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November 17, 2006


What is it with these old Jeeps? Summer before last in Cortland, my sister and I were renting a U-haul and had to wait nearly forever behind a white-haired, ruddy-complected gentleman who had a roofless, rusty and very original-looking Jeep out front. The vehicle, however, had been provided with very rudimentary-looking seatbelts. I didn't dare ask him about it, because we were already late.

I saw a B-17 of the type my father flew this summer. I realize it's a generational thing, but I was still astonished by how low-tech everything looked. Then again, I suppose my own tools will amuse my daughter by their own simplicity ...


Probably. I wonder. Yes, I like the jeep for its no-frills qualities; it has just what it needs to do its job, and nothing more - especially nothing cosmetic. kind of like the Canadian health care system!

So much good writing you have posted since I last visited, and now I don't have time to read it all, let alone comment! Very, very frustrating...

It's interesting how recently a lot of people are gong back and looking at their relationships to war and how it has affected their lives. The interesting thing is that there seems to be more connecting going on between WWII and the Iraq War than between the Viet Nam War and Iraq. I wonder if there is a yearning for the supposed dignity that Americans felt at winning their version of a "just" war, whereas comparing Viet Nam and Iraq calls up too much cynicism?

My own relationship with war began with both my mother's German parents and my mother herself, having survived the bombings of their city (including my mother's best friend living in the apartment next door killed when the building was destroyed), the American and French prison camps, attempts to save and protect Jewish friends, a Nazi in the family (who is still looked at askance 60 years later), and the aftermath of scorn, hate, derision, and bullying from people around the world, wherever they traveled. Then there was the other side of my family, my Filipino/ African American father, whose Filipino father served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, during the campaign against Japan, while his mother was a nurse in the Army. The strange thing about this side of the relationships was that Filipinos still vividly remembered being subjected to American colonialism and feelings toward fighting another Asian neighbor was ambiguous, especially because the image of Japan was not that of American propaganda. Many saw the American and British claims to be freeing Asia from Japanese imperialists as the height of hypocrasy. In the Navy, because he was originally Filipino, my grandfather was not allowed to fight as a sailor, even though he had American citizenship. Instead he was relegated to being a cook.

All sides of the family saw their home countries destroyed, on the German side most of the sons never returned. The movies of the war that were shown around the world later always portrayed both the Germans and Filipinos as either evil or ignorant. My German great aunt, who lost her entire family both to the battles and to the bombings, braved the reactions she knew she would get in the States only 15 years after the war ended, to go live with my family and take care of my brother and me, in a land that she never felt comfortable in and where people would call her "Nazi" on the street (she eventually couldn't take it any more and returned to Germany, never to leave the country again). The war left deep scars in my family's sense of identity, much of what is still being pieced back together all these years later, including my own attempt to define myself without having to resort to the strong shades of patriotism that colored the world around all the members of my family, who all lived outside the definition of boundaries and borders.

I am so enjoying this chronicle of your family. So many of your themes resonate with my own life and times! The family's connection to the land is particularly striking, and very familiar to me. That sense of place, inscribed on the soul, creates a bond among family members that can be sustained for generations.

Still reading and enjoying this series very much. Oddly enough, there are no veterans in my family on either side. I think my Pop-pop always felt a little guilty for not having served in WWII, but he was an engineer at Mobil by then so of course he served U.S. "strategic interests" in another way. After he made his fortune, he always donated heavily to wounded veterans' groups.

[The war]"felt like a living but distant person, or a place, perhaps, that had been known and visited by everyone in the house except me": that perfectly describes my childhood memory too.

Thanks for telling me that, Jean - I've really wondered if that was my experience only, or a common thing. My sense, from spending time in Britain, is that WWII continued in the national consciousness much longer than in America - understandably - but still, so many Americans served.

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