I'm on the phone last night with my good friend Yellow and walking around outside on the grounds of this complex because we tend to talk for several hours at a time. I happened to be walking past the garbage dumpsters when I saw something that made me pause and take note of something much bigger than me.
Lined up in a neat formation beside the dumpster were three pairs of well worn combat boots and a stack of Army-issue t-shirts. I was immediately struck with questions about them - Who had worn them? Where they had been? What stories they held? Did they ever have anyone's blood, sweat, and tears on them, and what led them to be so carefully and thoughtfully arranged here now for someone like me to find? Did they belong to my soldier friend down the hall who cannot be over 26 years old, his young wife even younger than he and very pregnant, and would the day come when he would be deployed as well as the others? Would he ever come home to us again if he were sent into this fucking war, would he ever see his wife and child - let alone be home in time to bring and welcome it to the world?
In one big rush, I was just floored by the metaphor of this and immediately stopped our conversation to explain what I was seeing and feeling at that moment. I explained to her that there are lots of soldiers living here that are stationed at Fort Benning, and that it is the daily norm to see them walking around in their desert fatigues and these same GI t-shirts. They are as much an integral part of the landscape and daily life here in Columbus as our traditional landmarks and gathering spots are, and we feel very strongly that they are our own sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and extended family of friends. Each time I see another one moving in, I suspect they have just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, and when I see one moving out I suspect they are headed to the Middle East and something tiny and irreplaceable inside me breaks into thousands of pieces.
So here I am looking at this scene, thinking about how much I love my country and those whose job it is to defend it, how much I hate this war and this current administration, relating it all to a friend I have this amazing history with and am bonded to for life, and it occurs to me that I have to mark this occasion. I told her that there was a metaphor running through me for this entire thing, and it was the notion that much like these boots and shoes, we don't place enough value on those who wear them - we just throw them away, like they're all in some part these disposable components of our failure in the world. They don't ask for much and they certainly aren't given the respect they are due, and still we just throw them away.
We Just Throw Them Away.