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A Show of Hands

Marine O'Bannon. Reservists and trauma. Sober about Hans Sauber. Canceling the rock vote. Yodeling and Islam. Lost in love. Plus much more.

2.12.06

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ALWAYS A MARINE
Re: Brandon Crocker's To the Shores of Tripoli:

You will probably receive a gazillion letters from Marines and former Marines like myself, but I could not let this pass without pointing out the glaring absence of any mention of Lt. Presley O'Bannon, USMC. One of the first tales a Marine learns upon donning the uniform is the story of Lt. O'Bannon and the Mameluke Sword. Short version: Lt O'Bannon, after traveling with the Eaton party across the desert, led his contingent of Turks, Greeks, seven U.S. Marines, and a sailor in the frontal assault and eventual capture of the fortress on the harbor at Derna. It was Lt. O'Bannon who carried with him and raised the United States flag over the fortress. And it was Lt. O'Bannon who received Hamet's Mameluke sword to signify Hamet's gratitude for O'Bannon's service. Marines in dress uniform carry a replica of that sword to this day. And this event is why the second phrase of the Marine Corps Hymn is "...to the shores of Tripoli".

There. I feel better.
-- Lee Hoffman

While reading The Pirate Coast, I felt it sad that we don't have men like William Eaton today. But who knows, maybe we do and just don't know it yet.
-- Peter Skurkiss
Stow, Ohio

TOUGHER VETS
Re: Shawn Macomber's The Gray Zone:

Shawn Macomber's assessment of the higher rate of post traumatic stress disorder among support troops relative to combat troops is only partly on the mark. As a preface, it must be stated that the rates of PTSD have risen with every war the U.S. has fought since World War II. As the combat experience in World War II was more intense and extended than in any subsequent conflict, one can only conclude that either (a) the psychological toughness of the average U.S. soldier has been in precipitous decline; or (b) that the definition of PTSD has become increasingly loose, so that a larger number of personnel are being diagnosed with the condition. Using current standards, it would be reasonable to suppose that the majority of combat troops who served in World War II would probably qualify for PTSD. Yet most of those soldiers have suffered no long-term consequences from their wartime experience, and therefore it is reasonable to assume that most troops returning from Iraq will suffer no long-term consequence either -- unless they are coddled into believing that they are suffering from some sort of psychological illness. This is an unfortunate consequence of the emergence of the "therapeutic society" in the United States.

As to why support personnel more than combat troops, the ability to dwell on potential threats in the absence of real ones is only a partial answer. More significant is the high percentage of reservists and National Guard troops in the combat support and combat service support branches -- a consequence of the Powell-Weinberger Doctrine intended to ensure political support for military commitments by requiring at least partial mobilization of the reserves for any large-scale deployment of troops. As a result, the troops who entered the Guard and Reserve did not consider that they would ever be placed in a high-risk environment for anything short of World War III. They signed up to be truck drivers, cooks, mechanics, and technicians, to learn a trade, pull in a little extra money, and also support the country if necessary. Getting shot at was not, in their minds, part of the deal. The military, too, seems to have taken that as given, since the level of training in basic combat skills provided to these troops can best be described as minimal. More significantly, still, they do not seem to have been subjected to the same rigorous level of psychological preparation for combat given to troops in the combat arms, so that, though their exposure to actual danger is relatively low (as compared to other wars), the perceived risk, and the resultant psychological stress, is considerably higher. Thus, they come back feeling traumatized, though what their grandfathers would have thought of their trauma is an open question.
-- Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

Generally a good, well-balanced (if short) dispatch until the closing paragraph which is just a cheap throwaway. Shawn is better than that.

Anyone who hasn't heard the "clear delineation of what success in Iraq actually entails" has simply not been listening. I am actually sick of hearing the "clear delineation of... success" from the Administration: establishing a stable, self-sustaining democracy. It has been said over and over ad nauseam.

What's so hard to understand in that? Difficult, very very difficult to accomplish, but not to comprehend. And when I read most soldier blogs they are more than aware that we are on the road to "success" in Iraq. They see the successful elections, the formation of a government, the slow but steady development of Iraqi security forces and, now, the increasing participation of Sunnis in the political process and in-fighting between the Zarqawi thugs and the Sunni thugs. All good signs.

