Afghanistan — a heavy legacy for Generation Xbox

Max Benitz plunges into life with a company of Scots Guards on the front line in Helmand Province. 

Spring arrives for each of us in different ways: the realisation that it is still light at six in the evening, birdsong, a freshening of the air.

For the British army, spring means changing the guard in Helmand. One brigade leaves and another arrives. The men on their way out have faced the damp and danger of a winter tour. Those arriving know that they are in for the summer "fighting season", against a tough and innovative insurgency.

A year ago, I joined the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, who were making their way to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire for the flight to war. At Camp Bastion, the main British base in Afghanistan, they noted the contrast between their own pristine desert combats and the stained clothing of the men heading home.

I had been given permission to spend time reporting on the Scots Guards, a regiment that dates back to the 17th century, and I was elated. My father, Bryan, had served with the regiment and I had grown up in a house decorated with prints of pipers and guardsmen. The war in Afghanistan, which began when some of the guardsmen serving today were just nine years old, fascinated me. This generation, so frequently written off as feckless, Xbox-addled and more likely to urinate on war memorials than pay homage to them, was going to Helmand. I wanted in.

Barred by constitution and temperament from being a soldier, I decided to go to war as a witness. A subtle distinction from going as a journalist - I had no news editor barking for headlines. I was allowed the time to dwell among the men of the Scots Guards and write a book about them in return. What I saw was the best of this generation going through an experience that was unique to them, though redolent of what their forefathers had done.

There's not a lot of God talked by Britain's Armed Forces but there is ancestor worship. Guardsman Glen Murray, a South African, put it well one night in Helmand: "What we're doing out here, it's the closest [thing] our generation will have to the Second World War. When I get home, I'm going to wear my campaign medal every day. People in South Africa, they might not know what it means, but I will and my family will. I'm going to wear it every day."

These young soldiers are fighting a war that was caused by mistakes that the generation before them made. You gave these guardsmen the Afghanistan war. This is what they did last summer. This is what the men heading out this spring will contend with.

"Was that a petrol bomb?"

“Hang on - rewind and freeze it."

The lance corporal paused the feed from the CCTV camera monitoring a primitive road through this dusty patch of Helmand. As an armoured personnel carrier chugged along, part of a routine convoy, a flying object from behind a wall described a lazy arc towards it. In the next frame, a cloud of grainy flame leaped over the vehicle. "Little fuckers. It is. What do I put up on the net?"

On the radio network, news of the petrol bomb - harmless though it turned out to be - flew up the chain of command. Brigadier Richard Felton himself expressed interest in it at that evening's conference between battle groups in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

The petrol bomb marked something new. British soldiers are generally more worried by roadside bombs, known as "improvised explosive devices" or IEDs. Yet it fitted with an emer­ging pattern. Quite a few of the brigadier's men had been (relatively) lucky in the early months of the year, treading on IEDs that failed to detonate fully. The theory was that the insurgents were running out of bomb-making materials.

There was hope that this meant UK and US troops were finally making progress in Afghan­istan but cynics said that it might also be related to floods in Pakistan disrupting insurgent supply routes across the border. The truth was more complicated - another part of the shifting story of our long and often unhappy involvement in the country.

By the time of the petrol bomb in August 2010, I had been in Helmand for two months. It was a tumultuous summer. At night, from a high spot in the province, you could look south-east towards Pakistan, with its huge pillars of lightning, and dream of cool rains rather than relentless heat. Then you would dismiss the idea - rain would turn bases into quagmires and ground the army's helicopters. No helicopters would mean no casualty evacuation, less fire support, no mail and no way out. On balance, the heat was preferable.

Digging in

Left Flank, a rifle company of 141 men from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, arrived in Helmand in March 2010. Almost until the moment the soldiers left their families in Catterick, North Yorkshire, there was confusion over where they would be sent. Eventually they ended up a few kilometres north of Lashkar Gah.

Though Britain decided in 2005 to concentrate its troops on a triangle of land between Camp Bastion, Lashkar Gah and the smaller town of Gereshk, the area that Left Flank moved into within the triangle was still near-virgin territory to the allies in 2010.

