01 October 2007

You’ll have your victory tomorrow…

or the next war is free.

We are blessed to live in a relatively stable society. One of the blessings of this stability is a great deal of predictability. That is, most of us are able to live fairly predictable lives, predictable in a good way.

The city nearest to my present location is 32 miles away. I can tell you just about exactly how long it will take to drive from a specific building here to a specific building in that nearest city. When I leave for work in the morning, I know exactly what time I need to leave because I know exactly how long it takes from the time I walk out my door, arrive at the building I work in, and make it to my desk – twelve minutes. Not ten. Not fifteen. Twelve.

When I mow the grass here, I know how long it will take. When I put something in the microwave I know just about how many minutes it will be before I’m eating. When I go to make a pot of coffee, I know how long it will take. When I sit down to watch the news, or anything else, I know how long I’m going to sit and watch before it’s over. If I take a trip to my parents’ house, I know almost exactly how many hours that trip will take. When I mail something, I have an idea when the package will arrive at its destination. When I see a crew break ground on a new building, I can fairly well predict how many days, weeks, or months it will be before the building is completed (assuming weather conditions are favorable). And unlike countries with parliamentary democracies, we also know how long our administrations are going to be in power.
Yes. We live fairly predictable lives.

We ask, “How long will it take?” and are accustomed to getting an answer that sticks. And if it takes longer than the time we were given we may get a discount, or better: “Your pizza in thirty minutes or its free,” “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” “Your pictures tomorrow or they’re free,” and so on.

There are some disadvantages to living in such a stable society, however. One such is that it can give some people certain unreasonable expectations. Some people think its absurd not to be able to predict how long anything and everything will take. Like, for example, a war.

A caller to Rush Limbaugh’s show (2nd hour, 26 September 2007) wanted to know how much longer its going to take to win in Iraq. Limbaugh told the young man that we’ll have to remain there until we win. (What other answer can we expect?) The young man (I think his name was Mike) asked Limbaugh to define winning in Iraq. To each formulation of an answer to the request for that definition, Mike replied, “Yes, but how long is that going to take?”

Four times, at least, he asked: Yes, but how long is that going to take? How long is that going to take? How long is that going to take? How long is that going to take?

This young man is clearly a product of the times and therefore thinks successfully finishing up a war is something like nuking something in the microwave.

How long is this war going to take?

Unbelievable.

Actually, no it isn't. Now that I'm thinking about it, I recall reading something by Isaac Asimov (well, I'm pretty sure it was Asimov) a few years before he died. Asimov was lamenting the fact that it was becoming difficult to retain young scientists. The reason? They were too impatient. Scientific breakthroughs take a great deal of time, if they ever come. These young scientists were not interested in working for indefinite lengths of time before achieving success.

The fault is not entirely theirs, I suspect: very little in our society is designed to instill patience ("long suffering") in people.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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