16 August 2021
People scrambling for a seat on a flight.
Bearded fighters in gilded halls of power.
Murals of women being painted over.
The President has left the country.
The new map a sea of red.
Public hangings are back in fashion.
Failure is the word of the day.
Blame is being passed around
In tweets and statements on TV.
First, I am numb and struggle for words.
Then heartbreak, sorrow, and rage.
This is against the cynics
Those that have always known
That Afghanistan won’t be Sweden
That it is a grave of empires
That negotiating with terrorists is futile
That nothing good has come of “us” being “there”.
I do not agree.
Girls know what they have learned in school.
Citizens tasted – a broken – freedom
To speak, to vote, to meet, to organize
They will remember how that feels
And not just bribes and night raids.
Small wins amid colossal mistakes.
Not today, but in the weeks
And months and years to come,
Leaders need to answer
For the mess they made.
But not today. Today, we fly people out
As many as we can
And welcome them with open arms.
When the planes are back
And the tyrants left in control
We need to talk
About interests and the mess we make in their pursuit
About commitment and the hopes we inspire
About the dreams we crush and the bravery we fail.
About strategy and coordination
About planning and assumptions
About preparing for the worst
While working for the best.
About caring for the details and the complexities
About the partners we support
And those we leave in the lurch.
Then, I hope, we’ll realize
(In)actions have consequences
What we do matters
We do not just live for ourselves.
(with thanks to Florence Schimmel for comments)