Search Results For "mikey piro"

Andrew Asks Anything: Mikey Piro

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 15 2013 @ 12:00pm

Mikey is a two-time veteran of the Iraq War who was formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2006. He blogs about his life at PTSD Survivor Daily. Read more about Mikey on the Dish here. You can either download his podcast below or listen to it right now by pressing the orange button:

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A Warrior’s Heart

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 1 2014 @ 2:00pm

In a review of Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, Elizabeth Schambelan contemplates notions of wartime masculinity and friendship:

The broadest political implications of Achilles in Vietnam lie in Shay’s powerful critique of MikeynBrianwhat might be called martial masculinity. The entire book enacts this critique, but it is most explicit in Shay’s discussion of the intense bonds that often form between one soldier and another.

“Combat calls forth a passion of care among men who fight beside each other that is comparable to the earliest and most deeply felt family relationships,” he observes. When Patroclus dies, Achilles no longer wants to live. To Shay, the age-old question of the pair’s relationship status is irrelevant: “Achilles’s grief . . . would not have been greater had they been a sexual couple, nor less if they had not been.” The failure to recognize “love between men that is so deeply felt” greatly amplifies the survivor’s pain. “If military practice tells soldiers that their emotions of love and grief—which are inseparable from their humanity—do not matter,” Shay writes, “then the civilian society that has sent them to fight . . . should not be shocked by their ‘inhumanity’ when they try to return to civilian life.”

In a recent interview, Kash Alvaro—an army veteran who served in Afghanistan and who has been diagnosed with both PTSD and a traumatic brain injury—alludes to the lingering, interlinked stigmas around the disorder and around masculine expressions of “love and grief.”

We’ve been through things that—that’s never going to leave your mind, and it’s always going to be there. . . . And just to come back and have someone tell you, “Oh . . . you’re just acting out. You’re just looking for sympathy,” and those people just don’t understand. Not everybody—I mean, if you have a strong heart, that’s good. That’s good. But there’s people in the world that don’t. You know, you lose somebody, and it’ll break you. . . . And if—you know, if I make it another year, two years, three years, I’m fine with that. If I make it ’til next week, I’m fine with that, too.

The irony that makes this statement all the more painful to read is that, even as Alvaro reels off a checklist of PTSD’s symptoms and triggers (intrusive memories, “acting out,” death of a close friend, parasuicidal fatalism), he seems to have internalized the notion that his post-traumatic stress could have been prevented by a “strong heart,” i.e., by the inhuman lack of feeling to which Shay refers.

(Photo of two-time Iraq War veteran Mikey Piro and his comrade-in-arms, Brian. Mikey did a podcast with me last year about his post-war experience with PTSD. Follow his blogging at PTSD Survivor Daily. The Dish has covered much of those writings here.)

Email Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 13 2014 @ 9:00pm

[Re-posted from earlier today]

A reader writes:

I have been a subscriber since very early on. This winter I purchased a subscription for my father. He is an evangelical, as well as a thoughtful conservative. He and I have had our fair share of clashes over the years as I have moved more to the left, but we have always worked hard to hear, and be heard by each other.

dish-gift-sidebar-FDA couple months ago they moved across the country to the same area that my wife and I live. We have obviously spent a lot more time together since that move. I cannot tell you how many conversations we have that are based on something one or the other of us read on the Dish. Neither of us totally agree with you, but it gives us a good jumping off point to have healthy discussions, where both of us are fleshing out our ideas. I think over the last couple of years we are actually moving closer to the same way of thinking. I, through reading your blog, have become somewhat more conservative (small c) and I think he has moved away from the GOP and certainly from FOX news.

Anyways, thanks for thoughtful commentary and conversation starters.

To give the gift of Dish for your father or grandfather or stepfather or father-in-law or any other father on Father’s Day, click here. He, like all subscribers, will get full access to the Dish, including the thousands of words below all the readons each day, in addition to all the writings and podcasts in Deep Dish, including long conversations with Hitch, Dan Savage, and Iraq vet Mikey Piro.

Lois Beckett emphasizes that “not all trauma happens in Afghanistan”:

Studies show that, overall, about 8 percent of Americans suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. But the rates appear to be much higher in communities—such as poor, largely African-American pockets of Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia–where high rates of violent crime have persisted despite a national decline.

