A Day That Lives In Infamy

OsmDd

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

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 . . .

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A Day That Lives In Infamy

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 © 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.  The year was not 1941.  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.  

In every moment, she 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.

Veterans Day; A Time to Remember Wars End

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

As many do on Veterans Day, I pondered the profound effect war has on the world.  Indeed, today, the battles aboard met me at my door.  I never imagined that brutal combat might enter my home.  I am an active peace person.

This Veteran’s Day weekend began, and I recalled the history of this holiday, holy day.  It was eleven o-clock hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice went into effect.  At the time, this truce was thought to be significant beyond the moment.  As the combat came to a close, worldwide people concluded this protracted battle was “The War to End All Wars.”  Since then, throughout the planet, we have seen many more militarized mêlées. Hence, the clash at the turn of the twentieth century became known as World War I.  A second followed decades later.  Today, the President of the United States of America, threatens, there may be a third on the horizon.  The number of skirmishes in-between is countless. 

It all seems senseless to me.  I am grateful that those close to me prefer peace.  If someone I love were away at war, I could not bear the stress.  Soldiers suffer; many are killed.  Some return home disabled.  I know people say these are the “lucky ones.”  I wonder.

In that first “Great War,” almost 10 million solders died while fighting in the trenches.  Six times that number, upwards of sixty million lost their lives in the Second World War.  Fifty percent of those that passed were innocent civilians.  The blameless are often affected by our blood baths.  Never did I think I might be among those that would literally feel the pain.

Then and now, war takes a toll.  Families are separated, physically as well as philosophically.  People are torn apart and asunder.  a temporary proximal distance can be distressing.  An academic detachment can be upsetting.  The two collectively can fracture a family; the combination can also bring relatives together.

I come from a long line of peaceniks.  For generations, my family has marched in hopes of bringing world harmony.  My grandfather saw no reason for war.  My Mom could not rationalize a feud.  I cannot comprehend why nations or individuals engage in combat.  My sister feels the as Grandpa, Mommy, and I do.  Violence begets violence.

I recall decades ago, Lisa campaigned for the peace candidate.  Our nation was at war and Lisa thought this unwise and wrong.  She met her husband while the two worked towards global goodwill.  Once married, my sibling and her spouse created domestic tranquility in their domicile.  Peace is the policy they actively embrace.

Nineteen years ago, their son was born.  The two nourished and nurtured the little boy.  He grew and grew.  Jason enrolled in every possible activity.  His interests were vast.  However, according to Lisa he never truly enjoyed school. 

At an early age, Jason decided he wished to help others.  He took part-time employment at the Veterinarian office in town.  Jason volunteered at the Youth Center.  The young lad loved to sing.  He was often a soloists in chorus.

Sports did not escape the young man’s eye.  Jason took an interest in football and golf.  In time, technology consumed him.  There was talk; perhaps, he would study computer sciences.  Programming may be in his future. 

This Fall Jason registered for college.  He began his freshman year months ago.  My nephew expressed an interest in the armed forces.  Friends of his were off to fight in the current conflict.  Lisa and Nathan were thankful, the Marine Corps turned him down.  This gentle giant was a little too chunky; he also had asthma.  The recruiters suggested he lose weight, become healthy.  Maybe then he could join the “few, the proud.”

I heard little more and thought Jason might become enamored with school. Study in subjects of interest to him might stimulate the mind in an unexpected manner. After all, Lisa is highly educated, as is Nathan.  Perchance, Jason would follow in his father’s footsteps.  A Ph.D., Doctorate of Philosophy, might be in Jason’s future too.

Time marched on.  Weeks went by and we did not talk.  That is not unusual.  My sister and I are not emotionally close.  Nor do we live near each other.  The difference in our ages had an affect on our relationship from the first, as did other dynamics.  None of which have I ever understood.  I do not even think I know what all these are. Nevertheless, we try to keep in touch, to empathize with the other.

Then it came.  I received a small white postcard in the United States mail.  Slowly the word traveled across the country until it reached my hands.  The starkness of this cardboard communiqué was as harsh as the message.  Mechanically printed on the stiff paper were the words, “Jason has joined the Marine.”  Although the stamped script was meant to be delicate, the message was anything but.

It was the evening before I would walk to a peace protest I regularly attend.  I know the body count for this, the Iraqi war.  Close to one million innocent civilians have passed.  More die daily.  Do I dare quote a figure for allied military deaths.  Each day, the number increases.

On this Veterans Day weekend, the war touched me personally.  I never expected this.  I could barely breathe as I attempted to come to terms with what my sister and brother-in-law must feel.  I wanted to telephone them.  I told myself it was late.

The next morning I rose and dressed in white as I do each Saturday.  I hope to make a statement as I stand on the corner with my index finger and third digit extended in a sign of peace.  On November 10, as people passed by in their cars, some off to shop in Veterans Day sales, I stood silent. I said thank you to those that honked or waved in support, just as I have done for years.  However, on this day, I was preoccupied.

Do I pray for the safety of my sister’s son more intensely than I might for those I have never met, or is each life of equal importance.  I recall weeks earlier, another peace protester was extremely upset.  A family in an automobile stopped at the traffic light screamed at her.  “Traitor,” they said.  “Terrorist,” they cried.  This woman, the mother of a soldier fighting in Iraq could barely contain herself.  She was hurt, fearful, and angry.  The activist felt a need to hold her tongue.  Yet, she also wished to explain.  She thought to tell this carload, “Enlist; my son did!”  However, she wondered whether they would understand or care.

As they drove on in their late model gas-guzzler, she whirled about.  Protesting for peace, she yearned to be as tranquil as she wants the world to be.  Yet . . . her heart hurt.  A fellow protestor shared her pain with us, those she trusted to remain calm.  Each of us that stand on the sidewalk, holding our signs knows, we are in a precarious position.