I'm sure Shawn could have talked about these things but he probably is afraid of being perceived as too rah-rah or something and it's so popular nowadays to take a jab at politicians, even if it doesn't ring true.

Looking forward to more quality dispatches.
-- Glen

If, most, perhaps all, of the time the Fourth Estate, here and abroad -- but especially here -- actually reported news rather than its biased opinions and/or its fantasies, then perhaps there would be no partisan tug-of-war about what our troops' morale is or is not.

One thing Mr. Macomber has shown, for certain, is that there's always a difference in the points of view of those out in front, where the action is or could be, and those in the rear echelon. Always.

Too bad one particular political party tends to look at things from the rear and the other one still lacks the unity to speak with one voice about what success actually means or will mean in Iraq.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

HANS OFF
Re: Hans Sauber's Clean Hands:

Re "Hans Sauber," the author of your article "Clean Hands": don't try pulling fast ones on your German-speaking readership.

A bientot,
-- S. Shapiro

"What are germophobes to do?" Get over it, you selfish freak! Such a preoccupation with the unseen enemy that might possibly affect your health doesn't leave a lot of room for thinking about others. The germophobes I know are the same people whose first reaction to the news of a co-worker being sick is typically, "I hope I don't get it." No time to offer up condolences for the actual afflicted one.

I'd have liked to read a more balanced article on the topic. I think this is one issue where the counter-intuitive view might shed some light for the bacteria scaredy-cats: Isn't it true that some exposure to bad germs builds up immunity? Ah, the irony: To go beyond a moderate amount of hand-washing, etc., results in the "microbe-paranoid" being the ones who get sick more often.

Better lay off the Chicken McNuggets until the bird flu scare passes while you're at it.
-- William H. Stewart
Boston, Massachusetts

A very amusing article by Mr. Sauber, and one I can relate to. Unfortunately I can't disagree with the shockingly low level of public cleanliness that he describes: several studies of swabbed surfaces in NYC (telephones, shopping carts, and movie theatre seats) show a multitude of disease causing germs, as well as amazingly aggressive staph.

I can also attest to similar feelings of "germ phobia" upon the completion of the book Microbe: Are We Ready for the Next Plague, which I co-authored with a doctor and bioterrorism expert. Basically, the more you know about the microbial world, the greater the chance of getting one of two types of "medical student syndrome." The first is when you start obsessing over germs being on everything from the mattress to your meatloaf. The second is where you become convinced, given that you have a mild fever or ache that you actually *have* the disease you are researching!

While I still press elevator buttons with my elbow, I've got a couple helpful hints for Mr. Sauber. First, keep in mind that in the vast majority of cases, the bugs can't do anything to you if they're on your skin -- that's what the protective barrier is for. It's only when they get in, via a cut, or a mucous membrane that you have to worry. That's why you won't get the common cold from simply shaking a sick person's hand -- you have to do that, and either touch your face, or inhale airborne droplets from a sneeze.

So, let's say that the office "double-dipper" hands you an unpleasantly moist piece of paper. If you can, control the feeling of disgust, and once you touch the paper, avoid touching your face until you retire to your own office and dab on a squirt of hand sanitizer. Or wash your hand in the restroom (the Triclosan won't do much, but the soap will wash away whatever viral particles you have on the skin).

In church, there is no need to become a pariah by avoiding the hands of your fellow worshippers. Besides, you're much more at risk from a coughing or sneezing person next to you, not to mention all of the accumulated germs on the pews or the Bibles, if a lot of people have been picking it up. Once you finish grasping the hand(s) of your neighbors in greeting and are re-seated, slip your hand into your jacket pocket and wipe your hands with an antibacterial hand-wipe. (If you're worried about the social consequences, make a loud sniffling sound like you need to use the wipe as a tissue blow your nose, I'm sure God will overlook this minor misdirection.)

