Monday, October 20, 2008

The Wounded Storyteller

To be blunt I hated this book. I guess that's technically not fair because I thought the ideas and concepts were interesting I just hated their delivery. I'm not 100% sure why his particular style or writing annoyed me as much as it did but it did. More times than I can remember I had to stop reading, reread a small portion, and exclaim (occasionally out loud) "What the hell is he talking about". This was mainly for two different reasons either I completely disagreed with what he said or I had no idea what the hell he meant.

Overall it reminded me of someone in high school writing a paper with a thesaurus on hand to use as many big words as they could. I'm not trying to be as overtly critical I just think if it wasn't written by a doctor and by a lay person who had gone through these experiences it would have been more enjoyable and less unnecessarily complicated. The other thing that made it hard to read was almost once a chapter, at least, I completely disagreed with him or thought there were other things or possibilities he didn't mention. I don't want to say narrow minded but that was the apparent tone, "this is the truth not only what I think and anything else is wrong". He didn't actually say that of course but it is the way it came across to me. Most of these criticisms aren't completely accurate I admit, it is just the way the book came across to me.

The way he mentions people's reactions to medical terminology being put to things they know by another name explains my dislike of the book in a way. Being practically a constant part of the hospital environment for the majority of my life I have seen the types of things he mentions. Especially a few years ago I volunteered in the pediatrics part of a hospital and saw various patients and their families and in different ways. Some were there for a day or two after something routine. One kid was there for poison ivy, and one was there constantly because his condition required constant care and medication. Experiencing all of these people and their stories made hearing his medical "jargon" explanations annoying.

As far as what I completely disagreed with or didn't get weren't as numerous as things I let slide or tried to ignore and just push on. The entire chapter on Chaos narrative was one I had a lot of trouble with. It honestly didn't make sense to me and annoyed me with his rigid classification of "chaos narrative". Just before the chaos narrative chapter he says something that I didn't get or agree with. "The tragedy is not death, but having the self-story end before the life is over". To me it seems like he is saying that once you know you are going to die you no longer have a story because you know how it is going to end. He says it is a tragedy because you have nothing left to say, no voice, and have no use for yourself. Not only do I not agree I don't think the logic makes sense.

The first thing I partially had to laugh with disagreement. I feel bad laughing about it but I found it slightly amusing that he was so surprised by something I have come to expect from the medical world. He mentioned how a Surgeon had published an article about a case he worked on, as well as a man, and the man was surprised that this article was about the surgeon and not himself. The author then says how the man was systematically ignored and removed from the article to become just a body. I don't think that is fair because the article was never intended to be about the man at all except for being the nameless patient. The article was about the exceptional skill and triumph of the surgeon to perform this task not about the bravery or strength of the man undergoing it. The way the article is described is as just that and I find it odd that he would assume it was about him.

The last thing I disagreed with was originated by Nancy Mairs about charity. She says that charity is never nice because the people who give don't see themselves as needy; the needy are others. He says that the "nice" need the needy to be the other to their niceness and by not acknowledging their need for the needy their charity turns into domination. At first I had trouble understanding this seemingly cynical stand point and then I just had trouble agreeing with it.

Overall it is a good book, I didn't enjoy it but I can still recognize it as a better book than most. It had interesting ideas and concepts, I didn't particularly like or agree with everything but that is what makes life interesting disagreement. If we all agreed the world would be boring as hell.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

This documentary was interesting to say the least. After watching it I couldn't help but think, "What is worse the fact that none of it surprises me or the fact that I'm not at all disturbed that it doesn't surprise me?" I find it funny, not in the humorous sense, that people were shocked by the photos that were leaked of the nudity and leash and such when they were by no means the worst things done there, and by far not the worst things our military has done. I guess I'm a cynic sometimes but one part of the film sticks out to back up my ideas in a way. When they pass the pine building the man pleads not to take him in there, anywhere but there. Think about it, if what was being done to them and photographed was so bad can you imagine what they were doing behind closed doors where they definitely didn't allow cameras?

I admit I am a bit desensitized and can imagine worse than what was shown the only thing that truly offended me on that deep level was the 50+ days of forced sleep deprivation. I've gone through periods of insomnia before and I can tell you after just a few days you can begin to hallucinate and go a little crazy. I can only imagine what 50 or more days could do. Some people in class mentioned that after 5 days or so you can be doing irreparable damage and literally making someone insane. I guess in general I am less shocked and disgusted by what they did and more so by who they did it to. From what the video says about no one being charged we can assume that nearly all of them were innocent. I am not phased by our government doing these types of things but the fact that they did it to that many innocent civilians is what affects me the most. Hopefully someday no one decides to invade us and start picking up folk at random and subjecting them to torture with no rhyme, reason, explanation, or due process.

