Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Limitd Options and Endless Possibilities--Ted Rall

Read to the end (click on link) to find the "endless possibilities" part of the story

"NEW YORK--The skinny woman sitting next to me on the non-stop to Cincinnati wore an oversized red T-shirt. "Marines," it said. She was 20 (she told me), African-American and scruffier than the average city girl. She flipped through a glossy bruchure to a page of a chisel-jawed, all-American (white) man in a dark-blue dress uniform. "You've taken the first step," it read. "You've joined a proud tradition of service. Now here are some things you need to know."

"The marine ruffled through her purse. The address on some letters revealed that she lived in Far Rockaway, a hard-luck outpost of Queens beneath the JFK airport flight path. Technically this beach-resort-cum-ghetto is part of New York City, but the two hours it takes the subway to get there from Times Square tells the demographic story. Until fairly recently, running water hadn't been available to the entire peninsula. She took out a spiral notebook, her diary. "I have never been so scared," she wrote.

"This is 2007, not 2002. Who joins the military at a time like this, when we're fighting two wars, wars we're losing and that the public has turned against? I introduced myself. I wanted to learn where recruiters were finding replacements for the thousands of marines coming back from the Middle East on stretchers or in caskets.

"For this native of a Rockaways high-rise housing project, Cincinnati was just a connection. Her destination was Parris Island, South Carolina. Basic training. "I didn't tell my friends until after I'd done it," she said. She smiled a got-one-over smirk. The Marines had her under contract for eight years: six in active duty followed by two in the reserves. "Plus, as needed after that."

"'Are your parents supportive of...this?" I asked her.

"'They're both dead," she replied. "It's just me." She looked out the window.

"I kept thinking what I'd seen her write. "Are you worried about combat, like in Iraq or Afghanistan?"

"Now she forced herself to smile. "Oh, they're not sending me there," she assured me. "They're going to keep me over here."

"'They are?" I said, poker-faced.

"'Computers," she said. "They're going to train me to do computers--computer stuff."

Ted Rall on

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