And, should the bugs continue to bother you, consider purchasing a hand-held UV lamp to disinfect your kitchen surfaces, mouse, telephone, and keyboard if other people also touch these items. Matter of fact, since the publishing of Microbe, my friends have sent me a cool half-dozen of these lamps for Christmas.

A few more and I can open up my own tanning salon.
-- Michael Bellomo, Author, Microbe: Are We Ready for the Next Plague?

I am in the group that believes if you don't get exposed to germs in day to day living you get sick more often. I try to find hand soap that is NOT anti-bacterial and that is getting harder every year. The body has got to build up antibodies to normal germs. I also eat lots of jalapenos, just figure germs cannot live in that and I have not been sick in years. Just my thoughts on the subject, nothing scientific.
-- Elaine Kyle

NOT SO RADICAL
Re: Doug Powers's Rock the Vote Crumbles:

"Rock the Vote" article! Excellent. Rock on.
-- MRB

Thank you for your article "Rock the Vote Crumbles." If you are interested in a group that is doing very well with the youth vote, you may enjoy some information about Redeem the Vote's success.

Their conservative model would be a great contrast to the liberal model you outlined in your article. They did amazing outreach and motivated many young values voters in the 2004 election.

If you would like more information, Dr. Randy Brinson has extensive information about what Redeem the Vote was able to accomplish.

Thank you very much!
-- J. B. Rosania

"Rock the Vote" and "Progressive Radio" share much of the same philosophy, and fate it seems. Air America in particular has trouble keeping its own business sense aligned while bashing business interests that employ Americans and pay taxes.

Both movements talk volumes about "what's wrong." But answers as of yet not forthcoming, you're referred to "the website." Maybe these young idealistic and eligible voters are still waiting for details of John Kerry's "plan."

Both movements produce lots of stuff that fits on bumper stickers, with the expectation that the bumper sticker is expected to enhance the vehicle's performance.

Let us allow, even encourage, this kind of activity of our political rivals. My only fear is that a lack of real philosophical competition will result in the libertarian right's laziness, and eventual downfall.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Let's hear more from Doug Powers. How funny!
-- Helen C. Barnes
Williamston, Michigan

"Rock the Vote" is sucking bong water? Glad to hear it, dude.
-- R. Trotter
Arlington, Virginia

COLOR SCHEMES
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Political Deaths:

I don't believe America is more "color conscious" as a nation. What we are is resentful of victimization for political purposes. Rabble Rousers such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Julian Bond would have us believe blacks are a target for whites who are determined to keep them down. This is for money raising, not for the elevation of blacks. It is Jackson, et al., who are racist, not your average WASP.

Republicans have always been on the right side of the race issue. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, freed the slaves. It was Republicans that passed the civil rights bill. A Republican President (Ike) Nationalized the Guard in Arkansas and pushed Democrat George Wallace aside. The Citizens Councils and the KKK were made up of Democrats. Even though JFK is remembered as a staunch advocate of civil rights, it was his brother Bobby who, with JFK approval, wiretapped MLK and spied on him.

The whole Democrat claim to be a friend of blacks falls apart when confronted with reality.
-- G.B. Hall
Marietta, Georgia

Wlady's excellent piece once again serves as a reminder of the intellectual bankruptcy of the American left. Mr. Carter was unable to close the loop on his outrage concerning the illegal wiretapping of Dr. King by failing to remind those in attendance that it was the brothers Kennedy, John and Robert, who engineered this outrageous conduct. Maybe because Ted Kennedy was sitting behind him. But then again, that didn't stop Carter from his classless petty assault on President Bush or Mrs. Clinton's failure to take the opportunity to remind us all of Dr. King's immortal words and his most fervent hope, that his children "be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Ah, but these are not useful words for race baiters seeking a political edge. No, it's best to stick to 40-year-old rhetoric even if Lester Maddox was a Democrat. Might it also be too much to ask the former president and Yale law grad, Bill Clinton, to opine on what his segregationist mentor J. William Fulbright would have thought about Justice O'Connor's edict in Grutter v. Bollinger, that affirmative action has 25 years left on its lifespan? Yes, as Wlady would say, the Democrats had an "unscotchable hankering" to be in full throat, the only problem however was that it was a complete fraud.
-- A. DiPentima

One interesting fact that Jimmeh left out of his oration: the Attorney General who authorized the wiretaps of Martin Luther King was Robert Kennedy. Come to think of it, Teddy left that out of his talk, too. Hmmm...
-- Elizabeth Knott
Miramar, Florida

TO EACH HIS OWN BEAUTY
Re: Mark Gauvreau Judge's Right-Wingtips Revisited:

I read your original column and was amused. It was so normal for easterners or Yankees. I have lived or traveled over much of the U.S. and been in Europe in the '50s. I'm 71 so I'm not a kid and I don't get to upset about things like this. As a very devout Christian, I really think that the things you were ranted about so much are really understood by you. I like country music (pre 1990's), I'm a stock car fan, and on Saturdays I dress like a slob. These are just some of the things I like. If you like high brow art, opera and things of that nature, have at it. But don't disparage those who don't. That does not make you better or worse. You just have different taste. Maybe when we get to heaven, the almighty GOD will let us each have our place. Have nice day and don't get your nose out of joint so much.
-- Lou Leggett

Just a reference suggestion for Mr. Judge. While von Balthasar and Pope Benedict are fine examples of theologians speaking to the issue of aesthetics and theology please see Eastern Orthodox theologian's recent work, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. This is a dense but beautifully written study on the beauty of Christian theology in a post-modern setting.
-- J. Wilcox
Calvin College

Mr. Judge truly needs to lighten up and get out and about more often.

A suggestion, Mark: Go to the library and check out a few of Lewis Grizzards many outrageously funny books on the South.

A self-described redneck from Moreland, Georgia, Grizzard was a nationally syndicated columnist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was referred to as the "Faulkner of the common man" by the Southern Literary Society.

When he passed away in 1994 at the age of 47 I can tell you the entire South mourned and many a drink was had in his honor in Savannah where I was living at the time.

He loved dogs, the "dawgs," and women and hated neckties, Yankees and pompous snobs: I can only imagine his response to your articles.
-- Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

Mark Gauvreau Judge hit a collective nerve, else his article would not have generated such vitriolic responses. Look, he was not insulting others, nor when he making himself out to be superior. As I see it, those of us who believe that we are made in the image and likeness of our Creator are therefore obliged to dress and act in such a manner as to give respect for others -- even if they do not comprehend the ultimate source of their creation. Dressing and acting properly should not, of course, be done ostentatiously. The virtue of humility forbids calling unnecessary attention to oneself. But humility also forbids an attitude of "take me as I am." That is a subtle form of pride, which must also be resisted.
-- Kenneth A. Cory
China, Michigan

I am saddened by the responses to Mark Judge's articles ("Right-Wingtips Revisited"). Most of the letters are angry and crude; exactly what they claim Mr. Judge's articles to be. I would have never expected so much animosity over a critique of cultural apathy.

Like Mark, I feel out of place among other Republicans. I have never fit in with people that listen to the mediocrity played on the radio, or care for Hollywood blockbusters, or are satisfied with eating at Applebee's. Unfortunately, one does not encounter many Republicans at art galleries, opera houses, or foreign movies. I lived in NYC for five years and never met a Republican outside of the corporate world. And those whom I did encounter were not able or did not want to discuss anything other than their work, sports, and politics.

Yes, we are all entitled to our own sense of aesthetics. But there is something to be said for having an appreciation for complexity and depth -- whether it be music, a screen play, or conversation. Mr. Judge should not be pummeled for his frustration with the lack of intellectual interest; he should be supported.

I'll take Cary Grant over Brad Pitt any day.

Please do not fire Mark... I like him.
-- Michelle
Chicago

HOLY HOWLING
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Angry Young Men:

I enjoyed you thoughtful editorial "Angry Young Men." It was right on the mark.

I am deeply troubled over how the majority of the U.S. mainstream media has lost all courage in reporting this story. What in the world in going on here?