Troops were sent there because the region's governor, Gulab Mangal, had asked the British to help increase freedom of movement between Lashkar Gah and Gereshk. To do so, they needed to create a string of checkpoints along the road between the towns. Once the route was safe, engineers could move in and turn it from a dirt track into something more modern. Not exactly tarmac, but at least closer to level.

Rebuilding a road may not sound very strategically important in the context of a country with as many problems as Afghanistan but it is vital. Due to restricted movement, locals can't get to the market and their children can't get to school. A decent road also makes it easier for the allies to "link up", simplifying logistics and taking pressure off helicopters.

Left Flank was given a seven-kilometre stretch to hold. Its success would rely on winning the support of local people. Most of these were farmers with little or no education, from a broad range of tribal backgrounds, and they had received little by way of leadership from the Afghans since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The area was also a known insurgent base.

In early April, within days of arriving, Left Flank took its first casualties. A foot patrol along a road hit an IED, depriving the lance sergeant who triggered the bomb of two legs and an arm and causing severe head injuries to the colour sergeant (a non-commissioned officer) behind him. Their lives were saved by first aid from three very young guardsmen, who were on one of their first days in a war zone.

It was clear to Left Flank's commander, Major Rupert Kitching, that the road would have to be cleared, inch by inch, by specialist teams. The question was how to ensure that it would remain IED-free afterwards.

In May, he decided to put in a new checkpoint on the road's "choke point" to monitor it, and perhaps establish a "protected community" there. The creation of such communities, according to military doctrine, acts like an ink spot on a piece of blotting paper, gradually spreading the message of security and governance and drawing farmers on to the Afghan government's side. The theory had worked elsewhere in Helmand, although usually after a bloody fight with insurgents.

Starting on 3 May, it took nine days to clear just 2.5 kilometres of road. Once the people living around the new checkpoint got their homes back, others began to be brought onside with a key tool - money. In four months, Left Flank spent approximately $70,000 of its budget (or roughly $10 per metre of road that it had to keep clear) on projects for the locals.

The company was in a "new" area so it could not hope, at first, to put in set-piece projects such as schools. Instead, it tried to get the farmers' goodwill by digging wells and improving irrigation systems. British officers have a term for the support they and the Afghan government can give to people - the "offer". First comes security and, once this is established, the provision of basic services - health clinics, schools, agricultural projects - follows.

But how to keep the road secure while the offer was completed? Kitching decided to put further checkpoints along the road, with a hand­ful of guardsmen alongside numerous Afghan soldiers or policemen in each. This was a risky and largely untested idea.

In the early years of the war, large numbers of Afghan forces had been "mentored" by relatively small groups of British soldiers, but this idea had been dropped in favour of more even ratios by the time Left Flank reached Helmand.

With only so many men available to him, Kitching had to take the risk that these small bases could fend for themselves in order to keep a mobile reserve to continue foot patrols - the key to getting to know the people and dominating the area. He had to take the risk that his men would get on with their Afghan partners in cramped quarters over long periods. The ratios that Left Flank lived with were an extreme version of the new orthodoxy of having high ratios of guardsmen to locals at each place, especially once casualties and R&R - a fortnight of rest and relaxation at home in Britain - took men away from the fight.

Presented with ten static targets, the insurgents responded with persistent attacks on the checkpoints. Sometimes it would be a single shooter with an AK-47, which the troops largely took in their stride. A more worrying scenario was a group of gunmen, with several using the noise of their clumsy automatic fire to mask the direction of accurate shots from a rifle.

When things were quiet, though, life at the checkpoints could be grindingly dull. There was little to do during the heat of the day apart from smoke cigarettes and drink water. As the temperature cooled, the men took turns in the open-air gym.

I once watched a sergeant named Tony Gibson sitting at Checkpoint Said Abdul in Helmand in 40-degree heat playing Call of Duty, the ultra-realistic video game that is partly set in Afghanistan. You might imagine that, as a platoon sergeant on the front line, the last thing you would want to do in your precious time off was revisit the country in virtual form. But the game is astonishingly popular.

Meals were a welcome distraction. Often the guards took turns to cook for each other. They were on ten-man ration packs; once the three-foot-long cardboard boxes were opened and the range of basic ingredients assessed, it was the chef's choice every night. The contents varied from pack to pack - some were stuffed with tins of chicken supreme, others with boil-in-the-bag packs of minced beef.

