When I started my blog recently, expert-types recommended I stick to topics in the realm of my expertise: parenting, breast cancer, chocolate. However, by nature, I'm a dilettante. And at this point in life, I reject the whole notion of confinement -- the same reason I only wear clothing that is loose, or has lycra. So I wanted to approach my blog the way I approach everything in life -- with freedom and flexibility.
The only restriction I placed on myself -- other than committing to blog every day -- was to stay away from politics. I covered politics as a local TV reporter but that was in my other life. People far more informed and articulate than me fill the blogosphere. I like to read them, but felt completely secure that I would never be tempted to join the political conversation.
I didn't even make it one full month into my blogging career before failing to keep this promise to myself. It officially goes down the toilet -- along with other equally sincere-at-the-moment resolutions such as diets, exercise, and cleaning out the garage.
I have decided to sacrifice my personal integrity because of George Bush.
George W. Bush. I've really tried to forget that he's still President. Most of the time it works. I've tried to deny it since the day he got there. Can't listen to him. Can't look at him. Can't stand the idea that he will forever in our history be linked to Abraham Lincoln.
I caved today because I read his announcement that he is about to reduce the length of combat tours to "make life easier for our wonderful military families."
Close to the top of my list of what "I Never Signed Up For" is the fact that I am now part of a military family. Someday, with permission from my daughter Alli, I hope to write the story of this episode in our lives. (Although she could -- and should -- write it far better than me).
My daughter, raised by a Vietnam war protestor and ultra liberal bleeding heart, is a military wife. Which makes me a military mother-in-law. Which means that I have a personal interest in Bush's announcement about shorter combat tours.
Last year my son-in-law Shane was deployed to Iraq. This isn't the time or place to discuss the fact that Shane, or any other American soldier, should not have ever been there at all. Don't get me started. I also want to stress that we are far more fortunate than military families whose sons and daughters came home damaged, or not at all.
Shane and Alli were prepared for his deployment of 12 months. Alli knew she would see him partway through that time when he would come home on leave. But while Shane was in Iraq, Bush upped the time served (notice how it sounds like the time a prisoner spends in prison?) to 15 months. So it turned out to be almost a year before Alli and Shane saw each other. Actually it was 314 days -- Alli counted them. 314 days gone, 18 days home on leave, and then Shane returned to Iraq.
While Shane spent 15 months in Iraq, someone else was counting days. And came up with the startling fact that Bush spent more than twice that long -- 30 months of his presidency -- either in Crawford or Camp David or Kennebunkport -- and not on the job working to bring my son-in-law home. Those "vacation" days don't even include the year 2008. And as long as we're counting, let's not forget the number 141 -- as of today, the number of days I remain in denial that he's still in the White House.
Maybe you can sense that I feel a little frustrated. And powerless. I guess my point here is for people to appreciate that these things we read about or watch on TV are landing somewhere. Each one with a ripple effect -- a tsunami effect at times -- that affects the lives of real people. People like me. And the people I love most in the world.
I still feel powerless to do anything other than what I just did -- vent about it.
It's all I can do when his announcements strike close to home. Where the heart is. Where it hurts the most.