As the nation mourns the war dead on this Veterans Day weekend, one young man swore at me, “F*** you!”  I said nothing.  Agitated, as he entered the intersection, he threw his empty water bottle at the horde of demonstrators.

Moments later, another twenty-something chap, tore into me.  I will not repeat the foul remark this prime-to-fight fellow made.  I am not warlike, no matter the circumstances.  A statement such as that curdles my blood.  The stench of such language is powerful and awful.  My mind raced.  Each of these criers was the same age as my nephew.  They too may have recently enlisted.  I know not.  Perhaps they survived a stint in the Middle East and were back.  However, appearances led me to believe they were different.  As Jason prepared to enter boot camp, these lads toddled about town in their flashy vehicles, lashing out at a small female who carried a sign, “Love, Not War.”

After the rally, I telephone my sister Lisa.  For the first time in a long time, we connected deeply.  Although neither of us knew what to say, we chatted endlessly and easily.  War brought us together.  As we pondered the possibility, a life might be lost we were touched deeply.

Often as I stand at the peace corner, or even when doing my daily deeds, I try to imagine what the families of soldiers and civilians affected by war must feel.  I understand that relatives unite at services for a fallen soldier, sibling, spouse, parent, or a proud Marine.  I do not want to experience such a gathering.

On this Veterans Day, I ask, I pray, I plead; may this war be the last, the one that ends all wars.  May we agree to establish an authentic armistice and settle into peace, prosperity, and a calm for all.

Jason, Lisa, Nathan please be well.

For Jason, Basic Training begins early in December 2007.  Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for February.  As every other person effected by the war beseeches, please stop the madness.

“Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.
~ Thomas Edison [Scientist, Inventor]

Veterans Day Reflections and Resources . . .

  • Source List and Detailed Death Tolls for the Twentieth Century Hemoclysm
  • Feature Articles: Life in the Trenches.
  • Marine Corps News.
  • Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.
  • AntiWar.com.
  • Most Recent Casualties. Washington Post.
  • 2007 Is Deadliest Year for US in Iraq

    Apparently, the “Surge” is successful.  In 2007, the number of fallen American soldiers “surged.”  Iraqi civilian deaths do not dwindle.  Close to a million people, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, individuals that were and are loved even after their passing lost their life as the battles surged.  The Administration wishes to focus on the reduced number of fallen allied forces in October, and perhaps, citizens will celebrate that circumstance.  The drop might be considered a slip, a slide, or the result of an American “Surge.”  However, others might realize that overall, the increased troop strength allows soldiers to enter areas formerly considered inaccessible.  Hence, with more American men and women in country, inevitably there will be increased losses. 

    On this date, the American public does not know whether to cry or stay the course.  Perchance, Party affiliation will determine how you read this news.  Most of us realize, protest as we might, we have no choice but to follow our presumed “leader.”

    2007 Is Deadliest Year for US in Iraq
    By Lauren Frayer

    Baghdad (AP) – The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the deaths of five more soldiers, making 2007 the deadliest year for U.S. troops despite a recent downturn, according to an Associated Press count.

    At least 852 American military personnel have died in Iraq so far this year – the highest annual toll since the war began in March 2003, according to AP figures.

    The grim milestone passed despite a sharp drop in U.S. and Iraqi deaths here in recent months, after a 30,000-strong U.S. force buildup. There were 39 deaths in October, compared to 65 in September and 84 in August.

    Five U.S. soldiers were killed Monday in two separate roadside bomb attacks, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, director of the Multi-National Force-Iraq’s communications division.

    “We lost five soldiers yesterday in two unfortunate incidents, both involving IEDs,” Smith told reporters in Baghdad’s heavily-guarded Green Zone. Later, the military said four of the soldiers died after an explosion near their vehicle in Kirkuk province, and one was killed in Anbar.

    With nearly two months left in the year, the U.S. toll has already surpassed that of 2004, when 850 troops died – mostly in larger, more conventional battles like the campaign to cleanse Fallujah of Sunni militants in November, and U.S. clashes with Shiite militiamen in the sect’s holy city of Najaf in August.

    But the American military in Iraq reached its highest troop levels in Iraq this year – 165,000. Moreover, the military’s decision to send soldiers out of large bases and into Iraqi communities means more troops have seen more “contact with enemy forces” than ever before, said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

    “It’s due to the troop surge, which allowed us to go into areas that were previously safe havens for insurgents,” Danielson told the AP on Sunday. “Having more soldiers, and having them out in the communities, certainly contributes to our casualties.”

    I can only bow my head and say aloud, “May we all rest in peace.”  Even those less personally affected by the war cannot help but reflect on the pain the battles in the Middle East breed.  Violence begets violence.  As American expand the attack, we reap the rewards aggression delivers.  Death tolls fill our coffers, coffins.

    Death Touches US All, United States Citizens and Iraqi Civilians

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It was a lovely Saturday evening.  We had no idea that within minutes, the telephone would ring and we would hear the news.  A young woman, a beloved wife, the sister of eight siblings, and an associate of ours, had passed.  Prior to the call, we did as Americans frequently do.  Four of us piled into a late model automobile and drove down quiet streets.  It was after dusk, early in the evening, when we arrived at the elegant restaurant.  The lights were low.  The ambiance was tranquil. 

    The hostess directed us to our table.  She gave us a window seat.  A stream surrounded the building.  Ducks, geese, and swans, gently swam in the water.  Birds quietly passed overhead.  The server bought each of us a cool glass of iced water.  Then he asked if we would like coffee, tea, a carbonated beverage, or perhaps an alcohol based brew.  We had many choices.  Food was placed in front of us.  The supply of fodder seemed endless.  Music played.  There were no bullets or bombs blasting.  Conditions and circumstances were unlike those in Iraq.

    However, for a moment, we felt as the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and extended family members of the more than 655,000 plus Iraqi civilians who have died must feel; ‘How could this happen?’  One so young and vibrant is alive and well in one instant and then, she or he is gone forever. 

