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How the 1% lives

July 7, 2011

From a good friend of Left Face . As always, she says it so very well.

I found this Independence Day left me feeling pretty conflicted. My friend threw a great party. He invites me every year. Every year I decline, usually because I am just back from a trip or leaving for one and I can’t take a holiday. This year I felt I had to go. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t appreciate the many times he has taken time to be my friend.
As I sat on a lawn chair mostly listening to conversations I wasn’t really invited to participate in, I felt a profound sense of loneliness. This was compounded when the other students began running around yelling “Freedom isn’t free.” Yes, on some superficial level watching the one guy in his redneck mullet hat yell this at passing cars on a country with a beer in hand was funny, but being the sober one in the group and being the only one who might ever experience a real taste of the cost of freedom, I couldn’t help but be a little sickened. Didn’t they realize that probably on some desert plain, or a ship somewhere in the world, or maybe even some more humble post like standing a watch somewhere, there were really people paying a price for freedom that night? And even that question really didn’t address my friend sitting in the airport with her husband who was getting ready to leave for Afghanistan. She’s paying a price too. Thinking about all of these people, the 1%, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and disconnected from the frivolity around me. I don’t think anyone noticed.
This is what life is like for the 1%. No one notices. It occurred to me that despite the fact that people are well aware of my family situation and they are kind and do invite me to parties occasionally, there isn’t really anyone around I could call if I had an emergency. This became all too real yesterday afternoon when my dog bit me. I knew at that moment there was no one to call for help. I had to secure the dog; scrub my hand; stop the bleeding; call the command and have them tell my husband I wouldn’t be reachable that night because I was going to be driving myself to the ER right after I cancelled my instrument time at the lab. I went and I sat there by myself for five hours crying in the damn ER waiting room that was overrun with people, feeling equally sad that there was no one to call to have someone come sit with me, no one who understood how isolated I felt at that moment knowing damn well that even if I were in VA with my husband, he couldn’t have left his duties to come sit there or that after 3.5 yrs here I feel as alone as I did my first day. There was no one to hold my hand and understand that I was weeping in part because Sasha, my battle buddy of nearly a decade, turned on me and bit me. I have to tell you it really sucked and today hasn’t been much better. I’ve been crying off and on all day, mostly when I forget my hand doesn’t want to do anything right now. I’ve known about Murphy’s Milspouse Law for a long time (Anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment while your spouse is away); I just never realized until now that part of what makes it feel so overwhelming is the profound sense of isolation I feel.
Life goes on for most Americans. War is an alien concept. “Freedom isn’t free” is a redneck cliche. They don’t understand that normal life can feel just a wee bit over the top some days when your spouse is gone, and when the shit hits the fan it can be down right overwhelming to face. They also don’t understand that even when we have those lucky precious moments with our spouses they are always colored by the changes each of us went through during the separation, by the changes we know may yet come, and by the profound empathy for the suffering every friend or family that is going through what we have been through has faced or has yet to face. We know, “There, but for the grace of god, go I.”
For the most part I try to be charitable with other people on this issue. It wasn’t so long ago that I was a stranger in this strange land and there was nothing that could have prepared me for life as a military spouse, but sometimes I just feel very frustrated and disconnected from the 99% who seem to be incapable of acknowledging that we are neither heroes, villians, drones, deluded, stupid, or any of a hundred other adjectives I have heard applied to military families and servicemembers. We are people. We are human. We breath the same air, have hopes and dreams for our families, and want the same American dream they do. We just, on some deep level, accept that our spouses chose to commit themselves to something bigger than a big salary, lots of vacation time and watching “The Biggest Loser.” They chose to put their money where their mouth is and agree to spend each day protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States of America.
On some level the 1% knows that “Freedom isn’t free”. It’s leveraged on the backs carrying hundreds of pounds of gear in the desert, on the men and women standing watch at thousands of posts around the country every night, on the psyche of every kid who either has never met Daddy or worries Mom and Dad might not come home this time, and every spouse or parent who carries the load both physical and emotional when their spouse or child is gone. What the 99% need to know is that I don’t care whether you thank my husband for his service or slap a cheap “Support the Troops” magnet on your car, this freedom is also leveraged on you, because you chose to send the 1% into battle and to rack up the monetary, physical and emotional debts our service members and their families are carrying. You don’t have the right to welch on that debt now by cutting our medical care, pay or retirement you promised, nor can you walk away and leave military families to suffer.
Please take the time to think about who is in your neighborhood, your city, your county, your state that is in that 1% and try to find ways to help them. As bad as yesterday and today were, it would have been so much better if even one of my “friends” had ever expressed that I could call them for help if the shit hit the fan and not just the occasional invite to a party. It would have been the difference between an emotionally demoralizing experience and one that would have been more manageable and less traumatic. Believe it or not, in my mind, that would have been a marvelous help! At the end of the day, what the 1% needs is for the 99% to be our friends and treat us like real people. That is a doable venture.

P.S. If you aren’t sure how to get involved, you can find out by going to the Joining Forces website.
Posted by Slightly_Rifted

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Shannon permalink
    July 8, 2011 1:42 pm

    Wow!! Shocked to scroll down and see no comments. Figured there would be a lot. Tough to read, but a fantastic piece of writing. Thanks for sharing, and know you aren’t the only one.

  2. July 10, 2011 8:46 pm

    Does she have a blog?

    Anyway, this literally happened to me yesterday. My SO is away at training for 5 weeks for Afghanistan and it feels like the deployment just started even though he’s in the US still. So yesterday I took our slightly trained/getting more trained dog for her first group class. Everything had been going grand, she was warming up to the other dogs in the class, she was listening and learning and we were both having a good time. Then she just went…crazy. A dog walked by and she went in a psychotic frenzy that had me on my knees, screaming for help as she was rapidly pulling us both closer to the other dog. At some point in there, she got a nice bite on my calf that didn’t do much to help things. So as soon as it was over and I could get my wits about me, I stared to cry. It wasn’t that the bite hurt (it didn’t even really draw blood), but it was feeling so da*n powerless and scared. And like you, alone. The trainer helped reel my dog back in, but there was no one to comfort me and give me a hug to make all the bad feelings go away. That’s what I really, really needed right after. And all I could have was a short voicemail message to hear his voice.


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