Has there ever been a more politically tone-deaf administration than this one? I can understand Bush’s need to score points with the base. But if you’re going to veto legislation to take a stand against “big government,” couldn’t you pick something more palatable than quashing healthcare for poor children? And to say we can’t afford $35 billion for sick kids, at the same time you’re asking for around $190 billion – that’s $190,000,000,000! – in additional war spending?
How did this numbskull ever get to be president? No, really.
As I was sitting down to tackle this week’s toon, I was looking to do something with that notion of tone deafness. But as I brainstormed symbols that spoke to children paying the price for America’s war machine, I kept coming back to the same image: Jules Feiffer’s Munro.
For those not familiar with Feiffer, the guy is on the top rung in my pantheon of creative heroes. Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist. Obie-winning playwright. And, in 1961, he was the writer of an Academy-Award-winning animated short called “Munro.”
“Munro” started life as a short story in Feiffer’s 1957 cartoon collection, “Passionella.” The story revolves around a four-year-old boy named Munro who is drafted into the U.S. Army and can’t seem to convince anyone that there’s been a mistake. It’s a brilliant piece of work, one that still has wonderful resonance today. (If you haven’t seen the animated version, treat yourself on YouTube.)
Feiffer retired from editorial cartooning on a regular basis in 2000.
With our young again being victimized by a misguided military effort, it seemed a good time to pay homage to one of my greatest influences. “Munro, 2007,” below, is the result. I think it works fine with no knowledge of the “Munro” back-story, and offers deeper meaning for those in the know (which now includes everyone reading this). I’m pretty tickled with this one.
As always, feel free let me know if you agree or disagree.
On Memorial Day, Americans honor the fallen. Soldiers whose faces will never appear before us again are remembered for their service. Only the few, friends and family, will recall the life of those young men and women who passed from this world into another. In a country grateful for the protection troops provide, people will shop on this holy day. A President will place a wreath on the grave of an unknown soldier. Beautiful speeches will be made in the spirit of homage. Americans will bow their heads in respect. Reverence will be offered, and statistics that document the effects of war will not be shared. Yet, the numbers cry out for attention, just as the pained servicemen and women do.
The suicide rate of veterans is at least three times the national suicide rate. In 2005, the suicide rate for veterans 18- to 24-years-old was three to four times higher than non-veterans.
About 126 veterans per week commit suicide.
About 154,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night. One-fourth of the homeless population is veterans.
There are more homeless Vietnam veterans than the number of soldiers who were killed during that war.
It takes at least 5.5 years, on average, to resolve a benefit claim with the Veteran’s Administration.
More than 600,000 unresolved claims are backlogged with the Veteran’s Administration.
Approximately 18.5 percent of service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression.
19.5 percent of these veterans report experiencing traumatic brain injury.
Roughly half of those who need treatment seek it, but only slightly more than half of those who receive treatment receive at least minimally adequate care, according to an April 2008 Rand Report.
The research reveals a sorrowful reality. In an affluent nation, too many veterans suffer from more than a physical wound. Yet, citizens act as though they do not care. Undeniably, the American people offer words of support. However, these statements are empty. Expressions of sensitivity do not heal physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual lesions. Congressional Bills may provide some solace, that is if they ever pass. Fearful Americans accept what politicians proclaim, a preference to protect and defend a nation adrift.
The White House and the Pentagon said they feared that the bill would encourage men and women to leave the armed forces and enroll in college with federal aid, at a time when the military already has difficulty retaining troops to fight abroad.
Conservation of the Corps, an accretion in the Armed Forces, this is America’s mission. The United States must be prepared to defend its shores. The conventional wisdom reminds us, war will always be with us.. Conflict will continue to exist in perpetuity.
Therefore, greenbacks must be devoted to defense. A soldier’s depression or injuries cannot be considered a priority. Servicemen and women are trained to “suck it up,” as are the American people.
The public is convinced there is no need to ponder the benefits of peace, for in their minds tranquility will never come . Nor do we reflect on the personal or financial costs of war. Millions spent need not make sense. Military might is marvelous. Memorials are evidence that we are proud.
Many are intent; America must win the fight. Mavericks, such as former prisoner of war and Presidential aspirant John McCain remind us. We must remain stalwart. Victory is at hand.
The battle against a perceived human enemy takes precedence for a pompous public. In the United States. the struggle for sanity amongst those who served, while lost, is of little significance to the individuals safe in their cocooned world of wonderment. Few Americans can count the cents spent on treatment for the troops who return to the homeland with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or traumatic brain injury. In April 2008, the Rand Corporation, presented the research in a report.
The Rand study estimates the societal costs of PTSD and major depression for two years after deployment range from about $6,000 to more than $25,000 per case. Depending whether the economic cost of suicide is included, the RAND study estimates the total society costs of the conditions for two years range from $4 billion to $6.2 billion.
The RAND study also estimates that about 320,000 service members may have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment – the term used to describe a range of injuries from mild concussions to severe penetrating head wounds. Just 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for that injury.
While most civilian traumatic brain injuries are mild and do not lead to long-term impairments, the extent of impairments that service members experience and whether they require treatment is largely unknown, researchers said. In the absence of a medical examination and prognosis, however, service members may believe that their post-deployment difficulties are due to head injuries even when they are not.
One-year estimates of the societal cost associated with treated cases of mild traumatic brain injury range up to $32,000 per case, while estimates for treated moderate to severe cases range from $268,000 to more than $408,000. Estimates of the total one-year societal cost of the roughly 2,700 cases of traumatic brain injury identified to date range from $591 million to $910 million.