    Teairra Washington-Thomas, twenty-four years young, lost her life when a drunk driver smashed into her vehicle.  The automobile Washington-Thomas drove flipped over and over again.  The long and graceful neck of this youthful woman snapped.  As we heard the scant details, we observed the beauty of nature just outside the window.  Our heads bowed.  We verbalized; Iraqi citizens must mourn their loses each day.  How devastating.  How painful, how purely paralyzing life must be for those that struggle to survive in Iraq.

    According to a July 2007 briefing paper published by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq, civilians in that country are confronted with catastrophes each and every day. For those that reside in a war-torn nation circumstances are never calm.  The innocent do not anticipate a quiet night with friends and family.  Entertainment is rarely elegant.  Entrées are not well prepared and abundant.  Water is not served; nor is it wasted.  Good health, education, and employment are sadly but a dream.

    Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004.

    While some might muse life for Iraqis is far better since the fall of the Baath Party, arguably, many would say that is not so.  Granted poverty was prevalent under the autocratic rule of Saddam Hussein; however, in 2002, before the brutal American assault, life for Iraqi citizens was improving.  Iraq was beginning to adjust after years of sanctions imposed by the United States.  The embargoes impacted this Middle Eastern nation, as much as the once American sponsored dictator himself did.  Prior to the unilateral invocation of war, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported;

    On a recent evening tour of Baghdad car dealers and shopping districts, it was easy to see that conditions, despite 12 years of sanctions in the wake of the Gulf War, are improving, even if only slightly.

    Streets and storefronts are bathed in light, thanks to electrical plants that now provide 24-hour power. Food, clothing and electronic equipment is everywhere.  Kinetic crowds of young men and women crowd the sidewalks.  Restaurants and pizza parlors are packed.  Theaters show movies from Italy, France, and even the United States, although most of them, judging from the billboards outside the theater, appear to be B-grade or worse.

    For the more intellectual crowd, there is the Orfali Art Gallery, which has offered exhibits, movies, and musical events since 1963. On this night, a CD movie of an opera, “The Tales of Hoffman,” was playing on an outdoor screen, while, inside, an Iraqi musician was playing her own compositions on the piano.

    Decidedly, life was not good for the then “mind-numbing” ninety-percent living in poverty prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein; however, it was better than it is now.  As bad as dearth is, the possibility and stench of death is worse.  The difference between scarcity and running scared is sizeable.  A person can be poor, and still feel secure. 

    The truer, deeper crisis began when Americans physically set foot on Iraqi soil.  When nothing seems certain, when soldiers can be seen on every corner, and each wields a weapon, when neighborhoods are battlefields, no amount of money ensues tranquility. 

    The war on Iraq is not novel; the form of destruction is.  When we look back on the history of Iraq, we must acknowledge America’s influence.  Long before the first bullets whizzed past the heads of innocent Iraqi civilians the United States worked to undermine the government it put in place with full knowledge that blameless people were being hurt.  Sanctions against Iraq secured an uncertain future for innocent civilians.  Survival was threatened.  Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people perished.  Among these half a million children.

    Comprehensive Economic Sanctions: A Badly-Flawed Policy

    When the Security Council first imposed sanctions on Iraq in 1990, many diplomats, scholars, and citizens believed that comprehensive economic, sanctions were innovative, benign, and non-violent. Some believed that sanctions offered an ethical foreign policy tool to combat threats to peace and security without causing unintended suffering.

    It is now clear that comprehensive economic sanctions in Iraq have hurt large numbers of innocent civilians not only by limiting the availability of food and medicines, but also by disrupting the whole economy, impoverishing Iraqi citizens and depriving them of essential income, and reducing the national capacity of water treatment, electrical systems and other infrastructure critical for health and life. People in Iraq have died in large numbers. The extent of death, suffering, and hardship may have been greater than during the armed hostilities, especially for civilians, as we shall see in more detail below.  Comprehensive sanctions in Iraq, then, are not benign, non-violent, or ethical.

    The 1977 Protocols to the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war include a prohibition of economic sieges against civilians as a method of warfare. Ironically, legal consensus does not yet define economic sanctions as subject to these laws, which apply in warfare and which legally require belligerents to target military rather than civilian objectives. Sanctions operate in a hazy legal status between war and peace.  Unlike the dramatic, visible toll of military action, sanctions take their effect gradually, indirectly and with low visibility.

    However, even when we attempt to shine a light on such criminal actions, those that impose “diplomatic” warfare defend their right to do so.  You, dear reader may recall, former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was asked of how Americans could justify such cruelty.  Journalist, Lesley Stahl delicately broached the subject, during an interview aired on 60 Minutes.

    Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

    — 60 Minutes (5/12/96)

    Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s quote, calmly asserting that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, has been much quoted in the Arabic press. It’s also been cited in the United States in alternative commentary on the September 11 attacks (e.g., Alexander Cockburn, New York Press, 9/26/01).

    But a Dow Jones search of mainstream news sources since September 11 turns up only one reference to the quote–in an op-ed in the Orange Country Register (9/16/01). This omission is striking, given the major role that Iraq sanctions play in the ideology of archenemy Osama bin Laden; his recruitment video features pictures of Iraqi babies wasting away from malnutrition and lack of medicine (New York Daily News, 9/28/01). The inference that Albright and the terrorists may have shared a common rationale–a belief that the deaths of thousands of innocents are a price worth paying to achieve one’s political ends–does not seem to be one that can be made in U.S. mass media.

    It’s worth noting that on 60 Minutes, Albright made no attempt to deny the figure given by Stahl–a rough rendering of the preliminary estimate in a 1995 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that 567,000 Iraqi children under the age of five had died as a result of the sanctions.  In general, the response from government officials about the sanctions’ toll has been rather different: a barrage of equivocations, denigration of U.N. sources and implications that questioners have some ideological axe to grind (Extra!, 3-4/00).

