Women have always been the feistiest of warriors when need be. Now, says Michele Willens, we are needed again
A lot is happening with regards to Afghanistan: CIA guy Leon Panetta is going to the Department of Defense and military god David Petraeus is going to the CIA. And now we have the death of Osama Bin Laden, which momentarily satisfies a sense of vengeance. What does all that mean as we enter the spring of our tenth year of that doomed and futile conflict? Probably nothing in the remotely immediate future. Speaking for myself, I am more interested in the ten American officers who were shot and killed one day last week while attending meetings in Kabul.
I feel like I have awakened from a ten year coma.
Make that a thirty year coma, as that was the last time I actively spoke out and protested against the insanity of modern day warfare. Then, well, you know — one goes on to a career and marriage and children, and priorities go elsewhere. Not to mention, they got rid of the draft that would now be affecting my 18 year old son. So why aren’t I shouting and writing and marching anymore? If not for me, then for the families of the almost 1500 American soldiers who have died and the 11,000 who have been injured? It’s a question a lot of us bloated boomers should be asking ourselves.
I think mostly about women, since we instinctively have understood the folly of grown people duking it out and the arrogant presumption of one country (ours) barging in uninvited. We appreciate the emotional repercussions of losing the boy we once held in our arms.
One of my first summer jobs was volunteering for an organization called Another Mother (I wasn’t one yet) For Peace. The beautiful actress Donna Reed was one of the founders of the group whose poster that proclaimed, “War is not healthy for children and other living things” became a familiar fixture during the heated Vietnam years. Where are those mothers today? Was our outrage simply about keeping those close to us safe at home?
Women have always been the feistiest of warriors when need be. We “manned” the home front during World War II (otherwise known as the last good war.) We were important and effective voices against the bad war of the ‘60s. Now, we are needed again.
I want to start a group called BAR. (Boomer Activists Reunite.) Requirements for membership? One must be prepared to withhold a vote from anyone who does not actively espouse getting our men and women out of Afghanistan. I don’t mean in that nebulous 2014 withdrawal plan the Administration espouses; I mean right now.
I remember working on an anti-Vietnam campaign whose slogan was “out of Asia or out of office.” It was highly effective and elected officials heard the message. I truly believe Barack Obama could be a hero if he would simply stand up, stop the bleeding in Afghanistan and say, “hey, it’s not working and it’s time to stop.”
And if you think this is old left wing jargon coming back to life, note that right wing columnist Peggy Noonan is now saying almost exactly the same thing. I heard her on Morning Joe this past week reminding sleepwalking citizens that our country continues to spend $2 billion a week in Afghanistan. Just think of the schools that money could be improving, the debt it could be relieving, the care it could be providing.
I have spent most this past year writing about aging issues — and believe me, I don’t like them any more than you do. I won’t stop worrying about the aches and pains and wrinkles and spots. But at the same time, I am determined to re-start my long dormant social conscience and activism. Bin Laden is dead. Enjoy the moment … then meet me at the BAR?
Michele Willens is a journalist and playwright who coined the term “tweens” for the New York Times. She is editor of FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change, a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearance.