Dispatch from the Edge of a Recession: Hit Me When I'm Up

After eleven weeks out of the workforce, I started a job this week and got slammed with a $100-boot on my car (for the first time in my life) all at once. Way to get hit when you're (almost) up. On the way up, we'll say. The most painful part of this incident: I was parked for about 8 minutes to get a $1 sub sandwich. I haven't received a paycheck in eleven weeks, have been barely hanging on, relying heavily on my credit card to make end's meet. Then I get my measly weekly unemployment check the same day I park in the spot that gets me a $100 boot. (I actually didn't even apply for unemployment until about three weeks ago, didn't even realize I could get money to help me during this phase. Man, it would have helped the whole time... but oh well.)

I'm rationalizing the sickening amount of wasted money by not getting a few other things. I've lost some weight since I've started running, and the actual width part of my bras is too loose. I really need new bras, to be perfectly honest; they're already a old. Instead, I've taken them in, with some unprofessional-looking, but very effective seams on both sides of the clasps at the back. I was going to get a desperately-needed haircut--my bangs are so long their not bangs anymore--but I'll keep the weird hippie look for a few more weeks. Hey, they already hired me, right? I could always use my old, dull barber scissors and take to my own hair.

I will be getting my first check at my new job (which is full-time but temporary up to the week of Christmas) next week. So that's a good thing. It was just so painful to have this incident now, as things are looking up. Why me, why me?

I was angry. I was yelling, and shaking, and sobbing, and cussing at these two men--all of these things, except the sobbing, are quite unlike me. And I was wayyyy late getting back to my new workplace, which is awesome. 

But then I had to get back into my cheerful elf voice, writing on the marketing team at the Christmas publishing company where I work. I honestly felt like calling it a day. But I kept it together because, first, now I needed all these hours more than ever, and second, these people are still getting to know how I operate, and it is imperative that I not fall apart and seem like one of those people who always has drama and is always crying at work. I am not one of these people, so today, when I get my first car boot, would not be a day to appear to be one of them.

Every time I thought about what happened this afternoon, my eyes would well up and I would feel sick. I thought about it over and over, what could I have possibly done to make those guys' jobs the absolute worst? I hope they really hate that job. Because if I had to stand there while some woman lost it--truly lost it--in the parking lot, and scream at me, I might hate my job.

I'm still not over it, but as the day has worn on, this raggedy, awful, headachy day, I just had to let it roll off of me. Ok, so it hurts now. It won't hurt forever. It's like back when overdraft fees were at their peak, and I was an undergrad, getting hit with fines multiple times a year. Nothing brings naseau faster than not having money you thought you did and seeing that red balance, or walking around the corner to find a $100 fine attached to your car. I hope there is a time in my life when I'm not at the bottom of the barrel scratching and can pay my monthly bills without my account balance zeroing out around $6 when they're all paid. I'm thankful to pay my bills, but even these last few months, that has been hard.

Honestly, I didn't see myself becoming a victim of the current economy: one of those recent-grad, lots of student loans, can't-find-work demographic that is touted and studied and reported on. With a boot. Today was a reminder that yes, you might be seeing some good news, some professional success come your way, but don't think that means this is the end of the roadblocks. They are all over, they are hidden and often conniving to stack up all at once, and they will never let you off the hook. I resign and concede to the inevitability  of the occasional really awful boot.

Food for thought: working at McDonald's

Another gem from Girls. Hannah has basically been fired from her unpaid internship because the won't pay her and her parents have stopped supporting her. So she is discussing her situation with some friends.

Hannah: So I calculated, and I can last in New York for three and a half more days. Maybe seven if I don't eat lunch.

Jessa: I'm going to find you a job worthy of your talents.

Hannah: Well I appreciate that, but I don't know how you're going to find a job fast enough. I'm going to have to work at like, McDonald's.

Marnie: You're not gonna work at McDonald's.

Jay: What's wrong with McDonald's? You should work at McDonald's. It's great. Fucking incredible. You know how many people McDonald's feeds every day? You know how many people it employs around the world? Plus, they make an incredible product, okay? It tastes tremendous, it's affordable, it's fuckin' consistant. I can walk into a McDonald's in Nigeria, order chicken McNuggets, when I bite into them, you know what it's gonna taste like? It's gonna taste like home.

Hannah: Doesn't mean I have to work there. I went to college.

