Monday, July 11, 2005


You can't see them, but they are there...the rows and rows of coffins, carrying the remains of dead soldiers, loaded onto airplanes and delivered in stealth and secrecy to their homeland, shipped off to their families, with no one the wiser, no trail of tears following them, no sound of trumpets playing TAPS, no Star Spangled Banner, no bowed heads and broken hearts.

America knows there is a War in Iraq, but the unpleasant part of it, the dead, the wounded, the mentally disturbed, is hidden. Life goes on as usual in the Land of the Free, while the unfortunate few selected to fight these battles do so in near anonymity. They are lauded as heroes, but how easy it is to go on with our daily lives and forget their existence. Yet, for them, life is a matter of patrolling Iraqi streets in a sand-filled foreign land, not knowing whether they will live to see another dawn, each step a gamble with eternity, a game of chance with that anonymous coffin.

I remember well another War just as distant. While thousands and thousands of American men died in Viet Nam, our lives here in America were unchanged. Unless we had a son or brother or father in the War, it seemed this conflict did not disturb our daily existence at all. We shopped, we went to movies, we lunched with friends. Viet Nam was a distant cloud on the horizon, a threat of rain mentioned by a weathercaster, a thorn prickling our flesh.

It was our youth who rebeled and this rebellion spread until it affected everyone. They rejected the War in Viet Nam and held numerous rallies...sit ins, sleep ins, love show their disgust. In vain, the "establishment" tried to corral them, to halt the protests. But the anger and revulsion spread until the war finally ended.

Now, the signs are clear. The youth are once again rejecting a war. Military recruitment is way down. Our young people are not anxious to join the conflict in Iraq. It is a war dreamed up by old men, too eager to send the young to fight and die. They want no part of it.

They are not anxious to join that brigade of near invisible soldiers, whose activities are kept so distant and mysterious. In a country where the advance of Hurricane Dennis took up our airwaves for twenty four hours, any activity in Iraq is a brief description, little else, with all news carefully filtered.

I am old enough to remember World War II, to remember the urgency of the War, to remember how 17-year-olds begged their parents to sign the necessary papers allowing them to join the military. Patriotism was a true feeling then, not a political weapon, and the entire country stood behind the need to engage in a war with Germany and Japan. I should include Italy, too, but it seemed to play such a minor role that it is easy to forget it was there.

How willingly the entire nation worked for victory, enduring rationing, hanging Gold Stars in the windows of the bereft families, collecting tin foil, clustering around the radio for war news.

Somehow, we have lost that patriotic fervor when it comes to the War in Iraq. First, it seems to be a war started by rumor and exaggeration. It is a war seemingly cooked up in the back bedrooms and meeting chambers of old politicians. It is a war that claims to be fighting Terror, but in truth seems to be encouraging it. And, it is a war that a majority of our young people do not want to fight.

Who can blame them? As it is, they will be left to pay the bills, to struggle to conquer the mammoth debt that this country is burdened with. And terrorism will be theirs to defeat. Let us hope it can be defeated in different ways....perhaps with the help of the Arab world; perhaps with a greater understanding of what is causing it. Israel and Palestine? Well, for Heaven's sake, find a solution, give equal help to all people and stop the Christian attempt to fatten the Jews for later use. The Second Coming train will arrive at the station in its own good time. It has no need of help from overzealous Americans.

In the meantime, those coffins line up...and multiply. I cannot forget a picture of the British method of greeting the bodies of soldiers dead on the field of battle. Pomp and ceremony, with the Queen and her Prince in full attendance, flags flying, music playing! Meanwhile, in America, they are greeted with silence, as though shameful objects to be delivered home in the stealth of a dark, moonless night.

They are invisible coffins, tucked out of the view of Americans so as not to remind them of the nasty realities of war. But, if one accepts war, one has to accept the nasty realities and these coffins should be greeted with openness, pride and sorrow. A spotlight should highlight these coffins, so that all Americans can pay homage to these men and women who fight the wars that politicians dream up. It is the least we could do for them!