OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM U.S. CASUALTY STATUS
FATALITIES AS OF: May 28, 2010, 10 a.m. EDT
Total deaths of US military and DoD civilians 4,404*
OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM U.S. CASUALTY STATUS
FATALITIES AS OF: May 28, 2010, 10 a.m. EDT
Total deaths Worldwide (in and around Afghanistan) 1,076*
http://icasualties.org/ (for a non-government-based accounting)
(These figures do not, in my understanding, include suicides as a result of service in these wars.)
All weekend I have been thinking about Memorial Day and what I want to write about it (which obviously means what I think about it). At first I thought I would write about how I have been talking about war for the last two months with my seniors, what with our talking about Achilles and the Trojan War, reading excerpts from All Quiet on the Western Front, reading The Things They Carried, watching a video about the Vietnam War, listening to anti-war songs, and then reading a few poems about war. The books had their powerful messages, and they were received, for the most part. And between my co-teacher and myself we have hammered at the point that it is their responsibility to not unquestioningly accept the call to war.
And then I thought that I would talk about what it feels like to discuss this with students, some of whom are joining the military or going to military academies in a few weeks, and others who are “blown away” at the idea that a generation ago they would have been drafted as opposed to skipping off to their party schools.
And I also thought that I would write about what Memorial Day means living here, in Northern Virginia, where the motorcycles that will ride in the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom motorcycle march into Washington to remind the government and people that there are still MIAs and POWs, to commemorate their fallen friends, and to support the troops who are serving currently, start making themselves seen and heard on Friday. Seeing their gray hair and beards sticking out from under their helmets and their deeply-wrinkled faces gives a sense of the passage of time, and also of how time is not a healer of all things.
And then I read this article in the New York Times: “Child Brides Escape Marriage, but Not Lashes,” and I watched the video clip of a young girl being lashed with a leather strap with great force by a (physically) grown man while other men stood around and watched and then prayed, because she dared to run away from the man who is old enough to be her great-great grandfather but is her husband. And I read of a father and brother who killed their daughter/sister because she defied her marriage arrangement after she ran away because she had been continually beaten by her hubby and his family. And I cannot help but wonder what are we doing in Afghanistan? Not wonder, no, RAGE.
We have been there since October 2001. Osama Bin Laden is still about. The Taliban is still about. The horrific manipulation of women continues. Maybe this is callous, but if we haven’t managed to make a dent into the twisted way that society manages itself, then I say leave. If they want to keep things as they are, as their “traditions” dictate, then we should just get the hell out of there. Women and men have been decrying the status of women there since before the war and now, almost nine years into it, the same heartaches are heard. Isn’t there a point when one’s friends realize that only the suffering friend can help him/herself by seeking help?
It could be that I am wrong and this is a distortion, and in reality this is an aberration and instead of raging I should be happy that things have changed so much since the our forces arrived there. But I don’t think so.
No. I think that there really is a gulf between us that, perhaps, cannot be broached. How can you reconcile helping a society that keeps women in compounds for their entire lives—and does not seem to see any problem with that? And how do you reconcile helping men who keep harming girls who go to school? How do you reconcile helping people whose people blow up their people who are eating and praying and celebrating and mourning? I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. There are things that are just wrong. And I don’t care if that father and son dynamic duo and the flogger-in-chief think that they are doing good deeds—they are not. I’d like to look into the eyes of those men and see if there is life within. I’d like to see if they really are people, because I don’t think that they are. Twisting one’s mind to think that evil is good and honorable serves a maker that I don’t recognize and that must be visible.
Yes, I know, I have a master’s degree in Conflict Studies, so I should be more understanding and accepting of these people’s “narrative.” But I am not. There is a point when one cannot contort one’s mind to accept or even give credence to such depravity. What else is it? Does someone’s holy book and God really call for maiming young girls?
And what kind of mother can these girls become? These aren’t soccer moms or even hovering helicopter moms-to-be. These are women who continue in too long of a line of women who are not nurtured for the value of their hearts and minds; women who are, at the core of their society, discounted. Isn’t that the basis of a healthy society: women who are healthy and raise their children to be healthy citizens?
Do the wrongs of that society show what happens when women are discounted? It is, to all intents and purposes, an all-male society, with women ostensibly servants. No education. No rights. No liberties. No voice. Bleak and harsh.
Could it be that this society cannot be fixed until it accepts its women—mothers, wives, sisters, daughters—as worthy and valuable, and not just a thing to use to pay off one’s debt. Isn’t this really a statewide form of child prostitution and slavery?
It is a shame that whatever introspection occurred did not lead to righting this violation. Sure, they could look and see women in our society using their bodies to sell products. And they can read rape and assault statistics. But I wonder if in the dark of night these floggers and beaters long for love and warmth and comfort? How hard it must be to live an entire life imprisoned in a cold harshness. Would that drive you to make everyone else in your life suffer as you suffer; or would it make you feel a little better to know that someone suffers more than you?
Instead of an army of soldiers, perhaps they need an army of mothers. And if that’s not in the Pentagon’s plans, I say “Bring ‘Em Home.”