In the imaginary city of Anytown, a rogue commissioner appointed his own garbage collectors who toted guns, killed, maimed, and tortured citizens, and never actually took out the garbage. As the garbage piled up, it posed a threat to neighboring towns as the wind blew foul odours across town lines, making neighboring citizens ill. The garbage collectors from Anytown sometimes made forays into other towns as well, exporting their illegal activities. Neighboring towns tried to contain these rogue garbage collectors by securing the borders, but Anytown’s illegal Garbage Collectors shot at the border guards. Finally, the citizens of one neighboring town, Libertyville, got tired of the situation and invaded Anytown, kicked out most of the knaves, and began cleaning up the mess. Some of the rogue garbage collectors have been attempting to sneak back in and regain control. They shoot unarmed citizens and ambush Libertyville Garbage Collectors, but they are not very successful at doing much more than hurting innocent people. Libertyville would like to train new citizen garbage collectors from the local residents, but this will take time. Meanwhile, a reporter from Libertyville reports that in Anytown, there are:
Souring Attitudes Towards Our Garbage Collectors
Sham Perils reporting
Citizens of Anytown are growing weary of their new garbage collectors and want them to go back to Libertyville (except when they don’t). Libertyville Garbage Collectors have only their own attitudes and actions to blame for this.
During the garbage collection rounds last March, Mrs. Jones says she watched as garbage collectors helped themselves to items found in storage facilities, picked up personal property, and even stole money. She describes one event she witnessed in which a garbage truck driver took quick action to punish the garbage collectors. She says, “That driver wanted to do the right thing and do it quickly- he realized that the collective reputation of the Garbage Collector’s Union is on the line here, and the way the garbage truck drivers have been running things is very good.”
Note from the Headmistress: No doubt at least some of these garbage collectors are behaving very, very badly and need reprimanding. But if Sham Perils were a Common Room Scholar, the Deputy Headmistress would send him back to work on his rough draft further, because the second half of the above paragraph does not quite support the first half.
Shall we continue reading?
“Mr. Jones, a member of the local garbage collection management team says that local garbage collectors are being asked to do the near impossible.
MR. JONES: At one house they may be asked to pick up the yard for an elderly couple, and then at the next house they have to deal with snarling dogs, drug dealers in the local crackhouse, and then they have to handle first aid when the drug dealers sabotage their garbage cans. And the way these young garbage collectors are able to handle those conflicting requirements is just amazing and remarkable.”
Did you read that as Mr. Jones saying that the reason garbage collectors weren’t behaving as well as they should is because they are being asked to do the impossible and they can’t cope? No? The Deputy Headmistress didn’t, either. Hmmm.
Sham Perils: Garbage collectors have been attacked by crack dealers so often that they are now nervous of any car coming too close. Mistakes happen, though, and innocent citizens have been killed or wounded.
James, a five year old boy, is in a coma. He was in the car with his parents, and they panicked when they saw a garbage truck coming towards them. The car drove off the road (were all the occupants of the car passengers, or was there a driver, who in his panic, drove the car off the road?- ed.). The child was injured. At first James’ father hated the garbage collectors. He cursed them and blamed them for not helping at the time of the attack. However, the boy is now being treated at an elite hospital run by Libertyville medical personnel, and paid for entirely by Libertyville taxpayers. James’ father says he can’t imagine such care and he doesn’t know how to thank them.”
Deputy Headmistress: Isn’t he a bitter man?
“Sham Perils: Well, James’ father may not be quite so sour anymore, but not everybody feels that way. Some people really are becoming very, very bitter and sour towards the Libertyville Garbage Collectors. We talked to Ms. Salmonella about this.
Ms. Salmonella: I’ve always hated Libertyville garbage collectors. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been told that garbage collectors from Libertyville are the scum of the earth.”
Deputy Headmistress: Do you see how Ms. Salmonella’s attitude towards garbage collectors was once more positive than it is now, but their behavior has caused her negative feelings about them? No? The Deputy Headmistress confesses that she doesn’t see it, either. However, let’s be fair. Sham Perils has one more chance to convince us that Anytown attitudes are souring.
Sham Perils: The majority of the neighborhood fear chaos without garbage collectors. Mark Jones, a homeowner, sums up the neighborhood dilemma in this climate of souring attitudes:
Mark Jones: The Libertyville garbage collectors rescued us from our criminal garbage collectors. They aren’t really welcome here, but they can’t leave, because we couldn’t take care of our garbage on our own. It’s not in our interest for them to leave.”
Because, you know, they feel all sour and stuff.
So why does the Deputy Headmistress take all this time to discuss garbage collectors? Because on Tuesday afternoon while driving home from a day of running errands, she and two of the Common Room scholars listened to an All Things Considered Report on NPR. Below is a summary of that February 22 report, which was titled “Souring Attitudes toward American US Forces.
