In my corner of the world, early Spring comes like apolitician’s promise: lots of talk, but little action.
The months of March and April play out likerain-filled variations on winter’s theme: cold, wet,ash grey decay and death. So when the first,light-green buds on oak trees’ branches emerged, and the yellow and purple daffodils and crocusespushed tenaciously up through garden soil stilllittered with last autumn’s leaves, thedisappointments and weariness of winter somehow seemedto melt away, leaving behind something like hope.
And just in time, too.
About five weeks ago, after four years of steadilywriting some tens of thousands of words about thewrong-headed insanity of this Long War and the demiseof public politics, I suddenly stopped writing, unableto fight the good fight anymore, unable to look,unblinkingly, into the dark abyss, and record, insimple words and stories, my observations ofcalculated murder abroad and collapsing democracy athome.
In retrospect, I think that the long winter and theLong War had finally chilled my soul and broken myspirit. In fact, one raining evening, deep in March,as I stared out at the leafless trees along my street,it occurred to me that, no matter how many stories Itold, and no matter how many words I wrote, thoseflag-covered coffins kept flying home, under the darkcover of night, in a steady procession of green Armytransport planes — flag-covered coffins, almost rumoursby definition, denied photographic existence bygovernmental decree.
To make my resignation even worse, a new Conservativegovernment in Canada — my expatriate home — waselected. Immediately, they reversed the country’slong-standing pledge to peace and recklessly committedCanadian Forces to a new mission: fighting America’sAfghan leg of the Long War, not as traditionalpeacekeepers but as Pax Americana storm troopers.
With stunning hubris that ignored history and logic,the Canadian Forces were now engaged in Midland,Texas-style hunt-and-destroy missions, killingTaliban — and anyone who looked like a Taliban — inthe mountains and villages and cities of Afghanistan.
Worse still, like the American troops in Iraq, theCanadian troops in Afghanistan actively propped up agovernment whose “laws” were anything but democraticor free. Consider: with the Canadian Forces defendingthe city gates, the government of Afghanistanofficially demanded the execution of anyone whoconverted away from Islam.
Not exactly freedom worth dying for.
This all might have been darkly funny — exceptCanadian soldiers were now dying like Americansoldiers, their limbs and torsos shredded by roadsidebombs. Their bodies, face down, bleeding to death amidthe shrapnel and sand. And then, just when this wintermadness seemed darkest, the Conservative Canadiangovernment decreed that they, like the Americangovernment, would no longer allow the press tophotograph the returning flag-covered coffins of deadsoldiers.
Many in Canada, as Americans once had, howled inoutrage at this injustice of hiding the dead. Butnothing changed. It seemed war, like winter, respondedonly to its own nature.
Meantime, in America, as the long winter played out,support for the Iraq war nearly collapsed. Politicianson both sides of the fence — Democrats and Republicans — openly questioned the President’s judgment aboutgoing to war and openly questioned the President’sjudgment about staying in war. In fact, as far as Icould tell, no one, except for the President and hisminions, wanted war.
But nothing changed. The president just kept on lying.And Americans just kept on dying. And the meat grinderjust kept on grinding meat.
And somehow, with winter steadfastly holding onthrough March and April, and war still marching onwith it, I felt a growing resignation, as though mythumb were stuck in a leaking dike, with water rushingin all around me.
Why bother? I wondered. And so, I stopped writing andwatched war and winter overtake early Spring.
But then May arrived, and I saw those light-green budson my oak trees and the daffodils and crocusesemerging in my garden. Silly as it sounds, on thatfirst warm day in May, as I worked in my garden underan encouraging sun, it occurred to me that maybe therewas some hope.
I wondered: perhaps war, like winter, has a necessary,dark cycle, where the angry, blowing snowstorms ofFebruary must — by the natural order of things — giveway to the exhausted rains of March and the ash greyskies of April. Perhaps war, like winter, just endsone day, like the last gasp of winter in May, notbecause it is beholden to any politician’s promises orcalendar dates or planned changes of seasons, butbecause its time has simply come and gone.
It also occurred to me that, maybe, as much as warmust be opposed, it must also, as with winter, beweathered, leaving us waiting patiently for the returnof Spring and rational thinking and better timesahead.
So after many weeks of hopeless resignation, Ireturned again to writing, not because I expected tochange or stop this war, but rather because I hoped toweather this war, to outlast all its blowing storms,and to keep alive, amid the shrapnel and sand, somehope for better times ahead.