"Sorry I have not written much lately. We have had a hard couple days. We are running full tilt. And always we have lots of kids in the clinic. We are tired. But we are well."
Earlier in the day, I received this email from The Hubs a.k.a. my husband, a surgeon deployed to Afghanistan. As someone in the medical field for over twenty years, I could only imagine what had ripped through the trauma center. Hence, I was in no mood for a round of Trash Can Politics.
"How is your husband?"
The person asking caught me as I was taking the trash cans to the curb. I've assiduously avoided her, since every inquiry about The Hubs is followed by a cutting opinion about the war in Afghanistan. She is, like many in this suburb, tucked away from the untidiness of life. Here in the land of the car, there are few amputee veterans trying to catch buses, nor in plain view are mothers raising four children while their spouses are at war. This community is voluntarily cut off from the vagaries of the larger world, mired in static rhetoric and conventional wisdom. This town is rose bushes and palm trees.
Turns out she's watched Charlie Wilson's War, her launching point at the Trash Can Summit on a hot summer day. She continued, her range extending to Blackwater, as I walked across the street to move an ailing neighbor's cans to the curb as well. Nothing was going to deter her from expressing her disgust, not my own reading and research into culture, my correspondence with people on the ground, my daily review of milblogs, or my camping out in the library where such books are kept.
"And why are we doing this? For what? Are you going to change their culture?" she asked.
Such a broad question cannot be answered. Especially, while walking barefoot on the black asphalt and hauling cans to the street. But it didn't matter. She didn't really want an answer. People like her never do.
Like many, her stance is that it's hopeless. We should pull out.
"Sorry people of Afghanistan, sorry we messed up your villages, and sorry ladies … sorry we gave you a glimpse of education. Sorry, no more soccer games. The Taliban will take over the stadium in Kabul to mutilate and murder again. We have to go now. Because we as Americans don't deal with hopelessness very well. We were mistaken. Sorry for the bother. Our roses are awaiting."
Oh, spare me the knee jerk reactions. Spare the soldiers who have their asses on the line, spare the Afghans who are working with us and risking their lives. Spare the women who went to vote for the very first time. Don't even insinuate that everyone in countries around the world who has died fighting this scourge of oppression did so for nothing. Unless you want to stare into the abyss of hell, don't ever approach a milspouse and tell him or her that what their loved ones are doing is crap. Spare us your pontificating and inference of your higher moral ground. Watching Charlie Wilson's War doesn't give you the fiber to call the shots.
I pushed out the last trash can, and told her that eight years ago, both houses of Congress went along with this thing. Only one congresswoman from the San Fransisco Bay Area thought to question it, and was roundly dismissed. Imagine that! Only one out of hundreds thought to raise her hand.
That wasn't a vote, it was herd of lemmings jumping off a cliff. But whether or not we agree or disagree, the reality is we are there. Unless we start listening to the guys with boots on the ground, purely partisan responses stall us, make us behave like Bambi-in-headlights. The only solutions lie beyond partisan politics, and beyond the mindsets clung to by the right or the left.
We are there. And no one knows that better than military families.
It was an unpleasant exchange. But in her mind, perhaps her own war was won by sniping at me. Now, she can get back to her roses until she feels the urge to do it all over again.