15 Years of War in Afghanistan – and What is Patriotism?

Take pause. Listen for an answer. Keep listening. Make art in response. That’s all I know to do. And perhaps this–give this video 8 minutes and consider how much history we’ve made–and how much has been lost–since these clips dominated our lives.

Fifteen years ago, so much more of “the world” was on “our side” regarding our nation’s response to 9/11. It’s hard to think about how much has changed in our “new reality” since then. Also, how much has been lost…and the fact that some of what has been gained (in intel, in experience, in insight) has been buried by politics or bureaucracy. I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to envision a “solution” to the Global War on Terror that I could believe in. The farthest my thinking has come is revealed in an essay I wrote for War, Literature & the Arts, “On Patriotism and GWOT.” Following that publication, a visit to speak with cadets at the United States Air Force Academy, where a handful of students were reading from Flashes of War, solidified further thinking about discipline and the imagination.

But fifteen years in, six of which I have spent writing about Afghanistan, and anniversaries like this leave me ideologically stranded. All I know is that where we’re at now–still fighting, still so much confusion, still so much violence–is never where I hoped we’d end up back when our country was still tender from loss. Back when we were still stocking up on duct tape and batteries, gathering at community centers and putting differences aside as we paused to consider the silence and conjure peace.

Out of that silence, maybe a clear path forward would have been possible, but if it was, we veered from it long ago. What will it take to find it again? Can our nation’s clamoring voices of complaint, of finger-pointing, of gridlock, of blame–mute themselves long enough to listen again? To make space for clarity?

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