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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Sabbatical for War

Letting the Killing Fields Lie Fallow
After the Autumn Harvest

So the seeds sown in the spring surge have been cut, and baled in flag covered coffins. The noble Petraeus, in the regalia of an honored soldier, and the honorable Crocker, intent hidden behind the skirts of his diplomat's robes, pay homage to the lords of state who put up the treasure of the people that they may do the king's bidding and return in glory and praise.

They bring gifts to the lords of the House and the stone walls of the Senate, those same bales of bodies of the honorable and the innocent, piled against the mark on a marble column etched MMI. They bow low as they present the lords with the grisly gift. "My lords, I bring you the promise of military progress," says the noble Petraeus, eyes still on his shoe tops. But from the bench, the chair merely clears his throat.

"This," says the chair as he glances at his fellow legislators, "this is what he calls progress?" The disappointed dais shakes its collective head.

"But my lords," says Petraeus, edging his eyes up from his still bent head, "You cannot call this anything but a good sign. The enemy is at least partially, somewhat subdued. See how our divine guidance has enabled us to shrink his harvest! Why, by next summer, we will even be able to give him fewer seeds to sow."

"Correct me if I am wrong, Petraeus," responds the chair, "but aren't you the one who recommended giving the enemies of our republic the extra seed with which to sow their killing fields, those self-same seeds that you now say you will soon rescue from the scythe of our country's foes?"

Petraeus shuffled his feet together and examined his chest of medals. "I never said it would be easy," he offered meekly. "I am merely a soldier in service to my king."

At this point, the court jester and her friends began their taunts in an allegro chorus:

"Ah. Ah. Ah. Ah.
You brought the seeds.
You brought the knife.
You dared the enemies to take more life.

"Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh.
You say in Anbar
The enemy scurries,
But here you bring us our children to bury!

Owww. Owww. Oww. Owww."

Showing bemusement, the chair calls for the jesters to leave, lest he reveal his amusement with their song and incur the wrath of the king. "Get them out," he shouts, and when they are gone, turns to the ambassador. "Do you see the clamor of the people, Mr. Crocker? Surely you can guarantee them that all this blood and treasure is worth the cost."

"Well, it is worth it to those our deaths and money protect," says Crocker proudly. "But," he adds, "I cannot guarantee victory."

"Then woe to our country and God bless our people and its vacuous leadership," concludes the chair. "Woe to us all."

And in the hallways, someone is singing, "Woe. Woe. Woe. Woe."


So goes the conversation after six years of conflict, six years of sowing the killing fields with dedicated, patriotic men and women for our enemies to harvest "over there so they don't kill us over here."

Rare is the harvest that cuts down life to no purpose.

For whose consumption do our brothers and sisters bleed and die? For us or for our enemies?

If it is for me that they die, as we start the seventh year of the conflict of a generation, let's give the war a sabbatical. I wish that by next September 11, we allow the killing fields to lie fallow, to sow no more seeds, that we may allow honor to recover. Then, after another year, we can plant the seeds of peace, that we can all eat of its fruit and restore the devalued soul of our great nation.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dimples and Craters: Acheiving MAXIMUM IMPACT

"I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where..."
From "The Arrow and the Song"
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I find the term "meteoric rise" to be somewhat oxymoronic. After all, meteors don't rise. Well in space they might, if there is an "up" up there.

The term references a brilliant, streaking light in the night sky that comes out of nowhere and bounces with a fiery glow across the edge of our atmosphere before fading into nothingness. In that sense, "meteoric rise" is a metaphor for an individual whose soaring achievement similarly comes out of nowhere, but burns so brightly that it attracts everyone's attention and is hard to miss. And, unfortunately, like their namesakes, this moment of personal glory burns to a fizzle and is quickly gone.

But streaking meteors aren't actually rising. They are hurtling at tremendous speeds towards the earth. Where the metaphor falls apart is, well, where the meteor falls apart - on re-entry - and that's just the climax of its journey. It's still around until -

KABLOOEY!! It slams into the ground! What impact is left in it's wake? It depends on the size of the meteor. Arizona's Meteor Crater is a huge impact site, 4,000 feet across, 550 feet deep! They dug a 1,400 lb. meteorite out of that crater. OMG, as the kids say.

What if the meteor's impact were just a dimple, a pockmark on the planet, neither bigger nor more impressive than the hole left behind when when you pull a skipping stone from the clay? If it were your brilliance hurtling towards the earth, what would be its maximum impact?

"I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where..."

Ibid, 2nd verse

So I guess not all impacts are from arrows. Some are indeed from beautiful songs. Either way, I think Longfellow would agree that whatever we issue to the world, be it through fisticuffs or Facebook, bombs or Brahms, Bush or Buddha, they land with an impact that has more permanence than we realize. As for me, I hope that my impact is, as the people gathered on the mountaintop for the soda commercial sang (or would have sung, had they not been selling soda pop): "a song of peace that echoes on and never goes away."

"Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend."

Ibid, 3rd verse

I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing-The Shaw Brothers