Monday, October 14, 2013

...and I'm never going back again

"For all the anarchy of the place, it was sometimes easy to miss the changes. A new checkpoint went up on Sadoon Street, Al-Qaeda crept into Adamiyah: those were easy. The deeper changes were more difficult to spot: the shifts in the culture, the turnings inside people's brains. The confusion lay in the violence. After witnessing a car bomb, or wading through a bloody emergency room, I sometimes forgot that violence in Iraq had a shape; that it had a direction, that the violence had a purpose. So much violence and so many purposes, all of them competing and crashing into one another, reshaping the country in their own distinctive ways. In the madness, it was sometimes hard to see." - Dexter Filkins, The Forever War
"What's the angle of deviation at 500 meters that gives you 2 inches to the right?...You don't even want to think about that." - Sebastian Junger, War

I've been meaning to share this recommendation for the past month and find myself with some idle time on my hands as we enter another week of the government shutdown which allows me to catch up. In addition, I was inspired to share this book because of a related recommendation from a dinner guest at our house last night (more on that in a moment).

The Forever War is written by Dexter Filkins, the prizewinning NYT correspondent who witnessed the rise of the Taliban in the 90s, experienced ground zero immediately following 9/11 and was embedded with armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following the two novels I have read this year about the impacts of the conflict(s) in the Middle East on soldiers, families and locals, Filken's dispatches from the front lines hit home with honest to God true stories of events that in all other circumstances beyond war, you would have a hard time believing.

This book invoked a series of emotions in me ranging from awe at people's courage in times of conflict, frustration with the blinders we see through that influence these global conflicts, to sorrow and horror at some of the visceral scenes that you experience through the author's eyes. It is intense and in my mind, a must read for anyone who wants to try to understand the complexity of the front line in the Middle East.

On to dinner: We had a few friends over last night and one of them recommended a podcast I had never heard of called The Moth. Per their website, The Moth...
" dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story..."
Specifically, he recommended one podcast from Sebastian Junger, an American journalist who worked on assignment in Afghanistan and co-directed the documentary film Restrepo (2010 Grand Jury Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival; nominated for an Academy Award). It's a short yet powerful story told by Sebastian and if you have 10 minutes to spare, it will make a difference in your day and echo for quite some after. It is called War and you can listen to it by clicking here.

The preview for Restrepo is below.

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