Jay: Yeah, I went to college too, you know where it left me? I have fifty thousand dollars in student loans, that's how deep in debt I am. I'm sorry, but watching this, this is like watching Clueless. 

 

 

"Well, when you get hungry enough, you're gonna figure it out"

The pilot episode of Girls speaks volumes about the lives of twenty-somethings who just haven't quite got everything in order just yet, and please give us some time, thank you very much. Case in point, the scene in the office of Hannah's (Lena Dunham's) unpaid internship at a publishing company, where she must ask for payment now that her parents have cut off their support of her, two years after she's finished college. Scene:

Boss: Hannah.

Hannah: Hello, Alister.

[Silence as he goes back to his work]

Hannah again: Hello.

Boss: You seem eager.

Hannah: As you know, I have been working here for over a year.

Boss: Has it been that long? Well, you are an invaluable part of our operation.

Hannah: Which, I recently learned, means very valuable, as opposed to not at all valuable. And I wanted to let you know that my circumstances have changed, and I can no longer afford to work for free.

Boss: Oh Hannah, I'm so sorry to lose you. I was just going to start you manning our Twitter--you have just the quippy voice for that.

Hannah: Oh, no no, I'm not quitting, I just um, I know that Joy Lin got hired after interning, so I thought that maybe--

Boss: Hannah, Joy Lin knows Photoshop. Now, in this economy, do you know how many internship requests I get everyday?

Hannah: I would assume, a lot.

Boss: Fifty. It's about fifty. I practically route them into my spam folder, so if you think you have just nothing left to learn from us--

Hannah: No, it is not that. Really. I just, you know, gotta eat.

Boss: Well... when you get hungry enough, you're gonna figure it out.

Hannah: Do you mean like physically hungry or like hungry for the job?

Boss: [with enthusiasm] I am really gonna miss your energy. I think this is going to be really good for you.

[He hugs her.]

Hannah: Uh, you mentioned that when I was finished with my book I could send it to you?

Boss: Uh, well, we wouldn't have you here to read it for us, would we?

Reality check: This week, in America

This week I was assigned a reference request for a naturalization that took place in Miami in the 1980s. This is a pretty standard, run-of-the-mill request, where a person writes or calls the National Archives at Atlanta to request the Petition for Naturalization of a person, for whatever reason they need it. I've had people call looking for records for genealogy purposes, so they are seeking the papers of their parents or grandparents. I've had people request these records from courts or other government agencies during the hiring or legal processes in which citizenship must be proven. Other times the individual has lost their own documentation and are left with two options: they can request a new copy of their final certificate of naturalization from USCIS for a cool $350, or they can have us try to track down their Petition, which is the document completed that leads to the final certificate, that oftentimes proves citizenship and holds up in court of law just as well as the certificate--but we charge $22.50 for a certified copy. You can imagine people are pretty anxious to come to us first, to see if we might have this petition.

The request I had this week was a Miami case, which is one of our most-requested cities, and it has an excellent index to aid our search. I located Mrs. Rodriguez's petition and called her to get the form of payment.

Her story makes my heart hurt. She immigrated to this country, from Cuba, as a child, and has been here more than fifty years now. She was involved as a citizen on the ground here in the U.S. in the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, she told me. She has three younger sisters, and even though they are all in their fifties now, she has always felt like the example, that it is her duty to be a good person, and a good citizen. She naturalized and became an American in the mid 1980s.

She recently got her first ticket, which has precipitated the situation she is in now. Apparently, months or years ago (that detail was unclear), someone broke into her home in Miami and stole her entire filing cabinet, that contained all her documents--birth and marriage records, as well as immigration and naturalization papers. Now she cannot renew her license and the state is prepared to deport her back to Cuba.

Can I repeat, she has been living in the U.S. for fifty years, and has been a citizen for the last twenty-five. The problem is, since her papers are now missing, she has to request a new certificate, which is no problem, except that USCIS averages three to four months to process certificate requests. They are prepared to deport her in just a few weeks. So she called us for help, to see if the petition would serve as sufficient proof. It lists her final certificate number and everything on it. She has also been in contact with her congressman (who she said was not help at all), and her senator (who is now working to help her, on her side).

