Growing pains

Posted this on FaceBook this morning…

Ya know…Afghanistan is a mess. It’s been a mess for more than 20 years. The Former Guy made a campaign plank out of “endless wars” and said we needed to get out of those. After he was elected, he reduced the troop count in Afghanistan. He wanted to invite the Taliban to Camp David, and seemed to court a relationship with them. He said we needed to get out of there ASAP. So, now we’re on the off-ramp, but the exit is backed up and suddenly it’s all The Current Guy’s fault. This has been a disaster in the making for a couple of decades, and even before, and it’s pretty complicated.
I cannot even begin to imagine the frustration and probably bitterness of anyone who has lost a loved one during that war as they wonder what the hell was it all for. The confusion and trauma of any soldier who came home from duty in Afghanistan with life-altering injuries. What the hell WAS it all for?
Let’s not forget how and when this war started – it was President George W. Bush who started this war, in his quest to defeat al Qaeda and capture Osama bin Laden. I contend that such passion was fueled – literally – by the promise of controlling oil in that region. We asked the question of what’s in it for us a lot more than asking the question of who is being harmed and how can we improve life for the Afghanis.
Exiting from Afghanistan is not as simple as packing up a few tents and heading to the airport. Was this a flawed exit plan? Possibly, but again – it’s complicated. Things are VERY fluid there, and the Taliban is not exactly cooperative, despite showing a conciliatory face to the news cameras. I believe we are being distracted by the personal stories of those who are in danger of being left behind, and comparisons to the fall of Saigon at the end of the Viet Nam war. Given all of that, I don’t believe it’s time to critique the exit while it’s still in process.
Nearly 100k people have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, and that’s no small number. There will be thousands more. Now, we’re going to have to figure out what to do with them after they’ve left their homeland, and how they will fare if/when they get to the United States. Make no mistake – this is an immigration issue, and there will need to be a pathway to citizenship for this latest group of entrants. Let’s see how this goes – our track record for handling refugees isn’t all that great.
It’s heartbreaking to see people so desperate to leave their homes, fearing the onslaught of an abusive totalitarian regime. We will not be able to save them all. There will be horror stories of those who couldn’t leave. That will be hard to see, and hard to accept, but it will not be a time for casting blame. War is a brutal and messy business and there are always people left behind, innocents who suffer, lives that are lost cruelly and tragically. The only winning move is not to play, but we played and so must accept the outcome.
We have many other things to be concerned with, and that is not to say those issues are of more or less consequence than Afghanistan. Our democracy is still in peril, and we must attend to it lest we be in the same position of chasing aircraft on the tarmac and desperately trying to escape our homeland. It can happen, so we cannot afford to ignore that possibility. The need for U.S. election reform is dire, and voter suppression is still very real. The efforts to undermine the will of the people are gaining strength, often because the people don’t know what’s happening or how the system works to begin with.
The rising death toll of the COVID pandemic is also worthy of our attention. The steady impact of the vaccine-resistant on health care infrastructure is real – there are people who cannot receive non-COVID treatment because there is literally no room at the inn. Once again, hospitals have no available beds, in ICU or otherwise, and private rooms are non-existent in some cases. Elective surgeries are being cancelled once again. Some patients have been shuttled to nearby regional hospitals that have available beds, miles from home.
The message is still the same – pay attention, stay woke (no matter what that means to you), don’t just talk but act. Don’t assume someone else is going to act on your behalf. If you don’t know, ask. These ARE the times that try our souls…and we’d best show that we can withstand those trials. As Brene’ Brown has said, sometimes life taps you on the shoulder and says, hey – I’m not fucking around here. It’s time.
It is time for us to stand and deliver. The gauntlet has been thrown, and if you don’t believe that, just look at the death toll from COVID and then watch grown people having mask burning parties and fighting at local government meetings. This should NOT be an invitation to a new edition of The Burning Times That is simply absurd. Most reasonable people understand that mask mandates have nothing to do with personal freedoms and liberty, but the die has been cast and unreasonable people simply cannot navigate the issue.
Democracy will never be perfect, but I still believe it’s the best and most humane chance we’ve got to live well. There is a lot of work to be done, because we got off track a while back. We got off track and got hung up on individual gain far more than collective progress. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness was never a selective promise, but we haven’t done a very good job of defining who makes up the collective.
It’s not too late, but it won’t be easy to do that. Those who have been excluded are calling out, rising up, making their presence known. It’s uncomfortable, and it feels as though everything is out of control and we’re losing everything.
I suppose it’s a time for faith, faith in the original promise of self-evident inclusivity. Faith in ourselves. Faith in our ability to figure out a solution that is equitable and fair. It’s possible, but only if our sights are set on the future and not the past. Restoring the past is not only impossible, but it won’t solve anything. The world has changed around us, and we’ve just got to keep up or be crushed by the turning of the wheel. Trying to run a 2021 society with 1960s rules won’t work.
It’s a choice. We can hold on to an illusion of a past time that some of us liked, or we can build something new together. We don’t need to condemn or deny the past – we can be honest about it, celebrating where appropriate and grieving where necessary. Mistakes are a normal part of growth, and that’s all this is – another effing growth experience. We needn’t be afraid of growing.

Light it up, and use the power wisely.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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