Saturday, May 10, 2003

"We are responsible ..." We've got to deal with the problems of Iraq now that we've conquered it, according to retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardner. And he's right, of course, but what a strange arrangement. What vision compelled us to assume the care and nurture of a nation so foreign to our own? Do we truly believe that we have the vision to embrace a whole culture and direct its destiny? Col. Gardner talked about fixing the infrastructure of Iraq, specifically, the water system, which has either been blasted to bits or never existed in some towns. But now we Americans (and Brits and, to some baffling extent, the Spaniards) are on the hook for creating a better world for the Iraqi people. How is it that those folks got so lucky as to get a blank check from the United States? How is it that the Iraqi nation finds itself at the center the world's collective focus? How very important Iraqis must be feeling today, I suppose. Important, and helpless, I suspect.
But we've taken the regime and, therefore, the nation, and now we get the blessed responsiblity of paying the bills, building the houses, turning on the lights and feeding the hungry. And what does it mean to me, sitting here in the northwest corner of Texas, amid the noises of early morning activities like the thunder of trash bins being emptied into grumbling trash trucks, the birds twittering in the trees, and the faint hum of artificial power, electric power, that hangs in the air and permeates my very bones? What indeed?
The dogs are barking their usual "woof, woof, woof, WOOF, WOOF!" The slither of rubber tires hisses on the streets and the radio-computer opens my ears to Los Angeles and the world, and my little world is a messy, frustrating struggle to survive the next 24 hours, both physically and mentally. How will the Iraqis feel living in my world? How would I feel living in theirs? Differently, I'm sure.
I sit here in front of a little iMac and type these words, which will, in turn, be electrically imprinted in servers somewhere far from here and made available to anyone who can find the key to these Web pages. What would a typical Iraqi think of a world in which one can reach out into the ether and 'touch' someone 10,000 miles away in the time it takes for a single heartbeat?
No, this is not reality and the situation in Iraq is as much a scene from "The Wizard of Oz" as it is a nightmare I had 20 years ago, or last night, for that matter. We're going to introduce democracy to a nation of people who've been living under a feudal system for thousands of years. How very audacious of us, I think. I am weirdly bemused by the notion. I am also overwhelmed by the prospect of our imperialistic impulses bursting forth in full flower, fueled by the militaristic self-image we're cultivating through our climb to the top of the world-powers ladder.
And gypsy music floats through the speakers, soothing my jangled nerves. What is culture, and how must it evolve if not freely and through the eyes of a single human being? We live in our tiny worlds of jobs, bills, stuff and things, and bear the burden of abundance and the weight of broken dreams. How can one be both rich and starving from poverty? Quite naturally, I tell you. My inner self, my 'soul,' if you will, is the most important aspect of my life and its true measure of my place in this world. But when its invisible voice is stifled or distracted by cares for the grasping at 'things,' by fear propelled by laws that evoke resentment, by compulsions that inevitably run me smack into a proverbial wall, then I am both rich and impoverished. I guess it's the difference between potential and actualization. Reality and fantasy, hunger and a full stomach. The human condition is not universal. Rather it's unique to the human being experiencing his or her condition, and that single 'condition' feeds and fuels the enormous engine called humanity.
What the hell is this guy talking about? That's what I imagine you're thinking right now, if you've gotten this far, and I assure you, it's nothing at all. Simply a brain taking stock of its perceptions and noting its response to those tendrils of sensation and signals that are available to it. I'm asking myself, what are 'we' doing – when I really mean what am I doing. I'm asking myself, what's the plan, the vision, the hoped-for outcome of the nation's incursion into Iraq, and I'm unable to answer with any degree of satisfaction or clear reason. And this bothers me. I mean I can barely manage my singularity, my little world, and I cannot imagine trying to assume the management of yours as well. Perhaps that is my shortcoming. Perhaps not. It may be that we are meant to struggle (I feel this is true) to become what our potential promises is possible. But I find it implausible that I am meant to take the reins of the thoughts, dreams and hopes of another and manuever two 'minds' through the road of life, at least not with any honest ambition for unanimity. Simply put, I think we've got a problem in Iraq and it's solution does not lie within our reach, unless the solution encompasses the hopes and dreams of the Iraqi people. And what do we, as a nation, know about Iraqi hopes and dreams? For myself, the answer is, not much.
So now what? I suspect that question is at the forefront of every administrator in this administration's cache of leaders. Now what? It seems to me that we've realized the metaphor of the dog that caught the car and now wonders what to do with it. Which is not to say that there is no solution, because I believe every problem has a solution. It's just that many solutions come with great pain and Herculian effort. And I wonder if we've chosen our battle wisely.
That said, Happy Mother's Day!


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