Yet, a month after these revelations were released, few Americans mourn the toll war takes on the living. Instead, citizens “celebrate” Memorial Day. Members of Congress muse, and mull over how to best serve those who serve us. Yet, nothing truly changes. Time marches on as do the memories that haunt those who were in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one notices, or at least those in power do not rush to alter reality. Presidential candidates posit in remembrance,
Las Cruces, N.M. – Senator John McCain stood before hundreds of flag-waving veterans and their families on Monday and vowed not to waver in his support of the Iraq war. “Even,” he said, “if I must stand athwart popular opinion.”
Senator Barack Obama addressed a separate audience of veterans and received vigorous applause when he declared, “As many of you know, my intention is to bring this war in Iraq to a close and to start bringing home our troops in an orderly fashion.”
If Labor Day is the traditional opener to the fall presidential race, this Memorial Day offered at least a preview into the summertime duel between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama . . . .
As Mr. McCain spoke about the costs and sacrifices of the Iraq war at the Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque, Mr. Obama praised the patriotism of America’s soldiers before taking voters’ questions – and hearing their frustrations about Iraq and a host of other concerns . . .
Will the Iraq war and the nation’s security once again be the chief concern to voters in the general election? In a 20-minute speech, with the flags of all branches of the armed forces at his back, Mr. McCain made 14 references to Iraq. Later, he invited Mr. Obama to join him on a tour of Iraq. (Mr. Obama did not immediately say whether he would accept.)
“As long as there is a reasonable prospect for succeeding in this war,” Mr. McCain said, “then we must not choose to lose it.”
Or will economic anxieties at home and a fierce disapproval over the direction of the country be of higher concern to voters?
If the past and the present predict the future, money will matter. Most of the dollars doled out will go to protect and defend, not to save soldiers from the sanctity (insanity) of war.
The public barely ponders the seriousness of what combat causes or effects, that is, unless the conflict pinches the pocketbook. Even then, on this solemn occasion, as on most others, the discussion is purely political. People feel powerless. Perchance that is why Americans avoid the conversation; how might we serve those who serve us.
Wars kill warriors, frequently from the inside out. The few people who care for the troops, provide for those who sacrificed their lives and lived, those who feel the pain of loved ones lost to depression and injury, listen to the rhetoric and ponder. If we are to truly memorialize the fallen, why not venerate veterans who suffer emotionally, just as we do the soldiers who were physically destroyed in battle.
Might we learn what history attempts to teach us. Combat cannot create peace of mind; nor does warfare yield to global harmony. The physical, emotional, and spiritual cost of conflict is too great. If we are to authentically pay tribute to out troops, let us no longer engage violently. Let us discuss the actual tax of war. Might we show our soldiers the highest regard and adequately care for all those maimed and mutilated. Perchance, it is time to redefine the mission and what it means to offer a memorial.
Cut Funds for Combat. Costs are Too High . . .
On Memorial Day, Broken promises to our veterans. By Michael Blecker. San Francisco Chronicle. Monday, May 26, 2008
As Mother’s Day approaches Moms throughout this country cry. Many parents cannot be physically close to their sons or daughters. Telephone calls will not come. Children may desperately wish to speak with mother; however, when “in country,” on the battle field, a conversation with Mommy is not possible.
Some guardians are quite near to their children. Perhaps, they hold on more tightly, for the caregiver knows the tot has no other parent to turn to. So many American lads and lasses have one parent in Iraq, in Afghanistan, somewhere far, far, far away from home. Our troops hearts may be with toddlers and teens left behind in the States. Yet, the hands of a service Mom or Dad are often nowhere to be seen or felt by their babies. The children of military men and women clutch photographs, and dream of the day when Mom or Dad will return home.
In the Middle East, young and old also mourn. Many Moms, Dads, sons, and daughters do not have family to cuddle with. Celebrations are reminders of loss. In a war-torn nation, countless are orphaned. Males and females are frequently widowed. People live and then violently, they pass.
A nation need not set a date aside to honor the persons who matter most in an individual’s life. Every being loves someone, somewhere. Sadly, as long as there is war, we are all affected by battles. Julia Ward understood this. She saw combat first hand. Latter, she penned the Battle Hymn of the Republic. For this endeavor she is well known. The author, poet, playwright is less famous for her fight. Julia Ward Howe hoped and worked tirelessly to establish a formal date to honor a Mother’s Day for Peace.
She saw some of the worst effects of the war — not only the death and disease which killed and maimed the soldiers. She worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, and realized that the effects of the war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She also saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed the war, the restructuring of the economies of both North and South.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common, above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.
The verse, while meant to inspire women worldwide, much to the sorrow of many, was carefully sealed away. On the day, we honor motherhood, few remember the female figure who gave us all life. Woe to us all when we brutally wish to take another’s persons breath away. In homage to your mother, to my Mommy, to the daughters and sons who bleed needlessly, may I present . . .
Say firmly: “We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them
Of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the voice of a devastated Earth, a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home,
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity,
I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of Nationality,
may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
and the earliest period consistent.
With its objects,
to promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
the amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
May we all truly venerate Mom. Celebrate the mother who bore us and revere the life this woman gave us. Let us love fully. Cherish our fellow man, woman, and child. May we not wait for some unforeseen day when war will be but a whisper. That time will not magically come upon us. If we are to give rise to global harmony, we, all individuals must choose not to engage in combat.
May peace be with you my brother, father, son, and daughter. May Mom’s no longer shed a tear. May we all live as family, in peace.
Americans are five years into a battle gone awry. Citizens of the United States cry out, “too much blood has been spilled, too many lives and limbs were lost,” we the people want to, “Bring the troops home.” Hence, Congress holds hearings. The inquiry is intended to help define the future. For many it is time to exit Iraq and end a futile war. The people have questions; when and how will we complete a failed mission. On April 8, 2008, the Senior Commander of multinational forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, American envoy to Baghdad, spoke to United states Senators and attempted to address the public’s concerns.
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker described an Iraq torn and in turmoil. Each official spoke of the significant, although still-tenuous political progress. The civil servants assured the United States Senators, Iraq is more stable and secure than it was a mere seven months earlier. However, they state improvement is “uneven.”
Senators, who supposedly speak on behalf of the people, proposed there must be a plan. Several said America needs to make a correction. A few pronounced the course must be stayed. All agreed; Americans must have a strategy if Iraq is to ever be a successful, sovereign nation. These thoughts have been expressed for years, and little truly changes. A near million [or more] innocent Iraqis have lost their lives and many millions more have no home. For refugees and residents, employment is but a vision from eras long passed. Electricity and essentials are not part of daily life. Nonetheless, reports are progress has been made.
The rhetoric rises high up into the halls of the Capitol. As the world listens, people cannot help but be reminded of a bull in a china shoppe.
In a boutique, filled with fragile leaded crystal, porcelain wares of superior quality, sumptuous silver, fine figurines, and cherished collectibles, a beast, unfamiliar with the etiquette or elegance in this setting, enters and effectively destroys what once was beautiful.
Initially, the bovine is attracted to the glimmers of light. Refracted beams glow as the bull observes the glorious finery. The shiny surfaces are hypnotic for the animal. In a stupor, the bull moves towards what attracts him.
The bovine is as Americans. Citizens of this country are drawn to the radiance of black gold. Those who depend on petroleum products are mesmerized when they think of a place where the supply seems as endless as their demand. People who profit from the sale of fuel are also charmed. Indeed, those who have the means are more enamored. The oil-rich know that they can profit from the sale of the substance. Two of these tycoons work in the White house.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the biggest bulls man has seen for some time. These leaders of the herd were spellbound as they gazed upon fields of oil. Moneyed moguls who work within the Executive Branch of government led the herd into a crystal palace, or a nation State known as Iraq.
The two oilmen elected to office, bullies that they are, had smiled at the mere mention of Texas Tea in the fields of Iraq long before they ever claimed to have reason to invade the symbolic china shoppe. The aggressive cattle, also known as the Bush Administration, may have appeared clumsy in their calculations. However, these cows planned their entrance into the specialty store. The tycoons expected to shock the shopkeepers, and awe their fellow Americans. The bulls thought they would quickly clean up the mess they made. Then, they would exit triumphantly with treasures in hand. The bovine projected that they would accomplish their mission just as suddenly as they crossed the threshold.
However, the livestock did not understand; boutique proprietors and patrons might not welcome the destruction of valuable property.
Raging bulls rarely contemplate how a perilous circumstance would effect any sane storeowner, shopper, or sovereign nation. A charging bovine does not comprehend why the clientele within the walls of the shop, or civilians within the confines of a country’s borders does not greet the charging creature with rose petals and open arms.
Again, we are reminded of an American Administration and the prospects the leaders of the herd envisioned as they proposed the United States and its allies attack Iraq.
The bulls, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice did not consider the culture, the civilization, or the fact that every being has the right to choose independence or his or her leaders. Nor did the creatures who replaced a few of those in the corral. Future leaders of the herd were as blinded by the light of power as the previous beefy bulls were.
The cattle now labeled the Cabinet, are no more conscious of what occurs when you purposely break the treasures of others than the earlier group of mammals was.
Hence, the axiom framed by the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, cattle extraordinaire continues to guide Americans, “If you broke it, you must fix it.”
Indeed, the awkward, unaware animals busted the bone china, crushed the crystal, smashed the silverware, and flattened the figurines, and they continue to do so.
Fortunately, these bulls have money; although admittedly they beg, borrow, steal, or print the dollars and cents used to fund a futile attempt to fix the country they fractured. Regrettably, the beasts of burden do not realize they cannot repair what has never made sense to them. The bulls cannot restore health to a shop that was not fashioned in a style they are familiar with. Few of these creatures reflect on the wisdom of a physicist, the genius of a man who studied the scientific principles of matter, energy, force, and motion.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
~ Albert Einstein
What the bulls believe is best is send in the young. Calves trained to act as the bigger beasts did and do, now crash into china shop doors and obliterate the fragile finery that is, or once was life in Iraq. Generals and Ambassador, similar to the elders in a herd, gather the broken glass. They collect the cattle in one locale or another. The emissaries, just as the leaders in a pack, attempt to repair relations with proprietors and the public.
However, these persons also approach those in the Persian Gulf as the Commander-In-Chief did and does. To the people in Iraq a bull is a bull is a bull.
None of the livestock fully understand as long as they occupy the shop, more treasures will be trampled. The merchant wants no missionaries, or mammals to demolish what for him was his own. Nor does the retailer appreciate a brutal beast in his shop or State. The Iraqi citizens, just as customers in the shattered shoppe do not crave advise from cruel cattle. “Correct” information from a bull who demolishes all creature comforts, seems contrary to those who have been terrorized by out of control cows for too long.
Information is not knowledge.
~ Albert Einstein
Money will not mend what was shattered and what will be razed as long as the bulls reside in country. Yet, the bulls bellow that they cannot continue to finance the destruction they have done and do. Cattle exclaim too much cash has gone to cracked crystal. Senator Clinton, who aspires to be the Lead of the American beasts explains, “We simply cannot give the Iraqi government an endless blank check. The question might be asked, why not.
The cattle found the dollars to destroy as they desired. Why might the Lead bulls and those who wish to have the title of Cattle Commander-In-Chief believe they have the resources to remain in the shoppe, with the promise to be less visible and destructive; yet, the bovine does not have greenbacks available for repair or recompense.
Might the bovines consider as long as Americans stay in the boutique and break the bone china, we owe the proprietor reparations. We bulls cannot ever fully compensate for what we caused. The only way we, “the American people,” can clean up the mess we allowed our herd to make is to leave now, with sincere sorrow, and issue a blank check as a meager attempt to pay for the horrors we have wrought.
