Thursday, February 17, 2005

Away from the War Zone: Experiencing War

My brother is finally on his way home, and I can breathe easier. Right now he is being outprocessed. Experiencing this war so personally has given me insight into war, which I would never wish on anyone. Too many people think of this war in abstract terms of policy, politicians, and the soundbytes of punditry. It's easier to comprehend and emotionally handle, which makes it easier to support or oppose the war uncritically.

I was opposed to this war before the US invaded Iraq, was opposed when my brother was "called up," and have been opposed to it ever since. I honestly thought Americans felt they had been betrayed by the current President Bush enough to vote him out, even if they didn't think his policies immoral. I'm not hesitant to disabuse the usage of morality, especially when the poor thing has been so abused. But I digress.

At times, even those in opposition to the war don't think critically about what's really going on. Even though I sympathize with their political inclinations, it is frustrating when the actual Iraqis and Americans dying are taken out of the picture - quite literally with regard to the media - and the war is reduced to lies (even though the war was predicated on lies). I don't have the luxury of overlooking the dying. It's been the lens through which every policy has been seen for me.

I'm writing about this because one thing blogs can provide are autoethnographic bits of knowledge. This is one attribute of blogging I didn't anticipate when we started this project. As Palabris noted in Brayden's post, on Academics Taking a Stand, and Brayden and Tina noted in their comments on Tina's Post on Group Blogs vs UniBlogs at Pub Sociology, experience is an important part of knowledge, for sociologists too, who are part of "the public" we are trying to reach (no?). The idea of public sociology (which I have clearly supported) has often been applied in a dichotomous separation between sociologists and the public (i.e. like we go study "the public," but we are people too!). It impacts our own ways of knowing and our scholarship, down to the topics we choose to research. Thus, self-reflexivity is crucial. Through each other's experiences, we have a better understanding not only of what it is s/he is going through, but also, if we use our sociological imagination we can get a fuller sociological understanding of the way social structures/institutions (whatever our theoretical leanings) we discuss abstractly impact individual lives concretely. So, blogging, for me has become somewhat about autoethnography as a tool for learning/teaching. Of course, this isn't all blogging is, but it is one of the more interesting sociological aspects that keeps people coming back I think.

An article on Common Dreams, Iraq Vets Say Services, Compassion Lacking, goes over some issues that are a big concern for members of military families (against and supportive of the war), not to mention the veterans. And as these women and men come home from a war zone, after having lost 5 of their own, and try to reintegrate themselves with questionable support for veterans, new challenges will come before us. Those of us personally involved more intimate issues. The rest of you more political ones.

I have a unique position here to document the experiences of these rural, working-class, citizen-soldiers. So, I want to try my hand at making a documentary on the experiences of myself, my family, and my friends and anyone else who wants to testify to these times they've endured that are coming to an end, and the new ones about to begin. Does anyone know of any resources I could use to help me think through the issues of making a documentary? I'm interested in making this collaborative with the people involved and making sure the socio-historical context of the homecoming is captured.

The people of my small hometown have taken care of these citizen-soldiers, economically and emotionally, even though support for the war has waned. It's a story of exceptionalism because of the loss of life and because of the way the town has rallied around them as part of their own identity. It's a story worth telling as an intervention in the abstractions of lies, terror, freedom, and liberty.

On 15 February 2003, millions of people across the globe protested pre-emptive war on Iraq. It's two years later, and the US is still there without an exit strategy.


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