Researchers in Atlanta interviewed more than 8,000 inner-city residents and found that about two-thirds said they had been violently attacked and that half knew someone who had been murdered. At least 1 in 3 of those interviewed experienced symptoms consistent with PTSD at some point in their lives–and that’s a “conservative estimate,” said Dr. Kerry Ressler, the lead investigator onthe project. “The rates of PTSD we see are as high or higher than Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam veterans,” Ressler said. “We have a whole population who is traumatized.”

Previous Dish on PTSD here, here, here, and here. Subscribers can listen to my conversation with Iraq veteran and PTSD survivor Mikey Piro here.

Art Imitating Trauma

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 30 2014 @ 1:59pm

After watching Lone Survivor, combat veteran Mikey Piro reflects on how he prepared himself for an experience that he knew was likely to trigger his PTSD:

Overall, I focused on being mindful and present when facing the visual and auditory triggers throughout the movie. No matter how good a makeup artist is on a movie, it is still not the real thing. It is close enough to make me remember.  Thankfully, though very convincing, it was easy to tell myself these were actors. That is not to say I did not jump a few times at sudden explosions or cracks of gunfire. And unlike when I watched “Zero Dark Thirty”, and perhaps because I just recently watched it, I did not face the anxiety of anticipation of the final and emotional events in movie.

What deeply impressed me about the movie was its being an antidote to Zero Dark Thirty (spoilers below).

Exposed to real danger in a way no one in Washington ever was, these soldiers were given a chance to commit a war crime to save their asses, and chose not to. They chose not to, even as they knew the consequences of abiding by the rules of combat could easily lead to their deaths (and it did).

The movie does not shrink from pointing out how excruciating this choice was, how tempting it would have been to have killed civilians in cold blood. But it also reveals something deep about the American military character and tradition. Unlike the war criminals in Washington who tore up the Geneva Conventions as a “no-brainer”, these heroes risked and lost their lives to maintain American honor. If you want to know the difference between patriotism and Cheneyism, this movie is a good place to start. While Cheney and Bush betrayed America’s core values with near-trivial abandon, these soldiers on the ground gave their lives to preserve them.

Mikey notes:

I think most importantly the film made me proud to be a Veteran and a Grunt. I hung up my boots and blue cord long ago, but I still love the Grunts and Scouts.  They hold a special place in my heart.  The “get it done” attitude in the face of steep odds is something I feel I still carry in my corporate job.  When work does get stressful, my perspective and approach to dial down the swirl around myself and others is valuable.  I don’t think I am able to do that without my time in combat and I feel my co-workers appreciate my “other 1%” view on it too. (At least I hope they do…)  I have heard this experience from my other friends who have moved on to the civilian workforce.  I walked out of the theatre sombre, but with my head held high.

Subscribers can listen to the Dish’s podcast with Mikey here.

Live-Blogging The SOTU 2014

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 28 2014 @ 9:04pm


10.22 pm. The metaphor of the soldier slowly, relentlessly, grindingly putting his life back together was a powerful one for America – and Obama pulled off that analogy with what seemed to me like real passion. One aspect of his personality and his presidency is sometimes overlooked – and that is persistence. He’s been hailed as a hero and dismissed as irrelevant many times. But when you take a step back and assess what he has done – from ending wars to rescuing the economy to cementing a civil rights revolution to shifting the entire landscape on healthcare – you can see why he believes in persistence. Because it works. It may not win every news cycle; but it keeps coming back.

If he persists on healthcare and persists on Iran and persists on grappling, as best we can, with the forces creating such large disparities in wealth, he will look far, far more impressive from the vantage point of history than the news cycle of the Twitterverse sometimes conveys.

This was True Grit Obama. And it was oddly energizing.

10.17 pm. Why the fuck do I have tears in my eyes? Because what our servicemembers have sacrificed must never be forgotten. I saw “Lone Survivor” with Mikey Piro last night. Mikey, as some Dish readers will know (listen to the podcast here) served as a commander in Iraq, and now struggles with and overcomes PTSD each day. I was under my seat most of the movie. It’s a brutal combat picture. Mikey was fine, until the very end as the real-life photos of lost soldiers were displayed. Then he sobbed a little. I’ve heard several presidents invoke military heroism in their speeches. I cannot recall one so moving.


