Love My Rifle More Than You

I wonder if NPR’s increasing fortunes are indelibly linked to the increasing duration of the average American commute? My drive from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol takes me about 12-16 minutes (compared to a 6-8 minute bike ride from Carrboro to Chapel Hill). Over the course of a week I usually listen to a single CD several times over—for the last few days it has been With the Tides, the latest album by the British band South.

This evening I was driving down to Petaluma (about 20 minutes away) and decided instead to turn on NPR, something I really haven’t been listening to since moving here. It may be that I OD’ed on This American Life during and just after the move, it may just be that I’m still rediscovering old enjoyments after the disruption of moving. I’m not sure which.

I do know that NPR has this uncanny ability to move me, especially when I happen to be listening to it on a whim. Tonight Terry Gross on Fresh Air was interviewing Kayla Williams, a military intelligence officer who served in Kuwait and Iraq for a year from 2003-2004. She has recently written book about the experience entitled, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army. After having heard Kayla talk, it may be the next book I pick up.

I haven’t yet listened to the full 38 minute interview (thankfully it’s all online, I love NPR), in fact during the drive I only managed to catch the last 10 minutes. But towards the end, Terry asked Kayla, “Why did you join the military?” and it turns out partly because Kayla had lost a job working for a company that provided services for PBS and NPR stations. And then she says this:

I had this feeling that I was on a path in my life where I’d not taken any risks. I had done what I knew I was good at: majored in lit which was something I was good at. I loved reading books. They gave me a degree for reading books–it almost felt like I was tricking them–to give me a college degree for doing something I loved so much. And then working for PBS, I was good at it, but it was easy for me. I hadn’t taken risks, I hadn’t taken chances and risked losing everything. And I really felt as if, if I stayed on the path I was on, I was going to wake up and be 40, with a minivan, a white picket fence, a husband, 2.5 children, a dog, no idea how I’d gotten there. I felt as if I had to break out of the rut I was digging for myself, and try something radically different.

I know this feeling.


I love NPR too. Long live NPR! Sometimes I get burned out on it… even NPR became unlistenable after 911… but it’s always there when you need it.

that’s funny. i was just thinking how much i hated this week on npr. bring back the connection and on point! :( they seemed to talk about things i like more. now its just blah blah blah on the diane whatever show.

ps why are this google search fubar’d?


I like Kayla’s reasoning and I think it’s cool that you even notice it.

I feel like about a year ago I started pushing buttons and trying to do something different with my life. I ended up working a normal job, starting a band, tearing my house apart (literally) and then getting in and out of a couple relationships with some real characters… I think I’ve been searching for something–trying to reach a place of bravery in relation to being myself as fully and insanely as possible. That’s why I like Henry Rollins so much too….He’s into challenging himself and not just resigning to the quotidian, the comfortable, the blase…I really dig people who are not afraid to connect with the rage of the mundane and turn it inside out to discover something else…
I just know I will NOT wake up tomorrow and be bored. Sounds like Kayla won’t. And hopefully , Justin, you won’t either. I hope you actually do more than just write about this shit.

NPR is subject to its own formula too. I like it, but it sounds so bourgie….it reminds me of those people who show off all their cultural capitol and hipness. Of course, that may be what it serves…sorta…BAH!

What the fuck is wrong with a white picket fence, a husband, a dog, and 2.5 children? OK, I know what’s wrong with 2.5 children…no one wants half a child…and minivans suck. But there’s nothing wrong at all with being married with children, with a white picket fence too. Those aren’t the problem, the problem is thinking that those things equal a very specific lifestyle, which most cool people find akin to an early death (me too). Just because you/she/we/he have a husband and kids doesn’t mean that you/she/we/he have to live a certain way. It pisses me off when people think that because I, for example, am married with children, that I am living a soul-less life and that I’ve become boring, and that this is everything I didn’t want when I was younger, that I somehow “ended up” this way. Grrr. I fucking chose this way of life, and I chose to have children, and I chose to be married, and I choose to never let my life get boring.
I’m not growling at you, you know, just the idea expressed by Kayla.

And I can’t stand NPR….definitely bourgie. It reminds me of everything I despise about people who live in Berkeley.

Ok, I have to admit, I cringed when I heard her say “with a minivan, a white picket fence, a husband, 2.5 children, a dog” because I imagined Terry Gross (and everyone else listening) suddenly feeling bad about their new minivans and freshly painted white picket fences.

At the same time, I know what Kayla means. Those actual things by themselves aren’t bad, the issue is the cultural pressure that push people towards mainsteam, bell curve, american dream things against what their deeper desires might otherwise be.

I’ve voiced similar discontent with regard to marriage, not because I’m against long term monogamous relationships, but because of the cultural pressures and familial expectations that get put on people to conform to a certain kind of relationship.

I have to say though Robin that anyone who comes within conversation’s reach of you knows that you are anything but soul-less, that your kids are like the cutest evar, and that “conforming” probably isn’t in your vocabulary.

What’s really interesting to me is this notion of safety versus risk in terms of post-college life.


I’m with Robin. There’s a reason people want to own homes and have children and dogs and security, and it’s not bad. If it’s picket fences you want, then who cares about trying to be different? Isn’t the point rather to enjoy and appreciate the gift of life? People who get stuck in those so-called ruts probably just never figured out what they really wanted in life.

Weird, I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard exactly this part of the Kayla interview. She annoyed me so much that I turned it off.

I can certainly see why someone might wake up on this vapid path and wonder how to get off, but I just can’t relate. I’ve never yearned to spend time doing something I didn’t think was important. Before I entered college, I dreamt of being a famous activist, known for changing lives. I am still working on it… ;-)

I guess everyone grows into their values at different stages of life. Some get it at 18, some at 80. I highly recommend a values-based life. It offers priceless satisfaction, plus you can make a living at it (contrary to popular opinion). Welcome to the nonprofit sector!


I love this book it is a great add to my collection of books i couldn’t put it down!!!

A Soldier Far away from Home

Wow! Tons of different responses to this. I myself am in the military serving in Iraq.

Now there is nothing wrong with the whole 2.5 kids, husband, white picket fence…but the reason you all get to chose that way of life is because of people like me and my best freinds and husband that chose to join the Military and fight for you, so that you dont have to. So you dont have to leave those things that YOU chose. I dont listen to NPR but i have read this book and it is a great book and it has a lot of truth behind it. The strange situations us women in the Army are put into and how we have to deal with them. I have to say that I agree wiht Kayla Williams about not wanting to wake up to that and not know how I even got there. I have seen it all to often. I grew up in a small town and that is all that there is white picket fences and minivans driven by soccer moms. Nothing wrong with that but like i said you chose that for whatever reason you have and you may like that, but there are some of us out here that dont ever want that. I dont want drive a goddamn minivan and cart kids arround to practice all day. I feel like I am here for a reason and taht is NOT it. I am here to fight for somehting. Fight for the helpless scared poor poeple of this world who need our help. And we WILL help them untill they are not scared to come out of there houses at night because they dont want to be SHOT at. Myself and everyone else serving right now is here for that reason, wheather we like it or not. Wheather we bitch about it or not, we are here and we can do good and are doing good. I will continue to serve and not live in that big house with that ugly white fence and fucking stupid minivan carting arround children all day…. so that you can. God bless.

A Soldier far away from home, so you can sleep sound at night.


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