Page One

On love and loss

Leonard Schwartzburd Berkeley
Tuesday October 30, 2001


I wanted to reach out. There have been losses lately. Four people I love and like have suffered deep personal losses in a matter of days. The country has suffered a loss, and the world trembles and shakes. My heart is heavy. I have lost my dream that there could be a solution of courage, of existential acts which would transform. We are bombing the life out of Afghanistan, a land of my youthful romantic visions shaped by the pages of Mitchner's “Caravans.”  

Killing is horrible, but doing it without intimacy, without the mindfulness of what we do, from the air where those ordered to go cannot touch or be touched, I feel that is obscene. And the men and women who send them are even more removed. I hate it. 

Where is our courage? It is not Afghanistan which threatens us, that is simply the place the Saudis have bought to attack us from, perhaps in the hope that they can free themselves before their oil runs out and we don't need them any longer. Perhaps to cover that there are powerful and controlling forces in their midst which hate us because we are not them. Perhaps both. After all, the Saudi Royal Family is large and has to prepare for its future. 

Osama bin Laden is a front man, formidable but a front. The corrupt and cruel regimes of the Middle East are interested only in their own wealth and power. It's different there you know. In the West our power seekers, though selfish, identify with the nation and it's institutions. In the Middle East the nation identifies with the Power Man, and they don't get to vote him out.  

We know this---but we satisfy our primitive talonic need by bombing Afghanistan. Bush said, Turn him and his lieutenants and his thugs over and we''ll stop what we're doing to your country. “To your country!” he said. I am ashamed. The most powerful most technologically advanced country in the world crushing to dust a country where they have mostly stones.  

I hope to hell that we give them what they need to rebuild. But now, right now we have dropped 650,000 single day food packs. Are we rushing to send vast ship loads of our surplus grain, which we have sometimes allowed to rot? Doesn't our American spirit demand of us that we feed hungry people dislocated by our warfare, as the winter’s ice looms. 

Where is our courage? We have been attacked ruthlessly and the best we can do is bomb Afghanistan and sneak around on the ground at night blowing up small arms and killing some more pawns, while most of the real terrorist supporters and most of the rest of the world applaud politely. And while the worst thugs in Iraq thumb their noses at us, and in Iran they smile hardly even up their sleeves, at our seeming impotence. And maybe they tremble secretly at our raw power and our willingness to use it ruthlessly.  

The Taliban are thugs but... Where is our courage? I have been sitting with this for days. It helps to write. I feel a little more angry and a little less blue. 

Leonard Schwartzburd