Saturday, March 22, 2003

At What Cost?

My 35 year old son told me yesterday that for the first time he was ashamed to be an American. That caught me short. As the first American-born in our family — a month earlier I would have come to life in Nazi Berlin — this country and its freedom means a lot me. So, too, with other immigrant families (that's probably most of us) some who escaped tyranny of one sort of another around the globe and some who simply sought greater opportunity. So here we are a polyglot of nationalities who, regardless of why we came, often maintain strong ties to our ancestral land whether it be Ireland, Ghana, Japan or, yes, France. Here we are in an age where barriers have melted along the information super highway linking all of us together on this small planet. Here we are with an Administration that thinks and acts unilaterally and evokes memories of once great, but fallen, Empires that we know only from history books. Here we are belittling and disdaining the opinions of allies who not only have fought side by side with us, but from where most of us came even if separated by a generation or two. The idea that we could go it alone in a world so inexorably linked by modern transportation and technology is so counter intuitive as to be laughable.

It really doesn't matter how you stand on this war in Iraq. The fundamental question is whether it makes any sense at all to alienate our friends in order to overthrow a two-bit dictator whose threat is, to say the least, questionable. I don't know how long this war will last, but WWII and Viet Nam lasted years. The worst case estimates talk of Baghdad in weeks. That doesn't seem like a very great threat. Can we really go it alone in this world? Can we be an economic engine without trading partners. Throw that French wine down the drain, but what if all those people whom we say we don't need stop buying Coca-Cola and Boeing airplanes? And what about all this ethnic and religious hatred, to paraphrase John Dean "a cancer growing on humanity?" Doesn't our aggressive separateness, our passionate assertion of rightness only mirror that of those whom we profess to despise?

I don't like this war. Don't agree with it. I love America, the country which provided haven for my family, which permits me to freely, and even disrespectfully, to disagree with the President. I don't like this war, but more fundamentally I don't like where it may be leading us. I am wounded by my son's expression of being ashamed, and chagrinned that I feel a little bit like that myself. That's a high cost — too high.

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