    As I reflect on the bereavement in my own life, and ponder the end of a young life, I cannot help but wonder how we prevaricate and posture, “We Think the Price Is Worth It.”  I can only assume that those that advocated for restrictions and chose not to work directly with Iraqi leaders think an amicable agreement is not possible.  For these Ambassadors, war, militarily or otherwise is the only option.

    It seems we forget how precious live is, unless or until death is delivered at our doorstep.  Many Americans look at the recent findings and think nothing of the numbers.  Nonetheless, I present the figures.  My hope is that your heart will be full.  Tiaerra Washington-Thomas may serve as a reminder.  Every life is dear.

    Nearly a third of Iraqis need immediate emergency help as conflict masks humanitarian crisis, say Oxfam and [The NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq] NCCI

    The violence in Iraq is overshadowing a humanitarian crisis, with eight million Iraqis – nearly one in three – in need of emergency aid, says a report released today by international agency Oxfam and NCCI, a network of aid organizations working in Iraq.

    The agencies’ report “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq” says although the appalling security situation is the biggest problem facing most ordinary Iraqis, the government of Iraq and other influential governments should do more to meet basic needs for water, sanitation, food and shelter.  According to the report:

  • Four million Iraqis – 15% – regularly cannot buy enough to eat.
  • 70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.
  • 28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.
  • 92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.
  • More than two million people – mostly women and children – have been displaced inside Iraq.
  • A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
  • Homelessness, helplessness, horrific circumstances unimaginable to the average American pass for normal in the life of Iraqis.  Citizens of the United States of America caused great damage before they launched the first bomb.  Today, we, the benevolent people in a civilized society claim to care.  However, as we jaunt about in our jalopies and cozy up to our computers lest we forget “Their blood is on our hands.”  In other nations, friends or foes, are dying a slow and awful death.  In my mind, there is no excuse for man’s inhumanity to man.  Can we ever truly justify homicide, slaughter, murder, or a massacre? I think not.

    As we go about our work and improve our life style, let us consider more than the cost of gas, or the quality of our neighborhood.  Please ponder, “No man is an island.”  I ask each of us to bear in mind if my brother suffers, so too will I.  The death of one affects us all.  Please let us embrace life; work for peace, prosperity, and equality.  May our mourning extend to those we have yet to meet.  Teairra Washington-Thomas, may you rest in peace.  May your passing help guide us all.

    Be Kind.
    For everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.

      ~ Plato

    Sources, Resources, References for Life . . .

  • Woman charged in crash that killed 3, By Jason Meisner.  Chicago Tribune. August 5, 2007
  • pdf Woman charged in crash that killed 3, By Jason Meisner.  Chicago Tribune. August 5, 2007
  • ‘Huge rise’ in Iraqi death tolls.  British Broadcasting Company News. October 11, 2006
  • U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup, Trade in Chemical Arms Allowed Despite Their Use on Iranians, Kurds. By Michael Dobbs.  Washington Post. Monday, December 30, 2002; Page A01
  • pdf U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup, Trade in Chemical Arms Allowed Despite Their Use on Iranians, Kurds. By Michael Dobbs.  Washington Post. Monday, December 30, 2002; Page A01
  • Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq. Briefing Paper.  Oxfam.  The NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq.  July 2007
  • New Report from NCCI & Oxfam: Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq.  NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq. July 2007
  • Nearly a third of Iraqis need immediate emergency help as conflict masks humanitarian crisis, say Oxfam and NCCI.  Oxfam Press Release. July 30, 2007
  • Iraq ‘is not Afghanistan.’ By Larry Johnson.  Seattle Post Intelligencer. Monday, October 7, 2002
  • Iraq Sanctions:  Humanitarian Implications and Options for the Future.  Global Forum Policy.
  • “We Think the Price Is Worth It,” Media uncurious about Iraq policy’s effects – there or here. By Rahual Mahajan.  Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, [FAIR]. November/December 2001
  • In Life and Death We Trust


    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    They say, “Only the good die young.”  Perhaps, that is true.  My Mom took her last breathe on Earth twenty years earlier than many of her relatives.  You may recall that only weeks ago, a dear departed from my life.  Phillip passed just more than a month after his fifty-fifth birthday.  Days ago, the nation was told that a fifty-seven year young Elizabeth Edwards has an incurable cancer.  Might she too perish before she has had time to truly live.  Each day we lose our younger generation to war.  Drugs take too many lives.  Anna Nicole Smith and her offspring Daniel left G-d’s green Earth very recently.  Today we learn that Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary has a lesion on his liver the outlook is not good.  Might the purely partisan Progressives ponder, ‘Is this man among the splendid.’

    I believe we all are divine.  Our politics, or our lifestyles do not determine our worth.  We are all equally revered in the eyes of any Lord.  Science makes no distinction.  However, I do wonder, does a holy being decide whether one must pass, when, or why. 

    Does Free Will play a more important role?  What of those deaths that are caused by another?  Is human insanity the stronger influence?

    As I reflect on cancer, I continually conclude, much of it is environmental.  I do not know why some are more susceptible.  Theories abound.  Living close to electrical wires, near freeways, on the banks of polluted waterways seem to have an effect.

    Habits can be killers.  Smoking might take a life; then again, it might not.  Imbibing alcoholic beverages does damage.  Yet, not all “drinkers” die from this “dis”-ease.  Food sustains life and destroys it.  Illnesses such as diabetes are often the result of overindulgence.

    Another adage states everything happens for a reason.  Is the rationale for our passing plausible? 

    When we lose a parent, particularly at an early age, is there some lesson to be learned?  If a mother and father depart, each before we are adults, the heart often becomes hardened.  People often become protective.  An individual that shuts out pain, or attempts to, usually creates greater heartaches for themselves and others.  Yet, fear of being alone or abandoned, left behind again, often causes us to hurt ourselves.

    I believe much of what we do gives rise to our own agony.  It seems to me, so much of what kills comes from within.  Perchance, that too is as it must be.  We know not why we feel as we do.  Our lessons loom large.  They can be painful, and all consuming. 