Reporter Anne Garrels said that Iraqi attitudes toward American soldiers are souring (souring? I thought that according to the media, the Iraqi people had always hated the Americans- how could it sour anymore?- editor). She refers to an Iraqi translator whom, she says, observed Marines in the November Fallujah assault looting “abandoned houses and insurgent strongholds, in some cases stealing money.”
–Make no mistake; The Deputy Headmistress hopes that if any American troops are looting private households they are caught and punished by their superior officers. She is less concerned with perceived ‘looting’ of terrorist (not insurgent)strongholds. In military terms she believes this is more properly termed ‘confiscating terrorist supplies.’ The Headmistress is not condoning theft by American soldiers. For the purposes of this post, however, the Headmistress wishes to address something else. Something demonstrated here:
Garrels began her article by telling us that Iraqi attitudes are souring, and she implies that this is because of misbehavior on the part of American GIs. However, her concluding paragraph seems to be an example of an American officer committing feasance rather than malfeasance (note to common Room scholars, please look it up).
The translator, one Mr. Salim AMR(ph), according to the NPR transcript, has witnessed an attempt at theft by American soldiers at a checkpoint. He then nails the American military with this accusation, “The officer want take the right decision with that thing. You know, it’s everybody reputation. And the way that they’ve been running things, it’s been very good.”
Sounds mouthpuckeringly sour to me.
There are some disturbing things reported in the article, although it’s difficult to know how disturbed we should be without context. We are told of a soldier who allegedly asked an Iraqi what a particular book was, and when told it was the Koran, he cut it into pieces. But if this is true, we still need context. Was he interrogating a terrorist, hunting for small contraband, or just being a criminally stupid clod? We don’t know.
We don’t wish to excuse the inexcusable, but without more information, we don’t know whether this was inexcusable. However, we do know that in addition to one or two disturbing allegations, within this article we also find more than a few confusing juxtapositions:
“GARRELS: Captain Luis Alvarez(ph), an intelligence officer in Baghdad with the 1st Cavalry Division, says American troops are being asked to do the near impossible.
Captain LUIS ALVAREZ (1st Cavalry Division): At one street corner they may be handing out backpacks to schoolchildren, and in the next they’re rendering first aid to a soldier who was severely wounded. So it’s a very wide spectrum of emotions that most soldiers go through on a daily basis, and to me it is remarkable the extent to which the young, emotionally, probably green soldier is able to handle that. (emphasis added by the DH“
It appears to the Headmistress that if Captain Alvarez says that the Americans are being asked to do the impossible, he also says that they are actually doing those impossible things.
According to Garrels the large number of suicide attacks have made American soldiers ‘wary’ of any car coming to close, and “innocent Iraqis have been shot or injured.”
When the Deputy Headmistress heard this on the radio, she braced herself for a heartbreaking account of such an injury caused by American soldiers shooting innocents. She knows it happens, though she deplores it. Instead, she heard this:
“GARRELS: Zayuni(ph), a five-year-old boy, lies in a coma. The Alogeli(ph) family panicked when they suddenly saw a patrol coming their way. The car drove off the road. Ali’s(ph) son was seriously injured. Initially he cursed the soldiers for not helping in the wake of the accident, which he blamed on the Americans. Eventually, through private contacts, he was able to get his son into the American military hospital in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and his attitude softened.
ALI (Zayuni’s Father): (Through Translator) I can’t imagine such care, and really I don’t know how to thank them.”
The Deputy Headmistress has always supposed that if something can be said to be ‘souring,’ that implies a previous state of being less sour. Does the following sound like somebody whose attitude was positive, but is now sour?
Mr. NADIM KADIM (Taxi Driver): (Through Translator) Since I was in primary school, we have always been told the Americans are the enemy of all nations.
The Deputy Headmistress rather suspects that if Kadim hated us before we came, when he was a child, because he was told we were the enemy of all nations, that any continuing hatred he may feel toward us can hardly be blamed on our recent actions. And the Deputy Headmistress isn’t sure that he does still hate us so much.
“GARRELS: But he and the overwhelming majority interviewed in Baghdad fear chaos without the American presence now. Abu Hassan(ph), a businessman, sums up the Iraqi dilemma.
Mr. ABU HASSAN (Businessman): (Through Translator) The Americans rescued us from one problem, which was the Saddam Hussein regime. Despite the fact that they are not welcome here, they cannot leave. We want them to leave, but at the moment it’s not in our interest for them to do so. That’s the situation.”
The Deputy Headmistress thinks that Mr. Abu Hassan and most Americans are in agreement- we all want Americans and other foreign soldiers to leave Iraqi soil as soon as possible. What do you think?