Friday, March 12, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell--Don't Translate

Image from www.theshoyencollection/arabic.htm

Another powerful story about losing yet another Arabic linguist to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. What if all Arabic linguists boycotted working for the US gov until this was repealed, the way many straight couples have started a movement to boycott marriage until gays can wed? A fantasy, but I'm just sayin'...

Don't Ask Don't Tell: A Story Highlighting the Anguish Faced By Soldiers with Indispensable Skills By Sasha Suderow, from the target="_blank">HuffPost

Beirut -- On Sergeant Jed Anderson's back is tattooed "I give life and death." As a US Army Arabic linguist in Iraq he did just that -- process intelligence that saved or ended lives. He performed this crucial role in the war effort until becoming the 64th Arabic linguist discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

President Obama, Secretary of Defense Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen support overturning "don't ask don't tell" -- signaling the possible demise of the controversial sixteen year-old policy. Although it humiliated and ruined the careers of many soldiers, Arabic linguists suffered disproportionately at a time when their skills were indispensable. By adhering to the policy -- especially during wartime -- three Presidential administrations handicapped American military capability and demonstrated the policy not only inhumane but self-defeating.

Anderson's story highlights the daily anguish gay and lesbian soldiers face; jeopardizing their lives for comrades and country while concealing an identity punishable by expulsion from the military or even jail-time.

"The Army invested in me, taught me discipline and self-confidence and made me what I am today," Anderson says fidgeting with a cigarette in a Beirut cafe. He enlisted in the Army on a linguist contract only months after the invasion of Iraq. Although practical considerations prompted his enlistment, faith in America's democratizing mission in Iraq endowed his new job with a higher purpose. "I wanted to make the world a better place," he says.

Anderson scored high on an aptitude test and was given a year and a half of rigorous Arabic and analyst training with two-hundred peers at The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

Deployed to Iraq, Anderson translated and analyzed enemy communication first in Mosul and then Rawa, near Syria. He handled sensitive, classified material. "I gained information that saved American lives," he bluntly states. He eventually became the top Arabic linguist for his brigade and was chosen as the personal street interpreter for a Colonel who wrote a reference extolling Anderson's skill.

Anderson did not enter the Army acknowledging his own sexuality. Ironically, it was the military's emphasis on integrity that gave Anderson the self-confidence to accept who he really was. Those same values became his undoing. He sought to uphold the principles instilled in him, and as a result, became increasingly aware of the lie he lived.

In Iraq he focused on the mission and suppressed his emotions "the way any soldier learns to ignore personal issues like marital problems," he says. Anderson hid his gay identity while on tour for fear of rejection by his peers. Hearing derogatory terms prevalent in macho military culture did not affect him. Occasionally, however, the topic forcibly confronted him. Once, an interrogator requested Jed write "faggot" in Arabic on a placard that would be used to humiliate an Iraqi detainee.

The rest of the article is here. Read more!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Room with a View

My treadmill is in my dining room. I don't have dinner parties often, so this is not a big problem. Actually, I don't use my treadmill much, either, so that's not a problem, either. The only one that uses that room on a daily basis is Zoom, a.k.a. Pickles, the guinea pig. He lives under a huge bay window with views of sunflowers and butterflies--at least one month of the year. (You can see the green back wall of his cage below.)

Tonight I turned the treadmill on. I try to trick myself into exercising by rolling my big TV around into the division between my dining and living room, and watching a movie interesting enough to make me forget that I am--gasp!--exercising. Tonight's entertainment was Up in the Air. I didn't think it could hold my attention but the screenplay was better than I imagined and it did a fine job.

Since the treadmill faces into my living room I have a perfect view of the couch. Tonight it was almost as amusing as my DVD.
The living room in better times, before the death of the rug

We had a few small thunderstorms roll through town today. Dickens, not surprisingly, does not do well with thunder. I held him for part of the work day, and held him tight during our after-work nap, when it got kind of loud. I could see on the weather channel that everything had really moved through by the time I fired up the movie, so I left him on his own during my intensive cardio.

So, they didn't all roll through, apparently. As I watched the kids on the sofa over the movie, I noticed that Dickens kept crawling up to sit right on top of Ginger. Ginger was not thrilled about this. I watched her move--slowly, politely--out from under her new snuggie several times. Each time she repositioned herself, Dickens would be right there curling up on top of her. It was just like that Warner Bros. kitten that used to nestle into the wrinkled skin of the bulldog--only without the kneading, thankfully. (Even Ginger's Damn Cat never tortured her like that.)

After several moves, Ginger grew resigned to her fate. Small rolls of thunder made themselves heard and I watched Dickens trembling on top of Ginger, who perhaps viewed it as a sort of massage. I gotta give it up to her: she's a damn fine sport.

I walked for about an hour--2.73 miles--before turning the screen around and joining the dogs on the couch. Once I joined them, Dickens circled on the floor for a while until I relented and gave him a peanut butter Xanax. (That was for me, knowing he could very well keep me up all night in his condition.) He went in and out of his small kennel, which I encouraged (it's right by the couch) hoping it would bring a sense of security.

It did not. Soon enough, he was up on the sofa and headed for Ginger. And that is how we finished Up in the Air--which, by the way, is a fine movie indeed.

A little more relaxation post-Xanax. At least he's not on top of her.
Read more!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Are the Indigo Girls reading my blog?

The Barrymore (local intimate venue) just announced the Indigo Girls Live April 23, with tickets going on sale tomorrow.

I just think that's a little coincidental...

It is a Friday--to go or not to go? Read more!