Everyone had their speciality: deep-fried sausages and Spam fritters brought a taste of a Scottish chip shop one night, or there would be Thai noodles or Fijian curries (reflecting the multi-ethnic make-up of the modern British army) on another. The Afghans chipped in with home-made bread and, on special occasions, lamb stew.

It was notable that at night the guards would sit talking about The Inbetweeners rather than geopolitics. If a "whys and wherefores" discussion did crop up - and it rarely did, because retaining a sense of normality is more important than politics - there was an anecdotal division in opinion. Lads from Glasgow broadly thought the war was about drugs, boys from Blackburn broadly thought it was about terrorism. Like anyone else, guardsmen relate their present predicament to their previous experience.

There was some respite. "Operation World Cup" aimed to get TV sets into every checkpoint by kick-off in the Rainbow Nation last summer. The many Scottish soldiers were delighted with England's poor performance. (When David Cam­eron, newly elected as Prime Minister, arrived in Lashkar Gah on 10 June, he sought out a group of Scots Guardsmen. "And what would you say is your greatest fear over here?" he asked earnestly. "Well, sir, I'd have to say England winning the World Cup," replied one Lance Corporal John-Paul Barnes.)

The odd sort of freedom felt in the checkpoints is hard to express. You're trapped in a small fortified position, sleeping head to toe, and you have no choice but to get on with it. Yet this lack of choice liberates.

There are no worries about renewing your car insurance or the weekly shop - nearly every decision is made for you. There's the obvious worry about death or injury, but as one senior non-commissioned officer explained to me: "Afghanistan's one of those places where it doesn't matter how safe a place you're in, if you're going to get shot it doesn't matter if you're in Bastion or wherever - it will happen."

When guardsmen rotated back to the comparative luxury of Left Flank's headquarters in a larger checkpoint (showers, gas cooker, cold drinking water) many pined for the counterfeit domesticity of the little prisons up the road they had turned into homes.

Returning to a main base held other risks for men used to surviving on long-life rations. "I went down to Lashkar Gah yesterday and had, like, normal food. I was fucking violently sick this morning because I'm not used to it," Lance Sergeant Steve Wood told me. "Milk, too. We're used to drinking whitener. I don't like milk any more: I like whitener."

Ungoverned

In the summer of 2010, the insurgents tried to, in the military jargon, "separate the people from the offer". Sometimes this took the form of intimidation - beatings, snap-taxation of food and cash - to demonstrate insecurity. On other occasions, the insurgents would offer a history lesson to the villagers, which was eventually relayed on to the soldiers.

It went like this: in the days of the shah, Helmand's land was parcelled out to rich land-owners whose ownership was registered with the government. Then the godless communists invaded in 1979 and there was jihad and chaos. Many people were killed and others fled their land. During the Soviet occupation and the civil war that followed in the 1980s, others settled on these lands and remain there today. (The insurgents glossed over how those who had remained throughout were made to eat their land registry documents and ID cards by the Taliban in the 1990s.)

Now a new Afghan government, this time supported by the infidel sons of Obama, was trying to establish control again. These people, the insurgents would tell the farmers, will take the land of anyone without documentation and also stop you growing poppy.

It was a powerful message in some communities. Others ignored it, and some actively helped the British by, for instance, flashing a torch just before a night-time shoot on a checkpoint began. The attacks still intensified, especially after the poppy harvest.

Then, on 12 July - while I was back in Britain for a short break - came a series of bombings, starting with an insurgent attack that mistakenly blew up a minibus full of civilians travelling behind a British vehicle. The experience of dealing with the aftermath was so traumatic that two young guardsmen had to be flown back to Britain; they bear scars that can't be seen. The bomber killed seven Afghans and his colleagues shot at the rescue helicopter.

A week later, a Viking armoured vehicle hit another IED on the same spot, although this time the detonation caused only minor injuries. When specialists came to clear this new choke point, the insurgents struck again. A guardsman was shot in the face, then the commander of the Viking that came to rescue him was shot dead. The gunner of a Scots Guards vehicle sent to retrieve the casualties was killed by the same sniper. (Both servicemen won posthumous Military Crosses for their bravery.)

As more soldiers tried to help the wounded get away, one took a ricochet to the helmet. He dusted himself off, continued firing - and then was shot in the abdomen.

