Friday :: Nov 26, 2004

Another Mother's Druthers

by pessimist

Mother's view of the war: Battle fatigue on the home front

I am not a pacifist. I am a mother. By nature, the two are incompatible, for even a cottontail rabbit will fight to protect her young.

Violent action may be necessary in defense of one's family or home, and that definition of home can easily be extended to community and beyond, but violence, no matter how warranted, always takes a heavy toll.

Violence taken to the extreme -- war -- exacts the most extreme costs. There may be a just war, but there is no such thing as a good war. And the burdens of an unjust war are insufferable.

I know something about the costs of an unjust war, for my son, Nick, an Army infantryman, is fighting one in Iraq.

My son is involved in a deadly situation that should never have been. I feel like a mother lion in a cage, my grown cub in danger, and all I can do is throw myself furiously against the bars, impotent to protect him. My tolerance for b.s. is zero, and I've snapped off more heads in the last several months than in all the rest of my 48 years combined.

For the first time in my life and with great amazement and sorrow, I feel what can only be described as hatred. It took me a long time to admit it, but there it is. I loathe the hubris, the callousness, and the lies of those in the Bush administration who led us into this war.

Truth be told, I even loathe the fallible and very human purveyors of those lies. I feel no satisfaction in this admission, only sadness and recognition. I hope that, given time, I can do better. I never wanted to hate anyone.

Then there is the wedge that has been driven between part of my extended family and me. They don't see this war as one based on lies. They've become evangelical believers in a false faith, swallowing Bush's fearmongering, his chicken-hawk posturing and strutting. They cheer his "bring 'em on" attitude as a sign of strength and resoluteness.

Perhaps life is just easier that way. These are the same people who have known my son since he was a baby; who have held him, loved him and played with him; who have bought him birthday presents and taken him fishing.

I don't know them anymore.

But enough of my whining. My son is alive and in one piece, unlike the 1, 215 dead and more than 8,000 severely wounded American soldiers, which equal 9, 215 blood-soaked uniforms. Every death, every injury burns like a knife in my gut, for these are all America's sons and daughters. Yes, my son is alive and, as far as I know, well. I wish I could say the same for some of his friends.

One young man who was involved in heavy fighting during the invasion is now so debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder that he routinely has flashbacks in which he smells burning flesh. He can't close his eyes without seeing people's heads squashed like frogs in the middle of the road, or dead and dying women and children, burned, bleeding and dismembered.

Sometimes he hears the sounds of battle raging around him, and he has been hospitalized twice for suicidal tendencies. When he was home on leave, this 27- year-old man would crawl into his mother's room at night and sob in her lap for hours.

Instead of getting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, he has just received a "less than honorable" discharge from the Army. The rest of his unit redeploys to Iraq in February.

Another friend of Nick's was horrifically wounded when his humvee stopped on a bomb. He didn't even have time to instinctively raise his arm and protect his face. Shrapnel ripped through his right eye, obliterating it to gooey shreds, and penetrated his brain. He has been in a coma since March.

His mother spends every day with him in the hospital. His wife is devastated, and their 1 1/2-year-old daughter doesn't know her daddy. But my son's friend is a fighter and so is making steady, incremental progress toward consciousness.

He has a long hard struggle ahead of him, one that he shouldn't have to face, and his family has had to fight every step of the way to get him the treatment he needs. So much for supporting the troops.

I visit him every week. It breaks my heart to see the burned faces, the missing limbs, the limps and the vacant stares one encounters in an acute-care military hospital.

In front of the hospital there is a cannon, and every afternoon they blast that sucker off. You should see all those poor guys hit the pavement. Although many requests have been made to discontinue the practice for the sake of the returning wounded, the general in charge refuses. Boom.

But no matter how hard I scrutinize the invasion and occupation of Iraq, all I see are lies, corruption, and greed fueled by a powerful addiction to oil. Real soldiers get blown to tatters in their Hummers so that well-heeled American suburbanites can play in theirs.

For my family and me, the costs of this war are real and not abstract. By day, I fight my demons of dreaded possibility, beat them back into the shadows, into the dark recesses of my mind. Every night they hiss and whisper a vile prognosis of gloom and desolation. I order the voices into silence, but too often they laugh at and mock my commands.

I wonder if George Bush ever hears these voices.

I wonder, too, just how much we are willing to pay for a gallon of gas.

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pessimist :: 3:04 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!