I am on her side. It makes me so sad that this person, who told me vehemently that she believes this country to be the greatest one on earth, despite its behavior to her at present, that she is now facing the risk of being sent to a "home" that is not really her home, based on stringent laws that stemmed from this ticket--for not paying a toll on a toll road once--something that is easy to do by mistake. The consequences for me versus her, who cannot prove her citizenship quickly enough, are starkly different. And she chose to come here, wants to be here, appreciates the land where you can "do anything" you can dream of.

We have high hopes to live up to. Great expectations. But she believes in them.

This is a real person, a victim of strict immigration laws that I often doubt the benefit of. The best I could do was represent my own government agency well, and to wish her the best in this process. I said I hope she succeeds, that this document helps to prove her right to be here. Without getting too political, I just cannot understand not allowing people who want to take part in a life in the United States the opportunity to try. I hope I played a small but crucial role in finding her citizenship record, certifying it, and offering my well-wishes.

It was a reality check, that there are real people, good citizens, suffering the brunt of laws that it's easy to forget about, me sitting over here on the "safe" side, a natural-born citizen. And the reality, her reality, made me very sad.

TV Show: on urban white girls in 2012

Last night I finally began watching a show I'd been reading about, and to be quite honest, sounded just like something made for me, whose characters I might love. Girls, on HBO, which premiered in April.

I love the characters. They are confused, they have both aim and absolutely no aim, they are figuring out men, career, life. I was crying laughing as we breezed through the first three episodes. Lena Dunham, creator, writer, and one of the stars of the show, is a 25-year-old, and she has captured perfectly many of the topics and issues of exactly this--my--generation. Out of college, mediocre economy and job market, living in the city... and from there, the story grows. The hilarious discourse on exactly life right now hit so many touchstones for me.

Hannah makes a ton of bad decisions, but man, how I love her already. She unabashedly tells her parents she thinks she is "the voice of her generation," and asks them to keep giving her money so that she can determinedly finish her memoir. "Or at least a voice of a generation," she adds. She also eats a cupcake in the bathtub (which I have been known to do), has the most spectacular tattoos, is perfectly not skinny, and has existential freak-outs about HIV/AIDS that are absolutely ridiculous and hilarious.

Today Lena Dunham talked about the show, and its discourse on twenty-somethings and all the mess of life, with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Terry Gross on why Girls has been striking a nerve with many:

I think women in particular are so hungry for a series or a movie, or movies, about young women who are kind of feminist--whether they describe themselves that way or not--and aren't just all about clothes and engagement rings, and who are trying to  really figure out who they are where they fit in in the world.

Full disclosure -- this is an HBO show. Be prepared for the sex scenes. A la Games of Thrones...

Sneak peek: Dublin loft living

Last week, I took a day trip down to Dublin, Georgia, where my parents have lived for almost ten years. I went to spend some time with my Mom, leading up to her 55th birthday, but also to got through some things they still have in storage that need to be whittled down as they continue downsizing. I took some photos of where they live now, because I think that in a few years, they will have wanted to have a bit of documentation of this phase in their lives, and where they worked through big shifts and took on different commitments, now that their children have grown and moved out. I love this one-bedroom loft. I love the tall ceilings, the old floors, the way the whole unit is a bit tilted--literally, furniture tilts forward slightly. And my Mom has it stylishly understated, which she can keep in order far more easily than when multiple kids and multiple friends tore through the living room and kitchen constantly. She says, oh, there's so much sewing stuff around, so many dresses (it's prom and pageant season) hanging and flopped over everywhere. But that's part of their moment right now too. It's life, right now.

My mom is often giddy when she talks about no longer having a mortgage. Freedom. 

Life, at this moment

How can anyone resist a survey, right?
Right now, I am...
:: marveling at my new, beautiful set of rings from an amazing silversmith in Jerusalem, Israel--they feel perfect
:: tired of weekly assigned readings for my classes. I'm truly, honestly over reading for class.
:: laughing because that is what you do when things are out of your control and you just have to embrace the moment, and the unknown beyond it
:: overwhelmed by the effort, art, and never-ending disheartening search for a full-time job after graduation
:: pleasantly surprised that there is a cupcake kiosk right near my office that is better than any I've been able to find lately. dangerous.
:: wondering where in the heck I will be living in 4 months' time (also, what I'll be doing...)
:: grateful for my boyfriend
:: hearing silence, one of my most favorite sounds
:: going to the coffee shop down the street soon, since I skipped breakfast and my regular morning cup earlier
:: planning an art project
:: digging deeper every day into the history, activism, and modern-day issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and its devastation
:: creating new friendships (by being brave enough to seek them out)
:: listening to something greater than me, trusting that having no plan is OK right now
:: saying less is more
:: inspired by every square I view of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and the stories and lives behind each
:: happy to be in Atlanta, Georgia
:: delighted that my capstone project might actually work
:: waiting to see what meaning I can create out of my passions, interests, and talents -- is there a job that suits all I seek to do, be, change, in this world?
:: being the person I am, each day at a time

Ten years later.