10.12 pm. Another Obama-supporting reader bucks up a bit:

Does Obama’s shift in tone and confidence on the ACA signal that this could be a mid-term issue that Democrats will run on, not from? Did he intentionally let the Republicans endlessly call for repeals without much fanfare, so that Democrats can hoist them by those votes?

Maybe. But the idea that running on universal health insurance is an inevitable loser has always seemed dumb to me. What the Democrats need to do is stay simple: tell the human stories of those finally getting the care they need; capture the emotion and relief; appeal to a common decency. And demand that the GOP offers an alternative. When they do – and a whole lot of it looks a lot like Obamacare – this debate could turn.

10.10 pm. A reader writes:

This speech tonight reminds me why I voted for Obama.  I think the GOP made a ghastly strategic error in choosing to stand only for obstruction, and Obama is driving them into the mat on it tonight.  He’s clearly channeling the sane middle in the US electorate.  The 47 percent of the nation inside the Fox bubble won’t change their minds.  But Obama is reminding the majority that voted for him just why they did.

10.04 pm. Obama is now channeling his inner Eisenhower who understood better than any neocon the limits of American force. This is why I supported him in 2008:

We counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.

This is the money quote on Iran:

These negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

9.56 pm. This is the strongest defense of the ACA I’ve yet seen him give before a large audience. It’s about time. I don’t think he can still achieve what he wants to achieve without strongly making the case for universal healthcare: morally, economically, ethically. Bringing in the Kentucky governor was a nice touch, and goading the Republicans to offer an alternative appeals to Independents. But you get the sense that he knows – and the Republicans know – that large swathes of the bill will never be repealed, and much of it is approved of, when you isolate any actual part of it. It may be that the defensiveness on this may begin to fade.

9.55 pm. Someone’s attention is wandering:

9.51 pm. Yes, the minimum wage is lower than it was under Reagan. In a far tougher time. What I liked about this section, though, was how it spoke of the private sector as leading the way, and demanding that Congress follow. Announcing his own decision to raise the minimum wage of federal contractors also got out of the dynamic that has the president begging Congress to act. He still is. But not so pathetically.

9.48 pm. The speech is gaining momentum. This is powerful on the minimum wage:

Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.

9.46 pm. He’s not giving up on the gender gap either, is he? Money quote:

This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

9.44 pm. Arne Duncan got some serious mileage this year, didn’t he?

9.40 pm. That letter from Misty DeMars puts the best possible gloss on the duty for government to help those in need. It also put a female face on it – and a mother’s. No accident either that the example of educational achievement was a young Latino man.

9.37 pm. If you are just tuning in to see how this president looks and feels, this performance must surely give the impression of executive energy, and some new, second term confidence. If you thought Obama had been rattled by that tough fifth year, you might be reassessing your assessment. That challenge to the Congress on expired unemployment insurance was strong. There’s passion in him tonight.

9.33 pm. Finally, some necessary, strong, emphatic dismissal of climate change denialism:

“The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

That’s more like it.

9.29 pm. The theme so far is practical, specific and optimistic. Of course, not much is likely to come of it. But reframing his second term as a renaissance of the American economy is not untrue and breaks out of the rubric that he’s a lame duck going nowhere. But it’s also kind of dry, and listy. But I guess that’s what these always are.

9.27 pm. The tax reform push comes first – another bipartisan nod. This is not the angry go-it-alone populism we were led to expect.

9.25 pm. Money quote: “Here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” And a nice gracious nod to John Boehner. Classy and powerful. And then Boehner reciprocates. That may be the full extent of the bipartisanship this year, but it was lovely while it lasted.


9.21 pm. Opportunity. Action. All the usual optimistic tropes so as not to be too much of a downer when talking about wage stagnation and economic inequality.

9.18 pm. A crisp, different, upbeat start. I like the way he begins with the people of the United States, and then pivots to asking if the Congress will let them down. A Reaganite beginning with an Obama-style end.

9.16 pm. That was just a boast about getting a poor kid some asthma treatment. Why that rather simple and powerful argument in defense of the ACA is not deployed more often I do not know. I guess the Democrats are too easily intimidated.

9.01 pm. I still get a bit of a thrill seeing an African-American First Lady enter the chamber. Even more of a thrill to see Chuck Hagel. He’s still alive!

