherwise bare walls and a couple of couches to sit on. She refuses to use the air conditioner in 80-degree Florida heat because it raises the electric bill; while I wipe at my face, I tell her I worry about him being so old and living in such a big house. But you know he’s not that old, my mother says. And you know him, pretending to be younger or older than he is so he can get shit. She’s right, too. He changes ages in conversation depending on which is convenient.It heard on the news that at least 4,900 to 6,600 bodies in graves among the 333,000 buried at Arlington National Cemetery are not where people think they are. The Senate projected this error rate after a sample of three sections of the cemetery showed 211 mishandled graves.
Nico Chiapperini @ Positive Magazine
Naheed Mustafa on what oral histories tell us about Afghanistan @ Maisonneuve. My grandmother often said that as the elders died, so would history. She came from an oral tradition and she was a master storyteller. The details would occasionally shift—the colour of her scarf, the number of guests at a wedding, how many goats were slaughtered at a feast—but the plotline never varied, and the villains and the heroes always fulfilled their roles.Starting from the time of her birth, my grandmother’s stories traced the historical arc of what was then British India. Her tales of change were wrapped up in accounts of daily village life, of a time when your destiny depended on your gender, who your father was and where in the village your house was built. My grandmother had no formal schooling. My grandfather taught her to read after they got married, but she never left the village, and had no idea of life outside the boundary wall. Women and girls lived with each other; the world out there was for men.But the outside world shaped the lives of the people in my grandmother’s village, even if they were oblivious to its force.
The world changed and people agitated and the effects rippled outward. Those shifts—sometimes mere blips, occasionally upheavals—made themselves known in my grandmother’s performances. Her stories didn’t float freely; they were anchored in historical context. There were no dates or years, simply broad references to “when the English were in charge” or “the year the floods came” or, simply, “Partition.”Taken together, my grandmother’s stories painted a picture of a time and place, reflecting the politics of colonialism and the emerging desire for nationhood. By knowing her world, it was possible to know a version of British India: the version that existed in the fields and in the villages, where the language you spoke said something about your religion, which, in turn, said something about your politics.
Marc Levy on the difficult work of telling a true war story @ Slow Trains. A well endowed private business school, the pleasing campus of red brick buildings and clean open space is a hub for future leaders of commerce. Most are well-heeled and upper middle class; they dress causally, walk softly, carry wallets with ample cash or plastic. They are bright, ambitious, competitive. The four-year goal is to make money. The syllabi are thus geared to that end. Among the non-business electives offered, a course on Vietnam, taught by noted translator and award winning poet Dr. Nancy Esposito.Last year, after the two-hour talk had finished, the class of twenty students filed out glum and silent. Had I done something wrong? Told over-the-top stories? Used profanity to excess? In the initial class go round, had I shown disrespect to the nephew of a commanding general in Iraq?I kept those thoughts to myself. “I’m drained,” said Nancy. I waited. “You really shook them up,” she finally said. “They weren’t expecting that. These are good kids but they’re insulated. You probably made them very uncomfortable.” We locked eyes. “Good,” I said, without malice. “Right,” she replied. That was six months ago.
|Dan Dubowitz @ LensCulture/|
Adam Hochschild on the British men who refused the draft in World War I @ The American Scholar.
In early autumn bite is in the air as a late, gold-tinged afternoon falls over the rolling countryside of northern France. Where the land dips between gentle rises, it is already in shadow. Dotting the fields are machine-packed rolls of the year’s final hay crop. Up a low hill, a grove of trees screens the evidence of another kind of harvest reaped on this spot nearly a century ago. Each gravestone in the small cemetery has a name, rank, and serial number; 162 have crosses and one has a Star of David. When known, a man’s age is engraved on the stone as well: 19, 22, 23, 26, 34, 21, 20. Ten of the graves simply say, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God.” Almost all the dead are from Britain’s Devonshire Regiment, the date on their gravestones July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Most were casualties of a single German machine gun several hundred yards from this spot, and were buried here in a section of the frontline trench they had climbed out of that morning. Some 21,000 British soldiers were killed or fatally wounded that summer day, the day of greatest bloodshed in the history of their country, before or since.From a nearby hilltop, you can see a half dozen of the 400 cemeteries where British soldiers are buried in the Somme battlefield region, a rough crescent of territory less than 20 miles long, but graves are not the only mark the war has made on the land. More than 700 million artillery and mortar rounds were fired on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, and many failed to explode. Every year these leftover shells kill people. Dotted through the region are patches of uncleared forest or scrub surrounded by yellow danger signs in French and English warning visitors away. More than 630 bomb-disposal specialists have been killed in France since 1946. Like those shells, the First World War itself has remained in our lives, below the surface, because we live in a world so much formed by it.read more