As I write these words, it is a Saturday afternoon, with the swish of tires on rain washed streets. No jaunt over to the Island Park Craft show today.
For me, this is an afternoon to mull over some recent words I regret, and to consider the concept of home.
In my last column, I was cold towards the people of Afghanistan. I overgeneralized about cowardice. People I don’t even know. Later, I read a column by an American vet who spoke about Afghan soldiers who ran away. I initially felt justified, then uneasy, like a finger of guilt pressed into my shoulder blade.
I’ve never liked stereotypes and snap judgments. Here I was doing what I despised.
We know it took courage to work with Americans or for women to emerge from their physical and psychological burqas to transform their lives with education and work. These same women are now pushed back; dreams crushed. Terrorized. Some Afghans live in fear as the Taliban hunts down those who own a Bible. True religious persecution.
Words seemed to emerge from a hardened vein in my heart. Not who I want to be.
Despite criticism, most Americans left; consider 100 or 200 left behind compared to the 40,000 Brits left behind with the celebrated rescue at Dunkirk. Some refugees have been rescued. But many need escape and new homes.
The war was a mistake. But, like store signs sometimes say, “You break it, you buy it.” Despite needing limits, may we remember we are a nation of immigrants.
Refugees will need a home. And that reminds me of my own search.
My husband and I planned to return to Michigan. Our situation is not dire like refugees, but, for us, important.
I do miss the trees, hills, and Great Lakes. I miss museums, music venues, Eastern Market of Michigan. Detroit has great restaurants - Greek, Jewish, Arab, Italian. People? Yes, there’s some family for us.
But, personally, I am distant from friends. I hung out with a tribe of conservative evangelicals. My mistake. I was heavily involved – church meetings, Bible studies, worship teams, even a Brazilian mission trip.
In trying to re-connect, this past year, I find even the ones who were more moderate are unreachable. When I mentioned the pain of minorities and women under the previous presidency, I was told, “So it’s all about you? Got it.” Jesus’ declaration to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is ignored. Another attacked “demonic” vaccines. Biblical issues of poverty, sickness, or justice were abandoned. So – called “prophets” held more sway. One woman claimed I was listening to “the enemy.” Another called me an apostate.
I let them go.
It was difficult at first, but after 16 years, I have come to appreciate Fargo Moorhead – compact, with relatively low crime, low traffic, growing businesses, a good church. Often insular, it still has nice people, including those at some downtown shops or at Doubting Thomas Farm in Minnesota. Liberals and conservatives speak, and I’m blessed to have a space here to express what I truly believe, errors and all. At this point, it seems hard to return “home.” For us, an occasional visit suffices.
Sometimes I think Thomas Wolfe was right: “You can’t go home again.” For now, at least, the Fargo area is home. Thankfully. Maybe some Afghans will join us.
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.