Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011.

Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Today I finished reading Sparta by Roxana Robinson. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time. In fact, it's so good it made me angry. Angry at lesser books, written by authors who don't care enough about their book to make it better because that would be work.

I know it is unfair to become angry with sloppy writers just because there are books like this. Books that the author spent an enormous amount of time and energy to get just right. How is it possible for a woman to enter into a man's mind and body and understand? Perhaps it takes a woman to be able to understand the mystery. This book had me in tears by page 39, and it ended with tears. Tears of pain and tears of hope for the main character, Conrad. Tears of anger and grief at what we ask of our young people and how little we give in return for their service.

Before I retired, I worked as a nurse at a VA hospital. I believe that had Conrad been one of our patients, he would have had a much better experience than what happened to him in the book. I thanked every patient I had for his or her service. I meant it, and so did my coworkers. Our patients were treated with attention and respect. Were our services perfect? No, but our patients told us over and over again how grateful they were that we were there for them. We cared, and it showed.

I was lucky. I retired before the flood of the young ones coming in from the Middle East began, but I had enough contact to see that it was very bad. I hope services continue to improve, and I hope we as a country stop feeling the need to ask them to keep sacrificing their lives for no good reason. Afghanistan is full of lithium we need for our batteries, and we are afraid China will move in? That's no reason for the loss of one young life. War is necessary at times to stop great evil or for self-defense. War is for a real enemy, not an amorphous ghostly figment of our imagination, and our government must tell us the truth about why we are risking the lives of our military.

I don't get excited about politics very often, but I swear that if the government reinstates the draft to fill the numbers they need to fight these ghost wars, I will take to the streets and demonstrate. I will work to prevent any cutbacks in services to our vets and their families. They have earned everything they receive and more besides. They have earned our attention and respect and support.

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