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Sunday, February 22, 2009

14,325 days ago, 4 days ago, today


14,325 days ago (39 years ago), a young man came back to the United States after his tour of duty, serving his country in Vietnam. He came through San Francisco on his way home. I don't know this man or know the details of the story, but I do understand that he was treated poorly, with disrespect and hate. It was wrong. It was undeserved.

14,325 days ago (39 years ago), I was learning to walk without the metal braces I'd had on my legs since I was a baby. No longer would people openly stare at me and ask my mother if I was a cripple, breaking her heart. I lived just outside of Washington DC when this young soldier came home to the United States, via San Francisco.

14,325 days ago is 20,628,000 minutes is 39 years.

At that time, one person became whole and one became hurt.
One stopped being stared at and discriminated against and one started to be, and neither one was to blame.

Luckily, I am the one who does not remember what that was like.

***

4 days ago this man wrote a comment on my post about my new San Francisco project, and it was an angry but sincere comment, so I published it even though sometimes I feel that when people say they read my blog, they really don't, based on the comments I get. They assume they know everything about you because you write a blog, or they know all about you based on where you live or what the color of your skin is or how much money you make.

Sometimes, including 4 days ago, people write to leave a comment so that they can be HEARD from the rooftops, my rooftops, even though those rooftops are small and not many people are listening because they're all too busy thinking about something else.

In truth, I'd rather have comments that stay on topic to the post, because then I feel like someone actually took the time to read what I took the time to write. But I'd also rather publish a comment that had some feeling in it, rather than the millisecond comment "nice blog."

***

Today, I would like to thank that man who, 14,325 days ago, served our country proudly and with his heart and sweat and tears, and also say I'm sorry that he was treated shabbily and without honor, by a nation of which some people in some places were arrogant, ignorant and insensitive. I can't apologize for those particular people, or even for San Francisco, where this hurt occurred, because I wasn't one of the ones who participated in such behaviour, and I didn't even live here.

14,325 days ago, I was learning to walk and be a little girl.

***

14,325 days down Memory Lane is a long time. I know we all wander down Memory Lane, and lots of what we remember during our travels back there end up on our blogs and sometimes those memories end up making us smile, or may end up hurting us in painful ways we thought we had forgotten.

Or else we never left Memory Lane at all, and to me that is very sad and quite a waste of a life.

I would like to think that in 14,325 days, 20,628,000 minutes, or 39 years, people or places would shift and change and that my impression of them at some time in the past would be subject to improvement.

I would also like to think that for the next 14,325 days that this man has before him, if he is to be so lucky, and all of the days that possibly lie before all of us, that we spend more time looking forward than we do looking back, if it does not serve to make our lives more joyous.

We may not have 14,325 days ahead. We may only have a few.

***

First photo taken in the Haight, where all of the sidewalks have something to say.

Second photo taken in the sweet and haunting pet cemetery in the Presidio, where beloved pets sleep forever under the freeway overpass.

19 comments:

a painter February 22, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

I cannot respond casually to your post. It is deep on a many levels.

I am married to a vet who went to Nam. He happens to lead a joyous life. He is probably lucky. Our lives intersected over the course of 30 years and a decade ago we married when we found ourselves alone. I knew the young vet and I know him now.

All of us are complex people with complex lives. We are the sum of our varied parts. We come together at blogs like this. Our hearts are touched. We find common ground. I do love the content here.

I am so very happy for you that you tango now. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

jw February 22, 2009 at 9:15 AM  

Oh, but we cannot read that man's comment... Or did i look at the wrong place? (the comments to "Indra")

Flartus February 22, 2009 at 9:44 AM  

Now, see, I don't come here as often as I should. Then again, I don't do a lot of things as often as I should.

I don't know if you care about these things...but I'm awarding you one of these ubiquitous blog awards, the Premio Dardo. From what I've been able to tell, it's to acknowledge bloggers who not only put it all out there, but do it with a particularly fantastic use of heart, brain and language. Which you do.

You can stop by my blog for more details, such as they are.

Christina February 22, 2009 at 9:46 AM  

This is sad on so many levels. I wish I had words that could make all feel, in a better place. : )

julochka February 22, 2009 at 10:09 AM  

i'm glad you wrote this...i saw that comment and wondered why you let it through. i knew you'd have a good reason...

smith kaich jones February 22, 2009 at 10:24 AM  

I read his comment. I visited his blogs. I noticed he lived in Texas. I heard his anger. And the thing is, I totally understood. I don't have the anger he has, having not been through what he has been through, but I don't necessarily disagree with him. It is hard for those of us who were non-Obama supporters to say anything against Obama's policies without being called names.

Before I go on, let me stress I am in no way referring to you - you have always been more than fair, but I have learned my lesson about responding with a differing view to a pro-Obama political post on other blogs. I have been called a racist, have been shouted at (yes, one can hear shouts over the internet) to own my racism, my hatred. Which usually just makes me laugh. Because those hurling the insults at me don't know my story, have never attended a family reunion with me, which is a true rainbow coalition.

And so I keep quiet, which bothers me & makes me feel guilty, because I believe that is the purpose of the name-calling. Not to truly belittle me, but to ensure others are kept quiet, for no one wants to be treated so badly. I, too, would like to think that as time moves forward, we leave the past behind, but I hold out no hope. So today I am using your rooftop - just a bit - and I appreciate being allowed to do so.

I wish this man all the best. I hope he finds peace - he is long overdue.

Debi

Cartooncharacter February 22, 2009 at 11:25 AM  

All your posts are wonderful, TB, whether they are full of joy or sorrow (or both), whether they leave us laughing or touched.

