The trail in Aliso Woods darkens as the sun slips behind the coastline ridges. I scamper between wild oats and tall sun drunken mustard, grasping the grains and flowers between hands that are suddenly those of a 12 year old. Groundhogs peek from furrowed tunnels, grabbing green grasses in their elongated teeth. Caterpillars perch atop swaying weeds like tiny dark holiday decorations. Overhead, a lone white kite hovers, wings fanning the sky, as her steeled eyes survey the grass for the last day's kill.
On the bike path to the east, a family rushes home before darkness consumes the remaining daylight. Children's laughter echoes against the narrow canyon walls as their father encourages them to hurry up. A small boy, pushing his bike up a crest, calls out, "I can do it. I'm OK."
Is this what we're fighting for?
Young sea lions frolic in the waters off seal rock, while elders bask on sun kissed ledges. Tall pelicans man the point as guardians, while cormorants stretch and preen. Silvery fins from a pod of dolphins break the water's surface, circling the rocky point in search of their breakfast. Waves of walkers round the point at Crescent Bay Park, stopping briefly to absorb the aquatic scene, "oohing" and "ahhing" at our magical coastline.
Main Beach hosts an early morning volleyball game, groups of coffee-drinking newspaper-reading folks fill the park benches and homeless gather near the chess set for conversation and camaraderie. Starbucks has its usual line, and James, Molly, Eleanor and Melinda cheerfully fill their patrons' odd requests.
Is this what we're fighting for?
The newspaper's headlines and photographs tear at my heart. What do I care if we have the palace? What do I care if we control the airport? I am grateful that a U.S. soldier renders first aid to an injured woman, but why did we shoot her in the first place? Why is the U.S. military rumbling down the streets of her home city?
A subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root, sent oil-well fighting teams to Kuwait well in advance of the first U.S. assault. Bechtel, Flour, Louis Bergen and the Parsons Group have been given bid sheets to estimate the price of re-building Iraq. Each of these contractors has deep political ties or have given generously to the republican party in the form of political action committee donations and soft money.
Is this really why we are fighting?
I was "told" (along with you), that large caches of weapons of mass destruction lay hidden in dark corners of Iraq, poised to be used against the United States, and that the U.N. inspectors would never find them in time. Protesters here and abroad disagreed. Worldwide, the chant was not to go to war, to let the inspections continue. The world requested a resolution that did not include bombing a poor desert nation with a sick dictator in control.
Saddam said, "I have no such weapons." President Bush disagreed, and utilized the emotions of Sept. 11 combined with "inside information" to begin an aggression without the support of his nation.
Is this what we are fighting for?
I have prayed that our soldiers would find the so-called weapons. I have prayed that the administration wasn't lying and that I could rally behind this disgusting masquerade of protecting the world, that I could find a way to stand proud of the path my country is taking. In the depths of my heart, I keep hoping, beyond prayer, that some overwhelming revelation about an evil Iraqi intent will surface, and we will be vindicated.
The world stands in collective sickness at our acts. What healthy individual, basking in 2003's brilliant gleam of technological advancements in health, energy and communication, could possibly support the destruction of a country?
And how can we, the citizens of one wealthiest, best educated and most advanced countries, re-claim our right to be heard?
If there is to be a fight, let it be for truth and justice. Let it be for global education, peaceful negotiations, exploration of the heavens, and an end to poverty and hunger.
I cannot alter yesterday, even with the best of my intentions. What I can do is utilize my voice (one of the greatest gifts of being an American) and the power of my vote. It behooves me more than ever to engage in the political process, at this moment when I feel it has failed me, to address the grievances that have brought us to this juncture, and to gather together with like minds to seek and create change.
Catharine Cooper is a member of the city's Open Space Committee, a local writer, photographer and designer who thrives in the wilderness. She can be reached at email@example.com