There is a white hot rage that has burned inside me for years.
The intensity and ferocity of it is so deep I have to consciously pull myself away from it when dealing with matters that trigger it. I avoid certain topics and blogs because I knowthey won't startme downa slippery slope, but a straight drop to triggering the rage.
It's the war criminals. The fact that they are walking around free. The fact that no one in positions of power seems to be interested in prosecuting them. It's everything that flows from that. I could unpack all of that and describe all the ramifications in cold, stark terms, complete with annotations and footnotes and links and resources. But I know that would just be bringing coals to Newcastle.
There is nothing abstract about it for me. I have seen too many young men and women bravely learning to adapt to their prosthetics. I still remember the day it hit me full force. I was standing in line at a Starbucks.
In front of me was a woman, her young daughter, and a young man. The man was dressed in casual clothes and had a ball cap with the brim pulled down low over his face. He had to bring his head up to read the menu. That's when it became obvious that he was in the middle of what would be a long series of reconstructive surgeries. I could tell by the haircut, the bearing, the nature of the wounds and his proximity to Bethesda Naval Hospital where he lost part of his face and ear.
The little girl saw this grim sight and began to get very upset. Her mother tried to shield her without making a scene or embarrassing the young man. The girl working the counter kind of froze up and tried to pretend nothing was going on, but the hand holding the coffee was shaking.
The young man very deliberately stared at the menu as if he wasstruggling witha difficult task. He wasn't struggling with the menu. I'd seen that look before. He was struggling with his fear. That's when it hit me. A pit stop for me to grab a cup of coffee on the way to a meeting was an act of courage for him. That's when I realized how brave he was.
I didn't know who to feelmost sorryfor, the little girl, her mother, the young woman behind the counter, the young man, or the nation. I'm still not clear on that. But over time I have learned how to confront the disfigured faces of other brave young men and women. I look into their eyes. Somehow that connection makes it possible for me to see past the surface. Behind the mask of scar tissue they are still in there as beautiful as they ever were.
Before we invaded Iraq, Cassandra visited us courtesy of the Washington Post:
I am not haunted by the fear that my brother will be sent to war. I believe there are beliefs and causes worth taking risks for, worth fighting and dying for. Rather, I am haunted by the fear that he will be sent to war thoughtlessly, carelessly... The ghost of Vietnam stares at me from a black granite wall that scars the Mall in Washington, and I am haunted by a fear of watching history repeat itself.
-- Cara Cannon Byington (Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2003)
I'm enraged by the fact that the men and women who carelessly threw other people's children into a meat grinder did that without ever having to honestly confront the consequences of their decisions. Beyond the mendacity and deceit of the war criminals, I was most contemptuous of their cowardice. The chickenhawks who could have fought and didn't bugged me less than the draft dodgers who sent men and women to die for no clear reason, confident they would never be called to account.
However, today I was able to replace some of that rage with hope.
President Obama receiving fallen soldiers at Dover AFB
By spending the night as witness to the honor guard at Dover AFB and saluting the remains as they returned home, this president has made a a statement more clearly than any speech ever could. It is disturbing and hard to do what he did. Faced with the consequences of his decisions, he chose not to look away. That's what character looks like.