December 14, 2009

Long, Boring Post


If you like long, wordy, and boring posts, you're going to love this one. Otherwise, there are a lot of good blogs listed over there ---------------->
that will probably have better stuff today.

But there are some things bubbling here at O Dock that I feel I should comment on. That old line about fools rushing in, must have been written by someone who knows me.

When I started this blog, I wanted to try a few things that I don't see being done too much in other blogs I read (probably with very good reason). I thought, if the opportunity came up, I'd have a go at posting some original verse - one of those awful taboos that everyone warns you not to do on a blog. Last week, while my common sense was out to lunch, I got my courage up.

I'd watched an old Pete Seeger anti-war video from the late '60s (Mr. Tillerman had linked to it on his Facebook page) and I just couldn't get the tune or its message out of my head. Good ol' Pete was firing away at LBJ during the height of the Vietnam war. The song seems pretty tame now, but the folks at CBS were scared enough by it at the time not to air it (they later relented).

My poem was really something of a dodge because it let me voice a few abstract ideas without having to articulate them too precisely with carefully constructed arguments or supporting facts. Maybe some poets are just lazy historians. I was agitated about a few things and this was an easy way to blow off some steam.

I really didn't expect much response at all as people seem not to comment a lot about song lyrics or poems in blogs - at least not in the sailing blogs I read. And I'm not much of a poet, anyway.

But the theme of war raised some animated discussion here and, having wimped out in the poem, I thought I should clarify how I feel about the questions raised.

Most of us are against war on general principle, I hope, but the question of the day, as our president drafts his policy on Afghanistan is what constitutes a 'justifiable war', if such a thing exists at all.

I'm not going to attempt to answer that question here. We've been trying to do that for a few thousand years now without making much visible progress. And I don't want to stir up a lot of partisan political issues. I'll say only that I can't think of anyone other than the current occupant who I'd rather see in the White House right now grappling with the difficult decisions that must be made.

He revealed some of the personal anguish he's going through last week in the speech he gave while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize - an honor that must have surprised him more than anyone, as he's on the brink of escalating what has already been a long and bloody war.

I'm not saying that you should agree with our president on this escalation, or even that I do. But I think what all of us must do is to read that speech and his formal Afghanistan policy speech carefully and make an effort to understand all of the issues raised. And to follow our president's statements and actions very closely as he proceeds over the coming months. And to hold him accountable to his words and to his promises.

If anything, he's more likely than most of his predecessors to listen to well-voiced opinions from a concerned public. Learn what the issues are and have an opinion. Our most important job as participants in this lovely little democracy of ours is to pay attention.

What we do in Afghanistan may well turn out to be the most important decision of this administration, and possibly the most consequential issue of this period in history. Don't let your kids and grandkids accuse you of standing idly by as we slipped into another Vietnam. I'd be willing to bet that a lot more people will be following the march to the Superbowl over the next few weeks than will read the Afghanistan policy and Nobel acceptance speeches. If you haven't yet, the full texts are here and here.

And while you're reading, you may want to look at a great post that Yarg has put up on this same general topic. He's made a valiant effort to put a sailing twist on it - something that may make the subject more appealing than my little rant here.

Sorry, I don't often get very serious here, but this issue did come up and I thought it too important not to address.

We return you now to our regularly scheduled programming.



  1. Not boring to me :)

    ... but beware the flamers!

    I'm of course interested in the so called AfPak situation having visited Karachi twice and had the luck to see the cycle of 12 plays about Afghanistan at the Tricycle theatre earlier this year (search for Afghanistan or Karachi on my blog).

    However just to be even more controversial will suggest that the I-P issue is more critical and its a shame that in the US the topic is off limits to the MSM and almost all politicians.

    So its an area where bloggers can contribute something of real value - for example see Stephen Walt's blog at or that clearing house of I-P stories at

    (standing well back and putting fingers in ear in case of explosions)

  2. Obama sure can give a good speech, but if you’re a fan of Nobel speeches (and who isn’t), compare Obama’s speech to those of a couple of men of peace, MLK and the Dalai Lama. (, If you can stand an old English class classic, add William Faulkner’s speech to your reading (
    Obama is not even in the same league with these people. I think a “just war” speech that rationalizes our baser instincts will inevitably pale against speeches that help us see the very “nobelist” qualities of man. Those other guys are inspiring; this time, Obama is not.

  3. Some years ago, I had a student who was determined to enlist in the Marines, and, upon graduation from high school, serve his country in Iraq. I could not look at him without imagining the possibility of a “boy coming home in a box.” I thought about how much poorer the country and the world would be in that eventuality. I though about how much the cost would outweigh the potential benefit. So far, I have not looked at any kid in that context and not felt the same.

  4. Here is what I don't understand, if the nation and politicians think that our country should be at war, why do they avoid declaring war?

  5. Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
    George Washington

  6. Not really long, Not at all boring.

    The ONLY good WAR , was the band by that name.

  7. "...Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism...."

    How'd he ever say stuff like that with wooden teeth?

  8. thank you, ODocker!

    (mot de verification: "pyroc"! firey rock.)

  9. Interesting ... before I even read this post, I was planning a post on Five O'Clock Somewhere about the current situation in Albuquerque, where people are criticizing the high school JROTC programs as as serving up students to feed to the military recruiters.

    The thing is, it's the students who are NOT in the JROTC program, especially the lower-income ones, who are likely to enlist upon graduation and then come home as boys (or girls) in a box. The JROTC students are more likely to go to college, and if they go into the military, they become officers.

    As I type this, my iTunes is playing Christmas songs -- peace on Earth, and all of that.

  10. Yarg, I think I generally agree.

    This was probably one speech Obama couldn't have imagined he'd ever have to make, and I think he did well, considering the awkwardness of the situation. I thought it revealing because it showed just how complicated these decisions are when you're the one in the oval. He also notes the irony of how King's legacy was in part responsible for his being there.

    In a sense, it was easier for King or Gandhi to remain true to their core beliefs, just as it was easier for Obama to oppose the war in Iraq before he became Commander in Chief.

    I guess it's much easier, too, to be single-minded about these issues for songwriters, poets, and bloggers.

    Our president is just beginning his work. Time will tell. Newsweek, too.

    One thing that's certain is that he's probably more tuned in to the buzz on the internets than any previous president. That buzz had a lot to do with getting him elected. If you don't like what he's doing, let him know. The censors at CBS can't keep us off the air anymore.

    JP, thanks for the links.

    Carol Anne, turn up the Peace on Earth music.