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Subscribers are already digging into the latest Deep Dish offering, Untier Of Knots, my essay on Pope Francis released last night:

Thank you. Sublime. Beautiful. A gobsmacking refutation of fundamentalism and affirmation of what remains the best of Christianity.


This is a very fine essay on Pope Francis, I believe. Raised as a pastor’s son and steeped in the Protestant tradition, I am fairly ignorant of Catholic tradition, but I learned an awful lot here. I’m not one to kiss ass, and I’m an obsessively critical nit-picker, but this essay was profound and Untier-Of-Knots-Cover-Imagearticulate and intellectual without being elitist. This is a hard thing to craft. I appreciate your context on his Argentine history and the connection to St. Francis. I am very agnostic and not practicing these days, and am certainly not about to convert to Catholicism, but I have found some meaning and comfort in the humble tradition of discernment in the past year or so. I truly admire this man for humbly living out the Gospel, rather than perpetuating dogma and disconnection from the poor and the planet.

Isn’t it also something of an absurd blessing that a man such as this came into the Papacy, an institution encrusted with privilege, authoritarianism, and hypocrisy, as you and others have documented? By that I mean, in what other institution could such a man have this sort of platform and power today? We have a habit of ignoring, slandering, imprisoning, or killing off those who truly seek, speak, and act out this modus vivendi. I know he’s a man like you and me, and I don’t mean to elevate him to sainthood (something I’m deeply skeptical of), but I can’t think of any other way he could achieve this sort of stature without being dismissed as a crazy person, a phony intent on his 15 minutes of fame with serving-others publicity stunts, or a political ideologue.

I may only be restating your own arguments here, but anyway, I thank you for this essay and look forward to much more from Deep Dish! Keep up the good work.

Subscribers can read the Francis essay – and listen to my long, bawdy conversation with Dan Savage in the same issue – here. On the Dan podcast, another reader writes this morning:

Well, I loved it. The frankness, the fun, the openness, the charm, the filth … wonderful.

savage-podcastYou want me and Dan unplugged? It’s all here – on sex, love, gay history, lefties, marriage. Recording a podcast with someone who’s been a real friend for a long time – as opposed to someone, like Mikey Piro, whom I’d just met – was an eye-opener. It’s so easy to forget the microphone, because in so many chats over the years, there has never been one. Which is to say that there are probably passages in the podcast I really should regret. But it’s too late now.

A spot-on take from a subscriber:

I could listen to Dan Savage forever. He’s so fucking smart and clear-eyed. I’ve been reading him since I was a 20-something in Seattle when he first started his column. Like a lot of my peers, I was a reflexively homophobic straight guy. Not crazy, just more like, “I need to make sure nobody thinks I’m gay.” Through his column Dan stripped that shit right out of me. He even taught me how to eat pussy. Now I take pride in him as a representative of our generation. He is an American hero, embodying the best of this country: self determination, rebellion and humanity.

If you want access to the podcast and the essay, but haven’t yet subscribed to the Dish, you can do so [tinypass_offer text=”here”] for just $1.99/month. Another subscriber writes:

I don’t know if I’m approaching a spiritual crossroad, but the more I read your religious views, the more I feel something stir in me that wants what you describe. Maybe Pope Francis was what you’ve been waiting for, and I was waiting for you to find someone to share with me that I could relate to in a way other than as a representative of a cold, indifferent defender of authority. I had enough of that rammed down my throat for being gay in a fundamentalist Christian home and community.

The Advocate just named Pope Francis as their Person Of The Year, and in the past I would have objected on the grounds of Benedict’s legacy alone that such a selection was insane. But I could not do that with Francis. Like you said, Francis became very popular very fast and I just happened to be tuned in and watching, so I know the man is the genuine article. The doctrine hasn’t changed, but the emphasis of the Church certainly has.

And he’s the kind of guy you feel like patiently waiting on to untie all the knots. You can’t imagine him any other way than for his goodness. I try not to get emotionally wrapped up in people like him. When I do and then they stumble, I usually hit the pavement harder than they do. So I’m watching him like kids watch a scary movie; sort of peeping between my fingers during the scary parts and hoping for something good to happen.

I’ll try to be patient. I think he’s worth it.

