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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Two Christmas Stories

Never let it be said that MySpace doesn't have some humdinger posts.

You know, there are people in this world who scoff at the LiveJournal and MyS crowd, as if being on Blogger or similar, is acknowledgement that they're not in on the whole friend-network (more dedicated to spewing self-involved "what I had for lunch" stories): the opposite of what we like to think serious blogs are -- a repository for social history and commentary, but one tinged with professionalism.

Not I. At least, not for a while, anyway.

Admittedly, I went to MySpace only after clicking on my hit counter link to see how a person arrived at a particular blogpost, curious to know what other posts similar to mine, are out there.

(Surely there is a term for this Technorati-inspired theme searching, like looking yourself up in Google is called, "egosurfing"?)

It is this way that I chanced on these two blogposts, via Technorati's Children of Men citations. I had of course, just blogged about the film Christmas Day.

The first post I read, at first blush, was one of those Christmas humbug stories which do nothing more to you, than make you hug your life in thankfulness that their story is as unlike yours as possible.

But keep reading.

This well of loneliness contains something deeper, a rare self-awareness, candour and very real yearning, whose voice is not a whiney screed of Christmas-hate the likes of which Maureen Dowd would fling out like so much tinsel, but a real cri de coeur.

It's hard to explain to another person just when a book, a film, a mere encounter grabs one by the heart and stirs one's soul, but actually, with this 26-year old man from Arizona, the moment was the very last paragraph.

I can't wait for this year to be over, for the celebrations to stop, so that I can stop thinking about the fact that I don't have any children to watch as they open their presents on Christmas morning; that I don't have a beautiful wife that I can cook breakfast for; that on New Years eve I'll most likely be sitting in my mothers front room listening to fireworks going off somewhere else as happy couples and parents cheer and enjoy their lives.

I just want the holidays to be over, so I can start over again too.

Maybe you find this off-putting during the high of Christmas, or it makes you uncomfortable because it hits too close to the knuckle? Perhaps you are aware that this is but one story in a billion similar tales, so why highlight it.

I don't rightly know what I should reply to that; just that I can feel this man's potential 6,000 miles away (which I suspect he knows he has too, making him doubly bitter), but in life, potential is perhaps the most oppressive thing a human can have.

I know.

Yet, I don't, because I never confuse or compare my potential to anyone else's life trajectory. This is my saving grace.

And his tragedy.

Next, is my fellow thirty-something lady blogger from California.

Her avatar of a Mexican Christmas sombrero, and those granola bar good-looks associated with California girls belie her grumbles about consumerism and the Judeo-Christian world (grad student thesis alert), so I kept reading.

And this is where she "got" me, well into her third paragraph:

"Still, there are certain things about Christmas that resurrect "the better angels of our nature" as Lincoln said."

As a reader, I was prepared for anything after that, but even I wasn't prepared for the shock of recognition after she mentioned Army Staff Sergeant Clint D. Ferrin, her "first-born cousin" on her father's side.

Not only did the phrase 'first-born cousin' grab my throat, for whatever reason considering it's a rather prosaic and common way of referring to a family member, but I wasn't prepared to see his photo, when she announced that he died in Iraq in 2004, a few lines further down.

You know, I come from a military family and there has scarcely been a war involving Britain where a family member of mine has not served.

But we're survivors. We cling to life, with the cynicism of the desperate.

And yet...whenever I take out old family photographs of these young men, I am struck by how fresh of cheek they are. They look so goshdarned WHOLESOME, you know?

Heroic. Self-sacrificing. Manly.

Do I romanticise their existence because of how they lived it? Maybe.

To people who dislike all things military, it's an impossible evocation, and one which they will never understand. People like that, will never know the reasons why I love the military, because they think I just look at their lives through the prism of this romanticism.

But I also have read some of their letters, and I know they were no saints -- so that admiration I have is tempered by the knowledge that they were scared, and hungry, and oft-times wanted to run away from the awful, cruel world around them.

But still they stayed, literally, soldiering on.

This is the wave of emotion that swept over me, when I saw this young man saluting so stoicly, so simply, at a fallen comrade's make-shift memorial (a salute some other soldier would repeat one day, for him...).

He's beautiful.

For all I know, he was a coward, a thief, an imbecile, but to me, he is ethereally beautiful in that one snapshot of his existence -- facing it one phantasmagoric and deadly dull day after the other.

Those are my two Christmas visions today.

Call them the stockingstuffers of reality. Tomorrow, we can laugh.


  • Well, I can certainly relate to the first -- except that guy at least still has his mother to visit. Yesterday? No one even called. No one at all. Presents? Nada. But I have learned that folks don't want to hear about this, so I don't mention it to them. My unhappiness is more likely to show up here in the online world, and even then I don't want to bring it up. The ears that might listen are more likely to offer up pity, which I certainly don't want. It's a thicket of a puzzle...

    By Blogger Ron, at Tue Dec 26, 09:26:00 am GMT-5  

  • As I said, Ron, tomorrow we laugh.

    Today, I hug you.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Dec 26, 10:58:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria:
    Your best post in a moon at least. Thanks for that reflection. "Egosurfing"--great coinage!

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Tue Dec 26, 09:33:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Your best post in a moon at least.

    Thanks, Ruth Anne! :)

    Thanks for that reflection.

    I suspect it was a little too grim for the après-Christmas crowd, due to the dearth of replies.

    But you know what? Good.

    Sometimes, as you imply, you need a stir of reality.

    I kept asking myself, after posting, just where did I become so moved by the picture of Sgt. Ferrin, that I decided to make a blogpost about him.

    I decided, it was that salute.

    That salute, executed with snap military precision (his boot camp sergeant would be proud), and yet...

    Oh I don't know. A kind of simplicity that very honest people often have.

    It's so very very American, that salute -- with its palm downwards, its thumb under the palm at an exact perpendicular tuck, its arm at a straight-as-an-arrow angle.

    So very different from the panache of the British salute, equal parts snobby, and devil-may-care.

    The salute my dad once taught me, old Guards officer that he was.

    It touched me.

    "Egosurfing"--great coinage!

    Love it!


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Dec 26, 11:49:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Dearest Victoria,

    Merry Christmas, and a happy and safe New Year.

    For those of us alone, nearly alone or mostly alone, all I can offer up is this:

    A man must have hope, or he is already dead.

    As for me, I have hope. I'll allow that hope might be foolish, or misplaced, but it is enough to keep me plodding along.

    By Anonymous I R A Darth Aggie, at Wed Dec 27, 02:35:00 pm GMT-5  

  • A man must have hope, or he is already dead.

    Well said, IRA Darth Aggie. And a very Merry Christmas to you, darling. :)

    As for me, I have hope. I'll allow that hope might be foolish, or misplaced, but it is enough to keep me plodding along.

    Good man.

    Don't think I'm so far behind any of you in the same situation.

    I have one, count 'em, one friend left near me. And he's on holiday in Chile.

    Transience is perhaps, the greatest relationship problem of the 21st century.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Dec 27, 03:07:00 pm GMT-5  

  • When we see those young men, ready for war, we are seeing them at their physical best. Not the chubby lads fresh from the local McDonald's, not the pimply, gangly fellows fearful of tripping over their own feet. These are trained, honed Men, many of whom will never be in as good shape as they are right then. We are seeing youth at its healthiest, ready for just about anything, prepared to fight against Evil and Darkness.

    That's what makes the loss of such young men - and now women! - so hard to accept. GOD Bless them all!

    Thanks, Vicks!

    By Blogger benning, at Thu Jan 04, 11:03:00 am GMT-5  

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