Maya Angelou's poem, Still I Rise, has been going through my head lately. Some verses:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Feel like that's what our president is dealing with, and still, he rises.
Below is a reject from the Star Tribune on Obama's Afghan speech. Yeah, it's a tad dated, and we're on to Copenhagen, but Barb is sick of holding up her end of the line without me, so I thought maybe something's better than nothing. Or maybe not. Sorry for the absence, I lost my mind.
I watched Obama's speech with my heart in my throat. In this Solomon-like decision, as in the Afghanistan war itself, there would be no winners.
Certainly not President Obama, who would be seen as a turncoat to those on the left if he sent more troops, and a confirmed Islamic terrorist to those on the right if he didn’t. No matter what, the speech would be met with a chorus of yapping disapproval from the pundits, who now tell us what the president was really saying while he’s still working the rope lines.
And certainly not the soldiers he spoke to, whose faces seemed to reflect the gravity of this decision as well as the ambivalence about the mission.
And, in the short term at least, not the Afghani people. No matter how golden our intentions, the Afghanis will be plagued with more destruction and death, caught in a literal tug of war between Taliban thugs and warlord thugs. And no matter who wins that one, women and girls will be kept illiterate, beaten, and sold into marriage as children, like chattel.
Perhaps the only winner, we hope short term, will be Al-Qaeda, whose recruitment efforts blossom whenever we’re seen as occupying a Muslim country. And fairly or not, that's how we're seen.
It’s all around ugly.
I have to believe that the President knows things that we're not privy to. He has always said that the focus of our efforts to thwart terrorism should be in Afghanistan, and that we lost our standing there when Cheney and Bush detoured into Iraq. Maybe this move really is critical to our security. And maybe all we'll do there is buy time while we buy off key chieftains and warlords, as we did in the surge in Iraq, and then get the heck out. Well, at least those who live through it will get out.
In Arthur Schlesinger's A Thousand Days, about JFK's time in the White House, Schlesinger describes the way Kennedy was buffaloed by the military into the Bay of Pigs invasion and other misadventures. Schlesinger describes how the top brass arrived bedecked in medals and ribbons, and Kennedy, even though he himself had been in the Navy and was famously injured in WW2, found it hard to stand up to their bristling machismo.
I wonder if some of that happened here. I wonder if our intellectual pointy-head elite presidents have a harder time defying the military elites than our dopey ones do. Maybe because they are hyper aware of their reputation as effete dithering do-nothings they feel a need to prove their mettle.
In Obama's case, I wonder if subconsciously he feels a need to prove he's not a closeted Muslim terrorist. Maybe the bleating of the birthers, tea-baggers and Glen Beck has gotten under his skin without his even realizing it. He’s so smart and articulate that I still can't let go of the notion that he knows what he's doing. I still have hope.
I do know that his speech made me cry. I cried because his words still move me, but one year ago those words promised our young people a better life, and this year those words sentenced some of the young people in front of him to death. I cried because he looked worn and burdened, aware of the lethal gamble he is taking. And I cried because those cadets made up one of the most diverse audiences I've ever seen, something the military has achieved faster than any other segment of society, and yet there was an eerie sameness to them in their somber grey uniforms, as undistinguishable as body bags. And I cried because I still believe in this man, yet I am terrified of all that's riding on his fateful decision. And I cried over the senseless brutality of war -- that we assemble these bright young people into regiments to go out and kill. And because there are young people -- and not just in Afghanistan -- assembling to kill us.
I'm 63 years old and am starting to see the once-far horizon of my life. This isn’t how I thought it would be.