Dear Mr. President,
I'm a control freak. I like to be in control of myself, my emotions, and the things that happen around me. Psychologically, this is probably due to the amount of time I spent feeling not in control of what what happening to me or what I was feeling as a child. I recognize that this is often problematic, as I can't control things like Al-Qaeda, or a person's access to a phone, or the time difference between here and Africa. My best friend, who has been in Burkina Faso for only a little more than a week, is being evacuated with the other Peace Corps volunteers. I'm assuming that this is related to the AP story I read earlier today, describing kidnapping threats from AQIM against westerners in Mali and northern Burkina Faso, though this is only speculation. Before she was evacuated, my friend was able to send me a text from a borrowed phone, and assure me that she is OK.
That was 9 hours ago. I have no reason to believe that she is not still safe, but, of course, my lack of control over the amount of information I'm receiving has me anxious and worried. Her friends and family have had sort of a phone circle going, making contact for the sake of our own comfort, as no one has any new information yet. It's funny the way that fear changes us. I've been angrier about this than I ever expected to be. Al-Qaeda's ability to disrupt and terrorize with just a threat is so frustrating. Also, while I believe that the wars we're fighting, the prisons we've built, and the murders we have sanctioned, ostensibly intended to keep us safe from these threats, are actually making the world more dangerous for Americans, I have no clear idea of what a solution would look like. I don't have any respect for the rhetoric, methods or goals of Al-Qaeda, but I do not believe that its members are wholly irrational beings, or that American foreign policy is not responsible for much of the antipathy that generates more Al-Qaeda members. What is most upsetting is that the people who will ultimately suffer in all of this are not the members of Al-Qaeda or the men making the decisions they find so objectionable, but those soldiers, civilians and volunteers like my friend who are caught in between.
I know that the US government will do everything in its power to make sure that my friend and the other volunteers are kept safe, or brought home, and I am grateful for this. I hope that it also finds a way to make more of the world safe for Americans who travel and work abroad- a goal that no amount of military might can achieve. We can't always help the way the Al-Qaedas of the world feels about us, but, speaking as a control freak, I think we'd win a great deal more good will if we accepted that there are some things we can't, and shouldn't, try to control.