If I may, I'd like to express thanks right now. Yes, I know it's not Thanksgiving because I'm stuffing myself silly with Sabzi Polo-Maahi and cookies, not turkey and pie. But that is exactly why I'm expressing gratitude now — that and the fact that I can't fall asleep again, which is a real pain.
Anyway, there I was, lying in bed and not sleeping for a while and thinking of all that is going wrong in the world. Most obviously, there is the war. Real-time news is giving us more access to this horrible war than I'm comfortable with (thanks a lot CNN).
I mean, for all of us fortunate enough to have lived through the war in Iran during those excruciating times do we really need reminders of what the air raid sirens sound like? Or stories of people being killed walking down the streets? All those memories and images I had so carefully packed away in neat little corners of my mind?
Thank you, President Bush, for not only dragging out those warm and fuzzy memories but also for making me actually sympathize with Iraqis.
I remember a time when I cursed those nasty people (none personally, but in a general “Plague upon your houses” kind of way) and comfortably wished that they would be blown away. Granted, I was 12 at the time, but I was very comfortable with my emotions and voiced my opinion without any remorse. Now I cringe at the thought of what they're going through, knowing that the sounds of invasion are horrifying enough but that the true fear lies in seeing your loved ones leave the house in the morning, perhaps never to come home again
And there are the more subtle consequences of the war. For example, I have recently expanded my vocabulary: “embedded” reporters (well placed propaganda announcers); “collateral damage” (dead Iraqi civilians); “friendly fire” casualties (dead American and English people that we accidentally killed when we thought we were killing Iraqi people); “resolve” (decision to invade and kill people even if it kills every last American anywhere in the world) and so on. I would like to thank the Bush spin-machine for enriching the English language for those who couldn't stomach the realities of war and still cheer for its continuation.
Another slightly selfish realization that is keeping me up is that I really don't like the fact that my friends are somewhere on missions that don't make sense to me or their children. I was telling my husband the other day that I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who have been shipped off to the war or may be in the near future — most of them are very peace-loving people.
My good friend's husband is in the U.S. Air Force. I remember when he signed up at one of their recruiting seminars. He thought he was going to get financial help to go to college; my friend (his girlfriend at the time) was sitting across from me sulking, wearing a t-shirt that said “It will be a great day for this country when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake-sale to buy a bomber.” I am not exaggerating.
The irony wasn't lost on either one of us. I'm sending her encouraging messages, just imagining what she is going through. Or my old co-worker whose husband is in the Marines; they have three children who are making cards and cookies for their dad and asking about what exactly is it that he is doing. I don't know what he's doing either, I'm just hoping he comes home safe.
And there are many, many others whom I have lost touch with over the years, but know that they are in the reserves and know that they are most likely in a desert far from all they hold sacred doing something that they are desperately trying to accept but not understanding. Thank you, Mr. Rumsfeld for reminding me of the good men and women that enter the reserves and armed forces of this country with noble intentions, but are set off on misguided missions drawn in Washington.
There's the economy, which depresses me. I'm not sure where the silver lining is, but it has to be there somewhere. Unemployment, bankruptcies and deficits can't last forever right? In the meantime, I look back on the days when I was gainfully employed and every time I stepped out of the house I felt good about the fact that I made enough to not have to worry about where the money was coming from. So thanks for the memories.
There is the civil rights issue, of course. I was never one to really get THAT involved in issues. I read about them, researched some that were more interesting to me, but for the most part I was a political dilettante. Now, I am waiting for new laws that will whisk away my rights to check out books or surf the web unsupervised. I am waiting for Mr. Ashcroft to come out and say that by sacrificing my rights, the world will be a more democratic and safer place.
Thank you, Mr. Ashcroft for reminding me how great it felt to go into a bookstore and buy what I wanted, to speak freely on the phone and attend random protests without feeling like I was being watched and monitored every step of the way. That was why I came to this country, after all.
Most of all, however, I'm glad I'm not one of the president's advisors. Think about it. Would you like to be the one to have to tell the President of the United States things like:
— “Mr. President, your speech was wonderful, but the reference you made to the “crusades” may be mistaken by the more historically minded folks of the world for darker, less democratic days. Some would even equate it with a Christian Jihad.”
— “Mr. President, it's very generous of you to stand and pray with the soldiers being deployed to countries we can't locate on a map, but perhaps you should explain to them that the people they are liberating may be a little suspicious of them and their intentions, especially after we bomb those soon to be liberated people — repeatedly, by mistake.”
— “Mr. President, the Islamic world is waiting with baited breath to see what we do next. Yes, you have said that this isn't about Islam, but our actions occasionally speak louder than words and they are being deafened by the sound of our actions and going hoarse trying to explain why they are angry.”
— “Mr. President, that 'you're either with us or against us' speech was powerful. However, a few random people seem to think that the world isn't all black and white. They are disgusted with the actions of the terrorists but don't agree with ALL of our policies and dictates. Perhaps we should expand our definition of 'with us' just a little?”
— “Mr. President, regarding your 'diplomatic' efforts, it seems that some people don't really think that squinting into the cameras and pausing after you say a big word is really a proper explanation for some of our decisions. They keep bringing up the United Nations and international laws. As a matter of fact, we're having a hard time convincing our one time friends that this war is about freedom and democracy, not oil and occupation. For some reason, no one else seems to understand our policy of bomb first, liberate later. The Muslims in particular seem confused. “
— “Mr. President, it seems some Americans are beginning to envy the future we are promising the Iraqis. They not only embrace the idea of universal healthcare, jobs, social security and accessible education for everyone, they love the idea of better roads and strong infrastructure all administered by a democratically-elected government that represents the will of the people. They are wondering why we are going to create such a utopian world for the Iraqis and not for them?
— “Mr. Presidenthey… Wait a minute! You're not the president!”
Here's to a better world with more peace, freedom and understanding.