Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I'm back

It was a long year in Afghanistan, though it was punctuated by great moments like the one you see below. I had talked glassmaker Sultan Hamidy into playing something for me (there's more about Sultan in the comments), but he'd only play if I took up the drums. Forgive the "helmet hair."

What made the year even longer was the fact that I felt disconnected and unable to comment on the election as it unfolded. What was worse is that I saw so many of the proper responses to the Rovian campaign tactics tossed up on blogs, but ignored by the campaigns of the good guys*. That's why I knew that, though I would eventually return to blogging, it was more important that I make a difference to the country than it was for me to have this blog be what it had been: a venue to get things off my chest so that I wasn't kept up all night.

When I returned to find my state rejecting science, my senators abandoning their institution's rules and Kansas' Democratic party doing nothing about any of it. When I contacted the state party chair, he all but patted my head and said I might understand how politics work when I'm a big boy. I was sick of the bullshit. Blogging wasn't going to be enough. I think that, while a great tool, the internet alone will not help us turn Kansas around.

After talking to many of my fellow Kansans, I was struck by how many life-long Republicans are growing disgusted by the actions of their party. I would chat with them a bit and, after a while, it would dawn on me that these people had never really been Republicans at all. Their beliefs were pure liberalism, but they'd been distracted by the clanging of the Republican noise machine. I mean, honestly, "mainstream" thought doesn't normally include the likes of Todd Tiahrt and Sam Brownback's friends who want to pattern the Christian church after the mafia or the Third Reich. And, for God's sake, why didn't my state party send out press releases saying that both of our Senators voted for filibusters against Clinton judicial nominees?

Long story short: I'm pissed. I got with some like-minded fellow Kansas (this guy and this guy for starters) and, very soon, we will be kicking off a new organization designed to counter the right-wing co-opting of midwestern values. Once I got that ball rolling, I felt that I could come back to blogging.

So I'm back. I'm ready to kick some ass.

* Although I don't know why no one pointed out that the best argument against the Swift Boat assholes was to point out that the Navy's records were very explicit about Kerry's service and have everyone who spoke about it say, simply "I believe the Navy." It's concise, easy to remember and goes well on a t-shirt.


Blogger Nitpicker said...

A little more about Sultan Hamidy from Christina Lamb's The Sewing Circles of Herat:

"By the windows was a series of cardboard boxes piles with candlesticks, vases, dishes, water cups for birdcages and goblets twisted and sculpted into the strangest shapes and sorted into colours -- bright mermaid blue, deep cobalt and jade green. I tried to pick out a set of six glasses, but no two were even remotely alike, all different heights and shapes and thicknesses with strange bumps and bulges. They were layered with dust and when I took them to the doorway and wiped them with my sleeve they glittered in the sun as if tiny particles were trapped inside the glass.

"I was holding up one that I particularly admired when a papery voice behind me whispered, 'Do you know the secret of glass?'

"I turned around to see an old man in white shalwar kamiz with a short waistcoat and a long white beard. His face was smooth and unlined yet his milky green eyes told of times long past. This was Sultan Hamidy, the owner of the shop.

"'The secret of glass?'

"'We once made glass for all over Afghanistan. All over Persia too. Kings and queens drank from Hamidy's glasses. We were the biggest glass factory in all Oxiana and Transoxiana. Look.' On the wall were framed yellowing certificates of awards won for his glassware in exhibitions in Tehran, Istanbul and Karachi.

"'What happened?'

"'War. Killing. Who is there to make glass when the men are all fighting? And who will buy glass when they don't even have a roof over their heads or bread to feed their children?'

"The old man shook his head and turned in from the doorway as if the light was burning his eyes. 'Mine is a country where all the beauty had died. Look around you. This was a beautiful city of poetry and painting and pine trees famous as far away as your country. Foreigners loved this place. It was green and lush, the stalls were all piled high with pomegranates, figs and peaches bigger than your fist. Now it is brown and dry, a dead place.'

"He walked back towards the depths of his shop and I feared he would disappear. Instead he picked up something wrapped in yellowing newspaper from inside a drawer and handed it to me. It was a wooden pencil box varnished in lapis blue with the Herat citadel delicately painted in the centre surrounded by a border of tiny star-shaped red roses and gold edging in the style of the old miniatures. The price he quoted was the equivalent of six months' salary in Afghanistan and, I knew, far too much, but it was little to me and it seemed wrong to bargain over something so exquisite, so I took the box along with half
a dozen of the turquoise blue glasses which he wrapped in straw in a box as if they were tiny kittens in a bed.

"'You mentioned a secret,' I said after counting out several large bricks of tattered afghanis, considerably lightening the load in my rucksack.

"'Each glass is individually made. We used to say a line of poetry for each one so that it would have its own soul. You see them there in the grains of sand trapped in the glass. Then when my first son Rahim was killed by the dushman (Russians) in 1979, I whispered his name into the glass as I blew it over the flame. Then we did the same every time a son or brother or neighbour was made shaheed but we could not keep it up -- you see how many glass pieces we have made but there were hundreds, thousands of dead. First we had no more customers. Then after a while we no longer had the workers or the materials. Our colours were from crushed jewels, you see the tiny splinters. now the
glasses just sit there, waiting to be found. This is the secret of Sultan Hamidy's glass.'"

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a new Kansan, welcome back, and thanks for your service.

