Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pat Tillman and Jon Krakauer Are the Best Martyr/Author Combination Since Jesus and Luke

Have you ever felt a warm tingly sensation, the Holy Spirit if you will, take over your body and let you know you're on the right path? Well that's how I felt when I stumbled upon Krakauer's new book on Pat Tillman. Unfortunately my defense of America's way-of-life has made it difficult for me to stay on top of upcoming publications. So I didn't known of this holy union until seeing it in Barnes and Noble.

And like any Krakauer book I've ever read, this one made me want to have long discussions with my friends and family about a million different things. But seeing as I don't have any literate friends or family, I've been reduced to blogging and hoping someone Googles "pear sandwich, american heroes betrayed by their country, bearded nonfiction authors" and that they like to make lots of comments.

1. Is there any more unfathomable, interesting, awe inspiring, patriotic, or cool as fuck person than Pat Tillman? A guy who lived on his own terms. A guy unmotiveated by money or attention. He never gave one interview to promote his decision to give up the NFL for soldiering. This was just something he had to do. He didn't bother seeking praise from a media and culture that was itching to dole it out, praise that would have gone way too far and probably have annoyed the shit out of me. So he quits the NFL to join the Army, and then enlists when he could have gone for OCS. This guy wanted to get into the fight. He wanted to ensure that he took the hardest road possible. It's just so unbelievably admirable.

2. Some advice I'm going to pass on to my children: don't ever guide others up Mt. Everest without using supplemental air, become a fundamentalist Mormon, or participate in the fratricide or cover up of a true American hero and expect Jon Krakaeur to let it slide. He'll find you, call you out by name and publicly shame you.

3. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but there's a survival technique I've developed for living peacefully in this world. The world can suck sometimes. Especially when we do some seriously messed up shit to each other. Like say out of some perverted view of our national self-interest, America decides to go to war to secure access to an important and dwindling natural resource, but in order to sell the war to the public our leaders pretend the war is about preventing terrorist attacks. Then later when that rationale proves false our leaders say the whole thing was about spreading democracy. So millions of people are displaced and hundreds of thousands are killed, all because we were scared into an unnecessary war that was more about making sure we got a steady supply of cheap gasoline to fuel our large trucks and SUVs.

And you can drive yourself crazy focusing on this stuff. So to make it through this thing we're doing without going nuts, to be able to smile and enjoy this life, I'll try to focus on the good parts. Like friends, family, lady love, good books and movies, Mexican food, etc. I put the infuriating parts of this existence out of my mind as best I can. But then I read something like this book, which not only brings up that most unjust of wars, but also reminds me of the disgusting level of deceit that our government engaged in when patriots like Pat Tillman died fighting for their country. And for what? Why did the people in power want to hide that he died because of friendly fire?

4. Krakauer has a few theories about why they did it. And if these theories are true then it's all doubly enraging, but I won't share those here. What I want to talk about is Krakauer's assertion that the underreporting of friendly fire is an endemic problem for the military. That's incomprehensible to me. (Assuming it's true.) By not addressing or admitting to incidents of friendly fire the military is failing to develop measures to correct it. Pretending you're not an alcoholic isn't going to help you hold down relationships or jobs. I can't understand why the military would't want to make itself a more efficient fighting unit -- one that seeks to reduce soldiers from accidently killing each other. I dunno. It's really just incomprehensible to me.

5. Apparently there was an army general or colonel that gave an insensitive interview to ESPN a few years after Tillman's death. The officer had a theory about why the Tillman family was so angry, about why they couldn't let the cover-ups and lying go. His theory was that since the Tillmans were atheist they couldn't accept that their child ceased to exist after expiring on earth. And it struck me how much sense that makes from the perspective of someone who conceives of an after life the way this officer does. It also struck me how an atheist would consider such sentiments. That atheists would see the officer's views consistent with someone unconcerned with the truth. "Of course it doesn't matter if they lied about the way he died. Let's just close our eyes and pretend he's in a better place now and move on."

And hold on for this connection, but this all reminded me of Ricky Gervais' new movie, The Invention of Lying. In that movie, Gervais essentially claims that the story of a peaceful after life is a white lie we tell ourselves to make the pain of death more bearable. I'm not going to speculate on whether that's correct or not since my Christian upbringing still makes it difficult for me to accept that the Bible is just a bunch of stories made up by people doing their best to explain the observable world as they knew it. But that was a good movie and this was a freaking outstanding book. And I'm done talking about it now. So now I'm going to work out and hopefully feel better through endorphins, texting the special lady and feeling less alone in this world (Baby, please text back this time.) and watching the Dodgers play the Phillies, since the athletic accomplishments of men I have never met but who I root for because they play from a geographical area near where I was born tends to make me feel better.