The End of an Era

Well, I don’t usually mix work and writing, but between me, you, and the other thirty people who read this blog, I don’t think I’ve got a whole lot to worry about. After nine years of county employment, working with my local soil and water district, I’ve jumped governmental ships and taken a job with the state. It’s been a whirlwind transitioning to a new job, and I’ve barely been able to write at all in the last few months. I’m struggling just to muster up enough words to put together a blog post each week. Once things settle down, I hope I’ll be able to get back into the rhythm of writing and reading more (sorry to all you fellow bloggers whose blogs I’ve been neglecting to visit). 

Not to conflate the two, but with my new job starting and with WWIII starting in Europe, everything seems a little surreal. About fifteen years ago, I went to Ukraine on a mission trip in college. Flew into Kyiv, then volunteered for a week doing construction work at an orphanage in Bucha, a small village outside of Kyiv. The orphanage was actually in an old Soviet work camp. Sadly, my memories have faded immensely in fifteen years, but I remember a few things:

  1. The Russian and Ukrainian languages sound a lot alike, but our translator said Ukrainians took pride in speaking Ukrainian, not Russian, and Ukrainians take offense when foreigners confuse the two. 
  2. Ukrainian women are all supermodels, and Ukrainian men are all clones of the Marlboro Man (they still smoked a lot over there) minus the cowboy attire.
  3. Apparently, Ukrainians don’t require drivers’ ed. The whole population drove with reckless abandon, making four-lane highways out of two-lane roads. 

Needless to say, it doesn’t surprise me that people who take such pride in speaking their native tongue, who are, on a whole, rugged and physically fit, who drive unflappably in the face of head-on collisions, would be mounting such a stout defense. Yesterday, I saw photos of a destroyed convoy of Russian military vehicles smoldering in the streets of Bucha. It’s hard to believe that the quiet little village I visited fifteen years ago is now a dystopian battleground. It’s hard to believe a maniac is threatening to use nuclear weapons (sadly, it’s not hard to believe our former president is praising him as a “genius”). I don’t know what will happen, but I don’t think there’s any going back now. Seems like the end of an era. 

Streets of Bucha

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?