I think he is too. Update from a few more readers:

I’m one of those non-Catholics who have been following Pope Francis with increasing astonishment and joy since I first saw him wash the feet of the prisoners at Casal de Marmo. I subscribed as soon as you announced the new Dish, and UNTIER OF KNOTS instantiates why I will be resubscribing. My hand is already aching a bit from copying long portions out into my notebook. I’m still living with this latest piece, re-reading it and savoring it, but want to take a moment to call attention to the earbud metaphor, which struck me as odd at the start of the paragraph but had won me over entirely, emotionally, by the time I got to the word “practice.” It’s really such a lovely thing you did there. Thank you.


As a lapsed Catholic and atheist, I was moved by your piece. It reminded me of the church I attended as a young boy with a dynamic young priest (Father Baxter) who attracted us with sports and made us love his church and become altar boys and thoughtful people. He was the first adult (after my father) to really have an impact, as he taught us about the love of Jesus and the tolerant message of the church of John XXIII. Yes, this was the Sixties and the talk of love was everywhere, but the atmosphere that pervaded was pretty darn close to what you described in your piece.

It wasn’t the god of the Old Testament, the judgmental god, but rather the God of Love, the Jesus God that loved me warts and all. Not the protestant god by any means, not the god of Robertson and Falwell et al. No fire and brimstone for us. Our God was a patient and understanding one, a God that deserves the capital G. We rarely heard talk of Hell or damnation, though we were surrounded by the French Catholic clergy of Quebec that practised that approach! Ours was an English Catholic parish serving mostly Italian immigrant children going to English Catholic schools in French speaking Quebec – talk about confusion!

What does this have to do with your piece on the pope? Well, obviously this is where your Deep Dish dive has brought me back to the future, I hope. Not that I am about to believe in god any time soon, but it did clarify for me the reason I have trouble listening to proselytizing atheists of the Dawkins type. No Grace, as you put it so well. No forgiveness, no understanding, no love – just pure materialism, pure ideology and condescension. They can only point to the evils of the church, none of which were practised at my church.

In fact, that teaching carried over to my later experience in college where I met my first full-blooded homosexual. He was one of my teachers, an American having fled the draft and attracted to Montreal’s gay culture. He made me think about homosexuality and conditioning that I, as an Italian immigrant’s child coming from a fairly macho culture, had never really confronted. We were not peculiarly cruel, and we didn’t use words like “fag” or “sissy” all that much, but we had the usual prejudices and attitudes. However, it seems that the teachings of Father Baxter had an effect, and I never felt threatened by my teacher and learned quite a lot from him. He took a few of us to a gay bar and introduced us to gay culture (well, a certain gay culture that you and Savage talked about in your podcast).

Reliving The Iraq War, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 27 2013 @ 1:04pm

Readers are starting to get more specific with their feedback on the e-book (available to subscribers here):

I’ve finished reading through I Was Wrong. First of all, thanks for giving us subscribers this long-form content. It’s greatly appreciated. The entire collection is worth reading, but I think that andrew-sullivan-i-was-wrong-covermuch can be summarized and learned from your very first post written during 9/11, in particular, “When our shock recedes, our rage must be steady and resolute and unforgiving.”

If there is one lesson I think that is vital to learn, it’s that rage is never a good response to an attack. Rage feels righteous and it moves us to do things that we would never otherwise consider. Perhaps the most chilling and ironically prophetic sentence in that first post was that “[t]he response must be disproportionate to the crimes.” It certainly was, and now we can see the cost of disproportionate revenge. We can see that anger and a desire for revenge can lead us to lashing out blindly and, worse, stupidly at those we fear and hate, turning us into awful parodies of that very hatred. It’s no wonder that the Bush administration was able to sell us on going to war against Saddam. We needed someone to punch. Bush and Cheney just gave us a target to plant our fists in.

What worries me is that I don’t know that we’ve really learned our lesson. In the aftermath of the Boston bombing, I saw and heard much of that same righteous anger looking for a target. I worry that if and when another truly large attack occurs, we’ll be perfectly content to follow the next call to war without pausing to consider whether it’s even the right war.