We'll call this the requisite commentary-on-the-anniversary blog. Probably every American is reflecting on that Tuesday, September 11 ten years ago, in their own way, to many different degrees of emotion and disconnection, both and neither at once. It has been a decade, and what made it perhaps most poignant was a story posted on Public Radio International's website, on the difficulty of teaching 9/11 in high schools now that so many kids who are in high school recall the event only in vague and foggy ways--if at all.

The story tells of the teachers interviewed for the piece and their experience year by year: how in the years just afterwards, classroom discussions "were much more visceral." The 4- to 7- year olds mentioned in the story, who are in high school today, remember reactions of their parents and other very responses very near to them, but not the same way many who are older (adults, now, like me) remember the images on TV clearly--even if, as in my case, I didn't see them until I got home from school. (At the middle school where I was attending eighth grade at the time, someone higher up made the decision not to tell any of the students what was going on. By lunchtime, teachers around us were in tears and we all detected something was not right. I went home on the bus that day knowing only that "someone had bombed the Pentagon." For real)

Looks like it's history, now, really and truly. I remember in the wake of the tragedy, people saying this would be the moment for my generation that would long be recounted as a universal American experience. The endless and epic tale we each, we all, have. Where You Were When It Happened, much like President Kennedy's assassination in 1963. But really, here it is, a whole decade later, and it has become a part of history, and event that marks a clear delineation in this nation's history: a Before and an After. Strange to be at a stage, in adulthood, where things I experienced are "history." Guess this is what growing up feels like, right?

There was another truly interesting--and also disturbing and crazy and wholly logical given the world we live in today--report on the ten-year-later mark in this world: on the technology of facial recognition, and its birth in the government funding that allowed its remarkable development in the post-9/11 scared, reactionary, and technology and internet-savvy environment. NPR's Marketplace had a segment on the stunning course it has taken, as two enormous events dovetailed in history:

Fred Cate is a law professor and privacy guru at Indiana University. He says after 9/11, two independent trends dovetailed and reinforced each other. The federal government was investing hundreds of millions in surveillance technology and research to try and keep us safer. And companies like Google and Facebook were remaking the digital landscape. There was a data-collecting revolution.

FRED CATE: 9/11 and the sort of huge growth in social networking and in profiling and collecting Internet traffic -- those events are really parallel with each other.

And Cate says:

FRED CATE: We have gotten more used to more surveillance. And it's not clear that that's just attributable to the events of 9/11. But particularly when you think of the types of security we all go through now -- would have been pretty close to unthinkable a decade ago.

What we have created, as the story reports, is technology that fairly easily recognizes your face and identifies you based on photos it draws from the internet, and several other features both amazing and scary at once. The creepiest part: new technology can actually take a stab at what your social security number is, if it can determine from internet sources where you were born. Rest easy, though, because this stuff isn't on the market, and there are no intentions by its creators to put it there. As it stands, as I understood anyway, is that this is for governmental purposes. (You can decide if that makes you feel better about this.)

How interesting to think our post-9/11 perspective has provided the incubator for things like this, and our Facebook pages have fueled the flames, made it all the more possible. We are willing participants, at some degree, of the worlds we create. Ten years later, look at us now. To be honest, I have little memory of what adult life was like, even in a purely observational point of view as mine was, prior to 2001. And now it's a part of our past. Huh.

