FOUR YEARS LATER |
February 06, 2007
Four years later, here we still stand and fight, cycling back to America across the jet stream, across the ocean, to heal, to re-supply, and then we return to the desert. Four years and some of us have been here two or three times. We are doing a good job, but it's hard work. Four years and here we lie at night, under these particular constellations, thinking about home. How could we not?
Who is that woman sitting with her knees pulled to her chest in the window on the 30th floor of a hotel in New York City staring down at the lights and lost in her own dark thoughts, who, when she focuses her eyes one way can see the scene below her, but when she focuses another way can see her own reflection? What’s she thinking about?
And who is that young man in Salt Lake City driving way too fast and tapping his hands on the leather covered steering wheel as his music thumps, on his way to work for which he is late again, thinking about his girlfriend and perfectly content because it's payday?
Whose child might that be at the playground, going up the stairs and down the circular slide over and over, smiling at everyone so sweetly and only now gaining enough confidence to try and climb the big red curved ladder?
And who is that girl with the hazel eyes staring intently at a copy of the selected poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson? Isn’t she too young to be interested in Emerson? Is she in college? Where does she live? How came she to be in this library, sitting next to an artificial fireplace for warmth in her lovely beige sweater?
You there, you solitary figure, looking so stoic. I’m in the air outside the window, hovering over the place where the ocean batters the continent. I'm just a drifting thought on a solitary reconnaisance. You’re sitting in a lighthouse reading a book by candle. The glow from the flame lights up your bearded cheek. Why read with a candle when you have such a powerful light? Your beam sweeps the land, then casts out over the Atlantic ocean with a force that is almost natural, as if man did not place it there. It cannot reach the other side. You have no idea how symbolic you are right now, out here on the coast of Maine all alone.
I sense you all out there, though you may think not of me.
And I accept you for what you are, stranger or friend. I need you to be there because you make my home land what it is. You are all, friends and strangers alike, so sacred in my mind. For what is American life -- what is a wait in line at the post office or a drive to the store -- without a sea of human faces? Some faces are beautiful, others mean and hateful. Some are inspiring, while others are frightening. But their very presence is part of what makes America great. What are friends if there are no strangers?
The idea of you all begets a powerful memory, a force of nature, an alternate reality, something I would never give up on, a caring voice on the end of a telephone line, a mystery, the smile of an old friend, a nice thought, a funny story, a well-meant gesture.
You dwell out there forming your own self-portrait of America -- the trucker driving 600 miles a day through the snowy mountains of Wyoming, the young boy at football practice in Maryland, the aspiring writer in New York, staring out at the city for inspiration, the jazz singer looking for part time work in the French Quarter, the grandfather in Arizona who swims two miles a day, the housewife in Pennsylvania who makes scrapbooks for her kids, the young man in Basic Training learning how to become a soldier, the hippie chicks at the University of Montana hanging out on the steps of the Liberal Arts building, the newborn baby in Minnesota lying in her crib and gazing wide-eyed at the shadows created by her nightlight, and all the nameless faces and moments that make up our history.
Just remember, America, it doesn't matter where they send us, or for how long. I can promise you we'll give it our best. We'll sacrifice all. And we will always support You.
"All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers." --Francois Fenelon