Never Start a Land War in Asia

Just FYI: Afghanistan in the news again–you know, that country whose most famous gross domestic product is blankets. I always wondered how Osama managed to fund his sprawling terror operation and then it dawned on me that trade in afghans must be really lucrative. It seems like every American household has one draped over the couch. In fact, my in-laws have several that are just for decorative purposes. If I want to keep warm, I have to use the ratty blanket stuffed in the closet, as afghans are off limits for conserving heat. 

To be honest, I’m not sure what the difference between a blanket and an afghan is and I’m not sure why American troops were in Afghanistan for twenty years. You know a war is a bit dated if it gives you feelings of nostalgia, but, in a strange way, it kind of does. When Osama decided to send his minions into the Twin Towers and Pentagon, I was in eleventh grade English class. My brother had just finished college and was working in Washington DC. The teacher said she needed to tell the class something, that there had been bombings (turns out, it was hijacked planes) in New York and Washington. I remember getting called out of class so my mom could talk to me on the phone and tell me my brother was okay. I remember walking down the stairs to the school cafeteria that day and a girl who I didn’t know just turned to me and asked, “Do you think we’re going to war?”

And that camaraderie with complete strangers extended over the whole country. For once we weren’t democrats or republicans or city dwellers or country folks–we were Americans, united, and hellbent on avenging those who died. We wanted that lunatic with a turban on his head, dead. And it’s that fleeting unity that I look back on with nostalgia. 

At the time, everyone rallied around our president as he stood in the rubble with a bullhorn, and I suspect that even the most anti-war among us watched proudly as we lit up the Afghan sky with bunker busters. 

Now, there’s a certain irony to the ending of the war in Afghanistan: once again it’s uniting us. Republicans and even democrats are asking existential versions of WTF!?–Why are people falling from planes? Why are we negotiating with the Taliban–the bad guys, remember? How were we defeated by thugs in Toyota Tacomas? (We have tanks, big tanks.) Why did 2,000 American soldiers have to die? At least, these are some of the questions running through my mind.

Personally, I don’t blame Bush for going over there, and I don’t blame Biden for getting out. But it just seems sad. Sad for my classmates who served and came back physically or mentally scarred. And you can’t help but have a visceral reaction to desperate people clinging to the sides of cargo planes. And you can’t help but wonder, What was it all for? 

A Missive from Shelby, North Carolina, to New York, New York.

Dear New Yorkers,

Please be advised the following letter is official correspondence from Shelby, North Carolina, –City of Pleasant Living, Livermush Capital of the World, home of the Earl Scruggs Bluegrass Museum, and seat of Cleveland County–home of the Cleveland County Agricultural Fair, Cleveland Community College, and a sasquatch named Knobby. 

This letter hereby notifies you that Shelby is providing sanctuary to a citizen of New York. At least, we think he’s a New Yorker. He does not say “yall” or speak proper English. We suspect his upbringing is to blame. He refuses to relocate to the park, which he calls “the pahk.” Currently, he lives beside the main intersection in Shelby for the whole world to see. We suspect we have a genuine homeless person on our hands. 

Our records indicate this is the first case of homelessness in Shelby. Of course, at minor intersections, we have a few panhandlers holding signs, but everybody knows they live in nearby trailer parks and make meth. Our citizenry can spot a meth head a mile away–skinny as a rail, snaggletooth, and of caucasion descent. We refrain from providing these lost souls pocket change, lest they spend it on more pseudoephedrine and paint thinner. We do provide free livermush biscuits to help them put weight back on. As far as we know, livermush biscuits cannot be manufactured into any known illicit substance, though we have seen some reports of THC-tainted livermush from afar. Generally speaking, our drug manufacturing is less sophisticated than big-city outfits.

(As New Yorkers, you may be wondering about livermush, a southern delicacy best fried. It’s made of pork liver, corn meal, miscellaneous hog parts, with a little sage thrown in. Most people eat livermush for breakfast, but it’s gaining wider acceptance as an all-day food.)

We request open lines of communication between our two great cities on the issue of homelessness. We know New York is infested with homeless, rivaling only San Francisco. Although we’ve been caring for your homeless man with biscuits, he is obese, colliqually-known as “fat,” and some citizens fear we’re putting him at risk for diabetes and high-blood pressure. So far, we have also provided him a tent, beach umbrella, Laz-E-Boy, and kitten. A delegation from the city chamber even offered a bus ticket back to New York, but he refused the charity, citing the affordable housing crisis in your city. Not to brag, but we have no affordable housing crisis; a full-sized farmhouse here rents for less than a broom closet in New York. 

Honestly, we have grown fond of your refugee. He has taken on the pseudo-official role of town mascot. Of course, he believes he is a secret agent working for the government. At one time, a few locals thought he was a liberal spy sent by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). But, as far as we can tell, he has no no political inclinations. 

Your recommendations on how to address homelessness would be greatly appreciated. Although we agree to provide sanctuary to your homeless man, please avoid referring to Shelby as a “sanctuary city” because of the stigma associated with that two-word combo in the South. 

In the not too distant future, leaders from our great city intend to visit. We will bring biscuits with organic livermush since New York is full of hipsters. We hope this small gesture will help heal the rural-urban divide.

Warm regards,

Wilbur Dedham

Mayor of Shelby, NC