We cannot turn back the clock; nor are we able to replace the antique vases, or extraordinary entities once titled Mom, Dad, son, daughter, friend, or family. Bovine blunders and bungles will not provide property owners and patrons to live their lives free of fear and further folly. Perchance the adage bulls might adopt is, “If you break it; you pay for it and then, please, immediately leave the premises.”
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
~ Albert Einstein
Sources and the Reality of Americans in Iraq; Bull in China Shop . . .
Iraqis Cope with Life Without Lights. Baghdad’s electricity has fallen far below prewar levels due to instability. By Ilene R. Prusher and Charles Levinson. Christian Science Monitor. February 10, 2006
(Tis in the news once again. Our troops take their own lives.
During the month of January, more soldiers committed suicide (24) than were killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan and Iraq combined (16). This is unusual, but–amazingly–not unique. In fact, the problem of military suicides is growing much worse, as Army Chief of Staff George Casey said yesterday in Hawaii.
Casey claimed to be mystified by the suicide rates:
“The fact of the matter is, we just don’t know” why suicides have increased, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said Friday. “It’s been very frustrating to me with the effort that we made over the last year, and we did not stem the tide.”
“Supporting the troops means more than slapping a bumper sticker on your car”
~ David Berry, 26, Iraq Veteran
They say the soldiers fight for our freedom, and while many may argue the truth of this statement, no one can dispute that we must support our troops. Today, citizens have a chance to demonstrate that we, the people care about those who serve our country in combat. Please reflect on a reality too terrible to ignore, soldier suicide. Then, if you choose telephone, or write, your Florida State Representative. Express your desire to endorse State Bill 2554, Prevention Services for Veterans and Their Families, submitted by Senator Ted Deutch. If you are not a Florida resident, please ponder what you can do within your home region. The tales and the tears of those torn from within tell an unforgettable story. Will we listen, and look for ways to help those hurt by our war?
Lieutenant Elizabeth Whiteside, was a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The soldier was distressed and depressed. While in Iraq, a year ago, the woman was accused of endangering another solider. She also pointed a gun at herself. As she awaited a verdict she became more anxious. Army officials would decide her fate. She expected to be court-martialed. Before the judgment was heard, the Lieutenant decided to end her own life.
“I’m very disappointed with the Army,” Whiteside wrote in a note before swallowing dozens of antidepressants and other pills. “Hopefully this will help other soldiers.” She was taken to the emergency room early Tuesday [January 29, 2008]. Whiteside, who is now in stable physical condition, learned yesterday that the charges against her had been dismissed.
Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006.
At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan.
Suicide is not painless as the song might have mused. Nor is the life of a soldier after they have experienced warfare. The men and women who serve their country proudly, often cannot cope with the scope of what has become their newfound reality. War is wicked. Most think warfare is wrong. Some say it is a necessary evil. Collectively, we might agree; to kill is debauched, depraved, and despicable. Yet, in the name of G-d and country, our youth are asked to take the lives of others. Few consider how such an action might affect the individual who executes a person labeled the “enemy.”
Those who may have never pulled a trigger, still suffer. The sight of what they witnessed while in country can cause such pain. A veteran, or an active duty warrior, when alone, may not be able to escape the memories that fill the mind after such a dire experience..
A battle may be won; however, much is lost when we engage in death and destruction. Perhaps, innocence is invaluable. We may wish to ask ourselves as many an experienced soldier has, “Is a victor, also a victim?” Is an experienced military man or woman wounded in ways we, those who have not served, cannot imagine? There are no official totals; nonetheless, anecdotally, we know soldier suicides are not uncommon. A five-month CBS News investigation revealed those who saw battle, frequently sought serenity in death by their own hand. The decision to depart from an Earthly existence before it is time, may be a epidemic amongst the troops. Chief Investigative Reporter Armen Keteyian offers an exclusive and exasperating report.
“I opened up the door and there he was,” recalled Mike Bowman, the father of an Army reservist.
“I saw the hose double looped around his neck,” said Kevin Lucey, another military father.
“He was gone,” said Mia Sagahon, whose soldier boyfriend committed suicide. . . .
Twenty-three-year-old Marine Reservist Jeff Lucey hanged himself with a garden hose in the cellar of this parents’ home – where his father, Kevin, found him.
“There’s a crisis going on and people are just turning the other way,” Kevin Lucey said.
Kim and Mike Bowman’s son Tim was an Army reservist who patrolled one of the most dangerous places in Baghdad, known as Airport Road.
“His eyes when he came back were just dead. The light wasn’t there anymore,” Kim Bowman said.
Eight months later, on Thanksgiving Day, Tim shot himself. He was 23.
Diana Henderson’s son, Derek, served three tours of duty in Iraq. He died jumping off a bridge at 27.
“Going to that morgue and seeing my baby … my life will never be the same,” she said.
An existence, comfortable, cozy, and calm is never as it was, once we have witnessed inconceivable horrors. The tragedy, the trauma that is the Iraq War has changed many an individual. Studies show the suicide risk among male United States veterans is double that of the general population. This study, and thus, the statistic, does not include those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, soldiers who served in these more recent conflicts are known to be more depressed, more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problems. A fifth of soldiers are at risk for Post Traumatic stress Syndrome. Mental illness common in returning United States soldiers.
Doctor Mark S. Kaplan, Professor of Community Health at Portland State University in Oregon, lead author of a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health pleads, “We need to be more alert to the problem of suicide as a major public health issue and we need to do better screening among individuals who have served in the military, probe for their mental health risk as well as gun availability.”
We can be grateful, in November 2007, the United States Congress concluded there was a need to address the issue. The House and Senate each passed the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. While the United States Code is designed “to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive program designed to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans,” those of us familiar with the depth of a depression that might lead someone to submit to suicide, know that the Federal government alone cannot stop a soldier sworn to end it all. We must act locally. If you chose, please contact your Representatives, do what you can to save the lives of those who hoped to save yours. By doing so, we the people, can and will decide what support means to us.
