Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger Woods, Obama, and Afghanistan

So there it was this morning, two competing headlines: Obama Afghanistan strategy: More troops in quickly, drawdown in 2011 and Tiger Woods: I let my family down It was hard to tell what was the more important story. Honestly I wasn't sure which one to click on first. I clicked on the Afghanistan story, not because I'm above pop/gossip, I just happened to have already heard the latest Tiger news and figured I should find out more about the war I'm going to be protesting.

Tiger's sexual transgressions are as newsworthy as the President expanding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan to the tune of 30,000 troops. What does this say about our society? Is the media to blame? Now I'm all for dumping on the media. I believe they decide the important news for us, quite often, by the way they deliver stories. But in all fairness, I think it is quite possible that more people legitimately were interested in reading about the escapades of Tiger. Maybe this isn't as bad as it looks. Perhaps people are resigned to a certain level of powerlessness. I mean if they are going to send troops off to get killed anyway, why not read the story that you find more interesting? Or maybe entertainment, and in particular sports, serve as the "opiate of the masses", pacifying people and distracting them from the real problems our society faces. I think both assertions are true. So where does this leave us?

President Obama is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan, a war most people say can never be won. I heard on the news that Afghanistan has never been conquered, never ever. It's kind of like the Mapuche in Chile, you just don't fuck with them, it's simply not done. Yet here we are headed to war. Led by the president that just won the Nobel Peace Prize, the one that many hoped would end the wars we find ourselves mired in. Some will say that he is doing exactly that. He is finishing this botched up half done job left over by the Bush Administration. Well I say Hogwash. I say tell that to some child that will undoubtedly give up their life because of some U.S. soldiers bullet. Pardon my indignation but I will never support the war in Afghanistan because I don't support the motives of our government. The United States Power Structure never cared about the atrocities that women faced in Afghanistan until it was time to hunt Bin Laden and didn't care about Bin Laden because it ran to Iraq before he could be found. If they cared today, they would be spending billions of dollars on schools and hospitals and community centers. They would commit to Afghanistan the way the U.S. government did towards Europe during the Marshall Plan to the tune of 1.37 Trillion in todays dollars. And maybe, just maybe, the Afghan people would support the U.S. Government instead of the Taliban.

I do not blame people one bit for being more interested in Tiger Woods adultery than the horrific tales of never ending bloodshed that are the legacy of these wars we are fighting in the Middle East. Both stories are depressing but Tiger's story is palatable, not that different than something one of us could experience. In fact it's almost refreshing, Tiger Woods is one of us after all. There is nothing ordinary about the decisions U.S. power brokers make behind close doors. They stand there going over reports and assessments while ultimately acting as a judge and executioner for countless lives.

When the war in Afghanistan broke out, a handful of older activists here in Albany started a weekly vigil. They committed to stay there until the war ended. That was 8 years ago. And they are still there. Every Wednesday, rain, sleet or snow, they stand out there with signs saying "Stop the War". I credit these committed individuals and others like them for turning the tide of public opinion on the Iraq War. And now it comes back to the war that started this whole mess. And today was another Wednesday and those same activists were there. It doesn't seem like they will be leaving anytime soon.

And oh yeah, Tiger, I'm sorry most of us are searching so desperately for a distraction from the really depressing realities of our time. You are right, you and your family deserve privacy. You're current troubles are none of our business. Our real responsibility is to stop this war in Afghanistan. Forgive us if that task seems overwhelming. It's even harder than a hole-in-one.

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