Tomorrow we're putting everything away into storage, and I'm disconnecting my phone and cable modem. So, this is pretty much it. Snail-mail from here on out for the better part of a year. They tell us that we'll have intermittent internet access at certain firm bases, but I'm not counting on it.

I wonder sometimes about the bigger picture. It's weird and difficult to think about current world events in terms of historical forces, but if I try real hard, I can sort of imagine all the potential directions the world is headed in right now. And that alternates between being really scary to think about, and really wonderful.

As adamant as I may have been to some of you that this war is a good thing, I am in truth not really that sure about anything, ever. I'm pretty good at pretending, though, I think. Who could really be sure that war is ever a good thing? What war could really be called good?

In reality, I doubt war can be judged like that. It's too big, like Commissioner Gordon said. War is conflict, and I think judgement of it must also be in conflict. Men are dying. But, then, like Sarah Vowell said, they can play music in Afghanistan again. How much more meaningful can a death be? "I died so that the children of Afghanistan may play music again. So that its women may compete in the Olympic games."

Sarah Vowell makes me just a tiny bit guilty about not being more interested and knowledgeable about American and World politics (I finished The Partly Cloudy Patriot last night). But it's not even that. I'm interested in political issues. I think queers should get to marry whoever they want and abortion is the most unjustifiable kind of murder. It's the mechanics that bore me. Because politics is a means to end, right? And the end should be to make the world a better place, right? And the mechanics of politics isn't about that. It's about lawyering yourself into victory. Partisanship is mechanics, the worst kind. The kind that's just about winning, and not about anything else. And most American politics strike me as increasingly partisan, so I can't care about it. I'll figure out some other, smaller, easier, purer way to try to make the world a better place. Like kill some people.

I guess I just really want the next seven months to mean something. Because even if I don't die, even if I don't get wounded or injured, even if I never even see combat (which I can easily imagine happening, since so much of my life consists of anticlimax), the next seven months are still going to be among the worst in my life. They are going to be uncomfortable, blisteringly hot, freezing cold, sticky, filthy, sleepless months, full of terrible food, terrible isolation, unimaginable boredom, pointless manual labor, mindnumbingly constant accountability, the deepest bone-tiredness, and fear.

Maybe not fear. I'm not sure. I don't remember ever being afraid during my first deployment. Not of the enemy, or of dying, anyway. Any fear that I had was that of screwing something up and incurring the wrath of my chain of command. The one near-combat experience I had, when they told us our Scout Team would be clearing a building at night but we ended up never even leaving the vehicle, I remember excitement, adrenaline coursing through my body like I've never experienced before, but not fear.

Not fear like telling my parents a couple of weeks ago that I don't believe in God. That was the scariest experience of my life.

I do hope I see combat, though. I'm tired of living life at one remove. I'm tired of living in my head. I want to live life for real, and how much more real does it get?

My friend tells me: "You don't have to come face to face with your death or someone else's to have a 'real' experience! Hug your mom, tell an old friend you think about them, plant a garden, write a poem, visit a museum, start a club ..."

I have to admit that that rings true. I wish I could hug my mom right now. I know nothing about gardening, and I have no poetry in me. But at least I can tell you all, all my friends, that I think about you. I think about you often. I've probably never come out and said it before, but it is no small part of the reason that I so unreluctantly march off to war the notion that perhaps I'm making the world a tiny bit safer for you all.

Mom, Dad, everyone, I can't believe in your God. I'll read your books, and I'll do my best to keep my mind open to everything. Like I said, I can't be sure of anything, and I could easily be wrong. But, even if your God exists, I fear He has nothing for me. I don't want your God's redemption or salvation. I want to be held accountable for my own actions. I want to be responsible for myself.

Thanks, Jesus, you seem like a really cool guy, but no thanks. I don't want you to suffer for me. I don't even understand the rules that would let a great guy like You take the punishment for a lame guy like me.

When it's my time, I'll look your God in the eye and be judged. And if in His infinite wisdom He condemns me to an eternity of burning hellfire, then so shall I accept His judgement. He is the final and ultimate arbiter of justice after all, isn't He? What kind of man would I be, if I let the most perfect human being ever, the very Son of God, take the hit for me?

I hope that's not too painful for you.

Anyway, don't anybody worry too much about me. I'm a United States Marine Corps Infantryman. A professional. Worry about my enemy.

See you all in seven months.


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