One of my favorite authors is Anna Quindlen, and the other day I checked out her book, Thinking Out Loud, from the local library.
It is a collection of her columns, and one, written in January of 1991, really made me pause.
A woman walks into a bakery and sees a sign announcing the price of bagels is about to go up.
“War and an increase in the price of bagels on the same day,” she says in this column.
“I hope he backs down,” says the baker.
“Who?” says the woman. “Saddam Hussein or George Bush?”
“Either one,” the baker says.
The column goes on from there….
War did break out that January day in 1991.
Still asking. And Anna Quindlen noted in that column, “This is personal.
“Most people agree that Saddam Hussein is pond scum and that he can’t be permitted to take Kuwait as though it were the lunch money of the littlest kid in class.
“But then they ask themselves this question: Would I sacrifice my child for this? And the answer is no.”
Another decade, another George Bush, and still we are asking this question.
Always the same. We are asking this question and many more. The questions are varied and yet, ironically, the same.
When will it end? How will it end? How do we solve the conflicts of the world?
Quindlen mentions that on the day that the Gulf War was declared, “real life was peculiar, with an edge of sadness and of slow motion, and a sense of New Year’s Eve gone nuclear: only one shopping day till Armageddon.”
Declared victory. The difference between then and now was that war was declared, and quickly declared victorious.
We watched a confident general declare it over. Our troops had performed extraordinarily, accomplishing exactly what they had set out to do.
My heart goes out to the families who have sent loved ones to the Middle East, and my praise goes to the soldiers themselves.
No matter how hard we might try to put ourselves in their shoes, I honestly don’t think any of us can comprehend what they are faced with, day in and day out.
Trying to understand. A snippet of a letter from a soldier, shared through the Internet, said we simply cannot begin to imagine the mind-set of the leaders in that part of the world, nor would we want to try.
Back in 1991, Anna Quindlen wrote, “I only hope that we will continue, when this is over, to take these issues personally.
“We should take personally the fact that we habitually give aid to the kind of men we can easily and accurately describe as monsters.
“We should take personally the fact that few politicians have had the guts or the vision to shape a coherent energy policy that would lessen our dependence on foreign oil.”
The next question. Saddam Hussein did not back down, exactly. He dug a hole and he was found and captured.
We celebrated for a moment in time, but that moment quickly opened to the next question. What now?