Our annual summer retreat begins on Wednesday so this will probably be my last post of the week. I have been talking to Jimena about helping to get school supplies for needy children going back to school (probably masked), and if I get that list I’ll try to post it soon, otherwise the blog will retreat till Monday.
The blog will retreat because it has a life, it has energy. The house has its energy, as do the dogs, the yard, the food, my mind. Everything has energy. When my mind quiets down, everything quiets down, if only because so much of it is created by my mind.
And even as I say that, I cry. Why? Because of events in Afghanistan.
“It’s deja vu all over again,” I said to a friend on the phone. I had a hard time containing myself.
If you’re old enough to remember how we left Vietnam, the photos we see now are eerie. Then it was folks hanging on to helicopters taking off from the Embassy, here it’s planes leaving the airfield. Then it was US Marines blocking entrance to the Embassy in Saigon, pulling down folks trying to climb up the bare walls. Here it’s US soldiers aiming guns at women and children on an airport tarmac.
Let them in! I cry. They helped us. They drove us, translated for us, cleaned and cooked for us, served in offices and fought for us—let them in! What’s with the excuses—the bureaucracy, the visas, lists, third countries and special status—why don’t we just bring in plane after plane, let them all board, and take them in?
The country that sent folks to the moon and beat even the rosiest of timeframes to come up with a coronavirus vaccine, the country that did all can surely do this. It doesn’t have enough planes? We have thousands of soldiers already at the airport or flying in, and they can’t manage an orderly exodus out of the airport, onto the planes, and then into this country?
I harbor generational memories of Jews trying to escape the Nazis, ships arriving on these shores and then turned back to a certain death because people didn’t have the right papers. Since the Nazis had robbed them of German citizenship (including those families whose members had served valiantly in World War I fighting for the Kaiser), they ostensibly had no citizenship and for that reason alone couldn’t qualify for refuge. Talk of Catch 22! As Heller put it, it’s the best catch there is. In at least one case everybody had gone home to celebrate a holiday, there was nobody around to process their applications. All returned to Europe and were killed; in one case a ship was torpedoed and went down with all aboard.
You need volunteers to process papers? I’ll do it as long as it takes. I’ll drop anything—including the retreat—if I can in some way help bring them here.
Is it that they’re dark-skinned, I start wondering? Would it be different if those people on the tarmac were white, blue-eyed Europeans? I read that some government officials defend their procedures out of fear that otherwise, a few terrorists will infiltrate the big group. We have lots of home-grown terrorists right here, we don’t need to fear a few Taliban coming here in disguise.
Our government told us stories, the Pentagon and Army once again assured everyone they got it all in hand, delayed and delayed with the quagmire of paperwork, bureaucratic rules, congressional approvals—and who pays the price?
I can’t bear to look at the papers. Not in the worst of Trump times did I ever shut my eyes with grief over what is happening as I do now. The shame and pain of being an American citizen and watching the government act out of zero integrity, lose all shred of credibility and self-respect!
This is indefensible—and cowardly. As for Secretary of State Blincken’s assertion that our hands are tied by Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, we’ve broken agreements before for much lesser reasons than this, the saving of lives, discharging our obligations to people who took care of us.
I, for one, did not wish for us to stay in Afghanistan even as I am aware of what women suffered under the Taliban. A friend was part of a delegation that traveled to Afghanistan years ago with the intention of bringing American troops home. After meetings with Afghan women she changed her mind, returned home, and began to advocate for staying in Afghanistan rather than leaving.
I think that would be an endless task. If it’s your son and daughter shipped to Afghanistan for military service, are you ready for him or her to die to safeguard women’s freedom there? I don’t see any mob on an airport tarmac rushing to take that route.
A withdrawal was overdue—but this? Leaving people in the lurch after all the promises we made them in 2014? Seven years of warning and waiting, seven years to process applications and bring them here—and it winds down like this?
Let them all in, I say. Bring them all here!
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