23 May 2008

there's always ESPN

As we prepare for our presentation on Supporting Muslim Students, we come upon a slide with a photo of a bomb exploding in Baghdad. She averts her eyes. With her face turned away, all I can see is her headscarf. “I can’t look,” she says.

What can I say? I do the same thing every time CNN, Fox News, Sky, or BBC turns to news of Iraq. I even avoid reading the headlines as they pass from right to left across the bottom of my TV screen. I switch over to ESPN.

A reference to The Pottery Barn rule: “You break it, you buy it” was earlier attributed to Colin Powell. Well, we broke it, and now we don’t want it. We blame the store for not taking it back. Shattered to pieces -- 1 million refugees, 2.5 million internally displaced, constant civil conflict, and chaos -- little hope of normalcy. “But we have the receipt. It’s in its original box.” Shattered. Scattered. Beyond recognition.

Is it twilight for the Empire? The shocking 9/11 tragedy handed the US a lottery winner-sized check for “Millions and billions in Moral Authority.” Immediately afterwards, we were stopped in the streets of Middelburg, in the Netherlands, by Dutch offering condolences. The Friday after 9/11 I stood at the second-floor window and listened to three minutes of silence followed by the tolling of the bells of Middelburg -- church bells, school bells, the bells of city hall -- all in support of America and its suffering.

Weeks later, home in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, even the Muslim Kyrgyz could feel our national pain and understand the need to scour Afghanistan in search of bin Laden and his accomplices. “In order to bring them to justice,” they would say.

However, like a stereotypical trailer trash lottery winner, our leaders quickly squandered their newly acquired fortune in moral authority. Behind the mask of patriotism and democracy, hides a toxic combination of fear mongering, blind vengeance, patronizing bullying, deceptive spin, fierce nationalism and personal greed.

Following our leaders, we blundered into Sadaam’s Iraq, without anyone’s blessing but our own. Which is all we thought we needed. “Won’t everyone else be sorry when we win.” How exactly does one win this sort of war?

What becomes of the Empire? History confirms that they don’t last forever. Egypt. Persia. Greece. Rome. England. Will this blow, this stumble, keep us on the canvas?

During the presentation, maintaining a pleasant voice, she comments on the slide. However, I notice that, like a frightened woman who senses a stalker, she fastens her eyes forward, afraid to glance back.

She may never go home. Her family got out because they could, 12 years ago, when George H. W. Bush invaded Iraq. Like so many, sown to the wind, left to take root somewhere else in the world. Who will bring them justice?

Cartoon 'gleaned' from www.ohiomm.com/blogs/bok/2006/12/page/2/

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