FALL LEAVES AND THE AUTUMN OF WAR
The leaves on my neighbor’s tree are starting to turn and fall. Even the slightest breeze makes a scraping sound through the branches and loosens yellowing leaves that drift aimlessly to the ground below. I sat outside in the late afternoon light staring at the tree, listening to the wind, hoping that the tranquility of the scene before me would over-ride the feeling of dread within me. It didn’t work. We’re a country once again poised at the edge of war. Another war. Another war in the Middle East, a region which we have never been able to figure out. A president who campaigned on getting us out of that region, at least militarily, is now lobbying to pull us in deeper by bombing Syria. John Kerry, the Vietnam veteran who, upon his return from the war in 1971, delivered one of the most eloquent anti-war speeches ever in front of the Senate, now favors dropping bombs on Syria.
Few people doubt that chemical weapons were used and that innocent people died horrible deaths. Few people doubt that Assad is a brutal, cold-blooded tyrant. But there are many atrocities going on in the world and if they don’t directly involve Americans, we’re supposed to keep our hands off the military trigger. Of course, if we do bomb Syria, there will be retaliation from somewhere in the Middle East, and then it will involve Americans, and then we will be in another war. President Obama’s assertion that he’s lobbying for a “strike” and not a war is kind of ridiculous. What does he think happens after you strike?
I’m one of many who welled up with tears of pride and gratitude when Barack Obama was first elected president. I’m one of many who has become sorely disappointed in him. Environmentally, he’s one of the worst presidents in recent history. He seems incapable of exuding strength, compassion, leadership; most of the time, he just seems annoyed. I’m one of many who thinks that if Hillary had won, we’d be in much better shape. The really frightening thing here is that, even if we don’t bomb Syria, we’ve already (in a sense) declared war just by talking about it. Things will be worse after this, it’s just not clear how.
One good thing that has come out of this is the awareness and acknowledgement that, as a country, we are weary of war. I do get encouraged every time I hear the phrase “war-weary public” used by a journalist or newscaster. We need to get tired of wars. We need to say, No more. We elected a president twice over who said he’d get us out of the wars we were in. But he didn’t. We’re still in Iraq. We’re still in Afghanistan. Maybe the biggest lesson we can learn from the war drums that are beating in the White House right now is, We the People of America will decide where we go from here.