Friday, November 17, 2006

Fourteen months and 1,020 caskets later

I want to post on my thoughts and feelings after attending the funeral services for Spc. James Lee Bridges ("Doug") of Buhl, Idaho -- but I'm just not ready yet. As I deal with my own emotions and heartache, I'm thinking of the horrific pain and trauma experienced by Doug's family. I'm thinking of the expressions on his mom's face and remembering my own mother's screams when the Marines arrived at her door. I'm thinking of the youth and beauty of Doug's fiancee and the heartbreak she must be experiencing so early in her life. I'm thinking about what the next few days, weeks, months, and years will bring to this family and how unbelievably difficult it must be for them all. I'm thinking about how, even as intense love and support was expressed that afternoon, how clueless most of our friends and neighbors really are about what Gold Star families experience. I'm worried about how the little conflicts among this poor family will cause even more damage (and perhaps permanent scars) as they try to deal with their family dynamics and dramas while still bleeding from their own heart-wounds. I'm hoping their friends and neighbors continue to surround them all with love and patience and comfort and prayers... not just this week, or this month.... but for years to come...

As I'm processing, I'm reviewing some of my older posts. I decided to re-post my very first entry... the day I decided I needed a safe place to vent, to process, and to express my opinions. After fourteen months, I still feel this way... only more so, after attending the funeral services for Spc. Bridges.

August 16, 2005

It is a sad day when our fellow Americans believe that we should blindly follow our leaders as sheep to slaughter... as Hitler Youth and Nazis followed Hitler... without having the freedom to ask "are we doing the right thing or not"?

We, as Americans, have the intelligence and freedom to question our government without fear of being arrested, tortured, killed, etc. If the German people had the freedom and democracy as we have, then Hitler would NOT have succeeded. Trying to take away the freedom of Americans to have the ability to think for themselves and to evaluate their own values and opinions is UN-AMERICAN, in my opinion. That is how Hitler succeeded, how Saddam succeeded, and that is how North Korea functions... is THAT American people are wanting??

Because "I said so" works for parents of little children... it shouldn't be how American leaders treat our citizens.

I respect that some people would like to accept the "message from the top" without questioning it.. I don't understand it, but I accept it. I'm the same way, really, until I find my trust level shaken. Once that trust is betrayed, then I really cannot blindly follow.

I understand and completely respect that many of our military personnel are unwilling and/or unable to question or challenge the purpose or reasoning of their mission in Iraq. Their role is to obey their commanders, including the President. That is part of the dynamic of the success of our military force. Our military is doing their job supremely well, some (i.e. reservists) in ways which are above and beyond what they expected.

That being said... WE as citizens have an equally critical responsibility. It is OUR job to choose commanders and leaders who can do the job with integrity and wisdom. We need to choose leaders who wisely utilize our resources (whether natural resources or HUMAN resources) with consideration for the future... the BIG picture. We need leaders who think about more than their own agenda, their own benefit, and their own egos.

Our leaders also have a responsibility to represent the needs and desires of their constituents… THEY ARE OUR representatives. Our American leaders should NOT be dictators. We have the right to request honest explanations for the decisions that impact our lives. If our troops are fighting to provide freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, then don’t we have the right to demand democracy here in America? Isn’t that what our soldiers fought and died for in previous wars? I believe that those who attack Americans for their freedom, who criticize our right to free speech, and for our expectations of a democracy--whether Iraqi or fellow Americans, they are the true enemy of America.

When it comes right down to it, our troops are doing their jobs... are we doing ours?

The reason why Cindy Sheehan is receiving so much support from many Americans is that we appreciate her for having the courage to demand a response from the administration via the President. People are saying that Cindy and anybody else who questions the administration that we are criticizing the troops themselves—but that isn’t true!

If I were sent to fight a war that I questioned, I would hope and pray that my country -- the Americans in which I swore to protect -- would care enough about ME and would try to protect ME by demanding accountability and legitimacy so I would NOT be asked to risk my life for "nothing". These soldiers are not disposable resources... they are valuable human beings who deserve to only be risked when necessary... and some of us believe it is not necessary. Is that really so wrong? Don’t we have an obligation to protect THEIR lives as they are sworn to protect OURS?

I value our troops enough to not be willing to risk their lives over an illegitimate war. I consider that "SUPPORT". If others believe the cause is worthy enough to die for, then they have the right to believe in that cause. But do not deny the rest of America the right to make sure that our troops are valued enough to ONLY be sent out to risk their lives for a LEGITIMATE purpose.

What about the Marines and soldiers who DO question why they are there -- and THERE ARE THOSE IN IRAQ with the SAME QUESTIONS, not just us "liberal commies" here stateside -- and wonder why the American citizens aren't speaking out about it? Did it occur to anybody that they are unable to speak out about their own concerns about their purpose and pray for our country to wake up and bring them home? I'm not talking about crybabies here, I'm talking about our troops who would GLADLY die to protect our country... and do not believe that being in Iraq is where they need to be.