I read your e-book last night. It was riveting. I read most if not all these posts at the time and the book took me back to that time in a visceral way. The history came alive for me. It also gave me a glimpse into another person’s psyche in a new and vivid way. It’s like seeing pieces of glass laid down every day, then all the sudden stepping back and discovering a broad mosaic. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced history in such a vivid way.

If you read the e-book and want to discuss particular parts of that history, our in-tray is open. Another reader:

The entire first part of I Was Wrong is post after post of invective against “appeasers” and “decadent liberals” – your words, not mine – for offering even the slightest objections to rushing headlong into Iraq. Then, in the heat of the 2002 midterms (while, let’s not forget, the entire GOP party apparatus dealt the “Vote Democratic and 9/11 will happen again” card from the bottom of the deck), you accused the Democrats of not even participating in debate over the war – while at the same time criticizing anyone who entered the debate on the side opposing yours.

Everyone against the war, according to Sullivan-circa-2003, was an America-hater, a French person, or an editor of the New York Times. And even the members of the military who express doubts about the workability of an invasion are just cowardly “doves.” Oh, and Colin Powell’s bullshit-ridden presentation to the UN Security Council got you excited. All this after you admitted (and this is a very Christian sentiment) that you were hoping for war. Seriously? I’m at March of 2003, and if I read the phrase “Fifth-Columnist” – which you of all people would know is a code-word for “traitor” – my iPad is in serious jeopardy of being thrown out the window.

It gets better. Another:

I read I Was Wrong in one sitting and listened to your conversation with Mikey Piro shortly afterward. I have to be honest, there were points when I was astonished at what I was reading.

There were even points when I questioned whether I should re-subscribe. What lead me to that questioning was not, as one of your readers said, the fact that you were wrong. I do not look towards you to be an oracle. Mainly I was almost scared by what I read. Your talk of exterminating the enemy, your desire to go to war with the entire Middle East to root out and destroy terrorism in all corners of the globe, your denunciation of the anti-war crowd without appreciation … this was not the Andrew I felt I had gotten to know over the past couple years.

Where was Oakeshott? Where was Saint Francis? Where were the tempered, multi-faceted reflections on the world that linked specific events to broader intellectual themes? Where were the analyses that drew upon a variety of sources and influences? Instead, there was simply a Manichean view of the world filtered through deep anger and hurt. This was frightening to me. I felt that one of my mentors (yes, despite the fact that we have never met, although I saw you riding your bike in Ptown once and had a mini-freakout, your writing has had a mentoring effect on me) had been sullied, that I had been betrayed.

Having been in elementary school when you were writing about Iraq, I thought I had no understanding or contact with the early Dish. My initial reaction to I Was Wrong only confirmed this thought. But then I realized, as Abu Ghraib and torture began to weigh more heavily on your writing and view of the war itself, that I have been deeply in contact with the early Dish. How? Because I got the overwhelming feeling that the Dish since the war is a reaction to the Dish before the war.

Even more than that, the Dish since Iraq is atonement. It is attempting to atone for the person who wrote the infamous “fifth column” paragraph and many others that were equally vehement. The diverse riches of the Dish today are an atonement for the single-mindedness of your writing on Iraq. Is it the sole driving force? Maybe not. But I think that every time you post theological writing, or post reader responses, or cultivate a dynamic and often wrenching reader thread, and definitely when you write about conservatism, there is an element of atonement.

I feel like you don’t feel as if your apologies are enough, that writing I Was Wrong is enough. The only way to truly atone for what happened is to make sure it never happens again and your way of ensuring that is through creating a tapestry of essays, criticism, responses, and discourse that, when taken as a whole, demonstrate that the only way forward is a reflective and informed skepticism. It shows the readers of this blog that the vagaries of life can only be endured through a disposition towards the world that appreciates its nuance, confusing contradictions, subtlety, and complex interiority. Leveling critiques will not do. Single-mindedness will not do. A lack of familiarity with the arguments against your position will not do. That is the only way that the stain of Iraq can be faced.

Thank you for teaching me this and much more.

I cannot undo the ugly, but the open Dish model, and what I now do every day, is my attempt at atonement.