    At times, we drastically decide to take our own lives.  Numerous individuals think suicide does not make sense.  I can only surmise that those that journey into jeopardy are led there for reasons that remain a mystery to most of us.

    On many occasions what cause us to cease, to exist no more as Earthlings is not within our control, even when we think it is.  Thus, I ask again, ‘Why must we leave this life before we think we are done?’

    I personally must believe in Karma.  I do not think life is the luck of the draw.  Actually, I do not think luck is a valid determinate of much, if anything.  I trust that we are goodness.  When we share that quality with all others, when we care, sincerely, when we give to all others equally, and when grace is our guide time and again, then the powers that be honor us.

    We may depart from this planet sooner than we wish to.  We may leave loved ones behind.  However, unbeknownst to us, our work is done here.  We have achieved what we could not imagine.  Destiny calls us.  There are other lessons to learn. 

    I believe that we may have to live on Earth again.  Our bodily presence may differ.  Perchance we will encounter those we met in this life in our next, perhaps not.  Those others may have completed this path.  Their trail may deviate from ours.  Nevertheless, they will always be with us. 

    People are our foundation in this existence and though our physical memory of them may fade as we enter the next generation, they are our history.  Mentors, muses, and mystical influences come in many and every shape and form.

    I believe that we must have faith.  Those that pass are good.  They have come into our sphere for good.  We are changed for the better to have known them, even if we disagree with their politics or lifestyles.  We need not stay silent when people perform, postulate, or practice in ways that we think inhumane; actually, we must not.

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
    ~ Martin Luther King Junior

    Let us speak of the taboos . . . sex, religion, and politics.  Please discuss what disgusts you . . . abuse of drugs, alcohol, or power.  Chat about life and death.  Learn what you can while you live.  For if you believe, as I do, what you do not garner in this human form now, will have to be found in a later experience.  The next may not be as pleasant. 

    Nirvana, the attainment of enlightenment comes when we know to our core what is correct.  For me, love and peace are the only absolutes.  I ask that we work towards these.

    Elizabeth Edwards, Tony Snow, my thoughts are with you.  I trust that you are traveling down the path that is best for you.  In this human form I cannot know where you will go.  I only hope that we will meet again in a wondrous world filled with love and peace.

    Peace and Passing . . .

  • “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship.” In Memory of . . . By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  March 11, 2007
  • Tests Show Snow’s Cancer Has Returned, By Peter Baker.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 11:34 AM
  • pdf Tests Show Snow’s Cancer Has Returned, By Peter Baker.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007; 11:34 AM
  • White House Spokesman Snow has Recurrence of Cancer (Update6), By Roger Runningen.  Bloomberg. March 27, 2007
  • The Elizabeth Effect. By Chris Cillizza.  Washington Post. Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • Edwards: Wife’s cancer returns, campaign goes on. Cable News Network. March 23, 2007
  • Reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith dies at 39.  Cable News Network. February 9, 2007
  • Inquest Into Death of Anna Nicole Smith’s Son, Daniel, Begins.  Fox News. Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship.” In Memory of . . .

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In the last sixteen years, I have only used the word in my writing.  It just does not seem apt for me anymore.  In 1991, my Grandpa passed, or as some say, he died, although he never did.  I am reminded of this today for someone I knew from afar for many decades, and met face-to-face only a year ago on this same date, took his last breath this afternoon. 

    It is a somber day; yet beautiful.  Phillip, is gentle man, a giant.  His heart is, to coin an expression, more golden than gold.  His spirit is softer than the yellow metal is in its purest form.  Phillip’s goodness is great.  You may think it odd that I presume to know so much about this man.  After all, we only spoke on a few occasions in the past year.  However, I am closely acquainted with Phillip’s family.  I have, by extension been apart of this loving circle for generations.

    On March 11, 2006, I spent hours chatting with Phillip.  We discovered all that was between us.  Until then, we never understood that we were truly connected.  Without communication, there is much conjecture.  When we open our hearts and minds much is realized, at least Phillip and I thought so.

    Our conversation was deep; it went on throughout the day and into the evening.  We spent hours relating to what was, is, would be, and could be.  I never felt so safe, so sane, as fortunate to be part of his, my, or our family as I did on this date a year ago.  Strangely enough, when we first spoke Phillip was sitting in a sacred chair.  It is my Mom’s favorite chair.  Mommy settled into that seat for years.  She read, smoked, smiled, and laughed, all from that chair.  I felt certain she was sharing the wooden bench with Phillip as he and I chatted.

    No one sits in that maple structure anymore and has not since Mommy took her last breath.  My father gently looks over at the white and wood construction often throughout the day and every evening.  He has for years.  He discusses the day with Mommy as he sits across from her.  Fresh flowers are neatly positioned in front of her fixture regularly.  Father always buys her favorite blossoms and talks to her about his choices.

    When Mommy’s body, in a physical sense was here on Earth, each morning my parents would brew their first cup of tea and walk through the garden examining every new shoot on each beautiful plant as the tea steeped.  They kept a pictorial log of the gardens growth.  They mounted photographs on a rolling file so that they might flip through these, as if watching the transformation through time-lapse photography.

    Mommy and the love of her life were both avid readers.  They frequently exchanged books and articles.  They still do today, although Mommy sends her circuitously.  Nevertheless, my parents still share.

    I too share with Mommy.  She is so very much a part of whom I am, what I think, say, do and feel.  She is forever with me.  Now, she and Phillip are sharing or so I imagine.  Perhaps, when he sat there in her chair with her, she and he knew.  It was time, time for them to meet and be one.  Phillip is my father’s younger brother. Yet, Mommy and Phillip  had never met.  Families do some not so funny things in the name of love, caring, concern, or knowing what is best.

    I suspect, as I think about the life after this Earthly existence, those of us bound by the properties of this planet rarely imagine what is most important, love and peace.

