It’s complicated.

How I feel about Biden and Afghanistan and the world is complicated.

Biden really screwed up.

Why are we still even in a country that we invaded because we wanted Bin Laden? We got him a decade ago. No answer anyone gives me will suffice because the truth is – outside of heated moments just after 9/11 when I really wanted retribution – I have always kind-of been an isolationist, against our country’s crusade-ish tendencies and angered by the thought that young men and women go off to fight in wars that aren’t ever about what politicians say they are about. I support our troops 100 percent. The people who get to send them out to do their bidding? Not so much.

Every president in my lifetime, maybe every president ever, has blood on their hands. The blood of 13 soldiers and hundreds of Afghans this week, the blood in Beirut in the 1980s, and the blood of the people living under the Shah we put back in power in the 1960s, and the blood of Kansans during their own civil war in the 1850s, and even the blood of a half a million U.S. citizens who’ve died from a virus we lied about and didn’t protect people from.

It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback. I don’t have all the information and I’ve never had to make decisions of such magnitude, but it just seems like we could have done some things differently. I don’t think we could have pulled such a large number of people out of any turmoil-filled country without casualties, but that doesn’t make what happened this week feel like less of a fail. Colin Powell quoted No battle plan survives contact with the enemy and perhaps that’s why we’re here today – failure to accurately predict and plan for all possible outcomes.

It’s heartbreaking, learning the stories of these soldiers – kids really – who were in a land very far away, helping to save the lives of strangers and trying to protect themselves and their comrades. It was all the more poignant for me this week because we were traveling around DC seeing federal buildings and museums, monuments and memorials. I was in my element – a history buff talking about the accomplishments or inventions of great Americans, some well-known and some unknown, in ways that I hoped would be interesting at 16 and 10. But as I looked down the wall of names etched in granite at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it struck me that those were the names of my Dad’s comrades. And that he was a young soldier once, in a land very far away.

“All of these people died?” Ella said. Yes, tens of thousands of people. It was a long war and it was the first televised war, where the American people had a small glimpse into what happens when they send their sons off to war. There was a lot of conflict about whether or not we should stay the course but one of the lessons I hope we learned is that it doesn’t matter whether or not we agree with the decisions of our leaders, we must always always always support the young people they send out into the world – who dedicate years of their lives to serving our country and our people, and who are committed to freedom for people everywhere.

The girls at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Just like everyone else on social media, I know pretty much nothing about what really happened this week and all the factors that led us to this point. And yet still I can’t shake the feeling that we could have done better. Maybe I’m all up in my feelings, but Biden really screwed up this exit. I won’t defend someone I voted for simply because I don’t want to admit that my candidate isn’t perfect or I was wrong. Our votes are complicated, or at least mine sometimes are. The truth is I’d vote for Biden again, given the same choices – my vote was for health care and against a man who abuses women. But I don’t feel good about it today.

As I stood at the wall staring at tens of thousands of names, I said a quick prayer for all the people who loved them. Their lives were forever changed – because of the decisions of politicians, because of evil in the world, and even because of the ballots cast by voters. I believe all of us will one day be accountable for our votes (or lack of participation in that regard), and I feel that responsibility today. It’s not just presidents who have blood on their hands – it’s all of us, too.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you: Forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone: Forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve: Forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ. Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of goodwill today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations, and all people, will stand accountable before you. ~ Rick Warren, 2009

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