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9/11 Fatigue

Olga Bonfiglio

Dear Mr. President,

I saw a clip of your news conference the other night and I am concerned about you. Your hairline is receding. Your face is wan and getting more wrinkled. You couldn't stop giggling when you talked about World War III.

Is this job getting to you? Are you not sleeping at night? I think you may have 9/11 Fatigue.

9/11 Fatigue creeps up on you when you least expect it and it occupies every minute of your day. You start to see boogey men around each corner and tense yourself even when you're trying to relax. You lie awake at night looking for ways to protect yourself from those who would harm you because, of course, you never know whom to trust. Worse yet, you spend endless hours trying to persuade others to join you in fighting an ever-elusive enemy. It's almost as bad as post-traumatic stress syndrome that soldiers must contend with after serving in Iraq for their second, third, fourth and even fifth tours of duty.

I'm really worried about you, sir, because as the only visible leader left in government, if you fall, we all fall with you. So you must take care of yourself and here's my best advice: spend more time out in Nature. I'm teaching my first-year college students to do this in a class called "Seeing the World at Three Miles an Hour." It focuses on helping the students to slow down enough to notice nature, which I contend will allow them to enjoy life and get in touch with their deepest selves. Recently they went on a 75-minute walk in the woods where they had no cell phones, no computers, no ipods, no other people around to distract them. They experienced solitude.

You'd be amazed at how differently they looked after spending this short time in nature. One young woman couldn't stop dancing she was so exuberant about her contact with the trees, their falling leaves, the crunching of her feet on the trail. Another student meditated on an anthill. Instead of crushing this little cone of sand as she usually does, she gingerly walked around it and felt compassion for the creatures scurrying in and around their home. Yet another student spent her time thinking about her father who had died five years before. He was a nature lover and had passed on that passion to her.

I'm so excited about what happened to my class. Their fatigue from the past four weeks of school just seemed to lift right off their faces. And so, sir, since your job seems to be wearing on you after nearly seven years, get some rest. Take a walk in the woods. (And for God's sakes don't ride in your pick-up truck or cut brush.) Experience the wonders of nature. Listen to the trees, talk to them and ask them for advice. (Stay away from the pines, however, they tend to pass along the secrets they hear). Take off your shoes and walk in the grass. Breathe in the autumn air and let it waft through your hair. Take a sketchpad and draw a log, a mushroom or a rock. Forget about the terrorists for a little while.

I strongly urge you to do this nature walk on your own. Even though the Secret Service has to watch over you, order them to stay out of sight so that you can just be alone with yourself for a change and not have to remember that you are the president.

If you did these things every day for an hour I think you would see the world much more differently, just as Eleanor Roosevelt did on her visits to Rock Creek Park near D.C. She found solace by simply staring at a sculpture there as she endured the difficult days of a Depression AND a war. People hated her, too, and blamed her for things that went wrong-just as they do you with this Iraq thing. And after she left the White House she continued to be a great woman just as you aspire to be a great man.

As you know, 9/11 changed everything and no president has ever had to deal with such challenges before. Lincoln had the civil war; Wilson had WWI; and FDR had WWII, but these were minor compared to what you must do to overcome those bastard terrorists. It must be exhausting work! But you must take care of yourself because, well, after all, you're the president, Mr. President.

Better yet, think about resigning. Then you could spare your health-and the nation's. As the decider of the free world, you just don't seem to have that fast ball anymore to tackle such major league problems as global warming, massive migration, overpopulation, disease, hunger, oppression and social injustice. You've carried the ball this far in this difficult post-9/11 era and I thank you but I must say, things seem to have gotten worse in the world.

Besides, you'll need your strength for the post-presidency, which is bound to last 20 to 30 years. You're undoubtedly a long-ball hitter like your parents!

Of course, you'll want to set the story straight about your legacy. Darn media won't get it right without your direction. Or you might consider jumping out of plane like your father did in his post-presidency just to prove that he wasn't a wimp. In that way you could show the world that you're still relevant. That's far more heroic than using veto power over those pathetic Democrats. You could also wear that cute little jump suit again. Gosh you looked so good back then when the mission in Iraq had been accomplished. Those were the days!

Please, sir. Give it a rest, sir. You'll be doing yourself-and all of us-a big favor.

Olga Bonfiglio is a professor at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq. She has written for several national magazines on the subjects of social justice and religion. Her website is Contact her at

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