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April 15, 2008 9:48 PM   Subscribe

... I served my time I can speak on it. Fuck this War. American soldiers' latrine graffiti in Kuwait and Afghanistan. A photo essay. [Note: most text and one drawing NSFW]
posted by amyms (29 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Oh wow. Very, very cool. I skimmed the pages, but it's bookmarked for closer inspection post-finals. Thanks, amyms!
posted by Phire at 9:57 PM on April 15, 2008

Neat post.

I must say that the best bathroom graffiti I've ever seen is in the men's room near the philosophy department of my alma mater. This was 15 years ago, before.... MetaFilter.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 PM on April 15, 2008

Good post. This one hit me kind of hard. Thanks.
posted by churl at 10:07 PM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

This one was especially gripping for me. John Wayne Gacy killed 33 people.
One wonders if perhaps the army is serving as a pleasant venue for psychopaths or if it's just the surroundings that warps one's sense of morality and reality.
Personally, I suspect it is the latter, but this does little to satisfy the old nature vs. nurture (yes yes, it's both, I know) argument. One looks at this and the video of the soldier throwing a puppy off a cliff and wonders what the causes of such things might be.
posted by GoingToShopping at 10:14 PM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

churl, I laughed really hard when i read that one. mostly because of the "great news, you've been extended" scrawl. there's something so horrible and tragic about it that laughing seems like the only response i can really muster. i feel kind of like dr. hibbert right now.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:19 PM on April 15, 2008

GoingToShopping, I think the Gacy reference is something akin to what rappers or Marylin Manson do, create personas for themselves and sometimes reach for known killers to construct those personas. If your job is to kill people in some way it's understandable that you invoke Gacy to boast about how much of a fucking badass you are. Especially in a bathroom stall which, in terms of trolling is like the internet, but doesn't smell as bad.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:25 PM on April 15, 2008

thanks amyms!
posted by CitizenD at 10:30 PM on April 15, 2008

Good post. The scrawl to the left in this one reads like an atavistic simper from a bygone era. I never thought a John Denver quote would be so poetic in my lifetime. Sad.
posted by inoculatedcities at 10:30 PM on April 15, 2008

I posted the FPP because I thought it was interesting to see the back-and-forth between the more-introspective-seeming "fuck this war" writings and the "hoo-rah" and "you're a pussy" responses. The author/photographer calls it an overheard and ongoing conversation that changes by the day"... I think (and this is just my guess as the wife of an Army veteran - although my husband's service was stateside) that the "fuck this war" types are the vast majority, and it's cool to see them express themselves, even in a private moment in the confines of a latrine. Although, as the author/photographer says, "Graffiti is public by definition—it’s not a private confession," it IS private while it's being written, and hopefully it's cathartic for those who are doing the writing.
posted by amyms at 10:33 PM on April 15, 2008

Well today I learned what a fobbit is.
posted by chlorus at 11:58 PM on April 15, 2008

I snapped a photo of him, M-16 in one hand, bottle of water in the other, his chin tilted up like a boxer about to enter the ring.

I hope someone informs this writer before he steps into the ring that having your chin tilted up is a sure way to get KOed. You should never look down your nose at someone in a boxing ring.

Aside from that, the article was entertained me.
posted by moonbiter at 12:09 AM on April 16, 2008

... the article was entertained ...
posted by moonbiter at 12:10 AM on April 16, 2008

moonbiter, I can't second-guess the writer, but I think the operative part of that sentence is "about to enter the ring"... Before the fight (e.g. entering the ring), their chins are tilted up as a sign of superiority and bravado... Once the fight starts, they tuck.
posted by amyms at 12:13 AM on April 16, 2008

Amyms, you're probably right, but I was taught "enter the ring with your chin down, leave the ring with your chin down" so it immediately stuck out for me.
posted by moonbiter at 12:41 AM on April 16, 2008

Great article, thanks.
posted by fungible at 6:41 AM on April 16, 2008

The link in the FPP goes to the 8th picture, btw. This goes to the first, with the article text.

Great post.
posted by kableh at 8:33 AM on April 16, 2008

I wish the pictures had a higher resolution or were a little bit bigger, but I really liked this. Thanks.
posted by lilac girl at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2008

The extension one is definitely the funniest one. A lot of my friends are extending their deployments by choice. I think extension is less often a matter of choice for soldiers than it is for Marines.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 8:50 AM on April 16, 2008

My favorite, short and sweet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:30 AM on April 16, 2008

Those who read the bathroom walls roll their shit into little balls. Those who write these rhymes of wit eat those little balls of shit.
posted by JibberJabber at 9:37 AM on April 16, 2008

Also some nice white supremacist graffiti on this one.

And by "nice" I mean saddening but not entirely surprising.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:37 AM on April 16, 2008

I noticed the supremacist graffiti as well.
Someone on here made the point about bathroom graffiti's anonymity showing behaviors similar to internet trolling. That's the profundity in these pics - it's eye-opening to see someone's thoughts when accountability is taken out of the equation.
posted by tiger yang at 11:07 AM on April 16, 2008

In the British officers toilets in the green zone:
"Yee Haw is not a foreign policy"
posted by fingerbang at 11:26 AM on April 16, 2008

I think the Gacy reference is something akin to what rappers or Marylin Manson do

I can't find which of the graffiti in that picture is a Gacy reference. Would someone clue me in?
posted by lostburner at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2008

"Reenlistment papers," hah!
posted by atchafalaya at 3:10 PM on April 16, 2008

This one was especially gripping for me. John Wayne Gacy killed 33 people.

Also, notice the Norteno graffiti in the same picture: the "la familia norte XII" bit. The Nortenos are a street gang extension of the Nuestra Familia prison gang. Evidence that the claim that gang members are joining the military to get combat training is true? Or it could just be another kid appropriating gang symbology to feel tough. I used to see "crips" graffiti at my high school in Austin, which was just white kids who listened to too much rap.

I can't find which of the graffiti in that picture is a Gacy reference. Would someone clue me in?

The "I killed 26 people and I feel good about it" one. The commenter used Gacy as a comparison.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:02 PM on April 16, 2008

Very moving, thank you.
posted by owhydididoit at 7:28 PM on April 16, 2008

A classic work on graffiti is Allen Walker Read's Lexical Evidence from Epigraphy in Western North America: A Glossarial Study of the Low Element in the English Vocabulary (1935), now sold by Maledicta as Classic American Graffiti (1977). The original title was meant, I believe, to obscure the contents: most of it was compiled from the walls of bathrooms across America.

From a review in the Journal of American Folklore, Jan.-Mar, 1979, vol. 92, no. 363, p. 105:
Printed privately in Paris in 1935 as a limited edition of seventy-five signed copies, the volume had over the course of four decades virtually disappeared, only ten copies of the original are now known to be in existence. Read's book is of historical significance not only because it is the first collection of folk epigraphy printed in the English language since the anonymous British work The Merry-Thought, or The Glass-Window and Bog-House of Miscellany of 1731, but also because it has been the stimulus for graffiti research undertaken since 1935. But it is not just of historical importance, for much of what Read says here still carries import. He proved that even the so-called complete and unabridged dictionaries refused to print "dirty" words and this situation has not significantly changed despite the much vaunted "new freedom." Read's collection documents that obscenity, as in so many other aspects of life, American society has changed relatively little in the past fifty years.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:07 AM on April 17, 2008

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