After the casualties were evacuated, their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Lincoln Jopp MC, went to Camp Bastion to see them repatriated. The first guardsman to be hit couldn't speak; his jaw was shot through. Instead, he gave Jopp a note. It read: "I don't want to go back to UK. I want to go back to Left Flank."

Taken together, these incidents were a clear threat to "the offer". The response was robust. Reinforcements arrived to strike into insurgent-held areas and pushed troop numbers in the area to 450. This would give Left Flank space to concentrate on protected communities. Additional manpower and cutting-edge resources flooded in.

Left Flank then set about reshaping the area. To provide security on the road, it would now have to watch each metre, so more walls were pulled down. Local people were paid to cut down trees to deny snipers and IED planters any cover. But every action, however well intentioned, has a consequence, and the "claims clinic" that Left Flank organised was overrun with farmers demanding compensation for the destruction of their property.

Larger claims had to be settled in Lashkar Gah, but the trip there was hazardous and - at $2 - expensive. On arrival, the farmers would be asked for ID and documentation that proved land ownership. Sometimes, if any documents were missing, an "arrangement" could be made with an official - but would the cost of the arrangement be larger than the claim? And maybe the insurgents were right about this new government wanting the land? To subsistence farmers these concerns added up, and they examined the offer again.

"Was that a petrol bomb?"

“Hang on - rewind and freeze it."

What happened on that day? Was it a disgruntled local men showing his frustration with the offer? Or was it a young boy, paid a few dollars by the insurgents to have a go? In some ways it doesn't matter. The petrol bomb was just one incident of the hundreds that one rifle company had to deal with on one tour among many in a long campaign.

Left Flank suffered another fatality before it came home in October; a hugely popular sergeant was shot while trying, like the others, to protect comrades. But despite further IEDs, the road remains more open than closed.

Major Kitching had always told his men that they wouldn't solve every problem in the area during their six-month tour. Instead, success or failure would be measured by the state they left the place in - for the locals, for their Afghan partners and for the next set of troops.
Reports show that, in the six months since then, Left Flank's successes have been built on - a police precinct and government outreach office has opened, wheat seed and fertiliser were distributed to farmers to sweeten the offer further, and the security situation has improved so markedly that checkpoints are closing even as the road upgrade reaches completion.

The area Left Flank held for half a year was a previously ungoverned space, one of many in Helmand. The plan is that company will succeed company and brigade will succeed brigade until Helmand - and beyond - is ready to move to complete Afghan control. It's uncomfortable for the soldiers to think that this will only happen in the wake of a political settlement that will almost certainly include at least some of the men who fought against them last year.

Major combat operations are slated to come to a close in 2014, after full transition to Afghan control - though timelines in wars don't work. In terms of resources, however, the 10,000 or so British troops stationed in Afghanistan today and the billions of pounds spent annually on the mission must represent the high-water mark of this country's involvement. In the summer of 2010 that involvement was working - at least where I witnessed it - admittedly at significant cost.

Sitting on an IED cordon one day, I saw an experienced lance sergeant look at one of the guardsmen in his care as if for the first time. "Young Ritchie Carr from Durham. Eighteen years old and you've already done an Afghan [tour of duty]. What have you got planned for the rest of your life?" he asked.

“Guess I'll just keep coming back here," said the guardsman.

Max Benitz's book, "Six Months Without Sundays: the Scots Guards in Afghanistan", will be published by Birlinn later this year

This article first appeared in the 02 May 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The Firm

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When heritage becomes hate: why my home town of Charlottesville needs to address its complex past

After an invasion of white supremacists, we need to see what our history means today.

Watching a tragedy happening in slow motion, without any way to stop it - that’s how it has felt to be from Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2017. A city that used to always get voted “happiest town in the USA” when I was growing up was the target this weekend of an ugly white supremacist movement whose roots spread far from the city.

It was a huge surprise when we won the lottery of Nazi flags, with our stupid old statues that have become icons of international fascism, with a park named after a distantly forgotten old man becoming a site of struggle for an attempted racist coup of the United States. Our first reaction is: they aren´t from here. Our second: make them go away. Our third: a realisation we need to examine the way that our own ways of life, which we thought so harmless, have inspired such horrible feelings in strangers.

