Tuesday, December 01, 2009

being a sponge

That's my baby up there in the blue, heading to a landing at Fort Gordon during a recent training exercise with his National Guard unit (photo from the Augusta Chronicle). I'm proud of him. Prouder than you can imagine. And this from a pacifist Mom.

I've just listened to a segment of NPR's "On Point," where a collection of knowledgeable people discussed--not debated--discussed, the dilemma faced by President Obama in making a decision about US strategy in Afghanistan. I was impressed not only by the depth of knowledge of the guests on the program, but the comprehension of the events of our engagement in wars of the "recent" past (at least back to Korea). To me, they sounded like they really know what they are talking about. Better yet, they didn't counterpoint one another, but were sharing observations and responding to questions from a place of knowledge rather than agenda. I listen carefully when people talk like that.

I also lean toward reading and am influenced in my thinking by the likes of Thomas Friedman, and Greg Mortenson's story in Three Cups of Tea. I referred to that in an earlier post. The impact of Three Cups of Tea continues: I pay far closer attention to news about what is going on in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and my views on that region are more precise as a result.

To offer some context: as noted above I am a pacifist (and was a registered conscientious objector in the early 80's, at a time when registering women for the draft became a topic of public conversation); I tend toward perspectives that emerge from issues of justice and compassion; I value diplomacy as a means to resolving conflict; my husband is retired Army, and my step-son is fourth generation airborne and spent five years in the Rangers. The latter opened up a new world of understanding and insight when I married Ken, and though I am firm in my personal convictions when it comes to war, a balance in my thinking exists that probably had no chance of seeing light without the exposure or such close proximity to a portion of the military machine. I believe in the draft, a view not popular with the mother of my nephew, a sophomore in college.

I have not been happy about the news that Obama intends to send more troops to Afghanistan. My view on this stems from my own pacifistic perspective as well as from what I have learned from some of my preferred reading. But I also listen to Ken, whose military history and shaping offers another point of view. And I listen to programs like "On Point" to find a way to a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of the issues involved, and the consequences intended and known. I'm trying to soak it up and find as objective an opinion as is possible given my context, my capacity to listen without judging, and my desire to understand points of view different from my own.

I confess that it is a challenge. I want my president's decisions to prove warranted and achieve the desired results. I want stability for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I don't want further loss of life at the hands of the US military. Any life. I want our nation's relationship with other nations to deepen with understanding, cooperation and respect. I want the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to be supported in their efforts to respond to the agenda of the Taliban (how's that for a polite statement?). I want US policy to be guided by the desire to help those countries find the most peaceful way possible to prosperity. I don't want Junior's scheduled deployment fourteen months from now to be moved up. I don't want the cost of war to burden our citizenry any further. I know that doing nothing is not an effective means toward achieving anything positive.

Being a sponge is hard on the little gray cells and a heart that is torn. Maybe if I focus on what color sponge to be the burden won't feel quite so heavy. I'm leaning toward pink. That's a little out of my comfort zone.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

It's sort of like Pandora's Box... we've opened it, and now we must deal with the ramifications. I do know this. This current President does not seem to harbor any notions that we are there to "nation build" or "bring freedom" to these people. We are there to lessen the strength of a group that continually uses terror as a tactic to achieve their fundamentalist beliefs. If we had not taken such a odd turn when we first went there, think of how much further along we'd be. The war became a war of ego and saber rattling with no real clear objective or mission. I am proud that he has given this as much thought as he has and am sure that his decision came from talking to the best the brightest minds, not because we are "by God, Americans" and we'll do what we want. I will continue to pray for all those troops in harms way... esp. the one dearest to your heart.


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