12 January, 2008


He was 19 years old, which means he signed up knowing where he was headed and what could happen to him. He signed up despite the dangers, the fear, the knowledge, maybe he even enlisted in 2006 when things were at their ugliest in Iraq... but he did it with a brave and willing heart. And now there is a bleeding emptiness in the hearts of those who loved him.

The grandmotherly woman's voice dripped with self-righteous disgust and contempt as she waved a casual hand at the photo of the boy whose name she didn't even know, even as she was surrounded by others who had made the same choice he had. "This makes me sick," she spat as she looked to me, her expectant face seeking confirmation.

I thought to myself: Heartbroken, indebted, sorrowful beyond description, proud, humbled, grateful, questioning, so very tired of this world? Yes. "Sick?" No. You make me sick--you with your self-righteous rejection of what he willingly laid on the line, you with your casual dismissal of what he fought for, with your faux anger that unknowingly blinds you to the real pain of those who loved him and the unbearable indebtedness and responsibility of it all for the rest of us. No Ma'am, you make me sick.

"And for what," she added, making a statement rather than asking a question.

Sadly, I said nothing. I didn't trust myself to open my mouth.

Update: a clarification... I have patience and deep sympathy for those who firmly believe it isn't worth it, or who are deeply moved by the death of each soldier. But that was not even remotely the tone of voice this woman used. Her tone was simply self-righteous contempt, and her statement was political rather than personal. In context of the rest of our conversations, I found no reason to see it as anything else.