I really want to say something on this topic and apologize in advance if I ramble.

Both my parents were children growing up in Germany during WWII. They suffered, just as many civilians suffer during wartime. They had nothing to do with Hitler's election or the horrific actions of the Nazis. My mother's father was drafted to fight in the war, and never made it back home (he was killed by a hand grenade). My father's family fled their farm as the Russians advanced, on their way to Berlin to escape from what would soon become East Germany.

On one of my mother's trips back to Germany to visit her family, the subject of the war came up, and her eldest nephew angrily said that "they" (his generation) was not to blame for what "she" (her generation) did. What did my mother, a little girl, do?

I also often have felt judged by others because I am white, which, gosh, must mean that I am rich and racist and have had no personal experience with discrimination (I have -- like everyone, there's more to me than meets the eye). And, as an American, am I to blame for the atrocities of slavery, even though I was not alive at the time, and none of my ancestors were American? Or, am I to blame for the atrocities committed by the Nazis because I am of German descent?

I also feel that few people think about all the German people who risked their lives to hide Jews in their homes, or the white people who risked harm by assisting in the Underground Railroad.

I understand the need to be proud of one's country, and the accompanying shame we feel for our country's misdeeds. But, we are all individuals, and are ultimately responsible only for our own feelings and actions.

jw February 22, 2009 at 12:36 PM  

found it. sorry.

Teri & the cats of Furrydance February 22, 2009 at 12:45 PM  

Yes, I read G Rex post with the same feeling of sadness, but with the hope if I have 39 years left, that I will have been able to forgive past hurts and not feel like I would have to move away. Because this person will find hate and prejudice and thoughtless people where ever he moves to.

I know when I lost my husband, my therapist/friend advised me not to make any big changes in my life-moving, changing jobs, getting into a new relationship, for a year.

If I was still suffering from what happened to me in 2007 39 years later, then I did not receive the help I needed along the way, maybe because I didn't seek it?


I do not know this man at all either, except from visiting his blogs. I may not ever have the privilege to meet either of you, but feel like I would walk away from a conversation with you with hope and from a conversation with him feeling hopeless.

And to know that little girl with braces is now dancing tango in the streets...well, that just makes me smile! Big Time!

Char February 22, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

It was sad and continues to be sad how many veterans are treated in a land of opportunities such as the USA. I come from a long line of people proud to serve.

R. Yaeko February 22, 2009 at 1:47 PM  

This was really moving.

And I agree, living and finding out you never left memory lane is sad. I hope that all those who are stuck there find a way out.

The world is small, no?

The Pink Cowboy February 22, 2009 at 2:38 PM  

I cannot possibly imagine the totality of sadness and heartbreak a war veteran must feel. War is hell. But also war is not always justified and is very often used to advance the political agenda of people that would not send their own sons and daughters to die in foreing lands. I feel a lot of compassion for our veterans. They went through hell. They deserve our respect and friendship. They are our brothers and sisters. I do not know if you noticed the date on the tumbstone at the pet cemetery in The Presidio:1962-1975Give and take a few years they also mark the years when the Viet Nam War was fought. 1975 was the last year of the war. So my question is When do we bury our heartbreaks and sorrows once and forever? At one point it needs to be done if you want to receive and generate Love at its full capacity. There are many aspects of my life were I have been and still am bitter. But I will not define my life in those terms. There is always hope and determination to achieve your goals. Life can be hell, I am not naive. But there is also the opportunity to start anew, to forgive and most important of all to Love again.

Adam February 22, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

i am a son to a soldier who went through similar treatment as he returned home.

the hurt he feels is still very fresh in his heart.

i loved this post, and i loved the fact that you acknowledged his feelings and did not discount your own.

Gaston Studio February 23, 2009 at 5:30 AM  

Born in the South 68 years ago, I grew up with racism, bigotry and prejudice and don't know how I escaped becoming the same.

I lost friends in Vietnam but didn't really understand what gut wrenching trauma they had been through until I dated a vet in the late 70s and saw his reaction to persons who couldn't stop talking about "the shame of having lost the war." He was a doctor; he volunteered; he served 3 years as a Green Beret; he saw horrors; and he came home to try to regain his life. But for several years, I witnessed his personal decline as he simply couldn't let go.

Nothing is ever as simple as it appears on the surface, is it?

C. Bowie Photography February 23, 2009 at 2:29 PM  

Interesting story about a vet. I respect the military and all that serve it. Not only the individual but their families...

A Cuban In London February 24, 2009 at 7:48 AM  

Haven't been on earth that long (14,325 days, I'm only thirty-seven and a bit) but your post touched me in many ways, especially the casual 'nice blog' comments. You have that type of honesty and bluntness which is so representative of us, Scorpios. Many thanks.

Back from holidays now.

Greetings from London.

katie February 25, 2009 at 7:07 PM  

Beautiful~ it's often painful to admit things to yourself, but but it's all about evolution. x

Wendy February 26, 2009 at 7:06 PM  

I didn't see the original comment, but your post was beautiful and poetic. Such a nice way to look at things and such a great way to assert yourself while still being kind and rational and vulnerable and HUMAN. You have a nice way of looking at things.

Red Shoes February 28, 2009 at 2:08 PM  

My heart aches for him--with love for the service he gave, and with sorrow for the dishonor with which he was treated, and with sorrow that he's stuck holding on to it.

Also--and I left him a comment to tell him this, to which he did not respond--I am sad that he doesn't know you very well, TB. He suggested that liberals, and therefore you, hate the military and those who serve. I wanted to tell him that it isn't so. Some do. Never Tangobaby.