I did not watch the third debate between President Obama and Governor Romney. I simply did not have the emotional energy for it. As a resident of what feels like the mother-of-all-swing-states, Florida, I am utterly campaigned out. I hung in as long as I could through the rallies, the radio and television ads, the mailings, the calls to my cell phone, and even the advertisements on my online music. But they bested me.
Beyond my exhaustion with a campaign season that feels like it began three years ago, I have a much more deeply personal reason for avoiding this last debate on foreign policy. As a committed pacifist, I find myself deep in the heart of foreign policy this week, as my colleague and I prepared and presided over a service celebrating the life of an Army Specialist who was killed in Afghanistan just two weeks ago.
Foreign policy is not, in my life, a collection of sound bites or barbs hurled across a stage. It is not quips about strength or resolve or power. It’s not about redemptive violence or retribution. It is, however, about the life of a 24 year old, cut short by an explosion.
Immediately following the Department of Defense’s announcement of this soldier’s death last week my Congressional Representative, Republican Bill Young, chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee said to the Tampa Bay Times “Things have gone wrong in Afghanistan, something has to change. Too many people are ignoring that fact, and suggesting that it’s not that bad. But it is that bad.”
This week I have sat with a grieving mother, a confused and hurting community, and in the midst of my own grief. Foreign policy is simply not the theoretical shots taken at an opponent in the hopes of a victory in two weeks. Rather, foreign policy is the very real deaths of men, women and children, military-personal and civilians, the broken bodies and shattered spirits of those in our own neighborhoods and those across the globe.
In less than two weeks the campaigns will, mercifully, come to an end. It is my hope and prayer that on the other side of November 6 there will be an earnest conversation about the realities of more than a decade of war and the effect it has had on the very real lives of all who have been impacted.
We must talk about the gruesome and ugly realities of foreign policy. But we must also talk about the hopeful possibilities of foreign policy—time to talk about ensuring education is available to all children, even girls; time to talk about the economic opportunities provided by developing clean energy; time to talk about alleviating the crippling poverty endured by half the globe; time to talk about debt relief; time to talk about peace. In the meantime, I celebrate the life of a young woman who’s death I grieve and who’s life I celebrate.