On this date, May 2, 2011, my thoughts are with those who lost a loved one in war. Brutal battles cause such harm. Yet, curiously the seem never-ending. It would appear that humans forget their history. When attacked, people frequently attack back. With a loved one lost in war, or other destructive engagement, rather than relate to the pain of another who has experienced as they do or did, a pained person often seeks revenge. Combat starts a cycle; however, once commenced, it does not cease. Perchance, we might ponder the past and the people the circumstances of those who are no longer with us. Instead, today, as the headlines herald Obama Calls World ‘Safer’ After Pakistan Raid and Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces countless celebrate in glee.
This much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation,
and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
~ Robert F. Kennedy
copyright © January 7, 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
It is the seventh day of the month, a date that now lives in infamy. On this occasion, she passed. She was killed by an attack that was all too sudden. Her physical presence on Earth did not end in the month of December 7, 1941. This year is not that one. The events at Pearl Harbor did cause my Mom’s heart to stop. Indeed, she only ceased to exist in a form that I can see with my eyes or touch with my hand, less than a decade ago. Truly, it feels as if Mommy just took her leave. Today, I think of what it must feel like to all those in the United States and Middle East who are now characterized as the dearly departed. To have lost their lives in the throws of war must be awful.
There is no time to prepare or to feel as though you had an opportunity to “properly” say your good-byes. In the instant that a loved one is brutally taken away, rarely is family there. To know that someone so special was slaughtered in battle, or was a victim of “collateral damage,” must make a family member cringe. The declaration of death must feel as a new unwanted beginning, not an end,
I know for me, in every second, Mommy is still with me. All these years later, I mourn my loss. Oh, if only I could bring her back. She enters into my dreams almost daily. Since childhood, I knew, if she were gone, I might not be able to go on. Today, on the anniversary of her bodily discorporation, I mourn, as I trust she would, the casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Israel, and anywhere that war delays, defers, or denies family time, space, and a proper setting in which to grieve.
Unreported by United States Armed Forces, the Bush Administration, or the American free press, it was estimated that since the US-led invasion began, as of September 2007, over a million Iraqis were killed. Opinion Research Business, a prominent British survey agency, approximated 1.2 million Iraqi residents violently realized a horrific conclusion to life. At times, entire families were among the fatalities, survived by only friends, and relatives who lived. That does not negate the notion, that someone, somewhere, suffered a loss when each one of those individual lives was snuffed out.
Unlike in my situation, those who loved the dearly departed Iraqis, had no warning. The persons who live to lament were not able to visit their beloved before their final breath. Opportunities to say good-bye were few, if they existed at all. The bombs blasted. The bullets pierced the delicate flesh of the persons now fallen. Survivors were left only with their sorrow. Sadly, some probably regret they could not save a cherished soul. While I might relate to that feeling, at least I know my Mom passed quietly, safely at home, in the company of those nearest and dearest. She went to her rest in peace.
In Afghanistan, the challenges are equal to those in Iraq. Homes sit snugly in a war zone. Soldiers, who are suspicious of Afghani natives, surround local communities. Troops are also found within indigenous societal circles. Weaponry is wielded. No innocent man, woman, or child is out of harm’s way. When a friend or family folk is maimed or murdered, neighbors may wish to send condolences, as those close to my Mom did. Colleagues may yearn to congregate around a casket and cry. People may seek closure. Cremations, with a chance to offer ceremonial respects, might be as is customary. Yet, again, since American and allies attacks commenced, citizens of Afghanistan cannot do as my relatives, and I had done when Mommy departed.
No one is certain how many have passed in the roughed terrain of Afghanistan. The Pentagon does not release statistics of the insurgents killed. Nor do they dare calculate the numbers of blameless civilian losses. The United States Armed Services applaud the accuracy of air strikes. American military speaks of the smart strategy.
(F)or all their precision, American bombs sometimes take out the wrong targets. As U.S. air strikes doubled from 2006 to 2007, the number of accidental civilian deaths soared, from 116 to 321, according to Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon targeting chief who tabulates civilian casualties for Human Rights Watch (HRW), an independent research group. By his count, the death toll among civilians so far this year [September 2008] is approaching 200.
The military dismisses such tallies as exaggerated, and their provenance is often murky. . . .
Whatever the tally, officials both inside and outside the U.S. military say attacks that kill civilians occur with distressing regularity; they generate headlines only when dozens die. Afghans vividly recall the July 2002 bombing of a wedding party–celebratory gunfire led to retaliation by an AC-130–that killed up to 48 civilians and wounded 117 in Oruzgan province; many were women and children.
This past July, 47 people were killed and nine wounded on their way to a wedding in eastern Afghanistan. Among the dead were 39 women and children, including the bride-to-be, Afghan authorities said.
What of the families, and friends, of those who survived? How must they reconcile the loss? Joyous, the beloved went to a celebration. Yet, they never returned. They cease to exist, taken down by a missile. How must the living feel?
For the people who were close to these sweet spirits and lived, July must be as January is for me, a reminder of what was, would have been, and will never be. The difference is, for all the persons, perhaps hundreds or thousands in Afghanistan who were touched by those who perished while at a wedding in 2002 and on their way to nuptials in 2007, they know a life was cut short by unnecessary combat. Beautiful beings were blow into oblivion.
Yet, all the while, people in the States, those who purchased and produced the deadly artillery, pay little attention to what does not affect them personally. Indeed, on this January 7, 2009, the death toll on foreign shores mounts, and many in America think that fine. As long as it is not their Mom, Dad, son, or daughter, citizens in this “civilized” country will continue to plan inaugural parties, propose to escalate combat in the Middle East, and sanction the strikes that ensue in Gaza.
Oh, some may protest. A few will state they cannot endorse the murders. Others; however, will justify the cause for they will speak of Hamas as the enemy, evil, just as they do of those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Justice is served, the American Administration will assuage, as they offer a convenient truth; terrorist must be eliminated.
In truth, as long, those who inhabit the world’s superpower do not suffer, do not experience the loss, the United States will do little to interfere, to impede, what through their dollars, and decades of support, they have endorsed.
Perchance, my Mom, today, yesterday, and forever gave me a gift that gives even when she is far away, one I wish every American might receive. Mommy taught me to empathize, to truly place my heart in the being of another. She modeled what most dare not muse.
Mommy, who never wished to hurt any one or another entity, understood how bereavement affected me. She knew; when the soul of someone is lost to this world, I ache. Hence, she stayed on Earth so that I might see her one more time, hold her hand, and say all that we might. When she knew I could, and would not regret, my Mom wished me well. “Have a good trip,” the lovely Berenice Barbara said as I left her physical presence. “You too,” I replied.
It was January 7th, a day that lives in infamy for me, and one that I trust will be tarnished for those in foreign lands who lost a loved one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, or anywhere on this globe.
May we all rest in peace.
References and Resources for Reflection . . .
- Obama Calls World ‘Safer’ After Pakistan Raid By Steven Lee Meyers and Elisabeth Bumilller. The New York Times. May 2, 2011
- Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces in Pakistan The New York Times. May 2, 2011
- More than 1,000,000 Iraqis murdered. Opinion Research Business. September 2007
- Afghan Civilian Deaths: A Rising Toll. Time. September 4, 2008
- Is the Real Target Hamas Rule?, By Ethan Bronner. The New York Times. January 3, 2009