If you have not heard the screams of a mother as she sees the Marines at her door, then you are not able to understand what Cindy and almost two thousand other mothers have experienced since “Mission Accomplished”. Yes, maybe some of our fallen heroes would not want their mothers to criticize their Commander-in-Chief, but it is my personal belief that:

(1) they would appreciate and respect that America is a democracy and not like Iraq, and

(2) from Heaven, where they are able to see and understand so much more than we can from earth, they are able to see the truth and they will be telling Cindy Sheehan “OOOOH RAH!”

To those who criticize Cindy’s supposedly “recent” conversion and wish to imply that she is being manipulated by outside forces due to some of her original comments after her first meeting with President Bush, you must understand the process many of the grieving families go through…

We do NOT want to acknowledge that our loved ones died in vain, for our President’s personal agenda/finances/ego...

We do NOT want to show disrespect to their Commander-in-Chief…

We do NOT want to tarnish their memory and honor with our personal opinions about the legitimacy of the war.

It may even take a while before we start to realize that we are NOT believing what we are told about the purpose of the war. Cindy and many other family members may have originally met with the President with the intense HOPE that he would be able to comfort them and help them believe in the integrity of the war and that there truly WAS a noble cause in the death of their loved ones. Their hearts and souls may struggle with what they want to believe and what they are actually discovering about the situation and the leaders involved. Who would really WANT to think that our country wasted the lives of our loved ones for a mistake…? Didn’t our country already go through that once?

Some people call it “flip flop” but others feel that gathering knowledge, allowing for new information, and having opinions evolve based upon the information gathered is MUCH more intelligent than sticking to the same opinion no matter what. That is the kind of thinking that Columbus fought against the “flat earth” thinkers… there are people today who still don’t believe that people have landed on the moon… no matter what information is provided to them, no matter what proof available… they refuse to evolve. Some of us have evolved our thinking, based upon the information available, that perhaps this war is NOT in America’s best interests.

I don't demand everybody agrees with me, but to keep an open mind and respect that many Americans feel the way I do. Stating that our questions to our leaders are unpatriotic and unsupportive of the troops is cruel, arrogant, and ignorant. By attacking our American privilege to request honest dialogue from our leaders, that is more damaging to America than our criticism of our leaders. Our country was FOUNDED by pilgrims who questioned their king and his abuse of power over the people... unlike other countries who accept the tyranny and dictatorship of their government.

Would it be right for Americans to not question our leaders no matter WHAT their "mission" was when they send our men and women to kill and be killed in foreign countries? If we had a leader who decided that we needed to attack England or Canada or Mexico for some reason (especially if their reasoning turned out to be false), would people still say "We must follow our President without question"? Would it make a difference if the people we attack look like us or is a Christian country like ours? It sure helps us with our conscience, doesn't it, that they have a freaky religion and dark skin and dress in sheets and beekeeper suits...

How would we feel if we were attacked because of our beliefs? Oh, yeah, we were ... on September 11... and we didn't like it, did we? Obviously some people didn't mind enough to actually focus our retaliation on the right individuals (it was bin Laden -- not Saddam) or the right country (he's Saudi Arabian -- not Iraqi, he's in Afghanistan -- not Iraq) but those are just minor details, right?

So, are we in a war to provide democracy to another country while we deny Americans democracy here at home? Or are we fighting terrorists (wrong guy, wrong country)? That is the information we are seeking... and we are being told to stop asking these questions? Doesn't that scare people? Is it that impossible to realize that Americans were LIED to? Is that acceptable to us? Do we not have a right to an explanation? Or are we to continue to be sheep...?

I understand that our troops are doing an awesome job and I am NOT criticizing THEM... but I have a right to understand why one thousand eight hundred and forty three (plus however many since today's date) other Americans died. Is it so hard to deny those of us who have lost our loved ones in Iraq an explanation for that loss? It's a lot easier to keep up the support of the administration until the only contact you have with your son, husband, brother, etc. is at his gravesite. That gives you a little bit more to think about. It can change your perspective and your priorities.

Some people think that it is okay to attack Cindy by saying that her son would be appalled at her behavior… they may be correct. Many of the living Marines and soldiers now may be horrified to think of their mother or family attacking their Commander in Chief. However, again, they also believe in democracy and freedom… this is part of the package.

I thank God that so many soldiers and Marines died believing in what they are doing... and I hope that they would recognize that the freedom they risk their lives for is the same freedom that allows us to ask our questions. But, unlike many of you who don't believe we should ask these questions, I can't ask my Marine about it any more. I no longer can argue, whine and moan, and be his "bleeding heart liberal" big sister who annoys the crap out of him any more... and people tell me that I don't have the RIGHT or the FREEDOM to ask "WHY"?

I know that how I feel would upset him greatly him off to no end... I hate knowing that... it's one thing to irritate off my little brother when he's alive… it's another when he's dead. I do respect him for what he was... a MARINE in all CAPITAL letters. But he also died in the name of democracy and America and freedom...

To deny Americans the ability to express their opinion is a greater insult to those who died -- than our questions about WHY.

To continue to have Americans killed for an illegal war, for an illegitimate “cause”, to avoid admitting a mistake is a MUCH worse insult to those who have already died in this war.

Do people really think that our Fallen Heroes would support the deaths of more men and women to further the justification of their own deaths, when the purpose of the war is proven to be no longer valid?

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