And, best of luck in your efforts to revive the Democratic party here in Kansas. As life-long Dem and life-long blue stater there's been some culture shock here, but it also seems like there is a large number of reasonable but bamboozled people out there who you may be able to appeal to. My own job precludes me from getting directly involved in politics (I'm in a moderately high profile civilian position at one of the military bases in Kansas), but I'll sure be wishing you well from the sidelines.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous cotterperson said...

Welcome home! I'm going over to rate you up at DKos.

11:44 AM  
Blogger kat said...

Welcome back, safe and sound.

I'm a fellow Kansan, though now re-located to the Pacific Northwest. I grew up there, did all of my schooling there, graduated from college there and can hardly believe the insane ignorance I see pouring out of that state now.

Good luck to you in reviving the fight from the good guys perspective. Whether they realize it or not, the people of Kansas truly deserve better than what they're currently getting.

12:38 PM  
Blogger aamurphy7 said...

Nice going. Soon after I returned from Vietnam, I wrote a guest column for my college newspaper calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon, so I can relate.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from Mr.Murder,

Welcome Home!
A great veteran;'s blog would certainly welcome your contributions:

jo fish and friends run a great ship there, give it a look

1:44 AM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...


Jo Fish and I have had quite a few communications. Years ago, before the guard, I was an active duty sailor, so we get each other.

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of both worlds then? Navy and Army.

Sounds like you're a honorary Marine in that regard.

Nice to see you find a moment to smile like that. The Taliban stopping music has to be stifling to an artisan.

Of course such can be inspiring.
Like an authentic blues or bluegrass moment. Across cutlures people connect when they have an unbridled spirit.

That moment really captures such. Wish more of our soldiers could smile these days.

Your'e on the the new commentary magazine(tm) of atrios today!

7:37 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Welcome back, Terry.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way- you do make a great Ringo!

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Petronius said...

Welcome back, soldier.

I can tell from your picture how stoked you were to sit in with Sultan Hamidy: the universal language of music lives amidst the din of Mars.

The tragedy of our times is that the U.S. did not devote its primary time and effort to rebuilding Afghanistan at a time when we had a chance to do something good for the Afghanis, all of whom had been put through hell by the proxy war of the "dushman" and the Reaganites.
Instead, our damnable "leaders" have left the "liberated" Afghanis to rot and opium cultivation while we "prepared for war" with the hapless Saddam.

To hear Karl Rove crow about the Republican response to 9/11 is insupportable: the best way for us to have shown the Muslim world the *real* power of the US would have been to assure a rebuilt and functioning Afghanistan, where tough and soulful Afganis like Sultan Hamidy could again enjoy the peace we all take for granted here. Instead--damn it all--an again-resurgent Taliban, with U.S. assistance, will condemn Afghanistan to another generation of senseless war.

8:04 AM  
Blogger fiat lux said...

Welcome back. After reading the post, I more or less expected you to say you'd be running for office, but good luck with your new organization.

8:19 AM  
Blogger --mf said...

It's good having you back, Brother Terry.

I sent you as many NAVY pens and stuff that I was authorized to send to you when you put your call out. I do hope they made it to you-- nearly a pallet-load.

Alright, Brother. Get that gear stowed, and we'll cover your back as you re-tool for the real battle.

Cheers, my friend.

Tony B.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...


We got them and the kids loved them. Thanks so much. I wish I could have written thank you notes, but, as soon as it got started, I was receiving tens of thousands of pens -- it neared debacle level charity. I couldn't have been prouder of both the military and online lefty communities.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous The Editors said...

Awesome. Thank you for everything, and I'm glad you're back.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Norbizness said...

Glad you're back and safe, even if it is 100 degrees on the charred plains. I am sending a 16 oz Lone Star in the mail; I hope it doesn't evaporate before it gets there.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back.

Seems that Dorothy didn't defeat the Wicked Witch of the West as we were lead to believe.



11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why, but your story of the glassmaker has made me cry--as today's story of our forces killing three Iraqi newspersons beginning last Friday did not. That made me feel angry and bitter; your story of the death of beauty ripped my heart.

I remember praying that Bush would honor his promise to make Afghanistan's rebuilding a modern Marshall Plan,that the nation would become a shining example for the world. I prayed, please, God, make him mean it.

I was not listened to--or Bush does not listen to God. Perhaps both. So sad.

Welcome back and thank you for this sad, but haunting story.


2:11 PM  
Anonymous waldo said...

Terry mate

That is an exceptionally intimate piece of writing.
Thank you

5:50 PM  
Blogger Leah A said...


welcome back, and thank whatever Gods may apply that you got back intact.

you were missed.

Your new enterprise sounds great. I'd love to send you a DVD of a terrific PBS American Experience about Bobby Kennedy, which has an amazing piece of film about the signifigance of his addressing a U Of Kansas packed stadium when he was beginning to run for President - it's telling and inspiring. I have an extra copy so if you're interested, leave me an address at the corrente box,

Thanks for the excerpt from The Sewing Circles of Hera, I just ordered the book from Amazon.

Oh, and thank-you for your service; we are all undebted to you and all the soldiers "over there."

When you've had a chance to catch your breath, I hope we'll be hearing more about your year in Afghanistan. I spent one afternoon in Kabul in the early seventies, waiting for a plane, and I fell in love with a warm, gracious, fierce and exceptionally handsome people.

4:06 AM  

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