Why Karilyn Bales’ Blog Matters

What Women Really Think
March 19 2012 4:49 PM

Why Karilyn Bales’ Blog Matters

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, in 2011

Spc. Ryan Hallock, 28th Public Affairs/U.S. Army.

“Since this is such an unknown path for me I am hoping to blog about it and look back in a year to see how far we have come….its a blog time capsule,” wrote Karilyn Bales, wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians, on her blog. (The blog is no longer online, but portions of it were captured as screen shots by the New York Times and other publications.)

I also created “time capsules,” in my case a book and a column, to track the ups and downs of my husband’s deployments. When we military spouses record our lives, writing is often the only way to reach out, express a need, or ask for help.  We want our children to read our words decades from now and understand what it was like to give birth to them without their father present, or watch live television footage of an airstrike you know your spouse is flying in.  We also want readers write back to us and say, “I went through that too!” The world feels a little smaller, a little friendlier, when that happens.  

Advertisement

But creating community among military spouses is only one of the purposes for a military spouse blog like Karilyn Bales’. These blogs write themselves into the larger conversation about the cost of war— they create a historical record that will provide a glimpse of how a decade of conflict affected American families. Collections of war letters from the past engage us with their promise of a peek through the curtain on the personal lives of soldiers in a combat zone, but today’s military spouse blogs throw those curtains wide open. Most of it is very mundane, including Karilyn Bales’: a child’s first word, how happy you are to get a phone call from the front. But that doesn’t alter these blogs’ potential value for future readers. I often think that if the spouses of the Greatest Generation blogged, then maybe we, the current generation, would be able to look back and apply their lessons to our lives. 

We don’t have Greatest Generation military spouse blogs, and we don’t have these women’s letters, either. In the past, letters from wives or family members to soldiers weren’t saved, simply because soldiers in the field are always on the move. There was no record of how relationships unfolded, or how wives coped at home; very little to learn from at all. So let’s learn from Karilyn Bales’ blog—not just use it as evidence in the case against her husband. It’s a time capsule all of us need to examine, because it documents a casualty of war: her family.

Alison Buckholtz is the author of Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War (Tarcher/Penguin 2009), which will be released in paperback this spring with a new afterword and reader's guide.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 12:13 PM “For a While Liquidity Led to Stupidity”
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 17 2014 1:04 PM The War Department's WWII Advice Booklet for Soldiers Headed to Syria
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Football Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.