Bush, Cheney, Rove, all those guys, they just did what everybody else was doing and I was right there with ’em, chicken as anybody. My problem now is how tough and gung-ho they are, all that bring-it-on crap, I mean, Jesus, show a little humility, people. They ought to be just as careful of your young lives as they were with their own.
Billy nods and turns to the window. He knows he will never see Faison again, but how can he know? How does anyone ever know anything—the past is a fog that breathes out ghost after ghost, the present a freeway thunder run at 90 mph, which makes the future the ultimate black hole of futile speculation. And yet he knows, at least he thinks he knows, he feels it seeded in the purest certainty of his grief as he finds his seat belt and snaps it shut, that snick like the final lock of a vast and complex system. He’s in. Bound for the war. Good-bye, good-bye, good night, I love you all. He sits back, closes his eyes, and tries to think about nothing as the limo takes them away.
Hi, you’ve reached Faison! I’m not able to take your call right now…"It makes for an odd sensation, watching her real-time person in the middle distance while holding her disembodied voice to his ear. It puts a frame around the situation, gives it focus, perspective. It makes him aware of himself being aware of himself, and here is a mystery that seems worth thinking about, why this stacking of awareness should even matter. Ant the moment all he knows is that there’s structure in it, a pleasing sense of poise or mental ordering. A kind of knowledge, or maybe a bridge thereto–as if existence didn’t necessarily have to be a moron’s progress of lurching from one damn this to another? As if you might aspire to some sort of context in your life, a condition he associates with adultness. Then comes the beep, and he has to talk.
Now he laughs for real, cackling with the wicked innocence of the bright and easily bored. Staff Sergeant David Dime is a twenty-four-year-old college dropout from North Carolina who subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Maxim, Wired, Harper’s, Fortune, and DicE Magazine, all of which he reads in addition to three or four books a week, mostly used textbooks on history and politics that his insanely hot sister sends from Chapel Hill. There are stories that he went to college on a golf scholarship, which he denies. That he was a star quarterback in high school, which he claims not to remember, though one day a football surfaced at FOB Viper, and Dime, caught up in the moment, perhaps, nostalgia triggering some long-dormant muscle memory, uncorked a sixty-yard spiral that sailed over Day’s head into the base motor pool.
Inner peace—you need to know who you are, what you want out of life. You have to do your own thinking, and for that you better know who you are, and not just know but be secure in it, comfortable with yourself. Plus you gotta have discipline. Stamina. And luck sure helps. A little luck counts for a lot, including our great good luck of being born into the greatest economic system ever devised. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but overall it’s responsible for tremendous human progress. In just the past century alone, we’ve seen something like a seven-to-one improvement in the standard of living. I’m not saying we don’t have problems, we’ve got a helluva lot of problems, but that’s where the genius of the free market comes in, all the drive and talent and energy that goes into solving those problems.
But I am scared. Everybody's scared.""You know what I mean, like scared scared. Like coward scared, like if you never went to begin with. But with everything you've done nobody's going to doubt you." Then she made a somewhat frantic speech about a website she found that listed how certain people had avoided Vietnam. Cheney, Four education deferments, then a hardship 3-A. Limbaugh,4-F thanks to a cyst on his ass. Pat Buchanan, 4-F. Newt Gingrich, grad school deferment. Karl Rove, did not serve. Bill O'Reilly, did not serve. John Ashcroft, did not serve. Bush, AWOL from the Air National Guard, with a check mark in the "do not volunteer" box as to service overseas."You see where I'm going with this?'"Well, yeah.""I'm just saying, those people want a war so bad, they can fight it themselves. Billy Lynn's done his part.
If ever there was a prime-time trigger for PTSD you couldn't do much better than this, but lucky for Norm, the crowd, America, the forty-million-plus TV viewing audience, Bravos can deal, oh yes! Pupils dilated, pulse and blood pressure through the roof, limbs trembling with stress-reflex cortisol rush, but it's cool, it's good, their shit's down tight, no Vietnam-vet crackups for Bravo squad! You can march these boys straight into sound-and-light show hell and Bravos can deal, but damn, isn't it rude to put them through it.
It was the sixties, exactly, all we wanted to do was to smoke a lot of dope and ball a lot of chicks. Vietnam, excuse me? Why would I wanna go get my ass shot off in some stinking rice paddy just so Nixon can have his four more years? Screw that, and I wasn't the only one who felt that way. All the big warmongers these days who took a pass on Vietnam, look, I'd be the last person on earth to start casting blame. Bush, Cheney, Rove, all those guys, they just did what everybody else was doing and I was right there with 'em, chicken as anybody. My problem now is how tough and gung-ho they are, all that bring it on crap, I mean, Jesus, show a little humility, people. They ought to be just as careful of your young lives as they were with their own.