In the ongoing mystery which is figuring out why anyone in their right mind would support George W. Bush for President, comes one of those kindergartner type questions that sometimes go unasked. So simple is the question and so ingenuous is the motive for asking that when finally asked, it quite literally takes one’s breath away. Or at least the words that breath was intended to propel forth.
“Why are they fighting now?”
This from a 6 year old I know who was listening to his mom and I discuss with the kind of well worn passion two folks in agreement - but still needing to get it on record – conjure up when in full-steam-ahead mode.
We’d been yakking away, comfortable in our well worn groove, a little dampened by Daily Show re-runs, but still buoyed by the odd new newspaper or magazine show revelation detailing another twist or turn in the Bush/Kerry two-step tango, and the most recently released bodycount, when my friend’s six year old – who in all honesty should have been fully occupied colouring in the spots on a cartoon puppy dog – asked into a rare window of simultaneous coffee sipping opportunity, “Why are they fighting now?”
The friend and I exchanged looks. If he’d asked about Swiftboat veterans, or Alabama Air National Guard records, or even the name of Jon Stewart’s new baby, we could have happily obliged. If he’d wanted to know our opinion on the futility of fighting a war against one man, or sending young people to their death to attack those simply suspected of producing WMDs (or which other countries were – as we rattled on – actually producing them) she and I would have had answers – or at the very least, strongly presented opinions.
But why the U.S. is still there, why people continue to be injured, maimed and die – it occurred to me that I had no opinion at all. And by the looks of things as she modeled her impression of the expression ‘gobsmacked’, neither did the friend.
From chattering away in a comfortable give and take two part harmony – allowing each other to ratchet up the horror with each escalating incident (it goes something like this: GF: What are Americans thinking? Me: It’s unbelievable that W should be so high in the polls when the war has proved a sham! He can't run on the truth - his only option is to attack Kerry! GF: Those bastard Swiftboat veterans! How dare they support a man who ran away from a fight by slandering a guy who served! Me: Did you hear about the guy who blew the whistle on the Abu Grhaib torture? His family were harassed by their neighbours and had to move away, while two towns over, one of the abusers was given a yellow ribbon parade! GF: The world is not safer from terror since 9/11 – we are in greater danger than ever since W has made the whole world hate America more! and so on…) we sputtered and stumbled as we tried first one and then another explanation.
“Well, the Americans are there to bring Democracy to… well, no, that was never really going to be a goer…”
“They’re there to support the Iraqi insurgents to fight their own peop… well, actually – that’s never really been a viable strategy…”
“Wait! They’re there to make the region safer for the simple innocent Iraqi citiz… just a sec – they’re dying in droves too…”
We sort of crumbled to a halt.
“We don’t know why they’re still fighting honey,” said my friend to her son. “They’re just there. The President says it’s a good thing, but everyone is unhappy and people keep dying. It’s a terrible tragedy.”
“Can’t they just all go home?” He asked, still concentrating on the puppy’s spots. “Can’t they leave those people alone? Isn’t it their place?”
“I don’t know,” we said in unison. (Both of us relieved to be onto something we could say for sure.)
“That’s stupid,” the kid said. Then he went to get sharper crayons.