The events of the day overcame me all at once, and I struggled to breathe without crying. As darkness fell over Qalat Sukkar, I sat alone in the dim green light of the radios. I felt sick for the shepherd boys, for the girl in the blue dress, and for all the innocent people who surely lived in Nasiriyah, Ar Rifa, and the other towns this war would consume. I hurt for my Marines, goodhearted American guys who'd bear these burdens for the rest of their lives. And I mourned for myself. Not in self-pity, but for the kid who'd come to Iraq. He was gone. I did all this in the dark, away from the platoon, because combat command is the loneliest job in the world.
When we think of racism we think of Governor Wallace of Alabama blocking the schoolhouse door; we think of water hoses, lynchings, racial epithets, and "whites only" signs. These images make it easy to forget that many wonderful, goodhearted white people who were generous to others, respectful of their neighbors, and even kind to their black maids, gardeners, or shoe shiners-and wished them well-nevertheless went to the polls and voted for racial segregation... Our understanding of racism is therefore shaped by the most extreme expressions of individual bigotry, not by the way in which it functions naturally, almost invisibly (and sometimes with genuinely benign intent), when it is embedded in the structure of a social system.