Summer reading list

Books I read this summer (and recommend)

For the preservationist you: The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a CIty Transformed by Michael Meyer

For the adventurous youthful side: Undress Me In the Temple Of Heaven: A Memoir by Susan Jane Gilman

For an all-out laugh (and very breezy, quick read): Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American at Home and Abroad by Firoozeh Dumas

Your source of comedic relief on everything from unsolicited "help" on being a mom, to the old men's Christmas event at the YMCA (oh yeah, and a disastrous honeymoon on a cruise ship...): Bossypants by Tina Fey

For when you need to be reminded, we all start somewhere: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

OK, everyone's read it. Darn it, it's SO good. Read it again: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

For the kid (and really, the adult) in you: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (yes, again)

For the crime thriller fix: The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson 

For adventure in the Brazilian Amazon, complex moral dilemmas, and mystery: State of Wonder by Anne Patchett

 

Books that I was enjoying, alas, did not finish (but still recommend!)

For a thoughtful analysis, crafted beautifully, on your missing father figure: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

For your do-gooder, "I want to change the world now" mood: It Happened On the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace by Rye Barcott

 

Books I read that were, eh...

Mostly trite gender analysis, of all our "little princesses": Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

For when you want to hear a talented writer talk about his crippling childhood fear of Jesus, and his hatred of Fidel Castro: Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

And Carl is 18 today

The youngest in our family, Carl turns 18 today, finally graduating us to four adult children. He has just started school at the University of Georgia, where he finished his freshman summer term last week. Very proud of this "little" brother too.

Neil turns 20 today

My brother Neil, the third of four and the middle boy in our family, turns 20 today. He is stationed at Guantanamo Bay, where he works as a dental assistant. So proud of this grown-up guy.

This was back in his "light bulb head" days.

Summer... oh, sweet summer.

Man, this summer is turning me, and my world, on our heads. I, who usually starts on research pretty earlier in the semester for papers, have not even settled on topics for my two papers I have to write about Cuba. If you know me at all, you know that I am the complete opposite of a procrastinator; I don't even remember the last time I didn't have a paper done a good five days in advance to its due date. But I have been feeling that summer laziness, where I'd rather sit and daydream on my porch in the middle of the night, and watch foreign movies on Netflix Instant, rather than focus on writing or scholarly stuff. (And I can actually pay full attention to a movie, with free time like this!) I'm feeling like this is going to be the summer of papers written the day before they're due. Oh, Lordy. I can see it coming. I have also started in on priming my whole apartment, which I painted in its near entirety last summer, when I anticipated staying here for two years at least. Rent increases have made that impossible, and I am fully feeling the pain right now, in the time it takes to return these walls to white. I've decided that my energy and determination to paint a new space is directly related to whether or not I have recently had to paint a room, since last summer I didn't have to repaint anything when I moved out of my previous townhouse. This summer, I am taking a much simpler approach to my new apartment: beige walls, no work required. I'll take my mom's advice: just cover it with so much art, it feels like home anyway. Perfection.

Maybe the most indicative hint that it is summer (and the most fun) is the vast increase in alcohol intake compared to my regular, super busy semester life. Spending two weeks in Cuba, where the mojitos are the same price as a bottle of water (and you got to have something with lunch, right?) certainly helped kick that off right away. Since I've been back though, I have had time to visit lots of friends, and have taken a new approach to dinner: why not have a beer with that? In fact, why not just have beer for dinner instead?

Only working, and not having class, has been truly joyful. Relaxing. Only ONE thing to focus on in my life. Is this how real people live? It's so much fun!

I've also been absolutely obsessed, all of a sudden, with M.I.A. and Dengue Fever, two artists I've long known, but they are seriously hitting the spot right now. Exactly my mood. A bit rebellious, no?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HeNduXM-fk[/youtube]

Did I say, also, that since I'm moving, I am really excited about shaking up the way all my stuff is arranged, and in further simplifying my space. Might get rid of a bunch of stuff. Might put the bookshelves in the dining room. Maybe put my art/fabric/inspiration board right out in the living room. Why not?

I pretty much just want to pay homage to summer:

to having a tan and wearing a skirt to show it off,

to last year's dirty, broken-in flip flops,

to pleasure reading (YES!),

to no make-up,

to keeping the frig stocked with good beer,

to the pool,

and cook-outs,

to margaritas with great friends,

to MOVING (even though it's a lot of work),

to less stress in the classroom (and if you're really lucky, no class at all--jealous),

to the windows down!,

and the heat suffocating you (I do kind of love Georgia heat the way it does that),

to sweating so much at my job, I don't feel guilty about not going to the gym,

and to spending too much time watching TV shows.

Among other things.