Support the Troops. Prevent Soldier Suicides Sources . . .
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
They say life is cyclical. Peace prospers in a era. Epochs are filled with tales of war. Currently, in the United States, this is the political season. Issues are the topic of import. While at times, it seems rumors rule during the ritual run for the presidency, mostly, people want to speak of what affects their everyday life. Some say, “It is the economy, stu***.” Others declare military defense and homeland security are the subjects we must speak about. A few say, we must secure our boarders. This theme ties the two aforementioned together. Jobs and terrorism are the greatest concern. Then there are those who inquire, “What happened to talk of the Iraq war?”
Well, you may recall months ago, in a September 2007, Democratic Debate, whilst citizens clamored for an end to American involvement in Iraq, a storm rolled in. A tsunami of sorts washed over the American people, and talk of an exit plan was quelled.
The three top tier Democratic candidates all affirmed that they could not anticipate what they would find when they took office. Each of the so-called “electable” Democratic “hopefuls” declared, they would not commit to end the war in Iraq until after their first term. Perhaps, by 2013 a Democratic President would decide to remove troops from Iraq. Before that, they would likely increase the number of battalions in Afghanistan, at least Hillary Clinton certainly would. After all, Clinton and Barack Obama believed, that is where we “should’ have been all along. Senator Obama stated, Afghanistan, and possibly Pakistan, were “the right battlefield” in the war against terrorism.”
Once the Democrat hopefuls adopted a strong war stance, the constituency adapted. It was as if summer turned to fall. The leaves fell from the trees, and citizens of the United States settled in for a warm winter nap.
If Progressive leaders believed the war would not end, then perhaps, so too, must the public. The Republican candidates never intended to exit Iraq anytime soon. Each thought that would be unwise. The faithful base was behind them. A few faltered. Those “independents” followed Congressman and Presidential contender Ron Paul down the anti-war path. Perchance these scant few thought they could escape the cold brought on by combat.
However, for the most part, Republicans, even those who questioned the wisdom of the Persian Gulf War, did as the “right” does so well, they fell in line. Conservatives were not ready for change. The cozy comfort felt when the winds at home are calm creates complacency. As long as the battles did not interrupt the lives of those who first endorsed an engagement in Iraq, all was well.
Was that not the umbrella used to protect the policy? “We’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here at home.” John McCain submitted his support for the surge early on. For the Arizona statesman, war is always in season. Residents of Derry, New Hampshire might recall.
Some seasons see no end, and perhaps war is one of those. It seems throughout history there has been a battle somewhere on the planet no matter the time or temperature. Senator John McCain recognizes this. He revels in this truth.
Indeed, the Presidential aspirant thought America needed to send in more soldiers to surge in Iraq than the President proposed to do. If we are to reign, then, we must pour on the pressure. The tactic may not bring peace, and to those such as McCain, global harmony may be but a myth, but certainly, more military might, will result in a temporary win, a seasonal success of sorts. That is far better than an admission of defeat.
In a Presidential Debate, June 2007, John McCain may have spoken for all the Republicans aspirants at the time, with the exception of Representative Ron Paul of Texas. When MSNBC moderator Chris Matthews asked “Senator McCain, most of the public pessimism today has to do with Iraq. How — what would you need, as commander in chief, to win the war in Iraq?” The former prisoner of war responded.
That strategy can succeed. The young men and women who are serving are the best of America. I believe that if we could bring around — about stability in the neighborhoods in Iraq . . . you are going to succeed.
We must win in Iraq. If we withdraw, there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they [the terrorist] will follow us home.
Only two months before John McCain made this statement, in the Spring of the year, the Christian Science Monitor reported US public’s support of Iraq war sliding faster now. Those who regretted our decision to attack Iraq outnumbered those who supported the war by 14 percentage points. Republicans were the majority among the forty  percent of the Americans who remained stalwart. Thus, the Senator’s stance did not shock these traditionalists. Those who advocated a “stay the course” strategy, were, and possibly are, still in awe of what American military might can do. According to the Pew Research Center in Washington, in the early Spring 2007, fifty-four  percent of the citizens in the United States objected to the current conflict.
By June, as the Summer sun set on the horizon, only a month after John McCain presented his proclamation, much had changed. The public tired of the protracted war. A win was not in the future. Many Americans concluded they had been lied to. Republicans were as war-weary as the Democrats.
Thirty percent of Americans polled say they favor the war, the lowest level of support on record. Two-thirds are opposed.
Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war.
Moreover, 63 percent of Americans are ready to withdraw at least some troops from Iraq. Forty-two percent of Republicans agree.
Fifty-four percent of Americans do not believe U.S. action in Iraq is morally justified.
Now, as Americans look forward to the November election, we rally round rumors. We speak less of peace and more of money. Our leaders have helped us to realize that peace is not a viable prospect.
We have come to accept that another season passed and a newer storm is in view. There was a time when the public realized soldiers were conveniently hidden from view. People acknowledged that the wounded and fallen were flown home, into Dover Air Force base, in the dark of night. Citizens questioned why the troops remained invisible to an American public uninformed or too caught up in apathy to care. Many asked of the injured who were stored like cattle in hospitals such as Walter Reid. People clamored in distress when they read of the awful conditions. However, that moment too has passed.
Citizens of this country now care less that trillions have passed through our fingers. We worry not when we contemplate what was spent on a war we remain mired in; yet, reluctantly, we acknowledge what the powerful told us was true. The combat will continue. We consent to the conflict in Iraq just as we had before.
According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans – a slim majority – now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.
The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today. . . .
