Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Musings

It's been way too long since my last post.  Mostly that's because I'm bopping around the house, doing nothing much worth writing about.  It's great to be home and back in a sorta-normal routine, being with Janis, and seeing our friends again.  

One of the things I've been working on is getting the final medical clearances done for the Corps, and that's still ongoing.  It has amazed me how some of these things have been so hard to do.  For example, I needed a typhoid shot.  That's pretty easy, isn't it?  You go down to the docs, roll up your sleeve, get the shot, do the paperwork or pay for it or whatever, and you're outa there.  Ten minutes, tops, most of which is the paperwork.  Wrong!  You have to make an appointment, then get there fifteen minutes early to fill out reams of paperwork, then wait another fifteen or twenty minutes for the doc, then the doc has to talk with you for another ten minutes (to make sure you're not going to go into convulsions or something, I suppose), then FINALLY get the shot, then more paperwork.  Tomorrow I have my final appointment - this one is for an audiogram so they can chart how bad my hearing is.  And will this make one smidgen bit of difference on whether or not they send me back to Baghdad?  Are you high?

We've watched several movies on TV this past week.  One of them was In The Heat of the Night, with Sydney Poitier.  I had never seen this old classic.  I was growing up in Memphis when this was filmed, and it certainly brought back a lot of memories of the mid-to-late 60's.  One line in there caught my attention: where the town's rich plantation owner says something about how "the Negro needs to be taken care of", meaning that blacks were lesser persons who needed the benign rule by whites.  That's a blatantly racist statement, but I remember that in Memphis at that time, it was not an uncommon view.  I heard a lot of people saying things like that.  It really wasn't until after I'd been gone from Memphis for years, and then went back to visit, that I heard these sentiments for what they were.  

The next night we watched a more recent movie, Cadillac Records.  It's a recent movie about Leonard Chess and his record label, with blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf, and Etta James, and covered the period from around 1950 to Chess's death in 1969.  One thing that struck me was that (at least as portrayed in the movie) Leonard Chess actually practiced what the rich plantation owner in In The Heat of the Night preached: being a benign caretaker for the black artists on his record label.  I really had to wrestle with that one.  Finally I decided that Leonard Chess didn't do it because he believed his people were inferior; rather, they didn't have his education and understanding of white society's business practices.  He certainly respected them as his equals as people, so he used his skills to help them create better lives, while making himself rich in the process.

Which made me think of Iraq.  In some respects, Iraq is in a situation somewhat analogous to black America in the 50's and 60's.  It's just emerging to make its own way, no longer under the rule of a strongman or of an imposed power.  It needs some help, primarily in learning about things it has not had to deal with until now.  Things like budgeting, managing, banking, and law.  But it seems to me that the pace is beginning to pick up now.  My conversation with the Iraqi professor on the flight from Amman to Frankfurt gives me great hope for their future.  The educated ones, most of whom left Iraq either during Hussein's rule or during the violence of a few years ago, are starting to return.  

It took black America decades to get to the point where we have an Obama presidency.  I don't know how long it'll take Iraq to get to where they need to be - my guess is a generation, but they'll get there.

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