Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On getting our minds blown open

Former Sergeant Bob Evers, a 14-year Army and Navy veteran now living in Bavaria, fought in both Gulf wars and left the Army on a medical discharge. Tim Wegner photo via Der Spiegel

Those of us in the States don't think about it very much, but the mere experience of living somewhere else seems, sometimes, to be opening the minds of U.S. soldiers based abroad in unexpected directions.

Service members say it stands to reason that many people desert overseas. A foreign posting -- 65,000 troops are now stationed in Germany -- is often a major reality-check for soldiers. Many are abroad for the first time, and being far from family, in a country that opposes the war, and halfway to the battlefield "forces you to think about things a lot closer," says former Army Sgt. DeShawn Reed. ...

Or this story:

Sgt. Bob Evers, a 14-year Army and Navy veteran now living in the Bavarian hamlet of Schnackenwerth. ...joined up to defend his Constitution. Initially, he supported the invasion of Iraq. ...

By the time Evers was wounded on a raid in November 2004 and sent to a military hospital in Landstuhl, he felt the terrible futility of what he had been sent to do. In the hospital he picked up a biography of Gen. Ludwig Beck. The former chief of staff of the German Armed Forces publicly resigned five years after the Nazi takeover; he was put to death after an attempt on Hitler's life. Evers read Beck's words -- "A soldier's duty ends where his knowledge, conscience, and responsibility forbid him to follow a command" -- and thought: Yes it does.

Being in somebody else's country can change people, but this is something many in the United States never experience. Only some 20-25 percent of U.S. citizens even have passports. And we are becoming more oblivious to the rest of the world every day according to journalist Alkman Granitsas. Some dismal facts:
  • Only half as many U.S. colleges students (a measly 8.6 percent in total) study a foreign language as did 40 years ago.
  • Since 1972, with the sole exception of 2004, the Gallup polling organization reports that U.S. voters ranked the state of the economy as a more important than "foreign affairs." The previous generation of voters had foreign affairs at the top of their agenda.
  • "The latest trend for newspapers, magazines, and television is to cut down on foreign reporting. Foreign bureaus are closing down all over the world, often with the excuse that readers are more interested in potholes in the streets and local City Council elections," mourns H.D.S. Greenway.
All this is by way of the introduction to the news that this blogger is off to "see what she can see" again, this time to visit Nicaragua under the tutelage of the good folks of El Porvenir. Blogging may be non-existent or very light for awhile, but I'll be back in 10 days with photos and stories, most importantly of sustainable water projects in Central America's poorest country.

1 comment:

AFish said...

Have a great time. I may be going to Nicaragua this summer.

Look forward to hearing about your trip.

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