When I was a young 'un (you whippersnappers), summer was for Goofing Off. The only kids who did homework over the summer were ones who had flunked in the spring and were trying to catch up.
The natural consequence of this care-free time was that we came back to school and had to spend most of September getting up to speed. Nowadays, students get homework assignments for the summer -- a set of math problems they're asked not to start until a few weeks before back-to-school (ETA: the Sprogs inform me that this is a middle school thing, it only happens sometimes in high school; also, there is sometimes social studies homework), and reading lists. The idea -- and it's a good one -- is for the students to "warm up" before classes start, so they don't have to re-learn to think like students, as we did.
I find it interesting to see what makes the reading list. This one is for Sprog#2's sophomore honors English class, in a very good suburban NJ public school:
As Andrew Sullivan says, "This is the moment that marriage for gay couples became irreversible in America." New York is too big, too rich, and too important for marriages made there not to be accepted elsewhere in the country. And the NY State Senate has a *Republican* majority, and the bill was promoted by a *Republican* NYC mayor.
We're not a First World country because we no longer have one of their most important characteristics: a high and steadily-increasing life expectancy. A study released this week shows that in significant areas of the US life expectancy is no longer increasing, and in a shockingly large part of the country the life expectancy for women is actually decreasing.
Now that Anthony Weiner has made a noise like a hoop and rolled away, I've been able to get someone to tell me, coherently, what he *did*. During the melee last week it was impossible for me to get information about the most important issue, because it was so hard to find anyone who would talk about it. I felt as though the entire news media was playing a game which I'm told is quite popular on middle-school buses these days, which (for the sake of your spam filters) I will call "the P Game". At least 11-year-olds *know* they're playing it for the thrill of saying R-rated words.
There was also the fact that news was broken by Andrew Breitbart & associates, and if Bretibart said water was wet I'd insist on getting a second opinion.
Now, let me be clear. For me, the *only* important issue is, "Did Weiner send inappropriately sexual pictures to women who weren't expecting them?" That's it. The *only* thing that matters in the public sphere is the recipients' consent.
Japan, my students tell me dutifully, is a country with 4 seasons, but I have never figured out which one they take out to make room for the rainy season. Fortunately, I was prepared for the whole concept by these torrential downpours we used to have in Southern Mississippi, but other places in the US would have had me less prepared. I still have that Pacific Northwest habit of never using an umbrella. Regardless of the weather in your locale, any rain related thoughts?
While other celebrated [the Japanese surrender] in the streets, Foote was devastated that World War II was over. According to Tony Horowitz, he had "missed the great trauma of his own generation's adolescence."
So when Foote protests that he "certainly would have fought," when he speaks movingly of how "life would have been intolerable if you hadn't," when he romanticizes the combat and the killing, I can't help but think of the angry young man, disgraced for insubordination, too deeply shamed to return home, and ultimately denied the chance to redeem his honor on the field of battle.
The "War" side of the Standard of Ur, c. 2500 B.C.E. This is why we can't have nice things.
And then he includes a letter from a reader who talks about hir own father, who graduated from high school in 1946:
I always had the feeling he in some perverse way regretted the ending of the big war because it meant he had not been able to participate in the Great Event of his generation. He went into the Foreign Service where he spent his life in service of his career.
I have some of his readers from high school and books from college. In the margins and the front and back are decently done drawings of various aircraft used in the war and individual soldiers outfitted in the war making kit of the day. I can imagine him daydreaming of the glory of the fight, itching to get into it which leads me to believe that romanticizing war is a definitively human problem, a failure of imagination or refusal to acknowledge reality that generation after generation makes.
Below the post, commenter after commenter chimes in, describing how the experience of fighting or not fighting changed their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers. Almost all of the men who had been in active war zones refused to talk honestly about their experiences, and most never talked about it at all except with fellow vets. The upshot is that many families -- maybe even most -- have a mystery, a hole in their center: the men's experiences *changed* them, but they can't or won't say how.
I wonder how these dynamics played out in Germany and in the then-USSR -- soldiers' families in those areas experienced WWII directly, so the men's experiences would have been much less of a mystery, their trauma was part of a society-wide trauma. Not Talking About It is the consensus Japanese approach to dealing with WWII, so I don't know if there, too, the traumatic experiences of soldiers and civilians allowed a common ground.
But TNC's commenters also emphasize how few soldiers were part of "the tip of the spear", the actual fighting force, in WWII or Vietnam or Korea -- much less today -- and how common that experience is. They talk about men who were shattered by combat, ones who ate their hearts out because they never had a chance to see combat and be part of such a defining experience, ones who "missed the action" and were forever grateful for missing it.
I'm not going to pull any comments out, because you should read them all. Or talk here about how these things played out in your family.
Back in February, my wife and I went to NOLA to visit some friends, eat some good food, and listen to music. We stayed with our friend Leo and his family. Leo's not his real name, his real name is not important. We'll just call him Leo.
Leo is a former colleague of my wife's. He's a marketing consultant, works a lot with entrepreneurs who are trying to bootstrap their mom and pop operations into something they can sell. He's a very very bright and personable guy, funny, great ideas, knows how to run a meeting, knows how to talk to a roomful of people. He has, professionally, a very good track record. He's helped make some folks very wealthy.
We've known Leo and his family for a long long time. When they come this way, they stay with us, when we go their way, we stay with them. He's kind of part of the extended russell family, and vice versa.
One night after the wives and kids went to bed, Leo and I hung out, had a couple of beers, and discussed life. Eventually, we got on the topic of the sorry state of the national economic life, and Leo told me a story.