Today would have been the sixth day that I have not ventured out of the apartment, until I decided I really needed to do a run to the trash dumpster (and I'm not even sure if this brief excursion should count as an outing). I've been trying to get over the flu, and regretting that I did not take the last round of flu shots. They don't stop everything, and one year, I swear it GAVE me a really bad case of flu, even though I am well aware of the biology involved and know it can't do that. I may continue to avoid the flu shot, until I get to the point where my health would really be at risk if exposed to flu (and I'm not quite there yet).
While sick, I've been keeping the television in my bedroom tuned to the Discovery Times channel. They are broadcasting a series called Off to War, which chronicles the experience of the first battalion of National Guardsmen sent to Iraq for an extended tour of duty (one year, and that's after six months of training).
War, of course, is a sad thing, a burden placed upon civilized society, to act in horrifically uncivilized ways in order to maintain a status quo. But the reality of being sent off to war is so captivatingly and thoroughly recorded by this show. I mean, these National Guardsmen basically have lost their livelihoods, as they must report for duty. These are not career army. These are guys who signed up for the "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" deal, and instead got 18 months (minimum) of the ugly life in Baghdad. They are sent overseas with whatever hardware and vehicles their particular state may have felt the obligation to maintain. In the state of Arkansas, that would be several trucks from the 1950's and 1960's. Upon arrival to Baghdad, they had to take scrap steel plating off the ground, and fasten them somehow to these old vehicles. The vehicles that could not be "up-armoured" were filled with sacks of sand, or covered with out-dated bullet-proof jackets.
Another show, called Tank School, documents the careers of several young marines, as they learn how to drive tanks and blow up things. In the episode I watched, on their "big day", when they are shooting the main canons and machine guns, their explosions are suspended as they are informed of the disaster of 9/11 (obviously not a recent recording). Several have families in NY, and are quietly taken away by their commanding officers.
The Hunt for Bin Laden is a decidedly anti-military piece, which has been concentrating on the dismal record our forces have had in the search for the most hunted man in the world.
I don't know what draws me to TV shows like this. I certainly have no interest in the machinations of war. For whatever reason, I feel the need to witness, I guess. I feel the need to at least validate, for myself, what others are doing, in order to afford me the right to complain about reality shows, or to denegrate the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, or to complain about invasive airport security, or to curse the price I pay for a gallon of gasoline. So many people are living unimaginably shitty lives right now, all to give the rest of us that remain the right to complain. It gives me pause.