Thank goodness for your publication.
-- John Pritchett

Mr. Tyrrell's core theme is undeniable, that "[t]he peoples in such a rage over Danish cartoonists are ... the enemy of civilization, whether it be Western civilization or some civilized order that might emerge in the Middle East." In solidarity with that conclusion (echoed by most of the followup "Reader Mail"), I too am struck that mindless rage is displayed over something so trivial. Offensive maybe, but still trivial. The absurdity of frothing-at-the-mouth protests and apocalyptic threats would be comical (am I allowed to say cartoonish?) to anyone with even a primitive sense of humor. Therein may lie a remedy for what ails much of the Islamic world: These poor souls are in dire need of levity. Do they know how to laugh? Have their hearts ever known lightness? Is there any space for joviality in their wretched lives? Is it time for them to step back, take a deep breath, and ... yodel?

The great existential philosopher Steve Martin has observed that it's hard to be angry or depressed while playing the banjo. (Quick! Name a banjo-picking blues artist. That's okay, nobody else can either). The banjo is intrinsically humorous, but is not workable for our purpose. Happily, there is an a cappella equivalent to the banjo, and that is yodeling. Yodeling is --if anything -- structured laughter. It's language-neutral, sounding just as zany in English or French as it would in Arabic or Farsi. Talent is optional. In fact, yodeling's genius is that the worse it is, the funnier it is. A hearty yodel releases endorphins into the brain, thereby suppressing the jihad impulse. It's also perfect for backward tribal societies, allowing each clan to have a signature yodel, or "holy howl."

The CIA could train and deploy yodeling Muslims to the more volatile regions, where they would introduce the holy howl as a way of praising Allah. Properly marketed, it may spread faster than a bogus Newsweek story on Koran-flushings. I see no downside except for the annoyance factor, but would gladly suffer that over a bunch of pious losers who missed their rabies shots.

If humor leads to a sense of perspective, and perspective leads to sanity, it may yet be possible for a cartoon to be seen for what it is. And if yodeling proves therapeutic for radical Muslims, I say we try it next on some of the more uptight members of Congress.
-- GnuCarSmell
Jacksonville, Texas

Americans seem beholden, in their profoundly disaffected credulity, to view Islam as one among many of the rich threads which make up the beautiful tapestry of cultural and religious diversity in this country. They forget that most Muslims are equally vexed by a different moral imperative that spurs them to view the rest of humanity, Americans in particular, as part of a great evil force upon humanity that must be radically transformed or gotten rid of, at all costs. Hence the wildly extrapolative chants of "Down with the U.S." in response to a parodied depiction of their esteemed prophet by a Danish publication that had no ties whatsoever with the United States.

The question that probably lingers in many people's minds after witnessing this arguably disproportionate response to a few provocative doodles is: If Islam is truly the peaceful religion those who continually defend it say it is, why aren't more peace loving Muslims (who presumably constitute the majority who vouch for this assertion) openly condemning these violent acts in the name of their religion? Why have so few Muslims in positions of leadership found the incentive to vigorously decry these acts of violence?
-- Miguel A. Guanipa
Whitinsville, Massachusetts

WHAT HAPPENED TO JIMMY?
Re: Sam & Rose's letter ("Funeral Jimmy") in Reader Mail's Here Come the Judges and Jay D. Homnick's Winter Wonderland:

Having just read the letter from Sam & Rose about their disappointment in former President Carter's behavior at Mrs. King's funeral, I could not help but wonder why. President Carter (for whom I actually voted the first time) was so much more forgivable when he spoke and acted like a Christian than he is now that he has realized he is irrelevant. At least he was somewhat sympathetic when he was an inept president with a concern for showing kindness and character. Now he seems to have become just another angry, classless liberal suffering from his own sense of self-righteousness or he has become senile and out of touch with reality. Either is just sad.
-- DH
Dallas, Texas

SMITTEN
Re: Diane Smith's and Elaine Kyle's letters to Reader Mail:

I love Diane and Elaine. If I weren't already happily married (to a non-watermelon college professor with a Ph.D.), I'd be chasing after both of 'em.

They're terrific -- as are so many of your other participants.

Continued success!
-- GB

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