As my cousin Louise put it, “It’s not an election, it is an intervention.”
It seems to have worked.
In October of 2001, just weeks after 9/11, Jenny and I left the country for 18 months. While we were away, the Patriot Act was passed, a plane crashed in Queens, a sniper terrorized the Mid-Atlantic states, mysterious parcels of anthrax appeared in the offices of the mainstream media and elsewhere, shoes in airports were rendered ominous, the specter of Iraqi WMDs was raised, the UN was pushed aside and a war was begun. Just days after our return home, the president stood under a “Mission Accomplished” sign.
The country we came home to in 2003 was a very uptight place — uptight in a 1950s way, though the threat we faced was much smaller than that posed by the Soviets, and the trauma we’d come through was also much smaller. In 2004, the ongoing war was invoked to keep Bush in power.
Now, though, the war has dragged on for another two years, and it has become clear that no one in charge has any notion of how to end it. Katrina, I think, was a tipping point: people saw that our government, given days of advance warning, couldn’t deliver food, clean water, electricity or medical care to thousands upon thousands of its own citizens in an emergency on its own soil, which raised doubts about how well they could deliver those things to millions of Iraqis in the midst of an ongoing war. Since then, things in Iraq have only gotten worse.
Americans like to think of ourselves as good, and we like to have fun. The war is no good and no fun. I hope that America lightens up again in the coming years — that we give up the illusion of perpetual war and recognize the basic reality that we are in fact living in peace, albeit a peace that requires constant vigilance (and when has that not been the case?). The war in Iraq is a disaster that should be ended, while the War on Terror is an amalgam of military, law enforcement and diplomatic efforts that should be much better coordinated and shifted away from their emphasis on brutality.
I want peace. I want it and I think our country should strive for it. I’m hoping that at long last, this point of view will no longer be labeled traitorous.