Sunday, April 03, 2005

Week One . . .

How does it feel? Good enough to keep going. I'd do it anyway, but thanks to all of you out there somewhere who have taken a look. I know Latvia is an easily exhaustible subject for most people, so today is a day for random thoughts.

I woke up early and restless this morning. It's light at 6 now and dark at 8:30. The long days of the northern latitude have already begun even though there are still patches of snow on the ground and the sea is still frozen. There are times when I wonder what I am doing here. I think anyone who has lived for any length of time abroad has these thoughts. Where is "home" anymore? I've been "gone" for 10 of the last 12 years and have been in the States once in the last seven. My brain is jumbled between two languages. I still identify as an American, but it gently drifts farther away each year like the slowly receding shore. It will never disappear, of course, nor do I want it to. It's just a simple fact.

I still believe in the ideals which founded our sometimes great country, but at times I am completely exasperated by it. I supported the war in Iraq. I was living in the Middle East during it. It wasn't particularly pleasant, but it wasn't particularly as unpleasant as you might think. Contrary to the general run of opinion at most faculties in the States, a slim majority of my colleagues where I worked also supported it. Maybe this was partly latent jingoism, but I think it went deeper. It's easier to feel a threat when you are among many of the people making it. That's not to say that all of the natives there were against us, far from it. The day of the invasion, I had been working for several months with only one student, a 38 year old Colonel close to the royal family. His English was quite good and he was getting ready to go overseas for graduate study. We had become pretty relaxed with each other over the months - we were together three hours a day - and he told me that the UAE had guys on the ground in Iraq who were helping the Americans find targets to bomb. He said Saddam was "crazy" and I agreed with him. Despite this, the general feeling was wariness at being an American living in an one Arab country while fighting a war with another. My wife an I took to speaking Latvian in taxis.

At work - the Military Language Institute - were also a group of French teachers. We had been quite friendly before, but after hostilities began so did the chill from them to us. Sad, really. Maybe it's more of a man thing, but egos get caught up in it. Too much testosterone in an all-male environment. Silly, really. We all had to pass twice a day through gates manned by young Arab guys with guns. full of Americans. A nice, juicy target? The thought crossed our minds.

Still, I think the worm has turned in Iraq. So many people have been so wrong with their dire predictions: the tens of thousands of dead, the hundreds of thousands of refugees, the quagmire mindset. My generation was seared by Vietnam and many can't get past it. The progressives of the past have become the reactionaries of the present. Just this week influential Sunni groups are now recommending their members join the police and security forces. Shopkeepers are shooting first at insurgents (I really dislike that term) and ratting them out ever more frequently. Look at the crowds in the streets in Lebanon. Where goeth the "Arab Street"? Freedom is on the march and my heart is warmed by it.

The MSM -MainStreamMedia - just doesn't cover the good news in Iraq as well as the blogosphere. To balance those views just go here, here, and here. Also, check out Mark Steyn, Thomas Friedman, and the guys at Power Line. Finally, the people listed on the right-hand side of this blog are top notch and not to be missed.

I consider myself a centrist. I'm firm on bad guys and soft on people in need. I believe that we need a pretty hard outer shell to protect the gentler life we want to live inside. We need a fist and an outstretched hand. As for Bush, I voted for him. He's been solid with the fist and has shown the hand at times, but could do much better on that score. Abu Ghraib is a shame on our ideals, read Andrew Sullivan for the full, disgraceful story. His energy policy is a short-sighted ticking bomb. We are paying for both sides in the war on terrorism: billions in tax money for the fight and billions in gas money for those who fight us.

That's enough for now. I'll save the rest for later...


At 1:03 AM, Anonymous John Griffin said...

Hello from Madison, Connecticut, USA.

I found your blog quite by accident while researching Riga.

The son of a close friend is living and working in Riga now and I was just reading up on the country so I'd have a greater appreciation of Latvia when he (my friend) spoke of it. My friend's son's name is Florian Gahbauer.

He's a physicist working for the Latvian Govt. following his graduation from the Univ. of Chicago, as well as maintaining a working post-doc relationship with Columbia University in high particle physics. Don't suppose you know him? Sorry, I don't have an address for him but I could try to obtain one if you're looking to meet up with other ex-pats.

Your site interested me. Is it a personal site mainly for family members back here in the states or are you really getting into blogging? If it's the latter, there is a great demand for knowledge about what is happening politically in the former Soviet Republics. Instapundit and The Daily Demarch would undoubtedly be interested in your postings. (Just be prepared to experience an "Instalaunch" if Instapundit mentions your blog.)

2 of your photos were curious to look at. The both were of Riga, 10 years apart. Was anything different about the city itself in those two photos or was it merely the colorization that stuck out? Some new construction was evident, but it almost looks like they washed the grime off the city and allowed it to sparkle.

What do you do over there? I know you mentioned your wife - is she native Latvian? Do you speak the language? I heard from Florian's dad that it was quite difficult to learn.

Well, I don't want to overwhelm you on one post. Thanks for the photos and the several posts. Look forward to hearing from you.

John Griffin
Madison, CT, USA

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