It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and penned something out to you. I’ve been putting it off for a while, but started tearing up over morning coffee and thought putting it down on paper would help.
11. 11 of you. I still wear the blank silver bracelet. People stare and think it’s a hippy thing. Very few ask about it. But when they do, 1SG Griffith’s line, “If I wore a bracelet with every name, they’d go up to my elbow,” seems to get the point across. No matter how many movies, books, Youtube videos by notable Veterans, the majority of Americans still don’t seem to get it. How could they?
Our country is weird right now. Regardless of how good we have it, people can’t stop infighting, social groups are cancelling anything that challenges their own personal perspectives, freedoms and privacy are mere words, cops have been bested by criminals/lawyers/media/politicians, and the war is ending without any notable recognition by the people. And the worst of all, nobody is taking accountability or behind held responsible for the failures.
Estella saw me struggling this weekend and asked why I’ve been so quiet over the last few weeks. My response, “The war is ending, more people are dying now than when we first started, nobody seems to give a fuck, and your children will be back at it in a few years,” generated a proud parent response.
“Really? I haven’t seen anything about it in the news. Why isn’t that bigger news?” She questioned.
It’s not that we watch the news consistently, but she’s pretty in-tune given the AP world history and political science classes in school. Her teachers don’t even talk about it. Maybe nobody talks about it because they’re embarrassed? Embarrassed that they can’t explain in kid speak why we started, why we kept going, and why we are leaving with the knowledge that thousands of people will be slaughtered. Guess it makes people feel dumb, so they just ignore it.
I went to the Afghan embassy in D.C. last week for an event. It was what you would expect. Two out of the 535 members of Congress showed up. One gave a talk with the political catchphrase bingo words of, “Hope. Hard work. Blah, blah, blah.” You heard the talks when you were alive. They really haven’t changed. People without any skin in the game stating soft words from behind pulpits--knowing that it’s just to look good for the press in attendance. Nothing’s changed there either.
Maybe it’s the fact that this year I truly “know” it was all for nothing. The speculation is gone. There is a knowing now.
How could we have known then? We all believed in it. Watched the movies. Read the books. Listened to the speeches. It was all so in-line. How can anybody know what it’s really like?
I can’t blame the 99% either. They’re kept in the dark. And they can’t even be empathetic because they haven’t sacrificed anything for it. On weekends like this, the sympathetic ones ask. And I feel bad because the honest response conflicts with their beliefs--generating a predictable level of cognitive dissonance.
The best response I can give in the hopes of inspiring action is, “Afghanistan is a place where you can wage war with no consequence. Defense contractors make billions, politicians embezzle millions, people die by the thousands, veterans unable to reconcile the pain are lost by the hundreds, and the handfuls remaining are commended on long weekends. The American people pay for it all.” For those emotionally intelligent enough to understand, the sadness in their eyes is apparent.
I’m sorry we didn’t do better. I’m sorry you’re not with us this weekend. I’m sorry that more people aren’t taking action to prevent it from happening again. I’m sorry for tearing up like a bitch. I’ll get my shit together and get the team pushing the boulder back up the hill tomorrow. Miss you homies.
‘Til Duty is Done