Update from a reader:

I haven’t read the ebook yet – may do so over the holiday.  Not sure I can take it a second time. But reading the readers’ reactions you’re posting, I’m fascinated by the people who feel angered or shocked by the Andrew.9-11 version of the Dish. I am now a subscriber and have been a daily reader (well, maybe hourly) since the run up to the Iraq War. What brought me to the Dish was a search for a conservative, pro-war voice that would be a reasonable, educated counter-balance to my own views and all the anti-war stuff I was reading at the time. I couldn’t make any sense out of what we were doing (even from a cold, hard, Machiavellian perspective – it seemed insane to me), and I was hopeful that you would at least provide some perspective into that worldview.  I came for the perspective, but stayed for the evolution.

But, as I’ve seen you grapple with all of this, and other issues (I think I’ve even noticed a bit of softening in your white-hot hatred of the Clintons, but thankfully no movement on Sarah Palin), I have to say that I miss having someone as smart and articulate as you are to turn to for the opposing view.  I’m sure some of this is the influence you have had on some of my viewpoints (I have a much broader view of the Catholic Church because of you, for instance), but it has been amazing to watch and read and be a part of all of this.  Thanks for sharing yourself so transparently.  Glad to pay for the privilege.

The Pity Of War, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 27 2013 @ 11:03am

A reader just finished listening to my conversation with two-time Iraq vet Mikey Piro (available here for subscribers):

Oh man, the way he described his friends being killed, and how it’s clearly still affecting him emotionally, was pretty startling. It sorta revealed how much I previously viewed soldiers as almost mechanical. I never conceived of them expressing that kind of emotion. I honestly pirowondered whether you were experiencing technical difficulties or what else could be causing the silence. Then I realized he was crying. I definitely cried once myself.

That detail about the Abrams tank’s soft underbelly and how the bomb would’ve ripped through that and – hopefully, he adds – killed his buddy instantly also stuck with me. That’s a tragically-apt metaphor for the war. And the entire narrative arc of the interview nicely captures our country’s experience since that fateful September morning. The sheer rage and eagerness for payback. The panic when we realized we may have gone too far. And the resignation and bitter disappointment at the Bush administration, warring Iraqi factions, and even at humanity itself once the sectarian war is unleashed.

And nice tie in with your experiences during the AIDS crisis. That frustration when people around you don’t understand – indeed, are incapable of understanding – what you’re going through is something that I think will broadly resonate with many people. I had a similar situation, albeit at a less intense level, with respect to my underemployment during the Great Recession. I was deathly afraid of letting my friends – most of whom were getting along fine – know how underemployed and desperate I was. And it was on my mind constantly, leading me to act in objectively inexplicable ways towards others. I have greater stability in my life now. But I wonder whether I’ll always be a little more guarded.

Anyway, great interview. You continue to make me a happy subscriber! Happy Thanksgiving!

All readers can listen to two clips of the conversation here.  If you want to hear the whole thing and haven’t subscribed yet, click here for full access to Deep Dish and daily Dish. Read more about Mikey here. He’s a hero of mine and still doing all he can to help his brothers grappling with the psychic aftermath of intense, prolonged, brutal trauma.

The Best Of The Dish Today

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 20 2013 @ 11:30pm

President Obama Awards 2013 Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Sorry for the late posting. Dish, AC360 and life.

Four posts worth revisiting: the latest installment in a gripping reader thread on miscarriage; how the ACA can still work; the pioneering of “sponsored content” by “Pay for Playbook’s” Mike Allen; and some clips from my conversation with Mikey Piro, on his war and the scars it has left behind.

Just a word on president Obama’s decision to give the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Bayard Rustin and Sally Ride. Their life-partners were at the White House to receive the award. This president is a good man; recognizing these two American icons and celebrating those who loved them is something I for one won’t forget. Sally Ride’s partner said the following:

I wish Sally was around because, since she passed away about 14 months ago, our country has changed in very big ways. For me, personally, I just feel like I can breathe better, look people in the eye a little straighter. It just feels good to be honest and who you are, and I think that would have been wonderful for Sally, too. Sally always was herself, but, you know, not being completely out there with who you are affects some part of you affects some part of you in some way, and I just think it would have been very wonderful for her, too.

The most popular posts were my these two on the paradoxes of healthcare: why does socialism end up being so much more efficient than capitalism?

See you in the morning.

(Photo: Tam O’Shaughnessy accepts the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of her late life partner, Sally Ride in the East Room of the White House on November 20, 2013. By Leigh Vogel/WireImage.)