Maybe for my African-American classmates at high school the statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee, and the park when it was still named after him rather than Emancipation Park, always meant violence. Pulling the statue down says no more about the historical Lee than tearing down Lenin in '89 says about socialism. We've been invaded by people pretending to protect us from invasion, and the symbols of our past will never matter as much as living people do.

***

The invaders picked our town, probably, because Virginia was a confederate state, and was in fact where the southern gentry used to live. Lee exemplified this tradition. He was son of Lighthorse Harry Lee, a hero of the revolutionary war and governor of Virginia, and is a descendant of one of “Virginia’s first families,” the aristocratic Englishmen who emigrated to Virginia when it was a British colony. He is part of Charlottesville's heritage, and perhaps not even all that shameful a part. He opposed the secession of the confederacy, supported the reconstruction after the war, including giving rights to recently freed slaves. Not exactly woke, but for a confederate general, not as bad as some.

We were taught at Venable Elementary School that he fought only reluctantly, to defend his land, not slavery. In the version we learned, one would imagine Lee being very opposed to people from the Midwest coming to Virginia in cars with Ohio license plates to murder Virginians. Many non-racist Virginians, including quite a few friends, respect Lee deeply - the same is true in towns like New Orleans where other Lee statues are being taken down. Yet if once we could fool ourselves into thinking that the statue didn't represent hatred and racial hierarchies, we can't anymore. The discussion of local history has turned into one of national identity. The statue should be gone by Christmas. 

***

The real hero of Charlottesville is the town’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, who was among the most enigmatic of the founding fathers, idealistic and hypocritical - a real American, in other words. His idea of the gentleman farmer is also part of our heritage. It was an alternative to Hamiltonian industrial capitalism, but lost out in the tustle to shape American history. Much like English contemporaries such as William Cobbett, Jefferson believed in a rural ideal, reading poetry by morning, farming by afternoon, playing the harpsichord by night. His thought is also present in our beautiful "academical village" of the University of Virginia which he also founded. It is one of UNESCO’s few world heritage sites in the United States, so I guess it is part fo the globe's heritage as well, and it is also where the white supremacists stomped around with their tiki torches.

It’s time for us to stop being romantic about Jefferson, too. The statue in our minds needs to come down. We can recognize the great parts of his work, of his thought, in Charlottesville today, but we can also recognise that he allowed himself to use violence to dominate others, that he owned slaves and raped them. And we can recognise that equivalent scenarios continue to play out today, and will continue to play out until we are willing to face the truth.

There can be no more excuses. It’s not about Jefferson, or Lee, after all. We use monuments, statues, heroes, to inspire ourselves. In the end, the “truth” about Jefferson or Lee is a matter of trivia and history. Today, for every white male in America, we need to deconstruct the parts of our identity built on the graves of others. It’s not easy.

***

Jefferson's gentleman farmer was the forerunner of the people who populate the gentrified Charlottesville that exists today of expensive coffee-shops and celebrity-filled suburbs. This romantic idea, much like the lifestyles of the American and English elite today, seems to engender a lot of resentment from those who can only watch helplessly, and are often gentrified out. It’s not only immigrants or, in the United States, African-Americans, who are denied access to America's Williamsburgs and Charlottesvilles, London's Shoreditches and Oxfords. In Charlottesville, descendants of white sharecroppers and black slaves alike are unable to afford $15 glasses of local Virginia wine.

The paradox implicit in Jefferson’s beautiful idea is that in the end, it’s impossible to sustain this chilled-out and happy lifestyle without the labor being done by others, be they slaves, sharecroppers, or factory workers in China. If America is in trouble now, the conflict comes precisely from the fact that our universalist ideas of freedom, equality, and liberty correspond to an economy that is anything but universal. We actually did it, keep doing it, and unless we can use these ridiculous men dancing through our streets iin Halloween costumes as a funhouse mirror to make us see ourselves as we are, we’ll probably keep doing it.

I resent Jefferson for his hypocrisy, because in truth, I would love it if America looked more like Charlottesville than the industrialized and nasty-looking Interstate 95 highway that leads up the East Coast, the aftermath of Hamiltonian industrial-revolution factory America. The New Jersey towns, the gas stations, what we contemptuously call “McMansions,” suburban Northern Virginia... none of it is really authentic enough. Parallel to the rich and ugly suburbs, are poor and ugly towns, the sort of places with unemployment and discounts on cereal that tastes like sugary trash in the supermarket.