Osama bin Laden brings back to the headlines our ten years of war, complicated emotions, and a distinct era in American life and remembrance

I made a special effort to listen to yesterday's broadcast of The World, my favorite radio program, as I wanted to listen to as much commentary and reflection on the death of Osama bin Laden as I could. Sunday night became a sweeping stretch: hours of news broadcasts, Twitter basically exploding with records numbers of tweets over a sustained period, and I was far too alert to go to sleep. But as I sped across some of my favorite blogs and news sites, there wasn't enough being said yet, enough valuable perspective to help digest all of what his death means for the world and our country and the wars we are fighting, so I headed to bed. But we are fighting two wars that began after al Queda sent two planes speeding into the World Trade Center towers back in September of 2001, as well as one into the Pentagon, and one that failed to make it to the White House, but still claimed the lives of its passengers. So this is a significant war-time event, as well as a reminder of the sadness and shock, and the anger, that arose from American people and the families of victims in the wake of the attacked ten years ago. It merits continued reflection now.

The most important reflection to make is that this is another, a continued, act of war, and bin Laden is another body added to the count. He was a man with extreme views, and who inflicted an immense amount of pain upon others during his lifetime, and that is never acceptable. As a wanted enemy of the United States during wartime, he has been in hiding for nearly a decade, because he knew his fate, and he has received it. But he is another dead, and it is more important, to me, to think about the American lives that have been lost in waging this war against the extremists that bin Laden represented--as he was indeed the personification, the face, of the enemy we have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for ten years.

So on The World's broadcast, the first show to air after the news of his death, several things brought about the kind of sentiment that best reflects what I am feeling at this time, only part of a wide spectrum of emotions across the United States. The first addresses the issue of killing bin Laden, rather than bringing him to trial. Who better to ask than a lawyer, and one who has stood as a top legal figure for the United States.

Show anchor Lisa Mullins interviewed Ted Olson, former solicitor general under President Bush, whose wife Barbara died on American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Lisa Mullins: You're a former solicitor general, under President George W. Bush, a man who respects the rule of law and justice. Do you think it would have been better to apprehend and bring to trial bin Laden, versus killing him outright?

Olson: No I don't think so at all. I think that the courageous individuals that went in there in this operation, they had to move quickly and execute quickly. Secondly, this isn't a matter of a criminal trial, this was a matter of a declaration of war against the United States and United States citizens, and you bring that war to a conclusion as quickly as you possibly can. And there wasn't any doubt about what Osama bin Laden had done, there was never any doubt about his goals for continuing to inflict that kind of devastation and misery upon, not just the American people, but people all over the world. It had to be brought to and end.

His answer echoes sentiments I have, as in high-stakes war situations, I want our military men to do what they need to carry out their mission and protect themselves to the extent each case allows. This does not mean sacrifice is absent, but I trust the training they have received to respond with their best judgement in extreme and critical situations.

The same feeling comes from later remarks from former army captain Matt Thompson, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, when he spoke to Lisa Mullins. It has been a long war for our men, in the desert, searching for an enemy and trying to bring resolve, and no matter your thoughts on our intentions, our motives, our involvement, or invasion in the Mid-East, you have to think of our military operatives doing their job--staking out complicated nations, that comes down to spending a lot of time in the hot desert with sand permanently in all crevices. And for those who have served there, I imagine this is exactly how they reacted to the news that Target Number 1 has been apprehended and taken down.

Lisa Mullins: I wonder if there is a part of you, when you heard the news about bin Laden, that thought, well, you know, why couldn't that have happened when I was in Afghanistan?

Thompson: Right, no, absolutely, I mean, I think all of us wish we were on that mission. I think everyone that puts on the uniform wishes that they were on that mission, and had a chance to take the shot, especially people like me, that have been, you know, spent countless hours searching him out in the mountains of Afghanistan.

A death is a death, and it is no small measure to remember that every life is a human soul, one that harbored potential for good and evil both. I am barely able to look at photos of bin Laden now, as they flash all over the news prints and websites and televisions, because I see into his eyes and despair over the evil and hatred that exists in this world, and that pervaded his mind and lead him to commit terrible acts against others. I have complicated emotions about his death. But it is, as Olson said, "a matter of a declaration of war," and so I am happy that we have moved forward, closer to resolution, as a nation who has been battling in, and over, the events of September 11 for ten remarkably tricky, confusing, complex years. My own ambivalence towards our battles continues to grow more gnarly and fills with greater inherent contradiction.