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.


Mr. Hari said...

i think the way pat tillman is most like jesus is that hes gay

rananda said...

i thought that there were some genuinely hilarious lines here. the tag bearded non fiction writers is awesome too.

i read krakauer once (the mormon one) and it was actually quite entertaining, in the way that stories of domination and control and rape and incest of minors can be entertaining. im prolly never going to read another word he ever writes, but im glad he's doing what he's doing.

one minor quibble (actually it's really not minor, it's important people understand this stuff!): the us did not invade iraq merely for access to energy sources (oil), it did so for control of those energy sources. there's an important difference. as chomsky puts it:

That’s been an axiom of U.S. foreign policy, that it must control Middle East energy resources. It is not a matter of access as people often say. Once the oil is on the seas it goes anywhere. In fact if the United States used no Middle East oil, it’d have the same policies. If we went on solar energy tomorrow, it’d keep the same policies. Just look at the internal record, or the logic of it, the issue has always been control. Control is the source of strategic power.

Sir Fantastic said...

Guys, I love you. And Jeevs, I'm not sure I understand the difference entirely. I think it's cause we might mean the same thing by access and control here. No doubt the invasion was to ensure that we got that oil for the present and the future. You know, so that when China and India start needing and using it we got our own supply of it. But I dunno if I can parse it out any finer than that. I'm pretty hungover right now.

rananda said...

no, there's a conceptual and substantive distinction between access and control. did you read that chomsky quote, im not sure i can clarify it beyond that.

i'll try: access denotes an availability or opportunity to obtain, in this context, to consume oil as an energy source. control means something beyond mere access or availability or use of oil, it indicates an ability to determine how others can or cannot gain access to oil. this means that even if oil is no longer relevant to the us as aan energy source, controlling it may still carry with an enormou, power. that is, beyond oil's value as a commodity for us consumption, oil has an important value in coercing other nations to act or refrain from acting in certain ways. controlling oil has a geo-political strategic utility that far outweighs its simple energy source commodity utility. for us strategic purposes, that is.

the invasion had little if anything to do with securing an oil supply for the present or future. it had to do with gaining control of one of the most prized geo-political srategic weapons of the modern era. This does have to do with oil's value as an energy source, but it doesn't have anything to do with us oil consumption. it's the same reason why the us wouldnt mind controlling all of siberia - it's not because the us wants to make sure it has enough wood and natural gas for the future.

if you still think we're saying the same, then there is no hope for you.

Sir Fantastic said...

ouch man, that was a harsh way of making your point. there's no reason to stop being civil with the discourse, i just wasn't clear on what you were saying with control.

the difference in what we're saying appears to be that im just looking at it from what the us needs and you're also looking at how the us can keep others from having it. a zero sum game over the control of oil. it's a fair point and in my opinion it's not that controversial. of course the u.s. would be interested in keeping potential enemies as weak as they can.

but to that point, i think this war was more about securing access to a resource than it was about keeping others from having it. but at this point in the argument, arguing over whether one motivation was more predominant than the other, i stop caring. either way the war was sold to us in a way that didn't acknowledge these motivations. either way the war was unjust from the start. and either way it pisses me off that we fought this war. and i was glad to see it pissed off pat tillman as well. and to get back to the point of my post, that guy was something else.

rananda said...

well, i wasnt really trying too hard to be a dick, but if you cant be a dick to your friend on his blog that all his friends and family can see, then where can you.

and all just note that it's somewhat interesting to me how easily one is able to accept my praise when i feel you've done something well and how hard it is to accept my criticism when i feel you're misunderstood something or simply not tried nearly hard to understand something. interesting, that's all.

it's a fair point and in my opinion it's not that controversial.

it is a fair point and it's not controversial. it's also not correct. the us planning documents dating back to the 50's are very clear on the strategic importance of the middle east. there's a reason the british held onto it for so long. these documents are all public record. i believe it was george kennan who was one of the big proponents of the doctrine. they talk about the middle east in terms of control, he called it "history's greatest prize."

this sort of strategy is consistent with kennan's 1949 proposal that the us keep control over the japanese oil imports, so that the us could essentially have "veto power" over japan's military and industrial decisions. this is the same sort of ability that makes iraq's oil so valuable.

look, you're a smart guy, you can believe what you want, but the us planning record and us military actions this century are, i would argue, more consistent with one and less consistent with the other of our two "theories" here. you can believe whichever one is right. if you want, i can give you some sources that discuss the record and pretty clearly explain why us gov cares more about oil as a control tool - a bargaining chip - than a mere commodity to be consumed by its population, which is doesnt particularly care for. it'll be less entertaining than reading about pat tillman, but it will probably get you closer to understanding our world. frankly, im not sure it's that great to understand our world.

Sir Fantastic said...

i don't think it's weird at all i like praise more than i like criticism. please continue the praise.

and i think i've told you how i feel about reading chomsky. the guy writes in his academic jargon. he should take a lesson by stephen hawking on how best to express complex ideas and then i'll spend a little more effort trying to understand what he's saying. it's like listening to that annoying guy at a party use big words when others would suffice.

but as a last point, i think the only disagreement we are having is over the degree to which the us cares about having access to oil for its own purposes. i can see and can understand why it would use oil as a strategic bargaining chip. of course we do that. but i think you are undervaluing the importance of having cheap oil for our leaders to (1) maintain political power and (2) to diversify our the countries who provide us this resource in order to prevent a potential military and economic disaster when a country like saudi arabia may become overrun by a new government that's not interested in selling us that resource we need to power almost everything.

Mr. Hari said...

rananda said...

the guy writes in his academic jargon.

only in his academic articles and books. in his essays, interviews, editorials, and speeches, he writes in layman's, common, plain, colloquial english. 98% of what's available on the interweb - and 98% of his work that ive read - is in this style, and not in the technical, academic prose that i agree can at time be challenging and time consuming to read (because it's also heavily footnoted and part of a broader academic discourse). suggesting that this is only how he writes and that he needs to write more simply if he wants to get through to you exhibits a shocking level of intellectual laziness. if you care, which you obviously dont since you're willing use bizarre "this is too difficult for me to read so it's not good" - particularly bizarre coming from a lawyer - you can check out some of the articles at if you cant follow anything there, it's only because you dont understand english, and not because his writing style is too jargon filled. or go listen to any of the many lectures he has on youtube. they are not too technical or jargon-filled. he is often speaking to undergrads or groups of workers abroad whose first language aint english. christ.

Sir Fantastic said...

I'm sorry I didn't click on the link you sent. Next time I will. Unless it's by Chomsky.