Sunday, May 20, 2007

Rather feel bad, than feel nothing at all

By Libby Spencer

I worry sometimes that I'm losing my empathy when I read the reports of daily carnage in Iraq and don't get the same rush of emotion as I once did. My psyche can't sustain the head-pounding outrage against such a relentless onslaught of horror, day after day, year after year.

I think this must be what it feels like to be tortured over a long period of time. In order to protect its sanity, the mind simply comes to accept the violence as normal and seeks ways to mitigate its effects. The simplest way to simply shut down your emotions altogether. Deny the fear, reject the pain at the sacrifice of feeling joy or contentment.

Then I read this piece this morning about funerals at Arlington National Cemetery for the victims of the imperial wars.

Here in Section 60 are the graves of 336 men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan -- almost one in 10 of the dead. Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have produced the highest percentage of burials at Arlington National Cemetery from any war. For the duration of this war, there have been few photographs of coffins returning home. Section 60 is the one place to get a sense of the immensity of the nation's loss.

This is what has been missing from the public face of the war. The tears. The sense of shared grief, even for strangers. After 9/11 the whole nation mourned for a couple of thousand office workers and those who tried to save them. But four years later, as the toll for those who died fighting at the orders of our president rises past 3,400, they rarely rate a mention, much less a passing thought by the average American riding around shopping in their SUVs adorned with the mandatory magnetic yellow ribbons.

And why should they? Barely a day passes when some Republican, usually our president or one of his minions, evokes the memory of 9/11 but how often do they mention the war dead? How many funerals has Bush or Cheney or Rove or Rice or the rest of war drum pounding pundits attended? I'd guess about none and that's one of the greatest affronts of this so-called war. It's not right that the accidental victims of a tragic disaster are afforded more attention and respect than those thousands of soldiers who willing gave their lives in the belief they were protecting us from another tragedy of this proportion.

Today I read about a funeral at Arlington where the earth piled on the coffin was being taken from a fresh grave being dug simultaneously for the burial immediately following. I read about the mourning families who visit, still unable to comprehend their loss and how they read to the dead and leave their tokens of remembrance and I cried. I'm the better for it. It felt good to feel bad again.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home