Saturday, December 09, 2006


We're standing outside the smoke shack this morning, before work. The day is bright and chill, and as we huddle together under the camo-net gazebo as a crew of civilian contractors pulls up in white pickup trucks.

There are a couple of Americans in the group, of varying ages and ethnicities, as well as a long-haired Filipino. The rest-- about half a dozen--are dark-skinned men of Hindustani origin. These latter talk quietly amongst themselves in their native tongues, and shiver violently in spite of the thick parkas and balaclavas they wear. A few of them cast quizzical glances at us, but for the most part we are ignored.

Hedley and the tomboy, Fye, are standing close to each other, smoking cigarettes and gossiping about God knows what. I see them cast wary eyes over at the foreign nationals, and after a moment Hedley speaks up.

"Hey," she says to me, "shouldn't somebody be watching them?" She means the Hindustanis.

"Nah." I shake my head. "They're not even Iraqi. They're Indian."

"Contractors," pipes up LaHaye. "With KBR."

"Thank you." I turn back to the women. "They're harmless. They're not a threat to us. Hell, they're probably not even the right religion. Hindus and Sikhs, most of them."

"I don't care where the hell they're from," says Hedly. "I don't trust 'em.

"Yeah" drawls Fye. "Someone should be watchin'em." Fye affects a southern country disposition, but she's from Washington State. I grin at her and shake my head, my thin smirk barely disguising my disgust.

"Dude," I press on, "They're not even FROM here."

"So?" Says Hedley. "They're all the same to me."

Jesus Christ, I think to myself. "What," I respond, trying to remain jovial, "'They're all just brown to me, and I'm threatened by that?' Is that what you're saying?"

The girls laugh. "Yeah," says Hedley, grinning and brushing it off. "I am. That a problem?"

I can't believe I'm hearing this. "What are you, kidding me? This is exactly why we're fuckin' in the situation we're in over here. We can't be bothered to understand the local culture, but we don't mind blowing it to shit, now do we?"

"Who cares," says Fye. "They're the ones trying to kill us."

God. I go back to my cigarette. I look over my shoulder, and see Spc. Gonzales. He slouches against the back of the gazebo, shades gleaming in the morning sun. I call out to him.

"Hey Gonzales," I say, smirking. "Better watch out. Fye and Hedley over here are gonna call Homeland Security on your ass. I don't think they can tell you're not a terrorist."

Gonzales grins. "They just hatin'," he says coolly, "on my natural tan."

It's a response both mature and funny. I laugh. I turn back, only to see that both of the girls have retreated back into their gossip. I decide to let the matter drop, but even now, I see the way they look over my shoulder, glaring harshly at the weathered Indian faces who are busy digging up our power lines. I wonder when the last time was Fye and Hedley did such work. I doubt they ever have; too busy being threatened by the Brown Menace, I suppose.

Later on in the day, around lunch, I return to the gazebo for another smoke, to see the Hindustanis still hard at work. A old-timer with the subtle body language of a retired vet is busy sitting down on the bench across from Fye. They're laughing as they smoke, and together they pause in their conversation periodically to shoot baleful glances over at the workers. I overhear snatches of the discussion as I smoke, though for the sake of my own sanity I try to ignore it.

"One day," says Fye. "I'm tellin' ya. It's just one more way for them to get at us inside the wire. Like they did in Mosul. My brother was supposed to be in that DFAC, ya know."

I shake my head. I roll my smoke between my fingers, stamping out the cherry as it hits the ground. I toss the butt in the trash, and walk away.

They hate us, I think, remembering the words of Bill Maher, because we don't even know WHY they hate us.


Blogger soul pumpkin said...

...brilliant work...perhaps if there were more thoughtful persons such as yourself among "the boots on the ground" the hatred might abate somewhat...thanks for all you safe, my brother...

6:57 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

I wonder if Frye and Hedley are as understanding when people judge their worth on the basis of their (female) appearance.... I suspect not. Ah, the smell of hypocrisy.

9:30 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

Or Fye, even. Too much Futurama!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:10 AM  
Blogger dorsano said...

It's hard to believe that sort of ignorance still exists after all that's transpired over the last three to four years.

In any case, it seems a deadly weakness to me.

6:22 AM  

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