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The First Family Security Bubble was nearly pried open for a moment last Friday; but in the end Disneyland remained blessedly undisturbed.
On a particularly warm spring evening, Laura and Jenna Bush alighted from a squadron of black SUVs at the Borders book store in downtown Washington, D.C., right on schedule at 7:00 pm. Flanked by Secret Service agents, they went inside to an area set up for authors to sign books – yes, sign books. The two Bush women have co-authored a 32-page children’s book, “Read All About It,” the story of Tyrone, a youngster who is good at everything in school but reading.
In line to have her copy signed, and more importantly, to get a moment to deliver a letter to the authors, waited Gilda Carbonaro, the mother of a U.S. Marine Sergeant who died a quite terrible death in Iraq.
After nearly an hour wait, Gilda approached the table to proffer her book for a signature.
“So that they wouldn’t see me as threatening, I made sure to introduce myself as a grade school teacher, like Jenna,” she said.
The moment she got her signed book back, she took her letter out from within the pages of the book and extended it to Laura and Jenna. Not 500 words long, it was laminated so it would clearly not be in something as suspicious-looking as an envelope.
“At that moment, swooping down out of absolutely nowhere, a Secret Service agent grabbed it out of my hand,” Gilda explained. But before she was hustled away, she extracted a promise from the younger Bush to read it.
After her brief encounter with American royalty, the member of Gold Star Families Speak Out said, “If I had the chance, I would’ve liked to ask Laura Bush, ‘What would you consider enough of a real emergency to urge your kids to enlist? If New Jersey was invaded? Your husband constantly tells us that all hangs in the balance in this war. Just what would it take for your family to really risk something?”
You may be interested to read what Gilda Carbonaro wrote to Laura and Jenna Bush. Heaven knows they’re not likely to, inside the bubble.
Laura and Jenna Bush
c/o Borders Books
14th and F Streets NW
April 25, 2008
Dear Laura and Jenna Bush,
As you promote your new children’s book, “Read All About It,” and advocate for literacy tonight I hope you will take but a few moments to read these heartfelt lines.
I write to you as one of thousands of parents and family members whose loved ones have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan; whose child, parent or spouse has returned blinded or deaf, armless or legless, or unable to ever move their limbs again; or perhaps have returned apparently unharmed, but with nightmares and a ticking timebomb in their minds.
You may think this a grim postscript to an evening’s chat about a book for children, but when someone you love has been taken from you forever, or returned so terribly damaged you barely know them, it becomes foremost in your thoughts every waking moment. You then begin to understand what is truly grim. And, I must add, there are those among us who still carry such unspeakable pain and anger they’ve become all but exhausted.
But many of us have felt exhaustion be replaced by an energy and a clarity of purpose we have never experienced before. One thing that has become clear to us is an answer to the question, “How could anyone send the youth of its nation to invade Iraq?” We see now how differently someone would answer that question if they suffered the anguish of a family member being killed as the result.
Your children, Mrs. Bush, are safe and I am glad for you. But I wonder, have you ever urged them to enlist in this heroic adventure? Your husband has told us many times how important this cause is. Your children appear well qualified, and as part of the First Family you’ve no doubt taught them the value of demonstrating leadership for the nation.
Why, then, has the price for this war been paid only by people like my son, Marine Corps Sgt. Alessandro Carbonaro, who died May 10, 2006, eight days after being horrifically burned in an IED blast in Al Anbar Province, Iraq?
Can you not see the simple, basic unfairness of asking others to do what you yourself are unwilling to do? Have you drifted so far from an understanding of fundamental justice that you cannot see the contradictions apparent to so many of us?
These are not rhetorical questions. They are as real as the knot in our stomachs and the ache in our hearts. It is time – and past time – that you face these questions without blinking or dodging and give us a satisfactory answer.
MIKE FERNER is a member of Veterans For Peace and works part time for DemocracyRising.US