    After I learned Phillip was lost to my physical touch, I looked around me.  I examined all my possessions and wondered were any of these truly valuable.  Did my clothing, my car, even my home have any actual worth.  Were these assets or distractions?  I pondered whether life itself was significant.  What is the meaning of it all?  I could think to leave this planet, for I do inquire what is the point.  Yet, I think that decision would not be wise.

    I have to believe there is some reason I am here.  My Grandpa taught me so much.  He gave me reason for living.  Grandpa taught we to be open, honest, curious, and concerned.  Grandpa, born more than a century ago was, is, in fact a peacenik.  Grandpa regularly recited . . .

    Hearts, like doors, will open with ease,
    With two very, very little keys.
    And don’t you know the two of these
    Are “Thank you, Sir” and “If you please.”
    Grandfather Mitchell memorized . . .
    “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
    Grandpa felt deeply, ‘Love always endures.’  What seems like centuries ago, I yearned to visit a beau.  This magnificent man lived states away from where I resided.  Roundtrip airfare was two hundred and eighty nine dollars.  I certainly did not have dollars to cast to the wind, only to watch them fly across the country.  To this day, I do not know when I mentioned the subject to my Grandpa.  Surely, I never expected, nor did I ask him to pay the price of such a costly ticket.  Without hesitation, he did.  If you knew how extremely frugal my family is, you would trust, this was weird, wonderful; ye still bizarre!  Nevertheless, it happened.

    I could not get over such a gesture!  I thanked Grandpa over and over again.  I was and to this day, am grateful for the gifts he gave me, this one and the less tangible treasures.  Grandpa turned to me one day and said, “Betsy; No one does anything they do not really want to do.”  He assured me he offered me the opportunity to travel for that was what he really wanted to do.  While he appreciated my expressions of gratitude, I need not thank him again.  My going and enjoying was his pleasure.  For Grandpa facilitating growth was love and love was the reason for living.  Sharing love brings peace.

    Grandfather Mitchell taught my Mom the same.  Love and peace were forever his lessons.  The scientific method was his preferred tool for instruction.  Grandpa gave Mommy the freedom to think and to be who she was naturally.  My Mom is, was interested in every entity.  She was a scientist, just like her father.  He was a Chemist, a Pharmacist, and a lover of people.  She was a Social Scientist, a little lessen enamored with human foibles.  As a child, Mommy saw too much pain.  It hurt her heart.  She longed for love and peace and worked to create it.  She did.

    Observation, examination, and experience were my Mom’s mentors.  Mommy embraced learning easily.  Her father, my Grand encouraged little Berenice Barbara to explore and share her discoveries.  The two chatted often.  They were, they are, two great minds with millions of thoughts, each inspirational.  They imagined all the people, sharing all the world, and living in harmony.  I trust they still do.  I suspect now that Phillip has found his peace, he has joined them.  The three are together giving rise to greater love.

    The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
    ~ Morrie Schwartz [Sociology Professor]

    My Mom wanted me to learn as she had.  Curiosity continued to be the teaching method of choice; love and peace were still the curriculum.  Berenice Barbara the parent had two overriding principles.

    “Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt anyone.”
    “No one has the right to tell you what to think, say, do, feel or be.”
    Mommy never did.  If I asked for her advice, and on occasion, I did, I would hear the previously stated philosophy.  Oh, if only I knew what made me happy.  If only I was certain what was wise.  I find no joy in their departures; although I have never felt they left me.  I am in some ways more with my Grandpa and Mom now then I was in life.  I feel their presence. Rarely, if ever do I speak of them in past tense.  I definitely do not say; nor do I believe they “died.”  I feel their love and I am at peace.

    This is exactly what I was saying to Phillip little over a month before he passed.  Phillip expressed his deepest fear.  The doctors had expected him to exit Earth months ago.  Physically, by all accounts, Phillip was ready to pass.  However, he stayed.  When asked why he lingered, Phillip shared he did not wish to leave his two daughters alone.  He, with help from his wife’s spirit, raised them since they were very young children.  Becky passed on Mother’s Day decades earlier.  The girls are in their early twenties now, still so young. To be without a mother and a father, Phillip did not wish to do that to them. 

    I was visiting at the time he made this statement, though I was a room away.  Upon hearing his reflection, I knew I must speak with Phillip.  I entered his hospice room.  I proceeded to his bedside, walking right past his mother and sister.  I put my face to his and began to tell my tale.

    I said, for as long as I could recall, my worse fear was I would loss my Mom.  I missed her even when I was in the same room with her.  She was [is] so alive, infinitely interesting, open, brilliant, and vibrant.  I had hoped to pass before her.  Surely, without her I would fall apart.  How would I live? Who would teach me as she had. 

    I was close to my grandfather and feared his demise; however, it was different.  To this day, I am unsure how, for my Grandpa engaged me for hours daily in my younger years.  I even lived with him for a couple of months when I was eleven years old.  Perchance, I had accepted the convention that Grandfather’s pass, since my paternal Grandparents were never on Earth in my lifetime.  I know not.  I did understand that though Grandpa’s body was not visible.  He still lives large in my life.  Only last evening I quoted him on a blog.  I attributed his words to him.  Grandpa lives!

    Nevertheless, without Mommy, I knew I would not function.  As I attempted to tell Phillip this, I cried uncontrollably.  Finally, gasping for air, I quoted Morrie Schwartz of Tuesday’s With Morrie fame.  Professor Schwartz told his former student, author Mitch Albom,

    “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
    Tearfully, I told Phillip my Mom never left me.  She is so much a part of who I am in every moment.  Berenice Barbara is within me.  I am as close to her as ever.  She still teaches me.  I also share the lessons I learn from her with others.  I assured Phillip as best as I was able, he was not leaving his daughters or other members of his family.  He was only changing the way in which he would be with them.

