Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.
Day Five Hundred Nineteen
After the drought, the deluge. It has been a month and half since we had any rain, but last evening the skies finally erupted. It is still raining now as I write these words, a steady, soaking downpour. The smoke from the fires across the mountains, which had been as bad as it has been this summer these last days, has been beaten from the sky by the rain. The air smells glorious. Damp earth and thankful vegetation. The sense of relief, after so much dust, smoke and despair, is palpable.
I can recall the moment when the two towers fell. It felt then like the end of an era and start of a new, uncertain one. The ending of things is often ugly, bloody, and the end of the era I came of age in is no different. It was announced some time ago that western forces were leaving Afghanistan, but now that the day is actually here chaos has been unleashed. As always, those who said they were building the state, its infrastructure and armies, were simply lining their pockets, leaving a hollow shell that quickly crumbled under the advance of the Taliban. Twenty years and what was accomplished both there and in Iraq, those twin responses to the twin towers? Nothing but blood and ruin.
The last twenty years have seen the decline of the American project. It’s institutions are sclerotic, it’s focus inward, its democracy teetering. In Afghanistan, those who we claimed to thwarting have been restored. In Iraq and Syria it is hard to say what will come next, only that the peoples of those places will have little say in the matter. Tragedy upon tragedy. Twenty years worth and no end in sight.
With our inglorious exit from Afghanistan (and I say our because the Dominions have been involved in that project from the beginning and many have died for it) we seem to be embarking upon a new era again. One of American decline and retrenchment. One of dislocation from climate change, that will undoubtedly spill over into wars and migrations that will destabilize the current order of things. To say nothing of what another year, and more, of the grippe reborn may result in. All of us will be struggling and uncertain as we try to go about our living in the face of all these crises that seem to be compounding on each other.
It is difficult to watch the scenes of desperate, despairing people crowded into the Kabul airport, climbing onto planes, clinging to them even as they take off. They know this may be their only chance to get out before the lives they had are gone. Some will manage to get out surely, but so many others won’t. They will be left to whatever fate awaits them, however grim. We will read stories about it in a few years time, of how terrible all that followed was for them, and we will think again of how awful it is and wonder what we could have done differently. And we will hope that someday we are not the ones crowding an airport desperate for any way out.