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Dark Neighborhoods

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

The young man entered a pool hall in Kentucky. When he ordered a beer, the bartender asked for identification. He’d forgotten to take his driver’s license, but his passport was in his backpack.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a U.S. passport.”

“What’s a passport? I’ve never seen one of these. I’ll get the manager.”

“We need photo identification,” the manager said.

“This is photo identification. There’s no better photo ID.”

“No,” said the manager, turning his head to acknowledge a sign that read: Photo ID Required. “I have to see your driver’s license.”

The young man walked a few doors down to another establishment. At this place, his passport was thoroughly scrutinized and, finally, accepted.

A couple of guys asked where he was from and he told them North Carolina. He asked the same of them. One said, “I’ve lived here all my life except when I moved for two years and lived in a dark neighborhood—if you know what I mean.”

Immediately, one of the men said, “You can say nigger in front of him. He lives in North Carolina. There’s plenty of niggers in North Carolina. You can say nigger.”

At this point, the young man, who happens to be my son, decided the atmosphere was way too Deliverance-like for him.

These watering holes are in George Bush and John McCain territory. The cars and trucks parked nearby have bumper stickers that read, “Support President Bush, Support the Troops.”

People who slap these stickers on their vehicles don’t make the connection that supporting Bush and supporting the troops are mutually exclusive endeavors. They might become argumentative if told that veterans are being denied medical treatment and disability payments, that our servicemen and woman have inadequate body and vehicle armor, that George Bush has betrayed our military by waging a war of choice, and that the suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans has risen to an average of four a day. Certainly, they aren’t oblivious to all the realities of war, but Bush’s disaster doesn’t plague their consciences. Do they consider for even a moment the unbearable strain placed on those who serve, the multiple deployments and post-traumatic stress disorder?

Some say things like, “They volunteered.”

Others offer, “Pulling out now would mean the deaths would be in vain.”

Yet, many can’t tell you how many coalition troops have died. Hell, they can’t tell you how many countries still comprise the “coalition.” And, probably, if told the estimate of the Iraqi civilian death count, plenty would say, “Who cares?”

Because Iraq and Afghanistan are “dark neighborhoods.”

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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