When it comes to the guards saying that it wasn't really them doing these things, I have to disagree with a lot of people. It was said in class that this was a B.S. statement essentially and I'm not going to say that it is or isn't but I can understand it if they were being truthful when they said it. I can't even begin to imagine the psychological toll taken on those people. Being bombed and shelled constantly, being told the thousand or so inmates amongst maybe 8 guards are the worst of the worst, murderers and rapists, not to mention the fact that you are in a prison where Saddam tortured and killed who knows how many people. Some of them mentioned ghosts in the beginning and certain corridors you didn't go down alone at night. To top it off you are being dropped off at a prison told to leave all your gear and weapons behind and do a job you are by no means qualified or prepared for. Add on to that the added responsibility of preparing prisoners for torture and "intelligence gathering" with psychological warfare. It is a common reaction to say I can't believe these people would do this and I would never. Try imagining going through all this and put yourself in that position, not as easy to condemn is it?

Some of them even mentioned that they weren't comfortable with what they were being told to do and even brought it up to their higher ups, lot of good that did. Imagine the thought process going on when you realize how uncomfortable you are with what you are doing and the ease at which you began doing it. Then think of what the "actual" torture and "interrogation" is like and how easy those people are doing it, would you really want to question the actions and orders of those people.

I have what one teacher told me is a "detached view" on things. I don't know if I agree with that I tend to think I have an overly logical and hopefully equal view of things. I try to see all sides of things without giving more credence or leeway to one side. That teacher was in my Native American Cultures class. When we talked about Columbus and I tried to show the miscommunication and ignorant mindset of the time period as explanations, not excuses, of his actions she was not exactly happy with my creative thinking.

More than ever after watching this documentary I agree with that t-shirt I have "I love my country but fear my government". Back in "the day" before media was everywhere and it became harder to cover things up or hide things I wouldn't be surprised if that guy that gave his higher ups the disc with the pictures on it was simply killed and the pictures destroyed. This may be simply conspiracy theorist paranoia, but I'm not saying it would have happened just saying I wouldn't be surprised if it did. I'm still not sure what is worse, that lack of surprise or my apathy towards it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

9/11 Commission Report

When I first looked at this book I wasn't really sure what to make of it. I understand why they are putting it in a graphic novel form, but I'm not sure they went about it the right way. I have two main criticisms of this book. First off is the way it is illustrated. I admit with something like this that everyone has seen actual pictures and footage of it is hard to capture it in a drawing. That aside many of the images seem almost comical, not that I find them funny but that seems to be the way they are drawn. Prime example is the fireman on the cover. I have seen similar photographs of actual firemen and I get why they wanted that image it is a powerful one, but the illustration seems too fake or at least not real enough to convey that same emotion. I'm not sure if it is simply impossible to get the same effect out of a drawing as out of an actual image or if they simply didn't do a good enough job. On the other side there were a few images that portrayed emotional images better, although they were generally images I had not seen actual pictures of, such as inside the towers.

The other criticism I had was the inability or simply disregard for either telling a one sided story or a more moderate and truth based one. I'm not saying there was any lying or untruths in this book perse, but more that they simply decided to put two contradicting views together and hoped they meshed. I mean this from a textual and graphical standpoint. Some of the pictures of Bush and Clinton seemed serious and made them look strong, stern, and like the kind of leaders we could only wish for. While others made them look comical, goofy, and more like the reasons for everything that happened. There are parts where they say that no one is to blame then at the end the pretty much say everyone is to blame. I tend to think that it sways more to the left because of the fact that with all the background about the CIA and chasing Bin Laden for years they neglect to mention that at least once, that I am aware of, a CIA operative had him in his cross hairs and was ordered not to take the shot(I think it was in 97-98). Also the way they don't mention Clinton's downsizing the military which also hurt the possibility of preventing 9/11. It seemed like I was reading two different accounts and they couldn't just try and find some middle ground. Another instance is when Bush took office. Clinton's people said they told Bush's people about how dangerous Al Qaeda and Bin Laden were. Bush's people say they didn't, even though the book almost made it seem like they simply weren't even paying attention.

Because of the content and a random occurrence at the grocery store this book has reminded me of such "documentaries" as Loose Change and others that are relentless in saying the government created 9/11 and actually blew up the towers with explosives. If anyone has seen this and thought it to be all true, don't worry you're not alone. My cousin once told me and my family about this at a gathering and honestly he scared me a little with his immediate acceptance of everything they said as truth without a question. I was curious and watched it myself a couple years back and it was pretty convincing. I was a little uneasy about it so I did some digging and research. I found numerous articles and a few videos that shed some more light on it. The best was by far this article that outlined everything stated in Loose Change and showed where it made some good points and also where it was full of it. One part in Loose Change they say that a missile hit the Pentagon and there were no metal parts to suggest a plane hit it. This is accompanied by a photo that looks like a single circular hole penetrated the Pentagon. The article I found has a picture that is pulled back more and shows that they zoomed in and cropped off the top part where the tail of the plane went as well as the various metal debris, the trail in the dirt, and even part of a turbine. The fact that a lot of people don't question what is put in front of them kind of scares me.

Overall the book was interesting to read, even with the issues I have with it. I do understand why they think everyone should read it because from my experience most people either thought there was nothing we could have done to stop it or that the government helped plan it, a little hyperbole here. The truth seems to be that simply the way our government is run does not bode well with cooperation. Each part does its thing and you don't need to know what they're doing. The combination of how screwed up our system is and the upcoming election makes me agree more and more with a shirt I have that says, "I love my country but I fear my government."