I was running through my sister’s neighborhood in KY and saw that “Support the Troops They Want Victory You Should, Too” sign in a yard. For a long time, after my nephew Chase was killed in Iraq, my sister had a large board, propped against a tree in front of her house, bearing a laminated photograph of Chase along with the number of troop deaths. She’d change the number frequently.
One morning, she went outside and the sign was gone, stolen during the night.
There is something unsettling about this–a particular violation of the unspoken, unwritten rules of bereavement. A sign with a picture of a dead loved one is a memorial, and its removal is a desecration, almost like tampering with a gravesite, trespassing on a family’s grief.
Recently, I mentioned in an article a trip to North Carolina to visit one of my sons. My best friend was with me and on the morning we headed home, I’d awakened earlier than usual, obsessing on war, petroleum oceans, and the lyrics from Shelter From the Storm. I drank my coffee and downed a punchbowl-size serving of yogurt and fruit while I had a conversation with my son about the implications of the oil torrent, after which I hugged and kissed him bye bye, and left Chapel Hill.
Around noonish, my friend wanted to stop at a Subway Sandwich Shop. Subway was one of the sponsors of a pro-war event, the “Freedom Walk,” that occurred on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2005. I refuse to support the business. But, hell yes, I would use their loo. And, so, I pulled into the parking lot, went inside, and headed for the bathroom while my friend ordered her sandwich. First thing I noticed was the chain and lock that held the toilet tissue dispenser to its mooring.
Someone might steal the toilet tissue?
These are the times in which we live.
I’m thinking they will become worse. Actually, they already have.
While running, I observe my physical surroundings and the course that’s racing in my mind. Sometimes, I see trivia. But, usually, I think about our huge military budget, immoral foreign policy, the toll our war crimes exact on the people who live in the countries we invade, and the costs to our military families and on all of us as human beings. Those at the center of power are possessed by big corporations. Every breath they take is calculated to maintain their interests to the dereliction of ours. They rescue the wealthy while abandoning the working poor and middle class.
Since April, my preoccupation has been the gushing oil from the Earth-soaking catastrophe that’s plunging us into uncertainty. This is our planet, our collective body, on which BP performed invasive, major, exploratory surgery. Everything that could go wrong did/has and may doom us to extinction.
Today, when I ran, I found a penny. I’m not religious. Superstitious, yes. Is there a difference? I scooped up the penny and threw it in the air to make a wish. My children’s safety. Selfish. All children’s safety. That would, of course, include my children. Include everyone because we are all someone’s children. I wish for …………. the petroleum hemorrhage to stop. Absurd. Wishing is as effective as praying.
And, then, I conjured up an image of Michelle and Barack. She’s holding onto one of his ears, marching him to her organic garden where she says: “Look, MR. BUSH, my little effort here is less than a piss dribble.” She muscles him to the ground, pushing his face into the soil. Her hand is on the back of his head, rubbing his nose into the dirt as she screams:
Man up. Man up, immediately, for Malia and Sasha, for me, and for the world. You have just sent a message to fathers that there’s no excuse for failing to meet their obligations. Meet yours. Protect the planet. Period. End the wars abroad and at home. Be a leader. Do what is necessary to give us shelter from the storm.
This Michelle mirage is as consequential as penny wishing and praying.
A nightmare becomes a daymare, and with it the question emerges: what if BP’s monster well shatters under its own weight and the gusher continues to blow, bleeding out, until the floor beneath the water collapses?
Maybe, life doesn’t go on. Maybe, unmoored, it is stolen by greed, and there is no shelter from the storm.
MISSY BEATTIE lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She will be in DC in July for Peace of the Action. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.