Democrats’ resolute support for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces may soon position them at odds with independent voters, in particular, a constituency they need to retake the White House.
Half of self-identified independents polled now believe the United States should “keep troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized,” according to polling data assembled by Pew at Politico’s request. . . .
The uptick in public support is a promising sign for Republican candidates who have been bludgeoned over the Bush administration’s war policies. But no candidate stands to gain more than McCain.
The forecast for Democrats has changed. The predictions may be grim. Whilst slams and damns were exchanged amongst the Democratic aspirants, no one in the Progressive Party noticed that talk of the war waned. People no longer thought the troops a profound topic. The rain of rumors filled the air, as did what seemed more real and relevant to those here at home. Foreclosures, financial woes, coupled with that early lack of commitment to end the war in Iraq, opened the door to a flood of futility. Hence, the people resigned themselves to an endless war, and those that recall the fallen are left to ask, “Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing.” The answer is blowing in the wind. The troops have gone to graveyards every one. Might we inquire, “When will we ever learn?”
Perchance, it is time, the season, to ponder. Would we wish to war for a few more years? Are Americans prepared to eat, drink, be merry, and forget the cost of combat? The answer may be “Yes.” While we are currently concerned with the expense of food, fuel, wine, and water, the truth is, as long as citizens in this country do not have to see any of the death and destruction that occurs daily, we can still gossip and elect those who will sustain the slaughter. Americans will not ask . . .
The invisible wounded, Injured soldiers evacuated to the U.S. never arrive in the light of day — and the Pentagon has yet to offer a satisfactory explanation why. By Mark Benjamin. Salon. March 8, 2005
Every so often, as appropriate, we list the recent fallen American soldiers that have died in Bush’s war. From the list, we can see the surge didn’t work.
The names of just a few of the troops, recently fallen are honored in this memorial missive . . .
Sgt. 1st Class John J. Tobiason, 42, of Bloomington, Minn., died Nov. 28 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered from an incident that is currently under investigation. He was assigned to the 847th Adjutant General Battalion, 89th Regional Readiness Command, Wichita, Kan.
Cpl. Allen C. Roberts, 21, of Arcola, Ill., died Nov. 28 from a vehicle accident near Al Asad, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
Pvt. Isaac T. Cortes, 26, of Bronx, N.Y. died Nov. 27 in Amerli, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
Spc. Benjamin J. Garrison, 25, of Houston, Texas. died Nov. 27 in Amerli, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
Staff Sgt. Jonathon L. Martin, 33, of Bellevue, Ohio, died Nov. 22 in Regensburg, Germany, of wounds suffered on Nov. 9 in Jisr Naft, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Spc. Melvin L. Henley Jr., 26, of Jackson, Miss., died at Camp Striker in Baghdad on Nov. 21 of injuries suffered from non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Sgt. Alfred G. Paredez Jr., 32, of Las Vegas, Nev., died Nov. 20 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Pfc. Marius L. Ferrero, 23, of Miami, Fla. died Nov. 18 when an improvised explosive device detonated during a mounted patrol in Baquabah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Cpl. Jason T. Lee, 26, of Fruitport, Mich. died Nov. 18 when an improvised explosive device detonated during a mounted patrol in Baquabah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Cpl. Christopher J. Nelson, 22, Rochester, Wash. died Nov. 18 when an improvised explosive device detonated during a mounted patrol in Baquabah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Last night in a diary by Democratic Consultant there was mention of what must one do to really demonstrate support for the troops. The diary and the following discussion reminded me of an interaction at our weekly vigil last Saturday morning. Every week a local group of us stands in protest against the war. We do this on Friday night and again on Saturday morning. The group began the vigils even before the initial invasion of Iraq. I was privileged to join more than two years ago and have been a regular protester since that time.
Last Saturday was a normal, hot day in the baking sunshine. We were our usual crew with various signs and one large banner. About 15 minutes before we were to end for the day (each vigil is a one hour episode) we were approached by a woman who was visibly upset. She began by telling us we were hurting the troops by our protest. This statement came in spite of our long line of yard signs saying
END THE WAR,
BRING THE TROOPS HOME
The lady went on to explain that she had a son in Iraq who was helping the Iraqis build a better country for themselves. This mother was accepting no part of our explanations or protestations that we do indeed support the troops, but hate the war and the misuse of American military members in this way. At the end of the conversation which lasted more than 10 minutes middle ground was found in the thought that a draft would end the war very quickly. Some members of the group and the mother found minor solace in that agreement, but she still left with seeming anger in her face and her body language.
We, the protesting group, were left frustrated and disappointed. We each do all we can to make sure the troops come home safe and sound. We write letters to our Congress critters and letters to the editor. We make calls to anyone who will hear us out. We protest every week and at other times and other places when the chance comes along. Various regular members of our group have been arrested in events of nonviolent protest. If there is an effective action to take one or more members of our protest group will have taken that action.
What else can we do? Our Congress critters no longer respond to our requests for meetings. If a meeting can be scheduled we are often treated cordially in the office but then politics as usual continue and the war goes on and on and on as the losses of American life mount. If we could gather thousands of protesters every weekend we’d do just that. If we were able to close down Washington, DC, for days at a time in open protest we’d do that, too. But we cannot manage such large scale events. Too many are apathetic or just unwilling to take action.
Putting a magnet or a sticker on the car and honking at the protesters on the side of the road is so very simple and easy. Armchair protesters we call them as they drive by in air conditioned comfort this summer. What can we do to get people out of their cars and onto the streets? How do we overcome the apparent misconception that magnets and honks are really supporting the troops? Can we change this situation by any action of our own?
Action is my personal way of staying alive and sane. For many years after coming home from Vietnam I stewed in my own mind and protested to my friends and neighbors. One day that was no longer enough. On that day my first letter to the editor was written and submitted. The paper accepted and published that one along with lots more since that time. Action taken gives me a personal feeling of having done something within my grasp to help end the war. If nothing else is accomplished at least the issue is kept in the public eye by our weekly protest vigils. That, in addition to the other actions the group takes, is to my mind supporting the troops the best we are able.
