How One Vet Spent Her First Veterans' Day After "The World Changed"

| Tue Nov. 11, 2008 5:31 PM EST

First, I spent it wishing to (all your) gods that my kids were in school. Groundhog Day! Let it be Groundhog Day, a Monday with them in school for all eternity! Is that so much to ask?

Help me Jesus/Vishnu/Yahweh/Buddha/Satan/the Goddess etc.—they were just home for the fricking weekend. One day of freedom and they're my responsibility again? Why am I so heavily taxed? On top of it all, it is cold and rainy here in the tundra we live in, so no ignoring them while they tumble headfirst off unsafe playground equipment, swearing that the more they bleed the tougher they are. Damn.

In desperation, after hours of them trying to dismember each other, and me them, I took them to the home of the anti-Christ and prayed to the god/goddess of the playroom that my son wouldn't headbutt more than three kids per minute and that my daughter would release her death grip on our invisible umbilical cord and let me read in peace for three minutes at a time. In a perfect world, those three minutes would overlap with my son's warfare lulls and visits from irate parents, clutching their wounded progeny.

No such luck.

What was I trying, in vain, to read? Guns, Germs, and Steel:

Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: Geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: One eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye—and his heart—belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.

Guess what he thinks explains Europe's domination of the planet? A) Aryan superiority. B) Nothing but real estate and good luck. C) God's will. D) Yo mama.

What else could follow such a paradigm-shifting book but the pinko A People's History of the United States. To quote Amazon again, this book:

...turns traditional textbook history on its head. Howard Zinn infuses the often-submerged voices of blacks, women, American Indians, war resisters, and poor laborers of all nationalities into this thorough narrative that spans American history from Christopher Columbus's arrival to an afterword on the Clinton presidency.

Addressing his trademark reversals of perspective, Zinn—a teacher, historian, and social activist for more than 20 years—explains, "My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)—that is still with us."

Let's just say it's a tad subversive and more than met my "blame America first" quotient for the day.

Second, I took them to a toy store.

I know, I know.

But I was hoping that the mounds of useless, expensive things ALL OF WHICH THEY MUST HAVE OR DIE, on top of their vacation-induced hysteria, would render them unconscious so I could cart them back home, comatose, and chuck them abed. That, or that some childless a-hole would call CPS while I bellowed bloody murder at them and we'd all be put out of my misery.

Again, no such luck.

As we pulled into the toy store parking lot, my freely chosen Little Big Horn, Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud to be an American" played, reminding me, with its fulsome intro, that it was indeed Veterans' Day and not just a day designed to drive me insane. I did what I always have to do when I hear it: Pull over lest the chills running through me made me an unsafe driver. What can I say? That lowest-common-denominator, knee-jerk, ugly American song 'unmans' me every goddamn time. Does it reduce me, every time, to a quivering mass of patriotic jelly simply because it appeared when I was enlisted? (1980-1985. Commissioned USAF officer 1985-1992.) Or is it because it just pushes so many simplistic American buttons? I'll never know.

All I know for sure? I'm an American. How do I know that? Because I thrill to criticism of my country that is so dead-on it makes me want to cry in the frustration of making it right.

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