bunt sign

Sunday, October 7, 2001

For all the talk of "war" — Bush's repeated statement that "we're at war," CNN's ubiquitous "America's New War" logo — I never felt that we were really at war until I got up this morning and learned that U.S. and British forces were attacking targets in Afghanistan. Despite all we've been told in recent weeks, it didn't seem inevitable until it actually happened. Now I believe it.

The September 11 atrocities were attacks by individuals with no political legitimacy other than what they take upon themselves against innocent civilians with no strategic importance other than to disrupt lives and spread fear. That's not what I think of as war. Today our governments attacked the Taliban government. This is the first day of a war with no end in sight.

My first reaction when I turned on CNN, as I automatically do every morning, and saw Christiane Amanpour standing next to a green nightscope screen, was that the other shoe had dropped. Something has been coming, and any latent hope that it was something other than raining bombs and missiles down on large cities was blown away. Still, it was initially almost a sense of relief that the day had arrived and we could move forward.

That was followed by a wave of guilt and sadness. Guilt, because despite my relief I didn't want it to come to this. I don't want to lose sight of the human costs that all sides in this war will pay. Soon we will be seeing pictures of dead civilians, and eventually there will be allied casualties.

Sadness also because a month ago I couldn't have believed that my country would ever be in another shooting war. A month ago I felt that if the right decisions were made and all voices heard, any conflict could be resolved peacefully. And I still think that idea is worth believing in, even when bitter realities contradict it.

My emotions changed throughout the day, as I absorbed the news and then turned away from it for awhile. Sometimes I had hope. Sometimes I was simply afraid of what could happen next. Mostly it was a little of both at the same time. I was happy that so many other nations are by our side, but sad that so many people around the world will hate us all the more now. I'm convinced that we're fighting an enemy of irredeemable evil, but not convinced that we're going about it in the best way.

Then it occurred to me that it doesn't matter what I think or feel.

My reaction means nothing compared to what the survivors of the WTC and Pentagon attacks must be feeling about this stage of the war. The families of the people killed have a legitimate right to an emotional reaction. Members of the military and their families have a more valid claim for their response.

U.S. Muslims, Arab Americans, people who came to this country from Afghanistan or have families there, and the people still in Afghanistan, who are having guns and butter flung at them in one day — these people are the ones whose voices should be heard. I have so little to add. (Obviously. So I'll quit trying, for now.)

reverse angle

My house, from the southeast corner of the yard.

Three finches with brilliant sun-yellow breasts were perched around the rim of the terra cotta birdbath this afternoon, taking dainty sips of the water, when a fourth finch came along and slipped off the edge, landing in the water. It took a drink, as if to say "I meant to do that," and then flew off.

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