VoteVets.org is correct. I did ask for it. I am grateful that, with thanks to them, here it is. Last week, when George W. Bush accused Congress of not listening to the Generals on the ground in Iraq, I immediately thought of the many Generals released by this Administration, merely because they dared to disagree with the neoconservative, opportunistic, capitalistic George W. Bush directive.
Dear reader, you too may recall. The President of the United States has routinely rejected the wisdom of warriors when they did not say what he wanted to hear.
Jay Garner, the US general abruptly dismissed as Iraq’s first occupation administrator after a month in the job, says he fell out with the Bush circle because he wanted free elections and rejected an imposed programme of privatisation.
In an interview to be broadcast on BBC Newsnight tonight, he says: “My preference was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can, and do it with some form of elections … I just thought it was necessary to rapidly get the Iraqis in charge of their destiny.”
Asked by the reporter Greg Palast if he foresaw negative repercussions from the subsequent US imposition of mass privatisation, Gen Garner said: “I don’t know … we’ll just have to wait and see.” It would have been better for the Iraqis to take decisions themselves, even if they made mistakes, he said.
“What I was trying to do was get to a functioning government … We as Americans like to put our template on things. And our template’s good, but it’s not necessarily good for everyone else.”
I cannot confirm with infinite certainty whether a deep desire for oil was the cause that prompted the combat.
A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition.
Although senior Bush administration officials say they have not begun to focus on the issues involving oil and Iraq, American and foreign oil companies have already begun maneuvering for a stake in the country’s huge proven reserves of 112 billion barrels of crude oil, the largest in the world outside Saudi Arabia.
I know not decisively whether this war was meant to serve as retribution for deeds done against the father, George Herbert Walker Bush.
From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President’s judgment about the war. Saddam tried to kill his dad; his dad didn’t try hard enough to kill Saddam. There was payback to be had.
But never was Bush’s adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction: adding troops and employing counterinsurgency tactics inappropriate to the situation on the ground. “There was no way he was going to accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as Daddy’s friends coming to the rescue,” a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission told me.
Financial gains definitely were incurred. At least the evidence seems convincing. Friends and families profited from this horrendous battle.
The only people who are benefiting from Bush’s war on terror are members of the Military Industrial Complex. Since 9/11, the pay for the CEOs of the top 34 defense contractors in the US has doubled, according to the August 2006 report, “Executive Excess 2006,” by the Institute for Policy Studies, and the United for a Fair Economy.
The bill is rising so fast because the level of war profiteering is unprecedented. The Excess Report lists George David, CEO of United Technologies, as the top earner, making more than $200 million since 9/11, despite investigations into the poor quality of the firm’s Black Hawk helicopters.
Halliburton CEO David Lesar made $26.6 million in 2005, and nearly $50 million since 9/11, an amount that even beats the $24 million that Dick Cheney received in exchange for the guarantee that Halliburton would be the number one military contractor during the Bush administration.
Cheney himself is also taking in war profits, contrary to what he told Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in 2003, when he denied making any money off his former employer. “Since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s vice president,” he said, “I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest.”
“I have no financial interest in Halliburton,” Cheney told Tim, “of any kind and haven’t had, now, for over three years.”
Those statements were proven false when financial disclosure forms showed that Cheney had received a deferred salary from Halliburton of $205,298 in 2001, $262,392 in 2002, $278,437 in 2003, and $294,852 in 2004.
In 2005, an analysis released by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), reported that Cheney continued to hold over 300,000 Halliburton stock options and said their value had risen 3,281% over the previous year, from $241,498 to more than $8 million.
“It is unseemly for the Vice President to continue to benefit from this company at the same time his Administration funnels billions of dollars to it,” Senator Lautenberg said.
Nevertheless, the conflict continues, contrary to the best advice of Generals on the ground in Iraq. Only a week ago, Bush bellowed; he told Congress “Bring it on,” so that I may veto your War Funding Bill. The President cut funds for the troops. Consistent with the past, Bush declared, ‘If I cannot have it my way, [without timetables or benchmarks] I will not have it at all.’ You may recall the oft-repeated phrase, “You are either with us [me] or against us [me].”
President Bush acts unilaterally. He routinely ignores the pleas of the American people. As the public cries end the war and “Exit Iraq!” Bush battles on. However, times may be a changing. In this moment, Bush is somewhat conciliatory. He offers that he is considering “benchmarks” or is he.
The text of President Bush’s news conference yesterday ran to nearly 10,000 words, but what may have been more significant were the things he did not say.
The president talked repeatedly about “benchmarks” for progress in Iraq, using that word 13 times. But he did not discuss the consequences of the Iraqi government missing those targets. Such a question, he said, was “hypothetical.”
That response left unclear how the benchmarks would be different from previous times when the United States has set out intentions, only to back down. For example, the original war plan envisioned the U.S. troop presence in Iraq being cut to 30,000 by the fall of 2003. Last year, some top U.S. commanders thought they would be able to significantly cut the U.S. troop level in Iraq this year — a hope now officially abandoned. More recently, the U.S. military all but withdrew from Baghdad, only to have to have to reenter the capital as security evaporated from its streets and Iraqi forces proved unable to restore calm by themselves.
President Bush also spoke several times yesterday about his flexibility, apparently as a way of countering critics calling for a major change in his approach to Iraq.
We cannot be sure what to believe when President Bush is involved. We know the pressure is on. VoteVets.org is featuring three Generals speaking out publicly against the war. Time Magazine Columnist Joe Klein reminds us,
General David Petraeus has repeatedly said, “A military solution to Iraq is not possible.” Translation: This thing fails unless there is a political deal among the Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds. There is no such deal on the horizon, largely because of the President’s aversion to talking to people he doesn’t like.
