Most of the time, I am not really one to celebrate "traditional" holidays...I tend to be working on the major holidays because, as we say in my profession, "Mental illness knows no holiday or takes a weekend off". But this particular weekend holiday fell during my schedule of regular days off, so here I sit trying to remember what it is I am supposed to be "celebrating".
Usually Memorial Day is a time I try to pause and reflect on the lives of my deceased ancestors...most of my immediate family fall into that category, so it's never difficult to find one to remember or share stories about. None of my immediate family has died during war or while in the service, which I believe was why the original holiday began...to memorialize fallen soldiers who died in the line of duty.
If I were to poll most Americans today, I'm sure many know the true origins of this weekend holiday, but few are actually "celebrating" the reason it exists...we're too busy hitting the Memorial Day sales at the department stores or barbeques with friends or perhaps boating on a hot, sunny weekend. And besides, how does one "celebrate" death anyway? Who among us REALLY wants to spend our three day weekend "remembering" something so horrible as a soldier dying in a war?
Shortly after the United States military began bombing in Iraq, I remember watching my TV screen in horror as images of destroyed buildings and blood stained streets captivated our media coverage...it was gruesome...it was gut-wrenching. I remember seeing an Iraqi mother holding her dead child in her arms and wailing while she rocked the child's lifeless body. I had to look away.
I sat down later in the day and wrote a poem...it's not a good poem, but it does say exactly what I felt in that moment as I watched a mother mourn over her dead child...a mother innocently traumatized by a war she neither started nor probably participated in. I later watched mothers in the USA mourn the deaths of their children in uniform on national TV...soldiers who died in the "line of duty".
Perhaps today during our weekend barbeques and gatherings with family or friends, we can ALL take just a moment to pause in our freedoms to remember not only the USA soldiers who have died, but ALL causualties of war...after all, we are ALL somebody's child somewhere...and ALL who have died in acts of war should be remembered. It is the right thing to do...lest we forget the value of ALL life, and not just our own.
Sunday In Baghdad
"It's Sunday in Baghdad,"
I hear the news anchor say
As I watch the sun set
Outside my window
And rise on the TV screen
While images of bombs exploding
And plumes of smoke curl aimlessly
Before my eyes.
My view of this war
Is sanitized by propaganda
And my own complacency
As I watch, but remained removed,
Seemingly untouched in my mundane,
But free existence.
I wonder about the mothers
Who have lost their children
In the name of freedom or resistance,
Randomly dying from starvation,
Or explosions, or "friendly fire,"
As they say in military terms.
And I think how different we are
As people and cultures,
Yet the same in our tears
That fall to mourn our dead children.
I can't wonder about this too long, however,
For I fear the knot in my throat
Made of guilt and fear and outrage and sadness
Will choke the comfort I feel
As I watch this thing called "war"
As though it is merely a spectator sport.
I am drawn like a magnet
To form a solid opinion,
Either for or against
One team or another
To lessen my own discomfort
Pulling violently inside me,
But I cannot chose.
I cannot move.
Because movement resembles
And that action seems too overwhelming.
There goes another
explosion in my heart
And on my TV screen again.
It's Sunday in Baghdad
And someone's mother is crying.