    After I spoke, a hug festival ensued.  Love and peace filled the room.  Grandpa and Mommy were there with us all.  The two are still teaching.  Yet, much remained unsettled.  It is challenging to grasp the unknown.  Yet, I must trust that ultimately Phillip has.  Today he decided to take his last breath as he held his daughter’s hand.  I hope she too was [is] able to understand he is not gone. Only his appearance differs.  Amy and Stacy, I love you so.  Your Dad does too.  He will continue to be there for you.  He will teach you now as he was when you were younger, as he did while working through his own rite of passage.

    Another relative of mine, Nicholas has been ill for years.  He too is young, still in his fifties.  His son has not yet graduated from High School.  I wonder if Nicholas might also want to be there for his family.  Might he muse that though his body may wither away, he will not.  If only we knew to our core, that death is not our undoing.  We live in and through all those that we touch.

    I kiss your sweet face Phillip.  I would ask you to say hello to Mommy and Grandpa were I not able to do so myself.  It is almost midnight and I must sleep.  I was never able to slumber well unless I said “Pleasant dreams” to those I love before I went off to bed.  Thus, I wish you “pleasant dreams!”  May we all live and rest in peace.

  • Tuesday’s With Morrie By Mitch Albom
  • The Surreal Reality of Death. America, Iraq, Afghanistan.

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert


    Please think twice about life as you watch the Baseball Player Talks About Deadly Atlanta Bus Crash

    A large bus careening down the highway during the early morning hours was full of passengers.  Most of the occupants were young, strong, burly, men.  They had seen so little of life; their years on this Earth were few.  These solid souls were off to experience a novel adventure.  The Division III Beavers, a student baseball team attending Bluffton University, were traveling to Florida’s Gulf Coast for a season-opening double-header game.  The youthful, pious, players were excited and expectant.  They were about to experience a week in the sun.  Fellow Mennonite men, women, students, and alum would watch from near and far as these boys participated in a week of games.  Then it happened.  There was an accident.  Four fellows lost their lives when the bus toppled off a bridge.  The driver and his wife also perished.  People throughout the nation ponder; why.  Why do the young die?

    There is much reflection. The media is everywhere documenting the reactions to sudden death and destruction.  American citizens,  all contemplate how fragile life can be.  Some say the incident was surreal.

    News of the tragedy shocked the students on campus, many of whom were supposed to take midterms Friday before going on spring break. Jordon Bruner stood in front of the campus cafeteria, his jaw clenched tightly in an effort to not cry.

    For the last two years, the senior has worked with the school’s sports department and helped update its website. He said he’d gotten to know most of the athletes at Bluffton, particularly the members of the baseball team.

    “I didn’t believe it when my roommate woke me up this morning and told me we had to turn on the TV because there’d been an accident,” Bruner, 21, said. “I had just seen them get on the bus Thursday night. We waved goodbye. It wasn’t supposed to be goodbye forever.”

    No, it was not supposed to be like this.  Young men and women are expected to live on forever, or at least we hope they will reach a ripe old age, perhaps marry, have children, or share their lives and wisdom in whatever way feels best to them.  We, as humans, imagine that our progeny will be the next generation.  They will have time to give and be great.  People never think the young will pass before they have had an opportunity to grow.  However, it happens.  We struggle to understand why.

    “Some people have asked why God would let something like this happen,” Rodabaugh said. “How do you answer that, other than turn to your faith?”

    Faith, trust, and a personal commitment to G-d can calm the soul.  If we believe there is a reason for everything, and that every event has a purpose, then perhaps we will feel peaceful.  we might seek solace in the Lord.  However, memories linger.  Reveries haunt us.

    When you are among those that has their life shaken, you know . . .

    “This is something that’s not going to leave the guys who were on that bus this morning,” said A.J. Ramthun, 18, a freshman second-baseman who suffered a broken collarbone, facial cuts and bruises. “This is going to be with us forever. We’ve been living together, practicing together. We’ve been a family for the past five months. Something like this morning really makes you think twice about life.”

    As a nation, we are witnessing death more so than we typically do.  On March 2, 2007, many more young persons passed from this Earth.  Eight students attending Enterprise High School in Alabama took their last breath without warning.  They knew the tornado was coming; however, they did not think they would be hurt.  The adolescents could not conceive of dying.  Yet, they did, in fact pass away.

    Ben Powell thought of the last time he saw Katie Strunk.

    “We were sitting in history,” the 10th-grader said. “She was smiling. She always smiled.”

    Ben had a crush on Katie, who was among eight students who died at their school Thursday when a tornado slammed into the main building, ripping off concrete roofs and flattening cinder-block walls.

    Few contemplated injury.  When we are young, we often believe we are immortal, indestructible, and enduring.  The youth of America certainly have reason to think that no harm will come to them as they sit in their cozy homes, classrooms, cafeterias, and shopping centers.  The elders do not consider the possibility either.  Life is good in the USA.  Tragedy rarely befalls us.  Yet, currently it does.  This country is being slammed by storms.  Lives are lost.  Devastation surrounds us.  Perspectives are changing.  Perhaps, it is time.  We need to contemplate bereavement and battle.

    While we are not in a war zone, we are experiencing, on a far smaller scale what families in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Israel might.  Some Americans are realizing the pain that we permit in other nations.

    A student recounts . . .

    “Everyone was screaming, and there was blood everywhere,” said sophomore Hailey Moore, 16, whose ribs were broken when a book hit her side. “I could feel the dirt and glass in my hair, and I just thought, ‘Oh gosh. Is this really happening? Am I going to die?’ ” . . .

    “It doesn’t even look like our school,” said Karana Brown, 18. “It’s unbelievable to think we got out of that building.” . . .

    “Everything feels unreal,” she said. “Everyone is in a phase where we don’t know what’s going on.”

