Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
The bad weather cut down on church attendance last week, so two of our Sunday school classes conjoined — the Woo Pig Sooey class, who call themselves Woops, and the There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood Drawn From Immanuel’s Veins class, usually shorted to just The Bloods. About two dozen people altogether, devout and sincere and working at humble.
The Woops’ lesson topic was supposed to be how you can witness in the workplace or on the ballfield or wherever you are, even if you have to text-message shut-ins, but Woops were agreeable to postponing that important lesson in favor of the one the Bloods had scheduled, which was: How much longer till we get out of Iraq?
The Bloods nearly always have newsier and livelier lesson topics than the Woops, and have been criticized as sensationalists, or plain rowdies. Some people have even quit the church using Blood-stirred rancor as an excuse, but the Woops don’t mind merging the classes occasionally, one of them confided to me Sunday, as “a way of blowing our pipes clear of Woop torpor build-up.”
My friend Big Fronie was Blood discussion leader last week, and she went around the room taking guesses from members of both classes how long it will be — and how long should it be — before beleaguered U.S. forces come home from treacherous Babylon. The guesses were mostly soon or sooner, and only one ranged farther out than two years hence. That was the Berry Picker’s sarcasm that “With this bunch we’ve got in there now, I imagine they’ll be home about simultaneous with Hell freezing over.”
This “lesson” was a Blood exercise apparently not meant to prove anything, or to get anybody riled up, but merely to take a provincial microcosmic reading of a great change in national thinking that has occurred just recently.
Woops and Bloods alike once were as hot for this war as anybody — and it wasn’t long ago. They were hot for it because they thought it had an enemy who had wronged them and was licking chops to do so again. But that enemy melted off somehow, and the war morphed into a murky-purposed thing lacking an imperative for continued American involvement. In the reconfigured war, murderous factions found purpose seemingly only in trying to annihilate one another — a terror that has thralled those same wastes at least since Joshua — and our forces, having leveled the field for them, came mainly in hazard just from getting in the way. We had no role, unless sitting duck is a role, and the mission, if there ever was one, had long since been lost sight of.
In a thousand years those obdurate factions wouldn’t be learnt to get along, and last week’s Sunday-school lesson at the Little Brown Church in the Dell, extant only in fancy as you have surely surmised, gave testimony that few Americans of the Woop or Blood ilk give much of a rat anymore which nut segment prevails over there, if one of them has to.
Woops and Bloods speak better for themselves than I can further summarize for them, and I’m hereby emancipating them to do so.
First notebook entry is Logtruck Driver venturing this: “I still don’t know what we’re doing over there in the first place.”
“Don’t none of us know that anymore, Bro,” said Logtruck Driver’s Brother, also a logtruck driver. “All we know at this point is, whatever we’re doing, it’s fixing to take 21,500 more of us to git ’er done.”.
“That’s something else,” Logtruck Driver said. “Why 21,500? I could understand 20,000 or 40,000 or any big round number. But how can they refine it down to 21,500 when don’t any of them even know what the mission is?”
“Them extra fifteen hunnerd just about has to be specialists,” this old boy Desert Storm, a Woop who was in the earlier war of that name, said with some authority.
“You were a specialist over there yourself, Des,” I remembered to ask him after church.
“Helped put out some of them well-head fars,” he said. “That was back when we was scareder of being burnt up than blew up.”
At another juncture County Mountie said: “When they finally hung old Saddam would’ve been the perfect time for us to say adios. ‘Our work here is done, and we’re leaving it with y’all.’ Then if it went to Hell, you couldn’t say we hadn’t done our part. We done three thousand lives and half a trillion dollars’ worth.”
Big Fronie labored to keep us on message. “That’s the past, hon,” she said, “and the past is not our topic this morning. The Lord forgives us our trespasses and hopes we’ll do better by him in the future. Maybe it’s his will that we stay in a kind of bondage over there for 430 years, as the Children of Israel in Egypt. Anyone have an opinion to share with us on that?”
“If that’s his will I have to say I certainly don’t appreciate it,” said Mail Man.
“It’s sadder than Dick’s hatband,” said Plug Wire. “Don’t look like it could always work out to be so powerful sad for everybody concerned, but it always does.”
And there was the concurring Sunday-school murmur, Yes, it does. Yes it does.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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