Today marks three years of war. It seemed appropriate and compassionate to stand on the busy street corner with others who wanted to remember those who died in this war. Wearing black, standing alone and silent, felt benevolent, at least for much of the three-hour tribute.
I appreciated the clothesline of empty tee shirts, one for each of the 2000+ Americans who have died in this war, because it made me think of the individuals. However, the big picture slammed me where it hurts a couple of times when I looked down both sides of the road, saw those empty shirts flapping in the wind, and imagined the crowd of strong, young bodies that should be filling them.
Sure tears and wind would play havoc with my eyes, I shied away from the big picture and adopted the five shirts in front of me. The red one was small, but well protected by the two on either side of him. Rabble-rousers flapped on either end of my group. I’m sure their spirits snickered each time they wrapped around the line and I walked over to untangle them.
My group remained anonymous; my daughter had a boy with freckles in hers. The pizza lover was farther down. Two fathers hung across the street, one who died before his first child was born, which made the pro-war protesters who came to call us baby-killers sound rather foolish.
I wish I could say they stopped at foolish, but there’s no such luck with pro-war people. Lefty hippies left over from the sixties didn’t bother me. It’s true enough for me, but didn’t impress me as the most intelligent name-calling when used on people who were obviously born after the sixties. Likewise, tree-huggers and liberal freaks didn’t hurt.
The real discomfort started when an overweight, teen-aged skinhead asked the woman behind me when she had been in Iraq. Assuming he had a heart, she told him she hadn’t been, but her son had died there. Skinhead told sad mother to love it or leave it.
Another pro-war advocate dodged the line of police officers attempting to hold them under control, and came to my space. “This is world war IV,” he said. I walked away to unwrap my rabble-rouser. He followed. “Those terrorists want to kill you.”
His tone said he did too.
My little red guy wasn’t wrapped, but I thought he could use some attention anyway. I moved down and straightened his sleeves. Obnoxious, disrespectful Pro-War Daddy stepped closer, really crowding my space.
“My son’s over there,” he said.
With tears, I looked him in the eye and said, “I’m sorry.” And I meant it, assuming he would be too. Who could not be sorry his child was away at war, even if he supports the war?
He laughed as the police officer sent him back to his side. Later, he shouted at me again. “Lefty cry-baby.” His friends liked the new name so well they all shouted it a few times. He added, “Why don’t you stop whining and support the troops.” Not a question, a command.
My letter writing, phone calling, constant campaigning for decent equipment, uncontaminated water, benefits, VA hospitals, and bringing them home is how I support the troops every day. This man couldn’t see that by standing on that corner, enduring his disrespect and ignorance in order to remember the lives lost, I was supporting the troops and their families today.
The least intelligent pro-war chant I heart today was, “You just want to support Iraqi abortion clinics.” No, but I suppose the pro-war gang just wants to support killing everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran, according to their signs), including pregnant women. Do they even think?
I’m not as strong as I want to be. By the time I left that corner, I wanted to hurt someone. My choice would have been the man who stood in my space and breathed his hatred on my five shirts.
I also wanted to counter their ‘God bless Iraqi Freedom’ sign with a ‘God Damn the Warmongers’ sign of my own.