On my trip home last night (the train's air conditioning was not working, btw) I chanced to eavesdrop on the conversation being held behind me by three young men with unkempt hair and chips on their shoulders. I can't reproduce it word for word because I wasn't really paying attention initially, plus I can't use the word "fuck" with nearly their alacrity, but the gist of it was that they were discussing how to acquire enough explosives to do something exciting. I do recall that one of them said that one would have to be a signator to the Geneva Convention (I'm actually making it more grammatically correct than he was) in order to get one kind and another had to be avoided because the government puts some kind of indestructible identification in it so they could find out who'd used it. Okay, I thought, either they're complete morons or they're trying to get someone to start a fight on the train. If that latter, no one bit. Someone joined them and asked what they'd been up to. "Blowing up fucking A-rabs," said one, followed by gutteral noises no doubt intended to make fun of the Arabic language. The three (or four, I really wasn't looking) howled with laughter. Another fellow got on the train. As he took his seat just ahead of me, one of the guys behind me called out to him by name. He recognized them and they started to chat, all talk of blowing things or people up left behind. I started to pay attention, I don't know why. And it gradually came out that all four had served together in the Army. Recently. One of the young men behind me kept saying, "Fuck you, man, I EARNED my freedom!" They discussed the skanky girls they'd ogled at some strip club outside of Fort Lewis. They discussed the weather in terms of how hot it was in Iraq. (Sorry, EYE-rack...) The last guy got off the train a few stops later, and one of the young men behind me spotted a girl he thought looked "fine, man." (She did, but that's beside the point and doesn't excuse the way they were talking about her.) They started gesturing wildly for the guy who'd gotten off the train to talk to her. One of the three remaining guys jumped off the train and I lost sight of him. The train doors closed, the train started to move, and the cell phone of one of the young men trilled. He repeated, for his friend's benefit, "She waited and caught the red line behind us." "Well, let's get to it!" said the other, and they hopped off the train at the next stop, presumably to get on the train the "fine" looking girl was on.
When they left, I realized that perhaps I am in serious error judging American soldiers by arkham4269's standard. And if these men are a true example of the kind of men we have fighting to defend our freedom, I truly do fear for our nation. I acknowledge that just coming back from combat might have made them louder and less genteel and polite than most people riding Max at rush hour are accustomed to, but the way they seemed to take naturally to stalking the girl (she was maybe 19) they found attractive made me queasy and their loud, racist, violent conversation may have been intended for its shock value but it was said with enough conviction that I believed they were speaking their true beliefs (albeit most certainly not their true activities.)