07 February, 2008

"Empty Words"

My favorite deployed milblogger throws a tough one at us:

Beyond such random outliers though, my favorite portion of the miscellaneous stack of our mail room are the letters written to soldiers by American schoolchildren. Most of them offer the same commonplace banalities sent our way from the greater American public – thank you for what you do, please return home safely, we’ll pray for you. Empty words from an empty people; they want to show that they care, but this experience is so unlike anything in their realm of understanding only trodden clich├ęs can fill their vacuum of confusion. I’m not bitter – yet – I’m just commenting on reality.

He's partly right. Yes, one glaring reality is that those of us who live the soft life of American Sheep, protected by young men like LT G, will never truly get our minds around his experiences and what is now required of him.

But rather than decrease our gratitude, that ignorance increases it, burdens us moreso with the awareness that we live in ignorant innocence simply because they don't. And so we spend our lives knowing that there is an indebtedness that will never, ever be balanced, no matter how letters we write, packages we send, parades we hold, dollars we donate, or taxes we pay. The line has been crossed and nothing can take us all back to what we were before.

So we are left to stumble around like clumsy toddlers in the face of daily sacrifices big and small. What could we possibly say when confronted with such imbalances, when feeling guilt at observing that others do what we are incapable of by temperament, character or physical construction?

But then we remember that we have been taught what to say when receiving a gift, and so we revert to form, as commenter "KJ" does...
All I can say for myself, as someone back at home, is there are a lot of times that we wish we knew what to say... but since we don't (and since there probably isn't anything we could say) we use the simple phrases to blanket everything else we wish we knew to say.

"Thank you." Two tiny, little cliched words... not empty, but encasing entire volumes of inchoate emotion and intention.

Update: LT G responds in comments to his own post.

I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, on a milblog - most of you obviously understand that supporting American troops goes beyond slapping a yellow ribbon on the back of an SUV. I do not consider any of you "empty people" spouting "empty words," the responses my post elicited proves you think far deeper than that. So, if I hurt anyone with my words, I assure you, I did so unintentionally. I will however, leave the post as is, both for veracity's sake and for scathing one-liner's sake. My only lasting regret with all of this is that the empty line has detracted from the point of the post - which is that children are hilarious.

hugs, not drugs,