The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Monday, December 26, 2005

This is MY fence and I will sit on it as long as I choose...

There is always someone asking what I think about this or about that, and usually I have a well thought out response, because I do think a lot, and analyze, probably to a fault. But when it comes down to war and peace – well, this is my fence. It has barbs on the top and it isn’t comfortable at all. The links are beginning to rust, and I am not sure whether it is going to last long enough for me to decide whether to drop down on one side or the other. But it’s my fence.

Nobody likes war – save those corporate entities that make their fortunes supplying the necessities of war. They don’t count in this assessment. They do what must be done, and as long as they do it honestly, to the best of their abilities, with full integrity, I cannot fault them. That’s what they do.

I don’t like violence of any sort. I’ve seen enough in my own life to last for centuries. But I recognize that there are times when violence is unavoidable, when diplomacy does not work, when the last resort is the only option left. So it is with war.

After September 11, 2001, I believe this country was right to go into Afghanistan in search of Bin Laden. We had good intelligence that he and his Taliban were there, and we owed him and them pursuit, capture, and justice. We went into Afghanistan with our allies’ understanding and support. We were at that point of last resort, and come hell or high water, we were going to find that bastard and his cohorts. We were as humane as possible going into Afghanistan, aiding that country as much as possible while in pursuit of the madman that had fled there.

Not long after this, our government became uneasy with Iraq. They were under the direction of the United Nations, and were subject to periodic inspections in the search for weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was arrogant and taunting, and after an attempt on his life, he killed a large number of Sunni in his country, and ran his country with little concern for his citizens. It was not a pleasant place to be. There was infighting among the religious groups – but since before the time of Christ there had been infighting among the religious groups, there had been tyrants in control. This was nothing new.

Presidebt Bush was given information (which we now know was bogus) that there were weapons of mass destruction hidden about in Iraq. In his haste, Presidebt Bush disregarded the opinions of the UN, of our allies, of wise men around the world. The public was led to believe this would be a quick war, in and out – find the weapons of mass destruction and destroy them or remove them – in any case, disarm Iraq. The actual conflict was short. But we remain there just the same.

I cannot help but think that if the troops we sent to Iraq had been sent to join those we already had in Afghanistan, Bin Laden and his cohorts would have been caught and brought to justice, made to pay for September 11, 2001. I cannot help but think that had Presidebt Bush not been so hasty to invade Iraq, had he allowed the UN to complete its inspections, had we continued in Afghanistan and met our goal there, had the time to let the truth about weapons of mass destruction rise to the surface, things would be much different for us today.

I feel our government acted in haste that has cost us dearly in American lives. I support our troops there. They are doing as they swore to do when they enlisted to serve this country. Many are going above and beyond mere service and are actively helping the Iraqi rebuild their homeland, educate their children. Our guys are showing the Iraqi, one on one, that we are not a bad nation, that Americans are, by an large, a caring and generous people. Our troops are ambassadors of our way of life. Yet they are in constant risk of random violence. We lose more lives there every day. We get caught in the crossfire of the infighting that has been going on in that part of the world for centuries. We don’t belong in the center of their fighting, and if no one has found a way to stop it in thousands of years, who are we to think we can stop it now? Iraq may well be a democracy, but it will never operate as a western nation. We should not have that expectation. You can glue peacock feathers on a duck, but it will still quack. Yet somehow we have gotten ourselves embedded in Iraq with no end in sight and a death toll rising daily. All we can do is train those Iraqi troops and let them care for their country’s security themselves. But as with all new skills, sometimes it takes a push out the aircraft door before the trainee realizes he has the skills and knowhow to use a parachute. We need to lessen our presence so the Iraqi troops realize this for themselves.

I don’t have a problem supporting our troops who are following orders. I object to the orders that sent them there.

I believe our work in Afghanistan was hobbled by sending troops to Iraq. Afghanistan wants us there. They want us to find and remove Bin Laden and his followers. They want our support, want to learn how to take care of themselves, how to rebuild, how to best lead and develop their country again. I believe we have been undermanned in Afghanistan because of Iraq.

So I sit on my fence, uncomfortable and unhappy with the leaders of this country who failed to look at the big picture, who acted in haste, who were impatient to follow agendas that are still shadowy, at best. Was it for oil? Was it for big business? Better minds than mind have wrestled with this. I am not sure I agree with their conclusions. I am still processing information, still trying to understand the whats and whys of these situations.

I do know this: for nearly as long as there has been a USA, there has been the tendency of Americans to feel superior to other peoples and nations. We are often arrogant. We think we know best for the rest of the world – yet we have pockets of poverty in this country to match those anywhere else, and a corporate personality that, with the misuse of unions, has sent our industrial sector elsewhere to survive. Our patriotism translated itself into belittling other nations who choose to solve problems in their own countries before taking on those of global proportions. We thumb our noses at the UN if it does not agree with us without a thought to listening to the reasoning behind its decisions.

As a nation, we are all the things we teach our children we should not be – because I believe teaching peace begins at home. It begins with teaching a child to listen, then giving a child choices and teaching him to think, to reason. It begins with manners, with teaching empathy, teaching diversity, that we are not all the same, we don’t all believe the same, and we do not act or react the same. We teach our children not to be bullies, and we teach them how to deal with bullies if they absolutely must. We teach them that sometimes the answer is not yes or no, black or white, in absolutes. And we make room on our fences, so there is a place for them to see both sides before making a decision.

You don't have to agree with me, nor I with you, to be friends. I am open to new information, and I will process it, reason on it. I have even been known to adjust my point of view in the light of new information.

I hope you will hear me as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Beginning Again

I guess I needed a break.

If you are used to writing on a daily basis and then don't write for a day or two - stuff you want to say piles up and it is harder to begin again. And the longer it is, the harder it becomes to get down to business and address all the thoughts that normally are put down in a (quasi) orderly fashion and it snowballs into weeks of silence -- when that is not the intention.

It certainly isn't that nothing has happened, nor that I haven't had much to write about - but it is breaking the silence in the first place that is the hardest, and that is what I am doing today, so that, perhaps, tomorrow will be easier to write, and the next day and the next.

I forget sometimes that some of the rules by which I have been living my life are arbitrary, and not based on fact or truth or any of the upright things we think are behind rules. Some of the rules that I have held since childhood were given me by a parent wishing to avoid embarrassment ("Don't ask for anything," the parent would say as we entered a store, thereby avoiding the embarrassment of having to say no, we can't afford it.) or developed by a child's mind ("I can't ask for anything because ... says I can't. That must be right.") For years, such rules (I use the asking for things as an example; there are other rules just as falsely set) are a part of who I am, and I tell myself that it is part of my independence, part of the self-sufficient person I am - thereby giving it a positive spin. But when you break it down to its basics, the rule is not one that should continue to hold to, hard and fast.

I have been remembering, of late, that as she who makes the rules by which she lives, I am also she who can modify and even break these rules as I see fit. (I can hear my daughter's voice as I write this saying, "Well -- yeah!")

So the rule that if I skip a day or two here, on this blog, I have to explain it in the next entry -- is hereby abolished. If I skip a day, I skip a day and I probably had a fairly good time doing something useless during that time. From this point forward, this will be less a daily episodic blog, but more of a series of essays that may or may not connect to anything else on the planet. So I begin again, more rationally.

I never said I ran out of things to say.