Friday, February 18, 2005

Bully Pulpit

Becoming a parent exposed me to myself. Prior to parenthood, I had a self image that was very self involved. It was also hedonistic and regrettably superficial in some aspects. You have to start somewhere.

As my children grow, I can admit to myself that I'm not a "baby" mom. All aspects of baby parenting terrified me; the complete 24/7 litany of: it never lets up, it's never clean enough, there is no more Jet left, sleep is a mirage, towering Mt. "Wash Me", slide a paying job in there somehow, dimly register the clang of the glass ceiling, "How many children do you have? Three? Well. I see..."

Terrified of missing something, making a parental misstep, I overcompensated. Looking one direction, I could miss something else. It takes only a moment's distraction to drop the juggled balls. My kids grew up in as protected an environment as I could make. Three kids in 2 and 3/4 years is an incredible feat of navigation. I did it, but it's hard to move around in the world with three little ones. So we didn't go a lot of places. We hung out at home. A lot. I resented not even being able to get out to the grocery. Once you load up two car seats and a toddler into the cart, there's not much room for food. My husband added shopping to his list of chores, all which seemed to involve the outside world. My world was smaller and much, much stickier.

Fortunately, children grow. Babies no more, I am buoyed by my children's discoveries, prizes, transgressions and catastrophes. We bob on a sea of learning. In my "Mom Element" at last, this middle-years Mom revels, teaches and travels with ease. I look at my earlier versions-of-self fondly, but with no desire to step backwards. My future is beside me, and my legacies are unbound upon the world, determined to the quest. I cannot get my mind around what the world would be like without my husband and our kids.

Yet everyday, my country is more determined to destroy families.

There are 54 million people in Iraq. Over half of them are under the age of 15. Of the over 100,000 civilians dead in this war, then, over half of them are children. We are killing children. The children are our enemy. And we are defeating them.

"I'll tell you why I voted for George Bush," a friend of mine said. "I voted for George Bush because he had the courage to do what Al Gore and John Kerry would never have done."

I've been thinking about that one.

Osama Bin Laden is still alive. Sadam Hussein is still alive. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is still alive. Baghdad, Mosul and Fallujah are burning. But my government has the courage to kill children or their parents. And I'm supposed to be impressed.

That's an unfair assessment, of course. A lot of young soldiers have died, too. A lot of weekend soldiers are maimed for life. A lot of our kids went into the military only to get a college education and are now shattered in soul by what they had to do to other bodies.

A lot of adult civilians have been blasted out of their homes and their neighborhoods and their cars. More and more every day. According to U.N. Development Fund for Women, 15 percent of wartime casualties in World War I were civilians. In World War II, 65 percent were civilians. By the mid '90s, over 75 percent of wartime casualties were civilians.

In Iraq, for every dead U.S. soldier, there are 14 other deaths, 93 percent of them are civilian. But those things happen in war, the story says. It's all for a greater good, we have to remember. It's all to free them. It's all being done to spread "liberty."

From where I stand, the only question now is who or what will free us from the 21st century's new definition of bravery. Who will free us from the notion that killing children or their civilian parents takes courage? -- Sister Joan Chittitser

Iraq's children are front-lining their third war in 20 years. A war with Iran in the 1980's (lasting 8 years) and the Gulf War in 1991 greatly damaged Iraq's infrastructure.They also suffered greatly under 12 years of UN imposed sanctions. More children (500,000) died in Iraq during the sanctions than were killed in Hiroshima.

According to UNICEF, half the population of Iraq is under age 18. Many of these children are highly vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. One in four children under five years of age is chronically malnourished. One in eight children dies before reaching their fifth birthday. Schools are marginalized. Due to fighting and structural damage, only 60% of the children have access to schools that are operational and the vaccination program is barely patched back together. The cold pipeline for transporting vaccines was destroyed and the country's vaccines were ruined.

In my little world, that would mean that three of my twins pre-school classmates would be dead. Six would be starving. Perhaps 14 out of 24 would be making it to the school, but few would be girls. Disease could lay the whole venture flat.

I understand that Saddam was a bad man. But based on our behavior, God will not see our side.

... We don't tally the children we kill for the same reason monsters don't buy mirrors: That's how they go through life thinking they're angels.

We've snuffed out innocent lives in numbers that insurgents and terrorists could only dream of. But we avert our eyes. We bury our heads in the sand and turn a blind eye to our moral cowardice, thus pulling off the amazing feat of being ostriches and chickens all at once. We owe this marvel of ornithology to the inexorable fragility of human illusions. To quote James Carroll, "we avert our eyes because the war is a moral abyss. If we dare to look, as Nietzsche said, the abyss stares back." George Bush, the philosopher, has updated Berkeley's riddle: Do Iraqi children scream when the bombs fall if there is no one in the White House to hear them? -- Bernard Chazelle

The White House's dance with Iran is following the same bull in the china shop techniques we employed prior to starting this war on Iraq and Iraq's children. North Korea has decided the best way to play with Bush is to be able to blow up some of our kids as well as some of theirs. We have rattled the bars on the cages of the "axis of evil". They have watched our war and are getting ready. When they bring it to us, our children are fair game.

I look into my children's faces and I think of the protected environment I made for them as babies to keep them safe. I can't do that for them anymore.

One thing I can do is raise my voice against the madness of this war on children.

The other is to beg God's forgiveness. President Bush doesn't seem to feel it's necessary.


At February 23, 2005 11:29 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

The criminal character we have created as a nation and the resulting backlash that is bound to result from what we have created is beyond bleak. I have no children of my own, and can only imagine the horror that the mothers of the thousands of children lost in our "pre-emptive" war are experiencing, and wonder at the kind of evil it takes to keep this going, and to sleep well at night.

At February 23, 2005 12:56 PM, Blogger Jet said...

The same type of character that forces children to pick cocoa beans, I'm afraid...


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