Monday, July 07, 2008

Do Something ...

This is about the troops.

Earlier today, Doreen sent a story to me about Books For Soldiers, a program that enlists volunteers to ship care packages to troops that make requests through the Books For Soldiers web site.

Books For Soldiers was started during the Gulf War by Storm Williams who started sending books to the troops who, according to the site, "were faced with massive downtime and were restricted to their base due to the travel limitations set by the Saudi government."

In the current economic climate, though, Books For Soldiers is struggling to keep operating. Even though volunteers fulfill orders directly for soldiers and incur all the costs, Books For Soldiers needs money to continue operations. It's currently in the midst of a drive to raise $70,000 by the end of 2008, a pittance, really, when you consider that Obama and McCain, combined, raised more than $40 million in June.

Am I asking you to contribute? No. I'm making you aware of the organization. You can decide for yourself if it's something you want to support. Me, I'm blogging about it and I've registered on the site and printed out the application and filled it out. I need sign it in front of a notary and get it notarized, and once BFS receives it, I can start fulfilling requests.

Later today, I popped in "Lions For Lambs," Robert Redford's film that cost $35 million to make yet failed to earn back $15 million in this country.

And now I know why.

No, not because it's not a good movie. As a movie, it's told as separate stories, a la "Syriana" or "Traffic." And like those movies, it attracted top-tier talent. But it's not really a movie.

I submit that it didn't do well for at least two reasons, one much more powerful than the other:

1) Because the majority of Americans have proven that they don't want to have to think after they've slapped down their $35 for tickets and popcorn; and because

2) This film, if you have any vestige of a conscience, will feel like sand in your psyche.

It's been more than six years since "Shock and Awe" and "Mission Accomplished" and today "World News with Charles Gibson" reported that an American solider hasn't been killed in Iraq for 11 days.

Our country is at war, a war that's now lasted longer than World War II (and World War II was waged on a much grander scale and with much-less-sophisticated weaponry), but Iraq has largely fallen out of the headlines in favor of broadcast-topping stories that the price of oil has hit another record high and gas now costs, on a national average, two cents more this week than it did the last.

Of course, the war is alive and well every moment of every day for the families of the troops, but for the majority of this country, it has quite literally become yesterday's news. I'm noticing far fewer yellow-ribbon magnets on cars. Are you?

And so Redford, who lends his voice to the national discourse beyond his offerings for the silver screen, made a movie that holds up a celluloid mirror and asks us just how much more we're going to swallow, how much longer we're just going to shrug.

Of course people didn't flock to see it. People don't like to be reminded that far too many of them are far to quick to stay seated and hope that the next guy will do the right thing.

But what if the next guy has been deployed?

I abhor this war. But I, too, have been far too uninvolved. I suspect many people feel powerless. What good do protests do, we wonder? And so we click the buttons in our MoveOn.org e-mails and feel like were lending our voice, like we're doing something.

But more than six years later, such "somethings" don't suffice. Not that they ever did.

So today, my "something" became signing up to be part of Books For Soldiers. Because now that I know about this organization, if a book and a magazine and a few personal products will help make a soldier's deployment even the most minute bit more bearable, how can I not fulfill such a simple request? For as many soldiers as I can?

That's my "something." What's yours?

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