    The children in war ravaged countries know what is occurring.  It is daily and routine.  Bombs drop, people fall to their death.  Soldiers and or the people defending their land and their family’s precious lives slam bodies up against buildings.  Troops storm into homes without warning.  Bullets blaze above the heads of innocent civilians, children.  That is life; it is predictable and random.  Violence and volatility are everywhere.  A youngster might wonder, ‘When will I die?’  Could it be today or tomorrow.  Anything is possible.  Even if I survive on Friday, there is Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday, and Tuesday.  Everyday brings a new death.  A toddler in the Middle East understands, ‘I may not have a mother, a father, a sibling, or a friend on Wednesday.’  When fields are void of flowers and killing consumes the day, a child knows casualties and fatalities are a way of life.

    Even combatants know not whether they will live or die; will they make it through the night.  If these young warriors do awake, will their beautiful bodies be intact.  Skin is delicate and organs so fragile.  For the teens and young adults fighting on battlefields or in regions where war is a daily reality fear is forever.  The fallen are many.  Families worry too.  Cries of ‘My baby, my brother, my sister, my friend,’ echo throughout the land.

    Might we make this different.  Perchance, Americans can come to a collective consciousness.  Nature alone, particularly with the assistance of man, does enough destruction.  Let the arbitrary and intentional killings end.

    References for your review . . .

  • 6 die in crash of bus carrying college team, Small Ohio town mourns four players and prays for the other passengers. By P.J. Huffstutter and Kevin Sack. Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • pdf 6 die in crash of bus carrying college team, Small Ohio town mourns four players and prays for the other passengers. By P.J. Huffstutter and Kevin Sack. Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • Alabama high school takes in tornado’s devastation Enterprise grieves for 8 students, and marvels that the midday tornado didn’t kill more.  By Jenny Jarvie.  Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • pdf Alabama high school takes in tornado’s devastation Enterprise grieves for 8 students, and marvels that the midday tornado didn’t kill more.  By Jenny Jarvie.  Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • Children die in Baghdad car bomb, BBC News. July 13, 2005
  • Military confronts growing ranks of bereaved spouses, children, By David Crary.  The Associated Press.  Houston Chronicle.  March 3, 2007
  • September 11. Deaths and Dots Do Not Connect ©


    8/21/06 Bush says Iraq didn’t attack us

    As I listen to the statistics, stories of death and wrongdoing, I find myself mystified.  September 11, 2001, the Iraqi war, and Saddam Hussein are three distinct topics; yet, today, they are one.

    It has been a long and confusing three and three-quarters years.  Actually, the last six years have been puzzling to me.  We all recall September 11, 2001.  The Twin Towers went up in flames and then tumbled down to the ground.  Hardened steel melted before our eyes.  People plummeted to their death.  Close to three thousand lives were lost.  After the devastating assault, the people of this nation mourned.  Then, they began a feverous search for answers.  Many said Al Queda, a militant Sunni organization, was to blame.  However, the President of the United States thought the tyrant, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was responsible.  Mr. Bush convinced the American public that this was so.

    In September 2003, polls showed that seventy percent of the public believed that the Iraqi despot was involved in the strike against America.  However, the President could not substantiate his claims.  On September 18, 2003, George W. Bush admitted this.  The pompous President sheepishly stated, “We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 11 September attacks.”

    The President’s words were not heard or heeded by a vast majority of the people.  Even after his pronouncement many thought, were it not for the Middle Eastern autocrat the buildings would still be standing.  Blood would not have been spilled on American soil.  A Federal judge in a New York City court agreed.  According to the arbitrator, the dictator sponsored the terrorists.  He helped plan the attacks.  The leader of Iraq was complicit in the “war” crimes.  In effect, the attack on the Towers amounted to a declaration of war, or so said the President and the juris prudent.

    George W. Bush deemed Saddam Hussein must pay for his misdeeds against the United States, perhaps with his life.  Measures were and are being taken.  The once powerful Iraqi leader is scheduled to die.  However, the deaths in America are no longer considered his crime.  The tormenter is being tried for transgressions against his own people.  While this decision is somewhat convoluted, it is much easier to understand than another comparison.

    Today, all day, journalist report a correlation.

    The number of US troops killed in Iraq is now greater than the number of people who died in the terror attack on New York on 11 September 2001, an event unrelated to Saddam Hussein’s regime but which the US and Britain used as justification for the invasion.

    The milestone was passed when three members of a patrol were killed in a bomb explosion south of Baghdad on Monday.  The military announced the death of four more troops yesterday, three in a bombing and a fourth in a vehicle accident.  Combined, the US death toll now stands at 2,978, five more than the number of people killed in the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001.

    Although, there is no connection, September 11, 2001 and the Iraq war are implicitly tied, they are in the minds of Americans.  The media continues to tie the two.  I am perplexed, are you?  Please help me to understand.  Someone please, tell me the truth or tell me if there is one.

  • Iraqi Court Says Hussein Must Die Within 30 Days, By James Glanz. New York Times. December 27, 2006
  • pdf Iraqi Court Says Hussein Must Die Within 30 Days, By James Glanz. New York Times. December 27, 2006
  • Death toll of US troops in Iraq passes September 11, By Andrew Buncombe. The Independent. December 27, 2006
  • Bush rejects Saddam 9/11 link. BBC News September 18, 2006
  • War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11. USA Today. September 24, 2006
  • 9/11 by the Numbers. New York Magazine.  September 5, 2002
  • Bush rejects Saddam 9/11 link. BBC News.  September 18, 2003
  • New York reduces 9/11 death toll by 40, From Phil Hirschkorn.  Cable News Network.  Wednesday, October 29, 2003
  • Lawsuit ruling finds Iraq partly responsible for 9/11, By Richard Willing. USA Today. May 7, 2003
  • Iraqi appeals court mandates hanging for Saddam Hussein. From Associated Press. Los Angeles Times. December 26, 2006
  • pdf Iraqi appeals court mandates hanging for Saddam Hussein. From Associated Press. Los Angeles Times. December 26, 2006
  • 8/21/06 Bush says Iraq didn’t attack us. YouTube