Need a second to absorb? Read on for Abby's thoughtful, gentle reply.
DEAR ABBY: My problem is an interesting one. I am the president of a country I’ll call “The Untitled Tapes of Harmonica.” Our troops are currently fighting a war in another country, called “Iran.” Things aren’t going so well right now but, like most Harmonicans, my administration wants to succeed in Iran because we understand success in Iran would help protect the Untitled Tapes in the long run. Our goal is clear: a democratic and peaceful Iran that represents all Iranis.
But my real problem is with my father, who used to be president of the Untitled Tapes and also served as commander-in-chief during a previous war in Iran. For most of my presidency, my father has been very supportive of me and has treated me like an adult – and I appreciate that. Recently, however, he has begun telling me how I should run the war in Iran, among other things. He even went so far as to tell some of his friends to issue this report with all sorts of recommendations about the war, which I found very embarrassing. They even suggested that I withdraw the troops!
Abby, I don’t feel this should be my dad’s or his friends’ decision to make. They’ve already had their chance to have a war in Iran, and now I’m the president. They would not listen to me if the tables were turned, believe me. I am doubly upset because now the media thinks I should take their advice. I am a grown man, and I feel I should tell my father and his friends nicely, “I appreciate your advice, but please realize this is still my decision to make.”
Am I being unreasonable? I’m afraid that if I do what they say, my father and his friends will be a constant interference. — DISRESPECTED IN D.C.
When the subject matter is the president and his war follies, sometimes parody works better than anything to make a scathing social commentary.
DEAR DISRESPECTED: I have no doubt that you sincerely hope your war turns out to be a success. But from your letter, I’m not sure that you’ve developed a clear understanding of what it is you hope to achieve during this war. For example, success isn’t really a goal; it’s something you’ve earned when you accomplish a goal. You say your goal is a democratic and peaceful Iran, but you haven’t said how you intend to reach reach either benchmark. The end of a war is often accompanied by peace, but peace is not a military objective – no matter how much we may wish otherwise.
You sound like a very bright young man, and I can certainly relate to your fears of being overshadowed by a famous parent who happens to be in the same line of work. However, sometimes it’s helpful to listen to the advice of older people, who may have accumulated valuable experience before you were even born. They usually have your best interests at heart, even if you don’t understand now.
You might also consider input from the Irani people or a majority of Harmonicans when making your decision, if you feel uncomfortable following the advice of your father and his friends.