Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Moving Finger

This is the last day of the first month of the new year. And if it feels a little deja vu that might be because there are certain things we've been doing every day for so long it seems like a habi. We've been knee deep in the gore, and other artifacts of the fog of war, for nearly a score of years in Afghanistan. Before us, of course, for centuries if not millenia, have been many other nations all of whom  attempted to tame whatever it is that makes Afghanistan the nation that it is.

I confess to a total lack of curiosity as to what exactly that might be except I am convinced whatever it is, it is infinitely better off without us, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, squandering our children in its crags and crevasses. And, in all honesty, even if they are not better off, we are. The Taliban are rightly proud of their fanaticism and whenever I think about that I remember Churchill's observation, 'a fanatic is someone who cannot change his mind and who will not change the subject.'

And yet we continue to invest the lives of I have no idea how many men and women in what is now, a limited time offer. I've known servicemen and women, of all branches and who've been there in the forward operating bases and the 'cities.' Each had her/his own reason for going and no one ever sounded like they regretted leaving, even those who do multiple tours because some one has to.

I'm not opposed to helping people, even people who are so far away they are in another century, and the Afghan people are. They need so much of everything that they remind me of that stricken swimmer who is so close to drowning and in such frighteningly deep water that no matter how good a swimmer you are, both you and he will drown for sure if you attempt to rescue him. The kindest thing you can do is shut your eyes and harden your heart as you move away.

Our technology has evolved so quickly and so surely that we can be on the battlefield in ways and on platforms that a few short years ago weren't even thought about much less regarded as possible. And yet, the more of the gore of war that can come to the box in the living room or the flat panel display in the study, the more strenuously we shut it out and push it away. We go to the Mall of America more frequently than the National Mall. We know all about Gangnam Style and little about The Lone Sailor.

We watch every installment of TMZ for news on Lindsay Lohan, but we didn't watch this (though somebody, judging from the counter, certainly did) and, judging from the comments, we didn't appreciate a reporter bringing any of it up. And from the heat of a lot of the exchanges, maybe we need to worry about where our next battles are being fought and why the willing and the wounded, their selflessness and selfishness, don't cancel one another out anymore.
-bill kenny

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