Soap for the troops
On Friday night, Jane, Grace, and I went to a party to celebrate the return of our friend Scott from a year in Kuwait and Iraq. Rita, Scott’s wife, asked us to bring some toiletries and entertainment that they would send on to those remaining in the war zones. So we bought some soap and contributed some music.
It was fun trying to think of music that could appeal to different groups of people. The Beastie Boys might please the kids, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss might delight the olds, and, really, who doesn’t love The Sandinista Project? I had doubles of some solid recent records that I included as well; I expect they’ll all find good homes.
As I was assembling the discs late Friday afternoon, it hit me that, with one exception — a piece about the return of Moktada al-Sadr to Iraqi politics that floated across my news feed that morning — I hadn’t thought about Iraq or Afghanistan, where hundreds of thousands of American troops are at risk, all day. I pride myself on being “informed,” but it was another day in America when there was a war going on (hello, two wars going on) and, except for the sliver of people in this country whose lives are directly affected because they have friends and family in the game, we don’t have to confront evidence of what is happening in our name around the world. I hate these wars, and I will be happy when the day comes when the reason we’re not thinking of the wars is because everyone we’ve sent to them, like Scott, is home and safe. Sending excess CDs and sparing a thought for them feels insufficient, but complaining about the wars a few times a year on one’s blog is insufficient, too.
The high point of the party (aside from seeing Scott back and not having to make dinner) was dancing. We couldn’t get Grace interested, but Jane and I danced for a while, something we don’t do enough. I am not a particularly good dancer but no matter how self-conscious you are (and by “you are,” I mean “I am”), you’ve got to drop it and give in to the music if you’re going to be a good partner. Dancing, especially to a song you’ve moved to for decades (“Love Shack,” some Motown stand-bys), can trick you into thinking that everything is OK for a while. But here’s the thing: it’s not a trick. While the music is on, everything is good. Maybe if we keep dancing, everything will stay OK.
When the kids were younger and more easily refocused when they were unhappy, I used to call everyone into the same room for a dance party that would, in short time, cheer them up, turn them around. I would look ridiculous when I started, but eventually the others would join in. DJ, heal thyself. Turn it up! Don’t stop! Where’s the iPod?