Nevertheless, we can hope. Perhaps as the pressure builds, as George continues to lose support from those that count, whomever they might be, will become a rehabilitated warmonger. One can dream.
“Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by. I recall the tune; it rings in my head as I position myself at the intersection. I plunk myself there each Saturday pleading for peace. Today was the second time that I stood alone.
The other protesters remained across the street.
As I held up my index and middle fingers in the sign harmony, I thought of how I am not observing fancy, flashy, or forlorn females pass. I am interacting with my community. Men, women, the elderly, the young, and the middle age. I cannot tell who will acknowledge me or how they might react to my request for an early exit from Iraq, Afghanistan, or war.
The exchanges may seem superficial and distant; we are not necessarily meeting face to face. However, when you are the sole person situated on a sidewalk, carrying a sign that speaks to love and not war, people look at you.
They wave, smile, honk, or extend their fingers in a sign of triumphant tranquility. Tears well-up inside me as I experience the responses. As I hold my banner high and my digits higher, I work not to cry. I am often overwhelmed by my feelings. The public’s response is inspiring.
The whole has its effect; however, the parts consume me. The two young teens crossing the street declare, “If I had a horn, I would honk.” They affirm their agreement. They want the troops out of Iraq and believe working together for a common cause worldwide is essential.
The man riding by on his bicycle stops. He stays for a long time. This gentle soul maintains a physical distance; however, he is enveloped. His face glows; this chap cannot conceal his excitement. He beams and smiles. Then, he silently slips away. His expressions reveal that his heart was filled.
Then there are the frequent and quiet exchanges. Inaudible loving words mouthed as I gaze into the faces of a driver, a passenger, or a car full of people. These are numerous and uplifting. The muted tones wow me as do those that I could not, or would not predict.
The man that appears to be quite affluent sits in his new Mercedes Benz convertible. The traffic light changes. He approaches my corner. His top is down. His skin is golden and tan. This chap is very well dressed. His hair coiffed, although, blowing gently and gracefully in the breeze. I wonder; will he scorn my presence, scoff, or deliver a stern message. No, he does none of these. He looks in my direction. He grins, offers the peace sign, and then, almost as an after thought as he proceeds forward, honks his horn.
It is an oddity, an enigma, to me. Each week I walk to “work.” I have a “job” to do. I receive no pay. Yet, I am rewarded. I am deeply committed to the cause. I feel as if I have a purpose as I stand before the people beseeching them to work towards ending conflict. I pursue this passion with vigor. I would not wish to be late. My work is gratifying, satisfying, and stimulating. It puts no money in the bank. Nevertheless, it fills my heart and mind. For me, there is nothing like watching peace grow.
A wave of sound vibrates through the air. Often, I can hear cars more than a block away tooting their horns in anticipation. They know what they are fast approaching. They have traveled these crossroads on many a Saturday.
The junction is in the center of town. It is a bustling place. Numerous vehicles race pass me as I stand. Some automobiles move slowly. They want to read my sign. Words of affirmation are exchanged. Drivers do not always beep. Some gesture signs of support. It fascinates me. I never know what to expect or from whom.
The city bus drivers usually sound their horns. Only once did a transit worker ignore me. Parcel truck operators from nationally renowned companies often hoot. Each week I see suppliers for grocers drive by in their eighteen wheelers. They never fail to salute and show their loud approval. These people are not merely praying for peace; they are speaking their minds, honking their hearts out.
What I find most interesting is that the young, the old, the disabled, those that appear extremely wealthy, and those of lesser means all join in. Some are vocal; others shy. Couples chant out together. At times, only one person in the car calls to get my attention. Very few shun me. Fewer scream out in disgust. Even automobiles with the American flag placed prominently on their window or bumper proudly point at me and say “Peace!” “Bring our troops home now.”
As I stand in solitude, I recognize a power that I am less aware of when with my compatriots. Typically when with other activist we chat. ; We make eye contact with each other. We address the persons as they drive by; however, I realize the interaction with motor vehicle drivers is not the same. It is more intense, and such a delight to share in one-on-one.
Today, a woman in the passenger seat of a car flashed a sign of good will. I nodded and said thank you. She smiled broadly. We were literally inches apart from each other. Mutually, our hearts were warmed. Acknowledgment is much appreciated.
On numerous occasions, a vehicle on the far side of the street will beep and beep while waiting for the traffic flow to change. I have come to realize, they want my attention. Me, a small, little insignificant, and unknown person curbside can change the way they feel about the world.
Often, a person, or many individuals will wave and wave, toot. and toot, until I turn, look at them directly, and acknowledge their participation. It is important that they know I see only them. Once I recognize a person that was anxious to express their beliefs, offer them a nod, direct my hand motions toward them, and say aloud “Thank you!” they go on. They, as we all only need to be understood, heard, cared about and cared for.
I often wonder, if warriors were to meet and greet each other as individuals, not as enemies, if they were to see the face of their foe would they be able to shoot, to maim, or murder this person? Might the human being, a few feet from them, be more real, if they could or would look into their eyes.
Exchanging glances, being aware of the gestures, and allowing yourself to connect in an authentic way is so very powerful. It is so pleasurable.
Perchance, if combat did not take place on fields, if soldiers did not bare arms, but held signs, or spoke softly, the quality of the exchange would change. If the troops stood toe-to-toe and gazed into the visage of those they disagree with, might they chat before they bomb each other to smithereens.
Oh to think, if our adversaries had a face, a place in our heart, might the world be a more peaceful delightful space. If only, we would try to engage rather than do battle. Iraqi, Afghanis, and Americans alike could stand on the corner, serenely, sanguine, watching all the girls and guys go by.