#124 – Dick Bernard: The Ice on the Pond

In a couple of hours President Obama will deliver an important address on Afghanistan at The U.S. Military Academy at West Point NY. As is usual with these kinds of addresses, every body on every side knows everything about what is going to be said tonight, and is already, and will continue, to interpret what the address means from their viewpoint.
“The White House” knows this going in, and also knows essentially what the basically quiet “American people” are waiting to hear, and also what its long term objective is, and the President will deliver a carefully crafted and coherent message. In fact, the site of the speech, West Point, is part of the essential message: “we support our brave men and women who serve our country”. And it will be a genuine message.
I’ll watch the speech, and I’m interested in the words, but, truth be told, I’m far more interested in what is not so visible, in fact, what is not visible at all to most of us. It is what is below “the ice on the pond”.
In my neck of the woods, I have just begun to see the first ice forming on the ponds on my walking route. At this moment, it is still coming and going – the temperature has not been reliably below freezing*. Likely, permanent winter ice will happen soon and remain until sometime late in April, 2010. For about five months, we will not see water, other than the frozen shell which hides it.
Most of we citizens engage in a frustrating exercise of only watching the political “ice” from the shore. That is all we do (or are allowed to do). Only certain people are allowed out on that ice, to drill holes to ascertain how thick the ice is, etc. These people are political and media insiders, all with agendas of their own; often competing agendas. They shout out competing stories of what they see below the ice.
We spectators on the shore can see the ice. But we know little else, other than what we are told.
From my perspective, there is a lot of positive stuff going on below the apparently thickening of the ice in the war in Afghanistan (and in other arenas as well). The Obama administration is about making positive change.
Contrary to most of what I hear, I feel there are fresh ideas – fresh water – circulating under the visible ice. Every now and then little pieces of evidence surface, but I can sense that a change in direction is happening, slowly but surely.
I’ll listen to the Presidents words an hour or so from now. But mostly I’ll be watching for the usually subtle and quiet messages in the much longer term.
Positive change is happening. It just isn’t happening as fast as we would like. I’ll do what I can to help direct that change. That’s all I can do.
* – And speaking of change: I had a rule of thumb for years, here, that the first permanent snow of winter came in Thanksgiving week. This November, for the first time in memory, there was no measurable snow in this metropolitan area for the entire month. Evidence of climate change, or just nice fall weather?