Saturday, March 18, 2006

Collateral damage...

The other night, I had the most horrific dream, the kind of dream that feels so realistic that you wake up suddenly with your heart pounding and an overwhelming sensation of fear or grief. After a few seconds go by, you realize that it was "only a dream". You take a deep breath, thank God that it was just a dream, and go on with your day.

When I woke up the other morning, I felt my heart pounding and felt shaken and so very sad. I had been dreaming that my brother had been sent to Iraq and had been killed.

I realized quickly that I was only dreaming -- but just as I realized that it was "just a dream"... I also realized that it wasn't "just a dream". My brother HAD been killed in Iraq and I will never be able to wake up from that "dream".

Every day I think of my brother. I alternate between feeling sadness and anger. One way of dealing with my anger is becoming active in addressing my concerns about the current administration. Many of us didn't support the war in Iraq three years ago, many of us questioned the motives of this war, but not enough of us spoke out against it. Not enough of us asked questions. Many tried before the 2004 election but we still didn't accomplish our mission.

It wasn't until I learned about Cindy Sheehan that I started to speak up myself. I hadn't heard anybody like her before... a Gold Star mother... asking the questions I was asking ... expressing her anger and disgust... DEMANDING a response... WOW. What courage she had!

My first attempt at speaking out was when I decided to coordinate a candlelight vigil for peace in Gooding, Idaho--along with thousands of others across the nation. I only had about 36 hours to get the word out and I was thrilled to see about a dozen people there. A newspaper reporter was there as well. I tried to explain that the vigil was not about my brother, it was not about me, but it was our way of supporting Cindy Sheehan/Camp Crawford by stating that WE had questions also and wanted Bush to respond to her and to be accountable for his actions. However, my picture ended up on the front page of the paper as well as a quote that did NOT come out of my mouth correctly (I had to ask a friend if I really said that, because I couldn't even imagine thinking it, much less saying it to a reporter).

As a result of that article, my pastor was told that I shouldn't be a member of my church. I received attacking e-mails from other people in Gooding. My cousins also sent me a scathing e-mail stating they were horrified that I would use my brother's name to "promote political propaganda". Some people have refused to speak to me since then. Letters to the editor were written from my parents and sister-in-law stating that I didn't represent the family and my brother would be greatly offended at my actions. Further articles discussing the family division. And so on.

My mother was the only one who finally took the time to call me and ask me about what happened. We agreed to disagree and she respected my right to have my own opinion. Her only request was that I do not mention my brother's name when I am discussing my political beliefs publicly.

I do my very best to honor her request. She lost her son. She has her own hell to live through. She respected me enough to (finally) ask me about the candlelight vigil and the article, she listened to my side of it, and understood that I did not in any way intend to "use" my brother's death in a political manner. And amazingly enough, I have plenty of issues to discuss without mentioning my brother's name! (Bush and friends make it so EASY!)

The last few weeks have been especially intense. I've felt the freedom to speak up more, thanks to other Idaho liberal bloggers I've found who are more informed and experienced than I am... I appreciate them for clearing a path for people like myself. I appreciate Drinking Liberally for providing a template to start a social group so I can get together with other people who feel like I do here in my hometown of Gooding. I think this intensified exposure to information and awareness was probably the stimulus for my "nightmare", but it is also provides much comfort as well. I don't think that I've felt this optimistic and energized since my brother's death.

My point is this:

For those of you who ARE standing up and speaking out... THANK YOU. You help educate the rest of us who are willing to listen and learn. You provide role models for those of us who are just starting to get their "sea legs". Cindy Sheehan opened the door for me... you are showing me also how to walk through it.

For those of you who are still not quite ready, please know that as hard as it is to speak up, it is much harder to have the consequences of our silence forced upon us. My family lost a very special son/brother/husband/father. Almost 2300 other Americans have lost their loved ones as well. People are suffering financially. Women and homosexuals may lose their rights. Children and teachers are suffering with the expectations of No Child Left Behind. When will enough be enough? When will our cries be heard?

We need to join together and cry out together... and demand truth and accountability. We must demand that our administration recognize the needs of the citizens... our children, our elderly, our women, our families, our working poor, our military... our INDIVIDUAL citizens. We can no longer assume that corporate employers and industries will take responsibility for the damage they do to our communities, our small businesses, our environment, and our economy.

We need change... and it starts with us.

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