Saturday, November 9, 2013
Libby and I went on our Southwest US musical tour in March and April of 2003. That happened to be the moment when George Bush decided to start the war with Iraq. We watched the shock and awe on motel teevee screens as the damn thing unfolded in its early, naive moments. Or maybe it was naive for George. I knew damn well that thousands of young Americans were being tossed into the meat grinder, and I wondered how the lessons of Vietnam had been so thoroughly forgotten.
When we got to Arizona Lori Piestewa was officially missing, and stopping at a gas station in Tuba City on the way to the Grand Canyon we read of prayer vigils for her safe recovery. Later she proved to have been killed during the action that also produced the brief capture of Jessica Lynch, whose ordeal and rescue was then turned into a p.r. lie by the Bush Administration. After we returned to NC we learned that a mountain near Phoenix formerly called "Squaw Peak" was to be renamed Piestewa Peak in honor of a fallen native-American soldier. On the way out of Navajo country, on our drive to Santa Fe, I bought a tee shirt at a gas station that depicted several Apache warriors on horseback, with the words "Homeland Security Since 1492." After Santa Fe we drove through Roswell to Austin, Texas. On that leg of the trip, passing through Pecos, Texas at dusk, we noticed signs which said "Thank You, Johnny Mata." He was another soldier killed in the early days of the war, and a native of Pecos. (Yeah, I know: native Americans didn't have horses in 1492.)
It was strange to have our little musical trip punctuated by these intimacies of the war. The country went on as it does. The teevee will tell you something terrible every night. But you don't always experience a personalization of the stories at the DQ or the Seven-Eleven. Or if you do, maybe you have to look a little deeper. While we were in Flagstaff we went to the Sunset National Monument and saw the ruins of the pre-1492 landscape:
Before that stop we'd driven down the long empty road from Tucumcari to Las Cruses, and seen a portion of the library of that lost culture:
A few miles later, at Los Alamos, our modern equivalent:
We drove the back roads as much as we could, given the time constraints and what was available. Between Las Cruses and Flagstaff, off of I-10 (hardly a back road), we stopped in Deming and had the best plate of chili rellenos and refried beans In the world. Who knew. Around the corner from that restaurant was that pretty Facade with Burglar Alarm. I took several shots. Down that street was an old armory. I imagined scenes from The Wild Bunch, but I didn't see a photograph worth taking. We were only in Deming for an hour or so; we didn't have a gig there. Heading west, we took NM 180 up through Silver City and made Flagstaff that evening. In my memory Deming became a perfect little southwest town, sleepy, an easy place to live, probably hot as hell during the summer, some old-timer saying "yeah, but it's a dry heat," the words coming out of the shade under his Stetson. Dusty pickup trucks, appaloosas and the jingle of tack, a shot glass tossed down in the cool dark of a corner bar, chaps and barbed wire.
Squaw Peak changed to Piestewa Mountain pretty soon after Mr. Bush's decision. The changes in Deming were only apparent this past week, when some civilian leaving Walmart fell into the profile of some gung ho deputy sheriffs and was subjected to treatment that, one hopes, will eventually bankrupt that sleepy little town. I'll put up a link, but in brief, the guy was falsely suspected of stashing drugs in an internal orifice, and after being hauled up to Silver City, was subjected to several body cavity searches which culminated in a sedated, full colostomy. All of this proved negative (I hope he doesn't have polyps, and if he does, I hope they at least removed them). The guy was also billed for all these procedures. Since he's now suing both Deming and the medical facility in Silver City, presumably he didn't die of apoplexy upon receiving that bill. Here's the link:
How very very sad. Deming makes the news. The rot of endless wars on concepts--terrorism, drugs--the logic of General Sherman has eaten to the very center of the planet. When it comes to security, absolutely nothing can withstand this acid. This was the deepest truth at the heart of Watergate, and no one learned it. And how appropriate that the Miami Dolphins surround Mr. Incognito with their love at the same moment that trained medical personnel find it impossible to withstand patently and obviously appalling demands from law enforcement to misuse an invasive medical procedure in such a fashion. It's a war, boy. You don't understand unless you've been in an NFL locker room.
We're done with Iraq now. I think. Unless maybe Mr Christie finds some reason to return and make that place even more hellish than it already is. Did you know that 22 American veterans commit suicide every day, these days? I didn't know that. Heard it on NPR this week. They don't mention it much during the fly-overs at NASCAR events.
Here's some more real stuff about our war universe: