The Two Americas

In Search Of Definitions
127

Two distinct Americas—but the lines aren’t very sharp….

I can’t casually use the term “Americans” to describe the residents of that geopolitical entity known as “The United States of America” anymore. It just doesn’t feel right.

It’s real; I see it and feel it—there are two very different Americas. It’s a gaping division of the nation, but I lack words for it, and it evades definition. It’s not about “haves” and “have-nots”; it’s not ethnic or racial or neatly split along political party lines. It’s certainly not about military and civilians, though the first examples which come to mind juxtapose the two. Maybe you can help.

The Soldier & The Senator-Select

My home base is a ranching, farming and logging area, but there’s a 5-star mountain resort nearby. Local folks avoid it; it’s alien ground. One morning our little airport was jammed with 50-plus young people who had just concluded a week-long snow-and-skateboarding extravaganza, snowboarding the high slopes one day and playing at a million-dollar skateboarding park at the mountain’s base the next. I was jammed in line to check my gunbag, listening as three scions of the rich, swaddled in designer down, exhorted a fourth to join them for a month in Machu Picchu.

“Dude! We’ll chew some tasty leaf, smoke some fine buds! We’ll hang, we’ll chill, dude!” He of the handwoven hemp pants and Patagonia parka, happily assented; he had nothing better to do.

“Hempy” wound up in front of me in the TSA line, too. Ahead of him were three obvious brothers, two in well-worn jeans and scuffed boots standing outside the rope; one, the youngest, in Army ACU, inside. He was headed back to Iraq. His brothers had done their service, apparently in the same unit, and mustered out. They spoke of raising beef, canola and high-school hell; an old girlfriend, a newer truck and a brand-new baby. The youngest received instructions to “Stick with Sergeant Long, he’ll steer you straight,” and “You write to Momma, y’hear, and don’t give her cause to worry!”

As we approached TSA’s checkpoint, the brothers said their goodbyes, then turned back for fast, fierce hugs, last warnings, a last “love you, bro’”—and they were gone. When the kid turned, Hempy made eye contact and engaged him.

“So, you’re like, Army and stuff, huh?”

Putting him on, the kid peered and pointed at the Army tapes on his chest and pack. “Hmm… Army, Army… Yup; looks like I’m in the Army.”

“That’s cra-a-a-a-z-zy, dude! Army! Like, war and everything, right?” Hempy declared theatrically. The kid cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” he said, “Like, war.”

“That’s cra-a-a-a-z-zzy! Hempy repeated. “Man,” he shook his head, “Why? You could be hangin’! Chillin’! Dude!”

The kid might have made a brusque reply, but just then an airline staffer stopped and looked at Hempy’s “board bag.” Besides his carry-ons, he had a huge, expensive bag which snuggled his snowboard and skateboard. The lady explained it was much too big for carry-on.

“Nah, I got an extra ticket for my boards. They stay with me, man,” Hempy advised. At that “man,” the lady stiffened, then saccharine-smiled, “Sir, come with me, please.”

The pilot had announced a delay, and we were all belted in when Hempy was finally escorted aboard and settled, smirking, in two seats: one for him and one for his boards, man… The kid and I shared a look; “from another planet,” it said—or is it “another America”?

Let me ask you: Which one is most likely to become a US senator, and which might be labeled a “potential domestic right-wing terrorist”?

The Beautiful (and not so beautiful) People

I’ve stopped wondering who these famous and fashionable “celebrities” are. It seems “The Other America” worships a star-studded galaxy of people who have no discernable performing or productive talents, no values other than stylish superficiality and no admirable accomplishments or traits whatsoever—yet they are admired, envied and fawned over fanatically. A GUNS reader recently noticed a blurb about an apparently famed Hollywood celebrity couple breaking up. He had never heard of them, so he investigated.

Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag have their own pages on Wikipedia. Both have appeared on MTV “reality” shows, making them “stars,” although Spencer isn’t even listed as an actor, but rather as a “TV personality.” His talent seems to lie in looking contrivedly, fashionably disheveled and getting in front of cameras.

A sort-of-singer, Heidi recorded an album aptly named Superficial. A section of her Wikipedia page details her dozen-plus plastic surgery procedures. Spencer and Heidi co-wrote a book entitled: “How To Be Famous: Our guide to looking the part, playing the press, and becoming a tabloid fixture.” It has obviously worked for them. He’s 28; she’s 24. They’re celebrities, folks. Millions know them—don’t you?

America doesn’t know who Matt Garst is. He’s not a Hollywood celeb, but he’s kind of a rock star in his Marine infantry company. Leading a patrol in Afghanistan, Corporal Garst was evaluating a potential observation post site when he stepped on a huge IED. It had plenty of power, but proved to be buried too deep in packed earth. Troops on the other side of an 8′ wall saw Matt’s legs flailing out of the debris funnel of the explosion—above the wall!—and concluded he was a goner. The blast launched him at least 10′ vertical and over 15′ horizontal. When they ran around the wall, they found Matt standing, rifle in hand, thoroughly ticked off.

“What the @#&* are you looking at?” he demanded of his shocked Marines. “Get back on the cordon!” Garst shook his head, knocked off some dust and refused air evacuation. Then he led his squad four rocky miles back to their base.

“I wasn’t going to let anybody else take my squad back after they’d been there for me,” he said. “That’s my job.” Back at base, he took some ibuprofen, grumbled over the attention of Navy medical corpsmen checking for blast trauma and took an ordered day off to rest. The day after that, he was back on patrol, leading his squad.
Matt Garst will never have his own Wikipedia page.

Maybe the two Americas are divided only by their icons. One of mine is a kid who will do his duty, write his mom so’s not to worry her and come home to raise beef and babies.

Connor OUT

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