The residents of these towns don’t hate the residents of more gentrified towns for our organic granola, they hate the world for the structures of oppression that they can’t escape, even as an international class, an educated class, a well-meaning class, escapes without even needing to. We coexisted in the same place but not the same set of opportunities, and we glided on to new and bigger worlds of possibility, ones denied to those of different class backgrounds, regardless of their ethnicity.

***

Some of my African-American classmates at Charlottesville High School were likely descendants of Jefferson’s slaves, coming from poorer neighbourhoods and housing projects and taking "standard" level classes, with honors and AP classes for students whose parents worked in the University (very liberal, of course), a genteel place where every year, some kid wears blackface or a Nazi outfit to a party - as a joke, of course. While my classmates in AP and Honors classes got help from our teachers in applying to Ivy League schools, the general level classes saw black and white students who shared poorer backgrounds acting out to get attention from harried teachers. This was public school, but Charlottesville’s many excellent private schools, of course, didn’t even have the general level students at all.

Despite some southerners such as Lee supporting the post-war “reconstruction,” white resistance to racial equality led to a Jim Crow system that wasn’t much better than slavery, and an American South which dozed in sweaty decline while the rest of the country industrialised and modernized. From 1865 to 1965, not much happened in the South. True, there were intellectual movements like the Agrarians, whose 1920s manifesto “I’ll Take My Stand” I found one high school afternoon in the local bookstore, we had our Faulkners, our occasional geniuses. But as a society, it was stagnant. 

It was only when the civil rights movement began that the south began to actually rise again. UVa went from being a minor regional school to being a world-class one. Charlottesville went from being a mediocre gentleman’s club to a place that people of all backgrounds could make lives for themselves in the public service. And we, the public, gained so much - that’s why my family chose to live there.

I remember as a child strolling the beautiful downtown mall to go to dinner al fresco with my parents, my father pointed out a man in a turban; it was Satyendra Huja, a Sikh professor at the university who had planned the downtown mall, and made a useless street into one of the nicest places to congregate in town. In 2012, Huja became the mayor. I guess the former mayor of Charlottesville who single-handedly made Charlottesville one of the most charming towns in the country often gets told to “go home,” as if that's somewhere else.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is a national holiday in the United States, but in Virginia it used to be “Lee/King/Jackson” day, with two confederate officers added in just as a reminder. That’s not really our heritage, and as students, we were grateful for the day but always laughed at how immature it was that the powers that be needed to block out Dr. King’s achievements so much.

***

Charlottesville is a southern town true to and even obsessed with our heritage - a place filled with museums, historians, bookstores - which wants to dissect that heritage to remove the parts of our forefathers (and mothers) lives that we can’t accept, like a sandwich that you open up, take the pickles out of, and then keep on eating. We love our heritage in Virginia. We read about it, celebrate it, live it every day. But heritage isn’t a static thing, fixed in time, and the walls between myth and history are thin. In fact, perhaps knowing about your heritage is the ultimate form of privilege. I doubt that either the descendants of slaves I went to high school  with, or the “redneck” (so-called because they got sunburned by working in the fields - “redneck” is a class slur) descendants of the illiterate sharecroppers of rural Maryland, do. 

What happened this weekend to Charlottesville could happen to any town as long as we those who are deprived of their history and who don’t feel at home in their hometown. But the Charlottesville I remember, and the one it is now, proves that you can go from war and conflict and institutionalised racism to one where people of all races and identities can coexist, for the most part, peacefully and happily. We can, if we try, honor Jefferson for his achievements without forgetting the slaves his beautiful buildings were built by. A “Memorial to Enslaved Laborers” is being built on the campus he founded.

For the first time, every one of my old friends is thinking about racism, white privilege, the origins of violence, and what we can do about it. We can honor Jefferson and General Lee’s memory best by trying to learn from their mistakes. Maybe, if it seems like we are able to solve these problems, I’ll have a child myself. I hope she goes to Venable Elementary School, and I’ll take her to Emancipation Park afterwards.

This article first appeared in the 02 May 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The Firm